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The Issue With "Stealth" in Play-It-Your-Way Games

The Issue With "Stealth" in Play-It-Your-Way Games

I have an issue with stealth mechanics in modern games, primarily in the “stealth vs combat” reward mechanics we often see. Let me explain.

If, like me, you enjoy a good old-fashioned multiple-routes game where the choice to proceed is up to you, then you might have come across the same issue I have: stealth is the better option, to the detriment of the faster-paced combat. Now, if I am honest, I have had this issue for a while, but it really came to a head in some games that I recently played, and I thought, “Why not see what it is that annoys me?”.

The first entry was Far Cry 6, a game I really wanted to like, and there are parts that I legitimately enjoyed. I loved Anton Castillo, Yara’s dictator, played by the fantastic Giancarlo Esposito. I even prefer the setting to Far Cry 5’s drug-induced cult experience. However, the detection mechanics and the push for stealth have really turned me off the game. 

It works as follows: you need to clear an area, and the game offers several options for how to do this — you can either go in all guns blazing or sneak around and take everyone out. In a perfect world, these two would offer the same level of fun and still be viable, but in the early game, they really aren’t. The issue is that enemies will call a helicopter on you regardless of your level when you are spotted. The vehicle will not leave the area and will seemingly hunt you wherever you might be hiding, and you really can’t take a punch. The result is a situation where going in for some good ol’ run-and-gun shooting just isn’t worth it, the choice is an illusion. However, this could be solved by rewarding you for playing it how it wants to be played, but this is another area many games fall short on. 

My issue with the stealth game reward system can best be shown in both Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Dishonored. Both titles posit a pseudo-moral choice reason for not going loud in combat encounters and state that going non-lethal is the better option for the player and the world. However, this idea has an issue: nearly every reward in the game is focused on killing people. In Metal Gear Solid you are often rewarded with new guns that you… just won’t use it. Meanwhile, Dishonored gives you traps and spells that will penalise you by the end. 

I find it infuriating when trying to go down a specific gameplay route to have the game continuously push the exact opposite play style on me. It’s irritating and means that my inventory and weapon selection menus are just full of stuff I will never use and then receive next to nothing to help the stealth. Then there’s the fact that many games will offer more XP for stealth, and you hit a very strange loop: you get more levels and, thus, more rewards that you can’t use. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

I can’t speak on how to solve this issue, but I have some ideas that might help; offer alternative rewards for the player that strengthen their play style. This can be in the form of specific perks or weapons, and it certainly isn’t a new concept. Some games have tried to approach it in other ways, such as the Deus Ex franchise, but it causes other issues to arise, like the combat being too tough in the harder difficulties.

For one final musing, I would simply like to say this: if you have to have a level-based system, don’t bring DAMN HELICOPTERS TOO EARLY WITH NO MEANS OF TAKING THEM OUT!

Okay, rant over. 

Joshua Render

Joshua Render

Staff Writer

Became a writer and all he got was this lousy bio

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