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DiscussionJun 19, 2023 8:00 am CT

What types of game mechanics make your actions feel impactful in a way you enjoy?

Reputation and Renown systems are prevalent in most open-world or RPG games like Skyrim, World of Warcraft, and Diablo  — and while they add a nice touch to the game, sometimes they can leave you wanting. They all usually function in a similar fashion — go to an area, choose group A or B, perform actions to ingratiate yourself with said group (usually at the detriment of the other), and then get rewarded with some lines of dialogue, a title and loot, and maybe an in-game cinematic. After all of that, sometimes it seems as though the rest of the world didn’t get the memo about your heroic deeds.

I just saved the world from an existence-devouring dragon; why is this guard making fun of my sweet roll? I’ve murdered all manner of creature from lowly rat to godly pantheon, why do random NPCs treat me with ambivalence aside from a line or two of throwaway dialogue?

The easy, obvious answer is time and money — both of which would take so much extra of in order to craft at the cost of other development aspects and potentially bloat the game, so on that, I understand. Some games are able to put these types of mechanics in to games and they ended up being some of my most enjoyed mechanics.

Dishonored implemented a chaos system based on player interaction with the overall world. If you kept the murder and mayhem to a minimum, the environment in later stages reacted in kind, promoting a more peaceful outcome. If you murdered everything in sight, the world would place more enemies and barriers to slow you down later in the game, with disastrous outcomes. It added another layer to the cerebral, stealth portion of the game that really made me reconsider all of my actions before doing them.

Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis System was one of the more interesting enemy design systems I’ve encountered. Similar to the chaos system, the Nemesis System would make the Orcs and Uruks react to the players choices, victories, and defeats appropriately. Are you on a 10-captain slaying streak? The enemy might be more terrified of you. Just got your head kicked in? You better believe the next enemy is going to be champing at the bit to get in on the next one. The best function of Nemesis, however, was creating enemies that came back to life and were visibly affected by your previous battles. I always thought that was a fantastic touch.

Those are my types of mechanics and preferences for “real-world,” impactful actions and reactions. What about you — what game or game mechanics made you feel like your actions were more impactful than not?

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