Since game manuals are kind of obsolete at this point, a game still has to tell you how to play. Or do they? I’ve played a hell of a lot of games, I mean seriously a hell of a lot, and I’ve come to notice that while mostly every game tells you something while playing about the basic controls there are some games that tell you nothing at all. While I can’t stand over instructions that sometimes pause the game during important moments, I also can’t stand a game that doesn’t tell me what to do or give me any direction on how to play.
Every game needs a basic type of instruction. Sure everyone knows that pressing up on the left analog stick usually makes your character walk while using the right analog stick makes your character look around, but what about all of the other buttons? You know since there are like a bunch of them on a standard controller. What do you do with them? When do you have to use them? This kind of basic instruction is really only needed once and is of course helpful, but what about instructions that really aren’t so helpful or just too frequent. Take Borderlands 2 for example. I recently completed this game again on the PS4 and I found it highly annoying the way the game paused every so often if I picked up something new or the game wanted me to learn how to use the menus. At first it seemed helpful but soon became extremely annoying since the game was interrupted over and over again by this annoying presence of an in game instruction guide. This isn’t the only recent game that has done this though, I’ve also had the same problems while playing Dragon Age: Inquisition and even more recently while playing The Witcher 3. Sometimes enough is enough. If I need to learn more I can also go to the manual that is usually located in the options menu. I know all of this can be turned off in the options menu, but it just feels like it’s something that I shouldn’t have to do.
While there are those games that over instruct, there are those games that don’t even instruct you on what to do at all. My most recent game of no instruction was The Unfinished Swan. I spent three or more minutes staring at the white screen in front of me when the game first loaded waiting. I wasn’t sure if there was a glitch or my game didn’t load right. Just when I was about to reboot the game, I accidentally hit the R2 button which fired off my first paint ball. Seriously? Some type of simple instruction would have been nice and it wouldn’t have ruined the whole “art” feel of the game. Not only do some games have no instruction at all, but some instructions are so obscure that they have you scratching your head wondering what the hell you actually have to do.
At the moment there really doesn’t seem to be a balance between over instructing and under instructing. Some games do it too much, some games too little, and some none at all. While I would like to see some sort of balance in upcoming titles, it just doesn’t seem like there ever will be. Unfortunately that means that games that over instruct and games that under instruct will continue to annoy me while games that perfect this equation of balancing instructions perfectly will continue to earn my respect and praise.