After pouring 100 hours into the incredible CRPG beast Divinity: Original Sin 2, I regret not being able to finish the game. I was in love with the characters, and though the story was atypical fantasy fare it was incredibly well told and my handcrafted path through the narrative had lead me down 95 hours of challenging, deep RPGing. But 100 hours later and the excellent characters, great storytelling, deep punishing systems becomes an overwhelming weight on my shoulders. Perhaps ending at the 100 hour mark would have been a perfect length. I’d have left the game feeling incredibly satisfied. But getting that awful fatigue and not being able to push through to the end felt like a lot of time had just circled the drain. I was running on empty. Original Sin 2 is an absolutely fantastic game that reinvigorates the classic CRPG formula – a genre which had been dormant for many years. It’s sheer breadth and depth belied a game of fantastic variety and complexity, where everything you did felt important – where your own input felt important. You were at the heart of the story. As it stands, Original Sin 2 is easily one of my faveourite games of the year.
But 100 hours is an absolutely killer amount of gameplay and I was too tired to carry on. That’s a shame.
I’ve played other games for a longer accumulative ammount – for example, the Dark Souls series has well over 500 hours to their name. At the height of my obsession with Dark Souls, I relished the opportunity to delve into another 30-60 hours of hacking and slashing. But the way a Souls game is played compliments replay value perfectly well, with levels that were built to be explored and re-explored time and time again, a game where death is constant and backtracking is necessary, it’s no wonder that a first run of a Dark Souls story will take roughly 60 hours, and any subsequent runs after that where you know what you’re doing will probably take under 30 hours. Thats still a hefty amount of gametime, but those kinds of numbers works for the Souls series as it’s been built from the ground up with replay value in mind. The game has enough complexity and variety, and enough depth to it’s systems that make replaying feel fresh and exciting each time.
PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds has seen well over 250 hours of playtime since it’s release earlier this year with no sign of it letting up. I’m happy for that number to continue. But PUBG is a competitive, online game. Each game lasts 30 minutes (providing you aren’t immediatley executed by a sniper as you land) and it’s easy to lose an entire evening to the parachuting deathmatch thanks to it’s quick lobby system. But perhaps the social element of the game, the depth of it’s tactical combat, the sheer amount of variables that go into the average game of PUBG means it always feels exciting. It wasn’t until roughly the 225th hour that I started to tire of the familiar rural Russian murdering grounds of PUBG’s base map but being able to wring an extra 25 hours of gameplay after that only shows how strong it is for keeping your interest going
But reaching the 100th hour of my single campaign in Divinity: Original Sin 2 felt exhausting. each combat encounter requires expert precision, forward planning and careful tactical descision making. You can’t just Diablo your way through the combat encounters. The story too is a deep and character based meaning that taking it easy and putting your brain on autopilot simply won’t cut it. It’s not something that lends itself well to tired eyes, and it’s easy to stray on to your phone while characters talk. Perhaps that’s my fault, but up until the 95th hour of game time, I was never that distracted.
But this all operates on the assumption that long play times equals a greater game or that the more you play a game the better it is. In reality, that’s nonsense. In some circles, value is often calculated by amount of time spent. Ideally, gamers want a lifestyle game. A game that they can devote time to much like a hobby, and it’s given rise to some seriously cynical marketing on behalf of publishers. As a result, we’ve seen a lot more “games as service” style microtransaction culture that seems to do little more than suck your money and spare time away. Publishers are more than aware that if they can keep you playing for a long time, they will, and they’ll try to make money off you. But that ignores the sheer breadth of games that are creative, beautiful and mean something despite their linearity. Uncharted 4, The Last of Us, Wolfenstein 2: The New Collosus, Cuphead – these are all fantastic, mostly linear experiences. But does their artistic stock take a hit just because you can’t play them for over a hundred hours?
It makes me wonder how people with families and important jobs play games like Original Sin 2, and how important accessibility is for the every day person. I don’t know how well the game sold amongst older people with families but I’d love to see how they got on with the game, because even though I hit (what I believe to be) the final area of the game, fatigue had well and truly set in. To the point now that if I picked the game up again I think it’d be too difficult to pick up the story again at such a late stage in the middle of the progress I’d already made – starting again would have to be necessary, but perhaps the new, fresh perspective might mean I’d get on better with one of 2017’s greatest accomplishment.
That’s not to say I think Original Sin 2 is hurt by it’s length, or that it’s now rendered itself somehow not worthy of being among my faveourite games of 2017 – I loved the incredible depth of options and story in Larians latest hit and I had started to form a real love for all the characters I’d met. But doesn’t that make it all the more heartbreaking that I wasn’t able to see their stories out to the end?