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Does Length Matter?

MattComment

Do you find yourself concerned by length? Are you worried about satisfaction levels due to things being just too short? Do you question, "How can this possibly be all that there is to offer? Why was I not given more to work with?" In theory, these are some of the questions that have been pervasive throughout the video game world in the past week.

Ready at Dawn, developer of the newly released The Order: 1886, has been at the dead center of these game length conversations as of late. While their Playstation 4 exclusive made it's way into the hands of the public just last week, it's launch was marred by bad press before the media ever had a chance to even release true reviews due to embargo. A YouTuber uploaded a Let's Play of The Order 1886 (which was issued a too-little, too-late DMCA takedown request) that went through the entire game. In less than 6 hours.

For many games, this wouldn't be an issue. Campaign is finished, The main portion of the game is done, I'll just hop on over to multiplayer and try that out. Except The Order: 1886 is a single-player only game.

This is a conversation with a lot of nuance, including things like monetary value, what are the value-adds (New Game+, Multiplayer, Player Progression, DLC), and of course what kind of time does one have available to engage in the game.

In recent podcasts, I have been critical surrounding the density of Ubisoft's most recent entry into the Assassin's Creed series, Assassin's Creed: Unity. While Arno's tale has been wrought with it's own technical issues, one would be hard-pressed to find anybody who is complaining about the game being too short. When one opens up the map within Assassin's Creed: Unity, the screen is bombarded by a grip of tiny icons representing various missions, factions, landmarks, and chests. As you progress, the map fills out adding more and more "stuff" to it. 

The Assassin's Creed: Unity single-player aspect of the campaign was a pretty solid 8 hour-ish exercise not including any of the side missions. The side missions are where the game can go from an 8-hour affair to a 10, 12, 16 (or even more) slog because, for me, most of the side missions are simply fluff. While they do flesh out a bit of the world around Arno, most of the missions are incredibly basic, very repetitive and can quickly become rote. With these addition side-quests, the game itself goes from a relatively "safe" 8 hours to a bloated 10+. 

On the very opposite the spectrum, you have the most recent addition to the Alien franchise. The Multi-platform Alien: Isolation received criticism from more than one reviewer about the game being TOO long, clocking in around 15 hours. Interestingly, much like The Order: 1886Alien: Isolation is wholly a single-player affair. Unlike Unity, there wasn't a ton of side-quest bloat but some of the previously mentioned value-adds are available.

At the end of the day, depth of story and character will *always* be more important than length of game in my eyes. I'll take a 5-7 hour game with stellar storytelling and creative characters over the 10+ hour game which has the same overall campaign length but is peppered with fluffy side-quests in an effort to artificially lengthen a game. 

And for the record, I absolutely believe single-player games still have a place at the table and should never be discounted. There is still great value in single-player titles and I hope the reaction to The Order: 1886 does not instill a form of reticence in developers, giving them a push for more fluff and less meaningful content.