I would like to think of myself as a very open-minded individual. When faced with new things, I try to let go of my preconceptions and find a way to appreciate them. This is why prejudice and assumptions are one of the few things that truly annoy me in a profound level. But difficulties arise when things specifically rely on the preconceptions.
Duels of the Planeswalkers is a good example. The series rides on the well-established name of Magic the Gathering, but (at least at first) omits a lot of the elements that make Magic great. Deckbuilding, tapping specific lands, artifacts, etc. (Yes, almost all of these have been fixed, or will be by the next edition). The first games received harsh criticism for it, because their preconceptions did not match reality. They did not concern me, because I saw what the series wanted it to be: Baby’s First Magic. The system was solid, and the omitted features (the reason for which I suspect was technical limitations) were countered with simplicity. The decks were simple to give the players a balanced, pre-made selection. Full deckbuilding would transform the meta pretty badly. I, for one, enjoyed the chance to pit pre-made decks against each other.
The reason why this topic came to me is XCOM Declassified. The game was on sale in Steam, so I bought it for the sake of curiosity. I had heard that people did not like the game because it was not “true XCOM”. While I agreed that it probably would have been better if the game had been under some other IP, I was curious because I did not spot any criticisms for any technical faults. So I delved inside, consciously keeping an open mind.
What I learned was that the game felt a lot like Mass Effect 2. A third person shooter with tactical elements thrown in. Not bad, but nothing groundbreaking. The XCOM-elements were there, but I felt more like a grunt in an XCOM-facility rather than the ephemeral commander. But it was fine. The only things that ruffled my feathers was the long stretches of walking in the base, which broke my rule of Don’t Waste The Player’s Time.
When the game neared its end, I was ready to declare it a curiosity to play if you really want. But then, in the end, the game took on some pretty awesome twists.
Here is a courtesy Spoiler Warning for those who can appreciate them.
It turned out that the artifact at the start of the game tutorial, which was kind of glossed over, held an Ethereal alien that bonded with the main character and kind of merged with him. It manifested as an invisible entity hovering just above and behind the main character, controlling his actions, communicating with his team in an instant fashion that bordered on telepathy. It guided the main character’s choices as much as he influenced them. Kind of like… the player. I was dumbstruck.
When the player has a chance of communicating with another Ethereal, he is given a choice: To either allow humanity to perish in order to halt the alien menace (which was threatening even the Ethereals), or help and respect humanity. Pretty standard stuff, but something I did not expect from this game. I choose the latter, but the main character, (Carter. The character was so standard that I had to recheck the name) rebels, threatening to either destroy them both if the Ethereal does not leave him alone. Then the game just tosses choices at you. Do you leave or call his bluff? Which one of the supporting characters do you merge with? Which one of the supporting characters do you save later on? Do you kill Carter, who has become a liability to the project to save the Earth? Despite the bog-standardness of the whole game, the whole thing in the end was just… Far out.
I would have never seen any of this if I had just stuck with my preconceptions. So that’s my advice for pretty much anything in life. Understand preconceptions, but see beyond them.