As I sit here and try to compose my review of Valkyria Chronicles 2, I am reminded of a recent conversation (if you can call it that) on Twitter regarding gameplay vs story.
The conversation was interesting since we both dug in with our respective views. It got me thinking, what is the greater view on this particular issue. Does gameplay triumph over story? Or maybe it’s the other way around and does story reign supreme?
Personally I find that the story, at least in games like Valkyria Chronicles (Japanese-style RPGs/jRPGs), to be very important and that even the best gameplay mechanics can’t save a game with a crummy plot. How many of you have played an RPG which featured great gameplay mechanics but fell short because it relied on too many RPG cliches or perhaps had a story that was too far fetched? I can’t deny that the first game that comes to my mind is Star Ocean: The Last Hope, which was fun to play, but had a very cheesy and weak story.
Maybe a better example would be if I referenced a movie, such as the Rambo franchise (particularly Rambos 1 through 3).
In the first two Rambo films, we as the audience were presented with some great action scenes (“gameplay”) and were given a story that might not have been an Academy Award-winning one, but it had a personal feel to it and was compelling enough for me. How could you not be interested in a story about the difficulties a soldier from the Vietnam war encountered in trying to re-integrate into society and coming to terms with one’s past and fears? In this case, the movies’ story and action scenes were good.
Now, on the flip side we have Rambo III, which had the same amount of action (“gameplay”), but had a crappy story with poor execution of a deus ex machina to saved the day in the end.
To me it seems like the best games are ones in which there is a balance between a good story and gameplay. A game that goes to one extreme without consideration of the other results in some really bad games.