Games Make Me Carry Too Much Stuff

Games give players countless tools to help turn the tide in their favour. But as players survive in a game longer, they unlock and gather more and more gear until their pockets are brimming with potions, antidotes and bombs.

The feeling of rummaging through your inventory in the middle of a fight is as tense as it is frustrating. I’d love to keep things simple, but most of the games I’m playing right now require as much inventory management as they do skilful combat.

This week in Monster Hunter: World, I finally hunted a Tempered Kirin. Kirin are a kind of massive unicorn capable of leaping around the battlefield and blasting their surroundings with lightning. “Tempered” monsters are among the toughest variations of creatures in the game, doing more damage than their normal counterparts.

Fighting a Tempered Kirin requires high skill and proper gear. That doesn’t just meant tough armour, but also a collection of potions, defence boosts, elemental resistant cloaks and slingshot ammunition.

To select these things, you either need to tap a button combination to scroll through your inventory, or use a pop-out wheel to select items. This is done in real time, as the monster attacks you.

As a result, much of my fight was spent rifling around to select potions and to alternate between two special cloaks that reduced the damage I took from the monster.

Dodging away from a monster to rummage for an item is a strange experience that is both exciting and laborious. There’s the tension of finding what you need before the monster knocks you out or interrupts the process, but there’s also myriad button presses that don’t exactly feel heroic.

It’s more akin to those scenes in horror movies where soon-to-be murder victims try to find the right key to start their car as the killer lumbers closer and closer.

Tools and nifty items are a cornerstone of Monster Hunter, but devoting more and more time to inventory management changes the pace of combat. I appreciate having to plan smart, but there’s definitely an uptick in busywork in higher level quests.

Earlier this week, I started streaming Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines on Kotaku US’ Twitch channel. The 2004 RPG is a dark fantasy cousin to games such as Deus Ex or Fallout, with hub worlds to explore and stat-based dialog options. The combat is a mix of melee action and stiff gunfights.

Inventory management is a hassle. Selecting a new weapon requires, as far as I can tell, pausing to enter the menu and manually selecting whatever gun or knife you want to use.

You play as a powerful vampire with the ability to dominate minds, but when combat comes, you’re reduced to a clumsy buffoon digging through your purse for blood packs and shotguns.

The need to pick through your inventory is one of those video game actions that we all accept but is strange when you look at it. The juxtaposition between combat and finding whatever doodad you need next can be harsh and comedic.

Grand monster hunters desperately look for their beef jerky as dragons swoop from above. Blood sucking vampires silently curse as they try to figure out where the hell they put that powerful fire axe.

All in a day’s work, I guess.


Comments

    I think it’s particularly evident in MHW, where you are never anything more than the collection of your stuff - levelling up only unlocks more missions, it does nothing for your core stats, health, stamina etc. Your character is basically a shell for your equipment (and fashion choices, of course!).

    I do appreciate the degree of menu customisation available in MHW, which is necessary given the sheer number of buffs, gear, ammo and other toys you get to use. I’ve never liked it when games permit/require pausing to access inventories mid-battle, ruins the immersion.

    Last edited 06/07/18 1:47 pm

    Yep, I often find inventory management a frustrating chore.

    And I'm constantly surprised how poorly a lot of developers handle inventory. From terrible clunky layouts, poor graphic design choices that make it noisy to browse, lack of features to simplify using/sorting/selling/locking/etc., and countless other features they could include that would further improve quality of life.

    Yeah, so many aspects like this in games have become the accepted standard, no matter how unrealistic they may be. I was thinking about this the other day as I was sprinting backwards and changing mags after every second shot.

    Further Reading: The Witcher 3.

    Got sick of that game real quick because of the terrible inventory system that started off badly by requiring you to carry two different types of swords because swamp hags are allergic to silver but not steel or some rubbish. Then you had to carry around an alchemist's chest of crap to make different flavours of cough syrup to fart out spells at the wrong time while you tried vainly to defeat said swamp-hag because you'd strayed from the games' very tightly defined path (open world my arse). And you were expected to manage all of this junk on your 65", HD TV via a gigantic menu screen filled with tiny, samey-looking icons and barely-legible text.

      Hi.

      This is the game police.

      Unfortunately we're revoking your gaming permit and giving you a 12 month suspension.

    Inventory management was a real pain for me in Divinity Original Sin. Only thing about that game that I didn't enjoy, actually.

    This was a problem that I noticed immediately upon playing this game and constantly think every time I play it still. I too recently defeated the tempered Kirin, and all throughout this game I've thought that the core system, the one vs one tactical fighting, is fun but all the extraneous fluff and subsystems and unexplained jargon that are layered on top drag the overall experience down - not least of all the tedious need to cart massive piles of shit along on every mission. It may well be 'traditional' to the series, but it sure as hell doesn't improve it. Fallout 4 was the same, spend as much time rifling thru inventory as actually killing enemies.

    Rarely games have enough effort put in to communicate the ubiquity of items. Too often I've found myself hoarding legitimately useful items and never using them for fear of missing out (ironic) or simply amassing too much junk because I didn't know how common it was.

    I'd really appreciate more aspects of showing how rare something is, and not just in the usual 'random loot tiers' way; add in information about where items are likely to be found, if they are finite or not, and what gameplay systems are involved (like do I have to craft it or buy it or will it only drop in battle etc.)

    In MHW, it's never more than you can handle, and even in the toughest fights in the game (Arch Tempered Vaal Hazak - arguably at least) you only need a handful of utility items to be instantly accessible that you can easily put at the cardinal points on the pop-up wheel. Whetstone, health potion, temporal mantle, vitality mantle. If you've reached that point in the game then activating those should be basic muscle memory. Bombs, traps, slinger, et al can be navigated and selected at your leisure or put on one of the other four positions on the wheel (For AT Vaal having the jerky that cures bleeding on the wheel is very handy since Odogaron will cut you if you give him the chance).

    Basically, with MHW that's the game. You're basically anime Batman (yes, I knolw there's an actual Batman anime) using gadgets, terrain and gear (and sometimes a sledgehammer with bagpipes built in) to take down monsters. It's not for everyone.

    Last edited 06/07/18 7:20 pm

    Too bad that the brilliance of wheel-management menus from Secret of Mana was never picked up by other developers. Literally makes of skill management a muscle memory thing.

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