Kotaku may be done with Last Gen Heroes, but the Xbone isn't out yet and I hit a writer's block, so you get a few more from me.
While everyone continues to argue about QTE-driven cinematic pieces versus games with deeper gameplay and the merits of good scripts versus powerful setpieces, I've noticed one thing many people seem to be overlooking: this generation, the art of telling a story with a game has vastly improved, in general, over all previous generations. And that's a really good thing! There are so many games from this gen that improve storytelling though, and I couldn't possibly cover them all, so I'll discuss one that I personally thought was exceptional, and you can share the games that you thought improved storytelling in the comments below! Laziness FTW! Also, spoilers ahead. You have been warned.
For my money's worth, the game that has really shown this generation's obsession with telling better stories was Bastion. There's a lot going on in the story mythologically, with some excellent worldbuilding and such, but unlike certain games (cough *FFXIII* cough) it doesn't get so caught up in the two that it sacrifices the actual plot. Rather ironically for a game driven by a narrator, it shows, rather than tells, using visual and audio clues outside of the words spoken to you or read in menus to show you clues as to the "twist" at the end of the game, as well as connect to the characters and actually care.
But those things aren't really innovations at all. Novels, films, comics and even many games from the 5 generations before did the same thing. The innovation, in my opinion? The interactive narration and the inclusion of the music as a part of the plot. At several points thoughout the game, Rucks, the old man telling your story, will say hilarious things like "Kid falls off a ledge. Nah, I'm just playin'," and "Kid just rages a while" if you engage in certain activities, or will alter his commentary based on how effectively you clear a level, such as the defense of one of the airships. And then there's what happens after you choose the restoration option: occasionally, in fact somewhat rarely, Rucks will hint at being stuck in a time loop, implied to be caused the Bastion's restoration not going back far enough.
I dunno, maybe that's not innovative at all, but I connected with the story and felt compelled to keep playing anytime Rucks would say something I couldn't predict, and it ultimately allowed the story to be told in a far more interesting way. What are your favorite stories of the previous generation? Do you think the gen that started last week can provide further storytelling progress?
I would like to point out that I still think FFXIII has a great story and great characters, but pretty much wasted it by a) telling the story in the most awful ways and b) trying to shoehorn a story-related playstyle into the Final Fantasy franchise that just didn't fit with the franchise's style, on top of the 6 hour tutorial. It really was a bad game as a result, but I still love Lightning and nothing you people say can change that.
Edit: minor warning for people editing drafts using the new Editor: double check to make sure it's publishing now, not publishing to the date you started the draft on. This article was in with the Halloween articles before I fixed it just now.