No Man’s Life – Thoughts of Permadeath

I have a strange love/hate relationship with the idea of permadeath. The fact that I dabble with it seems to suggest that it has some manner of inherent value, though it does come at fairly high stakes.

That is, on the surface it seems that upon death or failure, the time invested is somehow lost or wasted. This isn’t a big problem with rogue-like games, which are somewhat designed to progress through repeated attempts that give you a progressively better starting point. It can be somewhat more severe when we discuss RPGs and/or MMOs where a single character can easily become a 40+hour investment, with many being in excess of 100. To the extent that it’s more common for playtime to be discussed in terms of days rather than hours.

This was brought about by my starting a new playthrough of No Man’s Sky, mostly as a way to occupy myself for a time, and using the permadeath difficulty on a whim. I’ve always thought it to be an odd play mode, for a game that regularly introduces new bugs to kill you randomly and unexpectedly. It also has an extremely harsh setup on a new playthrough. It took a half dozen tries to make it past the 5 minute mark, which is pretty much just a combination of speed and luck.

One difference I have noted in the past with other titles, such as Diablo 3, is that it tends to change my overall play style. Permadeath encourages a somewhat more slow and thoughtful approach where I would normally just YOLO it and deal with the consequences as they arose. I find myself looking at thing in NMS and doing impromptu risk assessments. A coworker was talking to me about the derelict freighters that I haven’t looked into and they dangers present in them and I was initially of the opinion that it’s something I wouldn’t want to do in such a severe playthrough. Give me a few days to consider it, though, and I start to wonder if it isn’t more a matter of preparation instead.

If I make sure my defences and environmental protections are well established, bring plenty of recharging materials, set up a multitool for that specific situation, and proceed with an extraordinary amount of caution, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

It reminds me quite a bit of my XCOM runs on the Ironman difficulty, a very similar sort of autosave with no/minimal reloading that has much the same feel. When something happens, good or bad, your must deal with the hand you are dealt.

Now, I find that the “waste of time” portion is somewhat case by case. In fact, it relies almost entirely upon nature of games as a form of entertainment. If you enjoy the higher stakes, playstyle, and time spent doing it, then it’s hard to argue that the time was wasted. I would say the opposite applies as well. If you find little to no enjoyment in knowing that your accumulated time can be erased, then that time should be spent in other ways.

What I don’t tend to favor is games with mandatory permadeath. While those tend to be far and few between, I prefer to have the option to choose a more relaxed mode if that’s what I’m interested in. It’s very similar to the whole full-loot PvP setup in MMOs, if it’s optional, I might dabble here and there. If it’s required, no thanks.

Regardless, it’s time for me to move on, I think. Y’all take care, and whatever you’re doing, make sure you try to enjoy it.

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