In a world where we want to get more and more out of the games we buy, replayability is a word that gets thrown around rather quick. As a buzzword, gamers are quick to use it in order to praise or criticize a game. It’s no longer enough to have a strong storyline of fifty hours: gamers want to be able to replay that story with new tools and approaches. They want to take their experienced character or a totally new one through an identical experience, but possessing means and powers they had not on the first run through. To sate this thirst for replayability, more and more games contain “legacy” systems, which grant new things to those who have already completed the game once. These new things range from new powers to increased experience points, but they always augment the new play-through in a way. Not everyone is a fan of these, but I want to take the time to tell you why I believe legacy systems are the key to a great replay.
To start things off, let me tell you that I rarely play a game two times. Especially single-player games like Mass Effect or Tomb Raider are off my list once I’ve seen the credits. Sure, I’ll try to replay them, but after half an hour, my attention fades and I return to watching Buffy (I can watch that show a thousand times). Still, when I know that a single-player game offers me a “New Game+”, I’m tempted to start the story all over with my veteran character, just to see what I hadn’t unlocked yet.
In that sense, legacy options are a very basic incentive to have people playing the same content over and over again. It’s a simple way to extend the longevity of your game, without adding actual content. Lazy as hell, but damn effective.
Speeding up the process
A genre in which legacy systems are extremely prominent is that of MMO’s. Ranging from The Old Republic’s clearly-labeled Legacy system to World of Warcraft‘s heirloom items, MMO’s know how to support every alt-a-holics addiction. In games that are known for devouring hundreds of hours of time, it’s actually pretty nice to have ways of making the trip easier and faster for future characters. You’ve been there, you’ve done that, now you just want to get that new blood elf warrior up to maximum level to beat the hell out of Hellscream. Providing players with hand-me-downs in MMO’s speeds up the process of leveling new characters, without eliminating the process altogether.
In essence, legacy systems provide a certain convenience in games without taking anything away from them. In single-player titles, they extend the content without actually generating new content, while multiplayer games offer them to reward veteran gamers who want to try something new. I’m a huge fan of these systems, and I hope the legacy of legacy systems is one that will last for the coming ages of gaming history.