When “The Ancients” played videogames in the early 1980’s, they knew not that their gaming tastes were being defined by those earliest incantations of interactive entertainment. Comparing these early games to modern faire, though, is like comparing the Pony Express to Wi-Fi. Slow, ugly, and usually unrefined in ways that make us ask, “Did they really live like this!?”
Things started to change, though, with the release of a little game called The Legend of Zelda. Instead of relying on sharp reflexes or anything yclept “tight platforming controls,” this game dropped you in the middle of nowhere and you simply had to start figuring things out.
In the quests to decipher the Zelda's secrets, you invariably backtracked a significant amount. You passed the same area hundreds of times and never thought twice about it. Passing the first cave in the game for a eighth time you never said, “I’m going in circles! I’m lost- this is hopeless!” It was about how the game was played — that was your part in the adventure.
Now we arrive at a title like Dragon Age 2, blasted in reviews for its ability to produce barely enough locations to make a baker’s dozen. You could generalize more than that even, and say that you’ve only got three: day, night, and… a mountain. As winked at earlier, it’s possible your outlook on this is impacted significantly by your gaming pedigree.
Myself, for example? I played adventure games when they were text only, so even the addition of these fancy moving pictures is enough for me. I see Dragon Age 2 and don’t think twice about having to revisit a location several times, because I think that’s how adventure games are played. However, someone else might only have played a few well paced, sizeable RPG’s — and that person’s opinion is going to be slightly different to say the least.
That’s a short point to make, I realize; the point that you may or may not loathe revisiting locations depending on your role playing game experience. A tangential argument could be made for Final Fantasy XIII’s linearity, also. Journalists and fans alike start important discussions when commenting on these facets of a game, but always remember “The Ancients!” There’s still a market for that style of gameplay… just like there is inexplicably still a market for the game of checkers.