- With the overarching rise of popularity of many action titles, the stealth genre has taken a hit, both in quality and quantity.
- Games like Deathloop incorporate a bare minimum of stealth, making the mechanics feel clunky and rigid.
- In recent years, more prominent developers have been moving away from slower stealth-based games to jump on the current action express train.
In recent years, there has been a clear indication that RPGs and more dynamic titles have started to take center stage when it comes to how much popularity they have gained. With titles like Hogwarts Legacy and Elden Ring taking center stage, pure stealth games have started diminishing, and newer and older publishers have begun paving a new way for a genre many players are very familiar with.
The root cause is debatable, but it is clear that the rise of Red Dead Redemption 2 was a great motivator for studios to bank on open-world games rather than linear stealth-based titles. Of course, RDR2 has stealth mechanics; it just didn’t build itself around them, so it was titled as an action-adventure title. Another culprit could be the rise of free-to-play models coupled with battle-royale games setting up a new stage for action titles.
Of course, the games replacing stealth are pretty good at what they do, which is adrenaline-filled gameplay with a good story to give it some flare for those with a finer palate. Or a game could have no story at all and still be destroying charts and smashing records; look at Overwatch 2, crossing 25 million players in a few days after launch and still keeping an extremely healthy playerbase after launch.
But stealth games aren’t necessarily bad. It’s just with the newer generation of gamers, who want to hop on their console or PC and instantly get into the action rather than have to play a slow burn which may end up unfulfilling for many gamers alike. To counter this, studios changed up their stealth games to have more combat-related features rather than pure stealth-based ones.
One example of this is Bethesda and how they recently changed their approach to their games. Dishonored 2 was and still is one of the best stealth games on the market. Incorporating clever strategies and techniques for traversing every stage to keep players open to experimentation. Recently, they released Deathloop, with some of the worst stealth I have ever seen.
Yes, this was a creative implementation, but it was such a bad one that it kills the experience every time you sneak around. This makes you think that if stealth should have even been a part of the game. Although Deathloops contains many tools for players to use in its stealth, you barely ever have the need to go into full stealth mode.
This is because it is laughably faster and easier to kill enemies rather than sneak around. If it’s easier to kill enemies than sneak around them, especially in a stealth-centered title, something is definitely wrong. Deathloop was held by, well, the looping part. The actual gameplay was hitting headshots and running around a vast map.
Another very popular example is the Assassin’s Creed franchise and how it moved from a heavy stealth-based experience where the depth of the combat lay in its parry system to turn into a full-blown RPG where you can’t even assassinate higher-level enemies. First of all, a stealth game quite literally called Assasin’s Creed should not have a mechanic that contradicts what an Assassin should do to kill instantly and quietly.
Arguably, the backlash for this change was prominent, but at the same time, it was very well received by a huge number of players. This goes to show that players want to pick up an axe and go ham, not sneak around for 30 minutes to get caught and do it all over again. This is where mixing in good stealth mechanics with the overall world is extremely important, and Metal Gear Solid 5 did just that.
The last great stealth-centered title that I had played, asides from The Last of Us: Part 2, and probably the last title to push it to such an extent, was MGSV. The game felt so absurdly real that the interaction the player had with the world and its entities felt like it could go literally anyway. Another great thing is the incentive. The game really isn’t as easy as many would think, so stealth is a necessity, especially when infiltrating huge enemy bases.
On the same topic, TLOU 2 can be considered one of the greatest stealth games of all time, but it comes with a very linear game design which, in the grand scheme of things, starts to feel limiting. Of course, you can interact with enemies in mind-blowing ways. In MGSV, if you do a certain act in one portion of the map, the other sides start to change according to those actions. In TLOU 2, you can quite literally run past half the encounters avoiding all stealth with zero future repercussions.
Although there have been great underrated stealth games like A Plague Tale, there have also been many recreations by both Indie and AAA studios, in the form of games like Hello Neighbor 2, Sniper Elite 5, and Stray, players can’t help but notice the genre dying as they see all these new and different genres start to take center stage.
A tier list of the best stealth games on PC by PCGamesn, showcases a great variety of stealth games; the only problem? Most of these are last gen, and some are even further than that. We get it. Players want to hop on a game the second they turn on their console or PC; they do not want to play a slow stylized experience that may leave them yearning for more.
With how the current landscape is prevailing, it is safe to say that the revival of this genre is not very probable. Although many new Amnesia games and other stealth-based titles have been revealed and are in development, as long as there exist multiplayer games with loads of explosions and guns, this genre really won’t be lifting itself back up anytime soon.
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