Huh, I got quoted in the podcast; was not expecting that. Thanks!
I’ve already unloaded a lot of frustration about this game in the posts I made to the other thread. Rather than beating a dead horse, I think the relevant question here is: could the developers have ever accomplished the things it seems like they wanted to accomplish, within the format of a very-linear corridor shooter?
Having played this game, it does not really surprise me at all that they decided to go with a hybrid open-world/linear mix in the upcoming Exodus. For me, all of the problems with not being to explore and inhabit the stations in this world come down to “this should have been an open world game”, because you’re not really going to be able to dig down into the stories of each of those stations unless you’re allowed to stay there and do some side quests.
The best Metro 2033 (and Last Light, from the couple hours I’ve played) seem to be able to do are extended in-game dialogues from side characters – which are nice, but also would be way more interesting with an Oxenfree-style dialogue system to interact with. Every time a 3-minute dialogue would trigger, I couldn’t help thinking “this should’ve probably been a movie”; being non-interactive really hurts it.
Of course, open world games don’t make themselves; it is likely that the studio actually did not have the resources to even attempt one until now.
After I quit 2033, I was not planning on playing Last Light at all – but I booted it up out of curiosity, thinking that the same janky combat system would make me bounce off in a few minutes. That did not happen. I don’t know precisely what the development history of Last Light was, but it feels like a reboot. Even though you’re the hero who (canonically) killed the Dark Ones in the last game, the intro treats the player as if this was their first Metro game, taking its time to demonstrate combat and other mechanics. (It even tells you how to do the mask wipe, finally.) A side character you’re paired with early on treats you in dialogue like a newbie (which is weird, given all the shit you got through in the last game).
The focus of Last Light seems to be squarely on the inevitable conflict between all the factions, now that the Rangers have basically hit the motherlode of stockpiles. The Nazis and Reds actually get proper introductions this time – and again, since this franchise does not do subtle, your intro to the Nazis is an underground concentration camp. While the game could still fall on its face politically, I feel like that’s a pretty firm statement of purpose.
Given how rough 2033 ended up being in the later levels, I’m on the fence about seeing Last Light through. But I have to give it credit for onboarding the player properly this time around.