Stealth combat uses different skills than the average video game, prioritizing patience and strategy over hacking, slashing, and blasting away enemies. But few games rely entirely on stealth to drive them, instead offering alternative approaches for players who aren’t experienced stealth masters or for people who just like a bit of variety. While some games have an instant fail state for being discovered, most launch you into combat instead.
So how can games make stealth combat enticing when outright combat is generally more straightforward?
Engaging Players with Unique Stealth Powers
The simplest way of getting players to go for stealth combat over traditional combat is to make stealth more interesting and fun. Sounds simple, right? But actually achieving that goal is the hard part—you can’t make shooting intentionally boring or risk alienating players who prefer that style of play, which means both modes need to be valid, balanced, and fun.
Dishonored is a game that seized on this idea, making stealth as exciting an experience as any other that the game offers. Gifted with a series of intriguing supernatural powers, Corvo isn’t just hiding behind boxes and waiting for the perfect time to strike. His powers let him use a variety of satisfying techniques without alerting everyone and bringing down a flight of guards on his head—using plague rats, teleportation, and possession to launch a variety of interesting assaults without technically getting his hands dirty.
Dishonored is very much a hybrid stealth-action game. Stealth isn’t a requirement, and the game works perfectly well if you simply run in and stab any one of Corvo’s numerous enemies. But by making its stealth powers so robust and fascinating rather than limiting them to a hide-creep-stab cycle, Dishonored ensures that players will at least dabble in stealth, rather than head directly for confrontational combat.
Solid Stealth Mechanics Appeal to Hardcore Fans
One of the most straightforward ways to get players to choose stealth is to build a game around it. With solid stealth mechanics, players know that they’re not going to get something that’s a boring rotation of hiding behind cover and shooting—true stealth games have more nuance than that, giving players a multitude of ways to move past each obstacle—beyond just waiting for a guard to walk away and shooting.
This is where games like Metal Gear Solid and Alekhine’s Gun shine. Both are dedicated stealth games that support other modes of play—you can shoot your way through each challenge, but it’s likely going to be more difficult in the long run than using stealth skills. Unlike other genres, stealth is often based around the player character being vulnerable to attack when faced with more open combat. A few well-placed shots can take you down, making it more beneficial and ultimately more entertaining to avoid combat whenever possible.
By making stealth the preferable option, a game like Metal Gear Solid V also ensures that stealth is an engaging mode of play. When stealth is an alternative in action games like Skyrim, you can end up with a dull, lifeless system that seems to work by magic rather than skill—in Metal Gear, you have a system that makes sense and that allows you to have fun without being overpowered. Snake’s boxes are undoubtedly silly, but within the confines of the universe they work perfectly; because the game is built around stealth, the mechanics are satisfying and fun in a way they wouldn’t be if they were added as an afterthought.
Gameplay Rewards Encourage Stealthier Actions
Combat is often the primary way we interact with games, particularly in the action genre. Asking players to step away from what they know (without punishing them for engaging) is sometimes difficult for developers, but using rewards over punishment is the better way to get players to take the riskier route to success.
This is how Alekhine’s Gun handles stealth—rather than punishing players who fail to remain stealthy by forcing them to fail the mission, they have a chance to save themselves and succeed by surviving combat. However, because the game has a ranking system, players have additional incentive to remain undercover if they can. The stealth ranking system rewards players who keep out of sight and only kill NPCs when necessary, by assigning a grade to each completed mission, and gifting them with weapons or other upgrades for achieving higher rankings.
There’s an incentive to be stealthy rather than a punishment for not doing it, meaning players can strive to get better rather than grow frustrated with failure. You can complete the mission even if it means shooting every single guard, you just won’t receive the same benefits. There’s no compromise on the mechanics, only on the rewards.
Incentivizing Stealth Combat Requires Balance and Invention
Rather than pushing against or denying gamers’ attempts to play stealth games differently, these games allow freedom to experiment, but reward players who choose to ‘play by the rules.’ Each game is designed with exciting stealth powers, mechanics, and challenges, ensuring that the games are not only worth playing, but are worth playing as they were intended, putting stealth combat at the forefront.
For the ultimate stealth experience, purchase your copy of Alekhine’s Gun today! With dedicated mechanics that reward players who take the stealth route, Alekhine’s Gun ensures both newcomers and hardcore fans enjoy the experience.