Time manipulation opens the door for countless ways to experience and progress through segments of games. In my opinion, not enough game developers take advantage of these rich concepts which have plenty of opportunity for greatness if done right. Harnessing abilities that can alter the fabric of time and exploit enemies is entertainment at its finest for me. Whether it be used for stealthily sneaking past or killing enemies, solving puzzles, or just going back and correcting a previous mistake, time manipulation in video games has near-unlimited opportunities for spectacular enjoyment and creativity.
Previous games over the years are evidence that this can be done to good success, so here are 5 great games that showcase this perfectly.
Arkane Studios’ stealth masterpiece, Dishonoured, has you go out on an adventure to rescue your in-game daughter whilst assassinating a line of baddies along the way. However, what separated this game from the rest is that you possessed various unique powers and gadgets to use at your disposal, one of which is Bend Time.
At its base level, Bend Time allows ex-royal bodyguard turned assassin Corvo Attano to slow down time so that enemies and objects react and move at a slower pace, giving the player more time to analyse situations and adapt their approach. Although, the ability really comes into interesting territory when it is fully upgraded, allowing the player to fully stop time completely for a short amount of time. The power duration isn’t extremely long, but even so, there is surprisingly a lot you can do with the ability to halt time completely.
Combining the Bend Time power with other powers and gadgets is art on another level. If you look in the right places, there are various impressive videos of players using this power to kill or subdue enemies in unique ways. The opportunity for creativity with this ability only became even more prominent in the sequel, Dishonoured 2, which includes a new array of powers from Emily Kaldwin that can be combined with Corvo’s on New Game+.
This indie game had me die several times in a row without making me feel frustrated thanks to its time manipulation powers. Now THAT is an accomplishment.
Braid is a 2D puzzle platformer that released in 2008 and was mainly thought of as an innovative enjoyable game thanks to its creative use of time manipulation powers that are used to solve puzzles and progress through levels.
The game follows Tim who is on his way to find a princess and along the way must conquer enemies and obstacles using his time manipulation abilities, including the ability to reverse time, the ability to pass objects along different timestreams (for select puzzles), and the ability to place a ring that slows down time within that specific radius. Like games such as Portal, every time that I would struggle to solve a puzzle, I could do nothing but blame myself as I knew that each one was carefully thought out and could be completed without seeming unfair. I would feel immensely satisfied upon solving a puzzle that made me scratch my head for a long time.
In terms of puzzle platformers, this is probably one of my favourites just for its innovative ideas and excellent delivery.
Singularity felt a lot like Bioshock mixed with time powers, and I’m not complaining.
Developed by Raven Software in 2010, Singularity is a first-person shooter with horror elements that follows Nathaniel Renko as he leaps back and forth between two decades to right a wrong he committed during the game’s prologue. The story itself (which I won’t spoil here) is interesting and has a lot of twists and turns that caught me off guard and left me in suspense.
Other than the story and setting itself, the gameplay elements are also time-related. Players are given the Time Manipulation Device (TMD) and therefore have several abilities to use, such as the ability to travel backward and forwards through time, move an object backward or forwards through time or age an enemy into ash, create a time bubble which slows down everything within its proximity, and also other generic abilities such as being able to levitate an object in the air or blast enemies with a shockwave. These abilities really shake up gameplay and prevent it from being just another generic shooter.
Having similar gameplay to the previously mentioned Singularity, TimeShift is set in a world in which an unknown protagonist goes back in time to the year 1939 to rebel against the dystopian world dictator, Dr. Aiden Krone. This is achieved via the Beta Suit which is also the source of the game’s time manipulation powers that the player can harness and use at their own will. These powers include the ability to slow, stop, or even rewind time to benefit the player in combat and also can be used for specific puzzles.
The ability to slow time is useful, as like Dishonoured it allows the player to avoid incoming projectiles and tactically analyse and adapt to the surroundings. When stopping time, players can also steal an enemy’s gun much to the enemy’s surprise when time unfreezes and they realise that they are utterly screwed. The ability to rewind time can be extremely tactical, as it allows the player to undo any mistakes made like being detected by an enemy. In addition to this, these powers have uses outside of just combat.
Like most other entries on this list, there are various time-related puzzles involved. Time Stop might be used for passing through a pipe with fire bursting across your path, whereas Time Reverse can be used for temporarily removing rubble from your path in order to progress. They are quite simplistic, but it is still appreciated nonetheless.
5. QUANTUM BREAK
This linear story-driven game has quite a lot going for it within its roughly 10-hour length. Right off the bat, you’ll probably recognise quite a fair few faces, with the game being host to some great A-list celebrities such as Shawn Ashmore, Lance Reddick, Dominic Monaghan, and Aiden Gillen. These actors work to create a compelling time-related story which piqued my interest every time they were on screen.
In terms of gameplay, the combat is pretty solid and there are loads of cool time powers which help against the often (In my experience) challenging enemies. These powers include the ability to create a time shield which you stand in and allows you to heal whilst inside, the ability to create a freeze zone around an enemy and then rapidly fire bullets which go off all at once when the zone goes away, the ability to sprint faster than time, a time dash ability, time vision which can locate enemies and objects, and a time blast attack which sends enemies into the air.
There are also specific enemies in the game which have their own time-related abilities such as moving faster than time, and they are also immune to environmental freezes/pauses.
My only issues with the game are the clunky platforming segments and the short game length, as it felt like by the time I reached the peak of my powers capabilities, the game was almost over.
Those were some of the many great games with time-related mechanics. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
(Video by GERRiE.)