Jacks over kings

So, over the last couple of weeks I've been putting some serious time into playing both Fallout 4 and The Division. While exploring these two open-world giants, a couple of questions came to mind. Questions I couldn't answer. So, let's do the sensible thing and ask the internet (what could go wrong?). Can a game that is considered a "jack-of-all-trades" be better than a king in a single genre? Is it even fair to compare the two? Can you put two so different games next to each other and grade them the same (or with the same system in place)? But before we dig into this extravagant piece of navel-gaze, let's do some housekeeping.

I own one deck of cards.

This is a topic of discussion without a good end-point. Since any and all answers that come out of it is purely subjective and up to ones own taste. But I think that the topic is pretty interesting to think about nonetheless. I also do not harbor any specific dislike for any game I will talk about and I would like you, the reader, to not misinterpret my usage of them in this article for dislike.

There, housekeeping done. So, as I said, I've spent some time playing these games over the last couple of weeks. They're pretty similar games, on the surface. Both are open-world affairs with a lot of shooting and looting. There, however, the similarities stop. One has a pretty robust salvage and building system while the other has a pretty engaging multi-player mode. But it's not THESE games I wish to compare. No, I want them to go up against Metal Gear Rising and Super Meat Boy.

Okay, that last sentence REQUIRES some explanation. See, Fallout 4 and The Division are big games with a lot of systems in them, but because of the size and the large amount of systems, a lot of the games feel kind of half baked. Their systems, their stories and their worlds feel shallow. The pond is wide, but not deep. On the other hand, MGR and SMB are comparatively small games. They're shorter, tighter and have fewer systems. But, what they do have are polished to a mirror sheen (I know the story in MGR is hokey, but I like what I like). So here, the pond is narrow but deep.

I've heard the debate about "shallow and wide vs narrow and deep" before. But what I haven't seen is a debate about whether these two kinds of games belong in the same grading system. What does it mean when a site grades a tournament fighter the same as an open world game? To me, that feels like comparing a great album made by a band with that of a grand opera.

The problem also comes up in conversation. Where I can pinpoint my love for MGR and SMB, when I talk to friends about games like Fallout 4 and The Division, I'm always short of words. The individual parts of those games aren't that interesting, but when put together, they become almost more than the sum of their parts. But is it still fair for me to say that one of those games are better than a smaller game, given that their parts are worse? Is it also fair for me to say that I got more time out of a smaller, narrower, game than one of these games, what with their magnanimous size and all?

There really isn't a problem here, unless you run a professional reviewing site. The questions I ask are simply for the exercise of thinking too much about video games. Still, how do you compare the two?