So, I rather recently I wrote about completely inappropriate armour in video games. From mail that falters at the first hunt of an enemy, to armour that’s barely even there, there were more than a few useless defensive options. But this is video games! It’s not all about hiding in an impenetrable shell! Sometimes you need to go on the offensive! But perhaps not with the options below…
By the way, I normally endeavour to keep the language in this blog clean, but this time I just couldn’t manage, so there are a couple of crude words ahead.
Here we have five completely awful pieces of offensive ordinance. Some ground rules though! It’s not necessarily the case that these are weak (although some are!), more that they aren’t something that would be suitable to take into battle. Also, none of these are designed with the sole purpose of being bad weapons, so no Giant’s Knife here folks! Let’s get on with this!
Hair – Bayonetta
Oh hey, look who’s back! Fresh from the inappropriate armour list, Bayonetta is here for inappropriate weapons too. They say the best defence is a strong offence. I’m not sure who they were, but I’m not entirely sure they had this in mind. In case you’re not aware, Bayonetta’s main form of defence is a figure hugging outfit made entirely out of her own hair. Said hair is also one of her main methods of attack.
So picture the scene! You’re being overwhelmed by demons and angels Bayying (see what I did there?!) for your blood! You have guns in your hands (and on your feet because video games) and youuseless armour protecting you. So obviously the first thing you’d do is turn your hair-based body armour into a hairy magic foot to kick your enemies. Even if it is magic, you’re literally fighting demons with hair. HAIR! Someone thought this was a sensible means of attack…
Leaf Shield – Mega Man 2
Deadly robot masters are rampaging throughout the city! Chaos reigns thanks to the evil Dr. Wily’s crazed designs! Thankfully, we have the super fighting robot Mega Man! He’ll take them down, bring Wily to justice, and save us all through his powerful weapons, such as the Mega Buster, the Metal Blade, and the…Leaf Shield.
Look, I know it’s not actually a bad weapon in the game, but put it into context for a moment. You’re going to confront a hardened, metallic death machine and you plan on defeating it by throwing small pieces of foliage in their general direction. Personally, I’d probably want to ride in on some sort of battle tank made of death lasers. But that’s just me, and I’ve never saved the world from killer robots…
Dildo Bat (no, I’m not typing its proper name) – Saints Row series
Ugh. Look, I’m sorry. I’m genuinely sorry. I didn’t want to include this, but how could I not. It’s a baseball bat. With a comically oversized sex toy strapped to the end of it. Is there anything less appropriate than that?
Sticking on theme though, Saint’s Row is pretty damn silly as a series about gang warfare and aliens or something. Here’s the thing, if your going to get involved in a turf war, would you be turning up with a set of actual weapons, or a stick with a hilarious willy glued onto it? I suppose your enemies may die laughing? Was that the goal of this cock-topped cudgel (I’m pretty proud of that one)? Perhaps, but even then it would be pretty useless.
The Old Woman – Worms series
Two teams face off over a chaotic battleground. Rockets fly, air strikes…strike, and the terrain gradually collapses into the deadly sea beneath. Those worms are tough, and shrug off a shotgun blast with a pithy one-liner. It takes something pretty powerful to put these worms underground, so it’s a damn good thing you brought your old woman with you.
Now, the old woman is incredibly powerful. When she strikes, the damage is pretty high and can cause a lot of harm to worms and environment alike. The inappropriate aspect of this weapon is that fact that you’re sending a zimmer frame weilding, explosive lady to her death with the goal of killing a bunch of annelids. What sort of monster are you?!
Mr Toots – Red Faction: Armageddon
An oppressive regime has taken over the planet Mars, leaving colonists and workers with terrible existences. The resistance grows to take down the totalitarian state and free the populace by exploding everything. Literally everything. See that building? Smash out those supports and bring it down! That structure? Blow up the load bearing pillars and watch it collapse! Want to smash that statue into that factory? Pull out the magnet gun and drag them together! Need to destroy everything in your path? Fire off a unicorn!
Yes, a unicorn. In this grim, brutal future, the only thing that can free the people is a unicorn that shits deadly, deadly rainbows. Mr. Toots (yes, it has a name too) is a secret weapon in Red Faction: Armageddon and is utterly devestating to everything it’s rainbows hit. It’s also devestating to it’s own bum based on the expression on its face when you pull the trigger. Which makes me question…what exactly is its trigger?
Some honourable mentions, as ever. Earthworm Jim using himself as a whip can’t be terribly comfortable. Wakka’s blitzball in Final Fantasy X is essentially a burly man throwing a ball in a monster’s face. Painful perhaps, but hardly a weapon of war. Cloud’s sword in Final Fantasy VII would break his spindly little arms as soon as he tried to swing it. The Cerebral Bore from Turok 2 was just silly. Why kill an enemy the conventional way when you can have an explosive drill into their brain and then explode? I suppose that was really more a weapon of that era of gaming. Everything had to be silly!
What weapons would you find utterly useless? I’m sure there are plenty more that I didn’t think of that are more likely to harm you than your enemy, or are horribly unsuited to combat. Let me know!
Who wouldn’t want to ride into battle wearing a thong?
Video games are not exactly known for subtle outfits for their characters. From ridiculously impractical space marine armour to, shall we say, less than protective female knight armour, there’s a long history of useless defensive attire. There’s a lot to be said for awesome looking costumes in this form of entertainment, but there’s also a line between looking cool and looking totally useless in a combat situation. This list is dedicated to those awful armours, those good-for-nothing guards, and those pointless protectives.
Some ground rules here. I’m looking for specific characters or specific sets of armours. Also, I could easily just list off every female armour set from fantasy games and have done with it, so I’m not allowing those. However, I am considering pretty much any outfit a character wears here, as video game characters are almost always heading into battle in some way. Let’s do this!
Arthur – Ghosts ‘n Goblins
That’s right, I’m starting with a proper, sensible looking set of armour! Arthur appears as a knight, heading into battle against undead hordes in all shapes and sizes, so a solid set of plate mail seems like a pretty good option. Surely such sturdy equipment would hold off the likes of zombies and bats for long enough for our hero to dispatch them.
Nope! Utterly useless. If anything so much as touches Arthur, his armour flies off, leaving him with just a pair of under-crackers to prevent death (and embarrassment). Is his armour designed so badly that it literally explodes upon first contact with an adversary? Surely a brave knight should have a better armourer to equip them before an adventure. Not Arthur though. He’s content to wear the cheapest piece of crap armour he can find. At least it seems to work slightly better in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite.
Bayonetta – Bayonetta
You’re a badass witch, ready to head into a war between demons and angels. At least I think that was the plot, it’s been a while. Anyway, you’re wading in there with a variety of guns and your sweet kung-fu moves. Hellish and angelic adversaries are no pushovers though, so you might want to think about kitting yourself out with some first rate protection.
How about your own hair? Does that sound like a good defensive option? Sure it does! Magically have your hair create a skin tight body suit around you, that’s bound to hold off an axe swing or sword lunge. Don’t forget that your hair also acts as a weapon, so occasionally you’ll be fighting your opponents stark naked, so that’s good. It’s a good thing you can teleport around in slow motion or you’d never have a hope.
Battlegear of the Unblinking Vigil – World of Warcraft
You’re a hunter. Sneaking through the undergrowth, tracking your prey from the shadows, you approach them unseen. Nothing can prevent you from ambushing your adversary and claiming victory. So long as you remain invisible, they don’t stand a chance.
Good thing you’ve turned up in the bulkiest, brightest armour you could find! If the massive helmet or shoulder guards don’t give your away by bumbing into everything nearby, then the giant lightup faceguard will. Nothing says “hunter” quite like a bright blue light in the middle of your face as you’re hiding in the shadows. Useless.
Ivy – Soul Calibur
Alright, hands up anyone who say this one coming? It’s time to fight, one on one. Nowhere for anyone to hide. Your enemy draws their sword, you take out your bizarre sword/whip hybrid (because why not?) in readiness for the confrontation. It’s a good thing you got the best armour you could find, because this may wellbe a battle to the death.
Or, OR, you could just turn up wearing string and a pair of tights. It doesn’t matter if that leaves you utterly exposed to your enemy (and the elements, and possibly at risk of being arrested for public indecency) because string is totally able to stop swords! Honestly, of all the stupid armour sets in video games, this has to be the most useless piece of trash armour that’s in the game for one reason and one reason only. You know what it is. You don’t need me to spell it out…
Kratos – God of War
It’s time to avenge your family’s deaths in the only way you know how: by murdering god! That might sound like an insurmountable task, but you have all the skills you need, and the finest equipment you could want to confront the forces of the afterlife, whether heaven or hell. Well, you managed to get some decent weapons at least.
It seems in your rush to get into battle, you totally forgot to put any clothes on! Yes, it’s just like one of those nightmares where you turn up at school in nothing other than your pants, but this is so much worse. You can’t stab Zeus in the face wearing your underwear and nothing else! Not only do you need something with better defensive qualities than exposed skin, but there’s also the dignity aspect! I suppose at least you don’t need to worry about rust when fighting Poseidon…
A special mention here for Havel from Dark Souls for making his armour entirely out of rock. I bet that provides a hell of a lot of protection! Pity no-one would be able to move whilst wearing it. You’ll probably survive once your enemy gets bored, but it’s not much of a victory really.
And that’s it! Five (plus one) useless bits of armour. How about you? No, I’m not asking about your inappropriate armour! I’m curious about what game armours you’ve seen that aren’t fit for purpose. Let me know, I could do with a laugh!
I’m a grown up. That means I don’t have nearly as much gaming time as I used to. That means most games tend to get the “one-and-done” treatment. That means that I tend not to complete many games multiple times. That means…I don’t think I can carry on doing this “That means…” thing. I know. You’re upset. It was pretty hilarious whilst it lasted. But you’ll just have to move on. Much like I’m going to right now.
Rambling aside, I tend not to finish games repeatedly, simply because I don’t have the time to before I move onto the next experience. But there are a few games I’ve played during my more recent adult life that have had the special privilege of not being returned to the shelf once I’ve finished it. This is dedicated to those games!
Some rules here. Games that require multiple playthroughs don’t count (sorry Nier: Automata). Super short games don’t count either, so things like Blue Estate are going to be ignored. They need to be games I’ve played since being a proper grown up and having a real job, so don’t expect anything before the past couple of generations. On with the show!
Seven times. I played this from start to finish seven times. It was absolute madness to spend that length of time on a single game, but utterly worth it. There were so many different ways to play it, with multiple classes as well as multiple ways to approach a situation and alter the story.
My final playthrough was on Insane mode. God knows why I did that, but it really was a slog as the enemies just became bullet sponges. Still! There was a lot to love in this universe, so much so that I went back to see those things seven times…
Oh, and I ended up taking my original playthrough through to the future games, making those other playthroughs moot.
This was an odd one for me, as I finished the game and then started playing it through again immediately so I could get the other ending. Not that I had a clue what either ending meant. Honestly I think it was just an excuse for me to go back and experience it all again.
Having finished the game, I found out that there were other bosses and such that I didn’t even know existed, let alone had found. So back in I went, armed with my new knowledge. I got thoroughly killed by most of them (along with the minions in the areas. Screw those wheel skeletons) but going back through the worlds was just as much fun the second time around as the first.
Alan Wake did something that I don’t like in games. It hid content behind difficulty modes. If you wanted to see everything in the game you had to play it on the hardest setting. Thankfully, normal mode was actually fairly tame, meaning that I felt alright about going into Nightmare mode. For a hardest setting, it wasn’t all that tough (HASHTAG MLGPRO!). Anyway, I’d enjoyed the main game a lot. I found the story interesting, the atmosphere spot on, and the soundtrack fantastic. The gameplay wasn’t half bad either.
I’m pretty sure there isn’t anything in this game that I didn’t do. All the collectibles, all the DLC, all the extra challenges, everything. I know it has its flaws, but I found it utterly compelling, and I’m one of those that still hopes for a proper follow-up one day. I’m not holding my breath though.
DmC: Devil May Cry
No, you shut up! Whilst I found the new Dante a bit irritating (plus that who “Not in a million years.” thing felt like a deliberate swipe at fans of the previous games), I considered the world and gameplay to be absolutely spot on. The real world/demon world thing lead to some really intersting environmental designs and trversal challenges, and whilst the combat was a little easier than previous installments, it was still incredibly satisfying.
Add to that the bosses, that were incredibly varied and fun to fight. The Bob Barbas one above was insane in its presentation alone. I didn’t play this a second time until years later, but it was just as fun the second time around. It held up pretty well in spite of this being a pretty hated entry in the series.
Well obviously. Did anyone expect this to not be here? Literally hundreds of hours across numerous playthroughs that are different every time depending on successes and failures as well as the choices you make in the “overworld”. This is my go to game any time I need a play through of something comfortable. Comfort gaming if you like.
Some honourable mentions. Alpha Protocol was a horribly under appreciated spy thriller with tons of choice about how to play that had genuine consequences. I needed a few playthroughs to see everything I wanted to. DOOM (2016) got a couple of run throughs by virtue of being brilliant and having a fun enough core gameplay loop for me to want to do it all again. Fallout 3, because I really wanted to blow up Megaton…
How about you? What have you played over and over again? Are they comfort games or ones that genuinely needed more playthroughs just because they were that much fun? Tell me about them so I can absolutely not play them because I don’t have time to!
So that Well Red Mage sure is a nice chap! He and his team are constantly putting out substantial content both in written and audio form. Maybe go check their stuff out! Recently they posted a list of one game for every year they’d been alive. I toyed with the idea of not doing this because it seemed like actual work. Then I decided that I have no qualms with copying someone else’s idea and knuckled down to writing and looking at historical releases! So here is the definitive list of games from 1983 to 2018. None of them are wrong.
1983 – Mario Bros.
Not many games came out this year that I would have played, having limited motor control mand all. But looking at the release lists for the year, I have played the arcade version of Mario Bros. in a couple of places over the years. It does not hold up well by today’s standards.
1984 – Marble Madness
I still love this game. And also hate it. I think I only ever finished it once because it’s so damn hard at times. But it’s so easy to start another game and go again, slightly improving. It’s a marble themed rogue-like. Again, I didn’t play it at the time. I was 1.
1985 – Space Harrier
I had to pick this out as it’s the only game I think I’ve played from the year, and even then it was only via Shenmue.
1986 – The Legend of Zelda
I know it’s the Japanese release, but I’m still counting it! I still have the cartridge for this, although I didn’t get it until I was 8. That overworld theme still gives me shivers. There’s no faulting it as it still holds up well.
1987 – Operation Wolf
Getting a bit trickier here as I struggled to decide between this and Maniac Mansion. It came down to which game would I want to play right now, and you can’t beat a light gun game.
1988 – Super Mario Bros. 2
No you shut up! I like this regardless of whether or not it’s a reskin of another game. It’s quirky, and introduced some now iconic characters to the Mario universe. Plus that Birdo…
1989 – Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles
Yes, the UK version. I’m just so British. I know it’s flawed and it’s insanely hard at various points, but I played this game so much. Donatello is my personal half-shell hero. Raphael sucks.
1990 – Super Mario Bros. 3
I think this was the year I got my first console in the form of a NES. The fact that Mario 3 is often regarded as one of the greatest games ever made makes it a sure bet for 1990. It still plays brilliantly too.
1991 – Mega Man 4
Yes it’s the Japanese release but I’m still bcounting it because I can. This was my first Mega Man game, so it has to be my favourite (it’s the law). The robot masters were silly but I always enjoyed going back to play it again. The music from Toad Man’s (seriously…Toad Man?) stage was quite memorable.
1992 – Dune II
Pretty much the first modern RTS. Near on every RTS since owes something to Dune 2. Base building, move & attack, resource management, it was a complete package. With 3 factions to play as, there was a fair bit to do (each one had unique units) over the course of the campaigns. Ordos forever!
1993 – X-Wing
My sister got this for Christmas for our first proper PC. I don’t think she played it nearly half as much as I did. And thus my love affair with space sims was born. Consider that this is the year that Doom, Day of the Tentacle, Syndicate, Aladdin, Sam & Max, and Mega Man X came out and you’ve got a recipe for one of history’s most influential gaming years.
1994 – UFO: Enemy Unknown
I started by writing about how much I love Sonic 3. But this. This was one of my favourite games for a long, long time. Hard as all hell, with a massive campaign, that you could lose over and over again before figuring out how to win (on the easiest setting obviously). I have this on Steam and like to dip back into the classic from time to time.
1995 – Command & Conquer
It was tough to choose between this and Warcraft 2. I played the demo for this over and over again before eventually getting the full game. A lot of people preferred the Red Alert series, but I was always hooked on the near future military aspect. All hail NOD!
1996 – Civilisation 2
Literally nothing else needed to exist once I started on this. I think my sister and I competed for who got to use the computer so we could play this on it.
1997 – Quake 2
Christ what a year for games. There was a lot to love here, but I spent so much time playing Quake 2 both online and off. The maps, the mods, the weapons. I know it was a fair bit slower than a lot of other online shooters, but I enjoyed this one the most, and the most often.
1998 – Half-Life
How can you select just one game from one of the most significant years in gaming? With great difficulty. It was between Half-Life and Metal Gear Solid in the end, and it came down to the fact that I played the PC version of MGS which didn’t work quite as well as the console version (swapping ports when playing on a keyboard was a pain). Half-life was quite a revelation for me in terms of first person shooters at the time. The story it told without telling you anything was something I hadn’t seem before and I played this repeatedly to find out more. What a game.
1999 – X-Wing: Alliance
There was a full on campaign that ended with you flying through the Death Star at the end of Return of the Jedi. There was a multiplayer suite with tons of customisation (that I was also pretty good at by all accounts). There was an incredibly solid space combat system in place that was as complicated as you needed it to be. Whilst everyone was still talking about how great Rogue Squadron was, I was playing the real Star Wars ship combat experience.
2000 – Crazy Taxi
Ya Ya Ya Ya Ya! There are tons of games I could pick this year (overlooking Skies of Arcadia hurts me deeply), but I don’t think I played any nearly as much as Crazy Taxi. I credit my lowest GCSE exam result to this game arriving in the post the day before my Physics exam.
2001 – Baldur’s Gate 2
My favourite game of all time. Enough said.
2002 – Gitaroo Man
The best rhythm game ever. Enough said. In fact, no! That isn’t enough! This game was utterly insane! A pet that turns out to be a robot dog that gives you a guitar that turns you into a musical superhero that fights J-Pop UFOs with the power of rock?! HOW IS THIS NOT THE BEST GAME OF ALL TIME?! Plus the soundtrack was incredible and varied. I even imported the music CD so I could keep it forever. This needs to make a come back some day. And yes, I picked this over Wind Waker.
2003 – Warcraft III: Thr Frozen Throne
An expansion pack? Yes! One of the best, in fact. You take the fantastically well made Warcraft 3, along with its campaign, then add more campaign, more multiplayer, more awesome. I flat out sucked at the multplayer, but there were so many mods that it meant there was always something I could access.
2004 – Half-Life 2
2005 – Trauma Center
I’ve played very few games from 2005 it would seem, so I picked one that stood out to me. This was a really cool concept for a game that made great use of the DS touch screen.
2006 – Guitar Hero 2
Yep, I sure do love those rhythm games. So much so that I’d throw money at plastic toys to play them. They’re still fun to play to this day. It was hard to pick this over Gears of War to be honest though.
2007 – World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade
Yes, it’s another expansion. Yes, it was brilliant. Leaving Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms to venture into another dimension was great. I missed the initial launch of WoW, so seeing everyone crowding around the Dark Portal to venture into a new world at midnight was like launch day for me. The new lands were varied and had plenty of pig arse collection quests, along with some great new instances.
2008 – Dead Space
Before EA managed started milking yet another franchise, they allowed one of their teams to create somthing that could be considered a risk. A story driven, sci-fi survival horror game that managed to be scary. The birth and death of this franchise happened over the course of only a few years, but this is where it started, and it was one hell of a start.
2009 – Batman: Arkham Asylum
The begining of the Arkham series is still, in my opinion, the best. Open world, but only in the same way a Metroid-vania game is, it locked off areas until you had the kit you needed, and each area of the asylum had puzzles and confrontations based on that equipment. It also used the strike and counter combat system so well that it became known as the Arkham combat system for years to come.
2010 – Alan Wake
I loved this. I still love this. I own it 3 times. The atmosphere is just fantastic, and that scene through the lumber mill still creeps me out. Yes, the story is convoluted and Alan himself is bland, but there’s something about it that comes together for me as a great package. Now if only there was a proper sequel.
2011 – Dark Souls
Mmmmm. Yes, give me more Dark Souls. A Switch remaster? I’ll take that.
2012 – XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Perfection. Then the Enemy Within expansion came out and perfection was perfected.
2013 – Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Some genuinely significant releases this year. And I didn’t play most of them. But I did play the one with the stupidest name. And by god was it worth every second. Platinum Games put together a tough-as-nail a Metal Gear hack n’ slash game featuring a cyborg ninja, a super powered congressman, constant metal music, and NANOMACHINES, SON! This is the best game.
2014 – Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls
The Ultimate Evil version of Diablo 3 launched this year, and I still play it now because it’s great. More content constantly gets released so it’s forever fresh!
2015 – Bloodborne
Souls plus! Basically extra fast Dark Souls in a gothic European environment is pretty much everything I could ask for. The design of everything in this game is right up my street, with Lovecraftian monsters, brutal looking weapons, and twisted environments all wrapped up with a bizarre story (that, be honest, you had to look up). I’d love a sequel to this.
2016 – DOOM
It was a hard choice between this and Inside when I did my game of the year for 2016. I went for this because it’s the one I’m most ready to go back to at any time. It’s insanely good. Fast, brutal, and a throwback to games where movement was more important than hiding behind a wall until the bullet wounds got better. Great music, great weapons, and surprisingly good characterisation for a silent protagonist (every interaction he has with another character boilsdown to himgiving absolutely zero shits). One of history’s greatest reboots.
2017 – Mario Odyssey
Another hard one here. It was either this or Nier Automata and Iagain went with the one I’m most ready to play again. Mario Odyssey is basically distilled joy. There were few moments in which I wasn’t grinning whilst playing this, right up to the final boss encounter in the main story. And then there’s so much content to explore after that. A genuinely wonderful game.
2018 – Darkest Dungeon
Yes it’s a re-release. But it’s on Switch so I’m damn well counting it. That and the fact that I’ve only played a couple of releases from this year. Darkest Dungeon is brilliant. It’s tough but fair, with an art style and theme that really works for me. The theme works really well, as the idea of Eldrich horrors driving heroes to madness makes a great deal of sense. I still haven’t finished it after many hours and deaths of powerful heroes. But I will persevere!
And that’s it. Many, many years of existence summed up in a number of entertainment products. That may sound a little sad, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. What about your games? What would you assign to each year of your life so far? Are there some years that are tougher than others? Tell me I’m wrong to include C&C over Warcraft 2!
Oh hi! I see you made it to the end of the post. Well done you for surviving through all that nonsense! I hate to ask, but there’s a charity event going on in the UK in a few weeks called Gameblast that raises money for the charity Special Effect. Maybe you’d like to donate to them. I’d be absolutely humbled if you were to do so, and I bet you’d feel great about yourself too! Thanks for taking a look.
They go on and on and on and on and on and on an………..
I remember not so logn ago, that the internet was filled with arguments over value for money in games. This often came down to how many hours of content was there for your £40 purchase. There were a number of arguements over this in Call of Duty games due to their campaigns being rather short compared to other FPS games. I felt that this wasn’t entirely fair as those games tended to have a rather extensive multiplayer mode in each release. I suppose if you were only playing them for the single player aspect then that might be worth pointing out. But I digress.
As I get older I find myself valuing time more and more, so shorter games often get my attention more readily than ones that I will probably never have the required number of hours to finish. I’m all for good, interesting content over a substantial campaign (so long as it actually is interesting and not just filler) or through other features in a game. However there are some really rather good games that just didn’t know when to call it a day. Games that kept on going long after their mechanics and story had become a touch on the stale side. Here are 5 such adventures that ventured on for a little too long.
Oh, and I’ve only included ones that I’ve actually played obviously.
Metal Gear Solid V
This was one of the first games I wrote a blog post about. Interesting fact there. If you read that in the past (or if you just gave that link a little click), you may have found that I really enjoyed the game when it let you get on with sneaking into enemy encampments and advancing the utterly bananas plot. Solid mechanics and well made cut-scenes certainly helped too!
Around half way through the game though, you need to complete missions to advance the plot (shocking in a video game, I know). You can do this through sub missions or story missions. Of course most gamers would go for the story missions, only to find that they were the same as earlier missions but with an added stipulation. This broke the flow for me quite a bit and put me off carrying on with the game. It got to the point where I just wanted it to be over. Maybe the pain of carrying on was the real Phantom Pain…
Assassin’s Creed: Unity
This was the death knell of the series for me. I found Assassin’s Creed III fairly tedious, but I assumed the more focused environment of a city might help. And to an extent it did! I liked that everything was fairly close together (although the crowded map made finding things harder than it should have been) and that the movement and combat was still fairly fun if you weren’t hot by bugs. It wasn’t horrible.
But I just did not care about the story one bit. There were various famous histroical figures doing things because the plot demanded they did to make them good/evil, and characters died before I had any reason to care about them. The reasonably engaging mechanics couldn’t hold my attention for long without a solid purpose driving me forward. Before long I was rushing through story missions just to get the game over with. Maybe Assassin’s Creed Origins will be more engaging for me.
Still Life 2
Still Life was an interesting enough murder mystery point and click adventure (which was a sequel to Post Mortem, which has aged horribly). The story followed an FBI investigator searching for a serial killer in Chicago. Through flashbacks and investigation, you eventually confront and shoot the killer who manages to escape. The follow up, Still Life 2, finds our investigator on the trail of another killer. Due to the lack of resolution in the previous game, it seems reasonable to assume we’ll find out who the previous killer was here.
Still Life 2 starts well enough, with standard puzzles in a seemingly abandoned house. But, as is often the case in point and click games, the puzzles become more and more obscure as you basically guess what the developer was thinking. This, combined with the pace being unbelievably s-l-o-w meant that I didn’t bother getting to the end. Once I ended up in an entirely new area that I would have to gradually find my way around, I decided that enough was enough. Even the reasonably interesting plot couldn’t save this one.
Serious Sam 3: BFE
I loved the Serious Sam games. I remember staying up for hours upon hours one night playing the first game in the series. The second one was pretty good too. Fighting off literal hordes of enemies with powerful weapons was tremendous fun. This entry in the series carried that on, but in a more modern way with finishing moves, more up to date (and realistic) visuals, and other such features. And it’s fun for a while.
It doesn’t half drag on though. There are only so many combinations of enemies you can fight before it starts to get a little stale. It’s around 10 hours long and could have done with being maybe two-thirds of that length because by that point I’d grown tired of stepping into another arena, fighting off a swarm of enemies before moving 8 steps forward and fighting another horde.
The soundtrack was pretty great at least.
This game was scary. The atmosphere was tense. The robots were scary. The xenomorph was terrifying. There was even a good story in there that follows on from Alien too. There was a crafting system that actually made sense in the game’s context! Imagine that! It shapes up for a pretty great 8-10 hour horror experience.
Then the second 10 hours kick in. The alien is less scary now as you’ve seen tons of it. The coridors looks similar no matter where you go (the bits outside the station are still pretty cool at least), you’ve crafted everything worthwhile, and know most of the story. All that’s left is to slog through half the game to get to the conclusion. This game is a perfect example of less is more, and for the first half it absolutely nails that. Encounters are rare and intense, and you don’t even see the xenomorph until a good 3 hours in. The second half forgets that and has used all the tricks it has. Disappointing after such a great start.
A couple of games worth mentioning (but don’t quite fit). Borderlands 2 became a bit of a slog for me towards the end. This was more because I was trying to do all the side missions so the gameplay had started to become a little stale by that point. Still a good game mind! Most of the Warriors games could fit in here for me too (Warriors Orochi 3 is the one sticking in my mind) simply because the story mode goes on for so long in most cases. But the story is never really why you’re playing those so it gets something of a pass.
How about you? Any games you loved playing before they got beyond tedious? Any that you gave up on through sheer boredom? Tell me about it!
Dying happens a lot in video games. It tends to be the main threat to the player, being the ultimate fail state in a game. Most of the time death sets you back to a previous checkpoint or save (I hope you’ve been saving often!) and doesn’t really cause a great deal of lost progress. In fact some games even demand you die to progress. Death has been rather devalued in games over the years. It doesn’t really mean much.
Which is where Rogue and its likes and lites come in. Death here matters. You die, and that’s it. All your progress, items, levels, lost forever. Potions don’t do the same thing each time you play, dungeons have different layouts, enemies change. Whilst I’m uncertain if Rogue was the first game to do this, I know that there are a lot of games that have taken on its ideas to the extent that it now has its own genre. Games that match its core mechanics almost exactly are referred to as Roguelikes, whilst those that do away with certain ideas or include some element of permanence after death are often called Roguelites. Both are excellent game types. Both are hard as hell most of the time.
Here we have a list of my favourite Roguelikes/lites (because I don’t want to fuss about the differences between them too much). To be included, I have to have played and enjoyed it, and it has to have permadeath and procedurally generated content in some way. To keep it modern, I’ve gone for games released in 2010 or later. There are loads so it was hard to narrow this one down. Anyway, enjoy!
The Binding of Isaac
Obviously! There’s no way I couldn’t include one version or another of this. Rebirth is probably the definitive version right now, but any version is excellent. Playing as Isaac, you are forced to hide in the basement of your murderous mother’s house, only to find it is full of horrific creatures who also seem to have your demise at the forefront of their minds. Playing somewhat like a twin-stick shooter crossed with the top down Zelda games, you have to find items to strengthen your character, defeat bosses, and possibly even make deals with the Devil himself.
Death is permanent, but will unlock new items to be found in the randomly generated dungeons on future playthroughs as well as characters to play as. It plays very, very well and feels incredibly polished, which makes sense considering how much development its had over the years. There’s so much content here too, with hordes of bosses, items, endings (if you can make it that far), and has even had real world treasure hunts. If you haven’t tried it before, then go take a look now!
Sunless Sea is great. It’s funny, creepy, and has a variety of interesting stories to take part in. You take on the role of a captain, sailing the Unterzee, in a fictional world in which London has sunk below the Earth’s surface. You set your own goal at the beginning of the game (become legendary, earn a ton of money, etc.) and set sail to discover the lands underground. You’ll find lands ruled by rodents, spiteful gods, and possibly the end of the world itself. That’s assuming the stress of the journey doesn’t drive you and your crew mad…
The stories don’t change upon death, but the layout of the world and your captain (and maybe your goals) do change. Whilst repeating some of the stories can become a little tedious, there are enough different ones to play through to keep things interesting. The world is twisted and sinister, with dark twists on stories you may already know (Santa is a complete **** in this place). There’s a follow up called Sunless Skies that I’m pretty keen to have a look at too.
This is an odd one, as it’s from a genre that not only doesn’t seem like a natural fit for a Roguelite, but also because it’s a genre that gets very little attention these days. Everspace is a space sim/shooter that’s two parts Elite and one part FTL. You pilot a ship through environments filled with asteroids, abandoned space stations, and other ships, some neutral, some much less neutral. You select nodes to travel to and explore (much like FTL) as you journey towards a specific destination (no spoilers). Along the way you pick up new weapons and resources to build in power to survive the threats that await you.
Each death allows you to spend money on improving your ship for future runs, and each node is randomly generated each time. Some times you’ll discover ancient alien relics, other times you’ll come across characters from your past. I like this approach to building the world. The game controls more like Descent than most space sims, with you able to strafe as well as fly as you might in most games in the genre. It’s also utterly gorgeous and runs very well. If you’re looking for a game that stands out as something a bit different, you could do a lot worse than this.
Or any of the Diablo games with Hardcore mode in really. A contentious one this, as the main game wouldn’t really fit into the who Roguelike/lite genre. However, when you make use of Hardcore mode I feel it fits in. And it’s MY LIST DAMMIT! Sorry. I’m better now. If you don’t know Diablo, where have you been? It’s a action RPG in which you murder ALL the demons. Then get new weapons to murder all of them again. You select your class and go adventuring alone or with buddies. Then there’s Hardcore mode.
In Hardcore, your character will be deleted upon death. Pairing this with the randomly generated areas and loot means that I feel it fits the genre well enough. Fighting your way through hordes of demons only to be felled due to a careless mistake can be infuriating, especially since you could have poured hours upon hours into the character beforehand. Add all the extra content that Blizzard keep releasing and you’ve got a hell of a Hardcore package here.
Sword of the Stars: The Pit
First off, I have never played Sword of the Stars, a fairly popular 4X/strategy game. The Pit is a spin off set in the same universe, in which you need to delve into a series of underground labs for reasons. As in many others, you select a class and venture into randomly generated dungeons with items that change their function each playthrough. This one is somewhat different however, as it ties into Rogue a lot more than others in this list.
This is turn based. When you move, everything else also moves. Combat happens all at once, with you selecting your target and then everyone resolving at once. This means getting into a confrontation with multiple enemies can be brutally hard. Even on the easiest setting this game is incredibly tough (I’ve never made it to the end). There are plenty of wikis to help with recipes the can give you buffs, which is nice if you’re really stuck. You can save thankfully, as the game is rather long, but death will delete the file. It’s quite moreish, but be prepared to never win.
Some honourable mentions! I touched on FTL earlier which is a very hard node based space exploration game with plenty of content and ways to play. Spelunky is a very popular platformer that fits into the genre rather well. I didn’t enjoy it much as the controls felt to slippery for my liking. A different one is Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (or PUBG if you like). I feel this fits as every game is different based on weapon placement and when you land and includes permadeath. It’s not a game I’m particularly interested in, but feel it’s worthy of a mention.
And that’s the list! Are any of these games that you particularly like? Are you interested in the genre at all? Are there games that I should have included or should try out sometime? Let me know!
In spite of what I may have said, it turns out that games may not be stupid after all.
So after my recent post about games being stupid, I found out about a tweet from game design expert and all round clever person Jennifer Scheurle. She asked developers to share the secret mechanics they’d put in their games to promote a certain feeling or reaction from players.
Hey #gamedev, tell me about some brilliant mechanics in games that are hidden from the player to get across a certain feeling. Example:
It turns out that games may be really rather clever thanks to some smart thinking from those smarty pants designers. From a feeling of intensity to keeping you engaged in a game you may not enjoy, it seems that some game designers have thought of great ways to manipulate the player’s experience from behind the scenes. Here are just a few of those tricks.
Rubber banding – Racing games
Let’s start with one that many gamers are aware of. Rubber banding is a trick used in racing games to ensure the race is somewhat close, regardless of the player skill level. Should the player get too far ahead, then the AI opponents get a little extra speed and control to keep up and maintain the tension of the race. On the other hand, should the player fall too far behind, then the reverse happens, giving the player a chance to catch up. In my opinion this isn’t such a bad thing in most single player racers, but does paint something of a false picture of your own ability level if you choose to take your skills online.
Now, I haven’t played a Mario Kart game for a long time, but I can imagine that rubber banding + blue shell = utter rage. Does the AI get to use the blue shell? If so I can see this being a horrible way to end a race.
You live longer when your health is low – DOOM, amongst others
There’s nothing quite like surviving a boss encounter, or wading through a horde of enemies with just the last sliver of health remaining. “I can’t believe I made it!” you might think. “How did that last explosion not kill me?!” your brain my cry. Well there’s a good reason for it in a number of games apparently. That last little bit of health lasts longer than the rest. The ones mentioned in the above thread are Assassin’s Creed and DOOM.
As your health drains away, you can suddenly take a few extra hits before finally succumbing to your assailants. This is to give you that “just made it” feeling of barely making it out alive more regularly than you might by just playing as normal. A cheap trick perhaps, but one that can certainly make encounter exciting. Until you know they’re tricking you anyway.
Two Brains – Alien: Isolation
I love this one. Alien: Isolation was trouser-browningly terrifying at times, with the titular xenomorph liable to appear at the most inopportune moment. I’ve mentioned before that my wife yelled “OH SH*T!” whilst watching me play this as the alien slithered out of a vent right in front of me. The xenomorph’s AI was praised in many reviews, for constantly giving you the sense of being hunted, and that the alien was using its senses realistically in an effort to find you. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the alien has TWO BRAINS!
This is an interesting AI trick. The alien has two brains, one that knows exactly where you are, and one that has no idea. The first brain gives hints to the second about your location. This prevents the alien for making a bee-line for you whilst also avoiding it from wandering off aimlessly. This maintains the tension of being hunted and prevents you from ever feeling truly safe. The downside is sometimes you can be caught out when you thought you were well hidden. And occasionally you can be standing out in the open and not be spotted. Not flawless but still pretty cool.
You get buffs the first time you play online – Gears of War
Gears of War can be pretty tough in competitive multiplayer. Take it from me (I’m terrible), it’s quite possible to play a match and get absolutely nothing from it which can be pretty disheartening. As it happens, the developers found this to be true as well. According to them, 90% of players would not play online again if they didn’t get any kills in their first game.
To counter this and to try to keep players invested, in your first online game, you get additional health and damage over your more experienced opponents.. This advantage obviously helps you feel successful and to carry on playing. These bonuses gradually get reduced over time to ease you into the game proper. A nice idea, but it may suffer from the similar rubber banding issue of expecting to be far more skillful than you are, and getting destroyed once the training wheels are taken off. On the other hand, the gradually reduction in bonuses may help players get used to the game over time. Either way, it’s a nice way of keeping weaker players playing.
Coyote Time – Platform games
An interesting one this, and one I don’t really understand. This is named for the legendary Wile E. Coyote and his ability to hover in the air before plummeting to his (none) death when running off a cliff. In many platformers, you can do exactly this. Your button press for jumping will still work for a split second after running off the edge of a platform, allowing you to jump in mid air to an extent.
I wonder if this is related to reaction time added to time taken for the button to be fully pressed. I can’t really understand why this would exist in most platforming games beyond that, but it’s quite interesting that so many platform games use this, even to this day.
A couple of other ones that I found interesting were in Bioshock and System Shock. In the former when enemies appear, their first bullet will always miss to give you a chance to react whilst still making the enemies seem like a threat. In the latter your final bullet in a weapon does double damage to hopefully finish off that enemy you were taking on. This is somewhat like the “last sliver of health” tweak mentioned earlier.
Do you find any of these particularly interesting? Better yet, does knowledge of any of these make you view the games or your experiences in a different light? Let me know!