Monday, March 09, 2009

You're not the boss of me

Viking: Battle for Asgard
I've recently been playing through Creative Assembly's Viking: Battle for Asgard. It's an open-world brawler, and I've generally thought it was quite a decent game - a solid 70%er. It had a few too many flaws to be a classic, but generally was a fun way to pass the time.

After this afternoon though, I'll have nothing but bad memories of it. I've just spent an hour trying to beat the final boss, and have eventually given up in frustration.

Things that I hate about the final boss in Viking, in no particular order, are:

  • It offers nothing new to experience (at least, the bit I gave up on doesn't). No new enemy types, no new weapons or effects. It is entirely unspectacular in any way.

  • It swarms me with tough enemies, who respawn whenever I've whittled their numbers down.

  • It traps me in a series of small locations, surrounded by walls of health-sapping fire. Have I mentioned that the camera doesn't cope well in confined spaces yet?

  • It forces me to survive for an arbitrary amount of time before it will let me into the next identical area. If you miss the opportunity to move on (perhaps you're being attacked by respawning enemies, for example) then you have to wait (and fight) until the next window. My record, at the point of giving up, was to reach three of the four quadrants.
It is possible that I'm missing something about the combat system, or the layout of the fight in general. This is quite likely, since the game never really gives you any kind of proper combat tutorial, aside from briefly checking you're physically able to perform the button press combinations required for each new move.

So yes, it is quite likely that I have managed to not pick up on a finer point of the system, that would allow me to defeat the boss. Though, if that does prove to be the case, that will be rather poor - making a game that an average player can bumble through by blind luck without understanding what they should be doing, only to fall at the last hurdle.

And just while I'm on a roll about the combat system in Viking, I will mention something else (though again, maybe I'm missing something here). It's a game that prides itself on combat in numbers, and rarely will you be fighting a solitary enemy. But the enemies, their attack sets, and their AI, can combine in such a way that attacks from a few enemies will land in a row, while you're in a knockback state that stops you blocking. By random chance, it's entirely possible to lose more than half of your health to three mid-range enemies, through what appears to be no fault of your own.

I'm of the school of thought that holds boss battles to be an antiquity of the arcade days - a way of artificially forcing players to pump more money into a machine, that requires minimal effort on the part of the creator.

In a modern game, if you absolutely must have a final boss (and I understand that a lot of games have stories that would feel incomplete without a climactic showdown), then I think they should be fairly easy to overcome. The player has bested your entire game (including the final level, which I can entirely agree with making more difficult than the rest of the game) - allow them this final victory, and allow them closure on your story.

The design team on Viking has decided that, as wafer thin as its story is, I shouldn't be able to see what happens at the end. Effectively they've pressed STOP on the DVD, when I only had 5 minutes of a 10 hour movie left to watch.

And because I fell at the final hurdle (and I know it's the final one, I checked a FAQ to see if it could offer any tips), I'll not bother ever playing the game again. I don't want to experience another half hour of frustration, just to get a brief cutscene.

Bye, Viking, it was (kind of) fun playing you.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Games Reviewed in Ten Words - F.E.A.R. 2

FEAR 2 Project Origin Bored Looking Man
Not quite as good. Still fun though. Shut up Cortana.

(Thanks Shallow for the suggestion.)