*WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW!*
I’m irked. I feel a lot of key titles this generation have let down hardcore gamers because of their story-driven principles.
Well, let me down at least. Maybe I’m just tired – I was up until 1am completing Dead Space 2, which EA was rightly lauded for. It’s an excellent sequel in a storytelling sense, but the last few chapters left me rather exhausted and frustrated as a gamer. There were no immense boss battles to break up the flow of Necromorphs being thrown at me ad nauseum – something I was expecting from a game stamped with a score of 90%+ from critics across the globe.
Carolyn Petit of GameSpot hit the nail on the head with her score of 8.5 [for Xbox 360, same as my copy]. That to me is more accurate for a game that indulges itself in its story whilst paying lip service to many core gaming characteristics. It’s story-driven, yes, but to me, a chapter-based game such as Dead Space 2 should break things up with memorable boss fights, working the player steadily towards them and building excitement. An example it could have learnt from as a template? The first Dead Space – and even that was weak on the boss-fight front…
My point is that after playing through Dead Space 2, none of the chapters stand out as memorable. The parts that I suppose could be classed as boss fights are at the end of chapter one (simple strafe and shoot) and the final showdown. Anything else throughout the game is either a glorified QTE, or an exhaustive rush of identikit enemies to test your endurance and patience. Where were the big hulking anus-like things that filled the room, like in the first Dead Space??
To me, boss fights are an essential part of the make-up of a game, to test the level of the player at set points throughout their journey and evaluate what they’ve learned. A scope of mini-challenges throughout to – as I mentioned before – break up the monotony of pushing back wave after wave of standard enemies.
Assassin’s Creed is another example. Assassinations are mere one-hit takedowns, the bulk of the gameplay being in working your way to the target. But for a ‘franchise’ that’s being released annually, that formula’s wearing awfully thin as the reception to the latest game, Revelations, no doubt testifies. Games that rely purely on story and refuse to break it up with basic core mechanics need to have a story strong and fresh enough to keep the consumer interested. Is Assassin’s Creed really doing that?
Take Alan Wake. Another story-driven game with few boss highlights. I think it’s fair enough to prejudge the forthcoming sequel as being more of the same? That’s to be expected from something so story-driven I suppose, but does something as action-orientated as Batman: Arkham Asylum have an excuse? Its boss fights were highlighted for being lukewarm at best by several outlets (Poison Ivy was such a slog on a personal level) – I have Arkham City next on my playlist, hoping that it’s more memorable on the boss front.
For an example of a game full of excellent boss fights on the shelves at the moment, I look towards the Shadow of the Colossus HD remake. But wait – that’s a game from last generation… Has story become so overwhelming that boss fights have to be sacrificed to accommodate plot, or have I just been playing the wrong games?