Fives – Battle Royale 2

Games are all about challenge; presenting the player with some or other obstacle that needs to be overcome in order to progress. Not everything has to be about fighting though. Aside from the blood, guts, gore and general brutality involved in most games, some games take a, how to say, finer edge to things. Some games even go so far as to not involve fighting at all but, well, THOSE GAMES ARE BORING! We want death! Blood! Carnage! We want to drink blood from the skulls of our decapitated enemies while we stand victoriously over their mangled corpses, our hands contorted in the air as we go MUAHAHahahahahahahahah!


In any case, developers go out of their way to create balanced fighting (or for the sake of the boring games out there, “challenge”) scenarios which help the player through the motions of the game’s learning curve. That said, when it comes to fighting and battles in games, as usual, things sometimes go awry. How, you ask? Well that’s what 5ives is for, silly. We do lists and things. [must you spell it like that? You hurt my brain 🙁 – Ed]

So with that, let’s countdown 5 instances in game battles that make us want to rather put down the controller and go beat up people in real life!

5. We’ll just hang out back here

Doing nothing

So what’s this, then?

Anyone familiar with any movies involving battles between more than four people will know what I’m talking about. Your character is flung into a battle against several demon ninjas from, say, Vanderbijlpark. “Oh no!” you scream, “Surely this spells certain doom for my unrealistically proportioned warrior!” Theoretically, yes; even ninjas from Vanderbijlpark are dangerous (even if somewhat inebriated), and with five of them there you wouldn’t stand a chance at all…if they’d bother to work together to attack you of course.

Instead they’ll opt to attack you one at a time, or periodically, while the others sort of hang out in the background discussing, er, whatever it is demon ninjas discuss (possibly their favourite kind of cheese), thus making what should be an impossible battle, merely a bump on your path to the end of the game.

Who did it:

Assassin’s Creed’s fighting played out more like a dance than an actual battle. You would choose your partner and dance, while the jealous louts around you would periodically prod at you with their swords *snicker* to gain your attention. If they’d gone “One, two, three, STAB!” they’d have been more successful.

Devil May Cry and Prince of Persia both displayed similar fighting dynamics involving acrobatics and sword-play. It’s so amazing that most enemies are stupefied and lock in a mesmerized gaze as you split one of their buddies in half, maybe occasionally swiping blindly in your general direction.

On the other hand…

On the flip-side, we also have a bit of a problem. Were all the mean nasties to attack at once, well, chances are you’d find yourself in a bit of a pickle really quickly. But many games that feature onslaughts of enemies have fine-tuned the battle balance to allow the player fair time to move from one to the next, without having enemies twiddle their thumbs while waiting their turn to attack. Resident Evil gave enemies various speeds and movements giving you time to deal with the fast guys first and then move on to the slower ones; Dead Space had a similar approach, though I found it was easy to become overwhelmed if things weren’t kept in check…

It’s not really so much an annoyance as it is silly. I can understand developers not wanting to make things ridiculously difficult by making every enemy in room attack you at once, but lining them up just seems a little off.

4. Let me guess what happens next

Boss fights here

So what’s this, then?

They say that anticipation is half the fun. I have no idea if they actually do say this, or who ‘they’ are for that matter; but I did hear this somewhere, I promise. And if it’s true, then plenty of games ruin our fun by taking away any surprise involved with bigger battles.

Every gamer loves a good boss battle: a tougher challenge that requires special tactics, much more ammo, and looks much cooler than anything else you’ve encountered to that point (a value which increases proportionally with the boss’ size). Of course, herein lies the enigma; with all these special things taking place at once, developers have to make sure that firstly, you have enough ammunition and/or super special ability juice to do it and, secondly, enough room to do your super special ability while the HUGE boss does his (or her) thing.

So naturally, to make sure this is covered, we are presented with several missiles resting comfortably on a missile launcher in front of a door leading to one of the biggest rooms/areas you’ve come across so far.

Chances are you’re not going to be firing missiles at Paris Hilton in a string-bikini (as much as we’d love to).

Who did it:

Any game that has a pretty big “arena” area in contrast to the areas you’ve been around previously, you can pretty safely assume is incorporating this tactic. A save point, or tons of ammo and armor, just before one of these areas will just seal the deal. Final Fantasy X did this in bucket loads (seeing as most boss battles wouldn’t have the usual crack-screen transition as common random encounters did), and almost any game I can think of involving guns and shooting delivered you tons of ammo before any big battle.

On the other hand…

You can’t fit a seven-story boss monster into a space the same size as the corridors you’ve been traipsing through; that would just be silly. And you sure as hell can’t punish players by making them reserve all their ammo for a possible boss fight that may/may not be around the next corner; that would take the fun out of having cool weapons.

What can be done, though, is changing the dynamics of the bosses themselves. In Fallout 3, your first encounter with a Super Mutant Behemoth saw him blowing his way through rubble and building essentially creating the ‘boss arena’ himself. And as for ammo, perhaps come up with a way to kill a boss without incorporating the “shoot it to shit with the biggest gun you have” technique.

It’s a fair tactic for developers to use, and it’s nothing that will make playing a game any less fun; but it is seriously getting old. Big boss battles are one of the coolest things in games, and a fresh take on getting it done (*cough*ShadowoftheColossus*cough*) will always be more respected in my books.

3. How many times must I kill you?

Die, Carlito. DIE.

So what’s this, then?

Almost every game has one of these guys in it – some douchebag guy (or girl) that remains a persistent thorn in your side throughout the game, popping up every now and then to exchange fisticuffs with you in some climatic battle, before scampering off (after you’ve ‘won’, no less) only to return later, more powerful than ever.

The reasoning behind this, of course, is because of one of two situations: in the first, the reason these a-holes are allowed to escape relatively unharmed, let alone live, is because your character is too ‘good’ or too ‘noble’ to take the life of someone else. Even if that someone else killed your entire family and burned your grandmother’s house to the ground. While she was inside. Baking cookies. You’re just too nice for that, so you kick their ass and then give them a good talking-to as you go on your merry way.

The second situation is just a pure cop-out where, upon YOUR victory, the douchebag merely escapes by summoning breast-monsters to distract you or something – just so he or she can turn up later to annoy you once more!

Seriously, who wants to fight the same boss thirteen times?

Who did it:

It doesn’t even need to be said, but Final Fantasy does this a lot with ‘central’ bosses popping up more than once, but that’s staple jRPG material right there. No, instead we find this popping up elsewhere – Carlito in Dead Rising springing immediately to mind. How many times do you have to ‘kill’ someone before they DIE? Plenty, it seems.

It would be a shame not to mention Gary from the Pokémon series as well (or at least the ‘Gary’ type characters in the various versions) who also seems to reject the idea of graceful defeat.

On the other hand…

Could games do without repeat appearances of the same boss? Sure, many do – though it’s understandable that many of these repeat shows are for narrative purposes. But that doesn’t make them any less annoying. Solution? It’s frightfully easy – variety is the spice of life! If you’re going to make me fight the same dude four times, don’t just give him a different hat, put him in a killer mech robot or something.

Better yet, take Resident Evil 3’s approach with the Nemesis. The monster is HUNTING you – no matter how many times you fight him, you feel as if you’re fighting for your life and YOU are trying to get away from HIM.

Repeat bosses are just plain boring, and I’d rather smack the hobo across the street with kettles in my hands. He’s a familiar face as well.

2. I can’t wait to do that!

No can do.

So what’s this, then?

Ah the cut scene. A beautiful tool that has become the prime story-telling device in games today and, indeed, we would be poorer for it were they not there. But no, this isn’t about cutscenes. Instead, this is about the balance between the narrative world, and the gameplay world; a balance that is often completely ignored by the masters behind the game, whereby we, the players, are built up, only to be broken down. All the while, the developers sit in their five-story mansions, sipping cocktails, laughing at our salty, salty tears.

Okay, enough drama. To get to the point: why the hell do we get to watch our characters do triple-back-flip-stab-stab-in-the-eyes moves in cutscenes, then find, tragically, that in the transition over to gameplay, our characters are suddenly bound by some weird law of physics that only allows them to hop on one leg while making fruit salad smoothies?

There’s nothing more cruel than taking a child to a toy store and letting him stare at the biggest toy truck on the shelf, all the while going “Look at it, isn’t it beautiful? Do you want it? Here let me show you how it works…” and then five minutes later buy him a toy car, half the size, with no wheels and made entirely out of gouda.

Who did it:

Oh wow, Devil May Cry. Wow, wow, WOW. Dante has made himself known in the gaming world for being one of the smoothest, most awesome ass-kickingest heroes around. I mean, in Devil May Cry 3 he rode a missile. HE RODE A FREAKIN’ MISSILE, MAN. He ran down a tower and burst through some huge thing’s eye and, words fail me. He did so much awesome that it would leave you breathless.

Oh, except for the fact that none of this actually happened, you know, while YOU were actually playing.

On the other hand…

There is no other hand. It’s a simple concept: if you let your characters do something in cutscenes or FMVs (but especially cutscenes), let them do it in the game. Bastards.

It’s as frustrating as watching strippers wave their crotches in your face. Look, but don’t touch. You see that developers? I’ve likened you unto strippers. Because you’re all dirty, dirty whores.

1. All for nothing!

Lose or lose.

So what’s this, then?

You’ve just fought the battle of your life. You’re facing a gigantic robot that’s set to blow up your home town unless you can defeat him in time. You’ve had to retry seven times, and adapt your strategy at every given turn to get through this battle. As you finally land the final blow, you wipe the sweat off of your brow and bask in the pride of having saved countless lives. Before he perishes, the robot says “It’s too late the timer has been set, you better escape while you still can.”

In the cut scene that follows, you turn tail and run, glancing back, you see the explosion. And you’re left wondering: “What. The. F&#@. Did I just spend 3 hours of my life fighting for?”

I present to you the ultimate level in battle frustration: battle of futility – where win or lose: you lose. Where narrative supersedes player input, and everything you do, despite illusions of choice and consequence, you’re just there to push buttons as you watch a story unfold. You have no control. You have no victory.

Who did it:

Devil May Cry did it (Anyone who’s played it will remember the battle with Virgil on the roof – victory indeed), Dead Rising (Carlito escaped every. Single. Time.). Final Fantasy has field days with these (I’ll mention number 8 because it’s my favourite – after defeating Edea for the first time, how are you rewarded? Ice through the chest! Yay!). Resident Evil is another contender. But taking my number one spot for most pointless battle efforts ever:

Super Mario. I mean, seriously. By the time you get the princess, you realise 90% of the game could have been avoided if you’d just been to the right castle.

On the other hand…

Fine, I get it, narrative is important (heck it’s almost what I’m known for around here) – but you get pushing a story forward, and you get wasting the player’s time. If you task the player with thwarting an enemy’s plan, and they’re successful in that, why would you ‘punish’ them for that?

Believe it or not you cocktail-sipping devs, sometimes it takes a great deal of effort to overcome the challenges you set up – seeing the town of children and cute cuddly animals blow up at the end of that effort isn’t exactly what I’d call a reward. What was all that effort for? Hmm?

I can’t stand this. I get punished for losing a battle with a game over, only to win the battle to have my character be defeated. Hello? I WON the battle. What the eff, devs? If I wanted to do something inane and pointless, I’d go watch E! Entertainment or read my own articles!


At least with the above you get to DO something. Final Fantasy had this annoying habit of having purely narrative battles. They’d take you into the battle area, have you fight as per usual – but there would be absolutely NO point to it at all, other than to exchange dialogue, introduce characters or – the most annoying – survive for five rounds only to be annihilated the next one (Beatrix, you bitch). Yeah, I get why it’s there. Doesn’t mean I have to like it!

About Quinton Bronkhorst

Quinton is a designer and random rambler that really likes referring to himself in the third person. That should make you wonder: is it Quinton writing this, or perhaps some objective third party? You will never know. In unrelated news: Quinton is awesome and attractive and everyone wants to marry him. Facts. [Articles]

2 thoughts on “Fives – Battle Royale

  • Nandrew

    Haha, you’ve hit the nail with some of my own pet peeves there. Though I must provide an alternative view on your idea of “boss battle setups”. Maybe this isn’t the case with all games, but some titles definitely use the boss anticipation as a strength: veteran players who are stumbling through corridors of weaponry and health packs while increasingly ominous music plays in the background get a lovely, “Oh man, the poo-poo is SOOO going to hit the fan just now” feeling which kinda makes the boss tension start nice and early.

    Though on the other end of the story, it’s irritating when a dev has clearly tried to *surprise* me with a boss battle despite the aforementioned sort of omens. It’s like they’re snickering behind my back and going, “Haw, that simpleton will NEVER see through our sneaky plan!”

    • Quinton

      I guess, as always, that it depends on what you like. For me, more ‘boss’ battles such as the Super mutant behemoth in Fallout 3, and panicky ‘gotta get the f*#@ out of here’ types like the Nemesis, would be really awesome. I’d just like to see less predictable set-ups. You have a point with the building of tension, but usually that tension is a result of not really knowing what to expect or when – that’s different to “Here’s a big arena and lots of ammo, prepare for a huge boss”. That’s the kind that I don’t like.

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