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Bad Design 4

posted on February 12th, 2007 by jay

It’s nobody’s favorite time again, time to be anal retentive about game design! This column is usually filled with great games that messed up in a few spots. Today’s entry is different because two of the three games are barely tolerable.

Hell hounds? More like heck hounds!

Heroes of Might and Magic 3: Lack of Interesting Conflict — Heroes 3 has the same problem War Craft 2 had. You either win a tremendous victory, or get your ass completely destroyed. There is very little middle ground in the game and even fewer turn arounds. While it may be just because I suck at the game, I never start a game losing and then slowly make a come from behind victory. I build a massive force and crush the enemy quickly, get devastated, or slowly lose more and more ground with each battle.

This lack of interesting conflict cuts through much of the enjoyment of building characters in the RPG fashion the game allows for. I love leveling my heroes and learning new spells, but I can’t fight the feeling that it’s all ultimately for naught since this current game will be over pretty quickly and I’ll never see these characters again. I once read that this game is too balanced. I made fun of the review to my roommate and we agreed the author must’ve been a moron. I think I now understand what he meant.

The complete balance in the game prevents any kind of wild card; it forces the games conflict to proceed linearly. If I am winning, I will continue winning, and vice versa. The buried Ark idea was probably thrown in to shake the game up a bit and create come from behind wins, but it’s amazingly difficult to get the Ark so it’s almost a useless feature.

Legend of Mana: Criminally Easy — When I play RPG’s, I often see how far I can get without buying new weapons as sort of a test of the games balance. Now it was a year or two ago when I last played Legend of Mana, but I don’t remember there being reason for 95% of the weapons simply because the game was stupidly easy. The whole weapon creation lab was unnecessary because spending any amount of time more than none to create a weapon in the game was entirely pointless because you were never in any danger.

A complete lack of difficulty ruins too many games and it’s somewhat curious that the problem still pops up quite frequently. When I voiced my complaints on a message board long ago about this specific game being too unchallenging, some of the defenders argued that the game was actually quite hard when you unlocked the secret difficult mode. Having to unlock a hidden mode to make the game put up more of a fight than a drunk Steven Hawkings is probably another design flaw that I could bitch about for a while, but it, like this whole Secret of Mana sequel, is unnecessary.

“What if we took Way Of The Samurai but removed everything interesting and innovative from it and focused on polishing the bad parts till they really suck?”

Samurai Western: Second Player Afterthought — This isn’t a design flaw as much as a marketing lie. My friend bought this assuming it was two players, like the box claims, but it is nothing of the sort. The second player mode is entirely tacked on to a finished one player game. We take turns playing it one player because it’s just too painful playing as the cowboy who cannot aim for shit, gets stuck in every wall, barrel, table, and crate and reappears once every eight seconds because the camera moved too far away from him. The two player mode in Final Fantasy 3, a turn based RPG, is far more exciting. Someone should take Crave to court for false advertising because calling Samurai Western two player is like calling masturbation sex.

Join us next time when we look at heavy hitters like Final Fantasy X, Planescape: Torment, Halo 2 and Barbie’s Pony Adventure.

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