Game endings: is it me or do they suck?

So I finally finished Resistance 2 this weekend. It was a really fun ride right up until the end. The end, I felt, was annoying as hell and I couldn’t wait to get through it.

Which felt really familiar to me. And thinking back, it seems that with any kind of action-based game (FPS or 3rd person action-adventure stuff) I always get annoyed at the end. (And keep in mind I don’t finish many games so maybe I’m just finishing the wrong ones.)

I can’t decide if my problem is due to me, or due to game designers. It might just be that once I “feel” the end is near I start thinking about the next game I’m going to play, so I get in a hurry to finish the one I’m currently playing and so anything that trips me up starts feeling like an annoyance rather than a challenge. I also always get into the “I just want to finish this before going to bed” trap and suddenly it’s 2 am, I’m dead tired and cranky and making stupid mistakes.

Or it might be the designers always feel like they have to add 1) a big “surprise” twist at the end of the game, which is so expected now that it isn’t the least bit of a surprise and 2) one big hoopla fight designed to challenge the players one last time.

I hate the twist…it’s become such a trope. Y’know, the whole game you’re fighting to get into the castle tower and you finally get there and “Oh no, the evil wizard left his minion behind and now he’s in the castle dungeon. Retrace your steps!” Or a favorite alternative is “Yay I killed the ultimate bad guy…game over? NO! He’s reborn in a more powerful form! Fight him again!”

And the hoopla… the reborn boss can kill that bird with the same stone. Other hooplas are a sudden absence of checkpoints or a new twist to the gameplay that changes everything around. For instance the end of Halo when it turns from a shooter into a driving game. In the case of Resistance 2 it was a series of 3 domes you had to travel through. As you entered each one you got locked inside and had to wait for the big bad to tear it apart to get at you. Said big bad is impervious to your weapons and easy to avoid (stand in the center of the dome) and he takes a LONG time to destroy the domes. I spent that time petting the dog since the game literally didn’t require my attention at all. Between the domes you have to fight and dodge insta-kill hurled debris, and if you die, you have to start before the first dome – no checkpoints. Then the very very end is Halo-like… traverse a crumbling installation before the timer counts down and blows everything up.

I don’t really play games for the challenge, which probably is why the endings are so annoying when that spike in challenge is probably appreciated by many players. Plus I always have more games that I want to play than available time to play them, so I like my games shorts and intense, so drawn out endings always dilute the experience for me.

Anyway, not really singling out Resistance 2 on this…it was a pretty good game overall, and it’s no worse in this ending respect than many other games I’ve played. And now I can play Resistance 3!

3 thoughts on “Game endings: is it me or do they suck?

  1. I’m annoyed by the whole long, drawn-out ending too…especially when there is a huge spike in game difficulty. I play mostly for the exploration, quests/achievements, and the story (and to just kill stuff sometimes) and when I have to strategize every single move lest I ruin the last 2 hours of work and have to start all over on it again, I end up frustrated and yelling at the computer or TV, and the fun isn’t there so much anymore.

    I also despise when I can’t save whenever I want to save and/or the checkpoints are too far apart.

    I realize the game devs are trying to make the ending seem “epic” when they make the final boss excruciatingly difficult compared to the earlier parts of the game, but I kind of feel that if I’ve made it that far, then I’m pretty darn epic myself and bringing down this thing should be fairly straightforward rather than being an exercise in frustration.

  2. I didn’t finish Halo for that very reason. I didn’t appreciate being forced into a driving game when all along I was playing and thoroughly enjoying a FPS. It didn’t help that my driving skills in Halo weren’t all that good and that I found it impossible to complete after at least a half a dozen goes.

    In some ways this ‘designer sin’ is evident in the end-game of MMORPG’s where raiding becomes the goal. WoW and other like-designed games give players a quest based leveling game with minimal emphasis on gear pretty much all the way to the level cap. Once at the cap, everything becomes about raiding and making sure that your gear is the best you can get. It’s a complete change of direction for most players, and untenable for casual time-constrained players like me.

    It does seem though, that this is the direction that the industry has chosen for MMORPGs, and perhaps we should be used to it by now.

  3. I love finishing games. The sense of achievement I get from overcoming the main campaign in a game is one of my main motivators for playing. However because finishing games is so important to me I am also sensitive to bad endings.

    I do like a game to go out with a superboss / epic encounter but the difficulty level should not be outrageously out of line with the rest of the game. Basically my rule is that if you can get to the final battle then the game should already have taught you the skills needed to overcome it. There is nothing worse than playing through a whole game and then having to abandon it at the final hurdle.

    Anyone who thinks it is a good idea to leave out regular checkpoints should lose their job as a game designer. This applies throughout a game but as you point out it is particularly annoying at big bad boss encounters.

    I quite like puzzle type boss encounters as long as they aren’t ridiculously obscure. If the boss can only be injured by shooting up his left nostril give me plenty of in game hints please. I do realise that the presence of online walk-throughs diminishes the value of puzzle encounters for many.

    The closing cut scene is also very important. If I have just saved the world I would like a bit of recognition for it please. I just finished the main campaign of Torchlight last night and there was nothing. No fireworks no cutscene just a few new quest givers inviting you to continue your adventures in a new random dungeon. What a downer. In the past it used to be that game developers used the end game credits to show off how proud they were of their game. Sacrifice and the first Call of Duty had particularly clever end game sequences. Nowadays its like developers couldn’t be bothered they just want to shuffle you along to the DLC shop as quickly as possible.

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