Traditionally we have been the weaker party in a confrontation. For years, video games have put us face to face with a multitude of enemies that are bigger, stronger and more fearsome than our character. Which forced us to play reactively, that is, to memorize their attack patterns, find the exact moment and exploit that weakness to do damage. It was the only way to defeat enemies much stronger than us. To tell the truth, it is normal for games to be presented to us in this way since the days of arcade games: the game had to be a challenge that forced us to study our rival, know our strengths perfectly and be patient and methodical until victory was achieved. A tradition that has been maintained especially in the final bosses of, I don’t know, 95% of the games?
Personally I’ve never liked that mechanic and it’s the reason why Dark Souls bore me to the core. Curiously, it was with Bloodborne when I got fully into souls, and it was precisely because its mechanics invited me to do just the opposite. Yes, my enemies are stronger and more numerous, but the game rewards me for being aggressive. Have I eaten a hatchet? It doesn’t matter, I have a few seconds to take the blow with dignity and return it forcefully, thus recovering my lost health. A very simple idea but with a great mechanic in it: be aggressive. It doesn’t matter if you take a few hits, if you’re quick you can recover. This made Bloodborne’s combat a constant give and take against our enemies, and it made us especially aggressive the more hits we received.
Fortunately, things didn’t stop there, and FromSoftware continued to outline its new formula to give us a new twist in Sekiro: Shadows die twice: the parry. They don’t want us to constantly dodge, that’s cowardly. The studio wanted us to charge into danger, parry our opponent’s hits at the perfect time, and take the opportunity to break their guard for massive damage. In the case of Sekiro, we needed a lot of precision, turning the gameplay into a kind of sword dance in which rhythm was the key to survival, something especially complicated when we were facing groups.
DOOM and his obsession with turning us into an insatiable beast
However, I must say that if there is any game that has been able to change my habits as a player, it has been DOOM Eternal. Yes, 2016’s DOOM already introduced those more active mechanics, but Eternal just outlined them. For those who don’t have it fresh, in DOOM Eternal we embody the Marine from the DOOM saga, a guy so bad that he even opened a portal to hell only to go down there to bust demons. So much so, that he is nicknamed the murderer of death. It is not for less.
In DOOM Eternal we have a health meter, an armor meter that will give us extra protection and the ammunition we have for our wide arsenal. In the classic FPS, the ammunition and first-aid kits are found on the stage or are given to us by some enemies. Not here. Here you have to earn it. The game includes a series of mechanics that force the player to play in an increasingly aggressive and varied way to overcome the challenges it proposes. Do you want ammo? Cut enemies in half with the chainsaw, but beware that it needs its own to recharge. Are you short of health? Execute your enemies; nothing to shoot them until they die, weaken them and when they stagger go for them and execute them in the most beastly way you can. Could you use some armor? Burn the enemies with the flamethrower and kill them to get that protection you want. Of course, the flamethrower takes time to charge and you will have to burn several enemies at the same time if you want to get a minimum amount of armor. And well, we haven’t commented on it, but you must do all this while dozens of demons attack you with everything they have.
All this mixed in a wide scenario, which plays with verticality, the portals that teleport us to another part of the stage and jump platforms that allow us to rise to deploy a hail of bullets at our enemies. DOOM Eternal thus becomes an orgy of fire, blood and gunpowder in which the player is forced to fight at short, medium and long range to periodically replenish their ammunition, recover health and stay on their feet for the next round of enemies. All this while moving at full speed across the stage and with heavy metal in the background. Pure adrenaline.
At this point the question to be asked is: why? Why has it taken us so long to change our role in combat? We were always the weak part, the one who had to work on improving their skills, their weapons, leveling up, getting better armor and being able to face the next challenge. The answer is certainly complex and leads to an in-depth study on the design of videogames and the psychological stimuli that produce in players the feeling of progress and strengthening. But if we are looking for a short answer, perhaps it would be the need to not break the game and ensure a minimum duration. Even the aforementioned games are aware of the gaps in their mechanics and for this reason they give us the tools little by little. In the case of DOOM, the game progressively gives us these improvements, it gives us new weapons as we progress. It’s very simple, if from the beginning we are as strong as our enemies, with enough skill, we may overcome the tug-of-war game.
Now is the time to know your opinion. Do you prefer to play defensively, covering and dodging until you find a gap in your opponent’s defense and attack him? Or are you one of my kind and would rather go on the rampage like a maniac and mount a carnage? Tell us in the comments and if you know more examples of games that reward us for being aggressive, don’t hesitate to mention them, it’s never a bad time to kill.