Dirty video game tricks that need to stop

By A. Lynne Rush

We’ve all been there — the moment the game changes all the rules on you and eats you alive. We’ve all had to resist the urge to throw the controller, and we’ve all gotten creative with our cursing. You buy an action RPG only to find yourself in DDR, or you spend 30+ hours on a character build only to find out it isn’t relevant to the final fight. Here are some of the most ridiculous tactics video games throw at us in an attempt to make a fight or a level challenging (when in reality, they’re just cheap-trick mechanics).

Bullet Sponge

Perhaps one of the most classic — and laziest — methods of making a boss harder is the bullet sponge. There is no challenge in making a fight go on longer by upping the health bar. Games are meant to be fun, and when the real boss is fight fatigue, there’s nothing of value.

“Final Fantasy,” a franchise known for breaking boundaries while committing some of the most egregious video game sins, introduced one of the spongiest of side bosses in “FFXV” with the Adamantoise. “The Division’s” Bullet King is better known as the Bullet Sponge King by long-time players of the Tom Clancy title. Sure, they’re side bosses meant for the glory of trophy hunting, but at the end of the day, they make the game a lot more repetitive and boring.

Stealing Your Abilities

I’ve never understood why Yuffie is a fan favorite. You sink hours into collecting those little shiny marbles to make yourself hit harder, live longer, or just spread firaga across all enemies.

And then here comes this ninja wannabe who steals all your hard-won materials, in a cutscene no less!

A game shouldn’t have to resort to taking away the abilities it gave you just to make a level harder. And yet, they love to do it. The Final Fantasy franchise seems like it can’t wait to take your abilities away; it’s happened as recently as “FFXV.” The opening of “Destiny 2” ups the ante by taking your respawn and your double jump.

This change is almost always temporary; it’s often used as a metaphor for a character going through a particularly tough time (which is also lazy writing). But for a game that spends hours and hours training you how to use abilities and expand on your ability-related skill set, it’s kind of a jerk move.

Bosses Who Ignore Mechanics

You level up, grab new gear, and go toe to toe with a boss wearing the same gear who pops you in the face twice after you’ve dumped about 10 clips in them. You’re dead, and they’re still quipping about your mom. Welcome to “The Division,” where the rules are made up and the points don’t matter — a place where the same gun is infinitely deadlier in the hands of anyone not you.

Bosses don’t play fair — after all, they’re bad guys. But when a game ignores its own mechanics to make a fight or a level harder, that’s pretty stupid, and it’s a sign that the devs expect you to think around the mechanics when they won’t.

Games That Force You Into a Specific Playstyle

With a full buffet of abilities and builds to choose from, games that allow for varied customization give players the free will to choose the playstyle they enjoy the most. And while most games strive for balance that makes it important to at least be familiar with every tool in the box, changing up your build or playstyle can make an old game feel new again.

Then along comes Eredin in “The Witcher 3.”

If you’ve progressed through “The Witcher 3” relying heavily on signs, bombs, dodges and maybe even your crossbow, prepare for disappointment: the only build that beats the game is one that relies heavily on swordplay. The sheer number of rolls required to best the king of the Wild Hunt annihilates your ability to cast, and the speed of his moves means no time for bombs or crossbow shots. It’s just you and your sword, Witcher. Too bad you spent a whole game perfecting a completely different kind of gameplay.

Poorly Implemented QTE

Nothing says “We’re out of ideas!” quite like quicktime events. While it’s very possible to implement QTEs in a natural, fun way (“FFXIV’s” Alexander/Susano raids spring to mind), sometimes games forget they’re an RPG and push you into what is effectively a TellTale game for the sake of variety.

“Resident Evil 6,” I am looking at you.

Listen, if your game’s story, battle mechanics and design are so dull you feel the need to force button mashing onto the player as a means of breaking up the gameplay, something has gone horribly wrong.

In a time when video games are used to treat mental illness, these game trends drive us to fits of madness (or drink). Developers need to put these tired tactics aside and experiment with something new, or at least give us more of the things we love … not additional time sinks.

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