I’d Be More Inclined To Finish The Fight If You Could Finish The Game!

Maybe it is the cynicism of old age, but I am beginning to see a worrying trend in the gaming world – developers can’t end things properly.

Gears of War, Halo, Skyrim; they all ham fist their way through the ‘final mission’.

When did selling a game based on a well rounded adventure, with a start, middle and end, get replaced by a couple of good set pieces and a strong marketing campaign?

So many titles seem to end in an ‘unsatisfactory manner’ now.

Mass Effect 3 was widely panned for it’s ‘weak’ ending, with Bioware almost hounded in to the release of a DLC ‘extended cut’ of the finale.

Bouncybhall did a great blog on that particular saga at the time; but in all this Mass Effect 3 seems to have been unfairly singled out to me. Yes, I did feel the ending to the Mass Effect trilogy was a let down after three epic RPG games; but it is far from the first game to crank up the volume to 11, only to finish with a whimper rather than a bang.

Halo, Halo 2 and Halo 3 end with clumsy driving levels amid some mild peril as something is due to explode; forcing you to escape just in the nick of time. Halo 3: ODST was not much different, again ending in a clumsy driving level. Not until Halo: Reach did they dare to break this monotonous formula.

Epic decided it would be fruitful to end Gears of War with a spot of pest control. After three games fighting for the future of your race on Sera, it’s all resolved by killing a big ladybird in the final chapter before a disco ball explodes and the threat of the locusts is gone forever…

In my opening gambit I mentioned Skyrim as well. And that stings the most perhaps, because I bloody love Skyrim. But when it comes to it; the final battle of the main quest felt like something of a damp squib. Yet another ‘was that it?’ ending from a Triple A title.

I’d be inclined to level the same criticism at another of Bethesda’s colossal adventures, Fallout 3, where the culmination of 100+ hours of game play resulted in me turning the tap off…

In fact, as I scan the shelf full of games in front of me at Lolocaust Outpost Delta I can pick holes in the finale of pretty much all of the ‘story driven’ (i.e. not sports games like Fifa or NHL, or stuff like the Lego games which tend to just be ‘fun’ copies of their source materials)

Assassins Creed consistently chose to end with you running round as Gary Neville look-a-like and all round dullard, Desmond.

Even the fantastic Arkham Asylum ended with a ‘boss battle’ which felt like it would have be more appropriate for a Streets of Rage game on the Mega Drive rather than on a ‘cutting edge’ console in 2009.

Interactive set piece machine Modern Warfare 3 ended in the laziest way of all – with a quick time event.

It’s hard not to feel short changed by all of this. ‘We’ level our ire at TV shows that don’t end ‘well’ (see Lost, and the Sopranos for some folk). Plenty of movies have fallen down because they couldn’t find the right finish. As I mentioned previously, Mass Effect 3 was hammered for its ending.

So why do we let so many other games get away with it?



3 thoughts on “I’d Be More Inclined To Finish The Fight If You Could Finish The Game!

  1. I don’t think gamers value story enough for game endings to bother them all that much. Except in extreme cases like Halo 2, where the ending cut off what fans thought should be more gameplay, and Mass Effect 3, where fans felt invested enough for the ending to matter.

    In the case of Bethesda RPGs, I don’t think the story missions carry as much weight as other games. There are so many sidequests and so many other things to do that the main storyline tends to take a backseat. For that reason, I think it can be difficult to make a grandiose and/or truly final ending. Bethesda tried it with Fallout 3, and I don’t think fans appreciated having to buy DLC to keep their adventure going. The “story” endings are more like the end of a great mission rather than the end of the game.

    While I don’t agree with all of the titles you mentioned, I do agree that gamers could stand to give more attention to story and, in extension, story endings.

  2. The big thing for me with the two Bethesda examples is, despite the massive open world and mammoth amount of side quests, you were being led to *this moment* via the main quest. In Skyrim it was the ‘final Dragon/boss battle’ – in Fallout 3 the showdown at the Jefferson Memorial.

    Skyrim in particular felt like a bit of a let down; I genuinely uttered the cliched ‘is that it?’

    If anything, the Bethesda games are the most story driven, because they already have this massive backstory and lore attached to them. So to end the main quest in what felt like such a ‘lacking’ way was disappointing

    Though I do accept your point about the issues they had with Fallout and the need to ‘re-open’ the world via a DLC pack (lesson learnt for Bethesda perhaps?)

  3. Taking Mr Cornish’s point I agree that the massive explosion of non-gamers getting involved in the world of gaming has seen a large percentage of players who mostly go for ‘Bang for the Buck’ type games and want action over storyline. I don’t like this, but it does seem to be the ‘general’ tone of gaming today. Skyrim was successful mostly as it dampened down the intensive RPG elements of the Elder Scrolls series, and instead formed a more concentrated experience for the non-RPG fan, but in doing so lost something in the translation.

    Now I adore Skyrim, and the main quest wasn’t the be all and end all – in fact I was more interested in the civil war than the dragons. I enjoyed it more than Oblivion because of this refinement – if that’s the right word to use – and enjoyed being in that world. The ‘ending’ wasn’t key in that game, and the storyline was more a case of ‘go find it’ rather than being deep and entrenched as such. Similarly games such as Mass Effect and Resident Evil are enhanced through investigations and concentration.

    Ultimately there are GREAT story-based experiences out there, but they aren’t necessarily going to be in the AAA titles that sell to the masses. In fact I’d say that the XBLA/XBLIG/PSN marketplaces offer far better narrative experiences, with more complex issues and better resolutions at the end of the games. Bastion was great, as was Shadow Complex. Simple concepts that are driven by a narrative. Similarly The Walking Dead episodic games are doing exceptional work in the field of narratives that pull you in and make you care about the characters around you. (obviously in this case we haven’t seen the ‘End’ yet)

    So yes the ‘end’ is being compromised by the conflagration of the industry, but more so by DLC. Why end a game when we can pay for extra adventures? Eh? Well, obviously we WANT an ending, but it makes sense to make a comprehensive selection of DLC offerings rather than rush out a sequel. Either way it’s a formative time for the world of gaming, and I’m eager to see where we end up next, now that truly independent games are triumphing with story over visuals.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s