Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Foreshadowing Right

I was up at an ungodly hour this morning but managed to get a half hour of Bastion in. I did an area that reminded me a lot of Diablo 3.

Now that might sound like a good or a bad thing, but if I clarify that it reminded me of the plot of Diablo 3, you'll probably think it's a very bad thing. Really, though, it showed how to do something right that Diablo 3 did terribly wrong.

What makes the story of Diablo 3 awful is that the bosses keep showing up as illusions or just disembodied voices to taunt you. That's stupid as hell. Basically it makes them seem completely ineffectual and pointless. At every turn they know where you are and what you are doing and they are powerless to stop you. Diablo himself is basically running scared of you, trying desperately to get to the crystal arch to seize it's power and sending his most powerful minions to be speed bumps.

Something Bastion has that Diablo 3 does not have, though, is a narrator. The narrator doesn't show up to make this one scene work, he's there through the whole game. After choosing my weapons he said, "A bow isn't much good at close range, but a musket is." After falling off the side of the world he said, "You need sure footing to survive in the wilds." He narrates lots of little events as well as the overall story.

So this morning when I was doing an area where the narrator told me about the boss I encountered it made sense. The boss showed up to devour a random enemy whole and the narrator talked about its species is mostly extinct but this one has survived. The boss surprised me and hit me for half my life, sending me flying into the air, before disappearing and the narrator told me about how it lurks in the tall grass. When I got to a section of all tall grass the narrator talked about how I would just have to move fast, and I ran top speed with the boss chomping behind me.

Supposedly the point of having the bosses talk to you in Diablo 3 was to build enmity, but it just fell flat. My human protagonist was just straight up better at fighting than the lords of hell, and she knew it too. The protagonist was not once scared of any of them or impressed by their power, and the idea that they perpetually knew where I was and didn't come get me was dumb.

In Bastion I wasn't exactly scared of that beast when I got to it. After all, the narrator is waiting for me back and home base and he wouldn't even know this story unless I won the fight in the end. But the way it was presented gave me respect the boss. It never taunted me, it just tried to eat me, and did a reasonable job of trying.

So if you want to build up tension before a boss fight, it's fine to introduce the boss in earlier segments. But those segments should be harrowing or dangerous. They should give the player the idea that the boss is honestly putting in an effort to kill them. And they really shouldn't involve long distance illusion based communication - that's just dumb.

And if you are going to do this, it sure helps to have a narrator.

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