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Friday, 9 September 2016

Editorial: Five Terrible Video Game Levels.

Editorial: Five Terrible Video Game Levels.

We've talked a lot about video game bosses lately, but we almost never talk about actual levels in video games. So, while we're stuck in the slow period and still can, here's a quick look at some disappointingly bad video game levels.

This is, alas, not intended to be a complete list.

The Fade & The Deep Roads, Dragon Age: Origins.

Yes, these are technically two different levels, but they share basically the same problem, which is that they are long, and tedious, and you will either sink hours of your life that you will not enjoy and will never get back into them, or you'll just download a 'skip the Fade' and 'skip the Deep Roads' mod to finish the game without having to do the vast majority of them.

While the Deep Roads at least have a point, the Fade really doesn't -- it's a diversion dropped into the middle of a much better level, Kinloch Hold. In it, you don't really get to use any of the abilities you've spent the game building up, instead shapeshifting into a variety of astonishingly specialised and mostly useless forms.

In addition, the Fade is mostly beige, and has a weird visual distortion effect that will make your eyes hurt after a few minutes.

Future Dragon Age games would include Fade levels too, but generally they were a lot better, with one of them, in Dragon Age: Inquisition, actually being quite fun.

Dollhouse, Alice: Madness Returns.

The Dollhouse is very clearly meant to be a frightening, psychologically disturbing level that rattles the players, which would be just fine, except it was designed by someone with a fourteen year old's conception of horror, and the 'ooooh creepy dolls' element had already stopped being even a little unnerving long before you ever actually arrived at the level.

What the Dollhouse is is long, boring, awkward, and ugly. In a game whose main advantage often is how beautiful it is, the Dollhouse is garish, clunky looking, and confused, not in a scary way but rather just in a very unpleasant to look at way. It is by far one of the longest levels in the entire game, and one of the most awkward to navigate, meaning that you will spend hours running around it, fighting the same enemies over and over again, half of which are enemies you've been fighting throughout the game already.

The Dollhouse picks up a little when you enter its last quarter, which sends you into a foreboding, dark underground cave, but even then, it's not exactly blindingly original, it's just slightly better than the rest of the level. Oh, and there's no boss battle, because none of the levels in this game have boss battles.

Orphan's Cradle, Final Fantasy XIII.

In truth, the entirety of Final Fantasy XIII could be referred to as just a long series of disappointing levels, but of all of them, Orphan's Cradle, the final level of the game, must surely be the worst.

Boasting a boring design consisting almost entirely of floating platforms in a big red tube, Orphan's Cradle decides to go a few steps further by adding in features nobody would ever have asked for, such as 'awkward platform moving puzzles', 'a boss rush but bizarrely only with minibosses who you have forgotten about and who have been powered up to ridiculous levels', and 'portals to other parts of the game, but not to any parts you'd actually want to go to.'

Although admittedly, given that this is Final Fantasy XIII, you might not want to go to any of the areas in the game.

This was the part of the game that finally broke me, when I realised that I didn't want to play this game anymore and that I had spent almost my entire time playing it alternately bored and frustrated.

Mythril Mines & Underflow, Bravely Default.

You know, out of all of the levels on this list, this one (because it really is one level, just with two different areas) is probably the best. It's still terrible, it's just better than most of the ones on here.

What makes this area so bad is how long it is. It's filled with paths that branch off into dead ends, and even more paths which suddenly become blocked off halfway along them, which means that not only are you traversing a very long level filled with difficult monsters and environmental hazards, you're also constantly having to backtrack and take a new route.

Not to mention that, at the end of it all, you have another dungeon, as you are dumped into the Fire Temple in short order.

Devil's Dalliance, DmC: Devil May Cry.

DmC: Devil May Cry, the 2013 reboot of the Devil May Cry has many excellent levels, combining gritty punk aesthetic with nightmarish, Escher-oid architecture and bright colours. While some of the game's levels try your patience a little, especially during their latter stages, they are, at least, usually interesting.

Not so with Devil's Dalliance, a nightclub belonging to main villain Mundus' mistress, Lilith. Instead of an actual level, this area is just a series of platforms suspended amidst rave lighting, where you fight waves of demons endlessly. That's it. That's its only draw. Waves of enemies.

The whole thing is capped off with a singularly uninspiring boss battle consisting mostly of hitting a big fleshy thing and occasionally attacking its incredibly obvious weak point.

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