Design and rhythm are integral to making you feel interested in a particular game. If a level is cleverly design, you’ll play it and enjoy it. If not, you will probably slam the controller somewhere and swear not to play that game ever again. This is not a matter of difficulty, but of creativity and wittiness from the developers.
Here, I’ve collected some interesting examples of five current-generation levels that will bring you despair, boredom and even sadness:
The Annoying 5
5. Piñata Reproduction (Viva Piñata)
Viva Piñata is a complex garden simulation, and also a great game in a lot of aspects. However, if you are willing to get all the achievements, you’re in for some of the most annoying gameplay decisions ever. Seriously, farming a lot of worm-like piñatas, making them have sex with funny dances a thousand times? Sex is good. Piñata sex, not so much.
4. Locomotion (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)
Naughty Dog has created two of the best adventure games ever, but in my humble opinion, the train level from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is quite frustrating, and quite cheap at the highest difficulties. I mean, you got a narrow path to follow, very limited places to take cover, a million helicopters firing missiles at you, and a complete bastard as a mid-level boss.
3. A Paragon of Her Kind (Dragon Age: Origins)
This is probably the largest quest ever created in a western RPG. Its structure is quite simple; you have to go to a determined place, fighting a whole nation along the way, only to get a message like this: “Thank you Grey Warden! But our Paragon is in another castle!”. You repeat this process two million times more, and you’ll be done. Yes, it grows stale really quick.
2. Sands of Kogorth (Tales of Vesperia)
I’ve always thought desert levels suck. It doesn’t matter if its Super Mario Bros. 3 or Final Fantasy IV, desert levels are always the most boring and frustrating in gaming history; and Tales of Vesperia’s desert is no exception. As expected, you get to fight hordes of powerful monsters in an arid wasteland, with no points of reference to look at, the possibility to run in circles endlessly, and environmental hazards (like the lack of water) to be aware of. Deserts suck.
1. Valley of Defilement (Demon’s Souls)
The aforementioned levels are annoying, but this one sets the bar unbelievably high. The infamous Valley of Defilement is a putrid swamp full of diseases and gross creatures (like bloody fetuses). Besides the disturbing environment, you can get poisoned and/or plagued by only thinking about it, and the swamp itself makes you a lot slower, which makes you an easy target for all the creepy and powerful creatures living there.
Honorable Mention: Water Temple (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
I know this one is not from this generation, but you’ll agree it’s worth mention it. The Water Temple forced you to change the water level a bazillion times, and every time you had to change your boots. To do so, you had to go to the menu a lot, which was a very long and annoying process. It didn’t help that the temple itself was huge, every corner was almost identical, the enemies re-spawned every second, and Shadow Link was a total jerk.
Conversely, the following levels are epic examples of interesting, clever, creative and ultimately awesome design:
The Satisfying 5
5. A Desert Encounter (Valkyria Chronicles)
I know I said every desert level sucked, and this one sucks in some ways, too. But this chapter is different; it’s very, very difficult, but also fairly beatable. It requires a lot of concentration and skill (and a bit of luck) from you, but the level of satisfaction after completing it is comparable to being stalked by Hailey Williams.
4. The Ultimate Heist (The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion)
The last mission you get from the Thieves Guild is also a gigantic one. It requires you to make use of all the thief skills you’ve learned over your sneaking career in order to retrieve the famous elder scrolls from the capital city’s tower. You could certainly just steal the item killing everybody, but doing it like a real thief is incredibly satisfying.
3. Three Leaf Clover (Grand Theft Auto 4)
The nature of the GTA design allows for some challenging and ultimately satisfying scenarios. This long and hard mission in particular will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end, as you rob a band with three more people, and then run through the entire Liberty City trying not to get killed by the whole U.S. Army. The open ended gameplay made this process a very rewarding one, as you are indeed forced to fight hell itself, but are also offered a lot of options to take. Clearing this mission will grant you a huge satisfaction, and will make you insanely rich. What else could you ask for?
2. On the Loose (Heavy Rain)
Let me clarify the entire Heavy Rain experience is VERY satisfying, as everything you do, or don’t do will have interesting consequences at the end. This chapter is no different, as you can get arrested for the rest of the game and therefore, change the fates of all your characters. Oh, and you can also choose if you let Madison to flirt with you, and then kiss you, and then… Let’s just say there’s an important choice after another.
1. Suicide Mission (Mass Effect 2)
This is probably the pinnacle of end-games. The last mission of this great game put all your skills and decision-making to the test. Were you able to handle Miranda and Jack‘s rivalry over the course of the game? Did you buy the upgrades for the Normandy? Are your comrades loyal? All this variables take a lot of relevance in this mission in a very cinematic and dramatic way, and even if Sheppard dies at the end, you’ll feel like saving your family after a Roland Emmerich cataclysm.
Honorable Mention: No Russian (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2)
Admit it, you loved killing every single civilian in that airport. And if you didn’t, you’re fooling yourself.
So this is it. A nice compilation of both engaging and boring levels, all of them coming from outstanding games with the highest production values. So what do you think? Did we miss something? Are we encouraging casual gaming with lists like this? Feel free to speak your mind in the comment section below!