Robert Tamayo


Game Design: Enemies that Slow Things Down

God of War: Ragnarok is a slow-paced game. There are intense moments of combat, sure, but there is a lot of downtime between them. Kratos' signature Rage mechanic even makes combat itself echo this motif.

While most of the time spent in the game outside of combat is enjoyable and fun, there's one enemy I've discovered that slows things down in a bad way. This isn't criticism of the game; it's more a criticism of the enemy type.

The enemy is a plant that lurks in around corners. It blends in with the surrounding environment pretty well, so they are sometimes hard to detect by sight at first. If you fail to kill them, they will explode, dealing a bit of chip damage. What makes it worse, however, is that their explosion leaves a poisonous sludge on the ground for a few seconds. Usually, they are placed near chests or other desirable items or objectives. So, usually, this means that you have to wait an extra 5 seconds for the poison to clear before you can open the chest.

Making players wait to move forward for things like this is annoying. I've tried to avoid adding enemies like this in my own games. One way around it is to provide the player with enough space to move around puddles of acid or lingering flames left behind by a felled enemy. But in God of War, the levels are usually made up of hallways, so there's no real alternative to having to just wait it out.

Again, I'm not criticizing the game itself - just the enemy type. This type of enemy or trap is often found in games. It's pretty standard, but it doesn't add too much value to the game. I advise choosing another alternative. If the player has to wait in an elevator, that's fine. But if they have to wait 5 seconds as punishment for not being quick enough, then it just feels like timeout.

In Robot Ops, I originally had an enemy that would alternate between vulnerable and invulnerable states every 5 seconds. While I was playtesting it, I realized that it was needlessly slowing things down. I changed the enemy to instead have a recharging shield that would need to be depleted before the enemy itself could be harmed. It worked a lot like the shield and health mechanic from the first Halo game. It was a much better choice in the end.

In God of War's example, I would replace the puddle of acid with either a larger explosion or just the regular explosion. I would leave out the acid altogether. Stall is not a fun mechanic for enemies in games.
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