When playing a survival game like Resident Evil or The Last Of Us, we tend to save our resources. We kept our magazines fully loaded, our knives and shivs at high stock, and the occasional grenade on our hotbar.
But what happens when the resources we were saving for the last few hours, suddenly start to burn out? Well, I personally tend to kill myself, for a better future, of course.
When I jumped into The Last Of Us Part 2, I remembered excruciatingly well that when I played the first part, I was always stocked out. I never had any resource problems ever. Knowing this I decided to play the sequel at a much higher difficulty, and the expression “Curiosity killed the cat” takes a whole new meaning here.
Enemies with added health, more damage, and lesser ammo were just some of the problems I was facing. After every encounter, I had no knives which caused me to have lesser stealth options, and lower ammo meaning I had a lower chance to survive if I did engage, but I did know something, I knew the future.
The movie Edge Of Tomorrow showcases a hero trapped in a time loop, trying to learn how to handle a situation by reliving it tons of times, and I was doing the same. Every time I felt that I had a bad encounter or one that would come to bite me back in the future, I just jumped off a building and restarted, but now everything was easier.
When I first figured this out, my playthrough got instantly easier, and yes people will say that this harmed my experience, but another thing to note is that if I knew about this strategy and didn’t use it, that would have probably hurt me more, knowing I’m missing out on a great opportunity.
The game doesn’t get easier with every death, what changes are what you know about the specific stage. If there is a random zombie that I don’t need to kill, then I don’t, if there is a different path to the one I took before, I test it out. In a sense, I am fishing out alternatives. Some people can call this exploiting, while others call it a feature.
Resident Evil took one of the greatest approaches to the death mechanic, the typewriter. giving players the option to save at certain points on the map, on harder difficulties you needed Ink Ribbons to save, this was some of the most genius ways to increase difficulty. Now death has meaning, the game wants you to try again and again until you yourself think that you are in a good spot to save again.
If games took an approach like this, titles like the Last Of Us or Dead Space would be much better, and we would have found the perfect way to rework the death mechanic. But there are more techniques, one that can work is RNG (Random Number Generation).
Many indie games like Dead Cells and Binding of Isaac use RNG extensively. This is also coupled with an instadeath mechanic which makes every run feel new and different, forcing the player to change themselves every time they play rather than restarting. Now investing in a run feels real and dynamic, and death is a fear, not an ally.
Maybe if titles like The Last Of Us took this approach, players would have to adapt themselves every time. This doesn’t only affect TLOU, it also hits some minor indie games like Raft or The forest, where if you just don’t have resources, go for a soft restart.
The souls series also has an almost perfect, but somewhat unfair system of death. Dying means losing all your resources unless you get back to that certain spot. In Elden Ring, the game revolves around death, it is part of the overall experience as the souls series makes learning a big part of its premise.
Of course, there is a permadeath mode for some of these games, but that defeats the purpose of this article as death is what makes surviving in these games so fun, but if death is the greatest escape, then why bother surviving at all?
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