F#$%ing Difficulty Spikes

Does This Game Hate Lara Croft, or Does It Just Hate Me?

You might recall, from last week’s check-in, how much fun I was having with the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider. And I was. I was having a blast jumping and running and fighting and puzzling my way through a haunted Japanese island…

Until I didn’t, and I’ll tell you why. Things were cruising along. The story was brisk and the gameplay was popping…until this one part where it’s Lara Croft against a seemingly unlimited number of zombie Japanese warriors who come in all shapes and sizes. There are few places to hide or run, and eventually Lara — and I the player, of course — get overrun and overwhelmed.

I tried this portion of the game a good dozen times until I just gave up. I HATE when games pull this kind of crap. They have a specific momentum, a flow, and then throw a spike into things to — it seems to me — infuriate the player. This isn’t the first time this has happened to me either:

  • Driver: San Francisco – I LOVE this game. LOVE. I was having so much Quantum Leaping from one driver to the next, doing hilarious missions and moving through the story. That is until this one specific mission, wherein I’m supposed to steal three classic cars and — without getting them damaged — get them to a truck for loading within a specific amount of time. I’ve never been able to pass the mission, and therefore finish the game, even after at least a dozen attempts.
  • Infamous – This might’ve been the first PS3 game I really fell for, and I had a BLAST with it. The missions, the superpowers, the movement, ALL so fun. That is, until this one mission wherein I’m supposed to protect a bus. It’s a multi-tiered mission, and the game doesn’t save between tiers, so every time I’d fail I’d have to go all the way back to the beginning. Like Driver, I’ve never passed this mission.
  • Infamous 2 – I loved Infamous so much, I figured I’d just jump into this one. Like it’s predecessor, I was having a great time until one particular mission. Something about turning on electrical junction boxes that are relatively a billion miles away from each other within seconds of each other, if I recall correctly. Again, I’ve never been able to pass this mission.

WHY do developers do this? I will never understand. Is it a punishment? Is it a way to pad out the gameplay? Is this a way for devs to show they hate players? Because that’s what it feels like.

As for Tomb Raider, I’ll likely look at walkthroughs — like this one I just found — to try and get through, because I was REALLY enjoying the game until this point. I just need time to get over the anger I feel about it and try again.

So what about you guys? Is there a game that did this sort of thing to you? I’d love to read your thoughts here or on the forums. Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

6 Responses

  1. mosgrom says:

    I have had this with a good few games and it pisses me off too. Especially since I play to relax. One recently was when I was playing Doom. One of the Rune challenges (which you don’t have to do but I can’t let go) took me probably over 100 tries whereas all the others and the boss fights all took me less than 10 tries.

    Some RPGs as well: Pillars of Eternity has this duke or whatever that challenges your ownership of the castle you get. There is a sort of war against the duke with a lot of NPCs that you have to fight at some point. You can get some allies but it’s brutally hard compared to most of the other things I did before it. I haven’t passed it yet and probably won’t go back to the game because I’m kinda done with it.

    Similar to driver there’s a few missions in the first “Mafia” that are real annoying. One also with a car you have to get somewhere within a time limit without getting a scratch on it.

    On a different note: Skyrim can really piss me off too. When you reach around level 15 (especially if you want to use destruction magic a lot) every encounter all of a sudden becomes really annoying and hard. Getting killed by bears and bandits etc. This slowly fades out as you progress to level 50 but the initial spike is really grating.

    I feel I’m forgetting a good few. I don’t mind wild difficulty differences in a un-levelled open world. You go to a cave an it’s too hard. Ok that’s fine I can come back later and try again when I’m stronger. I like that. But when the world is levelled or something impedes your progress and there’s no way around it or to “train up” for it. Sometimes it does seem like they’re fucking with you on purpose.

    • Brian Rubin says:

      But when the world is levelled or something impedes your progress and there’s no way around it or to “train up” for it. Sometimes it does seem like they’re fucking with you on purpose.

      Yes, very much this! UGH.

  2. Tony M says:

    These days I’m not too proud to just install an invincibility cheat to get past a stupid mission. Although more often I just never load the game up again and move on. Game developers need to include a “really easy” difficulty level in every game, and more importantly, allow players to change the difficulty at any point in the game.

    • Brian Rubin says:

      I hear ya man. I had to use cheats recently just to get through Deep Space Nine: The Fallen. PITA, it was.

  3. Jason S. says:

    I think that a lot of these difficulty spikes are accidents. Designing games is hard, it is an art rather than a science, and even highly talented developers are going to make mistakes. The fact that there are only one or two frustrating difficulty spikes in an otherwise even paced game is pretty impressive – bad games are usually filled with all kinds of frustrations.

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