Dark Souls 2 screenshot
Dark Souls 2 – attack his ankles for massive damage (pic: Bandai Namco)

GameCentral readers discuss the most annoying cliches in gaming, from unhelpful shopkeepers to sewer levels.

The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Gannet and covered anything from gameplay mechanics to game design to character and story moments or just anything else that annoys you about modern games.

We had plenty of suggestions but many of theme were connected to boss fights and cut scenes, with many also complaining that modern games have become too predictable.

Giant problem
The one that I’ve grown to dislike over time (no pun intended) is when you have a giant enemy boss – like really giant, like the size of a building and they spend the entire fight with their face two foot away from you so you can easily attack them. Sometimes they’re so big you’re standing on something (that they could easily knock over) to even reach them and yet they let the fight go on for no reason until you beat them.

Either that or they’re similarly huge and yet hacking away at their ankle somehow kills them. Again, why don’t they kill you instantly? Just stomp on you, considering you’re right their at their feet. But even if you ignore that how much damage is hitting your foot really going to do. Like if I was fighting, say, a mouse and it somehow chopped my whole foot off (not that you usually do do that) I’d still be able to swat it if we were in an enclosed space it could escape from (which you normally are in boss battles).

FromSoftware games are especially bad for this I’ve noticed. They’re great games, but sometimes I feel like I’m just an ankle biter, not a monster hunter.

Pipe dreams
Sewers. Why are video games obsessed by sewers? We could be on the PlayStation 9 and it’ll still be plagued by games with that one section where you have to go exploring through a boring looking sewer fighting boring enemies (what kind of cool enemy would be caught dead in a sewer?!).

I guess originally they were just a simple, easy environment to create but surely we’ve got to the point now where we can do better? What’s worse is they’re usually just lifeless, concrete corridors. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were ornate catacombs like you actually get in real-life in some European cities. But no, just boring grey (or brown!) tubes you have to walk up and down in. Flush this cliché away!

Complimentary sword
I kinda of like this cliché but I do wish games would have more fun with it and point out how silly it is, but it’s the idea of shopkeepers that have items you need to save the world with but absolutely refuse to give them to you at anything but the list price.

If you don’t save the world they won’t have the chance to spend the money so why not give you a 10% discount at the very least! It’s fun because shops are usually right next to a difficult boss battles and yet they never think to give you a freebie.

I know it’s because it’s a game and everything but after all these years you’d think someone would’ve worked out a better way or at least made fun of it properly.
Big Mike

E-mail your comments to: gamecentral@ukmetro.co.uk

Sticking to formula
This is maybe not so specific but the thing that gets me with so many big budget games is just how formulaic everything is. I hadn’t played The Witcher 3 at the time and thing that struck me about it when I did get round to it recently is just how predictable it was. The early tutorial mission, the dialogue trees, the rubbish combat because this is actually a role-playing game, the needlessly complex inventory, the skill trees where all the good stuff can’t be unlocked for hours.

It is a good game but it’s also a very unoriginal one, and yet it’s still a lot better than the Ubisoft average. Ghost Of Tsushima struck me as being like this too. Within an hour I’d not only seen everything it had to offer but absolutely everything that it did and was failed to surprise me. It didn’t have an original bone in its body and I think that’s true of most modern games and why I tend to prefer indie nowadays.

TV tropes
Well, this will get a few mentions I’m sure, but the turret section. Escort missions will probably come under heavier fire but these have spoiled games for me. For the record, I’ve played two good turret sections: the first as Ada Wong in her Separate Ways mode for Resident Evil 4, where you fight a battleship! And second, as Bayonetta, on her debut during her ascent of the final tower. These were fun and empowering.

Now, let’s move to Sly Cooper 2. Here they are not fun. They are the opposite of fun. There’s about three of them in the game, the last one being against the final boss and it just ruined what should have been an amazing boss. Then there was the infamous Dead Space section against asteroids. I was never really connecting with the game up until point anyway – I just couldn’t stop comparing it unfavourably with Resident Evil 4 – then along came that bit and just drained away the last of my goodwill.

Because a bad turret section is usually tied into something else I hate: overheating weapons. Even in Halo I didn’t like the idea. ‘Uh, but it makes it more realistic…’ dullards will whine. If realism doesn’t enhance the experience (Rockstar? Are you listening to this?) then get rid of it.

I do loathe bad video game logic overall. Like bits of the scenery you can’t negotiate or basic skills that you have to waste points on in order to have. Greedfall was a recent culprit here.

A trope I do love, it seems unfair to call it a cliché when it doesn’t seem that widespread is when you turn the enemy’s weapon or attacks against them. Best reserved for late or end-of-game bosses, this is always satisfying. From leading Robotnik’s missiles back into his face as Super Sonic at the end of Sonic & Knuckles 3 to a game of deadly tennis with the King of Evil at the end of Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time.

As for story tropes or clichés, I don’t think I have anything I really hate – not even the eternal amnesiac or strong, silent type that graces so many Japanese role-players. I do love a good ‘united we stand’ type ending that the Japanese can do so well. Skies Of Arcadia, Ōkami, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, and so on.

I remember Doctor Who tried this when John Simm played the Master/Tony Blair and it was just all the cringe. It just wasn’t earned, contrived by a writing team that clearly didn’t believe in the concept and came across as fake and insincere – wanting to manipulate its audience’s emotions without really ever putting their hearts into it.

Pretend badaas
A lot of the worst cliches, like escort missions, turret battles, and not being able to swim aren’t so common nowadays but the one I’m surprised persists is cut scenes that show you doing super acrobatic amazing moves that you can’t actually do when you play.

It’s less common now, and it’s usually only in bad games, but don’t show me being an absolute badass in a cut scene but then don’t let me be one in the actual game.

Time honoured
Cliches in gaming are definitely an overused concept, but most are very acceptable and have made games as legendary as they are now.

Jumping on enemies to kill them, finding secret levels or areas, learning and finding new skills and powering up your character, and cheesy character dialogue! The main overused cliche is getting from the start of a stage or level to the end of the stage/level, and fighting an end of stage/level boss. Then getting to the very end of the final part of the area later on at the game’s end moment and fighting a much tougher end of game boss!

All of the above though are just the underlined power of an excellent formula which has not failed since the early days of Mario and Double Dragon. They are basic gaming mechanics which worked then and work now. My bugbear cliches are more lazy gaming mechanics.

Powering up the generator. I can’t remember all the games where you have to find parts to power up a generator or some kind of power giving element of a game. I hear gaming streamers complaining that, ‘if they have to power up one more flipping generator! They’ll treat the game with an annoyed look’, or something. Indie games are prone to having generators to power up more than triple-A games. But both are guilty of this overused mechanic.

Taking on an army or a horde of cannon fodder enemies as your comrade tries to override a computer locking system, for a gate or lift leading to an exit. You then have to defend them for five or whatever annoying minutes, as waves of enemies have to be mowed down as you protect your friend, too busy unlocking or overriding the lock or key code to escape the area!

Quick time button events are very hit and miss. I remember in Resident Evil 4 and the fight with the big Russian fellow using button combinations which have to be entered correctly as they appear on screen quickly. Don’t get me wrong, this particular knife fight was enjoyable. But after that, the same formula then seemed to be used in a whole bunch of games. And in Heavy Rain, it was the entire game’s main mechanic!

The gaming world can still use old gaming ideas well enough, if thought about and developed into new modern gameplay experiences. I mean, they are not game breaking, just more eyes shifting to the ceiling with exasperation. But hey ho, it’s not the end of the world. As long as the rest of the game is good though, then so am I.

E-mail your comments to: gamecentral@ukmetro.co.uk

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