Dying in games is synonymous with re-spawning, relatively consequence free, back into the game to fight another fight or to hop on another helpless Goomba. Sure, most games have some consequence, for example, dying in Call of Duty will slightly hinder your chances of winning the Team Deathmatch, similarly dying in Mario will cost you a precious life. But some games take a bite back, giving the player a taste of their own medicine through doling out a punishing set back to the players hopes of success in the game. Some games however take this a step further, whether that means punishing your whole team for your incompetence, or wasting a whole lot of your time – these games take a certain amount of masochism in order to succeed, a drive for competition or a need to finish what you have started.
There has been a recent trend towards harder games recently, games that punish mistakes and demand perfection. Here we will examine five examples of games that will punish you for daring to slip up.
The Binding of Isaac
A game embodying the recent Roguelike trend (for which we have seen many examples such as: FTL, Spelunky and Enter the Gungeon), The Binding of Isaac’s dark themes added to the suspense of dodging monsters around a death labyrinth with just half a heart of health remaining. What made the binding of Isaac so punishing was the permadeath feature meaning that once you lose your last heart of health you are dead, done, gone. Permadeath was a new feature to me when I first picked up The Binding of Isaac. Obviously I was aware of the feature in the real world, but not in a video game. Since then the idea of Permadeath has been a selling point for various new titles such as those listed above, the so called Roguelike(-likes). Starting again after a death in Isaac means completely starting again, losing all your power ups and time invested into that character, and you will start again, because now you are addicted. Starting the game again also means that the map will have randomly regenerated, and that sweet power-up you found in the room to the right of the starting point will no longer be there as the levels are procedurally generated. But the more you play the better you will become, you will learn how to beat the bosses and how to handle the frequently encountered enemies, however, there is still a component of luck making it incredibly annoying when you miss out on any useful item power-ups and die, having to start the whole game again.
Diablo III: Hardcore Mode
Fans of the Diablo series had a long wait between the second and third instalments of the franchise, so it is baffling to me why players would want to plunge further time into a character that can then be lost with one lapse in judgement. Hardcore mode within this game offers the players the chance to play the game with one added rule, if you die – game over. All that grinding for stat boosts and legendary items gone, all that time essentially wasted aside from potentially some achievements. Some see it slightly differently, seeing the game mode as adding a depth of connection and emotional investment between you and your character that you would just not achieve in soft-core mode. More importantly, if you reach the max level of seventy you can brag to your friends about your new status as hardcore king, just be careful where you say that in public.
Rainbow Six: Siege
This tense, tactical shooter is a rare example of a triple A title receiving excellent post-release care, meaning the game has thrived in the year since its release, making it the phenomenal first person shooter that it is today. But we are not here to talk about that today. Unlike the games predecessor, Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, Siege heavily punishes death through the games one life per round system. This is similar to search and destroy in Call of Duty I hear you thinking, well it is, but the key difference comes in the form of the importance of certain operators in the game. At the start of each round the attacking and defending teams get a selection of operators to select, all with varying weapons and skills. For example, the operator Sledge can use a sledgehammer (Siege has a few offerings of normative determinism) to break down doors, unreinforced walls and the defensive operator Castle’s armour panels. In this way certain operators take special significance, operators such as Thermite who has the ability to destroy reinforced walls. Losing your Thermite operator early in the round can cause your team to have no real means of attack, effectively costing your team the round. Death comes easy in Siege, with one head shot enough to take out any operator. Throw in defensive operators having traps and it is easy to see how one lapse in concentration means you have screwed over your whole team for the round, potentially throwing the entire game – good job.
Runescape: Deadman Mode
A game that was starting to struggle due to updates and the modernisation of the classic MMO many fell in love with, Jagex found success through a pretty radical solution, alongside the shiny new Runescape 3, a new, more familiar game was introduced, Old School Runescape. This was a return to form, a return to the game many fell in love with, complete with awful graphics – it looks, and feels, like 2007. This was a risky move as it effectively divided the Runescape community, but Jagex have seemingly found success through this move. They encounter one challenge though, how do you update an old school version of a game? The challenge means that they must keep the feel of the game, whilst keeping the game fresh. One solution they have found recently has been the inclusion of Deadman Mode, more specifically the Deadman Invitational tournaments. This game mode effectively turns the whole of Runescape into a player versus player arena, outside of marked safe zones you are fair game for player killers. There is no permadeath in this game mode (to begin with), but if you are killed by a player you will lose your ten most valuable items and fifty-percent of your accumulated experience. Although in Deadman mode experience is acquired faster than in the normal game, former players will surely recognise the harshness of this set back – nobody wants to spend eight hours mining, clicking on rocks to have half of that time snatched away from you. In the Deadman invitational tournament, the top two-thousand Deadman mode players are invited to a brand new server for six days in order to duke it out to be the last man standing. In the last hour of this mode respawning is disabled, death is permanent. Dying will mean hundreds (if not more) of hours down the drain, but winning… well, winning will mean $10,000.
Okay, well this game has not been released yet, but this game (if it is ever released) carries perhaps the harshest death sentence in gaming. Upon death you can no longer play. That does not mean your character, or a mode cannot be played, death means you can not play the game again, just like life. The game described as being a multiplayer fantasy RPG, is planning to only allow eight players to play at any given time with other players watching as an audience that is able to influence the proceedings by levelling up a contestants skill tree with experience points the player accumulates through fighting NPCs and finding treasure, meaning that getting the audience onside is important if you don’t want them to ruin your chances, kind of like in Hunger Games. Fear in this game would be a huge factor, playing gung-ho, as is often the case where there is no real consequence to a players death, would be a risky strategy that could mean you never play the game again but could win the backing of the crowd. The fear would likely mean that players would take the game slow, trying to savour the experience and play a risk averse strategy. The dynamics that the one death system would create would be incredibly interesting. Sadly, it seems likely we may never find out exactly how this would work out. After creating a large buzz in 2015, mostly owing to its unique concept, the hype died down. After an unsuccessful Indiegogo campaign, and a Patreon campaign that sits at $143 per month, it seems unlikely that we will see Upsilon Circuit in its full glory. However, there is still some life in the team behind the game, who are putting the game through serious renovations after noticing the scope of the game getting out of hand, critically “perma-permadeath” will still be present as the core concept.