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DiscussionOct 25, 2021 8:00 am CT

How do you feel about “learn by dying”-style boss encounters?

Metroid Dread came out a couple weeks back, and it surprised my in how unforgiving the game could be at times — I died a lot more than I expected to during my playthrough. Mind you, deaths don’t really set you back all that far, so it’s not that unforgiving in the grand scheme of things, but the game definitely seems intent on killing you. However, it does so in order to teach you — as the loading screen often reminded me, “No attack is unavoidable.”

The end result is that the game becomes a learn-by-dying experience where you progress as far as possible before something new surprises you and you have to plan for it next time around. Bosses in particular turn into something of a dance, forcing players to learn each step so as to know how to counter/avoid them properly. The boss does A, you do B. The boss does X, you do Y. The boss surprises you with something new… you die and start it all over.

In a lot of ways, it reminded me of both Soulsborne boss fights and high-end raid encounters in World of Warcraft. (And that’s to say nothing of the literal dance players have to do during Castle Nathria’s Dance Macbre.) Fights can sometimes start out feeling insurmountable, but after enough practice, you learn the rhythm of the fight and countering deadly abilities becomes almost second nature. In most instances, it makes that first kill feel like a major accomplishment.

But in some instances, the satisfaction of beating the boss does not outweigh the frustration of having fought it in the first place. Some games feel so punishing — or a boss’s abilities and consistently bad RNG feel so frustrating — that when you do finally beat it, you just sigh and hope the game goes back to being fun. It’s a tough balance to strike, and a game philosophy that I can understand people not liking.

For my part, I tend to love these sorts of games. Sure, they can be unfair at times — but overall, they offer more hits than misses in my book. How about you, though? Do you like games where dying is an inherent part of the journey? Or would you rather the bosses feel more like spectacles, major beats in a storyline that are, in reality, not all that hard to take down?

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