I’ve Still Got My Health: The pain! The pain! (Part 2)

Cap’n Perkins called me after playing Oblivion one evening having thought through three general manners of dealing with a health system that games have. They are as follows:

Boss Mode

This model can most often be seen in boss fights, but is not restricted to such. Here, the protagonist(s) have far less health than the enemy. The compensating factor is that said boss has a limited number of power attacks that one learns to anticipate. You, on the other hand, are given a vast array of ways to deal with said boss (even if in most games one method is usually seen as ‘ideal’).

What this mode gives you is a sense of the epic. Fighting dragons, huge robots, an archmage from aeons past, a prince of demons, et cetera. If you look at the picture provided, many a Final Fantasy VII fan can tell you the ways to beat the weapon bosses, which required certain tactics in order to successfully beat them. Notably, Shadow of the Colossus is nothing but these fights, cutting out the fluff of weaker enemies.


Next you see a notable difference. You are the one with more health, however, you are limited in number. Enemy units can and will quickly surround you. While they may easily be felled in fewer attacks than the bosses, the main issue becomes crowd control. Seems basic and simple enough.

This is the model most games have until a boss fight. The player is given a feeling of having slaughtered an entire army and being a tireless champion of whatever cause the game has you pursuing (in fact, this is causing some concern over Diablo 3 with the disappearing of corpses over time).

On Par

Here is the model that was causing Cap’n Perkins to think through these models. Instead of fighting enemies that are built on a different model than yourself, you are fighting what could essentially be you, but controlled by a computer. While many games have toyed with fighting your doppelgänger, I speak specifically of games where you fight a number of humanoid opponents who can wear the same armor, have the same skills, and utilize the same abilities.

Of course, Oblivion was the catalyst for this thinking, though Dungeons & Dragons also can play off this model. Needless to say, this one requires a little more thought than the previous two models. Another way to look at this is PVP, though there you are actually fighting another human player, not just an AI. This system means that not only does the enemy have access to all that you do, but that you also have this advantage.

Here we also see a different character reaction and knowledge. To a certain extent, metagaming helps by allowing one to acknowledge what was just cast, what ability was just used, et cetera. Yet, we do not necessarily get the epic fight feel of fighting a boss, nor do we feel as if we’re wading through an army. Instead, I’d venture to say there is a certain sense of accomplishment due to knowledge.

I say certain sense because I realize all of these modes gives some sense of said accomplishment. What I wish to examine next is exactly what we are gaining from these models in both game and player terms.


About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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One Response to I’ve Still Got My Health: The pain! The pain! (Part 2)

  1. The ‘on par’ game style also creates another type of fighting situation, that of a duel style of combat.While dungeon crawling in Oblivion, because the foes are mostly leveled to you and have full armor, weapons and magic to match your own and instant reaction time in strategy implementation, it does indeed come down to basic meta-game strategy.Pulling aggro on one to two enemies at a time tops you then balance the block/blade/cast dance while angling to protect your back until you can drop a single foe and then go on the offensive.Now that I’ve advanced through the terrible teens as far as leveling is concerned this has proven to be a very effective and rewarding style of play and does offer an accuracy other brawlers lack.Of course the instant reaction time of the computer is mostly offset by the ability to pull up your inventory screen mid-battle and quaff some potions without delay, even switching gear without blinking.

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