There are a lot of elements that go into creating a perfect video game. Even if a game has nailed its gameplay, progression, story, art design, technical aspects, voice acting, and everything else, it can be undone by the slightest slip on the design side.
Level design is one of the more challenging parts of game design, requiring thought given to balance, difficulty, story, avoiding monotony, and many other things. As such, some games that are nearly perfect in every other way stumble at the last hurdle, with a single level that just stops them short.
8 Halo 3’s Cortana Fails On Nearly All Fronts
Halo 3, concluding the initial Halo trilogy, is considered by many to be one of the best games of all time. Its story is grand, sweeping, and epic, while its gunplay was cutting-edge for the time. Furthermore, Halo 3’s level design is considered impeccable, with each level topping the ones before it in scope and enjoyability.
The exception is the game’s penultimate mission, ‘Cortana,’ which sees the player with low ammo fighting their way through a monotonous, ugly, Flood-possessed ship with a near-limitless stream of enemies. Player dislike for the level isn’t helped by the constant interruptions by Cortana and the Gravemind, both of which remove control from the player and are considered annoying, or that it stops the game’s momentum just as the race to save the galaxy begins.
7 Bloodborne Has Far Too Large Forbidden Woods
The refinement of the classic Dark Souls formula, Bloodborne strips down the gameplay of its spiritual predecessor into a tense and vicious fight for survival in intricate but elegantly-designed levels. That is, except for the Forbidden Woods in the middle of Bloodborne.
Not helping the Forbidden Woods is its position in the game. The area comes after the beloved Central Yharnam, Old Yharnam, and Cathedral Ward sections. Likewise, it comes before the short-but-important Byrgenwerth and the tense battle of Yahar’gul. The Forbidden Woods is simply too large and near-impossible to navigate. Players have reported hours wandering around and failing to make progress, and it is near-impossible to get all of the area’s secrets in a game that rewards completionism.
6 Knights Of The Old Republic II Stumbles At The First Hurdle With Peragus
It’s rare that a game’s first level is considered to be poor, and yet the game is held up as a classic. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords is the sequel to the classic RPG Knights of the Old Republic and is considered by some to be even better than its predecessor.
Its levels are unique and well-liked, except for its tutorial level, Peragus. Peragus is widely considered a slog. It takes hours, requires traversing the same environments multiple times, and is largely devoid of NPCs. Peragus involves numerous character and environment changes while being entirely on rails. Fortunately, KOTOR II vastly improves once Peragus is left behind.
5 Tiny Tina’s Assault On Dragon Keep Has The Lair Of Infinite Agony
Borderlands 2‘s DLC – now released as a standalone game – is most likely making a loving reference to this sort of level in games with its aptly-named Lair of Infinite Agony. Full of difficult, annoying enemies and several sections where the player has to hold the line with limited ammo, it is a step up from the DLC’s typical difficulty and something of a slog.
In addition, there is an infamous puzzle involving a hallway of traps that the player must traverse, with frustrating conditions for completion. The DLC is typically considered the best content Borderlands has to offer, but the Lair of Infinite Agony is not a highlight.
4 Dawn Of War: Dark Crusade Doesn’t Fight Fair In The Tau Stronghold
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War‘s Dark Crusade DLC is considered the peak of the series, which was once considered one of the best real-time strategy titles around. It trades the linear missions of the prior expansions for an open map campaign where the player wages all-out war across the planet of Kronos.
The strongholds, where each of the other factions are based, are all challenging, but most in a fair way. The stronghold of the Tau Empire, however, is simply packed to the gills with fully-upgraded enemies that swamp you, with a pair of bases on opposite sides of the map gearing up to overwhelm the player if they are not fast enough. It is frustrating for any faction to fight through, and the hardest of the strongholds.
3 Dishonored Shifts Design And Interrupts Its Momentum In The Flooded District
The supposed main villain of Dishonored is killed off two-thirds of the way through the game before Corvo Atano is betrayed by the conspiracy he has been aiding and left for dead. The game’s third act sees him go on a roaring rampage of revenge against his former allies, but only after he escapes the Flooded District where his body has been abandoned.
Dishonored is considered near-perfect for its flexibility of approach and its well-integrated sidequests. However, the Flooded District is a largely linear haul through some of the game’s toughest enemies. Against Daud’s Whalers, the only options are to fight or progress at a hidden crawl. Even the excellent confrontation with Daud at the end doesn’t garner much love overall from fans.
2 Dark Souls Ran Out Of Development Time In Lost Izalith
Game development can be a costly and time-consuming process, and when either of those resources runs out, corners are often rapidly cut to ensure a finished product. This is exactly the case of Lost Izalith, one of the areas of Dark Souls‘ second half where a Lord Soul must be located.
Dark Souls is considered one of the best action RPGs of all time and spawned an entire genre named after the game. Lost Izalith, however, is despised among fans for its ugly aesthetic, to the extent mods have been developed to make it less of an eyesore. Lost Izalith features the lazy design of putting former bosses in large groups in the player’s path, lack of innovation, and for its boss fight being a platforming challenge in a game notorious for its poor jumping.
1 Mass Effect 2 Stalls In Horizon
The entire Mass Effect trilogy is beloved, but according to many, Mass Effect 2 is the series’ peak, and one of the best sci-fi RPGs ever. While primarily acclaimed for its side missions and character-focused content, many also love the main story, especially the Derelict Reaper and the Suicide Mission.
Where its story hits a swing and a miss, however, is Horizon. The first gameplay introduction to the Collectors, Horizon is a lengthy and difficult mission that outstays its welcome. The section fails to progress the plot significantly other than introducing the Collectors. Furthermore, Horizon has a near-total lack of NPCs to interact with outside of one frustrating conversation with a former party member.
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