Well now, looking back it seems like I’ve been too nice to Dead Space 2, so let’s get that caustic hate machine within warmed up and ready to go. And I have just the thing to talk about, event battles! For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, Event Battles are fights that take place on highly scripted rails, usually to try to increase the tension by making a fight seem more ‘cinematic’ and forcing the player to react in certain ways. Really bad versions of this are just quick-time events, literally hit ‘X’ or whatever in time or you die, and that’s it. In Dead Space 2, the event fight isn’t that bad, but it’s close… The boss even has a fitting name: The Tormentor.

I'm looking at you, jerk.

Now, Dead Space is survival horror, and the Tormentor is miles above his predecessor Hive Mind in terms of design, appearance, and interaction, but horribly falls flat because of his overall implementation. Look at the above picture real quick. Now, see the yellow blob coating his right arm? Good. That’s his weak point. His ONLY weakpoint. Now you might say, “Kana, other creatures have one weakspot, if any at all!” and that is true. Brutes are weak in the arm joints, but no where else. Same thing right? Well it would be, if everything else on the Brute were invincible. No where on this freaking thing does he take any damage, no matter how powerful your ordinance, except that one place. What, have a gun made of an industrial-strength tool for shattering meteors? Hit the Yellow or die. Razor sharp diamond tipped blades on a power-saw? You will shoot that damn spot and you will like it. It’s infuriating that this thing is made of plot armor, but that’s not even the worst of it yet…

The Tormentor commits the one cardinal sin that I can never forgive it for. Binary Pass/Fail mechanics. You have, roughly, two or so seconds to shoot the Tormentor in its weak-spot, or you die. You will die, instantly, no second chances. Think of how silly that sounds when you consider just how MUCH firepower Issac has at his hands if you choose to go heavy weapons. Like me. Yes, stupid me tried to do this fight the first time with the Supercollider Contact Beam. Which has a half-second wind up. Per shot. You get one shot with this gun before you run out of time and die. One. The first ‘event’ was okay, not a problem. Easy enough to hit. The second infuriated me, because for whatever reason, Issac can’t aim more than two bloody inches to the left. So I died for trying to be smart shooting his exposed part of the arm. Silly me, I should have been doing the stupid thing and shooting between his mouth and an obstructing pipe. Death one.

Reload at checkpoint, see the entire intro scene again, pass first test. Alright, now I know what to do. I’ll just charge my gun and fire…. what the hell? I died. Again. Must have shot the pipe. Silly me, back to square one…

Checkpoint. Intro scene. Tormentor has now lost any intimidation or fear response from me. Becoming frustrated. I have the wonderfully brilliant idea to switch guns now, maybe I’ll have better luck with the Plasma Cutter since it’ll shoot more than once before I die. Try to change in intro scene. Try to change in first event test, die. Okay, so you can’t change guns. Now I’m stuck with the worst possible weapon.

ALL OF MY HATE!

Checkpoint. Into scene. First event goes without a hitch. Second one… I fire at his weak point as he bites, and his mouth intercepts the charge. Of course this being a gun that is used on space rocks it shatters his jaw and staggers him, giving some breathing room. Haha, just kidding, he kills me instantly before I can recharge another shot.

This just goes on for eight solid attempts. After 5, I got so frustrated I just paused the game and walked away to cool off. I had gone full circle in emotions, and any tension I had felt before was replaced with seething rage. I carried the Contact Beam with me for a while after that, just murdering everything in my path as sweet, sweet revenge. This is not how you design good boss fights. No one like having their only options being total success or total failure for 5 actions in a row.

I know the pain, Issac...

So how could this fight have been any easier? Well, first make it different. The Tormentor fight is the exact same on every difficulty. The only difference is how much damage you have to do to its limb to ‘pass’ that stage of the event. So why, exactly, are Easy, Normal, Hard, and Hard+ all doing the exact same boss fight? I thought the point of selecting lower difficulties was to enjoy an easier game or ease your self into a genre you might not be familiar with, while the harder difficulties are for veterans of the genre and/or looking for a challenge from the game. What happened to that distinction? So make the lower difficulties have noticeably more time (2 more seconds would be plenty) so they can have more breathing room while the higher players still have their challenge.

Equally good would be to have sub-stages to each event. If you fail to pass the first one, instead of just insta-killing the player and dumping them back at the start, have the positions shift. Make the player have an easier shot while the Tormentor is physically closer himself. Then insta-kill them when they fail that much easier stage. Yeah, it sucks, but short of overhauling the entire boss fight, an instant kill is the only way to make this thing a threat to the player (which is sad really, it could have had a larger roll, but that’s for another time), so at least make it so it isn’t an instant fail on your first mistake.