I was playing Red Faction: Armageddon, when I realized that every battle I entered, there would be a good chance that there was another enemy that irritated me: A larger enemy that is bigger, stronger, has ranged attacks, and can run towards me and explode if its health is low. There were so many battles with the larger, exploding aliens that it annoyed the heck out of me even at the “casual” difficulty. To make matters worse, I had to destroy generators, which created new aliens for each one I destroy. I don’t mind hordes of aliens; I just can’t stand those exploding aliens. Of course, I had to get used to using nano forge abilities, moving around more strategically, headshots, hiding behind cover, etc.
Imagine playing another game such as Call of Duty. You’re fighting the usual enemies and they’re attacking from all angles. Suddenly, a bigger and stronger enemy attacks you from a distance. You manage to hit it with all you got and suddenly it gets closer to you and it explodes. It would break the flow of the game, which is how it felt for me when I was playing Red Faction. I’m aware that since Modern Warfare, there has been a perk that allows a player to explode in Multiplayer after dying, taking the killer down with them if they are still near. However, all this does is give the victim a frag point, while the killer still keeps his frag point at taking down the other player.
Now, what does this have to do with Star Control? Star Control has its own exploding ship: The Shofixti Scout, which I like. The unique ship roster and their abilities is something that makes Star Control a unique game. To keep it sweet and simple, the Scout is small, fast, has a very weak primary attack, low crew/health, low fuel/energy, and has a “Glory Device”, capable of a devastating explosion. Even the shields of the Utwig Jugger and Yehat Terminator cannot protect them from the Scout’s explosion.
Even though the Chmmr Avatar is superior to the Scout in many ways, a well placed explosion can destroy some of the Avatar’s ZapSats, making it more vulnerable against the next opponent.
Despite the weaknesses, the Scout is still capable of dealing significant damage, making it just as valuable as any other ship. The opponent would definitely want to keep a safe distance and be able to attack at the same time. Imagine if instead of being small and weak, it was bigger, stronger and still capable of exploding. That wouldn’t be as fun, wouldn’t it? Imagine battling a group of Dreadnoughts and Marauders, and while fighting the Sa-Matra, it suddenly explodes, destroying your ships as its health becomes low. It would be extremely irritating.
My point is that the combat in Star Control is balanced enough so that I can think of a strategy to use against each ship or at least think of using different ships to take down bigger opponents such as using the Shofixti Scout to soften the Chmmr Avatar.
Generally, I find exploding enemies annoying. While they force the player to mix long and short range attacks, they must be balanced properly. For example, in Too Human, there are goblins that explode, however, they can be destroyed with a single ranged attack. In StarCraft, infested terrans can explode, but creating an infested command center is not easy (e.g. infesting a badly-damaged enemy command center) and the units are not the strongest and exploding is their only available attack. In StarCraft II, the Infested Terrans do not explode. Instead, they have a rifle attack and a 30 second lifespan, meaning that the player must spawn them at the right time and make good use of them during those 30 seconds.
The Shofixti Scout is a well-designed ship with the self-destruct capability done properly. There is a cost to sacrificing it, it must be handled different than other ships, it has its own weaknesses and if used properly, it can weaken stronger opponents that other ships would not be able to handle themselves. The glory device is even strong enough to destroy some ships with a single hit. I’m not saying that I hate Red Faction: Armageddon. It’s just that with all of the action in the game, the addition of bigger aliens that can explode while I battle other aliens that can respawn becomes irritating when these types of encounters occur frequently. One minute I’m fighting hordes of aliens, the next moment I’m spamming my nanoforge abilities while jumping around, hiding behind cover waiting for my health to regenerate. I’ve read the reviews of this game and I haven’t come across any mention of the exploding aliens. It just made me think of how the Shofixti Scout was designed and what makes it valuable.
Like everything else, the ability to explode should always be implemented in a way that doesn’t break the flow of gameplay.
Now for something awesome:
What do you think about enemies that can explode?