Satisfaction is something most games try to create. And a lot of them fail. Such moments tend to be either too easy to accomplish, such as defeating Alduin in Skyrim, or they do not leave the player time to appreciate their work. But sometimes, games get the mix right. You work toward a goal and against the odds you achieve it. Then you get the time to wallow in self-satisfaction. With that in mind, here are my top 4 satisfying moments in gaming. Oh, and SPOILERS! for SWTOR Sith Warrior and Mass effect.
#4 Routing the Enemy
There is something very pleasing about beating the odds in a strategy game. But few strategy games simulate the most rewarding of tactical masteries: the route; when an enemy will turn and run out of nothing but fear. The Total War series, for its many problems, has never struggled to portray the battlefield in detail with noise, fatigue, odds and unusual attacks all factoring into a unit’s morale.
Your average Japanese peasant levy of the Sengoku Jedia period would have been rightly terrified of the Portuguese muskets that flooded Medieval Japan during the period. Their noise would have been terrifying, their projectiles invisible and their damage unheard of. It is right that the presence of firearms against an army lacking them causes fear in that army, and ultimately will cause them to route. There are few more satisfactory battles than ones in which I can maneuver my gunners to the flanks of my enemy and send lead tearing down their formations as they are pinned by samurai. They could outnumber me 2 to 1, but that positioning designed to break their morale will work – and that mastering of the odds to gain an easy victory is very, very pleasing. Pouring over the stats of the battle afterwards allows me to really admire my tactical handiwork. I could even save a replay.
#3 When a Haphazard Plan Comes Together
Sometimes, the player will spend hours building, testing and then launching some contraption. In my case, that contraption was an ore refinery bound for the shimmery, ice cream flavored moon of Minmus. I spent an hour designing the craft to have enough delta-v, with engines able to manage the shifting center of mass during the slow descent. I had to ensure it landed at the right height so that the docking ports could align with those of a pre-existing science lab. The plan was set – it came together, but did so kicking and screaming.
The first launch failed, 10000m up something exploded and one of the lower stage rockets fell off, sending the craft to an explosive doom. Fortunately, I could revert the game to launch. After following the KSP mantra of ‘when in doubt, add more struts’ Bobby and Bill Kerman were ready for take 2. At 7000m two explosions occurred – ‘shit!’ I thought, as I really didn’t want to do a complete redesign. Luckily, it was only some batteries placed slightly too close to the engines. The rest of the mission went well up until landing. I came in slightly too fast and one of the landing legs broke. After hobbling along the ground with RCS I got the refinery to the base and docked it. Bob repaired the leg, and all was golden. It was a bit stressful; a hard earned success. But after a failure and a near failure I had my first ever functioning mining facility – Jool here we come! It’s delightfully satisfying to look down on my base and say ‘I did that’ – especially when this was the view.
#2 Time to Die, Baras
SWTOR’s Sith Warrior storyline is very predictable when playing the dark side. The light side is an interesting look at being a good guy on the evil side, but for those with the hate flowing through them; it’s Sith business as usual. Lots of betrayal. Lots of death. And one satisfying boss fight.
You are the apprentice of Darth Baras, and he does a lot to make you hate him. He uses you as his blunt instrument – never does any work himself. Then he claims credit for the work you do. Then he pits his other apprentice against you in an act that I fully expected but that was rage inducing nonetheless. Revenge was bitter sweet. You are made the Emperor’s Wrath, the iron fist of the Sith ruler. Then came the unexpected betrayal above Corellia that I refuse to spoil – that one cemented my hatred of Baras. Once that had been ‘dealt’ with it was on to the final push. After killing said apprentice thrice and for all (because he had this whole near-immortality thing going on) it was time for the grand finale – much to the glee of Darth Vowrawn; he has a weakness for theatrical vengeance. That theatre made the battle feel that much more important.
As Baras attempts to seize power over the Dark Council by claiming to be the Emperor’s Voice (the bodily manifestation of the Sith Emperor), you stride in full of confidence. Vowrawn announces your entrance and some Sith allied to your cause take their places by the door. Baras, in an act of cowardice, calls on the other Darths to kill you on his behalf. They seem amused by the suggestion and Darth Marr declares: ‘Baras claims to be the Voice, this lord claims to be the Wrath… the one who wins, speaks truth’. And the fight begins.
As you hurl lightsabers and insults at one another the other Darths look on, and once the fight is over they congratulate you. An act of revenge 20 hours in the making was complete.
#1 The Fleets Arrive
Never mind 20 hours in the making. Try 60 hours. From Eden Prime to Omega 4 and from Rannoch to Tuchanka, Commander Shepherd’s journey is one of the greatest stories I’ve ever encountered. It screams epic. And all that work led to one moment.
Nor was I short on motivation. Thane’s death. Mordin’s sacrifice. Grunt’s last stand. Beautiful moments of the game that move you toward this singular cutscene. The Geth and Quarrians stand ready. The Turians await your signal. The Asari fleet assembles and Hackett gives his pre-battle speech. After 60 hours of running throughout the galaxy it comes down to a singular, glorious moment. You face impossible odds, but thanks to this cutscene, you think that – for a moment – it might just work.
It is an immense shame that it all went downhill after that. But in spite of what comes after your final chat with the Illusive Man, no poorly written starbrat can detract from the most satisfying gaming moment I have ever had.
I've shared my most satisfactory moments - what are yours?