Annoying Game Mechanics are those that just make you groan when you see them in a game. You’ve seen them at their best but you’ve also seen them at their worst. You can’t love them but you can’t hate them either, but you can definitely be annoyed!
This week the mechanic I’m having an issue with is Tutorials!
Long ago, longer now than it seems, players would get all the information they needed about a specific game’s controls and special abilities in the instruction booklet. Then came the era of Tutorials. A tutorial is simply put an overview of the game’s mechanics, with a practical example most of the time, so that any player can pick up the skills they need to progress in the game. They range from a simple message telling you how to use an item to an entire beginner’s mission with lowered difficulty for the same purposes.
When done properly, they’re unobtrusive and don’t stop the player from enjoying the game as they want to. They’ll offer crucial information but won’t stop the player from experimenting. If it’s a beginner stage, either it can be skipped entirely or skillful players can make their way through it without much hassle.
On the other hand, the bad ones are the complete opposite. Tutorial messages that pause gameplay, constant walls of tutorial text, early stages that require the player to practice a move multiple times before they can advance. They become not helpful but dull and uninteresting and can certainly kill most of the fun of the game. Worst offenders are those that continue throughout the experience, continuously holding the player’s hand.
The staple of an annoying mechanic is that it’s seen both good and bad days. The following are some of the best and most disappointing uses:
- As Ezio Auditore was something of a newbie when it came to assassination, Assassin’s Creed II worked some of the more advanced tutorials into the game almost as a training montage. They were fun, had character commentary, and you could get through quite easily. And as missions, there were rewards at the end.
- Bioshock Infinite gives you every tutorial you might need with Columbia’s Fairgrounds, one of the starting segments. You can skip it entirely or learn mechanics with fun fair games.
- The Tomb Raider LAU trilogy had simple messages pop up telling you how you can do things. Better yet, it offers an intro mission that is directly tied to the plot and to flashbacks that eventually lead back to the tutorial mission itself, only this time without the hints. It’s an ingenious use of the tutorials.
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown has a starting mission where it teaches you how to move and attack, step by step. It’s slow, dull and it will always end with the same squad member surviving. Why is it on this list? Because you can skip it altogether!
- Bravely Default, for all its faults, has fantastic tutorials for its class system. When you acquire a new job, you’ll see a small gameplay sample of it with the text for its strengths and weaknesses. A press of the button later and it’s gone.
- The Witcher 3 masks its tutorial in a flashback of Geralt with his adoptive daughter Ciri, with Geralt racing her to the finish. Even better, you can skip the combat tutorial entirely.
- The Legend of Zelda has always been heavy handed with tutorials, with Skyward Sword having some of the worst. While you could say they’re ignorable, the constant beeping from the companion AI made the experience intolerable.
- Mario & Luigi RPGs are infamous for having entire unskippable tutorial sequences for every items and poweup you acquire. Worse still, sometimes you get tutorials even after you’ve told the NPC you don’t want them!
- Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness’s tutorials actually stop the game. Every time a tutorial instruction pops up, it takes control from you, and you have to mash the action button for it to eventually go away and you can continue.
- Hitman: Absolution’s tutorial level is outstanding in how irritating it is. It doesn’t have text, but a mechanical voice telling you about every single game mechanic present, from killing and selecting items to CHECKPOINTS! I think everyone knows how a checkpoint works.
- Batman: Arkham Knight takes you by the hand throughout the game. Batman will constantly remark on how you need to do things, even if you’ve already done so already a million times before. I feel sorry for Kevin Conroy for having to record those.