My Undying Love for Permadeath
For those who don’t know, Permadeath is short for, “Permanent Death”. Many games take advantage of having some sort of way of having Permadeath incorporated into the game to add meaning or tension between the player, the characters they’re in charge of, and the thrill of needing to start over from scratch, should you or your characters die. I am a… half fan… I guess of a semi-popular Anime called, Sword Art Online. This show puts gamers into a world where if they die then they die permanently in the game and in real life. Now, of course, we don’t want gamers to die but the thrill of permadeath is very real. Games with permadeath are more often than not, Roguelike games that give players one life to complete a randomly generated set of levels. When you die you start from scratch and the next time you play you do not get any added advantage. The game is theoretically possible to complete the very first time you play it, the only thing holding you back is your skill and knowledge of the game. Next, I want to dive into a few of my favorite games that have this devastating yet rewarding feature.
First off is Ghost Recon Wildlands. I bring this game up first because I am currently working my way through it on Ghost Mode which adds permadeath and other small difference to make it just that much more intense. It’ll take a total of 55 hours to complete by my calculations, that’s on the hardest difficulty without dying a single time. It’s a rather scary world at times where every move you make could lead to your death. Picking your battles and knowing when it’s safe to go loud or when you need to remain silent is a crucial part of the decision-making process, along with many other factors. The world is so big, open and your life only becomes more valuable with everything you accomplish and collect. The game grows more difficult depending on the regions you’re in and the stakes grow higher. When you’re flying a helicopter or a plane and you hear that beeping sound of a missile lock. You tense up in a panic as you weigh the odds of survival. Are you high enough to parachute to safety? Are you low enough to land? Near a tall building or mountain edge to hide behind? Or do you prepare for a crash landing which you will only hope to survive? Each option is risky and terrifying. What about if you are being overwhelmed by enemies or running out of ammo? You have to run for your life or pull off an impressive means of surviving, but if you’re trading shots with the Unidad then just run, they have lots of reinforcements and helicopters. How about if a plan goes sideways and you are left behind enemy lines while they close in on you? There’s little to no hope for surviving. However, if you do survive or even manage to complete your mission despite the terribly overwhelming odds. The feeling is one of the most rewarding and satisfying things that can happen in a videogame. You’ll want to tell the story to your friends, or even yet, you’ll wish they were there.
Another great game with permadeath is a Rogue-like-game called, Wizard of Legend. It’s a top-down action game where the player wields spells, abilities, and melee attacks at foes to clear levels and each level has a mini-boss at the end. After completing two levels, you are met with a boss fight. Once you’ve completed this series of levels three times, you are met with the final boss who is every boss mixed together, plus he adds his own attacks as well. This game is great because there are countless abilities and upgrades that add such variety. Through the levels, you gain upgrades and more attack abilities which helps give you a better chance in the later, more daunting levels. This game isn’t about being able to get good enough upgrades for your character to be able to reach the end of the levels, but for you as the player to learn enough about your enemies, abilities, and practice enough to be skilled enough reach the end. This game doesn’t hold your hand or pat you on the back when you do well. No, you are punished in an instant when you failed and you have no one to blame but yourself. Your mistakes quickly add up until finally you are dead and have to start from the beginning. The advantage to a game like this is the amazing feeling when you get so good that most of the levels are child’s play and your only rival standing between you and victory, is the final boss.
The great thing about these games is that they are so hardcore and skill-based, but yet each run is no longer than an hour (depending on how far you make it). This means you can play it once or twice or all day until you finally beat it. They rarely have a steep learning curve and generally, stick to the idea of making them easy to learn but difficult to master which is commonly used as a method to make a fun game that is easy to get into.