Level: Airship
Level: Blackwall Yard
Level: Embankment
Level: Catacombs

Chapter 15: To Save A Life

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Interlude: Stairs

Just before he reaches the big fight in the Armory, the player has to contend with a few enemies with a tactical advantage. These guards have locked down the top of a stairwell, leaving Galahad little cover from which to fight back. A long bridge before reaching the stairs means he has nowhere to backtrack to, either!

Gameplay Video


This is a fun little "nothing," a pit-stop between larger fights, but a situation that the player hasn't encountered presented so bluntly up to this point. In a cover-shooter, the character with the "high ground" has the advantage. There's actually little reason not to charge up the stairs from the outset and end the battle in one bold step, but since players aren't given visibility around the corners at the top of the stairs, they're more likely to back up to the little bit of cover provided and take the fight much more slowly.

If you kill one of the first two guys, I toss in a shotgun-wielding enemy while you're dealing with the other one. Given the limitations mentioned on the left side, this can be a cruel twist, but it's important for one, simple reason: enemies usually fall backward when killed. It's much more satisfying to watch a body tumble down a flight of stairs, but the odds are simply against that happening with the first two. To be effective, the shotgun enemy's behavior tells him to cross that threshold of the top of the stairs, where players are more likely to get the fun thrill that you want in this moment.

The Armory: Apex fight of the game

Passing through a room with shelves inexplicably covered in a variety of weapons, Galahad breaks through a chained-shut door to find Royal Army guards waiting to ambush him. He arrives earlier than they expected, however, so players may catch a glimpse of the officer giving orders to his men before the fight begins. (I wanted to start the fight with the player seeing how many enemies he's up against.)

The combat sequence that follows could be described as a gauntlet. Though the player has a buffet of options to choose from before opening the door, even the mighty Arc Gun runs out of ammo long before the fight is over. "Special" enemies seen previously in one-per-fight doses now arrive back-to-back or can even be present simultaneously depending on the player's choices. The tight quarters boost the threat of the weapons they wield (such as the Detonator or the Thermite Rifle) to greater heights than ever before.

Armory Flythrough


The "armory" (the entryway space where all the weapon options are laid out) exists as much to provide a mid-battle resupply as it does to let players prepare before combat begins. The length and intensity of the fight basically guarantees that the player will have to switch out weapons at least a couple of times before the fight ends. We had learned during development that players were having trouble quickly recognizing weapons during a fight, so letting the player look over the options in safety before combat begins was a way to help them know where things were if they ran back to resupply.

The armory battle is one of the game's key combat encounters—by this point, the player should be completely familiar with the abilities and tools and weapons available to them. This fight is intended to put those skills to the test. There are no truly safe places to take cover (though the cover that's there provides full, fleeting protection from most attacks). The heaviest of human enemies make a reappearance in quick succession as the fight builds in intensity. Blacksight—the ability that knights have which often provides a "instant win"—now becomes almost a necessity to survive.


If players don't recognize this fact (or perhaps are playing the game more for the story and graphics than because they're skilled at shooting games), the fight could certainly tip over into die-and-repeat-endlessly frustration. I tried to script things to compensate for this possibility without creating lag points for skilled players by carefully doling out the reinforcement waves—"heavy" enemies won't appear until an "appropriate gap" in the fight has been made for them to fill (meaning several of the more basic enemies have to have been killed before they'll show up).

Gameplay Video

You never truly know how well-balanced a challenge is until it's released into the wild, but I feel we achieved a good-enough level by the time the game shipped.

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