Come on, you know what I’m talking about. Remember that time where you hooted at your TV in triumph after winning a multiplayer match? Felt the rush of adrenaline as you beat that final boss? Or how about seeing something so breathtaking you involuntarily uttered “wow” to yourself? These are the kinds of moments that reside in your memory from a few of the games you play. In other words, they’re the moments that define the pinnacle of your experience with a certain game. As for me, I could bring up moments from Super Mario Galaxy, Star Wars: Battlefront 2, and Professor Layton and the Curious Village that I fondly remember as being quite epic. The point is that all of us have our favorite moments that we hold dear to our gaming hearts, but what constitutes one? What triggers us to love a specific part of a game? We normally give very specific reasons for a moment being awesome, such as “The bad guy died because he (insert his fatal mistake) when I took my (insert powerful weapon) and shot him (insert ridiculously high number) times” or “The (insert huge structure) was falling apart all around me while I was (insert like-a-boss action), but then I was saved by my teammate (insert classic saved-at-last-moment scene).”
Instead of being specific, I think there are several generalizations that can define epic moments. They’re the ways that game developers use to make us feel excited, surprised, and so forth. Without delay, let’s take a look at a few.
(Just to let you know, a lot of these epic moments normally happen at the end of games, so there will be some spoilers here and there. I’ll try to avoid them if I can, but be wary that I talk about games like Assassin’s Creed and Modern Warfare 3).
Amid the chaos, beauty can be found.
-Breathtaking Set Pieces
In a lot of games, being confined to a limited view of an environment with the occasional glimpse (or perhaps not at all) of towering skyscrapers or vast forests is not uncommon. This pattern has thankfully been breaking over time as technological advances allow developers to provide unbelievably detailed vistas of their worlds. Naughty Dog accomplished this with Uncharted 2. I remember playing a level called Desperate Timesthat took place in a rundown city with hundreds of houses and tall buildings; all of them were placed within a valley surrounded by snow-peaked mountains. At one point in the level, I reached the top of the highest building and was treated to a zoomed out look of the entire civilization. Man, it was a sight to behold.
I recall many moments like this in recent memory. The ability of developers to flex their imaginative and technological skills has been more evident than ever. Halo: Combat Evolved is a classic example of this, because taking that first step on the Halo while looking up at the sky seemed mystical and unbelievable to me. It was an epic, new world, which made me just say, “wow.”
“…I know, Lucy. I got some crazy stuff going on in my head.”
You know those stories that finally unveil their surprises and shocks at the end? It’s then that your mouth drops and your brain starts to fry. I can testify to this same experience from playing Assassin’s Creed 2. I was utterly blown away by the stream of mind-blowing answers that bombarded me at the end of the game. And after that, I was staring into space with more questions than I had before. A similar kind of revelation happened to me near the end of Bastion. The narrator slowly revealed the truth about the purpose of the story and what it would bring me to. He gave me answers, but the truth was a hard pill to swallow that required me to make a choice. It was a shocking revelation that put me in an unexpected position.
I marvel at these moments in stories because they stimulate me to contemplate their events and answers through my head to make sense. In the end, it always amazes me that someone contrived these bizarre, mind-boggling, and/or shocking revelations to a story. And sure enough, I think they’re epic indeed.
I love this picture. Perfect representation of the right and wrong path. What will Cole choose?
Some games (like inFAMOUS 2) based on morality ask questions like “Do you want to save the people you’ve protected despite their rejection of you? Or do you want to destroy them in anger?” Some games (like Bastion) don’t always have a clear-cut good or evil choice, but provide you with options that are up for philosophical debate. Either way, the fate of the world is in the player’s hands. They have the ultimate choice to make, and no one can stop them.
Even though I’m only talking about games here, making a skeptical choice on a grey issue, choosing to give in to the dark side, or giving up your life to save the many are the kinds of moments that define the hours I’ve poured into a story. They feel important, despite being in the virtual world. I’ve actually paced around my basement for several minutes thinking about a decision I have to make! But once I set my mind on something and choose a side, it’s an epic moment I face the consequences of throughout the rest of my time with a certain game.
That’s right…you have the chance to kill me right now…keep talking…
He’s killed your friends, your loved ones, or innocent strangers. He’s put you through pain and suffering of all sorts. He’s the embodiment of evil that has a twisted mind of psychotic ambitions. Of course, I’m talking about the main villain. That guy you’ve been waiting to eliminate ever since you laid eyes on him. He deserves no mercy, second chances, or pity. You’ve most likely experienced this in the shoes of Captain Price. His adversary, Makarov, took everything from him. Well, Price took revenge out on Makarov. And boy, he did it with style. The end of Modern Warfare 3 left off with a very satisfying conclusion. As a fan of the series since Call of Duty: Finest Hour, I’ve played all the games since then, and none of them ended as amazingly as MW3. It felt like justice had finally been met and all the loose ends were tied up. It was over.
“Right” is really the only way to describe a properly executed ending like MW3’s. It’s like the movies where the bad guy dies in a way that makes you want to stand up and cheer, like in Return of the Jedi or Batman Begins. It’s natural to want some video games to end like this as well because, well, they’re extremely epic moments.
Best quote from Star Wars Saga: PPOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWEEERRRRR!!!
There’s one sequence in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood where Ezio has possession of the Apple of Eden. This artifact is one of the most powerful objects contrived on earth, and no one can stand in Ezio’s way when he has it. Every few moments, he’s able to send out an energy pulse that overloads the minds of his enemies to the point of instant death. Or, take for example, Resistance 2. At the end of the game, Nathan Hale absorbs the ability to make his enemies explode just by pointing in their direction. They may come in masses, but their numbers only decrease before you…it’s all too easy.
If I struggle through a game and manage to acquire some sort of unlimited power at some point, there’s something undeniably awesome about being able to obliterate my formerly challenging foes in an instant. I’m the one in control, and I’m going to show no mercy.
I fear no video game! But this one…it scares me. o_o
-Achieving The Impossible
I remember playing Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and beating one of the hardest bosses on Proud Mode. If I were to guess, it probably took me between 30-40 deaths to finally come out victorious. A few of those times I came so close to beating him, only to die at the last second due to a hasty mistake. After all, it can be harder to play games when your palms are sweating and your heart is racing from getting so caught up in the game. Despite these side effects I experienced, nothing compared to how I felt once I won.
Beating this kind of boss is one of the best kinds of moments in gaming. My fingers endured through my pinpoint reflexes and button mashing to get me there while I was wrought with tension and frustration. Then, in an instant, I knew I had finally done it. After breathing a huge sigh of relief, I patted myself on the back and watched as my adversary fell to his knees. And yes, “achieving the impossible” can also apply to beating a race record, getting through an obstacle course, or beating a challenge in a multiplayer game. This category can apply to a lot of moments…either way, bragging rights are always a result!
If I had a huge flaming circle over my head, I’d know something terrible is about to happen.
-Push X to…
I’m not sure if everyone will agree with me on this one, but I was personally reminded of how awesome this can be last week. Let’s say there’s this really bad dude that’s wrecked havoc on your efforts to fight for freedom. He currently has you captured in chains and has recently taken down one of your greatest allies. You’re being taunted, ridiculed, and close to being executed by him. Where’s hope now? It lies in front of you outside the window, where you see your fallen ally arising to kill your arch-nemesis as he has his back turned. It too late for the bad dude once he realizes what’s about to happen, and then you’re suddenly in control of his complete demise as the command “Press X to Smash” pops up on the screen. It made me grin and confidently smash that X button with joyful vigor.
Although this gameplay mechanic doesn’t always have this desired feeling in most of my game experiences, I remember some moments where there couldn’t have been anything more perfect than simply pressing a button to feel like a boss.
This was a fun blog to work on for me. It was fun picking through my memory deciding what kind of epic moments I’ve had. Now it’s time to pick through your own mind. What are your favorite moments in gaming? Besides my own points, is there something I completely left out? Let’s add to this list and figure out what else can be an epic moment! Until next time, thank you for reading.
This article was originally published as a user blog post on Game Informer.