In videogames, the term “escort mission” has garnered a negative connotation, and rightfully so. A lot of games seem to stumble at making the task of protecting someone weaker than the player character engaging, as opposed to frustrating and tedious. However, I think escort missions get unfairly brushed off as being fundamentally bad, when certain games have shown us that escort missions can be executed in a way that helps raise tensions without becoming irritating.Before continuing, I think it’s essential to try and nail down what exactly makes a good escort mission. For a start, the character that’s being escorted can’t get in the player's way, becoming more of a nuisance than anything. Games like The Last of Us and the recent God of War try to bypass this problem by making the companion AI characters invincible to enemies, but to me this feels like a weak concession that undermines the point of an escort mission. I believe that there are two games that manage to strike the perfect balance between creating extra tension with an AI partner without aggravating the players: Ico and Resident Evil 4.
So, what exactly makes the escort missions in these games a positive as opposed to a detractor that dampens the experience? In the case of both games, the characters being escorted need to be protected from enemies, but the direct control is given over them prevents them from feeling like an anchor that weighs down the experience.
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Issue 120 - November 2019