Things I Hate About Games: The Escort Mission

In the gaming world, I’m a little behind a lot of people in the games I’m playing. Everywhere I look, there’s comments and features on Mass Effect 3. Me, I’ve just started playing ME2. I’m on a mission to recruit allies, and I’ve just crossed a bridge and talked to someone called Archangel. After that bit, I’ve got to escape with Archangel. This is where I’ve stopped. In the game, a health bar appeared for Archangel and it filled me with dread. Because I think it leads to my most hated aspect of any game. An escort mission.

Having played a lot of games, I’ve encountered many different opponents and enemies. I’ve played thousands of missions, involving thousands of different goals. Some of these have been complex missions, with many different steps needing to be completed, and some have been simple fetch and carry missions, go to point A, collect an item, then proceed to point B. But when that item changes into a person, it enrages me. I can cope with pretty much anything that a game throws at me, but not that.

GTA IV: The king shit of turd mountain when it comes to escort missions.

The better technology gets, the better games get. Better graphics, better sound, better AI. Characters in games are programmed to react to the players input into the game, be it the way they answer, the way they move toward the player or the way they move away. Developers are constantly striving to make NPC’s more human-like in their reactions to the environment around them. There is, however, an area where developers always fail. An escortee. No matter what game I’ve played, whenever I’ve had to escort an NPC, the AI always manages to make the mission a thousand times more annoying. An NPC can hide from an entire professional army behind a twig for a fortnight. Once that NPC needs to get moving, all sense of self-preservation go out the window, with the character running around like a headless chicken. It starts acting like a lemming. You starting fighting the enemy, the escortee decides to step in the middle of it all. You start firing at the enemy with a heavy machine gun, the NPC fancies it’s chances at crossing your field of fire. A character that’s spent the entire story-line soiling itself suddenly decides it’s going to go Arnie in the middle of a war-zone with no training or weapons. When the character has a weapon, or ability to defend itself, it still makes very dubious decisions. Why? Why does the AI suddenly decide to take the long route when there’s an obvious short-cut? Even games that have a decent AI still fail in this area. It’s almost like the developers went out for a smoke when it came designing the AI for these type of missions. I understand that in these games, the escortee is usually a civilian with no background in the military, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that the character takes on a suicidal tendency. It never helps when the character in question is susceptible to friendly fire, either.

What makes things worse, is the fact that these characters can only accept basic commands, if any, compared to a team-mate. They can’t be told to run for it while you provide cover fire. They can’t be told to hide while the enemy attacks. They can’t even be used for bait to lure the enemy into an ambush. There’s so many ways a mission like this could be handled, but they always end up playing out the same way. Where’s the ability to command the NPC in this kind of mission? With better AI, or the chance to direct the AI, these missions could be so much more enjoyable. As it is, these quests fill me with loathing.

If the escortee can’t be commanded, why can’t the character be controlled by another human? These kinds of missions are filled with pathetic AI, so a human should be able to take over the role. But I’ve yet to see it myself in a game, and is certainly something I would like to see introduced in a game, if it hasn’t already. That’s why I don’t know whether I’ll continue with ME2. And unless they change the way these missions are played, I will forever hate the escort mission.

  • Jmas

    Totally agree. NPCs have the nasty habit of getting stucked behind a pile of rubble or snagged in a corner. Nothing is more annoying than running 100m in front of them only to have go back and rescue its dumb ass from the all-evil tree branch. Escort missions should be paid special attention to by developers and only apply to main characters. Escorting a main character is reasonable since they’re along side you for the majority of the game, but a random on his way across the great plain, boring.

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