Design of War Ender - Level 2-1
The battle for The City goes underground.
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It’s been a little while since we’ve gone over a War Ender level’s design, hasn’t it? Not only that, but there’s little I could make an entire dev blog about regarding any of my current works, though I can say that the writing cleanup for Impressions is 50% complete, as intended. I’ll have more to say about that game in the next dev blog, after I get some more work done on it. In the meantime, we’ll take a break from that to go back to where it all began…War Ender. To recap, we’ve just defeated the game’s first boss, the Wall of Lasers, but at a cost. The Outsiders were so determined to take you out that they brought their entire base down, far below The City. That’s right, you’re underground now!
Level 2-1 is, in my opinion, one of the most unique levels in War Ender. In fact, all of chapter two has a unique theme to it, taking place entirely underground. But while 2-2 and 2-3 will be your usual fast paced platforming action, 2-1 is considerably more quiet and noticeably lacking in other human characters. There are enemies to fight in this level, but they’re all machines. It’s almost unsettling how little biological life is down here…but there will be time to think about that later. Red is not about to have the war against The Outsiders go on without him, and he begins making his way back up.
The entire first section of the level is a platforming gauntlet. The only objects here that can hurt you are the mines. An easy way around them is to destroy the first one you see and shoot-float your way past the rest of them. This is what I figure most people will do when they get here. But be careful, because there’s large gaps you need to cross and you don’t want to be found hovering in the air without enough height to land on a platform nearby. Be mindful of the disappearing floors at the end of this chasm, and climb your way to the top. Before reaching the first checkpoint you must jump across a series of disappearing floors. Fail, and you’ll fall all the way back down. It’s a little intimidating, and one thing I could have done to ease the tension is to create something to catch your fall so you don’t have to start completely over.
Upon reaching the first checkpoint, a new enemy type appears. Sporting perhaps my favorite appearance of all enemies, these floating, smiley orbs are called Obsessors. I named them this because they “obsess” over you, following you around until they blow up in your face. Typically they come in large swarms, requiring you to either move fast or shoot them all down. Another platforming challenge lies ahead, this time with the newly found Obsessors thrown into the mix. The player is given some platforms to stand on as long as they wish while they take care of Obsessors and get ready for their next jump. Like before, some kind of platform catching your fall would have made this a little better. If you fall, you basically find yourself all the way back before the first checkpoint, which isn’t the most fun thing to do. I counted on players shoot-floating their way back to the beginning of the second checkpoint, but in retrospect more could have been done to accommodate the player.
Once you reach the second checkpoint, some familiar foes begin to appear. But again, they’re all mechanical. No humans to be found in this level other than yourself. And of course, the newly introduced Obsessors are now entering the mix too, adding yet another layer to the gameplay of War Ender. A notable part of this section is a hallway filled with robots, all marching back and forth at roughly the same speed. They’re found after jumping down a pit, and if you’re like me you’ll shoot down occasionally in case a surprise is waiting. Fortunately, these are the only enemies to contend with so you shouldn’t have any trouble dealing with them. Right after them is another small challenge I really enjoyed coming up with. It’s a vertical shaft with two rocket turrets waiting at the top. Like many things in War Ender, you can either rush your way through, using speed to outmaneuver the enemy, or take it slowly by carefully dodging the rockets as they come. Your reward for getting past the turrets is a health pack to the left, the game’s way of patting you on the back for getting through those turrets.
Dropping down another pit lands you right on top of some disappearing floors, so act fast! This is yet another small thing in the entire level that I absolutely love. It’s a quick moment, lasting only a second, but it’s always a part that stands out to me in War Ender’s level design. At this point, things are slowing down again since you have another platforming challenge ahead of you. Unlike before, this only lasts a moment before reaching another checkpoint as opposed to the beginning of the level where an entire section was dedicated to platforming. It’s all about that pacing! You have to sprinkle the levels with equal amounts of combat and platforming in order to have an interesting experience. And this rule has to be applied to every level in the game.
In the last section, a platforming challenge is the only barrier between you and a bunch of enemies. Unlike previous platforming challenges, this one does have something in place in case you fall so you’re not losing too much progress. Of all the platforming challenges in this level, I feel this one is among the best designed. Save the best for last, I suppose. After this, a wall of turrets and Obsessors with some mines sprinkled throughout stand between you and the goal. Like many final sections in War Ender’s levels, this one is mostly a test of every gameplay element you’ve seen in the level, just thrown at you in a different way.
And that’s it for Level 2-1! Design wise, it’s a very straightforward and simple level, with only the Obsessors providing much in the way of new things to talk about in War Ender’s design. And yet, despite all that, it’s still a memorable level for me. This is because of the lack of human characters in the level, as opposed to most other levels in the game which contain many a human to take on. In fact, only two other levels exist that I can think of that contain zero human enemies, that being the second bonus level and the RAWM boss fight. And coincidentally, those are all levels that are considered part of chapter two, though the bonus level is only a chapter two level thanks to technicalities. It’s like I said at the top - chapter two is a very unique chapter in War Ender.
So long as we continue this series, we’ll be seeing the rest of what chapter two has on offer for those interested in War Ender’s level design. In Level 2-2, human enemies return to the fray along with a new obstacle. It’s also where, in my opinion, the game’s difficulty gets noticeably harder, though it’s thankfully a smooth increase in difficulty rather than a spike. Before we get to that though, I do really think there will be some Impressions updates for you by the next dev blog. The writing cleanup for Impressions is at 50% completion, and only a few tasks remain before Impressions’ story content, and by extension its main content in general, is locked in place. I look forward to telling you all about it!
Until next time!
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