How important is a game’s ending to you?

As I near the end of Prey, I’m realizing how much the final hours are shaping my overall perception of the game. I adored the first half (especially the stunning opening). It felt nearly perfect, an open experience that rewarded thoughtful exploration, hearkening back to the glory days of PC classics like Half-Life. In an era of hand-holding, I loved what Arkane Studios was doing with Prey (and Dishonored 1/2). 

But the bloom has come off the rose for the final third. The escalation towards the final confrontation took a limp detour into more backtracking through long load screens. Robots and the public announce system constantly overlap important dialogue. The sound design – so brilliant at creating tension for the first 2/3 – began to grate on my nerves, especially when stuck playing the intense combat theme with no enemies in sight. These are small quibbles, but the padded ending highlights the weaknesses of the design.

Although the majority of time I spent with the game was overwhelmingly positive, the weak ending has left a bad taste in my mouth. What first felt like an easy 9/10, is starting to feel like a 7 or my hated score of 8.

Even though the part I didn’t enjoy was significantly smaller than the portion I loved, I feel a poor finish is unfairly affecting my judgement. I started thinking about a reverse example, a game with a poor start, but strong finish.

Exhibit A: Final Fantasy XIII

In a 13-chapter game, the first ten are linear tunnels of limited fighting and cutscenes. The combat system doesn’t even fully open up until chapter 11! Once it does however, the combat is an exhilarating mesh of quick decisions and strategy with plenty of options. It takes elements of X-2 and XII, implementing jobs and full party control in an extremely fluid manner. I’m having fun with FF XV, but it’s a firm notch below the XIII and especially Lightning Returns.

Although the first 20 hours or so of FF XIII are nowhere near as good as the rest of the game, I still look back at my time with it fondly and often desire to go back and do it all over again.

On paper, the percentages don’t add up, but games are about feeling and that isn’t quantifiable. Just something that struck me funny. Interested in any thoughts you’d like to share in the comments below or join our daily let’s play stream to talk in the chat about it.

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