I already posted about death in video games being unrealistic, because you can reload anytime. This was never more evident than when I recently played Dishonored, because when stealth missions failed, I went berserk, hacked at guards until I died, and then reloaded to retry the stealth approach as if nothing happened. On the other hand, XCOM: Enemy Uknown was awesome because my character was not put in a position to die; instead, the game was over for other reasons, and there was no reloading. It made for a more realistic tension, in my opinion.
Now I’m finally, finally playing Borderlands 2. I did not play the first Borderlands game, so I don’t know how death worked there, but I absolutely love the respawn system in Borderlands 2.
First off, let me say that I’m finding this game to be incredibly challenging. There are no difficulty settings; quests are what they are, and if a mission is labeled “tough,” sometimes I’ll skip it for a while. I’m playing as Zer0, who is fairly squishy, so just on the “normal” missions, I’ve died more than half a dozen times in the first handful of hours.
But that’s okay. I don’t get stressed (which I usually do if I die more than a couple times in a row), because the respawn system is so forgiving. For anyone who hasn’t played Borderlands 2, when my Zer0 dies in the game, a New-U Station uses his DNA to recreate him. This happens at the nearest terminal, but it’s definitely out of the action — which gives me a breather. I do have to pay money to have the new Zer0 created, and there are definitely some jokes in the game if I die often because I’m making the stations some money. Which is great, because that gives me an incentive to, you know, avoid death.
But the best part is that when I return to action, all of the enemies Zer0 killed are still dead. There’s no backtracking; there’s no having to start a quest over. After all, Zer0 really was killed in action and a terminal respawned him in a realistic way.
This is exactly what I was wanting to see more of in video games: realistic alternatives to the old reloading from a previous checkpoint. Plus, having the game save your progress even after you respawn makes the fighting less overwhelming in an otherwise difficult game, because you’re always a little bit closer to your goal than you were before you died.