Question Weekend Question: What game has the most brutal beginning?

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PCG Jody

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Dec 9, 2019
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I ask the PCG staff a regular Weekend Question and post the answers on the site. If you'd like to throw in an answer here, I'll squeeze the best into the finished article!

This week's question is: What game has the most brutal beginning?

Think of the parking garage driving test that Driver made you take. Or the first dungeon from The Elder Scrolls: Arena. If you're indecisive like me, it's the character creator in any game with enough sliders. What's the toughest opening section of a game you've played?


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I don't think I've ever played one that started out brutal (at least not without mods) but BattleTech was pretty tricky early on. You get your first tutorial mission starts out easy but quickly gets a lot more difficult. Once the proper game starts out, you're pilots are so green they need some luck to hit the broad side of a dropship. They are mostly up against a bunch of dodgy, little mechs.
Older games in general could be very brutal from the start. For me, the most brutal (from the beginning) game I've played is Metal Mutant. Getting the past the first few screens was allready tricky, but the 'fun' really started 5 minutes in. Never finished it, not sure if anyone did.

Offcourse, a lot of other games nicked you from the start, but that's because you were suprised or because you had to learn some basic controlmovements. I think everybody who played Prince Of Persia 2 knows what I'm talking about. That first guard killed every player :)
Two that I've been playing a lot recently come to mind.

Battle Brothers, even on the easiest settings its very easy to get party wiped within minutes if you have no previous experience of the game. It can still happen on the harder difficulties when you do have a lot of experience, if you get ambushed and surrounded by accident.

Cultist Simulator, has no manual or tutorial and literally just puts a table in front of you on screen with cards with timers counting down on it with no other tips on what the hell youre supposed to do to progress, or what any of it means exactly.

Both great games though!


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There are many demanding games, but there's rarely a game that throws at you bad things in the beginning. One of them is Pathfinder: Kingmaker on the highest difficulty level. It's really demanding. Your team can get wiped out easily even by low level mobs. If you combine that with the selection of an arcane caster class as your starting character, you'll encounter one of the toughest experiences in history of RPGs and probably in gaming in overall. At the very beginning there's literally no tank that you can add to your party and I don't have to say what's the potential of tanking by caster characters. So if you select an arcane caster as you starting character, you'll end up with two arcane casters, a Bard (which is also a caster) and an Inquisitor (which... can cast spells!). And guess what! You won't have an option to rest to replenish your spell list. Basically you're stuck with the very few spells that you start the game with. And the mobs keep coming...
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OsaX Nymloth

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If we take difficulty settings into account: Icewind Dale on Heart of Fury. Especially solo.

A small group of goblins that used to be nothing but some glorified combat tutorial that people normally kill within first 3-5 minutes? Forget about them, you'll get one shotted by just one of them - engaging whole group is something not even a veteran suicidal masochist would do.
How about 'em beetles in the basement of the local inn? They just stand around and wait for you to kill them, right? WRONG. On Heart of Fury if you move just one inch too close, you're dead. More dead than Bhaal when Time of Troubles ended. More dead than a rock. It's like you never existed.

And yet it's possible to overcome all of that!

Without difficulty being maxed lots of older games were brutal. Take Blood for example - even on "normal" difficulty it can be damn hard - rooms full of cultist throwing dynamite the moment you open the door, lovely. In games such as Wizardry you take one wrong step and your whole party is gone.
@Frindis mentioned Escape From Tarkov, which I think is a pretty strong candidate for the title. The game tells you nothing about how it works, what you should be doing or where you should be going. If you manage to survive your first raid by some miracle, fending off players and AI scavs alike, you will still need to look up how to safely extract because the game sure isn't going to tell you where you need to go.

For most people though, their first raid ends before it has even started. You'll get destroyed by someone rushing your spawn for an easy kill before you have even gotten your bearings.
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Your beginning character in the Gothic 1-3 games (especially 1-2), and the more recent Elex, could be pretty brutal if tried to fight everything that moves. Usually, you have to run from combat early as you slowly build and train your character. It's a trademark of Piranha Bytes games, and I really love the way they create their worlds.
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@mainer Elex can be pretty hard at the start, but thankfully I managed to cheat a lot of deaths by making the enemies fight each other instead of me. A lot of kiting!:D

Another game comes to mind with similar difficulty and that is Outward. That game makes you feel quite unwelcome and basically hits you in the face with a sledgehammer from the early beginnings of your journey.

@Rensje If I am not mistaken, back in early alpha you could even lose the secure containers permanently if you did not know what to do with them properly. That is pretty harsh for a newcomer accidentally dropping the container or trading it away.
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Jan 13, 2020
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The start of Tomb Raider (2013) is absolutely savage. Not in difficulty but just plain narrative.

For difficulty I would say Hotline Miami was too brutal for me. It is not afraid to pulverize you in short order. The simple control scheme makes this extra brutal.
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Dec 17, 2020
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kings quest 5 was a real ***** and a half.... the point of the game was to catch the cat that stole the shrunken family. when why are trying to find out what happened to the missing family, you see the cat EVERYWHERE you go.

DOOM.. yeah its an oldy moldy, but ever remember the first time you tried to go into the big room and get the inventory doubling back pack when the game is set to maximum?
I remember being hit by fail-states repeatedly during the prologue of MGSV, kept getting spotted by a certain spicy gentleman in the lobby. I have that experience a lot in stealth games in general and on-rails section in particular.

X-men 2: Clone Wars on Sega Megadrive was a pretty brutal opener too, the cart loads straight into the first level without any splash or title screens and you're saddled with a random character to boot. Such a good game though, not enough X-Men titles give you Beast or Nightcrawler as a playable character. I'm sure some people were pretty chuffed to see Gambit in there too but I always thought he was a douche. And now I'm two miles off topic.
Dec 14, 2020
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Mass Effect 3 has the most brutal beginning. Seeing the invasion of Earth by the Reapers was terrifying. It was as if what Shepard had done was in vain. Even after having accomplished so much in the first two franchises in the Mass Effect series, it felt as if I hadn't done enough to stop Reaper invasion of Earth. It showed as if I was powerless to stop it.
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