Last week we discussed the basics on learning the physics of an action game to become better at it. While this might get you through a level of Super Mario Bros, you may need more advanced tips than that, so today we’ll be digging a bit further into action gameplay.
First let’s talk about game panic. This is something that a lot of gamers both old and new can fall into. You get farther into a level than you’ve ever made it, or you’re playing a shooter game and suddenly an enemy pops out and begins to shoot at you. Even if you’ve played games all your life it’s very easy to panic in these situations and fumble with your controls causing you to screw up a jump or spray bullets all over the place except where the enemy is. This isn’t something that can be corrected quickly unfortunately, but there is a way you can start to help yourself, and that’s simply to keep the mindset in the back of your mind as you play. If you have to, while you’re playing, remind yourself to stay calm and not to panic. Another thing that helps is to react slower than you normally would. Now that may seem very counterintuitive, as when an enemy is shooting at you the last thing you’ll feel like doing is slowly aiming and firing, but as the saying goes, walk before running. Once you adjust yourself to taking the time to aim and fire, you’ll find you can do so faster and more accurately as you continue doing it.
Sure you’ll fail a few times because you’re acting too slow, but ask anyone who does a professional physical activity such as playing sports, and they’ll tell you how they had to practice the motions before they could effectively perform it under pressure. It’s the same principle here. Slowly aim before firing, or in the case of platforming, get through one obstacle first before moving to the next and before long the action will become second nature to you and you’ll be able to react much faster than you could before.
Now let’s talk about combos. I’m not strictly talking about fighting games here either. Instead I’m referring to a set of actions that you have to string together. In some platforming games you may need to combo a special jump with a wall jump, then bounce off a series of enemies sequentially. That would also be a combo. Or in a game such as Halo you may need to get into the habit of evading your enemies bullets while firing at them and then melee them as you get close. That could also be considered a combo. Almost any game with action-based gameplay has combos you must perform, and the important thing to know about combos is that they must be recognized and practiced. Next time you’re playing a game, try to pick out whenever there’s a set of actions you have to regularly string together and find out what combos you might’ve been doing without even thinking about it!
A great practice for this would be Moon Studios: Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps which both give great examples of platforming combos. If you haven’t played it yet, try out Ori and the Blind Forest and try to get at least through the first main level: The Ginso Tree. In this level you’re introduced with the Bash action which allows you to bounce off an enemy, environmental object, or projectile. It will give you a series of rooms to practice the action, then at the end without spoiling anything, you will need to put it to the test by performing jumps, wall jumps, and bashes one after another. If you can beat both Ori games, you should be ready for almost any platformer.
Lastly we’ll talk about how being brazen can often fail you. Let me give an example. Let’s say you’re playing Halo multiplayer and you and an enemy both see each other and start shooting at each other. You know your opponent started damaging you slightly before you started damaging them, yet you continue to press on the attack in the hopes that you might by chance get the kill first. Chances are, it won’t work out in your favor, and although you might always feel like you want to be in the thick of the action, there is absolutely no shame in hiding or retreating from battle until you have a better chance. This is big, and what often separates newbie players from the veterans. Pick your battles, know when things aren’t going to go your way, and find a way to either turn the tide or bail if that’s not an option. Even if you only manage to recharge your shields a small amount before your enemy finds you again, you’re still that much stronger than you were in the previous engagement.
Hopefully these tips helped you out! Remember to keep an eye out for those combos from now on, practice going slowly if you tend to panic, and don’t think every battle needs to be fought right now. Fight or flight is always a choice. Next week we’ll wrap up action games with some techniques that the professionals use in case you need the edge for some of the hardcore difficult game out there. Let me know in the comments below if there’s a specific game you need help with and I can throw some tips your way!