After all the heavy commentary lately (creating something of a Mass Effect ;), I decided to return to a lighter topic: death.

We’ve discussed this before, from different angles, in Death And The CRPG, Would You Mind Dying?, Would You Mind Not Dying?, Save Me!, and Save Me Again. Yeah, it’s popular ;).

One issue that none of these addresses, however, is the question: just how often does the character (or party) die in a game? One would think from all the discussion that your avatar is dropping dead every other move.

In the early CRPGs, yes, that could easily happen. Your party was sent out as poorly-equipped level-one wimps and often crossed paths with multiple groups of enemies. These games weren’t well-balanced, and death occurred often.

That isn’t true nowadays, at least in my experience. Generally, I’ve found that most combats are set up fairly. It seems to me that, when the character (or party) bites the dust, it’s meant as a lesson.

The lesson is usually: “You’re not strong enough for this yet”, “You need to re-think your tactics”, or “Next time, don’t be so careless”. For a shooter, I could add: “You must react faster”.

So really, death in games is a learning experience. Your approach to the fight was wrong in some way, and needs correction. If the game is properly balanced, that is most likely to happen in a “boss fight”, because by far the majority of combats is with cannon fodder.

I save often – because you never know what’s around the next corner – but it’s been rare for me to reload because the character or party died. Actually, I don’t wait for that. If things are going poorly, I’ll restore right then if possible, and reconsider the situation.

Of course, there’s always the chance you’ll run into a “boss fight” that’s exceptionally nasty, and may require several reloads before victory is achieved. That sort of thing is a design flaw, especially if different tactics aren’t working well.

So tell me: just how often do you die in these games?