Five of the Best is a weekly series about the bits of games we overlook. I’m talking about potions, hubs, bags, mountains, anything really – but things we ignore at the time. Then, years later, we find they’re cemented in our memory, inseparable from our experience of the game. Turns out they were important after all. So now we’re celebrating them.
Five of the Best works like this. Various Eurogamer writers will share their memories in the article and then you – probably outraged we didn’t include the thing you’re thinking of – can share the thing you’re thinking of in the comments below. We’ve had some great discussions in our other Five of the Best pieces. Some of you have memories like elephants!
Today’s Five of the Best…
Destructible objects – boom! I love smashing things up. I’ve loved it ever since I kicked and punched a car to pieces in Street Fighter 2, and cracked blocks in Mario with my little plumber’s head. But by today’s standards, that’s nothing. Games today take destruction to extraordinary lengths. It’s become almost a litmus test for how technologically capable a new shooter is going to be. So let’s celebrate a smashing good time shall we? Here’s to destructible objects and here are five of the best.
The Legend of Zelda
There’s no better feeling in Zelda than charging up a spin attack and letting loose with your sword. Not on enemies, mind, but on grass.
Now, Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece but it got grass wrong. When blade touches blade, no items fall out. There are no rupees, no hearts, no secret seashells.
There was a simplicity to farming grass when low on health. Was Link eating the stems he cut down? Was a magical representation of health restored whenever he performed a bit of cultural horticulture? I liked to imagine the rupees were dropped by others – fellow adventurers with holes in their pockets who had passed this way before me.
So yes, I suppose Breath of the Wild’s increased focus on realism, and push towards crafting food, would be lost if you could simply hoover up health and coin by mowing its vast overworld. But I miss the sense there could be secrets and prizes lurking within.
God I love concrete. If I had my way I’d live in a house made of it – pure Anthropocene living. No game does it better than Control, I reckon, the Mid-Century Modern simulator with a bit of gunplay and psychic skills thrown in.
Concretes everywhere in this game, but it’s never better than when you’re smashing it up and chucking it around. If I had to choose one destructible twist on concrete to beat them all I’d choose the pillar job, in which you pull the concrete cladding off a support and lob it, the air in its wake thick and gritty.
And while it’s not exactly destructible, I have to at least mention Control’s filing cabinets. Do lob something at them and see what happens. It’s literally my favourite single thing in games from the last few years.
Fortnite has always been filled with beautiful little details, and there’s nothing I like quite as much as the way your stairs give in when you decide to give them a whacking.
The wood bends! That’s the joy of it – you get to feel all the tension of this sprung thing, this limb of a tree that still has a bit of life and flex in it. And there are few things so satisfying as watching a staircase, which stretches to the sky, burst apart one from the bottom up, one flight at a time – particularly if someone’s stood on top of it.
Almost everything in Fortnite can be hacked apart and taken down, sure, but it’s this simplest of objects that gives me the most joy. Bam. Bam. Gone.
Whack. One little crack. Whack whack. A bigger crack. Whack whack whack. Block destroyed. This is the essence of Minecraft. I remember the first time I played it and how long it took me to chop a tree with my hands, as I suppose it would – I haven’t actually tried it in real-life although I do have some spare time this weekend.
But again, having the right tool for the job is part of the essence of Minecraft, what drives you through. What was once agonisingly slow seems joyously easy when you use the right tools. Trees that were once stubborn start toppling reliably when you use wooden tools, although I’m not sure about the authenticity of a wooden axe I have to say. And by the time you upgrade to stone and metal, you will be merrily lumberjacking away.
But I’ll tell you what I really like: TNT – that’s the real tool for the job, shh don’t tell Minecraft conservationists. What I really like is scattering explosives everywhere in Creative mode (good luck saving up that much TNT in Survival mode), then building a TNT tower up to the clouds and lighting the fuse. I fly down with it, watching my bomb-train descend, and then let out a breathy whistle as the landscape erupts below. Simple pleasures.
I’ve blown up a hell of a lot of virtual objects during my many years playing video games. The scale of my destruction is unfathomable, really, and I’ve laid waste to everything from walls and windows, to robots, vehicles and of course, those ever present red barrels.
But none of those things have ever stuck in my mind the same way that Fallout 3’s Megaton has. This destructible object isn’t just a small, forgettable piece of scenery, it’s a fully fledged settlement – a town that contains a school, a shop, a church and, most importantly, people. Not just people though: families. Families who woke up one morning and went about their business, unaware they were about to be vaporised by some idiot atop a tower who stood to make only a measly 1000 caps for doing so.
I guess that’s the main reason the destruction of Megaton has stuck with me. I didn’t really have to blow it up, did I? Sure, I could have chosen not to but the temptation to push that button and see what happened proved too much for me.
Or maybe it was because after I’d done it, I was able to revisit the location and survey the wreckage, and talk to the only survivor, a newly ghoulified Moira. There, in that crater, amongst the steaming, radioactive rubble, I was confronted by the consequences of my actions. No longer was Megaton a bustling town, nor was it a pretty mushroom cloud on the horizon. Now it was nothing more than a huge, smoking monument to the one, and only, virtual object I’ve ever felt guilty about destroying.