TA Top Five: First Encounters

By Jonathan Barnes, 4 years ago
We've all been there before. We're cruising along in our new game, gleefully taking down enemies with ease, when all of the sudden the game throws a curveball at us and we think, "What in the science is THAT?" A new enemy makes an appearance and, depending on your skill, either takes you out or becomes fodder for your weapon of choice. This week's Top Five reflects on these first encounters and highlights some of the best across the achievement generations of gaming.

Since we already covered a Top Five Boss Battles around this time last year, we're going to steer clear of those so that we don't muddy the waters too much.

Honorable Mentions

Music Box Overseers - Dishonored
Music Box

In what will become a common theme in this Top Five, the Music Box wielding Overseers of Dishonored change the game quite a bit. While most guards can be dispatched through a combination of using Corvo's magical powers along with his technical gadgets, the presence of a music box and its "mathematically pure" notes strip the vengeance-seeking hero of his powers, forcing a change in tactics. While each subsequent encounter becomes a bit easier once you learn to operate with your magic tied behind your back, the first appearance of the jukebox antagonists throws a massive wrench in the works.

Top Five

5. Asylum Demon - Dark Souls
Asylum Demon

While technically a boss battle, I'm going to throw this big guy in here because he's truly the introduction to what Dark Souls is all about; if you know what you're doing, it's an easy fight, if not... well... you will die. As the first massive enemy in the game, newcomers may think that taking him down with beginner equipment is a harrowing task, but, if you can "get the drop on him", the task is much easier in the end. While Dark Souls is nothing if not series after series of punishing encounters, the Asylum Demon does a fantastic job of setting the stage and expectations for what is to come.

4. Berserker - Gears of War
Another franchise that is full of "What the science?" moments, Gears of War does a masterful job of making the Locust truly seem alien, powerful, and completely horrifying. Even in the first game's first act, just as gamers are getting used to taking down the standard Locusts, Epic unleashes a Berserker and changes the game.

What makes that first encounter great is that it completely changes the tactics needed to overcome the enemy, throws a (not unreasonable) timer on the experience, and provides just enough challenge to those who have never played the game to be able to figure out where to lure the behemoth.

3. Chryssalid - XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Part of the majesty of XCOM is that it is full of first encounters and there's no way of really knowing each new alien's capabilities until after you've taken them down a few times. That being said, when I encountered Chryssalids for the first time, I had something of a Bill Paxton reaction (NSFW).

Typically introduced at Terror Site missions, not only are Chryssalids highly-mobile and capable of dealing heavy damage and lingering poison effects, but they also have a nasty way of killing tons of people. Rather than letting sleeping corpses lie, soon after death corpses come back as zombies which attack your units. But wait... there's more! After three zombie turns, the re-animated corpse explodes, leaving behind a "Chryssalid Hatchling" which is capable of wreaking the same havoc as the first.

2. The Flood - Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Halo was the game that brought me back to gaming on the original Xbox, and I'll never forget the moment when I first encountered The Flood. There was a feeling that it was quiet... too quiet. The cutscene triggered. Master Chief put his helmeted head up to the door. Then I/he heard the squish. It's a sound that Halo veterans are all-too familiar with at this point; the squish of the little Flood pods moving about. The door then opens and a dead soldier falls out into the Chief's arms. Master Chief then spots a discarded helmet and pulls the video card from it to see the last moments of the soldier's life. The video does an amazing job replaying the events leading up to the soldier's demise, it sets up the tension, the building of suspense, and a slight hint to the payoff that's about to happen. The video ends and then... nothing... nothing happens for a few seconds... possibly the most agonizing wait in the game. The door at the end of the room slams, cracks, then BURSTS open, and Flood pods enter the room. Truly a first encounter for the ages.

1. Necromorphs - Dead Space
Dead Space was one of the best survival-horror titles of the 360 generation and it would be easy to put each Necromorph introduction onto this list, but it's hard to get past the first time you encounter them.

That scene has everything and is a perfect combination of player agency, helplessness, and ultimately a way to fight back. On top of that near-perfect first encounter is the palpable "What is THAT?" feeling which combines with the sickening realization that this is just the beginning. Put that all together and you've got an iconic introduction to an amazing (and terrifying) adventure.

The TA Team will be bringing you The TA Top Five every Sunday until we run out of coolness to debate and discuss. If you have an idea for a Top Five you'd like us to do, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.