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How video game enemies can be used to greatly improve the player’s experience

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Enemies, from mooks to bosses, are some of the elements you'll spend the most time interacting with in video games, however, many of them few very forgettable and unappealing. Not only can they be used as great narrative tools, but they can also spice up the gameplay loop by changing how the player tackles the challenges in the game. Here's some examples of great enemy use in games:

For Player Progression – Marauders (Doom Eternal)
When first introduced to Marauders in Doom Eternal, they'll definitely catch the player's attention, both due to their distinct appearance (basically a demon version of the Doom Slayer) and their behavior (much more complex attack patterns). They act as a midboss battle to new players as they're a noticeable difficulty spike, being much more difficult to dispose off and evade. They adapt their attacks based off their positioning in relation to the player's, using a combination of close and long ranged attacks, constantly applying pressure to the player, and demanding their attention at all times. They cannot be cheesed with the BFG nor can be normally killed by the chainsaw, forcing them to learn and exploit their attack patterns as they search for an opening to attack. After the first few encounters, they become regular enemies and are easily disposed off, as the player has gotten better and learned how to deal with them, showcasing their evolution and progression.

For Optional Challenge – Nemesis (Resident Evil 3)
Nemesis is a chaser, a common type of enemy in horror games. Unbeatable creatures that cannot be disposed off, forcing the player to evade them while constantly adding more pressure as any mistake could result in a game over. Nemesis however does more than just scare the player, he provides a choice. Usually, when he shows up, there are some valuable items lying around, tempting the player to collect them, but they'll be reluctant to, as doing so means having to deal with the unstoppable monster for longer. The player can either ignore them and just escape the scene, or use their skills to attempt to evade him, collect the goods and leave, rewarding the player with more resources for later. It's up to the player if they'll take the high risk, high reward route or not, adding more options to tackle the game.

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For Tutorial – Gym Leaders (Pokémon Black/White)
Probably the most insightful set of boss battles in a Pokémon game. Each Gym Leader acts as a tutorial for the player, as each highlights an specific aspect of the game:

  • Gym 1 – Type Matchups (The leader's main mon is strong against the player's starter, teaching them that a type matchups drastically affect the flow of battle)
  • Gym 2 – Item Usage (The leader's main mon abuses the Sleep status condition, which can be healed with an item given to the player a few moments earlier by their friend, teaching them that they should thing wisely about which items to give their Pokémon)
  • Gym 3 – Stat Manipulation (The leader's team has a lot of moves which affect the player's stats, which can make the battle much harder than usual, teaching them that they should do more than just mindlessly attack their opponent) <...>

Every gym leader has their own subtle yet effective tutorial, which are masterfully used to shape the player into a competent trainer, ready to take on every challenger they come across.

Enemies in games can be great, it's all up to the developers to figure out the best way to implement them.

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