Negative and Last Ditch Options

While doing some finale revision today, some questions arose about how to handle "winning" vs. "losing" the game. Specifically, in the final game encounter, should every player be allowed to "win?" Regardless of the skills the player chose, and the items they carry, should there be some way to deal with the final encounter?

In my first draft, it was possible to "lose" the game before even reaching the end. If the player didn't choose the right skills at the game's start, or they didn't get lucky with the right loot earlier in the game, they walk into a death trap.

Cameron pointed this out to me, and it got me thinking about ways to deal with it. I could leave it like that, but as Cameron pointed out, that'd be a really low blow since the player couldn't know in advance. It'd piss me off if that happened to me.

It's an interesting question. It seems like any player should at least have a chance. I'm considering making it work that way, and maybe structuring it such that being prepared guarantees victory, and being unprepared only grants a chance at victory. This way, the prepared/clever player is rewarded, but the unprepared have a chance (albeit a poor one).

I also explored the idea of negative options in the final encounter: options that sound like a good idea, but turn out bad. I had quite a few of these in the original draft of the cryo encounter, and those were poorly received (were more frustrating than fun). However, at the end of the game, it probably wouldn't be fun if everything resulted in a "win." The player should have agency to either win or lose, based on their judgement.

There's also the idea of peppering clues throughout the game to inform the player about the endgame before they get there. I'll probably do this at least to some degree. It'll be tricky to build, but probably worth it.

I don't think this is solved yet, but since it was an interesting debate, I wanted to share. If anyone has seen this done well somewhere, I'd be interested to hear about it in the forums!