Our Biggest Gaming Disappointments
E3 starts next week and a lot of us are pretty excited about all the announcements and surprised that the big three are going to throw our way. We’re practically children the night before their birthday, unable to sleep and counting down the minutes until it starts. Though the sleeplessness might have more to do with the copious amounts of coffee we consumer here at Rebel HQ. We’ve been chatting about what we expect to see at the show and what big announcements are going to impact our gaming in the next year. Will Microsoft and Sony literally come to blows this year? How many awkward moments of machismo and/or outright misogyny will Ubisoft’s presser contain? Is Nintendo finally going to release the life-size Reggie Body Pillow?
Frankly, everyone around here is pretty excited.
In the spirit of season (and as one of the old curmudgeons of 4cr), I decided to knock everyone down a few pegs by asking about their biggest gaming disappointments. Being the cynical-at-heart bunch we are there was no shortage of answers.
Oddly enough, my biggest disappointment in gaming is a game that I still really enjoyed playing. Spore was a game that I was really looking forward to. I’ve always been a fan of evolution games going back to EVO: The Search for Eden on the SNES and the implementation of an evolution mechanic with procedurally generated creatures and animations really interested me as both a gamer and a techie. For the most part, that aspect of the game worked marvelously. It was genuinely fun designing creatures and the early stages of Spore really did a great job of playing off the evolutionary approach to character development.
The disappointment for me came once your organisms gained sentience and started to develop culturally. The depth of the biological development far outpaced the social and technological development and the general feeling of infinite variability just didn’t scale to the galactic level. Species started feeling repetitive and I eventually gave up on the end game because it just stopped being fun. Because Spore actually exceeded my expectations initially and then dropped off it ended up being far more disappointing than a game that just fell short of expectations consistently.
In recent years, I think the game that disappointed me the most is Lollipop Chainsaw. I’m a big Grasshopper fanboy. Killer7 and the No More Heroes series are among my favorite games of all times. I even loved the maligned Killer is Dead.
I was already skeptical when the game was announced: a hyper-sexualized cheerleader fighting zombies with a chainsaw didn’t sound like the type of game I’d enjoy. But I still had hope that the usual Grasshopper weirdness would be there to turn those juvenile tropes on their head.
Sadly, that didn’t really happen. There’s a few quirky touches here and there, but the game was pretty much what I feared: blood, swearing, and boob jokes. Even the soundtrack, usually excellent in Grasshopper games, was replaced with licensed tracks, some pretty good (Joan Jett, MSTKRFT) and some truly annoying (Skrillex).It was still an okay game, but we’re far from the surrealism of Killer7. It felt like David Lynch decided to make American Pie movies. I’m still sad that this was Grasshopper’s biggest commercial success.
The game that recently disappointed me the most was Batman: Arkham Origins. No, let me take that back, it literally frustrated me, especially as someone from Montreal. Now, even though I don’t personally consider both of the previous titles in the series to be grand masterpieces (although, they are both quite good); I did get the feeling both games were transcended by a true willing to make not only a great video game, but a great Batman game. RockSteady’s unique take on the Dark Knight and its rogues gallery might not be my favorite interpretation, but, it felt consistent, both in art and gameplay design as well as its story, which was actually not bad at all.
It could have ended like that. Being left with two tremendously solid games; licensed games no less, while we’ve waited for RockSteady’s third (and apparently final) Batman game. But, no. Some brilliant people decided they should spoil what has been done and force an unpleasant prequel out on the market: Arkham Origins
It doesn’t take long into the game to realize that Arkham Origins is flat-out broken, both in terms of design and technical execution. The combo-based combat feels off, grapple points don’t always register, the story missions don’t feel organic like they used to, and even worse, the game simply doesn’t run properly. It is literally riddled with bugs, many of them with the potential to break your game, and that’s when it’s not just simply crashing. I could go on and on about how bad Arkham Origins is, but there is something worse than that about it. The quality of the game shows that what Warner Bros. wanted was a cheap, quickly developed game to have a new Batman software on shelves in time for Christmas. They then gave the job to Warner Bros. Games Montreal, a far less talented, less experienced, and less capable studio whose existence is largely due to huge tax exemptions and Quebec government-funded jobs (policies which, to a certain extent, I agree with). Warner Bros must have paid less than half the development cost of the original on Origins and that’s excluding all the new, probably less expensive, voice talents. This is where Arkham Origins frustrates me the most, not only because it is a soulless, direct-to-DVD style, unimaginative take on a prolific video game series; but because it was made on the cheap by a large, immensely rich corporation using, in part, taxpayer money. What’s more (and maybe I’m forecasting a bit too much), I wouldn’t be surprised if when all is said and done, WB Montreal closes.
Arkham Origins might be garbage and a sorry cash grab, but even worse, it is the product of a vicious industry.
I could go with some of the more talked about games on this topic, Skyward Sword, or LA Noire for example, but I’m going to go with one that’s a bit more niche, Path of Exile.
I wanted to love it because it’s an action rpg (read: Diablo clone) and it seemed so universally loved, but it’s just not that good. The idea is solid: bring back the randomization missing from D3. But they went too far and all the save points are randomized meaning you have to effectively explore each area completely to find the save point. On top of that, it looks like to make the mini-map they simply exported the levels to CAD then made the ground transparent. It took me hours of play time to figure out what the map was actually telling me.
The save point and map issues mean progress takes forever and effectively turns what could have been a great game into a forced time sink.
Despite this the skill system is cool. Active skills are bound to jewels socketed into your gear while all the skills from leveling are passive. But in an already confused and frustrated state that coolness can quickly become additional frustration.
The game was enjoyable for one playthrough but I felt, and feel, no need to go back to it. It is free though, so I can’t really complain.
Little Big Planet. I love platform games. The adorable art in the game is amazing. Steven Fry doing the Narration! This should be my favorite game ever.
But from the moment I started playing it I felt something was wrong. The controls were all floaty and the level design was uninspired. I know it’s mainly a game where one should create and share original levels but when I tried some of the popular ones they seemed to be limited to two categories:
- Not very good
- A copy of a level from Super Mario or some other classic platformer.
Maybe I didn’t give it enough of a fair shot and maybe there is better stuff out there now (I hear the second game is a big improvement) but for now I’d rather just play Mario. The visual style might be boring and repetitive but those guys at Nintendo know level design.
After the love fest that was Fable II (in some ways more literal than others), Fable III forever killed my enjoyment of the series.The decision to have a voiced protagonist seemed to be driven by the success of games like Mass Effect. Never mind that Fable’s closest BioWare analog is Dragon Age, which didn’t (originally) voice it’s main character at all. Perhaps the choice was made to foster deeper interaction with the NPCs, but it’s not something I felt the series needed.
What it did need was some variety from the previous game, and that simply wasn’t present. In many ways, it was a rehash with prettier graphics. With some more unnecessary enhancements that detracted from the main gameplay thrown in; such as the eventual deterioration of the property you can own, which can quickly turn the game into something more akin to Medieval Slumlord as you spend more and more of your time on maintenance to keep your cash flow going. These kinds of “improvements” I could do without.
While I enjoyed the repeat locations from earlier games, and how they have been built up over decades, the lack of any really meaningful continuity both in individual game save data and the overarching story was frustrating. The plot seemed like a repeat of the second game, except you begin wealthy and have to attain it again, as opposed to coming from nothing. If I wanted to play Fable II again, I still have the disc, and possibly some DLC I haven’t tried yet.
But the thing that clinched it was a game-breaking bug that — if it was ever patched — certainly wasn’t fixed by the time I encountered it. Your butler will cease speaking to you for reasons unknown, which is annoying at best and prevents any further progress at worst. For me, it was the final straw.
I bought this game for full price, excited at a continuation of a game I loved, but haven’t looked back since.
Our occasional disappointment aside, we all still love gaming. So enjoy the madness of E3 next week, but remember, disappointment is just a giant crab or Peter Molyneux press release away.