You saw this coming. As much as I sung the praises of 2017 as a year of great games, that doesn’t mean there isn’t still trash by the barrel full. As is standard fare for these annual lists I do at the end of every year, I top out a binge of positivity by complaining about something, three things to be precise. Just so you can start 2018 with a sour taste in your mouth. You’re welcome.
Without further waffle, here are the three games that disappointed me the most this year. Not to say they were necessarily bad games (although a couple of them kind of were). These are just the games I had the most hopes for, but ended up letting me down the most.
#3: Destiny 2
Played on Xbox One | Released 6th September | Developed by Bungie
Wait, what? I always seem to have very mixed feelings when it comes to Destiny. Don’t get me wrong, I love the games. It’s probably because I like them so much that I get so worked up about the mistakes they make. Especially when the mistakes and problems in this game come as a direct result of Bungie trying to fix people’s complaints about the first game. And in their attempts to keep their ravenous fans happy, they seem to continue to shoot themselves in the foot over and over. With the release of the Curse of Osiris DLC and the Dawning Christmas event, Bungie continuously find themselves in hot water despite the moves they’re making to try and keep people happy.
Focusing on the main game to begin with, while the first few dozen hours were great, it’s in the end game where things really start to fall apart. As I mentioned in my positive side of this write up, the game has been made much more streamlined in its end game to combat the problems people had with the grind of the first game. While it’s nice not to have to spend hours collecting helium filaments or farming the same gun over and over to get the ideal mod roll, that’s part of the charm of the original game.
It wasn’t until I hit the level cap of 305 and found myself wanting to play but having nothing to do that my problems with the game became apparent. While the climb to the light cap was an arduous drag in the first game, the sequel has the opposite problem. Once you get to that level cap, all there is to do is competitive multiplayer and the raid, neither of which really had rewards that seemed worth the time and effort to do them.
Another change that turned me off is the token based reputation system that replaced the old system in the first game. Each individual who doles out weapons and armour in a repeatable manner does it through collecting tokens that are associated with them. The problem here is that the rewards they give you are random. So if you want to collect, say, a particular armour set from, lets say, Io. Then you’ve got to keep giving them tokens and hope you get the one piece you don’t have and not a 5th duplicate. (Since writing this, the game has been patched and allows players to level vendors and buy individual items from them, as it was in the first game. I’m going to leave my complaints in the piece though because that’s how the game was for most of this year and still affected my enjoyment of it for months.)
It might seem contradictory to complain about a grind when I say there isn’t enough to do at the end game, but its a frustrating grind. Because of the fixed mod nature of the items in this game, unless you get the item you’re looking for everything else is junk. So you’re working towards getting something but not getting anything interesting in the meantime. (Again, this has been alleviated slightly with content patches, but these patches didn’t go live until nearly the end of the year.)
It’s my interest that is wavering. A lot of what made the first game interesting was the mystery behind everything. You could argue that a lot of the first game was all questions with no answers, but that worked in the game’s favour in a lot of ways. It meant that they could add a lot of things that were there to be worked out by the fan base. The Thorn quest and the Sleeper Stimulant quest were all things people would talk bout and work together to figure out the mystery behind them.
There was a fervour around weapons like the Vex Mythocast, the Gjallarhorn and the Black Hammer, things people coveted but were difficult to attain. I feel like I’m falling over Exotics in the sequel. Hell the main gun I don’t have that I want right now is the Tractor Cannon, and I only want that because it’s funny. I’ll probably hardly use it once I do get it. I’d probably be more motivated to finish the raid(s) if they had weapons in them like the Vision of Confluence or Word of Crota in them.
There isn’t any of that in Destiny 2. It feels a lot more safe on all fronts. As much as I like the game, it feels like a series of missed opportunities. Bungie have made a bunch of statements saying that they’re taking these very complains on board and will make the end game better going forward. But as we stand right now, as much as I still love Destiny 2, it still winds me up that they couldn’t get it right first time again.
Addendum: Most of my words here were written before the Curse of Osiris dropped, and while that patch did cover some of the issues I had with the game, it’s created even more. And Bungie making life far too hard for themselves is the reason I’ve put this game here in the first place. Between the broken Three of Coins, the blocked off playerbase who didn’t buy the DLC and the increasingly microtransaction focused leaning to their events, people seem to be losing patience with the developer and the game. I still enjoy Destiny, but I hope to God they can right this ship because things are looking real dicey.
#2: Sonic Forces
Played on Xbox One | Released 7th November | Developed by Sonic Team
I had something of an epiphany playing Sonic Forces: 3D Sonic games are bad… You know, it’s almost liberating, like I’ve had a weight lifted from my shoulders.
I can’t say I ever had high hopes for Sonic Forces, not really. It’s my dogged nostalgia and inability to realise how stupid I am that keeps me coming back for more punishment. Sonic Team did all they could to get me interested though. Giving us the impression that this was going to be a followup to Sonic Generations, including “Classic Sonic” as a playable character. Where it diverged was allowing players to create and play as their own original characters.
Thus we got glasses wolf. Don’t get me wrong. I have dabbled in the world of creating Sonic OCs, like we all have. But that was when I was 10. And that’s where I have something of a revelation to this game, and this series. Sonic… is a game franchise for children. This was somewhat hastened by the release of Sonic Mania, which was one of my favourite games of the year.
So whats the problem with this game then? To begin with, level design feels lazy. The game has a lot of stages, but spends most of them revisiting the same old places. There are only about five locations in the game, several of which are just returning locations from older games. Green Hill, Chemical Plant, Death Egg. These are classic levels we liked seeing in Generations a few years back, but this is a step too far. On top of that, the stages are too short, blasting through them before you know where you are. There’s no real flow to them as a result.
The story is poor. While setting itself out as a more serious take on the Eggman endeavour to take over the world, it ultimately feels like background noise and would benefit from not having a story at all. There is a lot of talk of some grand resistance, (lead by Knuckles of all people) and yet none of it is ever shown up until the end. In which we get a scene filled with an army of clones, seeing the same model a dozen times in the background is both hilarious and distracting. Most of the story is actually told through talking heads, something I skipped through or ignored pretty frequently.
The soundtrack is bad. One of the things you could always say about Sonic was, no matter how bad the games were, the music tended to be good. This might be the worst soundtrack they’ve made. While the theme sone “Fist Bump” has a ironic butt rock style to it I can get behind, most of the stage music has a dub step thing to it that I don’t like at all. Nothing in this game stuck with me and even now I can’t tell you what anything sounded like.
Finally, the worst thing about the game, is the way it plays. This game feels awful to play. The Modern Sonic stages feel like they play themselves. Throwing you through stages at high speed, it hardly feels like you need to interact with the thing, it plays itself and that can be so frustrating when you want to actually explore stages and the game forces you along a preassigned route that you can’t double back on because of an invisible wall.
The Classic sonic stages are tragically bad, which is even less acceptable. Sonic loses all his momentum constantly, Sonic and momentum are kind of integral to one another, so how do you get this so wrong? Multiple times a stage I would be running down a long slope before hitting a sharp incline, in any other Sonic game this would send you flying up high in the air, in Forces I would come to a dead stop. A basic misunderstanding of how these games are supposed to work seems almost unbelievable at this point.
Then we’ve got the original character stages. These tended to be the most involved of the levels. As the play of these stages were based around whatever weapon you had equipped, there were multiple routes through the stage dependent on which weapon you have selected. Which is a cool idea. But the really floaty platforming and brainless, button bashy, approach to fighting enemies left me just wanted to get through as quickly as possible.
This is the first chance I’ve really had to get this off my chest, so I’m just ranting for the most part. I have seen a lot of people doing the usual act of saying they’re enjoying the game despite its problems. Or enjoying it in an ironic way. But I’m done, This game is real bad. And thanks to Sonic Mania, I’ve decided not to put up with it anymore.
“#1″: Mass Effect: Andromeda
Played on Xbox One | Released 21st March | Developed by Bioware
It still hurts. Like a knife through my heart. The Mass Effect Trilogy were probably my favourite series of games ever. I adored that world they created and the weird and wonderful characters they filled it with. It was a world that I wanted to spend time in, and learn as much about as I could. Which made my investment in the final instalment of the trilogy all the more real, and it was all the more gut wrenching to see what the Reapers did to that world by the end.
The prospect of an entirely new Mass Effect trilogy, taking place in a whole new Galaxy was the most exciting thing for me. Bioware made something special in the first games, and the idea that they were going to do that again was next level hype for me. However, it doesn’t take long into the game to realise that Andromeda was not going what any fans of the original game wanted.
While the first game felt ambitious and unlike most other games you would play on console, this one reeks of executive meddling. Andromeda feels like a game made by a group of boardroom and marketing people. It has bits and pieces of what should be a good game in there, but feels bland and uninspired at almost every turn. The worst thing I can say about Mass Effect Andromeda is that it feels too safe.
I went on a pretty extensive rant/constructive piece of criticism shortly after release, detailing most of my problems with the game. The biggest issue was how the game seemed to lack the depth and personality of the original trilogy in its depiction of the characters from various races. The two new races introduced in Andromeda were so black & white from one another that I might as well have been playing Alien Isolation.
The game just fails to include half of the races from the original series while making the included ones really generic and too human compared to how they were before. The Turians, the Asari and the Krogan all had very diverse cultures that shaped them all as individuals, and they were individuals in the original game. Each had a connection to their race through culture. In Andromeda, all the races that come with the humans might as well have been human themselves for how much of the groundwork laid in the original trilogy is capitalised on in this game. The only interesting race was the new one; the Angara. They too end up feeling flat though as any culture clash, language barrier or confrontation between them and the aliens from another galaxy is non existent. They join with you almost right away and once they do join, they just seem too human. There is nothing truly alien about them, like the Elchor or the Hanar from the first game.
None of this is aided by a very generic story, it’s almost lifted from the first game. Yet another precursor race pops up, only this time their technology falls too far into the lazy science fiction writing trap of being indistinguishable from magic. I’m sorry, but I don’t like that trope. Prothean technology in the first game was advanced, but it was recognisable and functioned like technology. The Jardaan stuff here is just magic floaty space stuff, and while it’s pretty, it’s also boring. You can’t reliably use this type of space magic to shape your story because there are no rules or limits to how it works. Any drama can be dispelled because you know someone can mash a few buttons and pull some deus ex machina out of their asses with this “hyper advanced technology”.
It’s the exact same trap the new Halo games (post Bungie) have fallen into. And like those games, it feels like all the originality and adventurousness from the original trilogy has been taken away and replaced with a series of safe bets. I haven’t even gotten to talking about the uninteresting party members, the empty and dull planets that serve as the main locales and terrible character models (that looked worse than the original game (from 2007)).
But I’m not going to. I’ve talked enough about it. Sadly, because of EA’s lack of adventurousness, it looks like they’ve shot themselves in the foot and killed off another beloved franchise. I just hope they don’t kill Titanfall next, but it feels like they’re on a roll. Mass Effect was my favourite series of games for a long time, and now it looks like we’re not going to see another one and we’ll have to make do with the three we’ve got. Because after this performance, I can’t see EA paying to remaster and re haul the original three anymore; something literally everyone has been screaming at them to do for years. And that might be the most tragic thing about this whole thing.
Anyway, now I’m sad. Always my favourite way to cap off a year. I’ll be putting up a movie list at some point in the future, but I didn’t have time to finish it to come out alongside my game lists. But 2018 already looks like it’s going to be pretty good for video games. Monster Hunter World is out very soon and looks amazing. Will it be on my best games of 2018 list? Who knows (probably)