There was a time in my life when universally negative word of mouth, very divisive opinions and general bad reviews felt like a challenge. Everyone else said this game was bad, I needed to see for myself, so I could justifiably also complain about how bad they were. That’s because, on almost every occasion, the consensus were accurate and I ended up wasting my time on a game I didn’t like.
This past 12 months, in my 30th year of life, the message finally seemed to sink in. It must have anyway, because I didn’t end up playing a single game that I would deem disappointing that came out in 2018. That isn’t to say that there were some white hot trash fires released this year, I just avoided them. Which isn’t to say there weren’t games that massively bummed me out.
I don’t take any pleasure from games being bad, even more so when they were games I had been looking forward to. And while I might not have that first experience, I have spent hours reading and listening to people talking about these games. I also don’t care anymore. So if anyone reading this takes exception to the fact that I’m complaining about games I didn’t play then feel free to go away, or give me crap for it. Personally, I’ll be a lot happier in the knowledge that my time was spent on only marginally bad games rather than these.
Also, fun fact: Until the very last minute, this was only a “top” three list. But I had to add another game onto it as its own personal hot mess seemed to be increasing in intensity, and get hotter a;; the time. As it did so, it found its way higher and higher on my list. So now we have four games on here.
Let’s get cracking shall we:
#4: Sea of Thieves
Released 20th March | Developed by Rare | Pre-release Excitement: High
I own this game. Thanks to Xbox Game pass anyway. It’s one of the very few Xbox exclusive games of the year and yet, I have no drive to play it. I was already burned by the promise of a huge, open world multiplayer experience in No Man’s Sky. By all accounts, Sea of Thieves ended up being the exact same thing, except with the ocean and skeletons replacing the space stuff.
Listening to people talk about Sea of Thieves, it sounds like there is some potential for really awesome emergent game play moments. But these moments are so few and few between that some players probably won’t ever encounter them, especially if you’re like me and couldn’t even pay people to play games online with you that aren’t first person shooters.
By the sounds of it, the game suffered from the exact same problem that No Man’s Sky did. The game is vast and ambitious in scope, but that translates to spending a whole lot of time travelling around the empty world, looking for something to break the monotony. Then, when you do find something to do, it falls into a very narrow scope in terms of variety.
In the time since release, Rare have released a whole bunch of content patches, expanding the game. Thing is, how many people do you know who’re still playing this… or were ever playing it.
I want to like this game, I want to throw Rare a bone. But It’s a bummer that Sea of Thieves turned out to be another game high on ambition, low on payoff. And if my attempts to return to No Man’s Sky are any indication, I’ll probably never get around to this one. Maybe it someone I know wants to form a crew, then I’ll give it a shot. But I’m sure there are many people like me out there that feel like their time will end up wasted if they try to load this up.
#3: We Happy Few
Released 10th August | Developed by Compulsion Games | Pre-release Excitement: Roller-coaster of emotion
When this game was first announced back in 2015, it looked amazing. It appeared to be something to fill the gap left by Bioshock. Infinite was fine, but personally, it failed to recapture the magic of the first game in the series. Plus, it managed to kill the franchise entirely. The initial trailers for We Happy Few retained a similar sinister, period tone and it looked like it might share a similar style of game play.
Taking place in a creepy looking alternate Britain in which everything had a bright and colourful, 1960s looking aesthetic and a core of Clockwork Orange bubbling under the surface. The setting and tone of the game were fascinating and felt like a really fresh take everyone wanted to see explored further.
The trailer pitched a story based around a psychedelic drug that was keeping people in a constant state of forced joy. In just a short teaser, we saw themes such as classism, conformism and the methods used to enforce this, such as censorship and prescribed drugs. At face value, the game has a very strong identity, and looked like it could be the next Bioshock for which we all yearned.
Then it hit early access, and we realised that we had really gotten the wrong end of the stick based on the teaser. We Happy Few was not the narrative driven experience we had expected. Nope, instead it turned out to be the last thing anyone could have predicted: A survival game.
And not a very good one by all accounts. The dual realities that exist while on and off the joy drugs seemed to be less of a factor to the player experience as people had thought. Once through the prologue to the story, players began their journey in miserable looking slums, taking away all of the vibrancy and sinister nature of the trailer almost right away. But hey, this was a Beta, so the game still had a ways to go before it was complete, right?
Cut to some time later. The developers at Compulsion assured us they’d taken all of the feedback on board, and they were going to make significant changes to the game to make it more narrative driven. Sighs of relief all around. There was still plenty of time for them to make We Happy Few into the game that seemingly everybody was willing it to be.
Months later, We Happy Few saw its final release. By all accounts, the game was bad. The story was uninteresting, the game play unresponsive and unimaginative and it lacked all of the personality that the original announcement trailer had in spades. A huge shame. Disappointing everyone, not just once, but twice.
There is one positive to be taken from this though. The Early Access program really gives us the change to dodge bullets like We Happy Few. Let’s hope Compulsion can take that great eye for design and use it a little better for whatever they make next.
#2: Fallout 76
Released 14th November | Developed by Bethesda Game Studios | Pre-release Excitement: None
This was the game that ended up making my top 3 into a top 4. As you can see above, I had no expectations for this game. Even from its initial announcement I knew it wasn’t going to be a game for me. So how could I possibly be disappointed by something I had no expectations for. Well, in the end, with the time that’s passed since the release, my disappointment is directed less toward Fallout 76, and more towards Bethesda.
Before I dig into that though, I’ll talk about the game. I don’t like the survival genre. It feels like a game in which the core experience is to make other player’s lives a living hell. It’s why I don’t have any interest in playing Red Dead Redemption’s online mode. It just doesn’t appeal to me.
I can still see where Bethesda were coming from though. If they were going to make a survival game, Fallout would be the perfect setting for it, especially with Fallout 4 as a technical basis. They had already laid the groundwork, with 4’s improved moment to moment gun play and its base building mechanics.
No matter how much it made sense though, the type of experience they were peddling with 76 is the farthest thing from what I come to any Bethesda game for, let alone Fallout. Their games attract me for their stories, that feeling of building a character and allying myself with factions of the world and then altering its state as I go. They weave an engaging story into the personality of their worlds.
Sure, part of the charm of Fallout is the feeling of isolation in this desolate, nuclear scorched wasteland. But from what I’ve read, 76 drops the ball in both extremes. The world is apparently too empty, with no living NPCs to speak of, but if you wanted to enjoy a world outside of civilisation, then the invasive radio chatter informing you of public events will quickly put a stop to that. Not to mention the racist, sexist trolls populating the game world with you.
And then we get to Bethesda’s series of cock ups outside of the game. The canvas bag drama around the expensive, collector’s edition of the game was just the beginning. Their mishandling of the the backlash online, the fact that influencers ended up getting bags anyway, the leak of personal information that followed. It felt like everything was against Bethesda, and when you thought they’d managed to whack a lid on it, they made things even worse.
Bethesda make games I love. But 2018 just hasn’t been their year at all. Still, Fallout 4 is great, yeah.
# “1” : Metal Gear Survive
Released 22nd February | Developed by Konami Digital Entertainment | Pre-release excitement: Betrayal
This game never looked good.
It always felt like Konami hungrily pouncing onto the franchise Hideo Kojima build up into their marquee video game series. Konami are a publisher who do things that make it very easy to dislike them. After everything that happened with the exodus of Kojima, and then Konami not even waiting till his chair was cold before they took his engine and his game and turned it into yet another crappy survival game.
Screw these guys.
I never had any intention of buying Metal Gear Survive, there was never any chance that this was going to be anything worth playing. And while I might not have been disappointed by the game itself, I am very disappointed in Konami.
They simply couldn’t wait to exploit the much loved franchise with no regard for the fans that probably had a huge hand in their success as video game publishers.
Then you start to dig into what this game actually is. You then realise that there is basically next to nothing redeeming about it terms of it being a narrative experience, a game play experience or a Metal Gear game. Topping it all off with a horrible grind towards the end and a hell of micro transactions on top of it’s full price to purchase. It’s just utterly despicable in every regard. Anger is probably a more appropriate word than disappointment for me when it comes to this game.
The sooner Konami get out of the video games industry the better. Not only did they kill Metal Gear, but now they’re parading around its carcass, hardly understanding or even caring about why people came to love the series so much in the first place. This game is exploitative, it’s lazy and it’s irredeemable.
And there you have it. From here on out, it’s all happy fun times. Tomorrow I start my top ten video games and top ten anime lists for 2018. So come back if you want to see me struggle with positive superlatives.