Dénouement 2016 Part 3: The Losers

By Shamus
on Jan 10, 2017
Filed under:
Video Games

Before we talk about what I liked, let’s talk about the things that disappointed, frustrated, or angered me in 2016. Er, the videogame things anyway.

Unlike those lists from other websites, this is not intended to be some sort of high-level, comprehensive, state-of-the-industry snapshot. This is just what I’ve run into. Since I avoid playing stuff I know I’ll hate unless it has Bethesda written on it, I don’t have a lot of things to hate.

5. We Happy Few

I wish the game had more of this and less bludgeoning vagrants in dilapidated ruins.

I wish the game had more of this and less bludgeoning vagrants in dilapidated ruins.

I know it’s kind of unfair to list as game as a disappointment when it’s still in development and is likely to change a great deal before release. But after being thoroughly delighted by that introduction, I really was disappointed to discover the rest of the game had very little to do with those first few brilliant, unnerving, paranoia-inducing moments.

It might eventually evolve into an amazing survival game, but it’s not going to be (or even trying to be) a game about bluffing your way through a drug-addled Orwellian dystopia, which is where I thought it was going based on the first half hour of gameplay.

I suppose my problem isn’t that the game was bad, but that the trailer was just too good.

4. Skyrim Remastered

A remaster of a game that greatly increases the system requirements, added some new stability problems, is incompatible with the vast library of existing mods, and offers graphical upgrades so slight they border on being a placebo. The usual excuse is that “Bethesda gonna Bethesda”. That’s true enough, but acting shamefully should still get you shamed.

Shame on you, Bethesda.

3. The Windows 10 Store

WHAT YEAR IS IT?

WHAT YEAR IS IT?

Or as I like to call it, Games for Windows LIVE 2.0. The biggest improvement Microsoft could make to this product is to fire everyone who made it, delete the codebase, and write an apology for the original GFWL. We never got an apology for that shameful debacle, and I think we’re owed one.

There’s no excuse for a company this huge to make such glaring failures with regards to usability. The usual response is, “If you don’t like the store, don’t use it. I don’t see what the big deal is.” Maybe once in a while we’ll get a, “It works fine for me!” thrown in for good measure.

My problem isn’t just that Microsoft made a terrible product, but that this product is going to infect the industry for a few years. Sooner or later, a game I really like will end up on the Windows 10 store and I’ll have to choose between missing out or diving in. Microsoft is not a passive participant in the market, and sooner or later they’re going to try to compel me to use this stupid thing. They won’t do this by fixing their usability problems, but instead will try to hassle me into using the platform the way they pushed GFWL.

“Oh, you don’t NEED Games for Windows LIVE to play this game! It’s optional. You only need GFWL if you want to save the game.”

Also, Uplay continues to exist, for no discernible reason. Now that PC gaming is basically all-digital, I really want to see lots of competition among digital storefronts. But instead Ubisoft and Microsoft show up with annoying hassles and an intolerable sense of entitlement, like we’re supposed to be glad we get to jump through their stupid hoops.

Losers.

At least we have Good Old Games.

2. Rise of the Tomb Raider

Holding pattern of the Tomb Raider.

Holding pattern of the Tomb Raider.

I was pretty happy with the Tomb Raider 2013 reboot. I thought it was an interesting new direction for the series. I thought the first game was showing us how Lara become a hyper-competent, hyper-confident hero. But just a few hours into Rise of the Tomb Raider it was clear that Lara had simply jumped out of her old rut and into a new one. This wasn’t a bold new direction for her to grow in, it was a new status quo for her to stagnate in.

Maybe it seems unfair to say she’s “stagnant” after only two games, but the big problem is that this second outing doubles down on the mistakes of the 2013 reboot. I was hoping to see the formula gain polish with iteration, and instead the old irritations are more evident than ever.

The awkward story structure remains. It repeats the problems of the first game where it begins with a huge focus on basic survival and then forgets all about it and Lara reverts to being a superhuman that doesn’t need to eat, sleep, or keep warm. The story remains a huge focus and yet also persists in being thoroughly predictable and wholly uninteresting. The characters are serviceable instead of vibrant, which would be fine if the game didn’t stop the action every couple of minutes to have a conversation with them. The laser sauna section was horrendous trash. Lara’s greatest foe is still an incurable case of cutscene incompetence.

It’s like they’re copying the the Uncharted series, except they’re leaving out the witty banter, the fun relationships, and the likable protagonist. They’re copying everything from Uncharted except the most important part.

1. No Man’s Sky

NO MANS INVENTORY

NO MANS INVENTORY

Well, the disappointments don’t get much bigger than this. I don’t have much to add after I spent three whole columns relentlessly cataloging the numerous flaws with the game.

The visuals were often dull and looked about two graphics generations behind those juicy teaser videos, while the game ran like your machine was about two graphics generations behind the system requirements.

The gameplay was shallow, ponderous, frustrating, and worked against the one thing the game did well, which was generating lots of places for you to explore.

The space combat was miserable, the inventory was maddening, the equipment upgrades were opaque, the resource collection was fussy busywork instead of a rewarding treasure hunt, the aliens were scarce and pointless, the ruins were all pretense and no substance, the landscapes rarely looked compelling, the progression mechanics were horribly unbalanced, the interface was an affront to usability, the trade system was a waste of time, the lore was balderdash, and the long-term goal (reach the center of the galaxy) was a sisyphean task that only served to highlight all the other problems with the game.

And all of that is before we consider the expectations inflicted by the pre-release hype.

About the only thing I can say in defense of the game is that I think there’s been too much hate directed at Hello Games and not enough aimed at publisher Sony. Either they had no idea what was in the game they were publishing (negligent) or they were complicit in a marketing campaign that vastly oversold the game. They paid for the TV spots. They got developer Sean Murray impressive and high-profile guest spots. They chose the $60 price point, which is fine for AAA titles but inappropriate for what amounts to an experimental indie tech demo.

Sony was happy to continue selling the game and helping themselves to their cut of sales while Murray took the brunt of the public outcry. When push came to shove, Sony was only too happy to throw Sean under the bus.

Yes, I’m aware it got a major update at the end of the year. No, I haven’t re-visited it since then.

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A Hundred!206There are 126 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

From the Archives:

  1. Infinitron says:

    It’s not Good Old Games anymore, Shamus. It’s just GOG now. Has been since 2012.

  2. Baron Tanks says:

    No surprises here, looking back on what Shamus wrote in the past year. I didn’t touch any of these, with only being interested in Forza Horizon 3 and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Like Shamus, I really enjoyed TR 2013 and I was excited for this, but hearing what the game did I just can’t bring myself to shell out a bunch of cash, especially seeing how PC games go on sale so often (another noticeable trend, apparently with reduced triple A sales we’ve seen recent titles go on sale faster than ever. I’m thinking Origin store games, Deus Ex, even Tomb Raider has been down to 50% already) and I have enough to play. I’ll do what I did with TR 2013 and pick it up for 5 or 10, a year down the line. I think I’ll enjoy the gameplay enough, but I’m not tripling down with my money if it comes with so many caveats.

    Forza Horizon 3 I really want to play, but between the Windows Store, lack of attractive price points and the whole special edition racket and poor performance at launch, I’m really not excited to shell down to go back into the Windows Store experience, as Shamus rightly points out.

    Looking back at 2016 and ‘triple A’ games on PC, one thing just becomes so evident. For the last couple years it’s been a pretty bad idea to buy things as they come out, especially on PC (or god forbid, pre-ordering them). There is a number of games I’d have at least a passing interest in, but by the time they’re patched to proper working condition (which is anywhere from 3-30 weeks it seems), they’re already on sale. This has been the case for quite some time now, but it seems 2016 really tripled down on the race to the bottom and for now there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Apparently though, the part of the consumer base that is wisening to this is starting to achieve a more critical mass and there’s been rumblings about ‘disappointments’ about the sales performance of certain recent titles (Titanfall 2, Dishonored 2 and a bunch I’m surely forgetting). Titanfall 2 really deserves a special mention here, for killing a game in the crib just by choosing an obviously bone-headed release date. I don’t care if you want to do a “One-two punch to take down Call of Duty”, this is not the way to build an audience for your fledgling franchise. Anyway, whether these screw-ups will eventually reflect in better products remains to be seen of course, publishers (much like the Hollywood that parts of the industry are still so desperately trying to emulate) are of course notorious for learning all the wrong lessons from both success and failure. And on the other side of the pond consoles seem to be desperate to take all the wrong cues from pc gaming without any of the perks, what with their increasing reliance on patches (huge ones, with way worse download speeds!) multiple console versions but an uncompetitive market when it comes to selling products to the consumers.

    While this all may seem glum, it’s not necessarily that bad. That is, if you turn a blind eye to certain parts. As long as you’re willing to not get on the hype train, there are definitely some good games coming out. You just have to wait around a bit till they reach their potential and an acceptable price point. Plus a couple of cool smaller scale/independent-ish releases I really enjoyed came out last year. I’m just glad I can rely on sites and channels to wade through all the releases and pick out the gems. Because I am not submerging myself in the dreck that is the average Steam release. Ooph.

  3. Tizzy says:

    So I finally got around to play an Uncharted game (#4), and the experience has soured me in retrospect on Tomb Raider. Now that I have played what TR was modeled after, I have to ask why they felt the need to add shit gameplay elements to Uncharted’s excellent formula.

    I mean, Lara Croft has great potential as a character, and she’s not a blank slate so it should be easy to write a compelling story for the game. But instead of focusing on that, I guess because they didn’t want to completely ape Uncharted, they tried to cross it with the Arkham games, but that turned out utterly counterproductive.

    There are bullshit upgrade paths, which means that the totally optional collectibles of Uncharted have now become the do-or-die chores (xp and resource hunts) of TR.

    Uncharted’s combat is easy because frankly, that’s not the point of the game, while you can hit a wall pretty easily in TR if your Lara is not bloodthirsty enough, especially because of the upgrades.

    Uncharted 4’s navigation of environments feels more open and forgiving (more handholds than strictly necessary). And the collect-a-thon and let’s revisit environments with new gadgets aspect of TR was fun at first, but it’s fundamentally at odds with the idea of a propelling narrative.

    The obsession of wringing gameplay out of everything is sad. Contrast to Naughty Dog’s almost obscene self-confidence: “oh, here is a lavish environment that we spent tons of time and money on, with no gameplay whatsoever, that we only include to propel the narrative forward.”, a trick they’re not afraid to use more than once in Uncharted 4.

    Now, I have read that the Uncharted series took its sweet time getting that good, so maybe it’s not very fair on the TR folks who are only two iterations in. But Uncharted 4 convinced me that less is more, the good time I had with the TR reboot is now tarnished in hindsight, and I’m not planning to go near Lara again until they walk back from the sorta open world BS and upgrade systems, even though I really like the character in principle. (She certainly has more going on than Nathan Drake.)

    • Christopher says:

      It didn’t ever occur to me that the problem with Tomb Raider’s gameplay was there was too much of it. I guess I shouldn’t knock it until I’ve tried it, but what I was hoping for out of a sequel to the original wasn’t less gameplay, but more, and of a different sort. At the very end of the previous game, there’s this huge fight with dozens of melee/bow and arrow dudes, and that brought back pleasant memories of Resident Evil 4 for me. It was a bit of a bummer when I heard that Rise just did the same stuff again. I was hoping it would turn into a really great action platformer, building on the pretty cool movement and throw out the QTE-laden cutscenes and cutscene-like action setpieces that were especially egregious in the beginning of the game.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      While 4 seems a lot more cohesive and thought out (I’m partway through it myself), 3 was random as heck and 1 was pretty repetitive. For me, part 2 was the sweet spot for the Uncharted series and 4 is doing pretty good to stay in that frame of reference.

      Apparently, 3 was all the ideas they’d had for the series so far in terms of set piece moments, just sort of rolled out in a row without as much thought for the plot.

      • Thomas says:

        Uncharted 3 was weird, 1,2 and 4 all feel like they’re made by people with the same skill. Sure 1 is rough now, but it invented it’s genre pretty much whole cloth and it’s amazing just how much of the series was invented in 1.

        3 on the other hand, just failed to join all its bit and pieces into a cohesive game. It really was like they’d just thrown set pieces together and had no idea how to make them fit. (That boat!)

        I think Tizzy would still have most of their complaints about Uncharted if they’d played the other games – but I would like to point out that having extra handholds was an innovation of Uncharted 4 – and probably partially inspired by Tomb Raider, where they also took the piton from. The Uncharted devs had definitely played Tomb Raider 2013 before making 4.

        I think the changes Tomb Raider made mostly make sense though, and help it stand out as not quite an Uncharted clone. It’s a bit darker and bloodier and more desperate, but that’s fine, trying to compete with Uncharted on banter is a mugs game. And it’s Arkham Asylum elements and dangerous combat help fit the desperation theme. The upgrades also sell the personal growth story in 2013 (Haven’t played Rise, after finishing my second play through of Uncharted 4 yesterday, I’m starting Rise this week).

        I agree that Tomb Raider had too much combat and gameplay though – and whilst they do understand quiet times, they’re not as good as Naughty Dog at understanding it. (But too much combat is a smallish problem of the Uncharted series too – before 4, they would establish a supernatural enemy in the end game and that was always a bit of a slog after great pacing throughout most of it)

        • Joe Informatico says:

          Too much combat is the problem with a lot of these cinematic cutscene-driven AAA titles. It’s one thing to mow down wave after wave of demons on Mars when you’re a silent space marine in power armour. But if you’re trying to sell us on human characters with mostly realstic emotions and motivations and relationships and stakes, with increasingly photorealistic graphics and facial expressions and well-acted performances, the gameplay’s going to have start meeting that halfway. You can’t sell frailty or injury or moral outrage as narrative complications or motivations when your protagonist transforms into a superhuman sociopathic mass-murderer in between cutscenes. We’re almost a decade past the dissonance of Niko Belic’s anger and grief over the death of a dozen comrades in the wars when he kills that many pedestrians on the way to the bowling alley, but it still feels like a lot of games can’t get past it.

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      I was honestly just surprised that Rise of the Tomb Raider was 2016. I mean I remember the launch, I remember reading Shamus’ article on the game. It just really feels like that was a couple years ago.

  4. Dragmire says:

    Does the Windows 10 store not offer refunds in the regions that charged Valve for not having a refund policy? I’m wondering if we haven’t heard anything about Microsoft being charged by a couple countries consumer advocacy groups because no one uses it enough to complain about it.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    To be fair to skyrim,the remaster was not meant for pc,but rather for consoles.

    • Da Mage says:

      This.

      It was a repacking for the new consoles and also to integrate their new mods system into Skyrim so that consoles could have access to them.

      Bethesda realized it didn’t offer much for PC players, hence why they made it free if you already had skyrim+dlcs on steam. But if your a console player, HD textures, better shaders and mod support is a HUGE deal for them.

  6. Nick Powell says:

    I have to disagree with your point about the Skyrim remaster. I agree the graphics updates didn’t even come close to justifying the £40 price, but most users weren’t interested in buying the update – they were either looking to get an old game on the new consoles (also with shiny new mod support) or to collect their free graphics update on PC

    • Ninety-Three says:

      As someone who collected the free PC update, it broke my mods, brought the game back to 2011 stability in that it crashed once an hour, and it made the lighting all washed out and orange. “Free” is too much to pay for this remaster.

    • Eman says:

      I heard modders being excited about remaster’s 64-bit executable.

      • Raygereio says:

        Sort of. Having more memory to play around with is always good. But honestly the game’s executable being 64-bit is really the only selling point the Special Edition has on the PC.

        Bethesda happened to have done most of the work as part of FO4’s development and it shows: The graphical upgrade isn’t much more then some new lighting filters. We didn’t even get proper higher res textures. They took the old ones and just upscaled them.

  7. Syal says:

    I also don’t usually buy games I don’t think I’ll like (except Spelunky), so my biggest disappointments this last year were getting Beyond Good and Evil and Jade Empire off of GOG and having them run unplayably badly.

    • Henson says:

      That is a disappointment! I sure hope the forums can get you on track.

      Myself, I’m able to run both GOG versions fairly well on Windows 7. Do you know what in particular is the sticking point with your system?

      • Syal says:

        Don’t know exactly. It’s a pretty low-end system, I’ve got a 2014-ish generic HP computer with Windows 10. Jade Empire’s running about five frames a second, Beyond Good and Evil’s got badly flickering graphics. Might be the graphics card, but New Vegas clearly runs slow on my system and it still runs better than them.

        • Matt Downie says:

          Here are two possible fixes for Jade Empire:
          (1) Have you tried turning it off and on again? That works for a lot of people.
          (2) Navigate to your Jade Empire folder and look for a file named JadeEmpire.ini.
          Open/edit the file with Notepad (or alternative of your choice) and look for the following line:

          ClampFPS=1

          Which is supposed to limit your framerate in the game to 30FPS. Change that line to

          ClampFPS=0

          In addition you should also check that the line RefreshRate has the appropriate value for your monitor (this should be setup properly by default, but doesn’t hurt to double check).

          If that doesn’t improve things for you, look for D3DAdapter, which is set to 0 and set it to 1. So the line should look like this:

          D3DAdapter=1

          Save the file and close it.

          • Syal says:

            Well, I did try turning it off. I don’t think I’ve tried the ‘on again’ part yet.

            I’ll give those a shot when I have time, thanks.

            • Syal says:

              And Jade Empire is up and running through the digital equivalent of blowing into the cartridge. My 2016 gaming disappointments have effectively been halved.

              • Lachlan the Mad says:

                Random question about Jade Empire; does the GoG version have the Special Edition’s preorder bonuses? (The most notable one is the Rhino Demon style, which I think unlocks immediately after you finish the tutorial fight).

        • Stormkitten says:

          I’ve been playing the GOG version of Beyond Good and Evil for the first time, on a custom built gaming desktop of the same era (2014). It mostly runs okay, but I still get the HUD flickering outrageously in places.

        • Henson says:

          Try turning off HW Vertex Processing in Beyond Good and Evil if possible. This seems to fix a lot of people’s flickering issues.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          with Windows 10

          Well theres your problem.You have a malware on your machine.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      At least gog allows you to return games for any reason,whenever you want,so at least you can get your money back.Though its a shame if you have never played those two games before.

  8. Christopher says:

    My best game of the year is Street Fighter V. My worst game of the year is Street Fighter V’s patchy road to get from full priced barebones early access-game to a full product.

    • Cybron says:

      No honorable mention for SFV’s rootkit? I uninstalled as soon as I heard about that and haven’t reinstalled since. Capcom has completely lost my vote of confidence.

      • Christopher says:

        I don’t play games on PC if I can help it, so that wasn’t an issue for me personally. I play on PS4. But sure, it’s part of the whole SFV PR disaster year.

        A big part of how it can be both my Best and Worst game is that while there’s some bad news about it every month, I played the multiplayer largely unaffected by all that stuff for hundreds of hours this year and had a great time. There aren’t any other fighting games like Street Fighter, and it’s been almost a decade since the first iteration of 4. I like the changes they made to the fighting system(besides fewer supers), and I got into random online play as well as just fighting with my friends. Along with new and returning characters I like, that’s turned it into the most fun I’ve ever had with a fighting game.

  9. Kylroy says:

    “We Happy Few” strikes me as a brilliant setting in search of a game. They seem to have majorly changed direction at least once, and I’m worried they’ll either not finish the game OR get so focused on finishing the survival game they’ve decided to make that they short the atmosphere that makes WHF interesting.

    • ThaneofFife says:

      I’m still really excited about We Happy Few, but I’m not willing to buy it until it’s a lot closer to ready. I checked the developer updates after reading this, and it looks like more of the story mode similar to that intro video is being worked on. I hope so, anyway, because that looks fantastic.

      I’m also hoping that once the game is finished, someone will do a Prisoner mod to incorporate material from the 60’s British TV show The Prisoner, which was about a retired spy who is being kept in a mysterious mind-control village for interrogation, and which this game really reminds me of. Brilliant show.

    • Echo Tango says:

      I think the whole survival game of We Happy Few might be a futile effort. Running around managing health / sanity / pills meters technically simulates the world that the game exists in, but it doesn’t really work as a method for experiencing the disgusting truth of that world.

      If I could wave a magic wand and make the game anything I wanted, I’d make the entire game a sort of Stanley Parable- or Gone Home-esque walking simulator, that had NPCs in it you would interact with. The trick is, the entire game would be in happy-/pills-mode, and the end of the game would be the trailer/cutscene we got this year, where the big reveal of the horrifying world happens. (rat-pinata, etc) Then the player’s mind would be free to wander, wonder, and be horrified by, all the implied things they may or may not have been doing for the entire game. Even if the player knew the ending / reveal of the game, it would still work; They’d just spend the whole game with a feeling of dread, instead of their time of reflection at the end of the game. :)

      • Kylroy says:

        I actually was going to mention how WHF would be better as a walking simulator in my original comment, but it got to rambly and I opted for brevity. I think a lot of people get neat ideas and think “I should make a game of this!” without necessarily thinking why they should make a *game* instead of a novel or a film.

        • Echo Tango says:

          I think it’d still be better as a game, because you choose what to do and when to do it. You’d also have the option of not doing things you suspect are grotesque in the real world. You could actually have that be the thing that determine’s if you’re a “downer” or not – if you’re following the desired path the game sets before you, it stays happy-land, but if you stop doing those things, or start rebelling, that’s when you start getting the reality-vision, and have people start noticing your behaviour. So you’re either seeing how long you can hold onto the delusion that you’re doing good things (if you, the player, know the spoilers), or the game keeps going until you realize what’s going on.

  10. AndyHat says:

    2016 is the year that Ubisoft finally sort of justified the existence of Uplay. For Werewolves Within, it enables cross-play between PSVR and PC Vive players (including a multi-platform friends list). Which is fantastic, given that neither userbase is huge yet, but together you can get into the required group of 5-8 players pretty quickly.

    • King Marth says:

      That’s pretty neat. I finally have an account of some form with uplay because of their free giveaway, though their site only acknowledges three of the six free games they’ve supposedly credited to me. I’m pretty sure this is just terrible site UI design and if I were to download the client all of the games would show up, but that would involve running what is at best another Steam in the background and at worst one of those rootkit-DRM monstrosities they’ve been called.

      Steam only hooked me in the first place because of a free Portal offer. The others can try, but now that I already have a digital storefront which also offers sales (and the backlog that entails), we’ll see what level of effort free games can entice from me.

      • John says:

        The free stuff is how they get their hooks into you. I have a GOG account because they were giving away Dungeon Keeper. I have a Steam account because it was the only way to get the Bastion demo. I have a Humble Bundle account because . . . well, nothing was free, exactly, but pay-what-you-want is pretty darned close. I got darned near the entire Firaxis catalog for metaphorical peanuts.

        Of the three, I’d say GOG is the most generous when it comes to free games. They give you–or they gave me, and I have no reason to believe that this policy has changed–half-a-dozen old DOS games free just for opening an account. And they must have thrown me half-a-dozen others since then.

        • tmtvl says:

          The only problem is when they give you stuff you don’t want. GOG forced Witcher into my account, Steam does those terrible ‘try this festering pile of shit for free over the weekend’,…

  11. Duoae says:

    I actually have some hope for the next tomb raider’s story. Much as I hate to blame one person on a project as big as a movie or videogame I’m glad that Rihanna Pratchett has left her collaboration with crystal dynamics. Either it’s been a stain on her career or she’s not been helping with writing duties over there.

    Sure, she’s a big name but practically all of the projects she’s worked on have ruffled my feathers in a writing sense. Namely, Thief, both tomb raiders, bioshock infinite* and mirror’s edge.

    Although to be fair, she has credits on prince of Persia which I really liked but everyone else hated. .. so I’d call that a wash.

    *yes I know those last two games were by different development houses.

    • Sannom says:

      I still want a sequel to Prince of Persia. Most beautiful game I’ve ever played with the graphic settings on the lowest level. I would have wanted more challenge out of the platforming and much better combat (or no combat at all, take your pick), but overall, I quite enjoyed my time with it. Plus the Prince and Elika were charming characters.

    • Raygereio says:

      Much as I hate to blame one person on a project as big as a movie or videogame

      Yeah, I’m still going give a light slap over the head for that.
      Rhianna Pratcher has the misfortune of “being the daughter of”. She’s pushed forward by the marketing for her name recognition and so ends up being a visible target to point at when the story ends up sucking. But the real problem is the low priority writing has in most game development projects.

      To take Mirror’s Edge as an example. By the time Pratchet came on beard, most of the game was already done. She was essentially giving a handful of pictures and asked to come up with something that could connect them. No one could have produced a good story under such conditions. And according to recent interview (linked below) Dice even made the baffling decision to cut ingame dialogue at the last moment, leaving no chance to compensate for that with the cutscenes.

      http://www.pcgamesn.com/rise-of-the-tomb-raider/rhianna-pratchett-interview-part-1
      http://www.pcgamesn.com/rise-of-the-tomb-raider/rhianna-pratchett-interview-part-2

      • ehlijen says:

        That Pratchett’s writing was basically ignored when it came to priorities is pretty obvious in the Tomb Raider games. While the stories themselves have a fair number of weak points, the real kicker is the ludonarrative dissonance created by constantly trying to tell the player to hurry up in the cut scenes while dumping huge levels with hidden secrets onto them, which is a clear sign of ‘make sure to explore before you continue!.

        It’s a rare story that can survive two opposing moods being jammed into it.

        • Thomas says:

          The difference between the Naughty Dog Uncharted situation and Crystal Dynamics Tomb Raider is, the game directors of Naughty Dog are heavily involved in the writing – you can see this in how lots of The Last of Us influences ended up in Uncharted 4 when The Last of Us game directors took over Uncharted 4 development.

          Whereas the Crystal Dynamics game directors are making a game and then asking Rhianna Pratchett to come in and ‘do word stuff’.

          I’ve never seen any writing of Rhianna that’s bad, but I’ve also only seen one game that had a good story and didn’t have a studio set-up that involved the writers making high level game decisions (that’s the original Portal). Chris Avellone – the lead designer – wrote Planescape Torment and Knights of the Old Republic 2, Ken Levine wrote Bioshock etc.

          Having a talented developer create a game and then having a talented writer come ‘write it’ afterwards, results in pretty much exactly what I found Tomb Raider 2013 to be.

          • ehlijen says:

            If only. 2013 TR was, for all its shortcomings, still an enjoyably game/story mix for me.

            Rise on the other hand had good writing in the journals, but the cutscenes were all bonkers. Why was she working with the people who were trying to keep the McGuffin secret when she wanted to openly reveal it to the world? Why did those people work with her?
            Is Lara actually obsessed with the McGuffin to the point where she forgets her friends? (She abandons the quest temporarily and goes to rescue Jonah, at which point he dies but not really, except did he? And what exactly did this mean to Lara? (she goes right back to only worrying about the McGuffin.))
            And what was the big dilemma in the finale? Destroy the McGuffin and put her father’s ghost behind her or…get killed horribly by the monsters? There was no way to exonerate her father, and yet that’s what she was babbling about.
            And the final lesson she learns: She needs to keep killing these bad dudes and find more McGuffins cause someone has to. What? How does that follow from anything that happened in the story? I thought she got over her dad in the end?

            Even removing the game and only looking at the cutscenes, there is just too much non sequituring and contradicting happening to make sense as a story for me. I wish it had been as coherent as TR(2013).

            • Duoae says:

              I think the Spoiler Warning crew covered most of my grievances with the first game but the second game was pretty bad. Even worse than what you point out is that they introduce a stepmother figure who had never ever been mentioned in the series before and immediately have her turn on us in what was essentially the very first scene we had any real dialogue with her..

              Talk about total dissonance between the character and the consumer…

              TR 2013 also had a major problem that was even more fundamental than Shamus’ ‘what do they eat?’ questions: An uncharted island which everyone has visited* in an age of GPS and vast shipping lanes. I mean, you don’t just write off a ship these days. We’re not living in the 1400s when sometimes a ship went down and nobody really bothered to search or had the opportunity to search.

              It was also never addressed how any of Himiko’s descendants got off the island so no idea how Sam could be related to her other than just being of Asian descent.

              *Okay, Japan, America, some smaller Eastern countries

              • ehlijen says:

                Those are all good points, but at least they didn’t get in the way of the main character’s Heroes Journey. The premise was silly, but the characters played their parts in the premise and the story mostly flowed along without too much trouble. It retread a few points a bit too often, but it never left me hanging as to why I was going where I was going.

                In Rise we have…Lara who is sometimes on a quest to prove her father right, but eagerly diverts at the drop of a pin. Jonah who is…what is his role in the story? Off-brand Jesus who…is trying to teach Lara something? Maybe? And he had no nemesis relationship with the stigmata bad guy, what a wasted opportunity, given the obvious symbolism. And Lara’s Stepmom as you said, who’s been there ‘the whole time’! She also pretty much fills no narrative role. She’s always just also there in the scene.
                Trinity was supposed to be established as a recurring source of bad guys…but who are they? What do they want? The game still hasn’t really let us know.

                The first reboot was dumb action stuff, up there with Rambo II and Predator. I enjoyed it. But I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to feel about anything or anyone in Rise.

      • Duoae says:

        Yeah, that’s why I said it was (either) a stain on her career – working on these projects is not good for her, IMO.

        I was offered a ‘crappy’ job, coming in to fix other people’s stuff and in the end I turned it down because I didn’t have enough freedom to fix it and my name would be on the curriculum. I know it’s my choice but I don’t want my name associated with crap.

        I know that the first Tomb Raider was essentially the same situation as in Mirror’s Edge as you described (I didn’t know about DICE’s cuts though) but at some point, your name is associated with those projects – no matter how much input and control you had on them.

        • Thomas says:

          The worst one for Rhianna is that she didn’t di the writing for Th4f but because she wrote one line of dialogue or something they advertised her name all over it.

  12. MadTinkerer says:

    4: Skyrim Remastered didn’t actually cost anything on Steam though. It was free if you owned Skyrim.

    3: I don’t know what’s with these fake screenshots, but I’m still pretty sure there’s no such thing as the Windows 10 Store. Or Windows 10.

    1: The worst thing I’m disappointed in No Man’s Sky for was stealing all the Starbound hype and then not even doing anything with it. On the other hand, Starbound continues to be fantastic, so whatever.

    • Henson says:

      Skyrim Remastered might not cost any money for people who own Skyrim, but it does incur a cost. The cost of more bugs, the cost of broken mods. And the benefits are pithy in comparison. I just hope most users recognized these things and didn’t bother to make the upgrade.

      (Oh, and for accuracy, it’s only a free upgrade if you own all the DLC.)

    • Echo Tango says:

      The funny thing is, Astroneer is a better No Man’s Sky than No Man’s Sky, and it’s still in alpha. I watched a good let’s-play series* of it with four goof-balls. :)

      * No linux or OSX client. :(

      • WWWebb says:

        I was originally skeptical of this since their cover art’s color palette was flagrantly aping No Man’s Sky. I just assumed it was a cheap knockoff.

        On the other hand, Astroneer is clearly labeled as “pre-Alpha”. I sometimes wonder what No Man’s Sky would have been like if they went the early access route. Probably would have been a better game, but also would likely have made less money. The good news is, now it’s Sony that’s stuck paying upkeep on the servers and not a single-person development house.

    • MrGuy says:

      I don’t know what’s with these fake screenshots, but I’m still pretty sure there’s no such thing as the Windows 10 Store.

      They don’t look like anything to me.

  13. Nick-B says:

    Why all this hate for Uplay and the Windows store, and no mention of EA’s Origin? It’s just as guilty, possibly more so as they are yanking all kinds of games from steam to put on origin, while uplay at least coordinates with your steam library/friends in most cases I’ve run into.

    • Xeorm says:

      Uplay is unnecessary but required to run whenever you grab one of their games. So far I haven’t done anything on it besides install and run the games I’ve already purchased. It’s pointless and seems to exist purely as a form of DRM. I’ve heard it also screws up at times and so deserves the small amount of hatred it gets.

      The windows store doesn’t work. Plain doesn’t work. Good reason to hate it, especially as it does seem like some purchases will be exclusive, and going through that mess would be bad.

      But Origin? Origin works as a storefront. My experiences with it so far have been mostly pleasant. It’s nothing egregious like the others. The main problem with Origin is that they have exclusives and don’t seem to get how to sell enough to make their service matter. There’s a lot of potential for Origin, but no real reason I can see to really hate it.

    • Syal says:

      I’m going to count exclusivity as a point in Origin’s favor. There’s been a few close calls where I’ve almost bought a game that sounded interesting only to read the Steam description and see it required Uplay or GFWL or something. Get those poison pills off Steam, let me impulse-buy in peace.

  14. Charille says:

    When I was a little kid with no concept of T ‘n A, Lara Croft was just a cool crazy chick that robbed ancient mythic locations to find new stuff for her private collection. Basically an ethically inverted Indiana Jones with rampant sociopathic tendencies (the very first game begins with Lara getting her mountain guide killed and shrugging it off in a way James Bond would consider callous) and only the most rudimentary understanding of right and wrong. She was sarcastic and ruthless and the games at no point tried to paint her as a likeable protagonist. Her voice actor’s delivery (far better than the permanently out-of-breath new one) was the extent of Lara’s characterization. She was not a dramatic figure with an arc or personal growthdaddy issues, she was a double backflip and two smoking gunbarrels. And a pair of extremely sharp tits.
    It’s not that I miss simpler times (least I hope it isn’t), but the “character as vehicle” archetype is something I find valuable both in videogames and in fiction in general (Ishmael, Mad Max, the Kid from Blood Meridian, Superman, The Man with No Name, Doom Guy, Death from the Sandman series, etc are all such characters in my estimation, who exist only to serve the purposes of some specific story or stories, and not really personalities in their own right), but I really do think that the new Tomb Raiders do a disservice to their own main character by making her an actual character.

    • Matt Downie says:

      The blank slate effect – as long as Gordon Freeman doesn’t say anything, you can project your own thoughts and personality on to him.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Many of the most recent Tomb Raiders have taken “a personal story about Lara Croft” to mean “Lara Croft is OBSESSED with her parents and where they disappeared to or what they were studying.” It’s really stupid and casts Lara as a 2nd generation, lesser hero for NO reason. NO player gives a shit about her parents, and yet they keep returning to this “missing Dad” or “dead Mom” well.

      Meanwhile, Uncharted has stories about Nathan Drake’s personality or HIS history (like his childhood). No idea why Tomb Raider doesn’t crib that as well, while they’re making off with all the gameplay mechanics.

      • Joe Informatico says:

        This. You’ve nailed it. When the Uncharted games want you to give a shit about Nathan’s past, they make you play the flashbacks. The 4th game doesn’t just shove Nathan’s long-lost brother at you and tell you how Nathan feels about him. They make you play levels with him–sometimes as a little kid–just like you did with Elena and Sully and Chloe in the past games, partnering up to achieve goals while exchanging banter.

      • Durican says:

        My favourite aspect of Original Lara was that she decided to be an adventurer archeologist in spite of her parents’ wishes. They basically disowned her over the decision. But no, now New Lara is following in her fathers’ footsteps, and it’s all Destiny and In the Blood.

        No self-made woman indeed.

    • WWWebb says:

      I would add Mario to that list of characters. With the running, jumping, and occasional tiger shooting, Tomb Raider was basically Super Mario 64 with guns.

    • Christopher says:

      Her voice actor’s delivery (far better than the permanently out-of-breath new one)

      I don’t see it.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5PJm_xhxtc&index=58

    • ehlijen says:

      Meanwhile, I think the change was a welcome one. I could never like the old Lara, she was never sympathetic in any way.
      The reboot Lara was the first time I got why she did what she did, and could project myself into the character I was playing.

      • Thomas says:

        I liked reboot Lara way more too, it’s one of the reasons I was never really into Tomb Raider before the reboot. I think blank slates are for a different kind of game.

    • Taellosse says:

      For my part, I rather liked both versions of Lara, as far as either one goes, but her personality was never the point of why I played the games.

      Classic Tomb Raider, particularly the first couple games, were action adventure, but with the emphasis on the adventure – the primary gameplay was exploration and puzzle-solving, with combat thrown in periodically to keep things varied. The thing I’m most sorry about in the reboot is that the emphasis has been inverted – there’s significantly less “adventure” and quite a bit more “action.” I’m not opposed to 3rd-person shooting – but it’s done better in other games, and that’s not why I come to a game called “Tomb Raider.”

      On the other hand, to be fair to the reboot, most of that balance shift happened in the last, soft reboot. Legend and Underworld had almost the same general balance of adventure to action as the newest pair have (Anniversary, being a remake of the original, was almost the same game, so retained the original’s gameplay balance).

  15. evileeyore says:

    Thanks for the heads up on Tyranny and We Happy Few, I’ll have to keep my eye on them.

  16. The Seed Bismuth says:

    “It’s like they’re copying the the Uncharted series, except they’re leaving out the witty banter, the fun relationships, and the likable protagonist. ” mileage may vary since I have never found Uncharted’s stories witty, fun, or have a likable protagonist. so what you see as a demerit I see as a plus for Tomb Raider holding pattern.

  17. “Oh, you don’t NEED Games for Windows LIVE to play this game! It’s optional. You only need GFWL if you want to save the game.”

    If you dislike that then you are going to love this.
    My Mother whom is well into her retirement can no longer play Solitaire (Klondike) because it requires a Xbox Live account.
    And the obtrusive splash image assures that “it’s still free, you just need to log in with your xbox live acc…” *zap* yeah I think we’ll close that window and uninstall the microsoft solitare suite.

    Does Klondike even work any longer without a internet? (I’ll assume that it tries to login to xbox live, but if the internet is down for a while, then what?)
    Klondike was the only game my mother played on a computer. So thanks to whomever the moron at Microsoft it is that did this. Now I have to either find a alternative that don’t suck or program one myself. (my mother can’t use the crappy ones floating around the net as they really strain her wrist).

    • Raygereio says:

      can no longer play Solitaire (Klondike) because it requires a Xbox Live account

      Unless you’re talking about some version of it that I don’t know about, it doesn’t. You need to log in you want achievements, have cloudstorage for your saves and stuff like that.
      But if you just want to play a game of solitaire, you can just boot it up and play.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Wait…why would a PC game need an Xbox account? Or has Microsoft just not gotten around to renaming / rebranding the account system, if it’s going to do both platforms?

  18. Dreadjaws says:

    “Sooner or later, a game I really like will end up on the Windows 10 store and I’ll have to choose between missing out or diving in”

    You know, I honestly think this isn’t going to happen. Windows 10 store exclusives are already dying. They had to release Quantum Break on Steam because no one would buy it. And the reason no one would buy it was because it was a Windows 10 store exclusive.

    You’d expect this kind of thing when a service has been around long enough that they can afford it, but when it’s just starting, it’s a good indicator that people don’t like to put up with this crap.

    No, I think that the Windows 10 store will remain there for those games that used to be Xbox exclusive, so they’ll have very few fans in the PC community in the first place. But if they want to make any kind of money, they’ll have to either improve the service or sell on other digital stores, which is a win-win.

  19. Son_of_Valhalla says:

    “Shamus.” – Bethesda

  20. Philadelphus says:

    One good thing that came out of No Man’s Sky is Door Monster’s excellent parody video about it.

  21. Durican says:

    For me the most disappointing gaming development of 2016 was seeing the final nail get hammered into Metroid’s coffin.

    Federation Force came out, and was about as much of a Metroid game as Umbrella Corps is a Resident Evil. It got the lowest sales out of any game in the franchise and featured Samus Aran as the final boss.

    Then Nintendo met the Metroid franchise’s 30th anniversary with the coldest shoulder this side of the antarctic, and only deigned to acknowledge the franchise existed by stomping out a fan remake 10 years in the making that put Nintendo’s handling of the series over the last decade to shame.

    On the bright side, AM2R is my favourite game of 2016, and though Nintendo will likely never make another Metroid, this fan-creation is a worthy sendoff to the series.

  22. Dragmire says:

    My biggest disappointment of 2016 was I Am Setsuna. I, and I shouldn’t have, expected more from that game.

  23. Adeon says:

    I’m going to say something very controversial. I liked the laser sauna sequence in Rise of the Tomb Raider. I agree with the rest of your complaints about the game but that bit was fun, stupid but fun.

  24. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ive just reread that laser sauna thing and…am I remembering something wrong about the game?I distinctly remember having the “highlight your enemies” skill at that part of the game,which made tracking and stealth killing them a breeze.Was that an obscure skill I got?

  25. SL128 says:

    Interestingly, the creative director for Rise of the Tomb Raider was also the game/creative director for Hitman: Absolution.

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