I didn’t play a lot of bad games this year, so my “worst of 2018” list wound up being pretty short. I suppose that’s yet another thing that makes this the year of good news. In fact, even this “worst of” list is pretty tame compared to years past.
I guess I should give some sort of honorable mention to Mass Effect: Andromeda. It didn’t come out this year, but I played it this year, and it easily qualifies as the most frustrating waste of potential I’ve seen in ages. Bioware spent five years and a fortune to make this half-baked unfocused mess of jank and cringe.
Here are my big disappointments, in no particular order:
What a shame. I really liked parts of Neir: Automata. I was interested in the ideas it was playing with. I loved the world and the brilliant character designs. It was gorgeous, fun, and thought-provoking. But it was also broken.
This is a game you’re supposed to play through several times, because you get to see the world from the viewpoint of different characters. I made it a little ways into my second playthrough before I got sick of the crashes and played something else.
Yes, I installed the Far Mod that supposedly fixes the game. It didn’t help. And before you blame my machine, let me just point out that I played lots of different games this year and none of them were prone to crashing every twenty minutes.
This was exacerbated by the save system, where you have to reach certain locations in order to save. That’s pretty standard for the genre, but when combined with the random crashes it made for infuriating setbacks.
Adding insult to injury is that Square Enix didn’t support the PC release at all. No patches, not even to correct for the widespread and well-documented problems. But they did release more DLC for it. And now they’re working on a Game of the Year edition. Still no patches.
But Shamus, why didn’t you just get it for the console?
A better question is why didn’t Square Enix fix the bugs? I got the game for my preferred platform, and if Square Enix didn’t want to support a PC release then they shouldn’t have made one.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
This franchise spiraled into mediocrity rather quickly, didn’t it? After the Tomb Raider 2013 reboot got everyone’s attention and gave us a fresh new take on the character, the sequels have done everything they could to make this new world as dull as possible. The series decided to go toe-to-toe with the storytellers at Naughty Dog, but did so without the vibrant characters and sense of fun that made the Uncharted series such a hit. We have an unlikable protagonist with a bland sidekick following a predictable plot to fight a generic group of villains to obtain a vague doomsday artifact using rote mechanics.
This could have been a more systems-driven counterpoint to Uncharted. Rather than blowing money on lavishly produced cinematics, this game could have focused on the mechanics. The game has a good base of climbing, shooting, looting, crafting, exploring, puzzle-solving, sneaking, and collectable-finding systems. This game could have given us a contemplative metroidvania-style game about getting around and uncovering secrets. Instead, the pacing is driven by the cutscenes. The story dictates where you go, when you go there, when it’s time to sneak, and when it’s time to shoot.
You’re allowed to backtrack, but you can’t sequence-break or experiment with different builds. Often the game decides to shove you though one of the scripted set-piece action sequences where you need to out-guess the designer to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing. You end up feeling less like the main character and more like a stuntman who isn’t allowed to read the script.
The story is given such a ridiculous focus here, to the point where it constantly interrupts gameplay. For whatever reason, the weakest part of the game has been made the central pillar.
The story doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. The action beats are larger-than-life action schlock, while the dialog and subject matter are relentlessly self-serious. At one point our heroes are in an airplane that gets blown in half. There are no parachutes, and the thing basically falls out of the sky. Lara is in the front half of the plane and sidekick Jonah is in the back, and yet somehow they both miraculously survive their respective crashes. Not only that, but they both escape with little more than bruises. These cartoon physics might work in a more lighthearted story, but when paired with serious tone it comes off as childish.
If there was ever a story that needed an injection of banter, running gags, one-liners, and bromantic tensionOr romantic tension. Between whomever. I don’t care. Just have people tease / flirt and have a good time., it’s this one. As it stands, playing this game feels like watching the second season of the Walking Dead while riding a rollercoaster. Are we supposed to be invested in the drama or enjoying the ride? I don’t know what the writer wants from me.
But Shamus, not everything needs to be jokes and banter! Not everyone likes the Marvel formula!
That’s fair. The problem is that right now this game is roast beef and ice cream. I think fun and adventure would match the gameplay much better, but you could go the other way and make the cinematics more grounded. You can prefer the ice cream or the beef, but one of these ingredients needs to go.
Note that I did not finish Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Maybe things open up after six hours and it gets really good, but I spent a long time being very bored before finally giving up on the game.
This is a racer where you hover along a glowing neon track at insane speeds. The music is a suitable pumping electronic beat. The hover cars are cool looking and customizable. The tracks are gorgeous.
The problem is that I can’t play it. It’s far too fast.
I was always in first place or last. I’d pull ahead, but then in the blur of hairpin turns and vertical loops I’d snag the wall and find myself instantly in last place. The other AI drivers were clustered together, but I rarely saw them. I was just barely able to control my car at normal speed, but as you go around you’re supposed to drive over these booster pads. That’s the only way to keep up with the AI. The problem is that hitting a booster made the car more or less impossible to control. The turning radius of my car was many times the radius of the actual turns. Am I supposed to avoid certain boost pads?
I did the first race a dozen times. I gradually improved at the game as I memorized the course, but it never felt good. Despite the extreme speeds, I never got a sense of exhilaration. There are traps on the course that you’re supposed to avoid, but they blended in with the scenery to the point where I’d slam face-first into one without seeing it. The whole thing just feels awful. I felt less like a high-speed pilot and more like a pachinko ball bouncing randomly through a noisy contraption.
On top of all of that, the game uses a low camera angle that makes all of the above problems worse. Low angles are good for limiting your visibility while creating a sense of speedLike in movies where they stick the camera to the bumper at wheel level and you can see the road markings zoom by in a blur., but the movement in this game is already so fast that the camera makes it more frustrating without making it more fun.
Fans with younger eyes and sharper reflexes have enjoyed better success with the game. But based on their Steam reviews, it doesn’t get to be much more fun. Apparently even if you’ve got the reflexes and patience to make progress, the core gameplay involves endlessly grinding for upgrades in repetitious races against flagrantly rubberbandingThe further ahead you get, the faster the AI goes, even if that means cheating. A.I. Regardless of your skill level, this game doesn’t feel like a fair contest against a well-defined system of rules. The AI is always putting its thumb on one side of the scale or the other, to the point where it’s more about your participation than your performance. Again, this is based on reading feedback, not personal experience. Still, that’s not a very enticing.
A shame, really. This game is a great concept with fantastic art, but the gameplay doesn’t work. That’s the one area where a racing game can’t afford to fail.
I realize I don’t usually put indies on my loser list. I’m sorry if this seems a little mean. I know I’m dumping on a small team of hungry indies who worked hard, and I realize that’s a lot different from tearing apart a major studio backed by a monolithic publisher. Partly I’m doing this because I want to contrast Antigraviator with some other stuff I played this year. We’ll come back to this topic later in this series.
What a disaster. Bethesda’s brilliant idea was to strip out all of the characters, towns, dialog, moral choices, factions, worldbuilding, companions, and roleplaying, and replace it with a shitty Day Z knockoff. They decided to make a Fallout game without any Fallout in it, so they could show up two years late to fad genre that was played out before the game was even announced.
That alone would be enough to earn the ire of the Fallout fanbase, but then the game came out and it was unforgivably buggy, even by the extremely liberal standards afforded to Bethesda games. Then on top of that they added a gross microtransaction store where they tried to sell you shit that you used to be able to earn or find in previous games. On top of that, the multiplayer system was built in the laziest way possible that left the entire system wide open to hacking and cheating. Back in the 90s I worked for a company that used this exact same client-server model. That was 20 years ago, we were a 12-person company, and our software was based on social interactions instead of PvP, and even back then we recognized the system as antiquated and inadequate.
And then there was the whole ridiculous canvas bag story that resulted in them accidentally doxxing their customers when trying to make good on the flagrant bait-and-switch used to market the ludicrously priced $200 Power Armor Edition.
Lazy. Incompetent. Apathetic. Cynical. Grasping. Dishonest. Shitty.
What a disgusting display. Bethesda should be ashamed. And no, I didn’t actually play this one. I’m just joining in the industry-wide dogpile.
Shamus, it’s not fair to criticize Fallout 76 without playing it first!
Maybe that’s true, but it’s even more unfair that Bethesda got to make Fallout sequels without playing Fallout first. Life isn’t fair. Life sucks, and so does Fallout 76.
That’s enough negativity. Next time we’ll say goodbye to 2018 by talking about what I loved.
 Or romantic tension. Between whomever. I don’t care. Just have people tease / flirt and have a good time.
 Like in movies where they stick the camera to the bumper at wheel level and you can see the road markings zoom by in a blur.
 The further ahead you get, the faster the AI goes, even if that means cheating.
What did web browsers look like 20 years ago, and what kind of crazy features did they have?
Marvel's Civil War
Team Cap or Team Iron Man? More importantly, what basis would you use for making that decision?
A stream-of-gameplay review of Dead Island. This game is a cavalcade of bugs and bad design choices.
Raytracing is coming. Slowly. Eventually. What is it and what will it mean for game development?
A Star is Born
Remember the superhero MMO from 2009? Neither does anyone else. It was dumb. So dumb I was compelled to write this.
93 thoughts on “Dénouement 2018: The Losers”
I wanted to play Nier Automata but I never got around to buying it because games games games. It seems I got lucky, because not only was it apparently a dog’s mess of a port, but now they’re coming back with an enhanced edition. That’s great for the holdouts like me, but a real kick in the shorts for everyone who supported it on release.
So assuming the forthcoming GotY edition is actually fixed, I’m wondering whether I should get it. I’m really not sure I want to reward this model of releasing a quick and dirty port to soak up the enthusiasts’ money, then coming back around with the real deal. Nobody should have to buy a game twice to get a working experience.
I’ll mention the reveal that got me invested halfway into Route C’s story was kicked to endgame in the PC release, which is way too late for it, and I doubt they’re putting it back in early. So I’d recommmend the base PS4 version over any PC version.
Why would they mess around with the order of things between platform? Sigh!
It was clearly an accident that someone put it in early, so removing it was a bug fix. But it works way better early.
This is the first I’ve heard of this. Both in terms of reveals happening earlier on one platform, and the PC version getting any form of bug fix. Can you go into more detail about what happened?
It’s a codex entry. Originally one entry had two reveals in it, named after the second half, and then the first half showed up alone in endgame, with cutscenes acting like it was the first time you’d seen it. So now it only has the second reveal in the early entry. But the big endgame reveal brings a lot of cohesion to Route C, and makes things feel less random, and is what got me invested in Route C. The little reveal is more of a ‘so what’ thing that works way better as a followup to the big one.
I finished the game with all the endings and I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. It’s been some time, mind, I don’t even remember there being a codex in the game. If you could explain in full spoiler detail, that’d be amazing, because I’m intrigued now.
Really sorry to hear the PC port of Nier Automata is so shit. To be honest, I don’t think I even knew there was a PC port. I know it’s unlikely that you’ll ever go back to the game in the future, but I hope so. There really isn’t another game out there like it.
If Shamus (or anyone else) would rather just watch someone else play it, I highly recommend Liam (Rising Super Star) and his blind playthrough. Here’s a link to the playlist on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLg1dmg5vyaL6sIUBhYERFM7G2kTpPKOpp
Liam’s a veteran of the franchise, so he brings a lot of knowledge into the experience that helps clarify some of the murkier parts of the story. But it’s still blind, so you get to catch his first-hand reactions to the game. Without spoiling the details, by the time the end credits roll in, he’s openly weeping.
The game is peppered with issues, even on console, but in my opinion the game is ultimately a success, and it deserves any attention it can get. The industry needs more games like this.
EDIT: Whoops, I posted this in a reply for some reason? I guess it fits here just as well as anywhere else, so I’ll leave it.
I don’t want to do full spoilers, but there are two entries that start with ‘SS confidentiality’, and in the original version they both show up in the same entry halfway through the route.
Interesting. Pretty sure all the people I’ve heard rave about it played on on PS4 (and it did sound so good). I got it on steam myself, but haven’t installed it since it turned out they filled it full of denuvo.
I suppose I’ll keep an eye open for the re-release on the off chance they fix it, if I can figure out how to get the spoilerific info without being spoiled, and decide to accept the malware. Since I’m pretty sure I’ve got no one I could borrow a PS4 from who would also have the game.
I played it I’m PC with absolutely no problems and a 6 year old rig, so it looks like Shamus got unlucky on the technical front once again.
Yeah, this is the first time I’ve heard of these bugs, among the couple streamers I watched before buying and my own personal experience with it. *shrug*
Wait, what changed between the PC and PS4 versions? What reveal?
Eh, I got it on release for PC and I never experienced a single crash. YMMV.
The simple truth is it is an amazing game that doesn’t work on some people’s hardware. That’s obnoxious, sure, but that’s why we have steam refunds, so I don’t think it should really be that big of a deal.
Shame Nier: A crashed so much for you, I only ever had one crash on my 3 year old laptop, so while I knew there were problems (the framerate I had without the FAR mod was ridiculous, although strangely enough I enjoyed playing in slow motion because I could admire the animations), I didn’t think it was that bad.
Makes me wonder if newer hardware is more prone to problems, or has more compatibility issues.
Also, I find it funny you have 2 Squenix games in that list. They really do have problems porting to PC.
And neither of them were The Quiet Man.
How bad is it? I barely heard anything about it, and all that was that it’s bad.
Thanks for that, now I need to make a hole in my timetable to finish watching.
So I ended up watching both the mute version and the answered version. That was… interesting. While I appreciate that the voiced version explains some things, it still leaves a baffling amount of things really unclear.
It’s a game that only has two parts: long cutscenes and beat em up gameplay. And both parts are some of the worst I’ve ever seen in any game.
The cutscenes have no voiced dialogue or subtitles because the main character is deaf. “Ah, so you have to read the body language and context of the scene to understand, that could be interesting,” you might be thinking. Except… MANY of the cutscenes are sit down chats between two characters who don’t move or express themselves overtly. There are characters who wear masks so you can’t read their lips or gauge their expressions. And information a deaf character WOULD have (like the contents of a letter) are deliberately obscured from the player for… reasons. It’s like they did a checklist of every possible pitfall you’d want to avoid in a silent film… and then did all of them, methodically.
The beat em up sections have a very shallow move list and an extremely small amount of different enemy types. Cutscene information is sometimes overlayed on top of fight scenes, obscuring enemy characters and whether they’re attacking or not. Status like player and enemy health are both hidden from the player, in favor of a no HUD design for “immersion.” And there’s a power up “rage” mode that breaks the game camera completely, accidentally shoving it through walls and objects.
The game is so bad, it’s almost artfully so.
You missed the best part – a few weeks after release, the devs released a patch that added sound to the cutscenes. But you can only unlock the voiced cutscenes if you’ve beaten the game. So you can play through it again, but this time – with the sound on!
And no, I am not making this up (in any case, I couldn’t even if I tried).
No, the best part is that having the sound on makes the game so.. SO much worse. Like.. mindbogglingly worse
The story you make up in your head the first time round is almost 100% going to be better than the actual plot when you find it out
I still stand by my theory that towards the end of development, one of the devs joked that it’d actually make more sense if the player was deaf and couldn’t hear any of the stupid story. Then they realised it was true and made it a gimmick
I’ve got another theory – what if one of the shareholders in Squenix is secretly a member of the Yakuza, and he desperately needed to launder some money? And he just grabbed the first couple of guys he saw in the office that day, and told them “Make me a game in 3 weeks! Oh, and don’t ask where the funding came from!”
It might sound crazy, but it’s the only scenario in which I see someone looking at this….. “game”….. and going: “Yup, that’s the game done! Time to ship it!”
I can relate to the crashing thing a bit. AMD drivers had an issue where the game would always crash at a certain area in the first 10-30 minutes of the game back around launch. Took them a few months to fix their drivers, though afterwards I haven’t had any major problems with it other than forcing anisotropic filtering in the control panel causing artifacting. Hardware at the time as an A8-3850, 8 GB of DDR3, and an RX 470 4 GB.
Yet again I face the fact that I enjoy reading negative Shamus more than positive Shamus. So my enjoyment, to a certain extent, depends on the amount of misery you go through.
I wish it wasn’t so, but, as you said, life isn’t fair.
Thanks for entertaining me, and may you have a happy new year (but not too much).
Played Shadow of the Tomb Raider all the way through. The most frustrating part is that there was a glimmer of an original idea for the foundation of the story, and the game thoroughly failed to execute on this. The story was to question Lara’s habit of jumping in and seizing artifacts that she didn’t understand, and to assume that opposing Trinity was always the right thing to do. And to contrast with her casually colonialist attitude, she goes up against a Trinity guy who’s actually a local and has the support of (some of) the local population.
In the end, Lara saves the day, of course, and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. The problem is how we get there: Did Lara learn anything? Did she regret putting the end of the world in motion? Putting Jonah in danger repeatedly? Did she decide to be more humble? To refrain from grabbing anything lying around in a tomb protected by traps? No. Her antagonist turn out to be cartoonishly evil (how many human sacrifices are required to obtain a river of blood?) and not even that much of a local (he was kidnapped by Trinity as a young boy).
Also, it seems that the designers decided that they had not ripped off The Descent blatantly enough in the first reboot, though, to be fair, this was my favorite part of the game, a moment of well-executed tension even if the payoff was fairly obvious from the start.
The descent of the Tomb Raider reboot series has been one of my biggest disappointments of recent years.
Descent isn’t even fair, it’s not descending, it’s not changing at all. Lara’s personality doesn’t change. The games keep doing the same thing even if it doesnt make sense any more.
And for a series that started off being about Lara’s growth, that’s a killer
The Crystal Dynamics Logo is still there, even though its created by Eidos Montreal (Thief 4, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided). I have absolutely no idea how the creators of Legacy of Kain could say yes to this mess.
But did you try updating your drivers? That always fixes the problem!
Nier Automata crashed relentlessly for me too, so I ended up refunding it and playing on PS4. Square shouldn’t have released the PC version in this state, since they did they should have fixed it, since they didn’t do that they should have recalled it.
But you should still play the console version at some point. Let it lie a while so you aren’t too irritated by repeating the first chapter over again, power through the execrable second chapter and prepare to bask in the brilliance of the third chapter. They don’t make story driven games like this.
Shamus, as of today I am unable to open individual posts via their title on the main page, or the blog itself via the banner from the main page or a particular post, into a new tab. Neither middle click nor ctrl left click work. Chrome instead displays an icon that claims on its tooltip that popups for this site were blocked.
I could just never get into Nier: Automata. I got through 2B’s ending, and I just couldn’t bring myself to play anymore of it – I found the the gameplay to be borderline awful – the only part I somewhat enjoyed was the 3rd person hack ‘n slash sections which, as far as these games go, was pretty bare-bones (since you have very limited combos, and no interesting or challenging enemies). The bullet-hell sections (of both the hacking and non-hacking kind) were very dull, since you get only two weapons, and no enemies with interesting or challenging patterns. The 2- and 2.5D sections also didn’t add anything interesting to the gameplay. Also, I know there’s a good story reason why the enemies all look the same, but it still didn’t change the fact that their design was very boring, and fighting them alwyas felt like a chore.
Maybe a big part of it is also a cultural thing – I just don’t get the Japanese way of storytelling, and I couldn’t bring myself care for any of the characters, or for anything that was going on for that matter.
I don’t know – I tried my hardest to like the game, but alas – it was just never meant 2B*…
* That was awful, I’m sorry. I’ll see myself out.
Nier Automata is like Thus Spake Zarathustra written in crayon.
When you get to the very end it’s a beautiful philosophical treatise written in game form
, not just adapting previous philosophers but something making a genuine contribution.
But getting to that part is really hard. Mixing RPG mechanics with a hack and slash doesnt work. It’s too long, too rough and full of anime BS. Some of that anime BS is commercialism, some of it might be culture differences and some is very deliberate and thoughtful.
A great game that I’m glad to _have_ played, but not necessarily a good one that I’d like to play again.
Why the hell should I have to give my money to Bethesda to be allowed to say that their game is obviously shite anyway? The youtube videos, patch notes, thousands of testimonies and game concepts are more than enough.
People who use that logic must believe that nobody can assume that feces taste bad before having tried them out.
It’s astonishing how quickly Bethesda has managed to squander all the customer good will they built up after recovering from the horse armor debacle. (It’s hard to believe that was almost 13 years ago!) As someone who’s worked in management most of my professional life, I find it incomprehensible that Bethesda’s management could be so oblivious to the effect this series of terrible decisions would have on their company image.
Maybe we can look back on 2018 as “the year of ignoring your strengths to chase a fad.” Between Fallout 76, the Diablo Mobile disaster and pretty much everything that’s been announced about Anthem, I think we can safely assume all these studios have lost sight of what made them successful.
I think I must be the only person who liked Shadow of the Tomb Raider. I think it actually does a much better job of not ruining its own pacing with sidequests than Rise did, there’s fewer gratuitous combat sections, and the platforming and puzzle solving are better than ever.
I completely agree with the point that Crystal Dynamics tried to lift Naughtly Dog’s formula wholesale but failed to get it to work on any level or, indeed, show any sign that they even understand how it works.
I liked it too. It’s paced totally differently than 2013 TR, which was mostly combat with occasional puzzles. This one switched the balance, which meant more time with the game’s strength, and also made it feel much more like you were in trouble every time you got into a fight. And backtracking didn’t feel like a timesink this time around for some reason, though I couldn’t say why.
Eidos Montreal (Thief 4, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided) did the mayor work of Shadow and half the work of Rise. Crystal Dynamics (Legacy of Kain, Tomb Raider Legend Trilogy) only had the lead in 2013 Tomb Raider.
Man, I’d love a new game in the quality of Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. Darksiders 3 didn’t do the trick.
You and me both! I’m currently playing Darksiders 3, and I actually like it a lot. But I never expected it to scratch that itch, mostly because I don’t think anything can (although I was desperate enough to try Warframe, because I heard one reviewer compare its story mode to LoK; but I didn’t get very far – turns out, the actual story starts 40 hours in, and it’s just not worth the grind) .
And even more depressingly, I don’t see a way for them to make a new one – most of the key people have long ago moved on or left the company.
By the way, if you’re in the mood to get very depressed, you can check out the the Lost Worlds where, among other cool things, they have an account of a pretty advanved-stage Legacy of Kain sequel (the Dark Prophecy).
Even the name is a weird choice. 76 is obviously a number imbued with immense symbolic meaning in America. But as this means nothing in the game… Well I have no idea. I’m not sure Bethesda knew what they wanted to make, or rather, it sounds as though some Devs wanted a game and corporate decided they wanted money – and only money. Customer satisfaction, even to the degree of making something customers might want, was deemed of no value.
“76” references 1776, the year of the signing if the Declaration of Independance. Note that one character in Overwatch is Soldier 76. It was not a randomly chosen number, and a couple bits of the Falliut 76 marketing shows this had to have been intentional – see also that Fallout 4 had some (completely wastes) themes along the same lines.
Obviously Bethsoft put no further thought into it judging by how they used themes in either game: not at all.
Here I thought it was after the chain of gas stations.
The first vault was called 76 based on the symbolic meaning in America and the exiting vault dwellers are meant to have the “American pioneer spirit” of 76. That… seems to make sense? Not sure what you’re saying.
Oh yeah, it does make sense! It’s so obvious! Now I feel silly for not managing to figure it out :D
But in all fairness, it is a bit harder for us non-Americans.
No reason to expect a non-American to get the implication. (And as we all know, Captain America understood that reference.)
The annoying thing is that the 76 theme goes nowhere. The players aren’t, and can’t, building up a new society because if the meager building tools and options and limited multiplayer functionality. I wasn’t a fan of Ark, but that was way better on that front. At the same time, it’s also not about overcoming an oppressive Empire to form a free society based on self-determination (sorry England!) The opposition are just random, disorganized monsters and also one Skyrim dragon.
I am American and didn’t get it. I was trying to decide between “Chevron with Techron” and “The year we elected Jimmy Carter”.
Like, I don’t see how it would even relate to a post-apocalyptic world. 1776 is all about throwing off the old establishment and forming something new, but the point of the Fallout setting is all the old establishments died in hellfire. Unless they’re doing something where all the old leadership got turned into ghouls, and you have to take down the old zombified establishment before the true Fallout experience can begin. Which could have been neat.
Try thinking of it from the perspective of the Gettysburg Address: “Four score and seven years ago (1776) our forefathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Fallout 76 would be about a new wave of men working to once again bring forth a new nation out of the rubble of the old.
Or it would be if Bethesda had any interest in decent writing.
I’d actually be very interested in a single-player Fallout-style game where the player was actually able to make significant and visible progress in rebuilding society. Take Fallout 4’s settlement building and expand it with a technology tree and a functioning economy, where settlements specialize in producing increasingly sophisticated goods and trading them along routes you establish and help keep secure. As you progress, the settlements become larger, cleaner, more prosperous and use the new technologies you (re)develop.
Now I’m wondering if anybody has made a Fallout mod based on David Brin’s novel The Postman, and if not, why not?
Not sure where my comment ended up now. The first time I posted it the blog would swallow the items in square brackets (which were meant to show up literally, not to be interpreted as (incorrect) HTML); when I edited it to use HTML escape sequences, the comment was marked as spam. Not even a delete request seemed to be possible. When I tried to post the fixed version of the comment anew, the first time the blog would silently swallow my submission (reload the article but not show the comment), and assuming it somehow went wrong, I posted it again, to which the blog would say I this is a duplicate of what I had already posted.
Any chance of sorting this out eventually? Could we maybe replace the HTML-lite formatting (and the subsequent heavy-handed treatment of text that looks like HTML but isn’t), with something like markdown?
Nier didn’t crash on me, but I refunded it after I couldn’t stand the gameplay problems.
First, the difficulty settings sucked. I found medium too easy, so I cranked it up to hard and suddenly enemies did a zillion times more damage, getting two-shotted was common (when I was too lazy to open the menu to heal because “hey, I only took one hit”). It was the worst kind of “make damage numbers bigger” lazy difficulty, and it was way too much of an increase, they needed some middle ground setting.
Second, holy shit the healing system is broken. Healing potions cost pennies so anyone who cares to has an infinite amount of them, and they can be used instantly, any time, from the pause menu. You can skip over the whole “dodging” thing and facetank bosses by just pausing to restore HP every time they hit you. You can’t just say “wow that seems really overpowered, I’m not going to use the healing system” because you have to play pretty much perfectly to get through a bossfight without healing. Somehow you’re supposed to be challenged in a system where bothering to open a menu is the only thing between you and immortality. I really can’t overemphasize this problem: This is a game giving you healing potions that are instant with no animation, where killing two trash mobs gives you enough cash to buy a potion, which you can carry hundreds of. How did anyone think this was okay? How were you supposed to use this system?
It’s not like you need the potions – install several chips and you can have extremely powerful regeneration most of the time. I think the combat was never supposed to eork all that well, because it tries to combine Platinum spectacle fighter approach with a stat-driven action JRPG approach. Can’t really be done, I think. You can’t really build around a system that’s simultaneously skill-based and allowing for broken stat and ability synergies. That’s like combining Bayonetta with Ys or Tales. Fun, satisfying, but lacking in actual challenge in a way that would make Joseph Anderson weep.
That’s a real shame about NieR Automata. I had a bunch of issues with it, but FAR fixed most of them. Suppose I was one of the lucky ones. That said, the lack of support for the PC version was absolutely obnoxiois and slightly puzzling. I don’t remember a port of a high-profile release being ignored in such a way in terms of patches and support. We have plenty of bad ports of Japanese games, sure, but these days even Bamco would work on the most glaring issues, however slowly and inefficiently. It’s especially annoying when you factor in the fact that NieR is easily one of the most interesting games to come out in recent years.
I don’t know if this is part of a pattern but Square has been also porting a bunch of their older games in recent years and they seem to be in a habit of doing the ports… poorly (recently Chrono Trigger) and then either patching them or not . It is somewhat baffling that they seem to have the same approach to a big budget release.
Nier Automata was an interesting game back when it came out. I wouldn’t say it’s got an amazing plot, exactly. A lot of stuff just happens, with little rhyme or reason, the vast majority of it explained away by “the machine network was giving something a shot just to see what happened”. The twists are predictable. The characters aren’t super interesting or have the most fascinating dialogue. The environments don’t look the greatest and are reused a ton of times. And then on the gameplay front, while the animations look cool and the control feels good, it’s not balanced in the way a Metal Gear Rising or Bayonetta is. You fight a lot of samey enemies with a lot of samey moves of your own, and depending on the difficulty setting you either get instakilled or you have infinite healing items to spam at will. These are all negatives. On its face, Nier Automata is a poor game.
But it does manage to nail a specific atmosphere and theme in a way that most games never do. It’s very obviously the work of people with a clear vision of what they wanna do. Yoko Taro, specifically, is the face of the game in a stronger way than people like Brian Intihar, where he decided on every aspect of the game in ways to reach specific emotions. Most devs don’t start out with first writing the ending to a game and then working to get the player to that emotional situation. But he does. At the same time, he isn’t really trying to impart a specific moral. He just wants to portray these issues and themes from as many different angles as possible, to try and make you think on your own. That worked for me. It’s been one of the games I’ve thought the most about since I finished it.
There’s a holistic approach to it. Individually, the game is fairly weak. It’s flawed in many key ways. But together, you get something special that no other game, perhaps save for Yoko Taro’s other titles, manage to do.
That didn’t make it my favorite game of 2017 or anything. I was fairly frustrated and bored a lot of the time while playing. But I really respect it, and especially appreciate it after the fact, when I can just enjoy the depressive mood and 2B’s spectacular butt without actually running through the same area for the twentieth time.
So it’s a shame the PC port sucks lmao. I think japanese devs have a hard time of it. For many companies it’s their first PC port job. I think Platinum only started doing them the same year Automata released. Square Enix might have funded the game but I don’t expect they had much to do with the development.
I think the story never quite works without reading all the extra material in other media. Also, I’m still not sure just how familiar you should be with NieR and Drakengard. Some bits are clearly aimed at Nier veterans, while others could actually work better if you’re unaware of the events in Nier. It’s hard to tell. But I think it pays to have some sort of investment in what I propose we call the Taro-verse.
I bumped into the Taro-verse lore by accident and kinda drifted my way through all of it; and I was surprised at how much stuff in Automata that seemed random/carelessly thrown about was in fact directly referring to stuff in previous games.
One thing that sort of bothered me was how the twin redheads were introduced and given such an important role at the last minute. If you know the Taro-verse lore, their introduction makes sense and the part they play, short-lived though it seems, serves to give closure to a massive overarching plot; but if you only played Automata it can come across as overly dramatic, borderline Deus Ex Machina nonsense.
Pretty much, yeah. On the other hand, the
Council of Humanityreveal can only be considered a twist by someone who’s mostly unaware of the whole Replicant business from Nier 1. So I can’t really tell what they were going for there. Although I strongly suspect that Yoko Taro just doesn’t really care.
Nier: Automata felt like it might end up interesting, up until I got to ending C. At that point, I was quite tired of the main cast, the world, and most of all the combat.
I’ve never been a huge fan of melee combat in games, so my loadout was focused upon using Shockwave chips to make my melee into ranged attacks, which worked fairly well but felt pretty bland due to never really needing to change things up after I put together the one loadout. Throw in frequent issues in the C/D route where my dashes would randomly end early, getting me hit by things that shouldn’t have landed and you’re starting to see how frustrated I became with the melee.
I dabble a fair bit in the bullet hell genre, and was quite pleased to see enemies utilizing bullets, although most of the patterns were quite tame by bullet hell standards (I think the one worm thing that twisted and had lasers going around like crazy was the hardest bullet hell I dealt with besides some of the unfair nonsense in the E ending). The hacking minigame was by far the most engaging form of combat, but it required me to be playing as the main character who I most despised, Whines.
And then there’s the story and setting. I came into this game with zero knowledge of Yoko Taro and his other games, and I can’t say I got a positive impression from N:A. I’ve heard many people praise the philosophy discussed in the game, but most of what I saw discussed was shallow, obvious, and flawed. As someone who’s admittedly picky about their philosophical themes, this was extremely disappointing to see, especially since the entire story and setting gave me the impression that I was supposed to care about the characters and world, but I never did. The closest I came to attachment was feeling bad for A2, since she had to do the whole nonsense at the end of the C/D/E routes all because of a certain whiny idiot. Most of the “twists” the story produced were uninteresting, and predictable, and even the E ending, which I’m told is supposedly the “canon” ending, feels pointless and, in my eyes, quite undeserved.
This is one of the only games I’ve ever uninstalled after finishing it, and the only part of it I still even glance at is the soundtrack, which has a couple decent tracks in it.
At least it didn’t give me technical issues despite playing on PC, but those probably would have made me even more tired of it,
Sad to hear Nier: Automata worked so badly for you. Played it myself on PC and never had any major issues. Really fantastic game too.
I took one look at the character designs in Nier (when watching a stream of Josh playing actually) and said “nope”. Nothing I have seen or heard since then has made me regret that decision. I get that some people really like this style of visuals and this brand of storytelling, but it is DEFINITELY not for me. Which probably plays into (or perhaps out of) my general distaste for JRPGs and Anime in general.
Regardless, sorry it was such a mess for you. >.<
Alright, I’ll bite. Was it the fetish maid thing tgat turns you off, or some general problem with Japanese character design?
I feel the same way and I actually enjoy JRPGs, although I haven’t played many outside of the Persona series and Dark Souls (if you count that as a ‘JRPG’ – it doesn’t play like a traditional JRPG but it’s an action-roleplaying made by Japanese developers so whatever, labels are funny) in the past few years.
I’ve heard the game described many a time in the terms Shamus used: gorgeous, fun, and thought-provoking. It has often been called philosophical as well, and indeed it may be all those things. The character designs are not to my taste however, so I doubt I’ll ever give the game a chance. There’s nothing wrong with using tropes and I understand 2B’s character design was influenced by Lolita fashion but I can’t imagine dressing a central character in a revealing outfit coupled with a blindfold and high heels does much to underpin any of the game’s core themes.
The game’s director Yoko Taro said she was designed that way because “he really likes girls”. I suppose one should be grateful for his honesty, given some of the ridiculous justifications Hideo Kojima gave to explain Quiet’s appearance in Metal Gear V.
I’ve never cared much for Japanese media (except for Studio Ghibli’s stuff and Devil May Cry), but I really liked 2B’s design. However, she and the rest of the main cast seem like they were designed for a completely different game – their visual design and the enemies’ visual design really clash with each other. And, yes I’m sure that 10 hours in there’s an amazing story and thematic reason for this, but it doesn’t change the fact that it kept pulling me out of the action, and was in general very off-putting.
Spoiler alert, there isn’t. Why exactly are combat droids dressed as fetish dolls is never ever explained in the game. Although, at one point they actually do put on menacing-looking full body armor that’s surprisingly similar to that of a Helghast. Like someone mentioned, 2B’s design is mostly explained by the fact that Yoko Taro wanted it that way. Personally, it doesn’t really bother me, but I can see how it can bother others.
I actually should have clarified – I found the enemy design to be off-putting, not 2B’s :D
But yeah, I can see where you’re coming from. But it’s just the way Japan works (and most of Asia, for that matter).
Ah, but it does!
There’s a ton about the YoRHa uniform design that very much ties into the game’s narrative and themes, in addition to being, you know, fetishy. To go with the most obvious one as an example, the blindfolds represent how YoRHa field ops aren’t supposed to see the truth of the world, instead focusing on the stories they’re fed by command. Or you could point out how their designs immediately contrast with the Resistance’s more grounded gear. A good design says a lot at a glance, and Nier has very good designs.
Slightly different issues here, I think. True, the blindfolds are obviously symbolic, although more than a bit on the nose. But that’s on a meta level. The outfits still make very little sense within the context of the game. Not the short skirts, not the thong bodysuits, not even the blindfolds which are supposed to be some sort of visor but are never actually explained.
Well, I haven’t played this game, but I figure that “Loyalty reward” is something you’re being given for having at least one of the other two previous games in your library.
I don’t think I have played a bad game that launched in 2018. In fact, save for RDR2, I don’t think I played any game that launched in 2018. My backlog is just massive.
Same here. I just don’t have the time anymore. I’ve got a note in my phone of games I’m interested in playong, and every time I look at it, I just feel depressed. Maybe if my day job didn’t involve staring at a screen all day, I’d have more of a desire to sit down and play. But coming back from 8 hours of sitting at a desk just to sit in front of another desk – no, thanks!
On the other hand, what I’ve got this is probably the definition of a first world problem. But it sure doesn’t make it any easier…
O brave gamers of the future! The games in my Steam and GOG libraries clearly indicate that the year is still 2015. I don’t know how you fine folk acquired a time machine, but I salute your ingenuity!
Wait, wait. No. It may actually be 2017. I played Disgaea 2 PC and Full Throttle Remastered this year, both of which were technically released in 2017. Though, to be fair, Disgaea 2 was first released for the PS2 in 2006 and Full Throttle for Windows PC in 1995. Huh. I am less behind the times than I thought.
I’m pretty confident its 2017 based on me playing Pyre and Horizon Zero Dawn, plus Titanfall 2 and Dishonored 2 (both 2016 releases) shamefully a year late…
Yakuza Kiwami 2 did come out this year and I played it. It’s not a bad game, but the main storyline is nuts with a lot of player loses in cutscene stuff.
Hey Shamus, have you ever looked at a Jowood / Pirahna Bytes game?
What do you mean that’s so odd about them? I played the first 3 Gothic titles and the first Risen, but not the late titles in the series. Also, I avoided JoWood’s Arcania-branch of their games due to their mismanagement of Gothic 3 publication.
Is there anything specific you thought of?
Oh yeah, they DID make the Gothic games! The only series I associate JoWood with is Neighbours from Hell. When I was in Primary School those games were the bomb!
They’re odd in terms of doing something very different than most “western” RPG’s, but not so different it’s incomprehensible. And having a very combat-focused game with exactly none of the Arkham-style or Diablo-esque combat that’s common in Action-RPG’s these days. I’ve played all their games, and beaten half of them. I’m still not entirely sure why they scratch a particularly unusual itch, but the level of reactivity is probably a big reason.
I’ve been playing Fallout 76 more or less since it came out and I can definitely say that there wasn’t a single cohesive vision leading to it’s creation. Based on everything I’ve heard about it’s creation (and I’m no insider by any means, I’ve just read and watched a lot about it), I feel like it’s genesis came from probably a half-hearted attempt to create multiplayer for Fallout 4 that ended up out of scope, but got working enough after the fact that they decided to let one of the side studios take lead on it (Andromeda-style). It’s mechanics and systems are often at such odds with themselves, it’s crazy to think no one at Bethesda noticed this before shipping the game. The most heinous of these is that without NPCs, the game’s story and exploration is designed entirely around recordings and notes, which you can’t listen or really pay attention to while chatting and running around with your friends in a multiplayer game!
Personally, I tend to play games pretty hard for the lore, for the setting details, for the background information, and combined with thinking Fallout 4’s mechanics were all right enough, that made 76 tolerable enough for me. By itself, it’s was all right. With everyone dead, the story really is just Archeology: The Game. But now that I’ve learned all the secrets and shot all the things, there’s no reason to keep playing, really, or any reason to roll up a new character as, of course, without NPCs, it doesn’t matter a lick who your PC is.
It would’ve been an ok Fallout game if it was single player and all the factions were alive to talk to rather than dead. As it is, all the interested people are dead, and all the living people you encounter are bunny-hopping jackasses.
Yeah, I see the thought process that went into 76. People have been asking for a Fallout multiplayer game since 3, it feels like an obvious direction to take the series, do it. And then they actually tried and it all broke, but they’d spent too much money to cancel the project, so we got this mess.
Sadly, I do think it’s possible to make a workable Fallout multiplayer game, but it would require a completely different design doc and after this failure, no way anyone trusts them to try again.
Ive Heard of La-Mulana 1&2 but haven´t played anything myself.
Antigravitator, from what I can see here, looks like a poorly made clone of the amazing WipeOut. Maybe Sony needs to hurry up and release a new WipeOut game since I think this isn’t the first clone of it I’m spotting.
Well, Studio Liverpool was closed in August 2012, so I doubt we can expect another Wipeout game in a while. Maybe we can expect Nintendo to do some neat things with F-Zero… IF they ever pick it back up.
This article reminds me of how, even though I play video games myself, the only one I really enjoy watching as a “spectator sport” is Total War, and only the historical ones, not Warhammer. Watching an entire flank of an army panic, flee, and get cut down by pursuing cavalry is much more intuitive than Starcraft’s micro game. You don’t need to know that pikes are a “hard counter” to cavalry, it’s pretty obvious why charging cavalry into a row of very long, very pointy sticks will get that unit of cavalry slaughtered. On the other hand, it’s not only violent, but violent on an absolutely massive scale, and includes violence towards and killing of animals. Normies probably wouldn’t appreciate seeing little horsies getting blades rammed through them and out the other side, but that’s what’s going to happen to that unfortunate cav unit that ran into a wall of pikes.
Can comments be moved? I meant to post that on your Escapist column and either the software screwed up (less likely) or I did (more likely).
Just repost. I can delete the old one.
I saw the splash screen for Antigraviator and thought” Oh, I thought about buying that, guess I’m glad I didn’t.”
Then I realized I’m a dunce, and it was Trailblazers I was thinking of.
Since I haven’t bought it yet, I was hoping you could give me an opinion on it if you’ve played it (it seems similar to Antigraviator except maybe not crap…?) The “paint the track” mechanic seems interesting.
Maybe I’m the only person in the nerd-dom enjoying FO76, but I am. Enjoying it, that is. I’m not sure what the rest of the world was signing up for when Bethesda said they would release an open-world online Fallout with all-dead NPCs, but that’s exactly what I heard. And that’s what they made. And since it launched, I’ve found more riveting lore just exploring randomly than I was ever able to in the broken, on-broken-rails worlds of FO4 and FO3.
If I were bold, I’d say FO76 is Bethesda trying on BioShock for size. Why? Because that’s exactly the feel of the stories that you find. Abandoned towns, estranged families, slaughtered innocents. In the audio logs, computer entries, and scattered notes you find a kid trying to deal with grief over his father’s death as he, inevitably, grows older. You find a full-scale Batman quest line of women vigilantes, trying to save the world. You find a Romeo & Juliet story involving the kids of two tech/drilling corporations.
There’s terror, there’s grief, there’s romance, there’s wackiness & humor. You name it, I’ve seen it in FO76. And the world is massive and colorful, and bustling with life. I don’t love the radiant quests. But sign me up for the wendigo hunt. It’s exactly what I read on the trailer tin. (And yes, there are bugs and insane missteps in security issues. But that’s corporate failure that I see everyday, everywhere else, in dudes trying to build walls and the general hilarity of the world).
Shamus – didn’t you say your main quest in FO4 was always just collecting magazines? I can’t fathom how you’re not playing this game. You’ve never needed NPCs or a sorry excuse of a main story… why start now? And this world is a hundred times richer than FO4’s.
Man that is a real bummer to hear that the PC version of Nier was so buggy, I played on PS4 and it’s probably the game I enjoyed most that I played last year.
I’m in the same situation regarding Tomb Raider. I enjoyed the gameplay of the first game but the story and characterisations were stupid. The second game had okay gameplay but the story and characterisations were even worse. The third game somehow made the gameplay boring as well whilst also aiming even lower on the other two points. I have played about half of the game but just can’t find the will to push forward with it.
Oh my god, the story and characterisation get WORSE???
I played TR2013 and found the gameplay to be quite good – good shooting mechanics and the best camera I’ve ever seen in such a game. Pointless crafting nonsense but not too intrusive.
But the self-serious awful and cringeworthy story and dialogue took a “quite good game” and made it into something I absolutely despise.
I’ve been so tempted by RotTR because of its HDR and promise of more Tombs, but man, I hated the 2013 game so much.
Yeah, it’s terrible writing. In Rise, they basically re-tread the same types of plot beats throughout the game of Lara overcoming her doubts and stuff. They retcon a mother figure for Lara in he first cutscene and then have her betray you in almost the very next (which is, IIRC, also quite close in gameplay time as well). Trinity is written worse than Cerberus in Mass Effect 2. They have another Jesus-type character who, really, dies for no reason, along with the mother figure they introduced in this game and who we cared nothing about.
It’s a cool sequence but during the game medieval-era Trinity had pulled massive ocean-going ships up a mountain. They also have the cliche of the religious refugees holed-up in a mountain range being more technologically advanced (like another Atlantis) when they had no resources – not to mention the 2200 km trip they took with no supplies as they fled from the church. This ragtag bunch of technologists (with an immortal Jesus as their leader) then manage to beat back a Mongol Horde that was directed by Trinity by making all their warriors immortal brutes (like Himiko’s Storm Guard in the first game).
Another point was that, despite having marched a massive army into the mountains and engaged in a huge siege and battle for a long time, Trinity never knew where the city was located after that fact because apparently no messages were sent and this army required no supply line to maintain…
The techno-refugees lost everything during the immortalising and so became noble savages who then become enslaved by the Soviets during WWII to mine the mountains. They overthrow them and you encounter them at the point where they are able to use 50-years-old mechanical technology (like sub machine guns) with no supply lines or parts manufacturing ability. Oh, and they also only speak ancient Greek but they learnt Russian (due to the occupation) and English due to….. er, well they just magically know that (to be fair, maybe Lara is speaking Russian or Ancient Greek to them but it’s not really clear as to what’s happening here).
I could go on but that’s as far as I wrote on my unpublished review of the game :D
Also, somehow, they made Shadow even more terrible in the dialogue department as well.
Nier: Automata, I thought it’d be great. After reading with keyboard it was playable putting in some effort I bought it. I managed to finish the tutorial, after a hundred tries. Since then it’s been sitting in my Steam library. I can’t state as proven fact with mouse and keyboard isn’t playable, but it’s at the very least damn hard to get the character to perform certain actions. Too many keys to get the starting ship to move down facing top left and firing. Facing should’ve been left to a mouse cursor instead of a second set of keys. Then when you’re out getting to jump over the horizontal sweeps is something I never managed to do. I thought often that perhaps it’s meant to be impossible and it was a matter of positioning. I still think that’s still a pretty strong possibility; but I’ve not found how to deal with the camera to get a clear grasp on positioning and the final boss with the two swinging arms was impossible. I finished the tutorial because I finally gave up and used the easiest mode that gives you a lot of help and even then I think I didn’t manage to avoid any of the two pronged attacks. My advice to anyone who might not have it and is considering buying it is don’t get it if you don’t have/can’t use a console controller.
Something that didn’t help (for me, this was a purely personal thing, this is not an actual point against the game) was that 2B is voiced by the same actress as Re: Creators’ Meteora Osterreich. That series has an excellent first half, but the second goes downhill. Mostly due to two characters, one of which is Meteora. I liked Meteora during the first half of the season, a very good character and I always thought the design was very cool; but in the second half they turn her into Mrs Deus ex Machina McExposition O’Dump. The other character was Altair, she started with signs of Mary Sue that were okay because we saw her little; but in the second when she gets more presence she’s the most infuriating Mary Sue ever and she’s not dealt any cathartic comeuppance but even ends rewarded. The last four or so chapters made me angry and I couldn’t watch the last two whole, the second to last I made several jumps and the last I think I didn’t watch more than one minute total. So for a couple months anything with the voice of either character ticked me off, but it’s passed now so I think I’ll try to get back to the game. The tutorial BSO felt spot on, and as curiosity the voiced part that sounds so nice after the instrumental doesn’t feel as good when not played after the instrumental.
Off topic rambles aside, I was going to make a comment on some of the other games, which I’ve not played but felt I had something to say; but with the ramble I’ve forgotten.
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