Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Death Bat's Stinker Awards for 2015: Computer Gaming

There were a few computer games I feel worth mentioning not for how amazing they are but because of what amazing bombs they ended up being. In no particular order they are:

1. Biggest Isometric Flop and Abuse of License: Sword Coast Legends

It could have been better, and it could have tried harder to understand what it was up against: no D&D game has fully survived the post Neverwinter Nights era, a golden age when you could play robust, mechanically accurate D&D games and even (if you had the time) figure out how to make your own. Sword Coast Legends pales in comparison, and even fails to stand up to more immediate competition such as Divinity: Original Sin and Pillars of Eternity, which both blew it away in terms of scope, playability and quality.

Sword Coast Legends could redeem itself by restructuring its character generation to model or at least look more like actual D&D 5E mechanics, and by putting more effort into making its multiplayer experience something more creative and actually "D&D like" in terms of options. What we have now is just another so-so CRPG abusing a licensed IP.

2. Shortest Roller Coaster Ride Ever: The Order: 1886

This was a fantastic game, it really was. The attention to detail was impeccable, and if there's ever a sequel I will play it. But all that effort spent on modeling items in the environment you could grab and look at in every direction would have been better spent making more actual game to play, and more story. As it stands, The Order: 1886 feels like a prologue to a much better game that is somehow missing....where most good titles this year started, The Order: 1886 ended.

3. Biggest Conversion from "Virtual Storefront" to "Bargain Bin": Steam and the other online stores

If 2014 saw it happening 2015 can amply demonstrate that this was the year most digital retailers went from being the cool place to find new and interesting games to instead being the place where buyer beware was commonplace. Steam implemented a refund feature for games you owned but hadn't played more than 2 hours on, and I tested it to great success this summer....but the truth is, subsequent sales have left me flat; I have never seen so many garbage games out there that even with a refund system in place I am unwilling to test drive. In terms of the overall marketplace right now we are saturated with crap, and Steam and other digital stores with a low bar of entry for product are turning in to cesspools of derivative, half-assed shovel-ware.

4. Biggest Franchise Implosion: Asassin's Creed

I'm dying to see what happens next year to the Assassin's Creed franchise. I didn't bother buying Syndicate this time around, and doubt many people did....Unity burned too many people too quickly. On top of that the game itself is going creatively brankrupt, as yearly releases (sometimes even twice a year) are giving even fans like myself serious fatigue. It doesn't help that I am still trying to plow through Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, which midway through started to grate on me with what I could only describe as "forced game play mechanics"....weird artifacts of trying to tell a certain kind of story using tools that work better for a slightly different kind of story. So if I was feeling the creative fatigue three games ago (pre-Unity, Rogue and Syndicate) that's pretty telling.

5. Most Annoying Change in Gameplay: Transformers: Devastation

I'm a big Transformers fan, but not the kind that can't reconcile the "Bayverse" Transformers with the original Transformers Generation One, or all the other bizarre iterations in between. Still, when the Transformers: Devastation game was announced I was keen to see what a "televised" edition of Transformers might look like. Rumor was it was built on the same engine as War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron....could it be truly as good? Another rumor was it was a Bayonetta style game....but what did that mean? Optimus is nude except for a hair suit? Hmmm.

As it turns out: no, at least not for me. It's a fun game in many regards, but it's an arcade brawler in which you occasionally travel through a cityscape ripped from an early eighties cartoon, and doesn't offer a whole lot beyond a mix of nostalgia and some basic fighting techniques. A shame, really....a Fall of Cybertron style sequel set on Earth could be amazing. If you've played either of the aforementioned titles then T:D will feel very, very off.

...I might do a tabletop list like this, but hard to say. The problem with tabletop is I am generally pretty good at avoiding garbage, and rarely end up finding disappointment in the hobby as a result. Still...I'll probably have some good and bad on the subject to speak of in next week's "year in review."


  1. I'm totally with you on Steam. They have so many games, at such discounts, that it's just one big bargain bin at the local gaming store. There are so many games I can't even sort through them all to pick one.

    1. I am dead certain there are weird indie games on Steam I would absolutely love....but the mess of stuff Steam has is so thick I have no way of figuring out which ones are worth my dollar. Worse yet, the steam sales are getting worse; the bargains do not seem as good to me now as they did a couple years ago.

    2. Because of this I have put in the following code: No PreOrders, No Alpha games and no Beta Games. I wait for the hype. If a game is good it will find its way through my long list of gamer friends who will let me know what its like. Aka, Kerbal Space Program is a must for the space nerd in all of us.