Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Square-Enix Announces shutdown of Babylon's Fall - The Folly of Games-as-a-Service

 You can read about it on Steam's website, and enjoy the discussion groups (the ones not suspended) here. This one impacts me, surprisingly...I bought Babylon's Fall when it came out back in February of this year, along with a handful of other new games on Playstation 5, just happy to see some actual new content. Other games I nabbed included Final Fantasy Origins (another Square-Enix game) and Tokyo: Ghostwire (from Bethesda). 

Of the three, Babylon's Fall is the one I've played the most of so far, but not without reservations. First, it's important to understand that the game is reminiscent of a lot of older Playstation titles from long ago, especially the many weird JRPG dungeon crawlers which appeared on the PSP and PS2. It has an archaic quality to it that will appeal to the niche of a niche of gamers who liked those sorts of action RPGs with lots of fiddly management. Unfortunately it's welded--ham-fistdedly--to a games-as-a-service model of design which takes what should be a party-based single player game and turns it into an always-online experience with battle passes and a marketplace....all of which is now gone. You can't play this game without being online.

The game's appeal was also limited due to being released on the next gen consoles despite clearly being a last-gen title in design. It's use of a faux antique watercolor/oil painting effect for cutscenes and much of the in-game art design just doesn't look "right" to most people, and the further I got in to the game the more I found this approach annoying (initially I was forgiving; now after two-thirds of the way through I grew mostly just irritated). 

If this were a budget title single-player offline experience that could just be available in perpetuity no one would care, and it would languish with so many other forgettable games as something fun to play if you're into the very specific style of game it is (and make no mistake, the game's combat is fun....though like the art style, it starts to feel repetitive about 2/3rd of the way through). But nope, it's a GaaS and as a result it's getting shut down....the cost of maintaining a skeleton crew and servers to support the game is too costly for Square-Enix to even bother.

On the one hand, I am annoyed; I'd be interested in a refund if it were possible, though I made the mistake of buying it through Playstation's digital store, which famously have provided refunds for nothing save the mess that was Cyberpunk 2077 in similar situations where a publisher fail has imposed upon the consumer. Most likely I think Square-Enix figured they could do this because the game probably sold copies in the thousands, maybe a few tens of thousands at the to them it looks like weathering a bit of negative publicity, but at least they're not screwing millions of purchasers over, right? Right???

On the plus side, this proves that their games-as-a-service experiment failed. Maybe, just maybe, Square-Enix will avoid doing this anytime in the near future, or if they do maybe they will divest more time, energy and effort to the studio tasked with making such an abomination.

I thought about just giving up on them as a personal statement....but so many good games that are also offline single player experiences do come from Square-Enix and its studios, and I own a nontrivial percentage of them already anyway. So maybe the better lesson to learn here is: if I see that the game is a GaaS model that still expects a retail purchase to play, maybe just turn the other way and run.

In the meantime, assuming I can't convince Sony's CSR goons to give me a refund, I guess I better finish that last 1/3 of the game I have left to complete so I can add this to the list of other games that failed and evaporated from existence in similar fashion.....

RIP Tabula Rasa, Evolve, City of Heroes, Wildstar, and now Babylon's Fall. 

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