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7/15/2017

Spoony's Most Disappointing Games of 2017

5. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo, Wii U/Switch)


This one makes both my "Best" and "Most Disappointing" lists because, while there was a lot to like about Breath of the Wild in the intricacy of its design and the sheer breadth and scope of its world, there was just as much not to like in those same regards.  And in that respect, I think it comes down to Nintendo's sheer stubbornness in doing things "their way" rather than trying to take notes from games that did the same thing before them, and often did a better job of it.  Case in point, side-quests in BotW are largely utilitarian and take a long time to show any significant payoff, which quickly gets the player burned out on them.  There's no real attempt to balance encounters to the player's level, which can easily ensure they go from an area where enemies knock a single heart off their total to doing well over ten hearts of damage with no warning whatsoever.  And of course, the fact that one's weapons' break after only a few swings or a minute or two aflame primarily just lent themselves to frustration and a lot of wasted time as the player had to backtrack a lot to recover new ones that would let them last against new foes.  So while Breath of the Wild provided a lot to enjoy, it also feels a solid decade behind the curve in several respects as well.  Perhaps in the future Nintendo should spend a bit more effort on polishing their games up to modern standards, rather than simply buying off "professional reviewers" to tell people that their every release is an untouchable masterpiece and to zealously harass and belittle anyone who says otherwise...

4. River City Ransom Underground (Conatus Creative, PC)

As a huge fan of the NES and beat-em-ups as a genre, I am of course also a huge fan of River City Ransom and was very excited for the fan-created reboot on PC.  Then I actually played it.  While the game makes a strong first impression with its smooth animation, detailed backgrounds and solid music, the same unfortunately cannot be said for the overall design.  The game is extremely slow-paced and grindy, requiring dozens of enemies to be defeated to purchase a single upgrade and numerous backtracking to reach objectives.  Assuming the game doesn't bug out and point you to a quest marker that  doesn't trigger, requiring you to reboot, of course.  Oh, and the "bosses" in the game aren't even fought half the time, isntead making way for tedious chase segments where you have to traverse an enemy-laden obstacle course and land a hit on the boss. And if you make one mistake and lose them, you get to return to the starting point, clear out the enemies and try it all again!  In the immortal words of the classic RCR... "Barf!".

3 Horizon: Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games, Playstation 4)

This one drew me in based the concept alone: a tribe of people battling gigantic robot animals with bows, arrows and crude traps.  That's a concept that should provide for some campy fun a la Earth Defense Force.  Then you play the game... and find that they choose to play it completely straight?  Weird choice, but surely the gameplay can lend itself to some interesting moments, right?  Sadly, not really.  It quickly devolves into dull, tedious stealth missions in the vein of Assassin's Creed, and all the dialog is handled through a lazy Mass Effect styled dialog wheel, complete with all the non-consequential choices, drab characters and flat acting that concept invokes memories of.  Outwitting robot creatures is fun for a bit, but the overall slow, repetitive nature of the game, thoroughly uninteresting/unlikable cast of characters and the waste of an interesting premise quickly took me out of the experience.

2. Gravity Rush 2 (SIE Japan Studio/Project Siren, Playstation 4)

Gravity Rush provided some entertaining, if somewhat unpolished, open world fun on the Vita and again when it was remastered on the PS4, so I was definitely excited for the sequel.  That is, until I actually got a chance to play it and found myself trudging through an uninspired mission pack.  There are no real improvements to the engine or the much-lacking combat of the original, I encountered several mission-stopping bugs that forced me to restart checkpoints (or, in worst cases, entire missions), and the new abilities are momentarily-entertaining gimmicks at best and superfluous annoyances at worst.  Much of the development focus seems to have been spent on cramming the game full of generic online functions, tedious filler missions and terrible, TERRIBLE stealth sections, which feel much more intended to provide a longer experience than an enjoyable one.  The visuals of Gravity Rush's universe are once again stunning, but the overall experience just ends up being much more of a busywork-laden chore than the simple fun the original provided.

1. Persona 5 (Atlus, Playstation 3/Playstation 4)

If you asked me back in April, I would tell you that I thought Gravity Rush 2 would be my pick for the most disappointing game of 2017.  But I was soon proven severely wrong in that regard by Persona 5, a sequel five years in the making which takes one of my all-time favorite franchises and drains it of nearly all the nuance, subtlety, charm and challenge it once possessed. The game at first seems to promise a darker turn for the series in its dark tone and harder, more cruel characterizations, but once the first mission concludes, it quickly backpedals to safer waters and unambiguously defines the protagonist as mislabeled misfits and the villains as cartoonish cutouts, and the whole thing quickly becomes an overly simple and childish revenge fantasy (with some very uncomfortable overtones, especially the implication that forcing one's beliefs on others is just and righteous because anyone who doesn't match your worldview exactly is unquestionably immoral and evil and it is your holy mission to destroy their lives).  Beyond that, though, the storyline is badly paced and full of contrivances, the main characters are bland and rarely ascend beyond their basic archetypes in any form, and the overall gameplay has the Ocarina of Time problem in that it feels very drab and padded out, with any "puzzles" the player encounters being explained out in such detail that they provide no problem-solving element at all.  Boss fights center on uninspired gimmicks and almost never prove to be any real challenge, the sub-quests feel like empty retreads of what came before in earlier Personas, Morgana's character goes from mildly charming to quickly making you wish for his slow, painful demise as he constantly patronizes you and dictates where you should go and how you should feel about literally everything that happens and he never fucking shuts up... in short, everything about Persona 5, save its visuals and music, feels very utilitarian and by-the-numbers, like they were just pushing out a "good enough" sequel to cash in on the name.  And given that Sega is calling the shots for Atlus now, well, it's probably true.  It really pains me to say so, but Shin Megami Tensei's best days are seemingly behind it.