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10/13/2018

Most Disappointing Games of 2018

Octopath Traveler (Square Enix/Acquire, Switch)


How long has it been since the last time Square released another forgettable "homage" game to appease nostalgia-worshipping fanboys who waste their entire lives away waging internet wars from a time capsule of the 1990s in their parents' basements?  ...Two-three years?  Good enough; crank out another one.

I'd like to say they were at least competent in making something to pander to the worst people in the world, as I wouldn't even be putting it on the list if it were just bland and boring.  But sadly, I can't do that in Octopath's case.  They didn't even attempt to replicate the visual style that fanboy wet dreams are built on, instead throwing 2D sprites, 3D voxels mimicking 16-bit spritework, fake distance blurring and harsh directional lighting into a gigantic clashing mess that just looks gaudy and horrible.  The narrative is equally cringe-worthy, being packed to the brim with terribly-acted, purple-prose-laden dialog that makes the whole experience about as enjoyable to sit through as a killer bee enema.  Even putting those basic failings aside, though, there's simply nothing worth seeing here for any discerning genre fan - it's the same empty bash-A-to-win gameplay, cookie-cutter story tropes and flat characters Square has been repackaging over and over again for decades when, let's be honest, nearly every example of the template it builds itself on isn't even worth revisiting in the first place.  Leave this dreck where you find it and support something that isn't content to pander to some mouthy loser's confabulated memories of a golden gaming utopia that never existed.

* You may think this entire rant hypocritical coming from someone whose top 100 games list includes numerous titles from the 1990s, quite a few of which are RPGs.  Well, you'll just have to figure that one out on your own, Mr. Knee-jerk Sophism-spewing Narcissist.

Little Witch Academia: Chamber of Time (A+ Games, Playstation 4/PC)

An action-RPG lootfest based on the anime series, Chamber of Time features gameplay reminiscent of Dragon's Crown, only nowhere near as good.  The dungeons have very little to them (only about 3 screens in length outside of the story dungeons) and the overall variety of enemies, spells and characters is severely lacking, resulting in a game that gets tiresome quickly.  Moreso when the game forces you to adhere to a schedule for timed events, which means either a lot of waiting around or burning through dozens of Movement potions to teleport back to your room so you can sleep and wait for the next thing to happen.  There is some charm in its visual style and animated cutscenes (many of which were created just for the game) if you're a fan of the show, but overall, it's just a forgettable, mediocre beat-em-up lootfest with a pretty paint job.  One Bandai Namco had the gall to sell for nearly full price, even!

Iconoclasts (Konjak, PC/Mac/Linux/PS4/Vita/Switch)

It seems that with the advent of the indie scene, Metroidvanias have more common than any other genre made these days.  More than that, though, they're just starting to become overdone; they have to be immaculately well-made to hold my attention anymore, and Iconoclasts sadly stumbles on that front.  The puzzles and combat are all one-note and get tiresome after only a short while, and the environments really aren't interesting or fun to explore, making the constant backtracking a chore.  The story didn't thrill me either, mostly just feeling like another trite dissertation on religion and faith from someone whose only exposure to such is watching Fight Club twice a day and building an entire worldview, lifestyle and set of mantras around the words of its amazing hero Tyler Durden to wage war against the evil religious hate engine without a single shred of irony.  I was tired of that self-aggrandizing whinefest long before I graduated high school, and by extension, I got completely bored of Iconoclasts only a few hours in.

God of War 2018 (SIE Santa Monica Studio, Playstation 4)

I actually didn't want to include God of War on this list.  In fact, for the first time, I really enjoyed the narrative of a God of War game and the fact that it told a legitimately good tale of a father and son bonding over the course of a tragic and personal journey - a stark contrast to the old games' stories, which were little more than a series of excuses to put things in your path to kill, curse words to yell and boobs to grope.  Just a shame, then, that the gameplay wears thin well before the end.  Constant, repetitious encounters with the same half-dozen enemies just get grating after the dozenth time you see them, and 90% of the puzzles and subquests you encounter are more of the same - content for the sake of content with virtually no variation, satisfaction or tangible payoff for completing them.  If God of War were fifteen hours shorter and dropped about 90% of its lame subquests it would be gold, but as it stands, it's just a chore to slog through, much less get full completion in.  Just more proof that knowing to stop when you're out of ideas is a concept stunningly few AAA developers can grasp.