“This doesn’t make any sense.”
“Not everything does. Not Everything has to.”
- Dr. Strange & The Ancient One (Doctor Strange)
Not every game has to be “perfect” and in almost every case if you look deep enough you can most likely find something that doesn’t work. This doesn’t mean that the game isn’t worth playing, and even still there are games that excel despite a great many negatives. I played a few notable titles this year that fell into this category, some with more glaring issues than others.
I was excited about this game since it was revealed last year at E3, mostly just based on the trailer and the fact that the creator of Mega Man was involved. But after the debacle of the company’s other game Mighty No. 9, my expectations were tempered a bit. One of the main reasons I picked up the game was actually a technological curiosity, as it was the first title released to support the new “Play anywhere” initiative from Xbox. This means that buying the game granted you both a console version (Xbox One) as well as a PC version of the game. I first booted up the console version just to see how it played/looked, and was nearly put off altogether by an absurdly long load time. After getting to the first save point, I then installed/launched the PC version and never looked back. With the added horsepower of my gaming PC, the game not only looked amazing, but my save carried over flawlessly so I didn’t have to start over again.
The gameplay is a standard Metroidvania set in a 3D world, and the combat actually had some fun elements (the color switching/matching of your ammo, swapping robots mid combat) all created a combat flow that focused more on looking cool and avoiding danger more than anything else. The frustrating thing about the game was that RIGHT when the story felt like it was starting to go somewhere it ends abruptly and forces you to start scouring the maps for cores to unlock what amounts to a challenge tower. The fact that the game’s ending is locked behind this is infuriating to me, as it feels like extensive padding that isn’t necessary in today’s gaming landscape. I would have much preferred a concise, exciting 12 hours as opposed to what appears to be the 20 hour slog that this game appears to be. Also, the fact that it seems like parts of the game were “edited for time” makes me fearful that a real ending to the game is going to be locked behind some kind of DLC.
I’ve written a lot already about this game, and I did eventually end up finishing it. All of the thoughts I put into that piece still stand. It’s an amazing tale of revenge set in a unique time/place that I totally wish was about 40% shorter than it ended up being. The main narrative was so fantastic that I had to see the conclusion to Lincoln Clay’s story, but the repetitive nature of the side content became extremely clear as I got close to the end. I eventually ended up powering my way through most of the side content while I had something playing on my second monitor, and even that felt kind of a waste of time. The rewards for completing the content didn’t seem to be worth it, but as a whole I can’t do anything but praise this as one of the best games I played this year on the story/presentation alone.
Just like with Inside, I’ve never actually been a fan of the developer’s (Remedy) previous titles, even bordering on hatred. I thought that Max Payne was cool but never had a PC powerful enough to run the game at the time, and Alan Wake frustrated me with it’s dumb flashlight mechanic and secrets being everywhere that required you to run in random directions to discover them. Their ambition with Quantum Break (mostly the integration of a live-action show) as well as being the first “cross buy” title had me picking it up at launch. After some initial frustrations with enemies being more like bullet sponges than I normally like, I began to get a handle on the time manipulation powers in combination with my shooting skills and began to enjoy their encounter design greatly. It also seemed like they spared little expense with the cast of the game, as all the main characters were people I recognized from Movies/TV (including not one but TWO alums from The Wire) and their likenesses were well represented in the game itself.
The game also was broken up into easily playable chapters, running a few hours each, and capped off by an “episode” of the live action show as well as a brief gameplay section where you “play” as the villain and make a choice. The later episodes where I began combining all of my time powers with the shooting created some of the more satisfying gameplay experiences I had this year. Unfortunately this all came to a crashing halt with what can only be described as the worst boss battle I’ve encountered since Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. After spending countless hours honing your time control skills and shooting, the final boss battle felt so disconnected from the rest of the game, introducing unexpected hazards to avoid and generally being terrible altogether. It was a real sour end to what up to that point had been a cool sci-fi adventure. Overall though, I’d still say it was a unique experience that it worth playing, even with a final boss battle that nearly made me quit in anger.