Sometimes you get yourself a game, you put the disc in, and (after waiting several decades for it to install and download the day one update patch) you play. You find yourself immersed and enjoying the game, drawn in far enough to invest in the game to completion. But at some point, something changes for you, and whether you have finished the game or not, you find yourself looking back at your experience with criticism and disappointment.
The WWE 2K franchise has had its ups and downs, lefts and rights, and even some backs and forths. But I’m not here to talk about the most disappointing game in the series so far, WWE 2K20; no, I’m talking about the game from the year before it, WWE 2K19.
There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the game, and I still got all of the same enjoyment out of its countless stellar modes. I played for hours creating wrestlers to populate my custom show in the WWE Universe mode, which had all custom titles and rivalries that I was in control of starting and ending.
I began the career as a wrestler from the indy circuit before moving through NXT and onto the main WWE rosters of RAW & SmackDown. I relished every second of the story that was filled with passion and love. It seemed like they had perfected the controls, added a plethora of move types and special OMG moments to your wrestler’s move-set, and pumped the graphics to an all-time high.
What Was Wrong?
Unfortunately, 2K games have this habit of including microtransaction loot boxes into their other sport sim titles. These loot boxes are how you can get characters and custom characters to peak performance, and it seemed like WWE 2K was going to get the same treatment, but with a slight twist.
Instead of real-world money, you had to use in-game currency to purchase the loot boxes but to get this currency, you had to play a lot. Then when you did finally open a box, you’d get a single bit of gear, single move, taunt, or hairstyle.
This made it completely impossible to get your character to anywhere near a decent stat level or out of essential, generic gear by the end of the career mode. Therefore, you are left severely under-levelled and lacking the crucial stamina, endurance, and attributes on your character that will lead you to victory. It’s not impossible to win in the final fight, but given that your character is touted as the best wrestler in WWE, your stats don’t reflect it.
This marred my experience with the game so much that I uninstalled the game and traded it in once I finished the career mode. I was lucky I didn’t pick up 2K20 due to its buggy nature because it might have sworn me off any future installments of the franchise as a whole.
Dragon Age II
After the phenomenal first game, Dragon Age: Origins, I was ready for Dragon Age 2 to blow me away, and it did. Just not in the way I’d hoped. Dragon Age 2 had an overhauled combat system that flowed a lot better than its predecessor, the graphics were superior, and you got to fight a god damn dragon. Following the protagonist, Hawke, the game starts well as he leads his family safely away from invaders. At this point, I was ready to see what this badass character got up to and what intrigues he’d uncover in Kirkwall!
The Templar and Mage tension was relatively high in the previous game, ramping up as the story goes by, but it seems token and part of a side story. From here, the story meanders all over the place and splits into three acts. Each act with its villain and no overarching plot until out of nowhere, they decide the Templar/Mage rivalry is the most crucial part of the game, and this is what will be the climax of the story.
Despite having three endings to 3 separate stories, it doesn’t feel finished. It feels like the prologue or teaser to a future game instead of a true sequel. After all of the care and attention that had gone into the world in the first game, this effort was replaced with lazy reuse of assets, copy/pasted dungeons and environments, and only a few types of character models. It seems like they had then just stopped having a clear cut idea of what the rest of the game should be about.
This entry should come as no surprise to anyone when it comes to games with disappointing endings. Fallout 4 took the bold first step of having your character be someone from before the bombs dropped who escaped into a vault. They are the parent of a son (Shaun) who is kidnapped and ripped from the arms of your murdered partner while you are cryogenically frozen.
However, due to a glitch in the system, you are partially thawed just enough to regain consciousness and witness the brutal murder/kidnap before you are refrozen by the man (Kellog) that committed this crime. When you awake, the world is the desolate, nuclear-blasted wasteland that is the setting of every Fallout game before it, and you set out to track down your son and rescue him from the kidnapper. (You know he’s evil, he named after a breakfast cereal brand!)
This task gets pushed to the side rather quickly as the world opens up and you discover all of the different factions that are warring over the commonwealth (The post-war name for the Boston area). You find out everyone is afraid of a nefarious Illuminati style group called “The Institute”, who want to replace real people with Synth’s (an android that is entirely impossible to discern from a human) that has their personalities.
A Tedious Story
You get wrapped up in that mess pretty quickly, and finding Shaun becomes a subplot as you run around meeting exciting characters and battling mutated creatures across the wasteland. It manages to make itself relevant again later when it is revealed that you hadn’t immediately thawed from your stasis after Shaun’s kidnap and had spent a further 50 years on ice. The child you had been tracking down was a synth version of Shaun, who is now the institute leader! (M. Night Shyamalan would be proud of that one)
Now you have a choice as to whether or not you join the institute and your son or join one of the three factions that want to bring it down, only by this point I realized that I didn’t care about that plot at all. Now that I knew that Shaun was alive, the stakes were just gone for me, and I could instead focus on doing the fun, quirky side missions, explore the wasteland, and even take part in the DLC stories that were far more compelling.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
After a slew of duds that made the Star Wars franchise diminish the worth of whatever game it was a part of, along came Jedi Fallen Order and revitalized my hope for future Star Wars games. After Star Wars Battlefront 2 was marred by the loot box controversy and had a reasonably anemic story campaign, Jedi Fallen Order featured a Darks Souls-esque combat, deep story, and multiple worlds.
You search the universe for a Holocron, which contained all the names of known force-sensitive children that could rebuild the Jedi order after the empire had enacted the Jedi purge (order 66). You play as Cal Kestis, a survivor of the purge whose connection to the force is damaged. After repairing this connection, you build up your force powers with a very RPG style skill tree that you access through meditation at save points. This is an extremely well-executed way to include a skill tree without it just being in a menu somewhere.
At every turn, you are hounded by the Inquisitors. It takes skill, timing, and precision to beat these bosses, and even the regular enemies are challenging enough that you can never really relax enough to feel safe. The combat is perfect, the story gets an A, and the characters and interactions are fantastic.
So, What was Disappointing?
Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order has no replayability. After you escape with the Holocron, you destroy it to prevent the empire from ever finding the children and either killing them or corrupting them to the dark side. Then, the game finishes. It drops you back into the world at the point just before you venture to the Inquisitors’ stronghold and declares that the level is not replayable. So you are kind of just left to your own devices, with the option of exploring the worlds now that you have all of the force abilities. But why would I want to do that? The story is over. The secrets to find are only cosmetics, and obtaining them is only for the sake of a platinum trophy (100% completion statistic).
They have recently patched in a free DLC that includes a New Game+ mode, allowing you to restart the story with all of the force powers, cosmetics, and upgrades that you acquired in your first playthrough. But the story doesn’t change, so this doesn’t appeal to me at all. It also has a challenge mode to pit your characters against waves of enemies for cosmetic rewards. You choose an arena, choose some enemies, and fight them.
There is no story DLC planned for this game, which means the open ending will only get resolved in a sequel. A vibrant story with great characters and cracking combat was let down by the lack of post-game support, which damaged its replayability.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Assassin’s Creed had had a rough time for many years. It stagnated after Black Flag and despite changing the parkour system to make the movement free-flowing, they managed to tell stories that went literally nowhere in its subsequent releases up until Assassin’s Creed Origins. At that point, they changed the way it played drastically and turned it into a more action-adventure RPG style of game which really reinvigorated it and began to tell us how the Brotherhood of Assassins was formed.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is set in Ancient Greece. You play Alexios or Kassandra (otherwise known as “The Eagle Bearer” or “Misthios”), a mercenary for hire that gets themselves embroiled in a conspiracy that takes them all across the Greek World.
The story is split into odysseys that have their quest lines and forward different agendas of your character. For example, one of the odysseys have you trying to reunite your broken family and bring your sibling back from the dark side. Alexios and Kassandra are brother and sister and whichever one you don’t choose to play becomes your main rival and member of the evil cult trying to take over the world. But instead of the story being clear cut and linear like the previous games, this game introduces dialogue options that can change the story’s direction. So, your Odyssey could end in tragedy as you sit alone in your home in Sparta after failing to bring your family back together or actively killing them yourself.
Another odyssey has you trying to seal off the lost city of Atlantis, which has a connection to the Isu. The big twist in this tale is that the protagonist happens to be part of Isu themselves. You are the child of Pythagoras who banged your mum to create an heir to his Isu artifact that would fulfill the destiny of protecting the Isu from discovery. This questline has you battling creatures from Greek mythology to obtain Isu artifacts that you need to seal off the knowledge contained in Atlantis.
To be continued…
There is a lot of content in the game, all of it compelling and fun to play. But this is also where it completely fell down. Instead of the Isu being the most important questline, the game seems to consider reuniting your family as the main plot of the game and not the elimination of a deadly cult or the protection of precursor artifacts from the bad guys.
So once you confront your sibling atop a mountain, the game gives you a final cutscene where your family has a meal around the table of your home in Sparta with all of the members of the family present (depending on your choices/actions in the game) and dumps you back into the world for postgame messing around. The Greek world’s protection is considered a secondary objective.
Then, joke upon joke, it turns out the modern-day section of the story isn’t done yet until you purchase the Fate of Atlantis DLC. This takes you through three stages of your simulation, including the Fields of Elysium, The Underworld of Hades, and finally, the great City of Atlantis, in which you decide the fate of the city itself after dealing with its many political problems. Once finished, you return to the modern-day where you beat up a Templar that has been tracking you for the whole game in a ridiculously easy fistfight, and then the story climactically says; to be continued…
Legacy of the First Blade
So now we’ve gone through an entire game and DLC expansion that spans over 100 hours, and the story still hasn’t finished. Another DLC has its own self-contained story that sees your protagonist fight against the beginning of The Order of Ancients from Assassin’s Creed Origins, and in it, you learn about where the first-ever Hidden Blade came from.
If you play as Kassandra, the son of the first-ever Assassin becomes your husband. Your life as a merc is slowed, and you seem happy, even having a child. That is until the Order of Ancients decide to take them from you because they believe your bloodline to be tainted, and you hunt them down to save your son. It’s emotionally charged, the characters are compelling, and you finally receive some sort of conclusion.
At the end of that story, it tells you that the eagle bearers child goes to safety in Egypt. Their bloodline then continues forward in a sort of montage until it reveals that Aya (the wife of Bayek in Assassin’s Creed Origins) and one of the Assassin’s Brotherhood founders is a descendant of them. And because of a revelation in the Atlantis DLC, you know that Layla is related to them too, but just like in the main game, the ending has happened, and the game kept going with no conclusion.
I have 140 hours invested in that game and was left frustrated because of the lack of payoff, the unnecessary sequel hook, cliffhanger endings, and a complete lack of climactic boss battles. It left me utterly irritated because of how fun the game was to play and how immersive the world was.