Well here we are, the end of 2018! It’s been a crazy interesting year for games, for better and for worse. There were certainly a ton of amazing titles to grace our screens in 2018, but it’s probably best if we get the not-so-amazing out of the way first. It was a very busy year for me what with completing my degree and moving away from my hometown, so instead of a list of the worst games of 2018 I’m doing a list of the biggest dodged bullets of 2018. By dodged bullets I mean games that I was personally excited for or interested in, but ended up getting some mixed to negative critical reception on release. Obviously this is going to be based on the opinions of other people, but it’s a pretty sizeable amount of other people. They gotta be right, right?
5. Red Dead Redemption 2
Okay, hear me out. The previous Red Dead Redemption is one of my favourite games from last generation, and it’s still my favourite open world game next to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. So of course one could imagine my excitement when I heard of Rockstar’s (admittedly eventual) announcement of Red Dead Redemption 2, especially following the giant production that was Grand Theft Auto V. I made a point to avoid all media coverage about RDR2 until the game came out, so that I wouldn’t become exhausted from the game before I even had a chance to play it. However, it wound up not sounding as amazing as I expected it to be. The tales of everything from movement to combat being so arduous are difficult for me to hear, but I could stomach that as long as the story was good, and the multiplayer was just as fun as the first game. Cue my immeasurable disappointment upon hearing that Red Dead Online was just another Grand Theft Auto Online with somehow an even worse economy! I feel like I definitely dodged a bullet with this one as painful as that is to say about the sequel of one of my all-time favourite games.
I’ve been on a bit of a bender with collectible card games lately, having just recently taken the plunge back into Hearthstone and given Shadowverse a try. I’ve even been digging out my old Magic: The Gathering cards, so obviously I would be curious about Valve’s newest offering of an actual video game titled Artifact. A collectible card game based on DotA 2? Sure, why not. I don’t know a thing about DotA 2, but I love me some card games. I didn’t really follow any progress updates on the game or anything, but I told myself that I would look into it once the early gameplay streams went live. And I did. And I watched. And I got bored. I don’t know if Artifact is one of those games that’s much more fun to play than to watch, but what I saw didn’t impress me at all. I like the idea of a card game modelled after a DotA match with the 3 simultaneous playing fields functioning as the 3 different lanes in DotA proper, but in motion it just looks so slow and the matches seem like they take much longer than the competition, which in my opinion is a bit of a bad thing in an online focused CCG. The business model also irks me. The game costs $20, but that only gets you starter cards, you still have to buy booster packs for a couple bucks a pop, or buy singles from the Steam marketplace. Yeah, Hearthstone is more expensive to buy packs for, but at least that game’s free to play so there’s really no barrier to try the game. I feel like I dodged a bullet with Artifact.
3. Secret of Mana
When a classic gets a remake, you would expect the game to be improved (or at least changed) in a number of ways outside of just getting a new shiny paint job. I think the best example of this is 2011’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. It not only improved the visuals, but also improved on the menus, the controls, and it even included the more difficult Master Quest which was previously exclusive to an ultra-rare Gamecube disc bundled with preorders of The Wind Waker. Fast forward to 2018, and we see a remake of 1993’s Secret of Mana on the horizon. A game from the golden era of SNES RPGs, Secret of Mana is one that could really benefit from a remake. Tighten up the combat, remaster the soundtrack, add some quality of life improvements to the overall experience and you have a pretty simple recipe for success. Unfortunately, it looks like all that the Secret of Mana remake did was put on a new paint job and “remaster” the soundtrack. The soundtrack is a clear downgrade from the SNES soundtrack, which is honestly my favourite part of that game. It’s a damn shame how little effort appears to have gone into this remake. If I’m in the mood to play Secret of Mana, I’ll just boot up the superior SNES version, thanks.
2. Darksiders 3
I was genuinely sad when THQ was threatening going bankrupt. I adored both Darksiders games, despite the stark differences between the two. The miraculous revival of THQ Nordic and their acquisition of series developer Vigil Games in 2013 also revived my hopes of a continuation of the action/adventure series featuring the literal Four Horsemen of the apocalypse. After a long wait, Darksiders 3 would be announced for a November 2018 release. This third instalment would feature Fury and her quest to destroy the Seven Deadly Sins. Sadly, it sounds like the standard of quality for Darksiders 3 has dropped off since the messy business with THQ. Reports of numerous bugs, poor performance, and weird design choices were the last things I wanted to hear about this game. Despite having dodged this bullet, I may very well jump right back in front of it. I love Darksiders that much, and it’s so unfortunate what happened with Darksiders 3.
1. Fallout 76
Oh god. Did anyone think that this game wouldn’t make this list? What a mess this game was, and still is. I’ve been a fan of current era Bethesda RPGs for a while, and Fallout 3 was my introduction to the post apocalyptic role-playing game series. I was damn near addicted to the game, and I’ve bought every Fallout and Elder Scrolls game since. Except for Fallout 76. Revealed pretty recently at this year’s E3, Fallout 76 was styling itself to be an online multiplayer Fallout experience. Given how good The Elder Scrolls Online turned out to be (after a shaky launch) this seems like it could have been an easy win for Todd Howard and his team. That is until they decided to use their crummy Creation Engine that they’ve used for most of their RPGs. I have so many questions about this game. Why would you think it’s a good idea to use an easily hackable game engine in a multiplayer game? Why would you make a massive world and only allow 32 players per instance? Why would you make said massive world so empty? Why even make this game? It’s pretty clear that this is just a cash grab on the Fallout name while Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6 is in the works, especially when you look at the bad micro-transactions. I feel like I not only dodged a bullet, but a whole bloody firing squad with this game. I’m obscenely disappointed in Fallout 76, and you should be too.