I’ve been a gamer for the past 30 years, and I’m still awestruck at what a stellar year 2017 has been for video games. The best I’ve seen in two decades.
But 2017 was far from perfect, and greedy game publishers tried their best to fleece gamers with unscrupulous tactics. They stuffed major AAA games with micro-transactions and lootbox gambling systems — money-making schemes nefarious enough to attract attention from Congress.
Turns out state representatives aren’t fond of the idea of video game companies pushing gambling on children. Especially when it’s for real money.
I’m going to spend the next three weeks counting down the year’s 20 best video games, but before I do, it’s important to acknowledge some of the most disappointing titles of 2017. Keep in mind that these are far from the worst games of the year. My disappointment is mostly predicated on my expectations.
In other words, these games wrecked my hopes and burned my wallet.
“Mass Effect: Andromeda” released March 21.
It wasn’t the myriad of glitches and laughable facial animations that ruined “Andromeda” for me.
It was the cookie-cutter story, boring dialogue, simplified battles and convoluted menu system that crushed my spirit.
A lot of folks, including several of my acquaintances, think I’m being overly critical. Some of them are still playing “Andromeda” months after it’s release, and more power to them. I would never chide someone for enjoying a critically panned game.
As a huge fan of the original “Mass Effect” trilogy (the first one took home my Game of the Year honor in 2007), I wanted to love “Andromeda.” I played it for 10 hours, and nearly fell asleep during the mind-numbing intro.
If you don’t like a game by the 10-hour mark, you never will. “Andromeda” feels like a cheap, by-the-numbers corporate version of what a space opera role-playing-game should be, devoid of soul and personality. It’s far from horrible, but with so much stellar competition this year, playing a mediocre game is a waste of time.
The sluggish sales for this fourth installment in the “Mass Effect” series suggest I wasn’t the only one who felt cheated. “Andromeda” is teetering on the brink of the bargain bin these days, and can easily be purchased for $20.
Too bad Electronic Arts can’t refund the $60 I paid for it.
“WWE 2K18” release Oct. 17
I love pro wrestling. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, I love video games even more.
That’s why this expected disappointment hurts so much. I’ve been buying annual installments of the “WWE 2K” series for the past few years, but felt so burned by last year’s edition I took a wait-and-see approach this time.
As expected, the single player career mode is a horrible, grinding slog that uses loot boxes to improve your character. After reading a few reviews, I decided to stay away.
Until Black Friday, that is. The digital version of “WWE 2K18” was on sale for $35, and I couldn’t pass it up. Despite the fountain of problems with the series, I enjoy the actual the in-ring action, and can hold my own in competitive, online matches.
I figured it was money well spent. A game I could play competitively for the next year.
As soon as I discovered you have to use player-created characters to compete in online tournaments, the last dregs of my series loyalty evaporated. I buy these increasingly irrelevant wrestling games to play as my favorite wrestlers — not some poorly designed Incredible Hulk rip-off designed by a 10-year-old. You can’t even download mirror versions of famous wrestlers to use in the offline career mode.
It took me two weeks to download this 45 gigabyte game, and two seconds to delete it the day after I played it. In their pursuit for profit through loot boxes, 2K Games managed to ruin the only enjoyable aspect of a declining series.
“Star Fox 2” released for the SNES Classic console Sept. 29
This is the one disappointment I have no ill feelings toward. A featured bonus game on the SNES Classic, “Star Fox 2” is a fascinating, 20-year-old curiosity that doesn’t come close to matching the other games in the “Star Fox” series.
That’s probably why Nintendo didn’t release it 20 years ago. If anything, the game is a testament to Nintendo’s quality control. It’s a mess of vaguely fleshed-out ideas and awkward controls that likely would have been a big disappointment in the mid 1990s.
The other 20 games pre-loaded on the miniature throwback console are some of the best ever produced, casting a long shadow over this unfinished oddity.
“Star Wars: Battlefront II” released Nov. 17
I’ve used a lot of column space documenting how Electronic Arts twisted this game’s mulit-player progression system into a boring grind designed to make players buy loot boxes.
That’s not why I rented it, though. I wanted to play the single-player, story-based campaign that serves as canon in the “Star Wars” film universe.
But even that felt cheap and under-produced. The opening chapter puts the player in control of a small droid that can’t do anything except float around a dark space station. Make it past that, and you’re treated to shoddy cinema scenes featuring actors who sound as if they recorded their performances 10 feet away from the microphone.
“Star Wars: Battlefront II” is still mired in controversy, exposed for the cheap cash-in it is. Disney has a long term contract with Electronic Arts for future “Star Wars” games, but company execs may want to start looking for a way out of that.
“Star Wars” hasn’t had this much bad PR since the George Lucas prequel films and that hilariously awful holiday special that aired in 1978.
Will Smith is a reporter for The Hawk Eye, a GateHouse Media Company in Burlington, Iowa. His column is printed each week in the Sunday edition of The Hawk Eye.