Looking back on this year in PC gaming, I have to say…it’s been grim. Potential success stories have been marred by a single-minded struggle from larger companies to cash in. In fact, some of the behavior we’ve seen as gamers from companies has been absolutely atrocious. Games that otherwise would have been legendary fell flat on their faces, and the games of the year came out of the blue to impress everyone. It’s been a bizarre, dark-horse year for gaming as a whole. However, two particular examples rose particularly prominently:
Syndicate: A Noble Failure
The year started off lousy with Syndicate showing all manner of potential…and falling flat on its face almost right out of the gate. The graphics were stylish and bright, the gameplay was fun, and for the first little while it had a great storyline. Great storyline, you say with incredulity, what the hell are you talking about? Well, it’s all about the subtexts, the idea that Jack Denham (voiced by Brian Cox) is the father to both agents, how the main character’s mentor is a clinical psychopath who has essentially become his jealous older brother. Well, huge chunks of that get slashed out as the game progresses past the first actual mission, and the story makes continually less sense until it sort of implodes. However, the gameplay is fun, fast paced and interesting- or it would be if it wasn’t so short. The multiplayer aspect is a ton of fun as well, or would be if it had more than nine whole levels and more people playing. You can tell that Richard Morgan and the team at Starbreeze put a lot of love into the game, and then some suit went in there with an axe and started taking chunks out. If they had added more content, even a multiplayer map pack every now and again, it would have probably been my favorite shooter of the year in spite of all of its glaring faults. It was just fresh, new, and not another grey-brown military shooter.
The Mass Effect Controversy (No, Not That One)
It’s no secret that I’m disappointed with Bioware. The epic finale promised to fans for years was great, minus a few glaring problems. Well, enormous, world breaking ones. First, the entire Catalyst story arc made not a lick of sense- a surprise doomsday weapon? That could be forgiven. The ending is a matter of taste, I think. I hate it, and think it’s a narrative nightmare and a total disservice to all of the fans, both in the extended cut, and ESPECIALLY in the original. If you disagree, that’s fine. However, Bioware cut a lot of corners in game, and that can’t really be argued. Beyond that, their PR in the face of outcry against the lazy, slapped together ending was atrocious. They deflected and cowered behind ‘artistic integrity’- which, to my recollection, includes producing the best piece of art you can, and when people point out obvious flaws, correcting them if possible. For instance, the lazy photochopped Tali image. The simplest thing to do would be to make a contest to see who could draw Tali the best, and have fans vote on that much like they did with the image of FemShep. Bam, a few people get hoodies and posters, crisis averted. Then there was the issue of asking the Catalyst ‘Who created you?‘ and getting the answer of ‘There’s no time for that now.’ , only to have the Leviathan DLC thrown at us six months later, which strives to explain the origin of the Reapers…for a fee. The origin is as nonsensical as everything else associated with the Catalyst, cost players money, and really didn’t contribute to the story at all. Then there was the Javik DLC…about the only good thing one can say about Bioware’s actions over the past year is that at least the multiplayer DLC continues to flow. Small miracles, I suppose. What it boils down to is you can be okay with the ending, that’s fine. You shouldn’t be okay with Bioware’s behavior over the last year, doing things like ‘selling you all the backstory to a game you already own’, ‘cowering behind artistic integrity when badly photoshopped royalty-free images are used in the game, including the entire final sequence of the original cut’, and ‘including advertising as a part of the ending of your game series’.
Delays, Delays, Delays and Disappointments
Bioshock:Infinite ? Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm? Some of the most sought-after titles in the industry were simply nowhere to be found. Admittedly, that’s a good sign. Namely, the developers are doing things right. But dammit, I still wanted my games. Especially due to the tidal wave of grey-brown military shooters like the thoroughly underwhelming MOH: Warfighter, generally mediocre games and corporate nonsense, I just wanted a game I could play and enjoy with no hassles. How in the name of the Machine Mother did Steel Battalion actually ever ship? From the abject horror of seeing Dead Space 3‘s metamorphosis into Lost Planet With Necromorphs to the awful balancing in Diablo III, 2012 was a tidal wave of disappointments.
So here’s to a better 2013…though I hardly think that’s setting the bar that high.