These games could’ve been wonderful, but weren’t. And that makes us sad.
1. Star Wars: The Old Republic
Issue: It could’ve de-throned WoW.
What They Did: This BioWare/EA MMORPG failed to distinguish itself from the WoW imitators chasing after Blizzard’s breadcrumbs.
What They Should’ve Done: What happened? Well, first there was the plethora of bugs (Wall Street Daily said there was “a new bug every week”). Then there’s resource mismanagement. For example, SWTOR boasts the biggest voice-acting cast in game history. These games have never been about story or voice acting. Tightening the gap between gameplay and story is going to be the next big breakthrough — but it’s not going to involve any approaches that currently exist.
2. GoldenEye: Rogue Agents and GoldenEye: Reloaded
Issue: It should’ve just been one GoldenEye game.
What They Did: Released two shooters that no one remembers anything about but probably involved James Bond.
What They Should’ve Done: Let me remind you what GoldenEye N64 was. Innovative? You could openly hate on a midget for all his unfair advantages. Popular? This game is responsible for more sedentary childhood summers than polio. Influential? It invented the zoomable sniper rifle. True, we’re not all loaded, but the percentage of us that can afford $60 of expendable cash is a very big number. Come to think of it, this isn’t even a missed opportunity. You can stll do this, game developers. Why won’t you do this?!
3. Diablo 3
Issue: Make us care about Leah, and if you can’t do that, make us care.
What They Did: Diablo 3 kept up Blizzard’s tradition of failing to match fantastic gameplay with brilliant story-writing. While the people writing D3’s story brought a satisfying conclusion to the mythology’s three-game-arc, the only way that story ever interacts with the actual gameplay is to attack that stupid treasure goblin before you’re ready.
What They Should’ve Done: Look at Blizzard’s Starcraft 2. It was the first time that a Blizzard game’s story actually made the gameplay more fun by allowing you to use bonus units and unique environments. Why couldn’t Diablo 3 have done that?
4. Metroid: Other M
Issue: Make Samus’ backstory anything else.
What They Did: Given the formidable task of writing the backstory to the badass female video game character (sorry, Lara, but you don’t have powered armor), the developers of Metroid: Other M instead hammered out the most insipid, cliched and misogynist nonsense this side of the He-Man Woman Hater’s Club.
What They Should’ve Done: How about motivation other than “I want to do what this man tells me so he likes me.” They should’ve ramped up the difficulty in a way that wasn’t, “I’m going to stop using my bombs and rockets so I can impress this man so he likes me.” And they should’ve made her cry less.
5. Red Dead Redemption
Issue: Make survival hard.
What They Did: The RDR team did a legendary job of re-creating the intangible atmosphere of the Wild West. It’s video game artistry at its peak.
What They Should’ve Done: There’s no getting around the sense that your character, John Marston, is basically God. Though every character he interacts with is struggling against or succumbing to the harsh environment they live in, Marston somehow passes through all of it like a superhuman. At one point, you literally watch another man die of dehydration, while your only worries are the wolves and bobcats which, ironically, wouldn’t have been much of a problem in real life. A few weaknesses would go a long way.