Ten Most Disappointing Video Games

I admit, I’m a complete fangirl when it comes to a lot of video games. While I am slowly learning my lesson when it comes to spending my money on a video game based solely on the title, I’m still very guilty of doing so. Thus leading to imminent disappointment when the game I’ve purchased and played did not live up to my expectations. The following list of games are titles that are almost all entries in series I’d already grown to love; a couple of them are games that I never clicked with, or were, in my opinion, over-hyped. I was tempted to title this entry “Ten Worst Video Games” but, while a few of these games are bad, I think in most cases they are just lackluster or totally miss the mark in association with the title attached to them. You be the judge!

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Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories

I purchased this title when I still had a backwards compatible DS. And before it became an insurmountable task to collect and play every Kingdom Hearts title out there. This is when the plot started to get convoluted and weird. Something I’ve come to expect from Square RPGs nowadays. It is something I can excuse when the battle system is engaging and fun, but they managed to completely screw it up in this game. Instead of utilizing the fast-paced and rewarding battle system already established in Kingdom Hearts, the developers had to try and fix something that wasn’t broken.  Battles are carried out through a stupid card deck system. No, I did not purchase a Kingdom Hearts game to play Magic: The Gathering, thanks. I wanted to kill things with my Keyblade. Not make card decks and combos and count numbers other than HP and MP. It wasn’t what I was expecting and I lost interest pretty quickly. I think I made it to Agrabah and quit for good. Evidently, this game was met with commercial and critical success. They even made a remake for it on the PS2.  I don’t believe I even know any Kingdom Hearts fans who really enjoyed this game, and I don’t feel like there’s a big hole in my life for not completing it.

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The Third Birthday (Parasite Eve III)

Parasite Eve is another series that Squaresoft hooked me on with the first entry, only to laugh in my face as I gave them more of my money for the second and third releases. Having Parasite Eve as one of my favorite games of all time doesn’t make a good case for any of its predecessors. But at least with Parasite Eve II I understood the direction they were going with it. Sort of. Parasite Eve was, at the time of its release, Squaresoft’s red-headed stepchild. It broke away from their RPG mold, adapting a sort of turn-based, sort of real-time, and sort of sci-fi/horror potluck with a female main character (!!) that ended up being an awesome and unique experience. For Parasite Eve II, they went the more survival horror game route, shamelessly copying Resident Evil’s outdated mechanics.

For The Third Birthday, they went off the deep end. Seems to me video game companies are trying to turn EVERY franchise into an action-shooter nowadays. Squaresoft/Square Enix suck at these, as per another one of their bastard child games further down this list. I honestly don’t know what they were thinking with Third Birthday.  I’m pretty sure the only thing I liked about this game was the music: the remixed tunes from Parasite Eve are pretty sweet. Everything else is frustrating and asinine. Maeda was modeled after a serial pedophile. There is next to no story exposition: every chapter the player is expected to read through data files to figure out what the hell is happening because the writers at Square Enix keep insisting that time travel is a viable storytelling mechanic. It’s not. Especially the way you guys keep doing it. So stop already!

The battle system devolved from an action-RPG game, to a survival horror wannabe, and finally to a poorly executed over the shoulder shooter/action game.

I had to play through this piece of crap twice to get the good ending, which was their way of wussing out on a different plot mechanic and opening the doors for yet another game. I’m hoping this title didn’t sell enough copies for them to bother with more entries. Honestly, I don’t think I can take the disappointment anymore. I wish this game had remained a Japanese portable exclusive as originally planned so I wouldn’t have exposed myself to this crap and added it to my Parasite Eve library.

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Valkyrie Profile

I’ve tried playing through this game at least three times by now. Everyone hyped about how awesome it was online, and due to its super rarity, it cost me more than I should’ve ever paid for a Playstation game. This is an example of a game that didn’t “click” with me for some reason. I couldn’t get attached to any of the characters or the story. My impressions of the battle system were mixed; I don’t think I found it particularly bad, but it was weird and I wasn’t crazy about it. And every time I restarted it I found out after the fact that I did something wrong and couldn’t get the good ending, killing my drive to finish my current play through. Then I would put the game down in favor of playing something else, and not find the time to go back to it.

As it has been years since my last stab at completing this game, I don’t have much else to say about it. At some point in my life I do plan on brushing the dust off yet again and sticking through until the end.  For the amount of money this game was going for on EBay at the time, and the collective reviews from companies and gamers on this title, I was expecting a more absorbing RPG experience. Not something that loses my interest 10 gameplay hours in every single time.

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Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII

I’m sure you were expecting this game to pop up on my list after my Third Birthday hint. This is Square Enix”s first botched attempt at turning one of their RPG series into an action-shooter. Due to the mixed critical reactions from this game, you would’ve thought they’d leave it at this and not put us through the same painful experience (obviously they didn’t learn from previous mistakes). But anyway, this game is part of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. Meaning: we needed a new cash cow and the suggestive finale of Final Fantasy VII wasn’t good enough so we’re gonna come up with a bunch of stupid spin-offs and sequels to spoon feed our audience with even though their fanfictions have better material than this crap!

I liked Vincent. I thought playing a game as him and exploring his rich background in the Turks with Professor Hojo and Lucrecia wouldn’t be a bad experience. Instead of being smart and making a prequel, flashbacks were incorporated and Dirge of Cerberus was really about fighting some new stupid group of antagonists who want to destroy the planet. Throw in your anticipated Final Fantasy VII cameo appearances, and that’s all there is to it. A very disappointing game that hardly deserves to have the words Final Fantasy VII in its title.

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Breath of Fire II

I already raged about how this is the worst J-RPG ever in a previous blog post. Rather than reliving that traumatizing experience, I will say it was not only disappointing (I played it after Breath of Fire III, which was a great game), it was downright terrible. I’m pretty open-minded about a lot of things, but I can’t rationalize how anyone can enjoy playing this game. I read comments from other gamers about how much they love this game. When I think about the great RPGs on the SNES, again, I can’t comprehend how anyone could sit down to play this game because they want to. It’s a culmination of everything to NOT do when creating a video game. Play Breath of Fire III and be happy with that.

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Silent Hill: Book of Memories

I’ll admit, I really should have seen this one coming. In my defense, I needed something to play on my Vita, and I figured a Silent Hill themed dungeon crawler/hack-n-slash had the potential for passive portable entertainment. You know, a RNG hack-n-slash with Silent Hill monsters, music, and weapons? Can’t be all  bad, right?

For starters, they didn’t just throw in some SH skins and music and called it a day. The creators threw in all sorts of other survival horror elements which just don’t work. Like item durability, as seen in SH:Downpour. I strongly dislike item durability in most games. In Silent Hill’s case, I  can’t wrap my head around the fact that a plank of wood supposedly has about the same durability as a freakin’ fire axe or katana! To make matters worse, someone figured it’d be a great idea to make monsters have specific weapon weaknesses on top of weapon durability, limited inventory, and random drops. One particular enemy that made my life difficult was the Needler. The Needlers even blocked my GUN bullets! Upon further investigation, I found out it was apparently weak to the katana, a weapon I didn’t even know existed in the game at that point of time even though I’d fought over 2 dozen of the stupid things. And, unlike every other RNG dungeon crawler game I’ve played, there’s no hub or stash to safely tuck away a good weapon you might want to save for later. Tell me how that makes any sense in a game where monsters will only take a decent amount of damage from one particular weapon?

Oh, the frustration. It became apparent to me that if I didn’t want to find anyone else dumb enough to pay money for this game and play multiplayer, I had no business turning the game on. Pile that on top of no checkpoints, one save point per level, and repetitive puzzles, and you have a game that could’ve been a creepy-cool hack-n-slash if they’d followed a formula I feel has become lost in gaming: K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid!).

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Spice World

You can laugh at me all you want, but the truth of the matter is teenage me absolutely loved the biggest musical act to come out of England since the Beatles. Imagine my excitement when two of my favorite things were combined into one experience! In fact, I remember my mother blatantly telling me they decided to go with a Playstation for my Christmas present so I could get this game and the Xena: Warrior Princess game (Xena was, and is still, my favorite television show EVER).

Anyway, I eagerly popped the game in my Playstation and got going. I don’t remember exactly what I was expecting, but I know I wasn’t expecting to have already experienced everything the game had to offer in less than two hours. All you do is pick which Spice Girl you want to be, pick which song you want to mix, and do stupid dance moves. Instead of including almost their entire library of songs, there were only FIVE songs to mix, and only 9 selections from each song to use, if my memory serves me correctly. Then you go through the same dance move rotation with a 1970’s disco king every time, and assign moves to each girl for the performance. The grand finale is watching your “show” and pressing buttons to select the camera view.

Whoop-dee-freakin’-doo! There’s some footage from some boring “exclusive” interview along with other video footage that was overplayed on every news network at the time (like Geri Halliwell pinching Prince Charles’ bum) but that’s it. There was no game. There was almost nothing to do. I’m going to go ahead and say this is the most shallow video game I’ve ever played.

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The Last Remnant

The Last Remnant is a prime example of Square Enix releasing fugly game content wrapped in a pretty package.  I purchased this game for my 360. In hindsight, I should’ve stuck with Lost Odyssey and been satisfied with having one awesome turn-based RPG for that console. Aside from the music, promising storyline (from what I saw, anyway, and I’m bummed because I did actually want to know what happened), and flashy graphics, this game was a mess.

Too much of the battle system was random. Instead of controlling each individual party member, you divide your party into “unions” and give them general commands and the AI takes it from there. Bad idea. The computer gets to decide what your units do. Thereby deciding what abilities they learn, because the abilities characters learn is decided by what actions they perform. Which means I didn’t have the healing abilities I needed when the time came because my characters hadn’t used them enough because they never seemed to be available in the totally randomized action command list!

Add this to sitting through terrible loading screens during battles just to see a message that a unit is “botched.” Another extremely frustrating aspect of this game. When the leader of a union is down or KO’ed or whatever, the rest of the union can’t act. They stand there and pick their noses instead of swinging their weapons at something. Then they force ME to sit there and pick my nose because the game insists on reminding me the units refuse to act every time it’s their turn with 2 minute loading screens. Nope, not my idea of a good time.

I’ve heard they since released a PC version of this game and fixed a lot of this game’s issues, but I’m certainly not giving them any more of my money to find out what happened, even if they sold it for only $1 on Steam.

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Soul Calibur V

I’ve been a fan of Soul Calibur since I stumbled upon one of the games in my local arcade years ago. I purchased Soul Calibur II-IV, and somehow was smart enough to save my money when it came to Soul Calibur V. The fact that I bought all the other games is significant, I feel, because SC is the only arcade-style fighting series I’ve ever followed. The only other fighting game I actually owned was Killer Instinct and that’s because it was packaged with the SNES my parents bought me when I was young.

My gaming partner brought over SCV and we played it for a night. That’s all it took to play through the Story mode due to laziness and/or budget cuts. Instead of each character getting their own story mode to play, you only get to experience Patroklos’ journey. He is one of Sophitia’s two children in this game, both of which are new characters with the same fighting style.  He is whiny and boring. I really can’t believe the developers couldn’t be bothered to create 2-3 hour story  modes for each character. I always found it the most enjoyable way to get accustomed to the different fighting styles.

Also, Talim and Seong Mi-na are my favorite characters to play as. Now do you understand the depth of my disappointment? Namco Bandai Games didn’t even do me the courtesy of giving any new characters their fighting style (sorry, Kilik’s replacement doesn’t count!). When you go and remove my staple characters from a fighting game, I’m given little reason to want to play it. And there is NO reason Talim, the youngest character of them all, can’t be in a game that takes place 15 years later. Did they kill her off when I wasn’t paying attention or something? I was actually looking forward to playing as a more grown up version of her until I realized she was cut from the roster. WTF?

Throwing in Ezio Auditore as a guest character wasn’t even enough to get me to buy this game. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll pick up a used copy down the road.

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Final Fantasy X-2

This is it. This is the game that signaled the decline of the Final Fantasy series for me. This is the mother of all terrible sequels. This is the game I was quite satisfied carrying on with the rest of my life pretending I hadn’t spent over 100 hours trying to get a 100% score just to be screwed out of it by .2%. And now, as if to further rub my face in a pile of chocobo feces, they’re bundling this abomination with the FFX HD remake… basically forcing me to purchase this game again! It’s a recurring nightmare, I tell you!

If you read my Top Ten Favorite Video Games list, you know I hold Final Fantasy X in pretty high esteem. It very well may be my favorite video game of all time. I know this sets the stage for a whole lot of disappointment on my end, but I don’t think I could have ever conceived such a disastrous way to pick up where FFX left off. The conclusion was perfect: a  satisfying, well-written solution with all around tear-jerking and a suggestive bit at the end to allow gamers to draw their own conclusions about what may have happened.

Then they had to take a big dump on it with FFX-2. Yuna’s character has completely changed for the worse, Rikku somehow has even less clothing on, and the new character Paine (the only saving grace) gets swept into their teeheeing-obnoxious-girl power maelstrom by the end of the game. To top off the Japanese school girl stupidity, they added Sailor Moon-esque ‘dressphere’ changing sequences during battle. From the opening cutscene of the game featuring “Yuna” doing a cheesy dance to a J-Pop song, I could tell this game was varying from ALL of my expectations. Not to say I don’t like Sailor Moon or J-pop (I listen to Koda Kumi’s music a lot, ironically enough) they don’t belong in my Final Fantasy X. Instead of following a rational, “Let’s give Final Fantasy X fans something they’ll like,” train of thought, the developers seemed to go with more of a “Let’s combine a ton of pop culture crap and boobs and hope more people will buy it!”

And this game was met with critical and commercial success as well. I just don’t get it.

I guess the overall lesson here is not to judge a book (video game) by its cover. Or its title. Or its developers. Or what the critics say. Or what fellow gamers say. Instead, I really need to spend more time researching games and checking out Youtube videos to get a better idea of whether a game is worth my time and money or not. And even then, sometimes it is a shot in the dark. So what do you guys think? Did these titles disappoint you as much as they did me?

God of War: Ascension

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I love the God of War series. Love, love love. I love the complete bastardization of Greek Mythology. I love the gratifying visceral combat. And I especially love Kratos; my breath of fresh air when I am sick to death of holier-than-thou or annoyingly sarcastic main characters throwing out one-liners that always fall short. He’s an antihero who usually doesn’t care what he has to do or who he has to kill to accomplish his goals. Even though he’s been wussified a bit in the last two releases, Kratos is still the biggest badass this side of Thrace.

I’ve played every God of War game released, including both PSP entries. I know I don’t pay as much attention to video game publicity as much as I used to, but Ascension didn’t seem to be hyped up all that much. Aside from the multiplayer beta, anyway. I didn’t allow multiplayer or negative hype to deter me from getting myself a collector’s edition so I could have an 8″ Kratos figurine to add to my collection.  Yes, I am a fangirl. And yes, I realize I am part of the problem.

Speaking of multiplayer, I played the beta for about a week but haven’t really touched on the final product. All I really have to say about the beta is that it seemed to do a pretty good job of reserving the spirit of GoW’s battle and magic but the balancing system needed a little work. I may tinker around with it for a couple of weeks until I find another game I want to play, but I don’t plan on writing an opinion piece about it as playing a game I can’t pause is a tedious exercise for me when I am home alone with a mobile almost-one year old, and my expertise with online console multiplayer runs about as far as playing Mario Kart Wii. Anyone want to suggest which deity I should worship before I invest too much time into a Hades character to find out I’m getting shafted?

Remember in my review of the rebooted DmC, my griping about video games getting a bit too complicated? Ascension pulls off a great balance, incorporating different toys to play with and things to level up without becoming overly complicated, burdensome, or just plain annoying. Instead of acquiring an array of weapons to swap out with Blades of Chaos, you are given four elemental variations to use with the blades, world weapons to pick up and use alongside them, and some nifty items to use later on in the game. Some people lament the lack of weapon variety, but it didn’t bother me much. Mostly because it has been an extreme rarity in my experience with the series that I actually wanted to use a weapon besides the Blades of Chaos. Their range and speed are so gratifying to me, I almost never want to take them off. And in Ascension, I never had to! Instead, I got to swap elements, thereby changing up effects, magic spells, and rage attacks. The rage attacks are sort of lackluster, seeing as how you need to fill the rage meter (by somehow managing to not get  hit) and then you only get to pull off your special elemental rage move once. The Hades rage ability is completely bitchin’, by the way.  As an alternative to the Blades of Chaos, you can pick up weapons conveniently hanging out on the ground at various points, or disarm certain enemies and take theirs. Some of them are fun and some of them suck, but I thought it was a neat and simple alternative to giving me more weapons to spend red orbs on.

I also have some beef with magic in this game. First of all, when I beat the game I was ONE Phoenix Feather short of getting my magic bar fully upgraded! Obviously I can’t fully blame the game for this, but Ascension loves cutting  you off from the previous area you just walked out of. Which means I suffered from a lot of “Let’s see whats over here… Okay, guess I can’t go back” instances. Oh well, guess it gives me something to look forward to in my New Game+. My issue with magic in this game is the fact that you have to invest thousands of red orbs into each element (except the initial) to obtain the corresponding magic spell. I beat the game without getting access to a spell because I decided to max out my Blades and level up my favorite item. Then I saw a video of the spell online and it looked rather useful, to my dismay. Something else to look forward to, I suppose.

The QTEs, brutal finishes and spraying blood are all present. In terms of combat, the game plays just as well as the previous entries…  Sort of. There’s one annoyance I am saving for later. Puzzles are present as well, and the items you’ll receive add an interesting layer of depth to them that definitely stumped me at a couple of points. I did find it ironic to see GoW borrow from other series this time around, namely with the new found obsession with climbing a la Assassin’s Creed or Uncharted style. There’s also more emphasis on grappling which humored me as I played the new DmC not too long ago also.

The story, well, it certainly pales in comparison to the epicness that is GoW3. I think we all knew it couldn’t really match killing all the Greek gods and Titans. There are some fun, memorable boss battles but they certainly don’t match up to GoW3. How could they? This is a prequel, prequel, so to speak. What memorable characters have they left for Kratos to kill? I was expecting to learn about Kratos’ rise to power in the Spartan army. But no, this still takes place after he does the deed and wants to get revenge on Ares. They can reserve that material for the prequel, prequel, prequel, I guess? Anyhow, there are some interesting moments and shallow revelations, but nothing earth-shattering or really vital to add to Kratos’ story.

While doing some reading online, I came across discussion regarding the Trial of Archimedes. Looks like it will be patched because it is so difficult.

…Huh?

I don’t know if this is a case of video game journalists who don’t play a lot of games hyping up the difficulty, or if we really are getting softer as gamers, but I’m not sure what the problem is here. GoW games usually have one section in them that makes me want to snap my controller in half. I expect that. And given the amount of discussion about this, I thought I was going to have much more difficulty with it than I did. Because, trust me, I am not the most skilled gamer out there, and I’d just as soon play some games on easy mode nowadays (and no, I wasn’t playing this particular game on Easy). Which makes me wonder if I happened to have the right skills maxed? Maybe. But I think it has more to do with the fact I’d already come to terms with not being able to pull off fancy full combos half the time. Because, and this is the strange step backwards with the battle system, enemies just don’t react to getting hit. I felt like I was playing Lollipop Chainsaw half the time. Up until the infamous Trial of Archimedes, this is easy to miss/ignore because health chests are around every corner and you don’t usually fight large groups of hard enemies. Then, you’ll get to the Trial and realize the only way you’ll make it through is by dodge rolling like its your job and abusing your Orkos item and Hades magic. At least, that’s how I muscled my way through it. I also couldn’t help but notice (and I can’t recall if it was like this in previous installments) but the Gorgons in this game get the pleasure of ignoring the fact that you’re holding down that silly guard button. Even when Kratos was in his (suggestive?) block stance they were still able to initiate their grab move and commence to squeezing the life out of me. This game really made me wish there was a way to cancel out of fancy combos, like the enemies seem to have no trouble doing, because while Kratos is making a whirlwind of chains and blades because I got a little carried away with my button mashing enemies will walk through it like nothing and take pot shots at him.

Overall, this game may fall short of most of its predecessors in terms of significance and memorability, but it is a satisfying 8 hours of slaying mythological creatures and Greek icons. But not too many Greek icons. Since beginning this post I spent a couple of hours in the multiplayer with a Hades character and am enjoying it until it is time to undergo a New Game+. I can’t find a reason for anyone who isn’t already a fan of the series to pick this game up. With that being said, this certainly isn’t the best the series has to offer and if you’re a newcomer I would strongly suggest buying time with the original trilogy first while waiting for a price drop.

Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation

Now I know I’m living in the 21st century. Female assassins finally exist! Female assassins of color, even! Don’t think the game is going to let you forget how “forward” it’s being, because you’ll be eye-rollingly reminded every five minutes that you’re controlling a female avatar. It’s almost like they’re trying to scare off the immature adolescent male gamers who think their wee wee is going to shrink if they play a game as a girl. Instead of being graceful about giving AC gamers a breath of fresh air, they decided to remind the player over and over again they’re playing as a woman to the point where I, a woman, couldn’t stand it anymore. Especially in the beginning of the game, there’s all sorts of dumb puns and references. It did a good job of reminding me to be thankful I wasn’t born in the 1700’s though. I will credit a lot of the character’s sexuality and gender role obsession with the setting. But I think it is mostly Ubisoft being all “Hey look at how not sexist we’re being by incorporating a female lead! And look, it’s a woman!” She is such a woman, you get to dress up as a Lady and charm rich men for useless baubles. Ah-huh.

Here’s a hint, Ubisoft: People who play Assassin’s Creed games play them because they want to be an assassin. Not to wear a stiffy dress and gaze listlessly at the rooftops they can’t climb. If that were the case, we’d have purchased Proper Ladies of the 18th Century or something instead. See, this game’s main schtick (Read: The not broken formula they decided to fix) is giving the gamer three different personas to swap between. Each persona has access to slightly different weapons and abilities. You have a slave, which builds notoriety slightly quicker than the other personas and is still a fast climber and has access to a lot of cool weapons. The lady, which is slow, can’t climb (except ladders), and has the charming and bribing abilities. Then, of course, you have the assassin, which is the persona I wish I could’ve played as the entire game.

I suppose I get the point of having three different personas, and yes, the slave persona made more sense at times, but why not just change her getup accordingly when the plot demands it so? I usually didn’t change personas unless the plot forced me. Near the end of the game I settled with the slave persona a lot. Mainly because the jerks who made this game decided to punish those of us who actually want to play as an assassin. The assassin persona already has a notoriety bar filled by default. A colored woman wearing pants who doesn’t appear dressed as a scullion or housemaid is extra suspect in 1700’s New Orleans, evidently. And everything earns you notoriety. Looting corpses, for god’s sake, will increase the notoriety bar. Apparently after slitting a soldier’s throat someone is still concerned with the fact that I’m stealing his pocket change too.  So I settled with the second rate slave persona, because I was still mobile and could manage to get my notoriety down to nothing and get stuff done without every guard on duty in New Orleans chasing after me.

Decreasing notoriety is different depending on the persona. Another reason not to bother playing as the Lady. In order to decrease her notoriety, you have to kill witnesses. In effect this only serves to juggle notoriety, because your current persona gains the notoriety you lost for the Lady. Not worth it. Decreasing the slave’s notoriety is as simple as taking down posters, another reason I liked that persona. In order to clear the assassin’s name (down to one notoriety level, anyway) you have to spend a lot of your hard earned money bribing heralds. It was too hard handing over a pile of ecu and not even get myself an empty notoriety bar.

Liberation is a PS Vita exclusive. Ergo, it is filled with gimmicky crap utilizing various Vita functions from touch screens to the cameras. Unlike Uncharted: Golden Abyss, the features are done very poorly. So poorly, in fact, that I had to go online and read through a hundred other mad gamer posts about how to get the “Face rearview camera to light” command to actually work. It only worked when I had the camera facing a light and then turned it in a 360 degree angle a few times. Not exactly what the instructions on the screen said every time I had to open a letter. The only touchscreen innovation that I completed hated was pickpocketing. I love me some free loot, but it was not worth the hassle in Liberation. And that’s saying a LOT coming from me. In order to pickpocket people, you have to target/touch them, get up their butt, and swipe with the rear touch pad. The feature wouldn’t have been so bad if there were any sort of consistency to how it works. However, the rest of the touch screen features were pretty handy. I really enjoyed being able to change my equipment simply by touching the weapon I wanted, and pinching to zoom in/out on the map was cool too.

Most of my other gripes with this game are small complaints that I’ve had throughout most of the series. Except–and this is a huge deal for me– there are no maps to purchase to tell you where all the treasure chests and collectable goodies are. A very big miss for me, as most of my enjoyment in Assassin’s Creed games comes from systematically clearing out a map cluttered with all kinds of loots. In Liberation there are diary pages to collect which reveal pretty significant background info and characterization, but I have no idea where half of them are and can’t decide if I want to bother looking up an online faq to collect them all. Part of me thinks not having treasure maps implemented may be linked to a significant glitch I (and others, according to online forums) experienced. Treasure chests were marked on the map, but they were nonexistent! I spent five minutes trying to find a treasure chest that seemed easy enough to access according to the map, but it was nowhere to be found. Imaginary treasure chests abound, no wonder why they couldn’t figure out how to supply a map with locations for the ones that actually existed!

Traversing the terrain in Liberation is much more seamless than the other AC games. I didn’t shake my Vita in frustration nearly as many times as my PS3 controller when my character refused to do the one action I wanted because each button has about five different commands. While most people labeled this game as a smaller, inferior game next to its console counterparts, I praise this aspect of the game. In my ACIII post I grumbled about the direction the series has been going and how it has strayed from its assassin origins. Liberation has little to none of such nonsense. This game actually made me feel like an assassin. And, unlike its partner game, the optional objectives actually made sense most of the time.

Even though the plot was a bit of a mess and I wasn’t entirely sure why I was going from point A to point B, I really liked Aveline, the assassin du jour. I was hoping she would be the playable character in the next console AC, but alas, it seems she has been put on the back burner for now. I found her to be much more interesting and likable than Connor, which was only reinforced during their brief mission together. Plus, playable female leads is a trend that needs to be normalized no matter which way you slice it.

I’m hesitant to recommend this game due to the infuriating mess Ubisoft made of certain Vita innovations that other companies have proved doable without completely screwing up. Not to mention the extra personas the dredged up for the player to toggle between for no reason (“The bayou is no place for a Lady” says a game with no dressing chambers on its map). Yet, on the other hand, one-shotting annoying soldiers with poison darts and a sweet new whip are great implementations I’d be sad about missing out on.

Dead Space 3

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Before I started playing Dead Space 3 I was considering writing a blog post about why I hate “Free to Play” games. The reason I can’t stand Free to Play games is because I hate being bombarded with “Buy this” ads all over the place, and half the time completing the game without spending any real money is a monumental task. I’d much rather fork over money for the game and call it a day. Which leads to the grand realization I had while playing Dead Space 3.

It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on a game anymore. Whether you spend two bucks on a downloadable game for your smart phone or pay full price for a console game. We can now expect to be assaulted every time we load up a game to spend more money. After spending sixty dollars on a game, updating my system and installing the damn thing, EA still isn’t too ashamed to harass me for more of my hard earned money. How many hours does someone working the federal minimum wage in the United States have to work to be able to buy this game on release? Only to be asked to spend more money on stuff that should have been included in the game? Were the projected sales for this blockbuster title not high enough to have a decent profit margin? Give me a break.

I know I risk sounding like a crazy conspiracy theorist, or someone giving EA a bit too much credit, but it seems to me (read with George Carlin’s emphasis) that it’s no mistake there is next to no tutorial explaining the weapon crafting system or how to properly utilize your scavenger bots to get enough mats to actually make something worthwhile. They must’ve figured I’d get sick of trying to get ahead, and in frustration drop five bucks on some already crafted guns I could’ve created myself if given  any guidance whatsoever on how to do so. I believe I was about a third of the way through the game when I figured there had to be some way of getting enough Tungsten to actually make something worth using my first playthrough. I went online, and thanks to kind similar-minded gamers, I was able to watch a video showing how to deploy a scavenger bot properly. Then it was paydirt.

I have no conceptual problem with weapon crafting, really. If you’ve played the other installments, you know what to expect when you’re working with a rip core or a line gun blueprint. My only problem is the inclusion of an entirely new system with no guidance. Sort of like my first day of working at Burger King: “Here’s a headset, here’s the cash register, have fun figuring out what all the buttons do on your own.” Thankfully we weren’t above screwing around until we made a couple of cool guns. Essentially, you have an upper and lower gun, both of which you can add upgrades to (more on that in a minute), so in most instances you’re really carrying around four guns when you have two weapon slots.

And you better figure out how to make some necro-stopping guns pretty quickly, because they won’t stop for you. For being reanimated dead bits of flesh flopping around, necromorphs are unbelievable fast. Faster than Isaac, that’s for damn sure, who can never manage to find a sense of urgency. Even when there’s ten necromorphs crowding around him. You have no choice throughout most of the game (unless you like dying and replaying the same bits over and over) to abuse your stasis and find a gun worth using. Upgrade your stasis as soon as you can. Even when maxed, I still didn’t feel like I was slowing them down enough. Actually, my gaming buddy and I ended up putting stasis on our ripper blades, which was a godsend.

Creating a sense of urgency is the only remote semblance to survival horror this game has. If you still expect to get some frights out of this series, I’m afraid you will be disappointed. This installment is more akin to an action-shooter with a taste for the visceral. During a couple of ridiculous crash scenes I had to stop and make sure I wasn’t playing an Uncharted game. Nothing “survival” about it when enemies drop ammo like trails of blood and you can make your own healing items from the over-abundance of mats spewing from dismembered bodies. The only item management you’ll be doing is negotiating between how many spare stacks of ammo you think you should be carrying around. Most of the item creation mats don’t even take up inventory space. I don’t understand the rationalization behind it all, because upgrade circuits and other core upgrade items do go in the actual inventory. This is just nitpicking, because like I stated earlier, you’ll be carrying around so much extra ammo you won’t blink dropping a couple stacks of it to make room for weapon upgrading goodies. And even if you’re worried about ammunition, next time you find a bench you can make some out of scrap metal (a mat that doesn’t take up inventory space) anyway.

Ah, benches. When you aren’t in need of one you come by one every five minutes. When three of your scavenger bots are waiting at one to give you a whole bunch of goodies, they’re nowhere to be found. And don’t even get me started on Suit Kiosks. There must be one of those for every ten benches. When it got to the point where we had the guns we were sure we could commit to sticking with and the enemies suddenly had three times the resistance to the line gun, we said “Okay, better upgrade hit points and armor. Now… where’s a suit kiosk?” Nowhere, that’s where! Not too many of those out in frozen tundra marker alien planet, or wherever, but benches somehow exist.

While I’m on the subject of upgrading and suit kiosks, I have a question to throw out there. When upgrading the Hit Points on Isaac’s RIG, the game tells you it adds 25Hit Points for each step. What does that mean!? There are no numbers in the game anywhere to indicate how much damage enemies are doing to Isaac, or even how much HP he has in the first place. I really would have liked to see some numbers in this game, since we’re obviously beyond the point of pretending this is a survival horror game. I wish more games had the option to turn damage/healing numbers on.

Two of the main selling points about this game I remember reading about are the added co-op feature and weapon upgrading systems. Okay. I said to myself, “Dead Space is going the Resident Evil route. But at least if it isn’t gonna be scary anymore, my gaming buddy and I can play together and it’ll be fun.” Wrong! Well, sort of. The co-op is not local/splitscreen co-op. It is online only, something I didn’t realize until playing the demo. A big disappointment for me. I’m old school I guess. I’d rather be sitting next to someone I am playing with and be playing with a friend rather than some stranger online. As if to rub salt in the wound, while wandering around deep space and such I saw doors with “Co-op only” signs hanging like some VIP event I wasn’t invited to. There’s one out of two down.

As with the weapon crafting, I did like it to a certain extent. Blending two of my favorite guns into one was immensely satisfying. The reviews and such parroted the hundreds of crafting options in the game. I’ll admit, I have a secret fear of missing out on great items in games when I have to rely solely on my wherewithal to create things. And while you could make hundreds of different guns, there are only so many combinations that make sense or hold more than experimental value. After getting more than a handful of upgrade circuits, it became painfully apparent that I couldn’t increase the shotgun’s rate of fire as much as I thought I could. There are invisible caps on item stats, which I began to notice while adding +2 Rate of Fire, for example, yet nothing would happen. I suppose increasing the rate of fire would make it stop being a shotgun to a certain extent, but where’s the fun in that? I want to be rewarded for going out of my way to find upgrade circuits. It is frustrating when the enemies keep getting faster and stronger but you’re stuck in progress because the developers don’t want you going ten minutes without using stasis or crafting items at a bench.

There’s only so many guns that give the impression they do anything to these epileptic necromorphs on speed. Like the shotgun. After getting killed in an optional mission about five times, we decided to backtrack five minutes and turn our Ripper-Line Gun combo into a Ripper-Shotgun combo because the Line Gun was suddenly incapable of decapitating limbs in one shot, even with maxed damage. And, when an enemy doesn’t lose a leg, they’re in your face before Issac gets around to reloading the damn thing. The shotgun, we found, at least had some stopping power. But god-forbid if you have to reload, because even with only one arm left for a limb, a necromorph will still crawl on top of you before the gun is ready to be shot again.

It’s as if the developers are screaming, “Stasis! STASIS! OMG isn’t stasis awesome? Use it!” Yes, I agree, it is pretty awesome. So awesome that I don’t stand a chance killing more than one enemy without using it if I don’t want to lose half of my health. You know what would be more awesome? Is if you could shoot it more than five times and the duration lasted for more than three seconds on enemies, even after maxing out the stasis module on the RIG. Oh, and NOT tying stasis to the rate of fire stat on the current gun he’s shooting. It defeats the purpose of having it. Say you shoot the gun and miss or don’t chop off a leg. You’d like to be able to shoot the enemy with stasis to give yourself time until the gun is ready to be fired again. But in the case of the slower weapons that actually do a decent amount of damage, the stasis is mysteriously not ready to be used either. You’re tied with the weapon’s cooldown, so to speak. And in the many instances when you’re stuck in a room with waves of necromorphs coming after you, every second counts and this feature becomes unbearably annoying.

Yet Telekinesis has an infinite usage pool. This frustrates me, because I never used it during fights. The only time I used it was when the game makes you for puzzles and the super-powered Telekinesis you get in the final chapters that will make you go, “Wow, wish it did this ALL the time!” I find Telekinesis too unreliable. Maybe if there was a way to guarantee I’d pick up a bladed limb instead of a foot or something else among the dismembered limb pile I would have used it more often.

Enough about that. Let’s talk about the riveting story. I hope you sensed the sarcasm in that last statement. When it comes to storytelling, I always look towards characters and character development to carry the tale along. In Dead Space 3,  I was left wishing they’d left Isaac as the under-developed Engineer doing everyone else’s menial tasks for them like he was in the first installment.

The story devolved into a terrible love triangle. The two boys vying for the female’s attentions acted like pubescent junior high boys. It was unbelievable. Can someone tell me, is this an accurate reflection of how jealous boyfriends truly act? I know there are only so many human vaginas out in necromorph-infected space, but come on! It also would’ve been nice if the female in question was left to make the decision herself, but the writers made it for her, unsurprisingly. I don’t expect many video games to have accurate representations of strong women, so I really shouldn’t have been too put-out that their idea of a great female character is a chick with her breasts popping out who can’t decide if she’d rather date the Marker-crazed PTSD Engineer, or the macho soldier who acts like he beats her around the house if she doesn’t have dinner cooked on time. And she even makes excuses for him! “He doesn’t normally act like this,” she says… Yeah, we’ve all heard that before.

A writing professor I had once told me killing a character off is a poor storytelling mechanic, and (SPOILER!) in this case, I agree. And, (Another spoiler!) the character who wins the gal is the one who doesn’t get shot by the main character, if you can imagine that.

The presentation in DS3 is as beautiful as ever. The graphics look great and the sound is flawless. Isaac’s stomp has never been so gratifying. I’ll admit, I breathed a sigh of relief when I played this game because I found out it IS possible to release a new game without it being overburdened with technical errors, glitches, and bugs. The game ran almost flawlessly on my fat 60gig PS3. I did have a scare when a door in Chapter 14 kept making the disc loop and refusing to load, but as it turned out some teeny smudge on the disc was the cause.

All in all, DS3 is yet another example of developers trying to fix something that isn’t broken, and irritating a lot of the core fanbase in the process. Someone in the company must’ve said, “Well, now that Dead Space is a couple of installments in, people who are buying the game on release already know what to expect, so let’s shake things up a bit!” Their idea of shaking it up a bit is trying to make it more of an action game, which undoubtedly results in having the worst of both worlds. Adding in people shooting back at me instantly turns a game into an action-shooter in my mind. Then to combine that with the clunky and slow controls that are common to the survival horror genre is disastrous. They even went out of their way to add a Dodge Roll. Tapping L2 twice on a PS3 controller is pretty obnoxious, and in DS3 not worth the effort because it never ONCE got me out of taking a hit. I always found avoiding damage to be the point of dodging and/or rolling, amirite? I will, however, praise the addition of optional missions because it was nice getting a couple more hours of play out of my experience, though it doesn’t offset the co-op only missions I missed out on.

In the future, I don’t plan on purchasing the next Dead Space title on launch, unless it can be confirmed beforehand that the developers have decided it is going to be a third-person action/shooter and not a poorly designed hybrid still masked as a survival horror. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I’ll probably still give you my money because I’m a desperate fangirl who just wants a gory scare.