Let me be absolutely clear what this list is about since I always seem to get some confusion about its purpose every year. This is a list of games that I played this year that was I most disappointed with or found to be awful. This is not a list about the actual worst games published in 2015. That list would be an entire Lord of the Rings book length and would probably be filled with Greenlight and mobile games. My point being, is that there have been a lot of actually bad games made in this year both indie and AAA that no doubt deserve to be on a worst games list. I didn’t play them, so I can’t and won’t make a judgement on them. And yes, some of these games weren’t released in 2015. I either didn’t get the chance to play them when they were released or am just getting to them now. All that’s required to be on this list is that I played it this year, nothing else. It’s subjective as hell and fun to do for me. So, I hope that’s clear enough. Let’s get to it!
Alien: Isolation was released last year to much critical acclaim and I won’t dispute much of what was said. Though I do think some questionable mechanics were overlooked in favor of rating the game higher. The reason Alien: Isolation is on this list is that it was the straw that broke the survival horror genre for me this year. But then, I’ve always been at odds with the genre, never quite able to put a finger on why I disliked playing it yet always wanting to. It was A:I that made me realize why. Six hours in and I was starting to feel fatigue. The Alien isn’t a living breathing creature that can be outsmarted. It’s really just an intelligent bot with cheat codes built in that trigger at random times. There are times where the Alien will detect you for no understandable reason and other times that it can look straight at you (in the dark) and not see you. While watching the scanner, you’ll notice the Alien rubber-banding around the player to make sure it’s always within range to be a constant threat. Then there’s the save points being spread farther and farther apart as you progress along. These are clearly intentional design choices to keep the tension and unpredictability of each run high. But the trade-off is that runs become a random roll of the dice. You could theoretically have nothing but bad runs because the AI decided to screw you over. It makes for a tiring experience of constantly avoiding detection that could randomly happen anyway. Which hey, if that works for you, great.
Alien: Isolation isn’t necessarily bad but it’s indicative of the problems this genre often suffers from and that I take issue with. And I’ve had complaints about the impossible-to-survive survival horror genre in the past. They tend to focus on the big scare moments over compelling gameplay experiences. I’ll admit that a lot of this is subjective. I want to see an Alien actually roaming a ship without being obsessed with the player character, only showing up a couple of times in its normal patrol/hunting of the ship. Or at least, comparatively fewer times to how A:I works. I’ll also admit that this will probably create pacing and tension problems so I’m not really sure how it would all work out. Anyway, the final point being is that I think it’s time that the survival genre take the mechanics that have been established and take them to the next, less gamey level. Until then, I’m mostly going to steer clear of this genre and focus more on the tension horror genre in games like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.
Painkiller: Overdose, Resurrection, Redemption, Recurring Evil, Hell & Damnation
These games are a bit on the old side but are, funnily enough, “new” enough that I can talk about them. (I could even do full reviews of them if I wanted to). I picked up the entire Painkiller series on Steam through a Humble Bundle I believe. I knew going in that the original Painkiller was considered the best of the bunch with the rest getting progressively worse. I mean, not that Painkiller: Black Edition is flawless but it at least had good pacing and a decent enough story. The sequels and remake though? It’s one thing to hear about it but experiencing that terribleness for yourself is something else entirely. Overdose is probably the only one of the above mentioned worth playing and even its a poorly developed mess. Resurrection, Redemption and Recurring Evil are progressively worse cash-ins. Hell and Damnation is probably the worst offender of the bunch and here’s why. In the first game, the protagonist is an unknown. He’s not being allowed to heaven for unknown reasons and while he claims he should be in Heaven, clearly God thinks otherwise. It’s never quite spelled out why he’s denied (maybe God/Heaven/Angels are being jerks or he’s got a shadier past then he lets on) but it made for at least a somewhat compelling plot. In Hell and Damnation though they shatter even that slightest bit of mystery by spelling it out in the opening cutscene. The protagonist is a killer and he has a question with a demon about his plight. The weapon play is not as satisfying or different enough to really spice things up. The Painkiller series seems like a one hit single and maybe that’s because there’s not much more you can do with the original.
I think the Painkiller series might be the last series I buy wholesale (exempting some that are on GOG). I think the value for time and money just isn’t worth chewing through some really questionable content fodder. I can’t complain too much as I did get the entire series for a steal but nowadays, money isn’t always the issue with getting games. It’s now about having the time to play them. There’s not enough time in the world for everything.
It had been on my radar for a long time and I finally got the chance to play it this year. To a profound amount of disappointment. My review of Anodyne was rather scathing and for good reason. The game just isn’t that fun to play. My interest in these type of indie games has fallen off hard this year. This vague story lesson or tragic tone of the entire game paired with limited or shallow gameplay is getting irritating. Anodyne is clearly trying to make a point but I’m not interested in finding it out. The combat is a major step backwards from others in the genre and mostly involves repeatedly stabbing monsters with swords until they eventually die. Or you, which happens often because the obstacles are rather vicious. The story is vague and characters are two-dimensional at best, jerks at worse. Its time for indie games to quit focusing on aspect of the gameplay to the expense of the other without giving us ways around some sketchy sections.
Legend of Korra (The Videogame)
A Paladin’s Steam Review: Legend of Korra (The Videogame). An Experience that is Entirely Inconsequential.
It’s simply inconsequential. I said that in my review and I’ll say it again. The story has no impact on the universe, the characters don’t go through any arcs and the action is at best meager. Enemies are reused way too much, the endless runner sections feel archaic already and the ending just doesn’t pay off like it really should. After Metal Gear Rising, this was definitely not the game I expected from the studio. I mean, yeah, I knew that it had already been critically panned going in but I had to see for myself. Kind of wish I hadn’t at this point. It’s not one of the worst TV-videogames I’ve played but considering how low that bar is, that’s not exactly saying much. This game can definitely be skipped, you aren’t missing out on anything.
Legend of Grimrock 2
The sequel to Legend of Grimrock (1) is a step in a different direction with its focus on combat and a more open world. I’ll acknowledge that I preferred the puzzle solving and linear aspects of the original. Plus the atmosphere was thrilling to experience. LoG2’s focus on combat and death traps without a lot of improvements to combat made for an experience of constant frustration and whittling enemies down. Having to restart large chunks of a level because I tripped a death trap or have been sanded down by constant battles wasn’t fun either. Yeah, yeah, you can save at any time but saving every five feet gets old. Maybe this is how RPGs used to be but it might also be why they are no longer done this way. The poor optimization and uninteresting story didn’t help things either. This is one of my more controversial reviews I’ve made this year as well but I have no regrets about what I said. This wasn’t what I was looking for in a sequel and I feel like the entire experience was worse off.
Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas
A Paladin’s Review: Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas. A Disappointing Sea of Content and a Boring Combat System.
I saw this game pop up on Steam earlier this year and was very interested. I had been wondering why we haven’t had a Legend of Zelda-like clone. Unfortunately, I don’t think I like the answer Oceanhorn gave me. Oceanhorn is a game crippled by its origins. I think this would have been a fantastic game had it been built for the PC and a lot more development time. Instead, all of its mechanics are stunted and shallow. Sailing is on-rails, combat is mind-numbing repetition and the story feels like half of its script is missing. I’m sure for mobile devices it was a grand experience but on the PC, it’s not. There’s also numerous optimization problems and other questionable mechanics to make for a draining experience. I think my review basically covers everything about Oceanhorn and it is definitely one of the more disappointing game I’ve played this year.
Probably the worst game I played this year. Immortal Empire is a weird hybrid of aRPG, turn-based combat and online multiplayer. Its extremely low budget with a poisonous free-to-play model. It’s probably the worst such model I’ve seen to date. You can buy power items and items that are completely useless in addition to important features that are borderline essential to “completing” the game. The game is also incredibly grindy and I can’t figure out why it’s a turn-based game but has the ability for you to attack five times when that could have easily been once. It’s a game that completely disrespects my time and the value of money. Having the ability to buy items that are worse than what you can get from in-game drops is not beautiful game design. It’s the worst form of scummy F2P. It’s what gives the business model such a horrible reputation because of how much developers like Immortal Empire’s abuse it. I could only stand to play over an hour or so. It’s not even a bug-free game either, which you would figure they could at least get that right but the dev had to do a reboot mid-day to fix a game breaking bug that should have easily been spotted in QA. The story might be compelling but considering how much you have to deal with the F2P model this game has, I have no interest in finding it out. Knowing my luck, they probably went the cheap-and-easy way and didn’t tackle the disturbing morality the universe has.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to say what you consider to be the worst games you’ve played this year. If there is anything I can take away from this list, it’s that I’m pretty harsh on games that waste my time and some types of RPGs. I’ll have more to say on this in the end-of-the-year update. Please like & share this post if you enjoyed it.