Games That Broke Our Hearts - Part 2
Every gamer has one or more--the game they anticipated with the highest expectations, only to have their hopes and dreams dashed at launch. In fact, wed bet that, before you finish reading this introduction, a title or two will have popped into your head. Were going to share the games that broke our little staff writers gamer hearts. If you missed the first half of our feature, you can read part one here, then read on to see if any of our remaining picks made your list.
The Secret World
Heart broken: Shayalyn
It was not only my involvement in game journalism but my 17-year-old son who first got me interested in The Secret World. He hung on every word that Ragnar Tørnquist (then Game Director for TSW) uttered, and couldnt stop talking about the game. So I started paying close attention to it and pretty soon I was drawn into its web of conspiracy, and hooked on its pervasive notion that, from the hollow earth theory to zombies to vampires, everything is true. The gaming industry had yet to see a good horror-themed MMO, and I was certain that The Secret World would be it.
The Secret World seemed to have a lot going for it. Tørnquist was the man behind the cult favorite, The Longest Journey, known for its great story. I love a good story, and prefer to be drawn into the quests Im completing rather than just randomly running around racking up a kill count. The lore and ARGs (alternate reality games) leading up to TSWs launch seemed promising. Although I worried about Funcoms track record with its earlier MMO, Age of Conan, I figured they would have learned from their mistakes. Surely they wouldnt make another MMO that felt as though it really should have been a single-player game. They wouldnt try charging $15 per month for something like that again, would they?
When I was finally able to play The Secret World, I realized that I was right about the story--TSW has a great one. Not only that, but its settings are rendered in vibrant detail, and its well-executed voice acting and humor added to the story line, right from the moment I first talked to the haggard police chief in the zombie-infested New England hamlet of Kingsmouth. There were a lot of good things happening in TSW, but...with the exception of its challenging dungeons, it still felt like it wouldve made a better single-player RPG. For a game with so much visual realism, combat animations were stiff and unimpressive, and combat itself was whack-a-mole simplistic. (In fact, Age of Conan had more thinky combat.) The Ability Wheel was needlessly complex, and had you earning endless ability points to spend on junk abilities so that you could get to the juicier ones you really needed.
Plus, I still wasnt willing to pay $15 a month for it. I heard the same things echoed by many gamers across the Ten Ton Hammer community and others--cool game, for the most part, but not worth the monthly fee. That sentiment was reflected in company-wide layoffs at Funcom not long after TSW launched and failed to achieve the success its developers had hoped for.
From the moment I played The Secret World Id said that the game wouldve had a much better chance of success had it launched free-to-play with a cash shop. Just yesterday, Funcom announced that TSW has gone subscription-free. If youve already purchased the game, you can return and play with no monthly fee (although a subscription is still an option, and nets you some nice bonuses.) If you havent tried it, $30 will get you the client. Although I havent checked out the cash shop and looked into any free-to-play limitations yet, this new pricing model holds hope for the future of a game that could have been a real heartbreaker, but just might fulfill its promise after all.
Earth & Beyond
Heart broken: Xerin
Ten years ago in 2002, Westwood Studios released an MMO called Earth & Beyond. The studio best known for Command & Conquer made one last gamble before riding off into the sunset and sadly, that gamble didnt pay off. The last game of this iconic series was one of my most anticipated MMOs ever and the most disappointing, not because it wasnt fun but because it was too ambitious and lacked meaningful things to do once youd done it all. Thankfully, it taught me a little about the risk I take each time I get my hopes up, and helped ground me in the reality that is developing MMOs.
Not to sound too hipster, but E&B is probably a game you havent heard of, with good reason. It was only live for two years and Electronic Arts wasnt big on promoting it, especially after announcing its sunset only a year and a half after launch, following the closure and liquidation of Westwood. The problem wasnt that the game wasnt fun, nay, combat was exhilarating and the gameplay was like a persistent world Freelancer. The problem was that the game was too ambitious, tried to do too much, became too grindy, and lacked PvP.
Before I start talking too poorly of E&B, I would like to outline that it was, at its core, a fantastic game. In 2002 it had voice acting, quests, a system that gave you three experience bars (you gained levels in exploration, trading, and combat), and absolutely gorgeous graphics for the time. You had your ship, which could fly both in space and on planets alongside an actual character who explored space stations to pick up quests and trade goods.
The issues were that these systems were fundamentally flawed. You started the game with little of the map explored and had to uncover the warp gates yourself, which translated into you having to get a friend to let you follow them automatically for half an hour throughout the game. Speaking of travel, it took forever and was slow, which meant that gaining trading experience was a long, dull, and boring process with little reward. Youd buy low, travel for a long period of time, and sell high only to rinse and repeat with little entertainment value.
Next was combat. Combat was great, but the issue here was that fighting NPCs in a space combat sim only goes so far. Many players wanted the blood of their enemies. After all, there were three factions in the game and Dark Age of Camelot already had three-faction PvP down to a science. Sadly, PvP in the form of harvesting orbs for points didnt come later and didnt scratch that open world PvP itch many players had, especially after they ran out of things to do.
I chalk a lot of problems that E&B had to the fact that Westwood was in the midst of layoffs and closing. While they had five years of development time, the technology back then was constantly changing and the game was really beyond its time. It had voice acting, a robust character creator (for the time), actual fun space simulation, and great combat. The issues dogging it were just enough to sour some players and led to a lot of people, including me, getting bored rapidly with little more to do.
If youre like me, and enjoyed the various games Westwood developed, then keep your eyes open for End of Nations. Many of the employees from Westwood left and formed Petroglyph Games, which is currently developing End of Nations and has made a solid commitment to releasing a rock solid product.
Duke Nukem Forever
Heart broken: Jeffprime
One of the many games that broke my heart was one that I looked forward to for many years--Duke Nukem Forever. I was an insanely addicted player of Duke Nukem 3D and spent many nights with the game until the cold light of dawn filtered through my windows. When a sequel was announced, I eagerly waited for its release...and waited....and waited....and waited. More than a decade later, long after it had become a standard vaporware joke, Duke Nukem Forever was finally released. And I wish it hadn't been.
Duke Nukem Forever is the Highlander II of computer games, a sequel that should never have seen the light of day. The original Duke Nukem was fast-paced, brutal fun as you mowed down hordes of enemies to the tune of over-the-top macho humor. I was hoping for a similar experience with Duke Nukem Forever, but alas. The game's intro gets you pumped for some bad-ass FPS action, but then the game actually starts and it all goes downhill.
The action in Duke Nukem Forever moves at a glacial pace, without any energy or excitement. I think you actually get more action playing games like The Sims. It gets even lamer when you realize that you switch back and forth between two weapons. You're supposed to be loaded with an arsenal of destruction in shooters, and being relegated to two weapons is like being told you can only have salad at the all-you-can-eat buffet. The level design is pathetic and the game simply drags. You should be running and gunning, but instead you lurch from checkpoint to checkpoint. There are some interesting ideas, such as the R/C cars, but the execution of those are so badly handled that they serve only to further leech any enjoyment out of the game.
Overall, Duke Nukem Forever is a total mess. The PvP is somewhat decent and recent DLCs have added additional maps, but that means you'll be shelling out even more money for a game that's incredibly lackluster. Oh, why couldn't they let Duke stay in the past and always be remembered fondly as a kick-ass game? Id liken Duke Nukem Forever to having a favorite boxer come out of retirement only to have to painfully sit and watch as he gets pummeled in the ring.
What are the games that broke your heart? You know, the ones where you bought into the hype, read every bit of news you could find, and waited eagerly for launch only to find out that they didnt live up to their promise? Every gamer has one or more. Share yours in the comments.