Biggest Gaming Disappointments of 2012
High-Profile Storytelling Flops
In the last decade, gamers and commentators alike have celebrated the fact that increasingly sophisticated technology has made possible very complex stories that seemed unbelievable just over a decade ago. Perhaps with a bit too much navel gazing, we’ve celebrated games like Mass Effect, Uncharted, Heavy Rain, games that, even if their reach exceeded their grasp, have delivered solid, often touching stories or experimented with the very idea of what a game story can be and how it could be told. Going into 2012, the sky seemed well below the limit.
The problem? The painful realities of the gaming industry. Decisions about creative content made based on the idea that a successful game needs to be like every other game. Games rushed out to meet an arbitrary fiscal deadline instead of any sort of natural completion point. Unnecessary multiplayer. Add to this the industry’s growing reliance on cutscenes and direct cribbing from film, and the result is that in 2012 we saw the promise of large-scale epic storytelling bungled, as everything from Mass Effect 3 to Hitman Absolution to Assassin’s Creed 3 featured incomplete stories — often horrendously underwritten — that left a bland, frustrated taste in gamers’ mouths.
The good news: two of 2012′s best games, Fez and Hotline Miami, look so much better by comparison. Lacking a AAA budget or the technological capacity to recreate the cinematic experience, they instead told very simple, very succinct stories tied intimately to gameplay and genre.
The biggest disappointment of 2012 may just have been a game so highly anticipated that it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype: Diablo 3. A sequel that devoted Blizzard fans waited a decade for, there were some clear warning signs that Diablo 3 wasn’t shaping up to be the game we were expecting.
Did Diablo 3 turn out to be a terrible game? No, not at all — and anyone trying to convince you otherwise is simply a testament to the collective disappointment that Diablo 3 didn’t turn out to be an *excellent* game. With most of the original creators of Diablo gone, Diablo 3 was, effectively, the first Diablo game that Blizzard made, and something of the original series’ spirit was missing. Seven months past release, we still don’t have the PvP mode that should have shipped with the game, and while Blizzard has implemented new features and tweaks that make today’s D3 a far better game than it was back in May, it’s all too little, too late.