Choose My Adventure Year in Review: DC Universe Online, Shroud of the Avatar, Guild Wars 2, and Secret World Legends
As our review of the past year of Choose My Adventure rolls onward (a bit longer than originally planned), we enter what I think of as the trifecta of disappointment. Why? Well, the word “trifecta” is fun to say. Try it a few times. Also, because the were three titles among the back end that were pretty notably disappointing.
There are always going to be titles with Choose My Adventure that don’t connect as much with me; after all, the games that I play on a regular basis are not chosen based on a random number generator. But these titles in particular are disappointments, each for their own reasons. And then, in the middle, there’s a game that is far closer to “not mine, but not bad,” which is a different matter altogether. Life, in short, is a rich tapestry.
DC Universe Online
There are a lot of games which I don’t personally want to play or ones that have some serious issues that are still, ultimately, doing a good job at being what they want to be while being fun to play. DC Universe Online is not one such game. It is, in fact, just a straight-up bad game. My playtime was filled with the sort of glitchy, unpleasant experience that I expect from titles in the midst of beta testing, not launch titles; even when it was working correctly, it never actually became fun, much less something with clearly identified goals or combat that isn’t a flailing mess.
I understand that there are people who do really like the heck out of this particular title, and if someone told me “oh, it really comes together at the top level” that would be something. But the actual mechanics and design all across the board inherit the worst parts of active combat and the worst parts of slower MMO combat in one unpleasant package. The best things I can say about it are all fairly neutral at best and negative at worse. It’s not even a particularly good use of the specific DC Comics license.
So I suppose it goes along well with DC Comics’ attempts at making a unified movie continuity. This is the prime member of the trifecta, then; it’s a far worse game than the other “disappointing” one, glitchy, unstable, and just plain not fun.
Shroud of the Avatar
This was another disappointment, but at least this one had a reason for being somewhat disappointing other than a shrug and a shake of the head. The core problem with Shroud of the Avatar is that there are so many parts of the game designed to be unnecessarily inconvenient or unpleasant, and a number of systems run specifically for a huge population that does not actually exist. It’s a game close to its really-for-real-actual-real-no-fooling launch date, far past its no-more-wipes date, and yet it still feels like it hasn’t quite gotten itself to the basic playable state I’d expect from this point.
A lot of things, as near as I can tell, is designing to be an intentional throwback and misconstruing “inconvenient” as being causal rather than just correlated. It even prompted a whole rant that I later shelved for an extended period of time (people liked it a lot when I finally posted that, to my surprise).
Ultimately, some of its unnecessary bits do seem to be getting filed off for the future, so that’s a good thing. Whether or not that will make a long-term difference or if it falls into the dreaded pit of too little too late remains to be seen. It’s a disappointment, but mostly insofar as it’s trying to drag up systems from the past without any understanding for why things worked at a specific time and place; it’s not unrecoverable.
Guild Wars 2
If there’s a game in existence that I nearly have too much personal bias to effectively cover, Guild Wars 2 is probably it. So many people I care about work on this title. And yet it’s never earned nearly that much devotion from me. It didn’t this time, either; I can respect it, I can see positives, it’s not bad, but it never made me feel like “boy, this is exactly the game that I’ve been waiting for” in any sense. But I still liked it and had quite a bit of fun.
The big problems that the game has are still there even now, I’m sorry to say, but Path of Fire is much closer to what an expansion ought to be than Heart of Thorns was, my enormous and well-stated affection for Revenants notwithstanding. The mount mechanics are also pretty clever, so that’s a mark in its favor and does journeyman service to really selling mounts as a concept after the game had to struggle with the simple issue of making mounts feel like something other than a basic feature other games have had for ages on end.
And then we got the lockbox thing. One step forward, and so on.
Secret World Legends
Things rounded out with a disappointment, but it was mostly the sort of disappointment borne of Secret World Legends making two errors that seem downright critical. It reset progress for everyone on the basis of content and a revamped combat system, then failed to provide any new content to justify that and thoroughly changed combat without actually making it much better. It’s slightly better now, but it sure as heck isn’t the shot in the arm that it bills itself as.
In other words, it’s the sort of game that sticks in my craw right from the start by penalizing existing fans without actually justifying any of that. Top that up with the fact that none of the game’s original issues are made any better, and it winds up as a disappointment due to the simple reality that I still find myself wondering if Funcom even knows what people liked about the original The Secret World.
My usual instinct is to dismiss theories about how a company was conspiring to quietly hurt players, but when it comes to this and the whole “the reboot means that lifetime subscriptions no longer count” theory, it does make a certain amount of sense. Disappointing either way.
And the next!
All right, enough looking backward and more looking forward. We’re taking a slightly different tack toward assembling our lists this time around, starting by asking our patrons what sort of games they would like to see featured here. It’s not a poll; it’s just a list of titles they’d like to see throughout the year, and so we’ve got some places to start with this year’s polling. Here are the ones we’ve added to the poll first!
First up, we’ve got the weird and wonderful playground that is Project Gorgon. I have no idea how much I would like Project Gorgon, but I love the fact that the game embraces the stuff that it can do and no other title can. It has a collection of weird mechanics and ideas in place that a lot of other titles can’t or won’t do, and that alone piques my interest. There will never be an eventuality wherein I can muster no love for the concept of a game in which people can turn into cows and just live that way.
But after the recent titles, perhaps we’d all like to go head in a very different direction with the high-flying antics of Elite: Dangerous. While flight sims and related points are not really my forte, there’s a lot to like about the game from a conceptual level, and it’s certainly kept up an admirable pace of updates and neat additions like the Thargoids. So how will I feel about the title in actual play?
Of course, we could also take a trip to a land equally science fictional, a world of oiled skins and strange bodily proportions, and also action combat that’s been designed to be action combat from the start rather than an awkward shoehorning after the fact. Naturally, I’m talking about Blade & Soul, a game that is actually kind of surprising in how well it does on the regular. I was a little underwhelmed during beta, but perhaps that was more due to crankiness and the time when I was playing it.
Last but not least, we could go a very different route and take a trip into Final Fantasy XI, which is a game I know very well. So what could I add? Why, a look at how to get started as a new player in the game, obviously. There’s a lot of stuff to get into in the game, and the actual in-game tutorials are not great, so I would be starting completely new and taking advantage of the fact that I know exactly what I’m doing.
Here we go for Choose My Adventure 2018! Which one will it be?
CMA: First destination of 2018!
- Blade & Soul (19%, 25 Votes)
- Project Gorgon (50%, 67 Votes)
- Final Fantasy XI (12%, 16 Votes)
- Elite: Dangerous (19%, 26 Votes)
Total Voters: 134
Voting will run until 6 p.m. EST on Friday, so you have plenty of time to cast your votes. I’ll see you back here next week for the results; until then, you can mail your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or just leave it down below.