Everyone loves a good game. Good games are what makes being a game journalist fun. And everyone loves hating bad games. It's part of what makes being a gamer fun. But every now and then, you come across a game everyone else love but for one reason or another you hate. What's worse is that no one will listen to you when try to tell them why their favorite game in fact sucks.So in this article, we're doing just that. These are games that some of us at Darkstation quite dislike and we want to tell you why. Today we're tackling GTA, Chrono Trigger and Dragon Age. But there's simply too much hate here to fit into one post. so come back next time for more critically acclaimed games we hate.
Grand Theft Auto 4
History is going to remember Grand Theft Auto favorably, and for good reason. While gaming continues to innovate and iron out all of the different permutations it can play host to (and play them well), it’s important that there’s been one major series expressly taking punches from the medium’s critics, and daring the moral majority to pry the upraised middle fingers off its corpse in the process. GTA is as much about taking video game naysayers to task as it is telling its own disturbed stories about flawed people in bad situations.
Too bad those stories are crap.
Things were never so sympathetic as the tale of Niko Bellic coming to Liberty City. Still in his prime, but already a victim of Cold War austerity and Balkan war-zones, Niko came to the big LC looking for a fresh start. Exorcising the ghosts of his old life, he would embrace the so-called American Dream, sharing in its bounty with his cousin, Roman, while perhaps finding love and manly validation along the way... But first, he needed to quaff some 40s and shoot up a strip club.
That’s my big problem with Grand Theft Auto, and the fourth installment in particular. For all the gravitas it tries to churn out of its plots, it can’t help but dead-leg its characters as they sprint towards redemption. Fans would argue that this irony is simply part of the satire, that the dissonance in the ludonarrative highlights the tragedy of the story at large, but a simpler word for it is “impotence.” For starters, the satire association bothers me. I understand that GTA4 has its sights on American exceptionalism and the absurd hypocrisies contained therein, but it’s manner of pointing them out shows neither balance nor restraint. Take the game’s spoof of the Statue of Liberty, the so-called “Statue of Happiness.” Is that really what qualifies as satire? Taking a national landmark and slapping a stoner grin on it? Or consider the game’s many, oppressively foul radio stations. I know these are a convenient way of lampooning abrasive Yankees, but they’re so overblown in their content that it’s impossible to relate them to their targets.
Simply put, Grand Theft Auto 4 can’t adequately satirize anything. Every element is so ridiculous that it either deflates the drama unfolding onscreen, or spoils its own punchlines with heavy-handed pathos. Like a poorly converted 3-D movie, the story and setting never reach an equilibrium between what should be in the forefront and background. Each incongruous element jockies for prominence, and it all amounts to a grating, unsympathetic story about an idiot with a gun.
There were many times playing Chrono Trigger where I just wanted to quit. A lot of areas, really, had me just running through, rolling my eyes in frustration, closing my DS and just walking away for a while so that I could get back to a point where it was bearable to play. And really, the worst part about it was my state of confusion- why did people love this game? What appeal is there to having every single thing I do in battle be on a timer when I still have to navigate overlong menus to find any of the things I want to do? For a while, the only thing keeping me going was the characters, but then I realized that they didn't do enough to make me care about even those, so at around 3/4 of the way through the game, I finally called it quits to go and do something that might actually be considered "fun".
I like keeping active in my RPG battle systems- I'll talk your ears off about how great the Mario RPG battle systems are. Even the Sonic RPG by Bioware on the DS was alright, mostly because of the way it just keeps you working while you battle. Chrono Trigger promises to do that, but then capitalizes on it poorly. Everything's on a timer, meaning even when I'm going through the menu, looking for the one Tech I want to use, I'll get screwed over because the game doesn't scroll fast enough to get me there. The number of deaths at the hands of this terrible, terrible idea were too many to count- especially when the game moves away from "combat puzzle" type things and where you have to just be fast and brute-force it.
And God help me if I accidentally look at the wrong tech list because it didn't highlight it well enough when I first looked at it to show who I was fighting. Even worse, the game has moves that can hit multiple people based on position, but doesn't give you the option to MOVE to a position to use it. It's all based on luck of the apparently-random placement, meaning that you might wind up in a perfect line or cluster for the enemies, but they would never line up.
So then I thought I could just coast on the story- plenty of decent-to-bad games get a pass because their story is great, after all, but it hit me after maybe 15 hours that it just wasn't good enough. None of the characters really changed, and a good half of them were RPG cliches anyways- the tortured, good-in-the-end wizard; the tomboy princess; the super smart best friend; the silent protagonist. I did very much like Frog and Robo, but when their stories were wrapped, what else was there? No one else had much character growth, despite what people want me to believe, and then the game turned into just "save the world because you're the good guys!" territory. I haven't touched the game once since then, and don't miss a darn thing about it. I guess it was a victim of both hype and nostalgia goggles. Just goes to show you why you should never trust them.
Dragon Age: Origins
Hot on the heels of Mass Effect’s success, BioWare decided to return to the world of Baldur’s Gate by creating what they considered to be a spiritual successor to the franchise. Dragon Age: Origins was to be a return to form, a boon for the RPG genre. It played well on both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, but there was much to discuss about the PC version and how incredibly different it was from the console versions, differentiating itself from other PC games that were nothing more than console ports. Dragon Age: Origins introduced a new form of character level storytelling for BioWare, as each class had their own set of experiences and NPC interaction. It was a game of might, magic and high adventure. In my experience, however, the game was anything but.
My frustration with Dragon Age began five minutes into the game, where my Dwarf was tasked with tromping through a series of underground caverns and I died no less than five times during the very first enemy encounter. With barely any equipment to my name, I was forced to watch as evil creatures had their way with me over and over again and me feeling helpless to do anything until I was compelled to turn down the difficulty. Once I got through this area, I continued to play angry and found the game’s story boring and was put off by several obvious allusions to The Lord of the Rings. No matter what character class you played as, there was little to differentiate them after the first chapter, where the game ends up being the same dull and uninteresting experience.
After playing the game for a few weeks, I decided to shelve it and come back when I didn’t feel so antagonistic towards it. I waited about three months and started playing again, only to immediately shut it off. I never did finish Dragon Age: Origins and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything at all.
As always, fire away in the comments below. Go ahead, don't be afraid. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to... Wait, in this case, do be afraid.
Jonathan is the host of the DarkCast, DarkCast Interviews, and Gamers Read. He loves books, video games, and superheroes. If he had to pick favorites, they would be Welcome to the Monkey House, Mass Effect, and Superman respectively.