This year is going to be a great year for gaming. At least, I hope it is. As per usual, the beginning of the year heralds a whole slew of Most Anticipated lists popping up all over the place. In fact, you can find Hardcore Gamer’s right here. For me personally, however, this New Year feels different to years gone by. Alongside the multitude of titles to be excited about, I have a few that are generating genuine anxiety whenever I think about them. These games are on many people’s Most Anticipated lists and are mostly considered to be almost nailed on ‘good’ games. To be fair, if I was to make a Most Anticipated, these games would probably be included. The thing is that I’m not only anticipating these games. I’m also worried about them in some weird motherly way. So, uh, here is my Please Don’t Be Crap list of 2016.
5. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
I love the original Mirror’s Edge. However, I don’t think it was a particularly great game. It was reasonably well received critically; with a bunch of 8’s and even one or two 10’s given out by reviewers. Then it gained a bit of a hipster cult status. Personally, I loved it for the same reason I love the Trials games. It was a fun iteration of a competitive time trial game. My enjoyment of it hinged on the involvement of my friends. I would spend hours trying to shave milliseconds of my mate’s best time on our favorite tracks. Remove that competitive aspect and I would have lost interest immediately upon completion of the main story. My worry with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst comes from a lot of the praise the original has garnered in recent years. I read and hear people talking about the original Mirror’s Edge in an idealized manner with rose tinted glasses darkened to match. I really hope the development team hasn’t been caught in that hype. Personally, I don’t believe the game was revolutionary. I don’t believe that it was amazing. I feel that if the team has developed the reboot thinking that the original was these things, then a lot of people could be sorely disappointed. Yes, the concept was fresh, and the execution was clean (and fun!), but the game had a lot of faults. I feel that in this current gaming climate, those faults will be scrutinized much more harshly. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst can’t simply be a prettier Mirror’s Edge with a more open environment. It needs to be its own game. It needs to realize the bad stuff in the original, and it needs realize the good stuff. Then it needs to make the bad stuff good, and the good stuff even gooder. I can’t help but worry about the game being a bit crap if that good stuff isn’t done gooder and the bad stuff isn’t explored to make the bad gooderer* in a good way.
4. The Division
The other games on this list are here because there is a somewhat rational thought process behind their potential for being a bit crap; The Division not so much. Everything I’ve seen has indicated that I will like the game. In fact, everything I’ve seen has indicated that it will be pretty awesome. I’ve not seen a single thing that has made me think “hmm, maybe I won’t like that”. Yet, something makes me worried. Maybe it’s the amount of early hype that the game’s announcement trailer evoked from the gaming world. It looked amazing. It looked to be an AAA version of the hordes of online survival games that have flooded the early access section of Steam since the rise of Arma II’s DayZ Mod (of course, now it looks to be more of Destiny’s ilk than DayZ’s). Perhaps the fear is linked to my disappointment in what Destiny turned out to be (initial disappointment. I’ve since learned to enjoy Destiny immensely). Destiny was another game that looked to be something completely different upon its reveal. Whatever the case, I’m struggling to put my finger on my issue with The Division. I really don’t know. Sorry. Anyway, I just really hope The Division won’t be crap.
3. No Man’s Sky
Along with everyone else that saw the reveal, I was blown away by No Man’s Sky. After its announcement, information about the game slowly trickled out and my hype was continually raised to new heights. A big space game with planets and exploration and…and…uhh other stuff! It looks amazing! Then I recently showed someone a few trailers for No Man’s Sky. This person planted seeds of doubt within me when they responded with “yeah, it looks really interesting but what do you actually do?” After many, many hours of research and philosophizing, along with intense internal contemplation, I realized that I couldn’t answer the question. By this time, the person had left. Regardless of the behavior of my acquaintances, when it comes down to it, we haven’t actually seen all that much of No Man’s Sky. We’ve seen some awesome exploration stuff with animals and water and purple trees. We’ve seen some cool seamless planet to space transitions. We’ve also seen some distinctly average looking space combat. And that’s about it. Oh, we saw nearly infinite planets that we will never see or use. Cool! Sarcasm aside, all of that stuff is actually impressive. However, the elements we’ve seen simply cannot provide anything more than solid foundations for a cool game. There are definitely some hugely interesting concepts and technical achievements, even revolutionary ones, but I’m worried that beyond the initial wonder of exploration and discovery, No Man’s Sky hasn’t shown a whole lot that I can imagine myself coming back to for repeated experiences. That scares me. If there isn’t more to the game than what we’ve seen, then the game might just be a little bit crap. No Man’s Sky, I really want you to be as good as you look. Please don’t be crap.
2. Final Fantasy XV
A long time Final Fantasy fan, I’m worried that Final Fantasy XV might be a bit crap. Honestly, everything that I’ve seen looks good, great even (admittedly, it’s one of the games on my I-don’t-want-too-many-details-because-I-want-to-discover-it-myself list so I haven’t dug too deeply). But there is still this nagging worry that the game has undergone way too many iterations and changes to be anything other than a jumbled mess of ideas and half baked execution. Development started in 2006, A decade ago. Since then FFXV it has seen a total of twenty four different directorial changes and thirty two leading artists come and go. Okay, those numbers might be slightly exaggerated but there has been a large turnover of development staff on the project. There has also been a multitude of large scale changes to the scope, concept, story, and setting of the game. Add in the use of at least three separate in-game engines and the subsequent merging of two of them, and the doubt starts creeping in. We’ve been a bit worried about the upcoming release for a while now. From pictures of rocks, to asking the community’s input on seemingly obvious development decisions, some weird stuff has been happening over at Square-Enix recently. While things like the recent indecision over adding the element of Moogles into the game might not be indicative of a large scale lack of direction, it certainly doesn’t do anything to counter that perception. I really want Final Fantasy XV to be a good. I would love it if it was the greatest game ever, but at this point, I would completely satisfied with a game that isn’t crap. Please be that for me Final Fantasy XV. Please don’t be crap. Pls.
1. The Last Guardian
This is the big one. If you haven’t heard of The Last Guardian at some point in the last 7 years, then I don’t even know. After beginning development in 2007 and unveiled in 2009 for a 2011 PS3 release, Last Guardian became a ghost. It almost disappeared completely from the public eye. During this blackout, hopeful speculation became a mainstay before every big games event. “Maybe this will be the time they finally re-announce Last Guardian?” The largest piece of Last Guardian related news we got during these dark times was when the game’s creator Fumito Ueda left Sony while remaining “committed to the completion of Last Guardian”. Many hopes were dashed; others retained the faith as the word ‘completion’ was at least mentioned in the same breath as the now legendary game. The PS3’s life cycle came and went and as PS4 came into existence there continued to be little indication that the Last Guardian would ever be more than a pipe dream.
Then, in last year’s E3, Sony not only re-unveiled Last Guardian as an active project, but they also provided us with gameplay footage. HYPE. Sony has slated the release for some time this year, almost a decade after its initial conception. Therein lays a large part of my pessimism and anxiety. After almost ten years, will this game even be relevant anymore? Can a game that appeared to be unique and revolutionary in 2007 have anything close to the same effect on the gaming landscape almost a decade later? Last Guardian’s Director Fumito Ueda is renowned for his originality; both of his previous games, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, are incredibly highly regarded. This high regard has inspired a slew of inspired works and knock-offs of the two games. Many other developers have continued to build on the stylistic concepts and foundations that Ueda has set with his much vaunted works. As a result, I’m pretty worried that Last Guardian will arrive as a now standard puzzle platformer with an interesting protagonistic duo. Although that wouldn’t be the end of the world, it would certainly be an achievement much reduced after the expectations.
There is also the deep, deep worry that Last Guardian could have been a bit crap from the start. If we step back and really look, we haven’t ever seen a whole lot (anything, really) from the game. A couple of conceptual trailers with a cinematic focus from 2009/10 along with the more recent gameplay footage from last year that showed off a single basic puzzle. The main attraction has always been that the game has unique and interesting protagonists and a similarly unique and interesting art style and setting. Almost every other detail is speculation on our part. That scares me. A lot. If there is a God, let him make Last Guardian a not crap game.