Top Ten: Unforgivable Crimes in Gaming
What counts as an unforgivable crime in gaming? If it was just a case of making a bad game, this article would extend to thousands of entries – so it’s probably best to discount that. Instead, an unforgivable mistake is one which is a stain on an otherwise great game or series, and which damages the brand. This list is not absolute, but here are ten unforgivable mistakes that happened in the most recent generation of games.
10. Reused cave environments in Dragon Age II
When making Dragon Age II, it seems that Bioware were unaware of the existence of colours. Far from the expansive fantasy worlds we’ve come to expect of modern RPGs, we found ourselves trekking around a bland city, a bland coastline, and some bland hills.
Yet the most unforgivable thing about Dragon Age II is the cave. Yes, the singular cave. Because it doesn’t matter which cave you walk into – whether it’s at the top of a mountain, on the coast, in the hills, under the city – every single one is the same. Bioware literally copy and pasted the code and made them all identical. For a developer which has reached some remarkable heights, this kind of laziness was a new low.
9. The women of the Soul Series
Finding a female character in a game who doesn’t exist solely to be ogled at is despairingly rare, but no series is worse on the ogle-front than the Soul fighting games. With each new instalment, the ladies of Soul find their cup sizes increased and their outfits reduced. No character is worse than Ivy Valentine, whose costume at times has covered her nipples and very little else.
For every step forwards that the industry makes in its representation of women, there are still games that prefer to walk backwards; SoulCalibur IV even introduced costumes that broke mid-battle and left combatants in their underwear. Over the years, as the perversion only grows, it has become more and more embarrassing to have these games in your collection.
8. Linearity in Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XIII was a chance for Square-Enix to redeem themselves, and it certainly did a lot of things well. The graphics were gorgeous, the gameplay was a fantastic update on the ATP system, and although the plot rather stumbled along, the premise behind it was top-notch. Unfortunately, the game also refused to stop holding our hands.
Everything was controlled in Final Fantasy XIII. In an age when free-roaming is becoming more and more common, here was a game which gave you a multitude of narrow corridors to walk down and which forced you to use certain characters in certain formations. Nobody’s doubting how pretty it was, but it might have been nice to play the game as well as look at it.
7. Skyrim glitches
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a fantastic game, but it was actually less fantastic when first released. Anyone who remembers those early days will know the problems; after all, it’s difficult to engage in epic battle with a dragon when it’s flying backwards and crashing into things.
Bethesda have a track record of releasing games before they are finished and patching them up later; the glitches in Fallout: New Vegas are more numerous than can be mentioned. For a game with such a big build-up, however, and which promised so much, Skyrim’s glitches were by far the more inexcusable.
6. Racism in Just Cause 2
As sandbox gameplay goes, Just Cause 2 has some of the best. Exploring the island of Panau, on foot or by car, bike, helicopter, plane or parachute, gunning your way through a dictatorship has never been so fun. It’s just a pity that the experience is marred by racism.
At one point, you fight three foreign generals in a row. The Chinese general throws grenades packed with fireworks, the Russian spouts about his love for the motherland, and the Japanese general is renowned for torturing his own men. Add to that Panau’s short, fat dictator and the fact that the plot revolves around the USA seeking to control the island’s oil supply, and the fun really starts to fade.
5. Final Fantasy XIV
It may have been spectacularly re-released as A Realm Reborn, but that doesn’t mean that the original release of Final Fantasy XIV should have ever happened. Square-Enix’s flagship series has always been at the forefront of JRPGs, but here was an instalment which simply wasn’t up to scratch.
The lowest Metacritic score of the series should say all you need to know about the original Final Fantasy XIV. Released despite seeming unfinished, laden with bugs and practically unplayable, this was the sad sight of a great franchise brought to its knees.
4. Duke Nukem Forever
For a game which took fifteen years to make, Duke Nukem Forever was a pretty poor effort. The gameplay was lacking, the load times were insufferable, and the humour was sickeningly crude. Rather than the bombastic action which it aimed for, it came across as bloated and self-important.
That long development time is perhaps what did the damage. Too much of it seemed dated, and nothing more than its two-dimensional, sexist hero. When he starts shooting alien-impregnated women while merrily quipping away, you can’t help thinking that the series should have been allowed to die at the height of its powers.
3. Getting Samus wrong in Metroid: Other M
As far as leading ladies in gaming go, Samus Aran is a name which inspires respect. She may have been a silent protagonist, but when someone has saved the galaxy as many times as she has, you’ve got a pretty good idea of her strength of character.
So when she got her first speaking role in Metroid: Other M, it was particularly disheartening to see her portrayed as weak-willed, whiny, and entirely obsessed with the opinions of a man. The game itself was a solid entry to the series – but seeing one of gaming’s strongest female characters acting like a lovesick teenage girl could not have soured it any worse.
2. A whole bunch of Sonic games
The fortunes of Sega’s speedy blue mascot have been picking up recently, with such games as Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations, and even a cameo appearance in Wreck-It Ralph. That being said, when you consider the depths to which he has plunged, things could only ever improve.
Several Sonic games have received such negative reviews that Sega have started delisting them from the canon. Worst of all was 2006’s Sonic the Hedgehog, which was not merely terrible but featured the creepiest cross-species romance ever seen in a video game. It is undoubtedly an unforgivable crime to subject one of gaming’s most iconic heroes to such embarrassment.
1. The ending to Mass Effect 3
A Bioware game started our list and another one ends it. Both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 provided us with a fantastic, player driven narrative where your decisions make a difference to the way things play out. Then came Mass Effect 3, which continued that proud tradition… right up until its final moments.
The conclusion of the Mass Effect series could not have been a greater disappointment. All of those choices ultimately made no difference to the ending; instead, a deus ex machina popped up and provided us with a trio of choices which, to add insult to injury, were colour-coded. The Citadel DLC may have provided a more fitting end – but frankly, the game, the series, and the fans all deserved better.