Sometimes Word of Mouth Can Be a Bad Thing
Games have a rough enough time trying to sell themselves already. At basically $60 a piece each game must be in full contention with every other game out there vying for your dollars, and impulse buying isn’t very economical in today’s market. In light of this, most gamers rely on professional reviews and the opinions of their friends to make informed decisions on which games to purchase. But what happens when those opinions are based on incorrect assumptions, unreasonable expectations, and unfair comparisons? Here now, I present 5 games that based on poor word of mouth didn’t stand a chance at becoming financial successes, despite being fine games on their own.
5. Brutal Legend
Brutal Legend, the love letter to heavy metal written by Tim Schafer and his Double Fine studio, is only looked down upon because of the bait and switch it pulled at release. Following the critical praise of their previous platformer Psychonauts, many gamers were ready for a heavy metal version of that game. After playing the demo for Brutal Legend, which is strictly a platforming affair with some sweet heavy metal music playing over it gamers were pumped to smash demons faces in with guitars and explore the world of Brutal Legend. However, when the game finally released and everyone found out the action-adventure sections were merely a means of getting from one RTS battle to the next people were severely disappointed. This is understandable, it does feel like they tried to hide the fact that Brutal Legend had more in common with Starcraft than Zelda, however to write the game off for this is completely unfair. I personally can’t stand RTS games myself, I get it when you were upset and told everyone this game lied to you, however after playing through all of Brutal Legend I’m prepared to tell you it’s not as bad as you think. Sure the RTS elements are there, but they never get more complicated than 5 units that work in a Rock Paper Scissors type fashion. The RTS segments are easy to control and manage, you don’t need any uber-micro here. Couple this with the phenomenal soundtrack Double Fine put together (Really, if you love heavy metal you NEED to play this game) the whole world comes alive. Driving around in The Deuce, blaring Judas Priest, and running over demons running around the world is endlessly satisfying. The RTS segments work perfectly within the context of the game, and there are enough action-adventure segments to make the game worthwhile to play through. If somebody told you this game was a straight RTS game and to avoid it, they are a liar and should feel bad for lying.
4. Alan Wake
Alan Wake, the latest from Max Payne developers Remedy, made 2 fatal mistakes when it was released. It went head to head against Red Dead Redemption, an unfair competition for any game really, and it held back it’s only decent gameplay offerings until the final chapter of the game and it’s DLC. Because of the first problem it’s understandble why sales were so low for the game, and because of the second it makes sense that most gamers were unwilling to stick through the games slow beginning. However, those that did were treated to a final chapter that fully embraced the original gameplay elements that the Alan Wake story could provide. While there is nothing broken in the beginning of the game, it is certainly unremarkable, but once you get to the end and have to use the floating words written by Wake himself to create light and other objects to progress in the world, the game finally reveals what it could be. These ideas thankfully extend into the 2 DLC chapters that were released for Alan Wake and actually make the expansion chapters better than the whole of the original game. It’s a shame poor initial sales and bad word of mouth killed off what became a very interesting and unique game in it’s final sections. Remedy is working on a spin-off Alan Wake title for XBLA, so hopefully this won’t be the last we see of Mr. Wake in the future.
3. Arcania: Gothic 4
Arcanias biggest problem is that it is simply not a Gothic game. This games bad word of mouth is stemmed from gamers feeling of betrayal with their beloved series. After the release of Gothic 3, publisher JoWood released original developer Piranha Bytes and hired a new developer to continue the series. This left fans upset and it was clear that Gothic 4 wasn’t going to have much of a chance. While it is true that as a sequel to the open world Gothic titles Arcania fails at almost every corner. The story is very linear, dropping the biggest selling feature of Gothic, instead of having a large open environment to do anything you wish, you are limited to specific sections of the world until you complete that part of the main quest that lets you move forward. However, as an RPG on it’s own merits there isn’t much wrong with Arcania, it’s certainly better than Fable which it has much more in common with than Gothic. When looked at outside of the Gothic microscope, we can see that Arcania is a decent action rpg, with workable combat that doesn’t force in janky mechanics like Gothic did, simple character progression that doesn’t encumber you with useless abilities, and a graphics engine that is rather pleasant on the eyes. It’s not surprising that fans of Gothic would feel betrayed by this game being called a sequel, however it’s also not fair to denounce the game entirely because of it. People looking for a smaller easier to digest RPG experience that is like Fable but worlds more competent should give Arcania a try.
2. Two Worlds
Much like Arcania, Two Worlds has fallen into the same trap of being a fine game that simply couldn’t stand up to another. In this case that game is Oblivion, which came out a year before the release of Two Worlds. The way Two Worlds was presented and thought of by gamers in it’s pre-release marketing was that it would be the next Oblivion killer, a ridiculous feat for any game, let alone one created by a small Polish developer. When the final game was released every gamer who played it instantly bemoaned how inferior it was to Oblivion in every way. The combat was difficult to grasp and the environments and graphics were levels below what Bethesda was able to produce. However, this is a completely unfair comparison. Oblivion had the money of Bethesda behind it along with their years of honing the Elder Scrolls formula to polish that game, Two Worlds was an ambitious RPG being developed on a MUCH smaller budget by a much less experienced team, of course it wouldn’t be as mind-blowing as Oblivion. Players who stuck with the game however would be rewarded with a world that was much more unique than Oblivion. Two Worlds boasted more than simple medieval European landscapes and dungeons, having jungle areas, desert cities, and barren wastes along with the typical European setting made Two Worlds a much more interesting world to explore. Combat and character progression also weren’t broken like they are in unmodded vanilla Oblivion, however most gamers didn’t get past the first dungeon in Two Worlds so wouldn’t be able to tell you how the game allows you to level up with a normal progressing scale growing slowly more powerful with each skill point allotment and fighting fiercer and more interesting foes as you go. They would rather be stuck with leveled loot, leveled enemies, and a character progression system so archaic and backwards it required an excel spreadsheet to track progression just to keep from leveling improperly. The game can be found for about $2.50 in any bargain bin these days and at that price this is one Unplayable that’s certainly worth a look. They even had a chance to go back and fix some of their mistakes with Two Worlds 2 which has an even more interesting progression and weapon system.
1. Deadly Premonition
Deadly Premonition is easily the greatest game that you have probably never played. One of the main games that inspired the creation of The Unplayables and a favorite of both myself and Mikes. This game got so much bad press when it was released it is mind-boggling to think what some people expected from it. Sure it has completely dated graphics, looking like a release title for the 360 rather than a polished new game. The voice acting and writing is off the wall and completely laughable and the soundtrack is ridiculously inappropriate. However, when this game released it’s full retail price was $19.99, how could anyone complain at that price? It already screams that it isn’t trying to blow you away. The fact that the game IS mind-blowing is what people should have been talking about. When Alan Wake was released a lot of reviewers compared it to Twin Peaks, that is a completely incorrect analogy as Alan Wake shares nothing but a setting with Twin Peaks. Deadly Premonition, however, might as well have been called Twin Peaks: The Game. They both share the same setting, feature extremely similar off the wall secondary characters, a main character who is a complete odd duck FBI agent, and even share the same completely inappropriate musical cues and wacky dialogue. The only thing Deadly Premonition is missing is David Lynch voicing one of the characters so he can scream at you to explain how brilliant this all is if you are too stupid to understand it. The poor graphics, audio, and controls aren’t just there to make you laugh at this game, they are completely necessary to make this game work. Had Deadly Premonition played like Resident Evil 4 and tried to take itself seriously it would be largely forgotten by now. Because it embraces the strangeness of it’s world, never cares that it’s plot is running away with itself, and doesn’t get bogged down with trying to present everything in a AAA title style we get a truly unique and fun adventure. And at just 20 bucks, who can really argue with that?
There you have it, 5 games that aren’t as bad as everyone has told you they are. Each one being victim to outside forces causing poor reception at release leaving it dead in the water. If you’ve been told to avoid any of these games, I hope you’ll consider the arguments I made for each of them and maybe give them a second chance. At least by now they’re all relatively cheap!
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment and let us know, or let us know about other games that you feel weren’t as bad as everyone has been telling you!