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We’ve been talking about our favorite games from the last year, but amidst all the instant classics that emerged in 2011, there were plenty of games that seemed on the verge of greatness… until we actually played them. Maybe it was slick marketing, or perhaps franchise loyalty, or completely unfounded optimism, but we all played some games this year that just didn’t live up to our expectations.
Ari Runanin-Telle: Duke Nukem Forever - Some people had unrealistically high expectations for Duke Nukem Forever after its huge development cycle. I wasn't one of them. I knew that it would feel at least a little dated, the graphics wouldn't be that great, and that the jokes would be hit or miss. Even with these modest expectations, I was severely disappointed with Duke Nukem Forever. The problem isn't that it feels dated by today's standard (though it doesn't help), the problem is that this game is poorly made. The level design is, for the most part, awful. The combat is a bit satisfying, but this isn't impressive in the slightest when you consider it's predecessor, Duke Nukem 3D, which had great combat. The jokes are lazy references at best, or completely disgusting and offensive at worst. Hopefully, now that this tragedy is out of the way, Gearbox can move on to make something worthwhile with the Duke Nukem IP.
Erik Calhoub: Spider-Man: Edge of Time - While not a horrible game, Spider-Man: Edge of Time just didn’t take advantage of the momentum developer Beenox had. A short development time period likely had a negative effect on the game. Playing as two different Spider-Men is interesting, even if they play nearly the same. Lots of repetition here, and like the development time, the game is too short. Here’s hoping that the next Spider-Man release, The Amazing Spider-Man, fares better. If the trailer is any indication, it certainly will.
Chris Mole: Dragon Age 2 - I really, really wanted to like Dragon Age 2. The first game, Origins, was a wonderfully old-school slice of classic RPG, served with a side of humor and a vivid and interesting take on a number of classic fantasy tropes. The sequel threw away that quaint charm in favor of being ‘hip’ and ‘edgy’; the equivalent of a string quartet suddenly pulling out guitars and playing bad indie rock to a shocked concert hall. The gameplay changes ripped out practically all of the RPG elements that had made me love the original, turning DA2 into a boring hack-and-slash action game, and the expansive scenery of DA1 was replaced by one city. One. For the entire game. Hey, it saved the design team from having to create lots of different maps, right? And they could re-use exactly the same ‘outdoors’ map for every location that wasn’t inside the city. I genuinely found very little to love about DA2, and lord knows I tried. The characters were nowhere near as interesting or appealing (except for the adorably Welsh Merrill, who I have a bit of a soft spot for) and I struggled to care about the story, drowning as it was beneath a mire of swaggering, bad hairstyles and ‘rock-and-roll’ accessibility. Dragon Age 2 tops my all-time list of sequels that have failed spectacularly to capitalize on the brilliance of the original game, joining such luminary titles as Final Fantasy X-2 on the scrapheap of my shattered dreams.
Charles Battersby: Dragon Age 2 - I’m with Chris on this one. Dragon Age 2 was one of my most anticipated games this time last year, yet when I first got my mitts on that demo I started to become a bit apprehensive. The simplified controls and emphasis on button mashing action made it seem like a typical console action RPG. Once I got the full game I found a story about a refugee fleeing the Darkspawn horde, instead of fighting it, and a pack of bickering bisexual companions who wouldn’t stop flirting with me long enough to help me save the world from… Well now that I think about it, In Dragon Age 2 I didn’t actually save the world, I just kinda drifted around town for ten years before an arbitrary end boss showed up. I didn't even get to be a Grey Warden! Instead of escalating the franchise to new levels, Dragon Age 2 was a disappointing, quickly-made cash in on the first game’s success.