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It’s difficult to ascertain what Cyberpunk 2077’s legacy will be. CD Projekt RED, still basking in the success of The Witcher 3 and eager to solidify its status at the top of the RPG mountain, brute-forced the game out the door to immediate sales numbers but at the cost of a lot of good will and press. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One owners were treated to a game that, while technically functional, was so clearly unready as to raise ire. PC, Xbox Series X, and PlayStation 5 owners fared better, but the truth of the matter is that even in an eventually unbuggy state, Cyberpunk 2077 just isn’t that exceptional of a title worthy of all of its marketing bluster.
It’s not all bad. The writing sometimes reminds one that, yes, this is the same studio that made The Witcher 3. The atmosphere of the bustling Night City can be palpable, giving credence to the lived-in world Cyberpunk 2077 is meant to operate in. The game is an absolute looker when running on a capable machine. However, it’s a big package spread fairly thin, never quite reaching the sum of its parts. The game’s combat quickly loses luster when it fails to evolve in meaningful ways. The main plot struggles to find an interesting hook and ends fairly limply. No matter how you build a character, shooting people will always be a viable option. Appreciation for the source material feels largely superficial, no more thought-provoking than the obnoxious in-game ads that are full of sound and fury, signifying the obvious. Once past the rough launch, continual bone-headed PR moves, unhealthy working environment, and years of anticipation, the actual Cyberpunk 2077 lands with a shrug.
“Worst” RPG is often a harsh misnomer, given that the staff is usually able to simply skip over some truly horrible entries. The award more regularly goes to those titles that have somehow enticed multiple staff members and then completely failed to impress any of them. That being said, calling Arc of Alchemist an unsuccessful experiment is perhaps putting it kindly. Compile Heart has had a very varied history but its worth praising the developer’s willingness to keep trying new things, even if that causes it to end up here more often. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to find any real positives in Arc of Alchemist. It’s the first time the studio has really tried to do an action RPG by itself, with previous titles featuring contributions from other developers, and it just falls flat in almost every aspect.
Somehow, Arc of Alchemist manages to be both too simple and too complicated, with mind-numbing combat, unexplained systems, and a nothing story combine to offer a title that one can only hope is the first step in a learning process. The entire story can be boiled down to a tiny number of event scenes across the ten-or-so hour span of the game with a completely one-dimensional cast. Its combat is utterly one-dimensional as well, but gets combined with a ridiculously complex character growth system that has a greater impact than any in-combat actions on the player’s part. Arc of Alchemist is best consigned to the dustbin of history, but hopefully Compile Heart has taken some useful lessons from it.
The SaGa franchise has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance thanks to some great remasters, with the latest game in the series, SaGa Scarlet Grace, finally getting localized. Of course, this being SaGa, some weirdness was expected, and it came in the form of the terrible mobile title Romancing SaGa Re;univerSe. Filled with all the worst gacha mechanics this sort of experience is known for, it sucks the life out of the whole experience. Not even SaGa’s excellent combat mechanics can save this experience from the heap of bad mobile experiences. Thankfully, a remaster of SaGa Frontier is on the way, which promises to be a much more satisfying SaGa experience.
My New Year’s resolution for 2020 was to stop playing gacha games. The closest I came to breaking that resolution was playing Seven Knights: Time Wanderer. While the mobile title’s battle system was recalibrated for consoles, the rest of the gameplay is too tethered to its mobile roots. The game features a turn-based battle system where each side is able to select one attack per turn. The player is given approximately three seconds to choose, causing more feelings of frustration than satisfaction. Throw in an underwhelming presentation coupled with inexplicable slowdown issues, and I was left with a game I have no interest to ever revisit.
by Zack Webster, Alex Fuller, Mike Apps, and Paul Shkreli