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Biggest Letdown / “Worst” RPG
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Many would name Hidetaka Suehiro one of the most interesting game designers out there. Between B-masterpiece Deadly Premonition and the sadly unfinished D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die, he made a name for himself with surreal works that, while not the most technically competent, made for unique experiences that have been seldom replicated. Such admiration meant many backed The Good Life on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, when the game finally arrived, what was there was a tedious slog that highlighted past weaknesses while failing to provide anything interesting to grab onto.
On its face, not much has changed from Deadly Premonition. The Good Life shares a lot of its janky and unpolished nature, down to personal hygiene meters and NPC scheduling that often proves more annoying than immersive. While these deficiencies would normally be made up by creative storytelling and characters, instead the town of Rainy Woods is populated with one-note quest givers and NPCs with little function outside of the chore they offer. The central mystery is so off-the-wall it becomes impossible to solve it deductively, reducing the player to a mere observer, watching nonsense events play out as the game desperately tries to treat wackiness and quirkiness as charm. And once all the abundant weirdness has been stripped away, all that’s left is a less-than-mediocre life sim more concerned with doing a lot of things rather than doing any of them particularly well. Hopefully White Owl Games’ next title has a good deal more focus.
MMOs are in a weird place, with few capturing the sort of sustained mind-share they did in their heyday. The prospect of a brand new MMO with an interesting setting and the full backing of Amazon seemed like it could offer a fresh take on the genre. Instead New World plays out in a fairly standard MMO way, with hours and hours dedicated to cutting down trees and mining for ore. The game still maintains a respectable, if lighter than desired, player base, but it’s difficult to find any discussion of it whatsoever outside of dedicated circles, especially after the latest Final Fantasy XIV expansion. Really, there isn’t much to talk about. If you’ve tried a PvP-focused MMO, you’ve likely played something very similar New World. There are definite examples of MMOs that have recovered from rocky starts, but it remains to be seen how long Amazon will support it.
There was so much fanfare about Mario Golf: Super Rush when it was first announced that many hopped on the hype train and never looked back. There was sincere hope across RPGamers of a true RPG-sports hybrid, but what was served felt like a golf simulator with a tacked-on RPG mode. It’s a disappointment to fans who were expecting significantly more from the available courses and characters, as well as a structured adventure mode. While there have been some post-release updates, they are insufficient to lure many back to the course.
“Worst” RPG is a harsh misnomer, as the sheer number of releases means the RPGamer staff is often able to just skip over the truly horrible entries. This title instead goes to those games that have somehow enticed multiple staff members and then completely failed to impress any of them, and that’s the case again with the entries here. The Neptunia series has always varied in quality, though the main titles are mostly well-received. The same cannot be said for the spin-offs, and Neptunia Virtual Stars continues the trend.
With the cast being pulled into the world of Vtubers, Neptunia Virtual Stars never gets beyond the initial concept, and every character is reduced to their base stereotype. The gameplay is a bare-bones third-personal shooter, where players wander around tiny areas to fight bland enemies. With its uninspired gameplay and story, there’s nothing to hold player interest, which is why it claims the top spot for being our Worst RPG of the year. Players are much better served playing this year’s other spin-off, Neptunia x Senran Kagura: Ninja Wars — it’s a far superior game, though it doesn’t have much to beat.
One assumes that idea of making a “debt-repayment” RPG was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but White Owl Games made it a bit too accurate. Unfortunately, The Good Life is about as fun to play as paying off an actual debt. Naomi Hayward is a struggling journalist seeking to revitalize her career by solving the mystery of a small English town whose denizens turn into cats and dogs at night, while at the same time assisting a shady government agency in solving a murder in exchange for debt relief. She accomplishes this in the most Millennial way possible: the gig economy. The game feels as if it’s comprised entirely of fetch quests, with dozens of ways to make insignificant amounts of money, each more boring and tedious than the last. Everything in The Good Life has to be done in the slowest, most painstaking way possible; it even robs the fun of being able to turn into a cat or dog, as each transformation halts the game for seconds at a time, which doesn’t sound bad until a street full of form-based contextual interactions calls into question how much time is worth dedicating to picking up a digital green bean. If there was any potential charm to the game, it is lost in a sea of janky, slow-paced tedium.
The Dungeons & Dragons video games have a bit of an unstable history, but for many, the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance series invokes fond memories of the series mixing Diablo-like action with the Forgotten Realms setting. When it was announced that Dark Alliance would be returning with Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance, and that fan-favorite character Drizzt Do’Urden would be a playable character, fans were understandably excited. Sadly, the final product failed to invoke fond memories, as it’s filled with buggy and repetitive gameplay, and met with much frustration upon launch. Not even Drizzy could save its virtually non-existent story.
by Zack Webster, Paul Shkreli, and Mike Apps