Written by Jason Trent Wednesday, 18 April 2012 15:00
This is a Best Of article, which originally published on November 13, 2010
It seems there's been a recent trend of unfinished games making their way to retailers' shelves. Games missing content, lacking polish, or having an overwhelming number of bugs seem to be releasing more and more frequently while we, the gamers, just sit there and take it. I've had enough. I'm pleading with game publishers to stop this.
Fallout: New Vegas was one of the most poignant examples of this fall. Bugs, as is the case with many Bethesda titles, marred the experience that many had been looking forward to for so long. Crashes, glitches, and game-save corruption seemed to be common place, and within days, a patch was released to address several hundred bugs. There are more patches on the way. Couldn't there have been a little more effort put into quality assurance before the game made its way into our homes? The game arguably released in a beta state, and using your customers as bug testers is far from acceptable.
Next up was The Force Unleashed 2. Few people were more excited for this sequel than me. The game played well enough; the action was refined, fluid, and fun, but that's only one part of the experience. The game was incredibly short, and though I'm not one to normally detract from a game for this reason alone, a five-hour experience with little replay value and no multiplayer is hardly enough to justify a purchase of a $60 game. The story was also a complete and total letdown. It took characters from the first game's story, who I adored, and extended their narratives unnaturally and without the closure you'd expect. Having completed the game and looking back on my experience with it, it's clear that this is not the vision the game's developers had in mind. I completely believe that more time could have made all the difference for this title's problems. Making this especially difficult to recommend this game is the release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, which succeeded in nearly every way The Force Unleashed 2 did not. It's lengthy, environments are varied, and combat is challenging yet never cheap. The story also comes to an unexpected yet satisfying conclusion. Go play that instead.
Finally, there's Fable 3. Many are referring to this game, and deservedly so, as Fable 2.5. The game's mechanics have been overly simplified, it's graphically inferior to most other games, and then there are bugs and poor design decisions that detract from the overall fun factor. Peter Molyneux went to great lengths to get the game's audience excited for the new touch mechanic, but even that was implemented clumsily. Interacting with Fable 3's world is a complete step backward from Fable 2 by being cumbersome and slow. Having to make gestures, each by holding down the A button for several seconds, gets old quick, and being unable to select which friendly or unfriendly gesture you'd like to use at any given time detracts from potential personality. Even something as simple as keeping houses in Fable 2 has been made unnecessarily burdensome by forcing the player to repair properties one at a time. Then there's the bread crumb trail; Fable's version of a waypoint for quests. I've had that break more consistently than it has worked. I constantly find myself following the trail towards my goal when it suddenly disappears, turns around completely, or runs into obstacles. It's extremely frustrating. Despite these problems I'm still enjoying my time with the game, which says a lot about what the game does right, but I can't even begin to imagine how amazing this experience would have been had it seen more attention prior to release.
It would seem that the vast majority of gamers would rather have a well thought out and, more importantly, finished product that's been delayed than a half-baked cash in. Though NBA Elite 2011 may have been canceled, and LittleBigPlanet 2 delayed, I can't help but feel a great sense of appreciation for those who made those difficult choices in order to preserve a series' reputation and to be fair with their consumers. Publishers are risking the alienation of their core audiences, and in a time like now in which economic instability guides many of our purchasing decisions, that's just not something they can afford. We need AAA titles to meet our expectations if we're going to continue buying them. I understand that deadlines need to be met, but developers should be less afraid of delaying games if they need the extra time to make an OK game great.