While originally viewed as fun time-wasters, video games have evolved to become a fantastic storytelling medium. By making players feel like more than mere observers, video games have done a fantastic job of immersing gamers in rich and compelling narratives — though some games do too good of a job.
As odd as it may seem, there are video games that focus so much on crafting a compelling narrative that the actual gameplay lags. This results in products where the gameplay feels like a mere excuse for the storytelling experience rather than an experience in its own right. While not all of these games are strictly bad, many play them mainly to experience the story.
10 Kid Icarus: Uprising
A long-awaited new entry in one of Nintendo’s oldest franchises, Kid Icarus: Uprising was a hotly anticipated game. When it was released, the game was near-unanimously praised for its fun characters, witty dialogue, and surprisingly deep plot. When it came to the gameplay, however, the praise fell a little quieter.
While the gameplay had some excellent core concepts, it was marred by awkward touch controls. Players would move and attack entirely with the left hand while controlling the camera entirely with the 3DS’ touch screen. Many fans hope for an HD remake of Kid Icarus: Uprising and updated controls are at the top of their wish list.
Many Deadpool fans were thrilled to find out that their favorite anti-hero would be getting his own AAA game. And after High Moon Studios’ excellent work on Transformers: War For Cybertron and Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron, those fans were thrilled that they were working on it. Though the game’s story was chock-full of all the raunchy, meta humor fans expected, the gameplay left a little to be desired.
Critics found the level design boring and the gameplay to be repetitive. A character as zany as Deadpool deserved much more over-the-top gameplay than what essentially boiled down to a fairly standard shooter. However, Deadpool’s constant commentary and the game’s hilarious script were enough to make up for it to some fans.
Vampyr is the story of Dr. Jonathan Reid, who is suddenly turned into a vampire after returning home to London from World War One. Jonathan is torn between his innate desire to help people and his newfound thirst for their blood. The game perfectly reflects this turmoil by rewarding the player for killing characters they’ve gotten to know more about.
While critics praised that mechanic and the game’s excellent story, many were turned off by the game’s combat. The common consensus is that the combat was bland and cumbersome. However, those able to look past that find Vampyr to be one of the best vampire stories in fiction.
7 Gotham Knights
Gotham Knights offers a fascinating premise: players take on the role of either Nightwing, Batgirl, Red Hood, or Robin and must protect Gotham City after Batman has died. Many Batfamily fans were taken with the idea and loved the game’s story and the dynamic between the four protagonists. However, even the game’s staunchest defenders had trouble defending the game’s combat.
Many found the combat to be incredibly bland, with many encounters inevitably forcing players to resort to mashing the buttons. The game’s looting aspects that forced the player to constantly micromanage their equipment didn’t help. Even so, many fans find the game’s frank examination of shared trauma to be worth these drawbacks.
6 Asura’s Wrath
Asura’s Wrath grabbed the attention of many gamers when it was first revealed. With gigantic enemies and an epic scale, the game looked like an anime turned into a video game. Then players got their hands on the game and realized it was actually just an anime.
Players praised Asura’s Wrath for its epic story and incredible action scenes, but a common complaint was that there was very little gameplay. More time was spent watching the cutscenes, and what little time was spent in gameplay comprised largely of quicktime events. Essentially, the game is regarded as an action-packed anime that happens to have some playable sections.
5 Sakura Wars
While the entire series has this reputation, the 2019 release of Sakura Wars deserves special mention. Trading out the game’s usual turn-based strategy for Dynasty Warriors-style action, players were disappointed by the lackluster gameplay. The combat was largely seen as clunky and slower than other Warriors games.
What really won fans over was the game’s excellently-written characters and fantastic world-building. The time not spent in combat was spent interacting with and building relationships with the lovable supporting cast. It’s one of the few times that gamers prefer talking over blowing things up with giant robots.
4 Star Wars: The Old Republic
In a rare case for MMORPGs, Star Wars: The Old Republic boasted a fantastic story that would feel right at home with other Bioware single-player RPGs. Players take on one of 8 playable classes, each of which has a unique narrative filled with excellent voice acting, branching dialogue, and memorable characters.
While the gameplay isn’t exactly bad, many felt it wasn’t anything special. Seasoned MMO fans likened it to World Of Warcraft but with a sci-fi coat of paint. Though the game is still well-regarded, many players wished that the excellent stories existed as a single-player campaign.
3 Enslaved: Odyssey To The West
The vast majority of Enslaved: Odyssey To The West‘s reviews praise the game as a cinematic experience. The game is loved for its great story, thrilling set pieces, and excellent performance from Andy Serkis as the protagonist. While the narrative is universally praised, the gameplay received more of a mixed reception.
Critics pointed out that the platforming sections felt scripted, and combat could be cleared by spamming the same combo over and over. The common complaint is that there is so much hand-holding that the game feels more like a movie than a game. But judging by the high review scores, it’s still a very good movie.
2 Iron Lung
In Iron Lung‘s distant future, all stars, inhabitable planets, and their inhabitants have disappeared in what’s been dubbed the “Quiet Rapture.” The humans remaining in space colonies and star ships must find out what happened and struggle to survive with the meager resources left on the remaining moons.
One of these moons is discovered to have an ocean of human blood, and the player is sent down in an unsafe submarine to take pictures of what’s down there. The player can only see by taking pictures, and they get the sense they are not alone. However, without the fascinating premise and growing sense of dread, Iron Lung is a largely scripted game about going places and taking pictures.
1 To The Moon
To The Moon has a well-deserved spot on many fans’ favorite game lists. Aside from its excellent soundtrack and art direction, the game tells a funny and heartwrenching story about love and loss. There are very few players who can play the game without having a box of tissues nearby.
That being said, even the game’s biggest fans admit that the gameplay is just an excuse for the story. The only thing that players do in To The Moon is move from one location to the next and solve uninteresting picture-puzzles. The game is still worthy of being called a masterpiece, but it may have worked better as a visual novel.
NEXT: 10 Pitfalls Video Game Narratives Should Avoid
#Games #Stories #Gameplay