Games That Just Didn't Keep You Hooked


#1

Recently, I’ve been thinking about games I just don’t have the energy to finish. Coincidentally, Mark Brown posted a pretty neat video about how games structure themselves to keep players engaged. And sure, there are plenty of games that have structural problems that make them less engaging. And sometimes with competitive games, like DotA (my case), you just had your time with it and aren’t really going to ever sink your teeth in the same way again. But I’ve also found that, sometimes, I just run out of momentum in a game and never really come back.

For me, three games I recently tried come to mind as standouts, and kind of symbolize the major reasons I feel I will drop a game.

Pillars of Eternity. I got all the way to Act III of this game (of three total acts!), but so far I haven’t gone back to finish it up. The truth is, I realized far too late that it’s just not my kind of game. I’m not a big fan of traditional fantasy, and the gameplay and story just weren’t unique enough to pull me in. Maybe I’ll go back one day. But this was a game that just wasn’t for me in the end.

Thief. A classic, a brilliant game, with an emphasis on pure stealth and emergent play that is absolutely my style. Yes, it’s clunky as all hell, and yes, it looks awful even by standards of the time, but it still clicked with me. The problem? I got lost. I got to the level “Thieves’ Guild”, and I got lost. I got so lost I started getting motion sick from the circles I was running in. I got so lost that even a walkthrough couldn’t get me out. It’s a shame, because I really was having a lot of fun, but I just simply couldn’t get out.

Hollow Knight. It’s a fantastic game, with gorgeous visuals and smart design. The world is original and fascinating. It’s also a Metroidvania, which is one of my pet favorites. So what stopped me? I honestly can’t say. I was having a blast, but I could never bring myself to open the game back up again after I had left it for about a week. I loved the experience, but I eventually uninstalled it to save up space. I can’t really explain why; maybe it was just because I lost momentum, but… I just haven’t gone back.

What about you? :slight_smile: What games do you find that you just never finished or stopped playing? Was it a narrative problem? Did you get stuck? Did it drop in quality at a certain point? Are there other reasons for you? Or have you similarly stopped playing for no clear reason at all? Why do you find that you just stop playing a given game?


#2

I had the same problem you had with Thief when I tried to play The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall. Every time I started a new game I’d do fine for a few hours, then I’d end up going into a dungeon and get completely stuck. I had no idea how to get out, so I gave up.


#3

The two biggest ones for me were Halo 5 and Mass Effect Andromeda. 2 of my all-time favourite series and 2 of the most disappointing sequels in recent memory. Over the last few years, I’ve begun to adopt the mentality of not needing to complete games for the sake of it (games are meant to be fun, after all!) but these 2 games stick out and still hit me with a great sense of regret.

I’m still tempted to go back and try to play through them. I may well do so with Halo 5 at least, just to see the story in case I want to pick up the inevitable Halo 6, but at this point, I can’t see myself wanting to buy any new Halo games.


#4

PUBG. I played for maybe 2 weeks with my friends, but then when they lost interest in it, Solo mode was literally so boring that I couldn’t even muster up the effort needed to care. I don’t like playing it by myself, so I don’t play it anymore.

Overwatch only hooks me when they have a new Lúcio skin. Outside of that, I can’t be bothered to care. It’s a shame, because I meet some fun people playing, but it’s just… not that interesting of a game. The thing shoring it up for me is the lore, but even that is just atrociously organized.

Dead Space lost me around the bullshit meteor section, but that’s because I got it on PC and the PC keybinds for that game are the button-feel equivalent of being kicked in the throat.


#5

Destiny 2

Played a bunch of it with my friends, got to the top level, got some good loot, tried the raid once or twice and then we all just dropped it like a hot rock.


#6

Dishonored is the first one that comes to mind. It’s a brilliant game in many respects and should press all my buttons. But before I got even halfway through I just stopped playing it without much reason, it failed to hook me for reasons I can’t think of yet. Maybe my OCD-nature to fully stealth it made me too stressed out while playing it, but I’m not sure. Regardless, it’s a pity because that game was solid. Especially the worldbuilding, that sweet sweet worldbuilding… And yet I stopped playing. Since then I unhooked my PS3 from the TV to make room for a 2nd-hand PS4, so it’s not like I’m going to go back any time soon.


#7

Mark Brown’s video helped me see why so many games just never hooked me! It would seem pacing is tricky and what gets me to drop most games, especially if there’s a gap of time where I’m not able to get back to the game for a while.

Example: Last I played Mafia 3, I just wrapped up the intro (which was really, really good) but when I come back in to attempt to get further it just feels so much slower in a way I’m not very excited to continue playing.

I was in the same place as you concerning Hollow Knight, but I can pinpoint what stopped me. I was in love with most of what the game was doing but I couldn’t get past how the jumping in the game felt. Like it feels very deliberate in a way I can’t really pin down that doesn’t feel good? I suppose that means the game never really hooked me to begin with though.


#8

I think I’ve gone through that process with pretty much any MMO or co-op rpg where I play exclusively with a friend/friends. Once we see most of what the game has to offer, one of us will move onto something else and it won’t be until I play solo for a while do I realise how much I really don’t get on with grinding.

I never thought it would happen with Monster Hunter World but it did!


#9

Monster Hunter World was a big one for me this year. I was really interested in getting into Monster Hunter as I’ve enjoyed the Souls games which people in the know readily compare to Monster Hunter. Turns out none of MHW’s hooks sunk in. I enjoyed the 15 hours I put in but one day I just… stopped. Haven’t felt a desire to pick it up since. Just nah. I wish it bored me less than it does.


#10

If I stop playing a game that I genuinely enjoy, it’s usually because it’s just too long. After about 50 hours of Persona 4, I was ready for it to be over… but did a little research and found out I was only halfway there. That realization was pretty overwhelming, so I put it down, never to pick back up again.

I know this about myself, so I usually know better than to pick up any games that last more than 20 hours… yet for some reason I still talked myself into buying Persona 5, MGSV, and Ni No Kuni 2…


#11

I don’t really go in for super long singleplayer games, and the endless multiplayer competitive things I usually stop playing because of people issues, not game issues. So I guess that leaves MMOs – Runescape because I never was that into it in the first place (it was just a handy browser-based thing!), and Maple Story ironically not because of the pay2win but because of the exhausting breakneck flood of in-game “events” – and puzzle/platformer type games that I got stuck on. Of this latter category there are actually quite a few: Braid, Limbo, and Antichamber among the more well-known.

I also technically haven’t finished Sunless Sea! I haven’t really been in the right place for it, mentally/emotionally speaking, for a while. But I spent over a hundred hours in it, making it an anomaly in my gaming experience as a long campaign-style singleplayer game, and I feel okay with that.


#12

Dishonored is a funny one. I also fell off Dishonored 2 and the same happened with the first game. It was only in the leadup to Dishonored 2 that I actually went back and finished the first game and all it’s DLC. In then end, I really did like the game, and I probably enjoyed the DLC episodes eve more. I loved Daud as a character (who doesn’t love playing as a character voiced by Michael Madsen), I thought the game told a more compelling story about a man who regreted his actions and sought a path of redemption. Corvo by contrast was more of a blank canvas - your stoic video game mute.

Everything I’ve played about Dishonored 2, I like. I love the design, I love the mediterranean setting, I like playing as Emily, I like that the characters actually talk this time round. Oh and I love the clockwork mansion. Just an ingeniously designed level, it’s great how you get to the spaces inbetween the walls and just stay there. I’m not sure where exactly I’m in on the game, I think I have to infiltrate a party and I’m out on the city streets enroute to the location, and this is where I’ve dropped off.

I think the problem with Dishonored 1 and 2 is that it gives you so much choice in how you want to carry out the missions but still limits you down regimented paths based on what ending you want to get. So whilst you can conjure up a swarm of rats to eat your enemies, or psychically link enemies together so that when you shoot one in the face, all their heads explode. But because I’m such a square when I play these games, because I’m trying to play Emily as a good and empathetic ruler, I feel all these abilities are locked away from me. Instead I have to opt for a stealthy approach that requires a lot of starting and stopping whenever I get caught.

Then there are moments in which the context around you changes drastically. Like during the first game, you get betrayed by the people you had believed were the resistance. Your cast off like a broken tool and after that, I just wanted to kill everyone. What was the point in being stealthy anymore? I think that’s why the DLC is much better, because Daud is a bad dude, so there is the reasoning that he’d use all the more adverse powers at his disposal. I don’t think Dishonored is worthy of a goody two shoes approach. You’ve got to get your hands dirty.


#13

I don’t mean this as another shot at them (everyone knows they took a bunch), but No Man’s Sky is the biggest one I can remember. Still a great concept, but my god did that game just give me the loneliest feeling in the world. I put a good 10 hours in (post-major update) and still didn’t do it for me.


#14

ECHO was one of the more disappointing recent cases of this for me. It’s gorgeous, polished, has good characters and what seems like an interesting world, and the central conceit is kind of brilliant (enemies learn from your behavior) … but it just didn’t work for me on a gameplay level. The levels are repetitive and it feels like it always devolves into awkwardly running around with a gaggle of enemies chasing you, waiting for the level to reset. I stuck with it longer than I probably should have, but only because it makes such a strong first impression.

Sunless Skies is another one, though it’s probably not fair to say anything until it’s officially released. I loved Sunless Seas, despite being horrible at it, but this one just isn’t grabbing me. The world seems barren compared to Seas, and the art style strikes me as sterile, somehow? I’m trying not to be too harsh because I’m going to go back once there’s more content, it just surprised me how easily I drifted away, considering Seas sucked me in for a good 40 hours.


#15

I’ve never finished the main storyline of Fallout 5, over about 15-20 hours of play, and every time I ponder starting it up again to finish, I get a headache and a palpable sense of anxiety. I think it relates to how there’s a lot to do in the game, but none of it really matters to the characters within its narrative. The various factions and NPCs continue to view, and perpetuate, The Commonwealth as a blighted war zone no matter how many sanctuaries the player character creates.

It can be fun to build up elaborate settlements but when structures don’t seem to bring about meaningful beneficial change to the people, they just become kind of a bummer. It feels like a game of half-measures. It has a lot of the gameplay hooks to draw me in (scavenging, solid combat and a lot of crafting), but then sabotages them with a meaningless narrative. It can already feel like good intentions and actions can have dubious meaning in the real world, I don’t need that in a game.


#16

My memory with the first two Thief games (disclaimer: I was a child hence this memory might be totally wrong) is that both of them kind of drop the whole stealth thing partway through, which I remember (possibly inaccurately) being a bit of a downer


#17

Didn’t finish Hollow Knight? Why you little… WHY YOU LIT-

Nah, actually, this actually happens to me a lot. I will actually be having a lot of fun with a game, then at the end of a session I’ll put the controller down (or you know, take my hand off the mouse or whatever) and I’ll know that, yep, I’m never going to touch this again. Happened to me with:

*Final Fantasy V, XII and XV - V because I dislike the job system, XII and XV because the MMO-ish combat bores me.
*Most recently, Dandara, just because I really hated the way it controls.


#18

I hate to admit this, but Dark Souls. I’m not crazy about dying 8000 times, and I DESPISE grinding so it’s not for me.


#19

Ori and the Blind Forest. I played through about a third of it, but in the end there were a number of small things that just piled up and made me stop. The manual saving felt really out of place in a game with such heavy platforming. The controls were way too floaty for my tastes—the wall jump felt unreliable and the air dash seemed to arbitrarily decide when I was and wasn’t close enough to a trigger to use it. The combat felt too one-note and imprecise, and while the world was beautiful, it wasn’t grabbing me. There were some sequences that did blow me away (like holy hell the Water Escape sequence was brilliant), but on the whole I just decided to try something else.

And funnily enough, it was also because I started playing Hollow Knight, which basically gave me everything I felt like Ori was lacking. Save points that helped guide pacing, precise controls and platforming, equally precise and detailed combat, and an overall atmosphere that just yanked me in. After that I knew I couldn’t go back, no matter how much was left.


#20

Usually I stop playing a game because I get distracted by a newer, shinier game. But I remember Crackdown 2 completely lost me. I tried my best to get into it, but I think I realised at about the fourth cave full of waves of zombies that it wasn’t going to get any better.

Also if games which are too hard to get hooked on count, I had to put down Celeste because I’m too bad at video games and keep dashing at a 45 degree angle to where I need to go. Sorry, Celeste. I’ll try again later.