Promising games that make you completely tap out in their opening act


#1

Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s marketing & setup was already setting off some big warning bells for me, but I’m too much of an immersive sim sucker for my own good and gave it a whirl.

I was already feeling real gross when a quest had me beating a destitute man and stealing his last possessions for a petty debt with zero moral interrogation of the act (your dad grills you with the usual “look we’re ~mature writers~” speech if you throw literal shit at a well-to-do dude’s house so your friends will help you gang-beat the destitute man! But not! For the act! of beating and robbing! Him!)

The only female characters in the intro were characterized by sex, sexualization and subservience (and you know that that and all the deliberate leering camerawork would be excused with “historical accuracy”), and then the village gets pillaged and [CW: Rape] after several minutes of dreading a rape scene, I had just started believing they really wouldn’t shit directly in my eyes.

Then an objective popped up on the screen: “Save Theresa from the rapists”.

That’s not paraphrasing, those words just pop up on the screen in whatever hokey medieval-scrawl typeface had been telling me with big green checkmarks to whip dung at a house ten minutes earlier. I’ve alt-f4ed after losing my patience with games before, I don’t know that I’ve ever made a beeline for the uninstall/refund buttons so immediately after, though.

Do any of y’all have games that got pitched to you real well, like so well you’re still a bit curious about the “good parts”, but turned you right the hell off with some supreme bullshit in their intro, thematically or otherwise?


#2

I can’t say I was necessarily offended, but I gave Bayonetta 1 a whirl last week in anticipation for the Switch release and bounced right off after an hour. Everything about the world, from the discount Joe Pesci, to the unintelligible lore, and of course the insane leering at the title character. It all felt so dumb and juvenile that I could not care to push forward on it. I might check out 2 as that is the game in the series that people rave about, but it will definitely be a “wait until a sale” type of pickup.


#3

This is a good question! As for me the game that comes to mind for thematic reasons is The Division. Fuck this game. They set you up as a citizen looking out for the good of the people still stuck in Manhattan… then your only meaningful interaction with people in the city is shooting them? In particular you tasked with killing -ahem- “looters.” It’s an ugly fucking premise and immediately had me upset. Though, could be said about pretty much every military-adjacent Ubisoft shooter.

As for a game that seemed promising that I tapped out of for mechanical reasons, Hollow Knight seems so much like something I should be all over, but the jumping in the game just feels baaaaaad. I don’t have the vocabulary to describe it well, but it feels so artificial for whatever reason. Like it feels rigid in a way and I just couldn’t get past the game feel.


#4

In particular you tasked with killing -ahem- “looters.” It’s an ugly fucking premise and immediately had me upset. Though, could be said about pretty much every military-adjacent Ubisoft shooter.

fuuuuuuuuuuuuck that game. Said looters are exclusively persons of color and you’re tasked with defending shit like electronics stores from them in the middle of a massive public health crisis. Never saw any of them doing any actual fuckin’ looting either, not that I cared.


#5

Ugh, I forgot that you were protecting electronics stores, holy shit. Like, YOU’RE COLLECTING THE SAME SHIT. Hell, often your killing people and taking their electronics and stuff. Fuck.


#6

"Welcome to The Division, an elite paramilitary unit activated only in times of dire national crisis. Terrorists have released a plague upon New York and killed millions. Your first priority is to secure the Verizon Wireless store on 134th street, because black people are standing in front of it. Extrajudicial Murder is authorized.

Oh, and if you need anything from the store, just help yourself"


#7

Not to excuse The Division or anything, but “killing bandits for doing the exact same thing you’ve been doing for 40 hours” is not exactly unique to that game. It’s pretty much 90% of any Bethesda game. I’m hard pressed to think of an RPG where that doesn’t happen.

As for the original question, a game I’m sure I will go back to at some point but which I had to put down was Middle Earth: Shadow of War. They turned Celebrimbor into such a sneering, obviously power-mad character. If he had a mustache, he would certainly be twirling it. Are we supposed to pretend it’s not blatantly obvious? Maybe they address it later, but the way it starts out is just insulting to the player’s intelligence.


#8

I was just reading the TV Tropes page for Chrono Cross because I’m broken and spend more time reading analytical stuff than actually playing the games but…

The opening hook, Serge being beached in an alternate universe where he’s dead, is very good. Even the trip to Viper Manor is aces. But from the story punches start to feel ill timed.

Cross has one of my favorite story lines of all time, but mostly just on paper. I can agree the the execution could use a few rounds of editing.


#9

I agree that this is an issue in many RPG’s, and I think that’s a good point. I’m not looking to start an argument or be rude, but I think your point presents an opportunity to explain why, to me, these actions feel much more unsettling in The Division than like, in Skyrim.

I think where The Division completely messes up is in wrapping it’s mechanics in a setting and story it is not prepared to treat with the care it should. The premise is sold to the player as something that could likely happen in our own society given certain events occured and your character is treated as a Good Citizen™ who is called to do the right thing when the chips are down. Your means of engaging with the “enemies” in the game feels worse than in a Bethesda RPG because this engagement is supposedly steeped in reality, but actually is playing into established societal stereotypes we have about the poor and PoC. It is similar to news coverage during natrual disasters labeling PoC as “looters” while not labeling white people doing the same thing. Meanwhile the story constantly puts your player on a pedestal for “doing the right thing.” It simply feels off.

That’s why this game in particular didn’t sit well with me. But you are completely right in that I don’t even second guess such actions in a Bethesda game.

(And yeah, Celebrimbor is a facist ass)


#10

Is it though?

Like - The Division has some issues, but this continues to be my sticking point with most discussions about it. Maybe I just missed some things, but it felt like the game was basically beating you over the head with the fact that you were no different from or better than the other factions. Like… almost every mission? I always took it as a game where you weren’t playing a ‘good person,’ but rather one meant to challenge the idea of government badges making you right? Even… if executed terribly, using mostly boring, if not racist, and probably racist, motifs.

But… with how universal the sentiment that the game pats you on the back is, I must simply have missed some stuff.

I also just loved that they found a way to make a convincing, well explained death cult without religion in a modern setting. (Heck, any setting would have that pretty unique I guess.) Oh, cleaners, you were the best enemies.

But yeah, I… hmm. I guess the one recurring thing I see in discussions about the game is that the game treats your actions as heroic, but I felt like they took care to call you a monster every mission. To challenge the politics of your existence and actions with every boss dialogue, objective, etc.

…Which is also hardly a defense of the game’s politics anyways, it clearly failed to deliver that message, and failed on several other fronts anyways.


#11

It’s very possible I missed some stuff. I mostly remember the opening cut-scene with the sort of army commercial introduction to the Division and confirmation from other members of your team that you were doing the right thing, reminding you that you were saving lives, that sort of thing. It’s likely I was not correctly interpreting the writer’s intentions, but I also have very little faith in military stories told in video games or stories in Ubisoft games for that matter given their continual dropping of the ball in that regard, so I didn’t give it the benefit of the doubt. If the game is trying to do more than the occasional lamp-shading of your actions through some dialogue here and there, I missed it.


#12

The Division definitely has some attempts at self-awareness, but it falls into the same trap as like, all nihilistic modern television and every other mainstream game release that tries to look morally nuanced without having to take a stance: It just does the thing, lampshades the thing it’s doing and says “I dunno there’s probably a grey area here somewhere” and then gladly encourages you to get better colour guns for fun and indulge in all the trite-ass videogame tropes it’s aped from MMO’s in the process.

Like, the boss battle with a BLM activist (jesus fucking christ) is meant to make you feel good for killing her. There’s no critical endpoint for the satisfaction the player mechanically feels, as is expected for its genre, so it creeps into being felt for every action you take. The fact that I can even word it as “the fucking boss battle with the BLM activist spouting a what right-wing reactionaries think BLM activists talk like” and be barely exaggerating speaks volumes.

There’s no tonal arc either, so whatever attempts at levity it provides barely even appears as a blip as the game constantly rewards you for restoring the “peace” of rampant consumerism (including murdering dozens of people to turn Times Square back on!) and neoliberalism (look you can be a black lady that suppresses other minorities, and we have token mentions of queer relationships!).

A hostile NPC conversation you can overhear, one I’ve never heard anyone else bring up but I bring it up every time I talk about that pile of shit, is one where two nondescript looters brag and laugh about not paying their taxes. It’s immensely obvious that the conversation is set up as though it’s meant to be a cathartic “I wish I could do that” moment when you fill these coded poor people in hoodies labelled “looters” full of bullets. That’s not even getting into the “good civilian” narrative of what The Division is, basically fetishizing the right’s weaponization of common people into violent reactionaries wishing for murder to restore a distant promise of meritocracy. The whole thing reads like if Ben Shapiro’s Patrick Bateman complex got a massive budget.

If there was ever a decent place to use the “X of video games” turn of phrase, it would be saying that The Division is the Turner Diaries of video games, and that’s saying something in a world with CoD and dozens of other Clancy-labelled games.

edit: I realize this probably comes off super confrontational when i don’t want it to be. I can appreciate wanting to find a sense of nuance and moral complexity to something like The Division, but I have been this road and it’s a fuckin desolate one when it comes to this game… and most other Clancy games, while we’re at it.


#13

Yeah, and that’s… probably all it was.

I am likely giving it too much credit, as a slightly contrarian read after seeing everybody bash it for bad politics. (Which, even with a generous reading, has issues to say the least, in enemy design, in player actions, I… oof. Yeah.)

I’m mostly thinking of like… every faction ‘boss’ basically telling you why they do stuff, or challenging how you’re different. Most of them are, at worst, doing what you’re doing. Cleaners have a pragmatic take on stopping the spread of the virus. Barrett even calls you out for not caring about killing minorities in combat barks.

If you… I guess if you just listen to members of your faction, you get a very very gross shallow, “we’re the goodies” vibe. If you listen to all the NPCs though… it felt, to me, like it was trying to demonize you? If poorly. Clancy gonna Clancy.


#14

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE for me. I got half-ish way through the second dungeon and after all the careful pans up women’s bodies that linger on on their cleavage and conveniently transparent dialogue windows so you can admire the jiggle physics I decided that the game had not earned this peeping tom (And presumably worse) dungeon and quit playing it in the hopes that Persona 5 would be better

It was not


#15

No argument to start, here. Even as I was typing my last comment, I knew that I may have been factually correct, but The Division does feel different than standard fantasy RPG fare.

Whether that’s A) a perfectly normal, healthy separation of fantasy and reality, or B) a reflection on just how easy it is to “other” groups of people we don’t interact with in our daily lives is something I’ll leave for someone smarter than me.


#16

More than anything else, the division reminds me of white rightwing suburbanite fantasies about natural disasters causing societal collapse, thus giving them cause to murder the ‘hordes’ that will invade their cul de sac. And fuck those guys.


#17

I played a lot of The Division and there is a lot of problems with it looking back. From the ‘Looters’, civilians becoming super militarized and the ‘commentary’ on BLM, there’s just a lot of bad shit in that game. The commentary part honestly felt less like Ubisoft Massive having something to say than it was “We can’t write to save our lives and our characters are also extremely bland so let’s do this thing that’s current”. I still can’t remember her name, or the name of any character in that game for that matter. Keep in mind, I played 50+ hours of that game.

I only encountered two human moments in that game and one of them is after you’ve done a few missions and people taking refuge in Pennsylvania Plaza put up Christmas lights in their quarters. The other was manufactured by me when I spent good chunks of time walking up and down a few blocks trying not to stir up trouble and mostly admire the lighting and visual fx work put into their rendering of New York. I think I enjoyed a lot of that game walking and looking around than I did actually doing the missions. Otherwise it was picking up M14s from civilians after I gave them a chocolate bar.


#18

Somehow I own The Witcher 3 on all available platforms, and still have only cracked the second chapter on one playthrough attempt. It’s not particularly bad or hard, but by the time I almost get to a point of becoming engrossed in it, something else comes along and all of my progress crashes into a brick wall.


#19

I can’t remember if Wasteland 2 or Torment: Tides of Numenera was my first kickstarter backing but I’ve barely put any time into either. Both were sequels to games I loved as a teen and I couldn’t kickstart either fast enough but now, almost 20 years later, can’t get into them.


#20

Oh man.

The Mass Effect trilogy is one of the biggest influences on my own work, even if the ME3 finale was dire, but I always have to remember that I false-started ME1 five times before I just grit my teeth and got through it. Part of this is that its just a bit too much of a “shove you in the deep end” style of immersive universe building imo, but also… you gotta remember that the Bioware RPG Conversation System was not codified yet. So I remember distinctly trying out a line that sort of denoted 'vague suspicion" and instead my Shepard said some shit about how You Know You Just Can’t Trust Those Turians.

And I literally just saved and quit the game and didn’t pick it up again for like three months. I really hate that thing, where the short option description just does not fit what the spoken line ends up being. My Shepard is not a weird xenophobe, game! Argh!

… Much more shamefully, I have yet to get more then 30 minutes into Ladykiller In A Bind. I’m a queer lady, I like kink, I like VNs, it is almost uniquely made for my interests to the point I feel like its doxxing my ass, and the UI is beautiful and the writing is way above par…

butidon’tliketheartstyle

I’m sorry, I just hate the art, I don’t jive with it at all and I almost feel guilty for letting that turn me away from a game that is so perfect for my little weirdo demographic. I will force myself through that game someday, I swear to god.