Because we love being the odd ones out
Love it or hate it, we all have opinions about everything. So, at the risk of inviting criticism from all corners of the gaming community, we’ve bravely put together some of our most unpopular gaming opinions.
Cav: Anthem wasn’t actually that bad
It’s easy to dunk on Anthem. Hell, the only thing EA and BioWare have managed to do effectively in the game’s early days, it seems, is screw up over and over to the point where it feels like they’re actively trying to encourage the lynch mob. It feels in many ways like the culmination of a decline that seems to have been coming to BioWare for years, the final hitch of breath and glaze of the eyes as it surrenders the last of its soul to the big bad corporation that acquired, then broke it.
As with any such situation, people get so drunk on the melodrama they forget to look at a thing as closely as it deserves. Anthem may have been undercooked, glitchy and haphazardly-conceived, but it was also kind of fun, at least for a while. Flying around the surprisingly complex and multi-layered world was genuinely enjoyable, and the explosive, damage type-matching combat was tactical enough to encourage experimentation.
There are even hints of BioWare’s much-eulogized narrative acumen to be found here, beneath the vague lore-dumps and anaemic stabs at humour. The world was conceptually interesting and full of potential, and the central character melodrama concerning your old crew and spurned partner made for a solid emotional bedrock on which to rest the narrative. Plus, the characters themselves were fairly likeable, undone not so much by the writing but by the weirdly flat-yet-exaggerated facial animations that make them look like they’re trying out mouth sounds for the first time in their lives (Controversial Opinion #2: Horizon Zero Dawn has the same problem).
Ultimately undone by a lack of lasting depth, or any real endgame (problems BioWare still hasn’t effectively addressed), Anthem at least provided a few days of fun, especially with friends. While its numerous failings remain just as egregious, it remains rich in the potential to grow into a strong online game provided that BioWare, and more importantly EA, start making the right decisions on where to take it. Sadly, it’s hard to be optimistic about that one.
George: Pokémon Sword and Shield look disappointing
The Pokémon Company and developer Game Freak have had since 2016 to prepare themselves for the technical jump from Nintendo’s 3DS to the Switch, and to me — at least based on the pre-release hype train — it looks like they’ve failed to do that; because of that, it looks like the latest generation of Pokémon titles, Pokémon Sword and Shield, will go down as a disappointment for a multitude of reasons.
The biggest point of contention surrounding Pokémon Sword and Shield is the fact that Game Freak has culled the number of Pokémon that will be available to capture in these new titles, and left fans unable to transfer some older Pokémon from Pokémon Sun and Moon because, simply put, they won’t be coded into Sword and Shield at all. Of course, that’s understandable given that the number of Pokémon in existence is drifting closer to the thousand mark, but the developer’s defence of this decision has been laughable enough to see the community labelling the whole situation “#Dexit” in reference to the political hellscape in the UK — which inspired the Galar region.
According to producer Junichi Masuda, the major reason for the Thanos-level decimation is to enable Game Freak to create higher-quality animations and balance the game’s battle system, but upon closer inspection… That simply doesn’t add up. As far as “higher quality animations” go, we’ve seen that some of the “expressive animations” that’ll be appearing in Sword and Shield have been recycled from 2013’s Pokémon X and Y. We’ve even seen comparisons between Sword and Shield and various Nintendo 64 titles accompanied by the argument that the latter’s animations were better than what Masuda and Co. are putting out today. Yes, it’s still early days, but with just under two months to go until release it’s unlikely that we’re going to see any drastic improvement; I don’t care if the graphics are lacklustre — Pokémon has never been a powerhouse in that department — but it’s frustrating to see the developer citing graphics and animation as an excuse to cut content from an AU$100 game, especially when that content was available two years ago for almost half that amount.
Using balance as a reason to cut that much content is even more laughable, given that Game Freak has shown that it can balance online gameplay without removing features from it. Every year, competitive Pokémon tournaments have particular rulesets that their players need to abide by: these rulesets include restrictions on which Pokémon players can use, and in some extreme cases, which moves as well. I could understand this reasoning if Game Freak was cutting back on the features and mechanics that have made recent entries feel bloated — gimmicks such as Mega Evolution and the more recent Z-Moves — in order to refine the battle system, but removing whole Pokémon from the game to make way for even more different Pokémon “forms”, namely Dynamax and Gigantamax battles, is hypocritical at best.
Sure, you may argue that my thoughts reek of entitlement, and that I need to understand that Game Freak is a small studio working on this game, but given that Pokémon is still turning over billion-dollar profits after more than two decades in circulation, I don’t think it’s all that unreasonable to want what is essentially cut content put back into the game. It’s because of that cut content, and the way Game Freak has gone about defending it, that I’m genuinely concerned about Pokémon Sword and Shield’s prospects.
Jake: There’s nothing wrong with mobile games!
With Apple Arcade coming onto the market alongside iOS 13 and iPadOS last month and a slew of press updates for new mobile releases hitting my inbox, there’s never been a better time to defend what is essentially the black sheep of the video game industry. Mobile games have had a bad reputation since the very beginning, coming under fire for their apparently-simple design, their appeal to more “casual” audiences, their predatory “pay-to-win” business models, and so much more. Of course, the latter complaint is more than valid — some of these pay-to-win business models can certainly be dangerous in the wrong hands — but this notion that you can’t be known as a “gamer” if you play mobile games, or indeed unless you play certain games or genres, has started to become a real problem for the games industry. In fairness, it’s always been a problem, but that problem is exacerbated when people start to discredit mobile game developers just for developing mobile games.
The most frequent argument against mobile games is that they’re largely “pay-to-win”, but I prefer to call it “pay-to-win-quickly”; any player can reach the highest heights in 99% of the mobile games in existence without spending a cent towards them — they’ll just take a bit longer to get there than someone who does use microtransactions. In fact, those who do use microtransactions to progress through the game more quickly are foregoing the most important part of mobile game design: these games are designed to be in your pocket, to come with you everywhere, and so they’re designed to give you a lot of play time. Hell, for every one of these “pay-to-win” games, there’s an absolute masterpiece to be found somewhere else. Mobile MOBAs have become a competitive enough space that League of Legends is on its way, full-blown RPGs such as Lineage II: Revolution and RAID: Shadow Legends are starting to show up, and that’s not even mentioning games like Alto’s Adventure, Alto’s Odyssey, Monument Valley and Smash Hit that serve as wonderful examples of games as a true art form.
To discredit mobile gaming as a whole without really taking a deep dive into the market is to do yourself a disservice as a gamer. There are some truly incredible feats of development available on your smartphone with some truly incredible development teams behind them, and you might even find some long-term entertainment in the form of a game you previously dismissed.
John: More gimmicks, please
“Gimmick” is a pretty basic word – it essentially just means unique or distinct, usually for the sake of getting people’s attention. But it has such a terrible reputation in gaming circles, especially when it should really be the opposite. Gimmicks push the medium forward.
Take the original Game Boy: its whole gimmick is that it’s portable. It just did it well and popularised it, leading into an era of successful portables and the current state of mobile gaming.
Analog thumbsticks? Derived from arcade style joysticks and kicked off by two different controllers for the NES and Sega Mega Drive, then popularised by the Nintendo 64’s single stick. They all necessarily predated Sony’s DualShock and established the current two-stick standard, directly leading to first-person shooters flourishing outside the PC platform.
The dreaded motion controls broke down barriers in the medium, especially when they actually worked. The Wii controller’s accelerometer was huge with casual audiences in 2005 and was a precursor to the original iPhone’s gyroscope, again predating the current state of mobile gaming and even virtual reality. Gyroscope-assisted aiming is worth mentioning, too; a genuine innovation in thumbstick and touchscreen controls that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
There’s the camera “controllers”, like the Dreamcast’s Dreameye, the PlayStation 2’s EyeToy and the Kinect. Primitive and spotty-as-heck by today’s standards but these were the first forms of AR gaming, like Pokémon Go and the upcoming Minecraft Earth. Even the Game Boy Camera: though it was “just a camera”, the ability to add stamps and draw on photos turned it into a mildly gamified camera system and a form of augmented reality in its own right.
All-in-all, gimmicks push the medium forward and, at the very least, keep it interesting. They might be attention-seeking in nature but all products are; that’s how capitalism works, not just gaming. Games are a burgeoning art form that’s about interacting with the audience – discovering new ways of doing exactly that grows gaming as a whole.
Kristian: Multiplayer seasons are making it hard to invest time and effort
These days, the seasonal multiplayer format appears to feature in just about every competitive game on the market. I used to really enjoy picking up Rocket League for a few games now and then, but it’s become more and more frustrating to pick it up and find that my ranking has been reset because it’s been so long since my last session — especially when I have to play a set number of matches before I’m even assigned a division. The system started in competitive MOBAs like League of Legends and Dota 2 before moving into newer ones like Overwatch, but now it’s taken over popular games of all kinds. What does it mean to be ranked “Silver II”? All it feels like is a pointless, arbitrary dialogue designed to give games an artificial competitive edge and keep players coming back, but I can’t enjoy a casual session of Rocket League anymore because of these seasons and rankings. Whatever happened to good old fashioned matchmaking?
This kind of system has even started to affect how much I enjoy Rock Band 4, which isn’t the kind of game that should lend itself to that kind of competition. This was once a game that I could fire up just to jam out a couple of songs, but after the seasonal requirements came into effect I found myself letting the game dictate my playing habits. I wasn’t playing for fun anymore. Instead, I’d be purchasing songs that I don’t really care for just because I needed the extra scores and XP from that week’s selection, and I wouldn’t download songs that I wanted to play anymore; I’d be downloading songs specifically to get more points towards the weekly challenges so that I could help my crew reach the next tier, and because of that, I wasn’t playing Rock Band 4 in the way I wanted to play it any more.
Lucas: The real-time strategy genre is not dying out
Built around construction, research, strategy, progress and ultimately conquest, there was a time when the real-time strategy genre — home to such franchises as Age of Empires, Command & Conquer, Dawn of War, Homeworld, Starcraft and Warhammer Fantasy — was all the rage; it was the leading genre in PC gaming during its formative years and the one that got so many people interested in their computer’s potential to become their main source of gaming entertainment.
Over the past few years, however, there’s been a lot of discussion online and in my social circles about how the genre as a whole is dead, but a quick look into the genre suggests otherwise. The Total War series is still waving the RTS flag and the recently-announced Homeworld 3 looks set to make some new strides, and yet some people continue to lean on Dawn of War 3’s failure as a harbinger of the RTS’ slow death; that game didn’t fail because the genre is dying, though — it failed because it tried to mix too many different genres. It turned into a borderline MOBA which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it left a sour taste in RTS fans’ mouths.
Of course, RTS fans don’t have as many new releases to look forward to as they did in the genre’s heyday, but there are developers out there who are making strides and given its legacy, it’ll surely never die. People are still frustrated that EA attached the Command & Conquer name to Command & Conquer Rivals, an incredibly watered down iteration of the genre that could have been so much more if EA had opted to harken back to the series’ roots instead of trying to create another financial juggernaut, and with the Total War series still going strong and other releases on the horizon (even if they are only remasters), it’s safe to say that the RTS genre is still in a position to keep on thriving.
Luke: Professor Layton should be Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s next fighter
I’ve been campaigning for Professor Layton to join the Super Smash Bros. roster ever since Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and now, with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate boasting by far the largest roster in the series’ history, the time is absolutely right to include Level-5’s iconic detective. Super Smash Bros. has always been a celebration of all things Nintendo, and although the brawler series has broadened its horizons somewhat in recent times, it’s strange to see that Layton — a character who has appeared exclusively on Nintendo’s consoles with the exception of a couple of mobile releases — hasn’t been represented; it was never the biggest video game series of all time, but it did develop a cult following and it is a beloved Nintendo franchise, after all.
It would be easy enough to suggest that Layton shouldn’t appear in Super Smash Bros. because he’s not a fighter (after all, the games strive to point out that he is a “gentleman” above all else) but Super Smash Bros. has included characters that aren’t fighters before, and they’ve come with unique gameplay experiences. Take Animal Crossing’s Villager, for example: Animal Crossing is as far from a fighting game as you can get, instead focusing on collecting supplies to run a town, and so Nintendo developed the Villager’s moveset to reflect that, using his net to capture opponents and even building a house for his Final Smash. Nintendo could easily do the same for Professor Layton, with hundreds of puzzles and lore elements in his games that could be worked into a moveset that provides a unique Smash experience.
Professor Layton wouldn’t be the first Super Smash Bros. fighter to come from an obscure title, either, with characters such as Mr. Game and Watch, Pit and the Ice Climbers better known for their roles in Super Smash Bros. than their actual games. With more than 80 characters already on the roster, it’s important that Nintendo ensures that all of its franchises are represented — especially if they can provide such a unique experience as Professor Layton could.
Matt: Turn-based combat is boring
Before I get started, let’s make one thing clear: I do like some games with turn-based combat, including Pokémon, Persona 5 and Final Fantasy VII… but I predominantly enjoy those games for everything but their combat systems. If a game that features turn-based combat also includes amazing visuals, interesting worlds and/or memorable characters, I find myself able to take the positives from the experience — and there are plenty of positives to the aforementioned games.
The biggest issue I have with turn-based combat is that I find it so incredibly unengaging. When I think of combat in a video game, I think of combinations, reactions and timing, all happening at a fast pace to keep the player both invested and on their toes. It feels like there’s more at stake when the combat is played out in real time — I love that organic feeling of engagement. I’m not saying that every experience needs to feel like Call of Duty or God of War, but I find those gameplay loops so much more addictive and enjoyable, because there’s so much more involved in the moment-to-moment gameplay.
Of course, I can appreciate the logistics behind turn-based combat: each turn brings with it a sense of calculation as you try to counter your opponent, or stay one step ahead of them. There’s arguably (and quite ironically) more involved in turn-based combat for that exact reason, but it’s just a bore visually. Sure, the attacks themselves might lend themselves to some beautiful visuals, but I always find myself wishing I was more involved in the combat when I’m playing a turn-based game… I find myself wishing it wasn’t turn-based at all.
Ty: The Last of Us wasn’t a masterpiece
Naughty Dog’s critical and commercial darling, The Last of Us, took almost everyone by storm when it was released in 2013. Critics almost-universally praised it as a genre- and generation-defining masterpiece, and the general public followed suit, but I found myself standing on the outside of the circus wondering if I missed something.
Don’t get me wrong: The Last of Us wasn’t a bad game by any stretch of the word — it’s a well-polished experience with a pretty average plot driven by some really, really well-realised characters. My issues with it stem from purely from its gameplay. While things like the backpack menu and the crafting system are well worth the praise they got for being both intuitive and aesthetically pleasing, the main feature Naughty Dog touted before release, the “Balance of Power” system, simply wasn’t there.
The Balance of Power system could have been amazing. We first saw it in action during the E3 2012 demo, when an enemy equipped with a pipe ran into an adjacent room in the middle of a firefight for no apparent reason, only for us to find out that he had hidden in the doorway to ambush the player. It was mind-blowing. It added a real sense of grit to the game, a feeling that if you wanted to win, you had to play dirty.
Unfortunately, that “advanced AI” wasn’t what we got at all. Pull off the rose-tinted glasses and you’ll soon realise that the game’s AI was actually… Pretty dumb. Enemies didn’t dynamically flank you and they didn’t hide and ambush you — they were just standard enemies that you’d find in any other game. This even extends to companion characters: I lost count of how many times Ellie would run straight through a bunch of human and inhuman enemies during a stealth sequence. Although she wouldn’t get caught, because that would have forced Naughty Dog to put more time into the mechanics to make sure they were suited to a glorified escort mission (which isn’t a bad thing at all; see ICO for example), it was still enough to ruin the immersion.
There’s a lot more that I want to say about other facets of the game that I found disappointing — the fact that the game’s script trumps its gameplay, or how many portions require so little input from the player that they may as well have just been cutscenes — but that’s just it… I was disappointed. I’m glad that so many people found enjoyment in The Last of Us, I really am, but I just can’t bring myself to call it a masterpiece, or to be excited for Part II.
Zack: There’s no such thing as a “real” gamer
Part of me dies inside every time I hear someone use the term “real gamer”. It’s such a pervasive part of gaming culture that it sometimes feels like proving one’s worth to others through the games they play is more important than, you know, playing the games. What the hell does “real” even mean? Am I not a “real” gamer because I enjoy playing fighting games casually? Am I not a “real” gamer because I don’t always want to play on the highest difficulty? Am I not a “real” gamer because I enjoy the occasional mobile game? Just because someone doesn’t want to dedicate their life to mastering some specific game or being the absolute top of a leaderboard, doesn’t make them any less “real”.
Gaming doesn’t have to be a popularity contest. I’m not saying people shouldn’t take pride in their achievements, but it’s important to remember that everyone wants to get something different out of their games. Some people might love the challenge of playing a game on its highest difficulty, while others might just be interested in experiencing the story. There is no right answer.
It’s not just players that perpetuate this idea. Games themselves often encourage a ‘correct’ playstyle that, in reality, is just limiting. Plenty of games require playing on certain difficulty levels in order to unlock the full experience, or, in some cases, actively mock the player for lowering the difficulty. This only serves to alienate players. Let people enjoy the games the way they want! Encouraging this idea that only certain people are “real” gamers is not only unfair on people who play games, but it also creates this perceived hurdle to actually getting into gaming as a hobby. If we want to create a more welcoming community, this ridiculous label needs to be dropped.
We know that some of our opinions are sure to get your blood boiling, so why not tell us why we’re wrong as a comment below?
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