A Question for the Readers #5: Abandon Ship!

Special thanks to Mr. Wapojif for making the comment that inspired this question.

As a gaming critic, I make an effort to finish the games I review. Indeed, one of the biggest problems with criticism in this medium is that I could tell in many instances that the writers did not finish the games before reviewing them.  On some level this is understandable. It takes much more time and effort to complete the average game than it does to watch even the longest (non-experimental) films all the way through. However, at the end of the day, reviewing a game before making it to the halfway point – especially when the story is at all important – would be like if a film critic left the theater thirty minutes in and wrote a review based off of what they saw.

Nonetheless, I think we’ve all run into a game at some point in our lives that, for whatever reason, we could not bring ourselves to finish.

I have to admit that even though I strive to finish games before reviewing them, I did not complete Final Fantasy III. I did make it all the way to the endgame of the DS version, but I never got to see the credits roll. In my defense, the endgame is quite a spike in difficulty for a game that was actually fairly good at gradually increasing the difficulty curve. For the endgame, however, it was clear that Square Enix hadn’t bothered to do anything to polish the dated gameplay, refusing to add any save points while nerfing the two best jobs in the original version. This means that to stand a chance, one has to grind several levels, bringing the otherwise reasonable pacing of the game to a halt. Even better, the endgame can take an hour or more per attempt and involves watching a long, drawn-out cutscene. By the time I started to review games myself several years later, I was presented with the option of attempting to complete Final Fantasy III again, but I decided it wasn’t worth the trouble when I already knew that it hadn’t aged well.

Bonus points if you can identify this game without scrolling down or looking at this image’s name.

That period after the success of the original Modern Warfare up until Spec Ops: The Line dismantled the genre was a golden age for the modern military shooter. One of the franchises that thrived within this time was EA DICE’s Battlefield series. The only game in the series I’ve tried personally was Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Though it wasn’t a terrible game, I found it so boring that despite making significant progress in it, I found myself wholly uninterested in seeing how it would end. With gameplay that does nothing to distinguish itself from its peers, a roundly bland cast, and subpar level design, it really didn’t have anything practical going for it back then let alone these days.

Fallout 2 is the strangest case of any of the games I’ll mention in this post because I actually remember enjoying it. It’s something of a point of contention among fans, but I enjoyed it more than I did the original, as there was a lot more content to be found. I want to come up with a reason as to why I ultimately failed to finish it, but in all honesty, I couldn’t tell you. One thing preventing me from making another attempt is the fact that it begins with one of the worst tutorial dungeons in the history of gaming. As tough as I’ve been on games that fail to stick the landing, it turns out a game putting its best foot forward is just as important.

Shortly after discovering the Sonic the Hedgehog series thanks to the GameCube port of Sonic Adventure 2 and the original game Sonic Advance, I was excited to try out the newest console game, Sonic Heroes. I played the demo on the Mario Kart: Double Dash bonus disc, and it made the game look really good. Unfortunately, the final product was decidedly mediocre. There are four campaigns with three characters each, but they all go through the same levels. The only difference between three of them is the difficulty level; the fourth requires you to fulfill an alternative objective to complete levels. Nonetheless, you need to play through all of them to unlock the final story. This would be like having to complete the same game on every difficulty setting before getting a proper ending – it’s an appallingly bad game design choice. Coupled with the erratic pacing of the stages themselves, I ended up getting bored of the game when I was playing through the most difficult campaign.

Now it’s your turn.

What game could you not bring yourself to finish despite having made significant progress?

Bonus question: Have you ever walked out of the theater before the film ended?

32 thoughts on “A Question for the Readers #5: Abandon Ship!

    • I’ve heard mixed things about Alpha Protocol. The idea of an espionage RPG is awesome, but that doesn’t mean much of the execution is lacking or as you suggest, the endgame is a nightmare.

      Also, having completed Metal Gear Solid V, I can assure you that the payoff would not have been worth the hassle, so don’t feel too bad about abandoning that one. How critics could’ve considered it one of the best games ever made when it clearly wasn’t finished is beyond me.

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  1. My HLTB list is filled with “retired” games that would fit this catagory rather well. One that springs to mind is SMT: Devil Survivor. I got to the point where I needed to fight a boss of sorts but hadn’t leveled up the right characters/creatures and kept on getting killed. My choices were either skip the boss fight (and be force down a different path) or grind forever. Neither appealed to me so after 25 hours it ended up being dropped.

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    • Yeah, the entire Shin Megami Tensei series is pretty brutal when it comes to boss fights; they’re practically Atlus’s specialty. Oftentimes, there’s only one viable strategy for defeating them, and if you don’t utilize it, they’ll just waste you. If you’re in a situation where you’re either forced to abandon your path or grind for too long, it doesn’t speak well for the experience.

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  2. Ghosts ‘n Goblins on the NES… as it was driving me INSANE! On a more normal level, I’d go with Mass Effect II, which I abandoned due to boredom pretty quickly.

    Thanks for the plug! I’ll land you one soon, just thinking of the right post. One Shot!

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    • Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is from that magical time in which playing a game was more important than clearing it. It was also when arcade game design sensibilities were still present and before developers began taking advantage of the new home format by making games that were intended to be cleared through multiple sessions. That said, considering how much you’ll be dying in Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, having to clear the entire game twice in one sitting is a monumentally difficult task. I can imagine it was painful whenever you made it far only for an errant power surge to invalidate your progress.

      You’re welcome! I remember you saying that you left the theater mid-screening when you saw Prometheus, and that made me want to turn it into its own post.

      I look forward to seeing what you thought of OneShot!

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  3. I honestly can’t think of a game that falls into this category. Maybe a few games I should have written off- but none I actually gave up on consciously. Maybe I’m being too lenient?

    I do remember, however, walking out of Encino Man with Brendan Fraser. And Sean Astin (and Pauly Shore…) in theaters when I was younger. It was a group decision on my family friends’ part, but I remember just not enjoying it. I think that’s the only time I ever wrote something off though.

    Huh.

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    • I never actually heard of Encino Man until your comment, but I could guess it wasn’t going to be great when you said Pauly Shore was in it. Looking at the premise, it really comes across as the kind of stupid film only that specific era of Hollywood could’ve produced. Then again, I’ve found that to be true with a lot of bad works. Either way, if it’s as dumb as it sounds, I couldn’t blame you and your friends for exiting the theater halfway through.

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  4. I played FInal Fantasy III too on the DS. But I didn’t finish it because some terrible person sold my DS without my consent.

    As for game, I was once a trophy hunter, just two trophies shy from platinum. I wanted to plat Resident Evil Revelation 2, but just gave up. I wasn’t enjoying the game anymore.

    I don’t think I ever walked out of the theater. I just daydream and wait for film to be over.

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    • Gee, that was a really terrible thing to do. Why did they do that?

      I find my enjoyment of the game tends to end when the campaign is over. There are a few exceptions, such as finding all of the stars/sprites/moons in the Mario series, but otherwise I tend to lose interest in a game after I see the credits roll.

      I would probably read random articles on my cell phone or play the 3DS if I was that unengaged with a film myself, though I’ve never encountered a film that bad in the theater in recent times.

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      • Because the person treated me like a child and decided everything for me.

        That’s not a bad idea playing your DS, especially if you are with your friends, family, or significant other. But don’t they get mad? It’s okay to walk out a movie theater and never return if the film is bad. Just say you got lost in the restroom. Oh, I just remember now I did that once. I got stuck watching a kid’s film. I sat outside for an hour then went back in when it was almost over.

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        • I haven’t actually seen a film bad enough to warrant me doing that (or at least not in theaters), so technically, the answer would be no. The worst films I see are the critical darlings that failed to live up to the hype, which are at least interesting enough to carry my interest throughout – it’s not until after the fact that I decided it wasn’t that good.

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  5. Fallout 4 – whilst I was absolutely loving the game despite all its’ flaws. As someone who didn’t want to allow any of my settlers to be harmed I was just absolutely put off by Preston Garvey constantly telling me I had to drop what I was doing and help another settler in the same cut and paste mission over and over again. Distracting me from enjoying what I wanted to do to go babysit despite having created good settlement defenses for them.

    My most notable. Never walked out of the cinema but walked out of the second half of a Jimmy Carr comedy gig to get McDonald’s.

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    • I know that feeling. I remember that even though there was technically no real consequence for failing the escort mission at the end of BioShock, that I would constantly reset whenever I failed it. It was bar none the most annoying part of the game. Then again, I’ve noticed that games made by Ken Levine tend to have weak endgames; it’s a shame that he never attempted to improve on that weakness. Your situation also reminds me of how annoying it was to play Far Cry 4 only to have to aid the rebels immediately after leaving outposts. Eventually, I just got sick of having to do that and ended up seizing the fortresses before dealing with their owners. I had to forgo a stealthy approach, but I found a way to make it work.

      Guess you weren’t won over by his style, huh?

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      • I’ve always been like that with so many games, the marines in Halo, every soldier in the Starship Trooper RTS game (except this one you have to sacrifice, always the lowest rank lol) gotta keep people alive.

        I mean I did like the style overall and I do want to pick it back up at some point, it was just too much repetitiveness with that one aspect. Is there a way to stop settlers going missing in Fallout 4 that I potentially missed?

        Never played any Far Cry games sadly.

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        • Actually, to be honest, I have yet to play Fallout 4; your description merely reminded me of how I tend to play games. As for the Far Cry series, I’ve only played the third and fourth installments. Far Cry 4 was a bland token sequel that I feel indulged in the worst excesses of the mid-2010s AAA scene. Far Cry 3, on the other hand, I can easily recommend, as it was a surprisingly introspective title that had a degree of self-awareness its sequel lacked.

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    • The best part is that the North American version is impossible to finish with two players because of a glitch that prevents the second player from moving on the eleventh level. It was fixed in the PAL version and the version that features on Rare Replay.

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  6. I could not finish some of the LJN games I’ve played. I don’t know how anyone can finish Bill and Ted’s Excellent Video Game Adventure, it’s just too broken. Also Battletoads, but in that case it was because of the insane difficulty. That would have been the case for Dynamite Heady as well, except that one at least has a level select code (I still beat every level, but no way was I starting over from the beginning after certain points.

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    • Yeah, and walkthroughs wouldn’t be terribly helpful considering that you get started in a random place. That game really is completely and utterly broken.

      I’m glad later difficult games had a level select code because having to clear them in one sitting is a tall order – even if they’re not particularly long.

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  7. I have completed the vast majority of the games I have reviewed. You have to give games a fair crack or else your opinion might not be accurate. Some games that I loved at the beginning ended up feeling repetitive towards the end, which would impact their final score. I would have given Mas Effect 3 a higher rating had I not experienced the ending too.

    List games that I abandoned? That would be a huge list. I fail to complete most of the games I buy, either because I get stuck or lose interest in the case of long RPGs. I have never walked out of the cinema, although that isn’t saying much as I rarely go to the movie theater.

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    • Same here. As of this writing, Final Fantasy III is the only game I’ve reviewed but never completed. After seeing the ending years later, I judged that suffering through the endgame would not have been worth the trouble. Otherwise, if the story is important at all, I’d say it’s important to make it to the end. Had I not finished The Last of Us, Live A Live, or Undertale, I would’ve drawn entirely different (i.e. inaccurate) conclusions.

      Even as someone who sees a lot of films in the theater, I’ve never walked out halfway through. Then again, it helps that I generally don’t see bad films; the only exception is if the critics promote something mediocre (or even outright bad), and even then, it’s usually not until it’s over that I decide I didn’t like it.

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    • I have to admit I’m kind of tempted to try out Mirror’s Edge just to see what it’s like. It seemed like one of those “Flavor of the Month” games that managed to get a lot of people talking about it. Nowadays, whenever it’s brought up, it seems like everyone says the same things about it: it was a great idea, but the execution was terrible.

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  8. Something I found interesting about this question, I used to drop quite a lot of games midway, especially RPGs, a special case was the original Xenoblade for the Wii, I dropped that game twice because I allways found a tremendous spike in difficulty at some point. After watching an LP of it and decided to stop and try to comprehend the nuances of its systems and learned that quests were the most efficient grinding method I finished that game and loved it.

    After learning my lesson I try to take my time to learn the game to make it through, though that usually ends in longer playthroughts it makes the experience more enjoyable to me, the problem is that, like many people, I’m short on time and there are many things I want to play leaving me anxious about which games should I prioritize.

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    • I still have a copy of Xenoblade lying around. I’ve always wanted to give that game another shot, but the mood has never struck me. I do like that sidequests are a greater source of EXP than grinding mindlessly.

      I myself tend to go into a game with the intent of finding a means of optimizing my playthrough, so I know what you mean when you say that.

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  9. Fallout 2 feels like it gets a bit less cohesive the further you get towards the end. The pieces are there, and the pieces are all good, they just don’t feel like they’re working towards a single goal anymore. Kind of an odd experience.

    Anyways, I’ve have my little self challenge for the past way too many years to beat all the games I own, so I’ve knocked quite a few of these off my list that would have been there before. Of the ones that still linger, Jet Force Gemini was the worst. I got all the way to the final boss of that game, and would have beat it, except I didn’t get enough of the max ammo increase collectibles on the only weapons that damage the final boss to be able to defeat it. I played it to the point where I could fight him perfectly, with every hit from a weapon that could damage him scoring on his weak spot, and I still didn’t have enough ammo to put him down. Was a really frustrating time, and I haven’t come back to the game since.

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    • Yeah, I noticed that even though I didn’t quite finish it. Then again, I heard the game was incredibly buggy upon its first release, so I can buy that the designers rushed to get it out the door as soon as possible. Whenever that happens, it means the later portions of the game receive less care and attention.

      If you played Jet Force Gemini before GameFAQs existed, I can imagine it would’ve been daunting to get all of those pickups without a guide. I personally don’t think it’s a mark of good design when a game limits your success simply because you didn’t get every single collectable the minute they became available. That’s one of the things I found a bit strange about Metroid: Samus Returns. In all honesty, finding the collectables was easy, but it seemed like you needed every single one just to stand a chance against the brutally difficult bosses.

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  10. I don’t recall doing this with a game but I’ve walked out of a film called Seven Swords at the cinema. I was told it was “just like Seven Samurai” and it absolutely most certainly was not XD

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    • The legacy of Seven Samurai is quite evident at this point; paying homage to such a film would be quite difficult. Looking at the Rotten Tomatoes score, I’m going to assume they failed spectacularly in that particular endeavor.

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