2008: My Top 5 Disappointments

Let’s get this depressing topic out of the way. Without further ado, my top 5 (gaming related) disappointments for 2008:

5: XBox 360 #2 rolled over and died on me. I’m on my 3rd 360 now, but that’s not so bad since I have friends who are on #5. #3 is thus far stable but I still feel a bit of anxiety every time I turn the machine on.

4: MMO closings and the loss of Mythos. Flagship Studios’ implosion was a big disappointment, not because of the end of Hellgate London, but because we lost Mythos, which was an *awesome* MMO/Diablo hybrid. I played in the beta and it was solid and so much fun. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I held-off on playing it waiting for “release” so I wouldn’t get burned out and then… *poof!*. Such a loss. Later in the year we learned that Tabula Rasa is being shut down. I liked TR when I first tired it, and my intent was always to get back to the game once it’d cooked for a while, but alas, that won’t happen now. The lesson I’ve learned? Play ’em while you got ’em since I don’t think we’ve seen the end of MMO closings.

3: Spore. I had wild hopes for this game; probably too wild. I really was hoping for an Evolution simulator and instead I got an Intelligent Design simulator, which wouldn’t have been so bad if the game had a bit more meat to it. It was an awful lot of fun for about 3 nights and I’ve barely touched it since.

2: Pirates of the Burning Seas was in development *forever* and still shipped half-finished. I adored the mechanics of the ship combat, but the economy stuff was way too spread-sheet heavy for me, and the PvP was a bit too hard-core for my tastes at launch. You’d haggle and finagle for a couple weeks to get a ship built and could lose it in an evening of PvP. This aspect was loved by some, but not by me. The ‘swashbuckling’ was broken, and cookie cutter towns and adventure areas removed any sense of exploration. Still looking for a good Wooden Ships-theme MMO.

1: Age of Conan. So much hype, but I should’ve been warned off by the fact that the devs kept trying to draw our attention back to the topless women. The revolutionary combat system wasn’t revolutionary at all (City of Heroes did it better). All that said, the first 20 levels were pretty darned fun, but after that the game was kind of grindy and catered far too heavily to zerg-guilds for my tastes.

So what were your biggest gaming disappointments this year?

2008: My Year in Games

So it’s about time to put 2008 to bed, and I thought I’d take a few moments to sum up my year in gaming terms.

From an MMO point of view, its been a year of disappointments: Pirates of the Burning Seas didn’t sit at all well with me after a brief fling of romantic night-time sea battles. Age of Conan was amazing for 20 levels then fell flat on its face. Warhammer Online was awesome in beta but didn’t hold me in launch for reasons I’m still stirring around in my head. It feels like every day I find a new reason for why Warhammer and I didn’t click, and each new reason nullifies the last one. Anyway that’s recent enough news not to dwell on.

Oddly, where I had the most fun in MMOs is with older titles. EQ2 (via a free ‘welcome back’ month) and particularly LOTRO filled the gaps between Age of Conan and Warhammer. It was the first time I really got traction in LOTRO and started doing a lot of Fellowship PUGs that actually didn’t suck. In retrospect, I almost wish Warhammer hadn’t come out and that I’d stuck with LOTRO.

After I fizzled on Warhammer, I went back to WoW and did my usual “This is great!” two-week stint before getting bored with it for the umpteenth time. Not to disparage WOW; I just played it (and loved it) for so long during its alpha, beta and early launch years that it feels old hat now. Currently I’m dabbling in EQ2 again, but not very seriously.

2008 was the year that Free2Play MMOs got good, though, and I’m looking forward to exploring Wizard 101, Mabinogi, Dream of Mirror Online, Florensia and a few others in 2009.

But my really amazing gaming experiences in 2008 have been single player games. Early in the year I played through Jeanne d’Arc on the PSP, and that was a great strategy-RPG (one of my favorite genres) that made the PSP worth owning. After that I spent a lot of time playing Etrian Odyssey II on the Nintendo DS. I was so hooked on that one that I’d slip out to my car at lunchtime to play a bit. Classic turn-based first-person dungeon crawling; brought back memories of Wizardry and Dungeon Master.

But the two games that truly left me breathless this year were Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune for the PS3, and Fable 2 for the XBox 360. Uncharted perfectly captured the Saturday matinee vibe that the devs were going for. I was swept along in the story, gleefully exploring these old ruins and uncovering the mystery.

Fable 2, however, gets my personal Game of The Year. Molyneaux finally pulled it off; I really cared about the characters and felt like my actions had a very real impact on the world. The ending left me staring slack-jawed at the screen for long moments, contemplating what I’d just done and wondering whether I’d done the right thing (and this after I panicked and undid my initial choice). After the game “ended” (and really, you can keep playing and playing) I immediately rolled a new character and started all over again, just to see what would happen if I played things differently: I can’t remember the last time I did something like that. So yeah, Fable 2 was awesome.

Going into 2009, I’m really hot on Valkyria Chronicles right now, and I’ve been enjoying Izuna 2, a rogue-like on the Nintendo DS. I’m tepid at best on MMOs. As mentioned, I’ve been dabbling in EQ2 lately. I’ve logged into Warhammer exactly twice since I re-activated the account about 10 days ago. I still want to play LOTRO more, and the only reason I don’t is because I’m paying for War and EQ2 and feel like I “should” be playing one of those if I’m playing an MMO (and instead, I end up going back to single-player games…yes, I’m a freak).

I’m semi-interested in Chronicles of Spellborn, but beyond that 2009 doesn’t have anything I’m all that jazzed about in the world of “AAA” MMOs (not sure Chronicles is in that category). I’m not a super-hero fan so Champions Online and DC Universe don’t have me excited. I doubt SW:TOR will ship this year and even if it did, I’m not much of a Star Wars fan, either. I am rather interested in Bioware’s Dragon Age game, and hope I live long enough to see Blizzard release Diablo 3.

I don’t know, maybe 2009 will be a year of single-player gaming for me??