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Games of the Year 2020: The Bad

Unfortunately, but perhaps unsurprisingly based on how the rest of the year went, 2020 was the year of disappointments for me. Three of the games were on my best of E3 2019 list and three were on my most anticipated of 2020 list. Only one game on this list was not hotly anticipated by me at any point and that was only because it was announced in October and then released a few weeks later.

1. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot

No one on this planet should play Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Its source code and every physical disc should be thrown into a volcano.

There is literally only one redeeming aspect of this game and that is it truly feels like you are playing an episode of the Dragon Ball Z anime. I cannot deny that CyberConnect2 absolutely hit it out of the park when it comes to art style.

Unfortunately every other aspect of the game is complete shit. It should be studied and discussed in schools so future generations learn how not to make a piece of trash.

Everything in this game is superfluous. The open world? It only exists to pad playtime with pointless travel between quests. Those quests? They are either fly to point A and then fight monster B or collect 10 of some random useless item. The combat? It is so basic and straightforward the only thing that matters is if your level is higher than the enemy's. If so you'll obliterate them. If not you'll just spam healing potions while whittling away their health. The RPG elements? Absolutely meaningless. As you level the damage numbers just get bigger but you still continue to spam your most powerful attack.

If the developers took all the time they spent on the open world and "RPG elements" and directed it towards making a good fighting game this could have been absolutely incredible. But what is so sad is that games like that already exist. The Budokai Tenkaichi series released over 10 years ago are better games than Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot in every way except one. The graphics. All CyberConnect2 had to do was make the Budokai Tenkaichi games look great but instead they aspired to make a shitty Ubisoft style game.

I still don't understand how games like this continue to get made. Is it the sunk cost fallacy? Do developers get so far into production that by the time they realize their game is shit they need to get some money, any money for it? I refuse to believe that the game designers were putting in their 100th fetch quest and thought "yeah this is exactly what is needed to make this game great".

Anyways I am just going to keep rambling unless I force myself to stop. Do the human race a favour and don't ever let anyone play Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot.

2. Battletoads

The original Battletoads is still one of my favourite games for the NES. Its gameplay and legendary difficulty still hold up even in this day and age. Gamers' love/hate relationship with the Speed Bike levels is something that will live on forever in video game history. A sequel or remake has been clamored for at least the last decade.

That is why it is amazing to see Rare fuck it up so bad. They took everything special about the original Battletoads, threw it out the window, and made one of the most bland beat 'em ups possible. Boring combat, uninspired visuals, and atrocious writing. The story cared more about guilt-tripping you with social issues than actually being interesting. Even though I got the new Battletoads for free through Xbox Games Pass I still felt cheated with the hour and a half I wasted on it.

It doesn't make sense why the developers used the Battletoads name for this game. They had to have known how different it was than the original and the comparison could only hurt them. People who knew what the name meant wanted something different and those who had never heard of Battletoads probably couldn't have cared less when they saw a trailer like this.

3. Minecraft Dungeons

Minecraft Dungeons is an extremely shallow Diablo clone. The armor and weapon types are so limited that you just end up grinding for the exact same equipment but with larger numbers because your level has increased. After three hours I had got to the final boss and the only way to beat him was to go back and grind for another couple hours to increase my numbers. This was another game I got for free on Xbox Games Pass and I only came away thinking about how much time I had wasted.

Don't bother with Minecraft Dungeons. If the gameplay sounds interesting to you then try Diablo, Torchlight, Path of Exile, or really any other hack-and-slash game because they will undoubtedly be more interesting.

4. Reigns: Beyond

I am a huge fan of the original Reigns but it seems the developers want to take the sequels in a different direction. I preferred the roguelike games where you were constantly dying and learning how to be better for the next attempt. I played Reigns: Beyond for a little over 30 minutes and nothing really happened. My life was never in danger and I only was flying from planet to planet playing a really boring version of Audiosurf. When I put it down there was nothing there that made me want to pick it up again.

5. Demon's Souls Remake

I love about 20% of the Demon's Souls Remake. The combat is excellent and exploring every nook and cranny of each level is a lot of fun. Even dying during that exploration can be enjoyable because the levels are so well designed. Getting truly lost, dying and then cautiously trying to find your body again is a rare type of entertainment in video games today.

But that other 80% is unforgivable. It comprises all of the time you will spend grinding for souls or healing items and running through levels to make an attempt on a boss. I'm not upset that the boss battles are difficult. I am upset with the amount of time I have to waste to attempt them. I would prefer to make back-to-back attempts and die 20 times in an hour to a boss rather than having to run through the level and only get to make 5 attempts.

Imagine if you wanted to wanted to practice hitting baseballs but every time you swung and missed you had to run and touch the outfield wall before you could continue. That running is not going to magically make you better at hitting a baseball. It would actually have the opposite effect of tiring you out and breaking your momentum. Think of how many people would give up baseball if this was the only way to practice hitting? That is essentially what Demon's Souls does with boss battles and gamer culture with their "git gud" mentality thinks this is OK. What is the issue with me being able to instantly teleport back to the boss and try again? I'm not asking for more souls to magically make me stronger or even more healing items to make it easier. I simply want the option. But if you try bringing this up to any "gamer" they'll call you some derogatory term and tell you to fuck off. This idea of "I went through pain so you should too" is one of the most toxic parts of the games industry.

If this remake allowed me to teleport to a boss from every bonfire it probably would have made my good list. The combat is great and the boss battles haven't been cheap, only challenging. But Demon's Souls is so hostile to the player's time that after two hours of running to the Old Hero boss and only getting to fight him 8 times I couldn't justify continuing.

6. Gears Tactics

Gears Tactics isn't a "bad" game in the traditional sense where there are obvious flaws in its design. It just really isn't my cup of tea for a turn based strategy game.

Your soldiers do so little damage that enemies become bulletsponges who take far too long to die. The range of damage is also so heavily dependent on random number generation that sometimes it feels like proper strategy doesn't matter as much as it should. You can customize your soldiers like XCOM but unfortunately the UX for doing this is so awkward that it actively pushed me away from doing it.

It feels like the developers wanted to make a slower, more complex version of a game like XCOM but were so focused on these design goals that they couldn't properly see if the game was fun or not. At least that is my opinion. I am sure there are people who throughly enjoyed this game but I imagine that will be a minority opinion especially in a year where a game such as XCOM: Chimera squad came out.

7. Final Fantasy VII Remake

I will readily admit that I am incredibly biased when it comes to this game. The original Final Fantasy VII is in my top three games of all time alongside Half-Life and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. But the Final Fantasy VII Remake is just not what I was looking for. They ignored a lot of what made the original great and tried to replace it with more modern RPG tropes that they just didn't execute on.

The combat is an utter slog. Somehow a "real time" combat system feels even slower than the original's turn based combat. Charging up your actions will result in characters literally just running around in circles waiting for their meter to fill. The AI for both enemies and your teammates is something out of the PS1 era. Enemies will only attack the character you are controlling and your teammates run after you like idiotic chihuahuas completely oblivious to dangers around them. You can also equip a very limited amount of materia and if you go into combat with the wrong ones equipped you're simply shit out of luck. There is no way to swap them out in the middle of combat. The developers have taken the worst parts of Final Fantasy 12, 13, and 15 and mashed them together. If the remake's combat was identical to Final Fantasy 15 I probably wouldn't have hated it because it would have been much more engaging.

Even with all of those complaints I feel that the combat system is actually really close to being great. Tweak the real time combat so it is more like Monster Hunter where you can cancel out of animations and dodge enemy attacks. Charge the ATB gage and your mana faster so you can can fluidly chain together spells/abilities with regular attacks. Allow changing of materia in combat or at least party members so if someone is equipped incorrectly they are not a liability. And finally use the god damn teammate AI that we've already had in Final Fantasy 12 and 13. It's strange to see a remake of a game from 1997 ignore so much of what we have learned in the following 23 years.

Even if the combat was perfect I still don't think this game would have made my good list because of the story. I absolutely loved the tale of the original Final Fantasy VII and this remake just shits all over it. I can't say much without spoiling it but the writers of this game took the anime tropes knob and cranked it all the way up to 11.

Ugh I need to stop writing or I am going to convince myself to bump this game higher up this list.