I’m in a dark time in the life of a gamer. You know the one: the time when you don’t have any new video games to play. Sometimes it is brought on by finance and budgeting. Others, by a busy professional or personal life. A lack of motivation or even a lack of interesting releases can also lead to a time such as this. Regardless of the cause, it is a true struggle not to have any new games to play. You sit on your couch after a long day of work and think “goodness, what in the world am I supposed to do to relax after a long day of taking online courses to learn how to put data from a SQL server into an online dashboard?” Well, that last part might just be me. But the rest stands. Yet while we sit there thinking about our total lack of new gaming experiences, a shadow looms behind us, staring judgmentally at our backs as we once again ignore something that could solve our whole problem: the backlog.
“Oh great, now it’s Ian’s turn to talk about backlog. Super excited to read this post that literally everyone writes at some point in their blogging career.”
I appreciate your enthusiasm, adventurers! Yes, the time has come for me to address my own backlog, as it is foremost on my mind right now as I consider my options in a world where I don’t have new games to enjoy. I have a decent buildup of titles that I haven’t finished up yet, with completion ranging from “right in front of the final boss” to “barely stumbled past the intro.” So rather than talk about backlog from a broader perspective, I thought it would be fun to talk about my backlog specifically, and why I don’t really feel like playing any of it.
PHOENIX WRIGHT: SPIRIT OF JUSTICE
Ah yes, the latest game in the Phoenix Wright series. Almost two years ago now I took my very first step into this strange world of objections and overdramatic witnesses, and I immediately fell in love. The Ace Attorney games appeal strongly to my gaming interests – mystery solving, quirky characters, a great sense of humor, fantastic music, and surprisingly deep/emotionally impactful narratives. Once I started, I couldn’t stop, and I quickly worked my way through the original trilogy, took a somewhat lengthy break, and then powered through both Apollo Justice and Investigations. After that, I took another small break and then played all of Dual Destinies and picked up Spirit of Justice immediately after.
If you’re thinking “holy wow, that’s a lot of Ace Attorney,” you’re right. While I took a break of reasonable length after playing the original trilogy, I went through the more recent Ace Attorney games way too quickly and I ultimately became burned out. Even though Spirit of Justice has one of the most engaging openings of the series, I had a hard time staying focused. By the time the first true case rolled around and I had to spend a bunch of time investigating, I just wasn’t feeling it. There’s nothing wrong with Spirit of Justice – I want to know what happens and eventually I will play it. But right now, I’ve filled myself so full of Ace Attorney goodness that the thought of another game makes me sick.
The original Dishonored is one of my favorite games of all time. I love its balance between gameplay and story, which allows for open-ended approaches while still having a strong and gripping narrative. Few open world games have such a great plot to follow, and few narrative-driven games give you so many creative options. When I originally saw the trailer for Dishonored 2 and realized that the protagonist was Emily Kaldwin – one of my favorite characters from the original game all grown up – I flipped my lid. The idea of an awesome female assassin protagonist had me crazy excited for this game, particularly since she’d have a brand new suite of powers unique from those wielded by her father Corvo (spoilers, I guess?).
I won’t rehash the difficult journey I had to undergo just to get my hands on a copy of this game, but the process of me even trying to play Dishonored 2 put me in a bad mindset when I finally managed to buy it. That then piled on top of some bad early-game decisions which made my version of Emily Kaldwin totally ineffective in stealth missions meant that I was seriously struggling to progress at all. Around that time, other games came out that grabbed my attention and pulled me away from the world of Dishonored. I haven’t returned since – I want some more distance from my poor first playthrough before I try and dive in again.
INFAMOUS: SECOND SON
Much like Dishonored, the original inFamous and its sequel could probably make a list of my favorite games I have ever played. I played the first one for free after some bad press for Sony led them to give it away as an apology to PS Plus members (don’t ask what happened, that I definitely don’t remember). I enjoyed it so much that I picked up inFamous 2 immediately, and I played through it multiple times. Good karma and bad karma playthroughs, different combinations of electrical powers – all of these possible paths give the games a lot of replayability that kept me coming back for more. So when I finally got a Playstation 4, Second Son was high up on the list of games I wanted to grab for it.
I enjoyed what I played of Second Son, getting about halfway through the game. Actually, I am pretty sure it was exactly halfway – the city has two main segments which are divided up into two different characters that you meet and learn their powers. I just made it to the second main area when I stopped playing. I don’t quite remember why I didn’t keep going – I want to say that maybe a Switch game came out that grabbed my attention more? At any rate, I haven’t gone back to it because at this point I would feel obligated to start the whole thing over again, and I really don’t want to replay the sections I’ve already finished. But I also don’t want to start in the middle. Oh dear.
BRAVELY SECOND: END LAYER
The Bravely games are titles that I consider to be groundbreaking when it comes to the modern execution of the JRPG genre. Roleplaying games are so steeped in tradition that it is difficult to rebuild them into something fresh, and while some of my favorite games are JRPGs, some of the worst games I’ve ever played are as well. They can often feel unremarkable – not so with Bravely. A number of excellent modern conveniences are included that make it so much easier and more fun to progress in these titles.
“Well Ian, if Bravely Second is so great then why didn’t you finish it?” Honestly, I have no idea. When I was playing Bravely Second, I was having a blast with it. I had no complaints! The combat is good, the job system is as fun as ever, I greatly appreciate being able to fast forward the random battles and set the encounter rate – it’s a great game. But one day, I put the game down. When I think now about trying to go back to it, I just don’t feel like it. I think it has a lot to do with a general disdain for the JRPG formula – I Am Setsuna is also on my backlog list for much the same reason. I love a good roleplaying game but the whole “explore a vast world while fulfilling sidequests for NPCs and grinding for EXP and money in random battles” thing has no appeal for me right now.
FINAL FANTASY XV – and XIII, and X, and VIII, and VII, and VI, and…
Why are there so many Final Fantasy titles in my backlog? Well, it all boils down to one thing, really – I haven’t beaten the final boss of most Final Fantasy titles I have played. My process for all of them is quite similar: I start the game, love it, make a bunch of progress, hit the difficulty spike right at the end, and put the controller down. Admittedly, I actually do want to finish Final Fantasy XV – in fact, I’ve been thinking recently about playing through it again, with my only real barrier being that it is on the PS4, which I rarely play because I have to share and I am bad at sharing. Otherwise, none of the Final Fantasy games have engaged me enough to keep me wanting to play through, with two exceptions: VII and VIII.
You see, my copies of VII and VIII were purchased secondhand by my stepfather while I still lived with my parents. He got an amazing deal on the disks, but they came at a steep price – one we would not learn about until progressing quite far into the games. Our copy of Final Fantasy VIII ceased working just after seeing Ultimecia take over Rinoa’s body, I was driven to stop the evil sorceress but never got the opportunity to finish the job. The timing on Final Fantasy VII’s disk was even worse, though – all of the disks worked fine except for the fourth and final one, which would crash whenever Safer Sephiroth used the move Super Nova. You can imagine my frustration when I watched that comet slowly smash through all the planets in the solar system, making its way to earth before crashing…the game.
DRAGON QUEST HEROES
My first ever game in the Dynasty Warriors style was the Dragon Quest crossover on Playstation 4, and it was this game which caused me to discover just how much nostalgia can sell me on a title. I loved the experience of seeing all of the different characters from my favorite JRPG series making their appearances. Trying out their unique fighting styles was fun, and using my abilities to smash through hordes of familiar, lovingly-animated enemies was great for de-stressing after a day of work.
This is another game where I basically am standing at the doorstep of the final battle and just didn’t feel like proceeding any further. With a game that banks so hard on nostalgia, once you have all the characters unlocked and have had opportunities to play as them, it’s tough to want to keep going. While I technically did not finish Dragon Quest Heroes, I honestly consider myself to be finished with it. I might someday return to many of the titles on this list and definitely want to for some of them, but when it comes to this one I’m pretty content to leave it in my backlog for eternity.
FIRE EMBLEM ECHOES: SHADOWS OF VALENTIA
Out of all the games on my backlog list, this is the one that hurts the most. Fire Emblem is one of my favorite all-time series, standing right next to The Legend of Zelda as the games which resonate the most with me on a consistent basis (once Paper Mario was there too, but the chances of ever having another game like the first two are basically zero). There are a lot of things about Fire Emblem Echoes I enjoy – the story is compelling, the presentation is incredible, and the dialogue writing is some of the best I have ever seen in a video game. Yet the gameplay holds me back from ever wanting to push through to the end.
Here’s the thing about Fire Emblem Echoes. You have two different parties you are moving along the world map towards separate destinations, and can choose between either to slowly work your way through the game’s story. As you move along, there are enemy units on the map who can be stationary or mobile. The stationary units, for the most part, do not respawn. The mobile units, however, spawn frequently and then charge towards you. Because the paths on the map are completely linear and offer no alternate routes to get around these encounters, you have to defeat these extra enemies in order to progress whenever they spawn. It adds a lot of artificial time to a game where the battles already feel less relevant than the maps in other Fire Emblem titles. I get bored after one or two fights after experiencing little to no story and put the game down.
These are the titles sitting in my backlog. There are more, of course, but these games are the main ones which stare at me judgmentally from my shelf. Now that I’ve shared my list of shame, I’d love to hear your thoughts, adventurers! What games are rotting in your backlog, untouched for lo these many moons? What games are you looking forward to despite having plenty of things to play at your house? Let me know in the comments below!