The Ones That Got Away – My 2022 Unfinished Games

The best plans of mice and men often go awry, and that includes gaming plans. While I played almost two dozen games to completion this year, there were about nine others that I never managed to finish, putting them down after varying amounts of time trying to get invested in their worlds and gameplay. While earlier this week I reflected on the games I did complete and even ranked my top five, today is all about the games I ultimately put down. It can be valuable to recognize what wasn’t working about a game for you, as that experience can better guide you towards games you will enjoy in the future. So today it’s time I thought long and hard about why I put down the games I just couldn’t bring myself to play any more.

MoonHunters

This is a game I had in one of the charity bundles I’ve purchased from itch dot io over the last couple of years, and is a multiplayer dungeon crawler sort of game by the folks who made Boyfriend Dungeon (it predates Boyfriend Dungeon). I played this game on stream and tried a little bit of it on my own as well to get an idea of what it brings to the table. MoonHunters reminded me of playing Gauntlet Legends back on the N64, as it has some similar game mechanics. You play a character who with a small set of abilities and fight monsters from a top-down perspective as you explore tiles of the overworld in search of NPCs to talk to in order to make choices that build your character’s personality and therefore impact what types of actions they can take. Similar to Boyfriend Dungeon, it’s an interesting premise that falters primarily where the execution is concerned. Unlike Boyfriend Dungeon, it doesn’t have a great cast to hold it together even when the essential gameplay components are falling apart. MoonHunters was a clear case of “not my genre” combined with “obviously just playing something out of boredom rather than true passion.” It’s important to have a bit of excitement for a game when you’re preparing to check it out so you can come at it in good faith, truly trying to see and appreciate what the game wants to do.

Ganbare! Super Strikers

After being so surprised that I enjoyed Pyre, a game about magic sports, I decided to try out a tactical RPG all about the sport of soccer. Ganbare! has a basic premise that I think makes a lot of sense – take a real-life game that is already very strategic and simply play out that game as a tactical RPG. You have to manage each player’s stamina and play to their strengths as you move around the field and try to score goals against the opposing team while protecting your own goal. Besides learning that I do not understand soccer – why is passing the ball beyond your opponent’s last line of defense an infraction against you instead of the natural consequence for them not stopping you from being able to do that? – I also found the game a bit too simplistic in terms of the tactics gameplay. Special moves seemed valuable for their accuracy bonuses more so than the status problems they inflicted, and with little in the way of story and grinding essentially just boiling down to replaying old matches, there wasn’t enough variety or freshness to Ganbare! to keep me engaged. This isn’t a surprise, really, because something I definitely know about myself when it comes to gaming is that I need variety and new discoveries to stay interested.

FTL: Faster Than Light

As much as I love Into the Breach, I knew that at some point I would need to try my hand at the older title from Subset Games, FTL. FTL is a space battle simulator where you have to escape a pursuing fleet in an effort to deliver crucial technology to a rebellion trying to fight back against a tyrannical empire. It’s a run-based game where making meta-progress unlocks new crew member types and ships in order to add spice to your runs. The ship combat involves utilizing different weapons to push through enemy shields and target specific parts of their ship, disabling key systems as well as starting fires, depriving oxygen, and killing crew members until the ship either gives up or is destroyed. The deep space management stuff is different from the type of detailed decision making that I normally enjoy in strategy games, and the unlocks came too slow for me to feel like I was making discoveries and getting invested. In roguelikes, I need some quick rewards early on to teach me the benefit of pushing myself to get better at the game and showing me what I can look forward to as I learn to master it. FTL took longer to show me those incentives than I have patience. This is one I could maybe see myself trying again at some point, if the mood hits me.

Transistor

I gave up on a Supergiant game?! I know, it hurt me too. Honestly I don’t think I ever made a conscious decision to stop playing Transistor. It was one of those situations where something else caught my attention and by the time my attention was free to look for new experiences, Transistor had been filed into the “old experiences” part of my brain. Mechanically, I’d gotten far enough into the game to experience a lot of the core features. Using the different types of programs in three different slots – active, upgrade, and passive – in order to discover more information about the world and characters as well as experimenting with different move combinations to make the most effective suite was an enjoyable experience. But compared to Pyre and Hades, the narrative of Transistor didn’t have a lot to keep me compelled to finish, and once I got to the point where I felt I’d seen everything the game had to offer from a gameplay standpoint, I lost the motivation to keep having that same experience. With Hades II entering early access next year, it’s not looking good for Transistor in 2023, either.

Cris Tales

Cris Tales is a game I tried out on a demo on stream during one of my favorite streams I have ever done. I had a good time with the game’s early hours and found the time-based puzzles compelling, as well as seeing potential in a battle system that emphasized using time to inflict interesting statuses on enemies and manipulate them in a number of ways. Early on in Cris Tales the game seems to use this to the fullest, but as you progress the time bending mechanics become less and less essential, and the new combinations of abilities that could change that begin to trickle in slower and slower. And while the game is lovely to look at, the story and performance leave a lot to be desired. Cris Tales brushes against interesting topics and mechanics without every really diving into them fully, and that hesitation keeps it firmly in the space of mediocre turn-based RPGs that I don’t have the time or motivation for. The game has potential, but it fails in my view to take full advantage of the system it offers and roll out interesting combos fast enough to keep you interested.

Ring Fit Adventure

Ah, such a misguided attempt to get into exercising. My physical health is bad. I have a sedentary job and sedentary hobbies, and while right now my relative youth prevents that from impacting my life too much, a time will come when my lack of exercise is really going to bite me in the ass. It’s already coming, honestly – my overall lack of strength and stamina as well as poor sleep quality point back to the lack of exercise in my life. I was hoping to exercise more actively by gamifying it with Ring Fit Adventure, but like every other form of exercise I have attempted, once I fell off the wagon it felt impossible to get motivated again. I need to discover the type of exercise that I can easily work into my daily routine that doesn’t feel like a chore. I still have a hope that Ring Fit could become that, given the opportunity. I keep telling myself that any day now I will pick the game up again and restart, beginning my fitness journey once more with new motivation and vigor. Over the weekend I started making efforts to do just that, so hopefully I can push through and continue exercising into 2023.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Yakuza Like a Dragon is a JRPG that takes heavy inspiration from Dragon Quest. In some ways, this is fun and makes for a charming and endearing protagonist. In other ways, this bogs the game down with some unnecessary relics of JRGs past. The way the job system and grinding each function in this game create a slow, terrible slog by bringing over the worst features from the wrong Dragon Quest titles to borrow from. The combat fails to solve solved problems implemented as far back as Chrono Trigger on the SNES. I find the story of Like a Dragon compelling, but the late game difficulty spike combined with the time consuming methods of preparing your characters to finish the game is a poor design decision that encourages the least interesting sort of play offered by JRPGs as a genre. Outside of potentially trying one of the older Yakuza titles, this has been enough to convince me that the Like a Dragon series is not going to be something that is up my alley.

Bloodborne

The most recent and perhaps most blasphemous entry on this list. Bloodborne is one of the most popular Soulsborne games and I do get what people see in it. There are some cool monster designs and the game does a good job of pushing you to master weapons, uncover patterns, learn the best opportunities to attack, and bring in useful resources. But it’s a terrible game to look at, with the constant sea of dull brown and grey textures along with the pervasive darkness hiding lots of information from the player. I understand why it is appealing to some to slowly learn the patterns of a powerful boss until you can avoid their best attacks and punish their openings, but for me I need motivation outside of just the mechanical satisfaction or bragging rights. Bloodborne is too sparse on character interaction or narrative for me to feel like the effort I am putting in is ever going to have a satisfying payoff. It was enough to pique my interesting in exploring other Souls titles in the future as well as increasing my appreciation for my previous Soulslike outings, but Bloodborne itself is not something I have any plans to revisit.

For the most part these games will all be staying in 2022, but each one has taught me something about the way I approach games or what does and doesn’t work for me when playing. While it is inevitable that in 2023 there will be more games I don’t wrap up, my hope is that the lessons learned from this selection of titles will lead to better decisions about my 2023 library. If you have your own “games that got away” from this year, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

4 thoughts on “The Ones That Got Away – My 2022 Unfinished Games

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  1. There’s only really one game that “got away” from me this year, though it’s from 1999: Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. There are plenty of games from that time which still hold up but this just isn’t one of them. I was doing a Let’s Play of it but that’s probably not going to be seen now (sorry, NekoJonez). I really tried to get into it because it has some compelling level structure but I gave up.

    Here’s a clip of my final moments playing it. I think it’s self-explanatory but, needless to say, it’s when I realised it was a game I wasn’t enjoying – only tolerating, something I don’t have to do.

    Like

  2. Well…I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only person that thought FTL’s absolutely glacial pace made it a bit anti-fun. There’s something reassuring about knowing you’re not the only crazy.

    Shame about Transistor, but I get it. Compared to Pyre, or Hades it feels a lot more like a blueprint with many of the pieces missing. That’s not necessarily bad, but you can see how SuperGiant evolved over time and where they learned lessons.

    Think I might pillage this idea for my own blog, but I would need to finish my current project first. Thanks in advance if I do end up doing a “stuff I didn’t finish and why” post before year end. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha yes, please pillage away! I’d certainly be curious to read your own list.

      There’s a part of me that wants to finish Transistor but I know myself well enough to know that I’m going to have to wait until the right mood hits, and I missed the ideal window this year. It’s still a neat game though and even if I don’t finish it, it’s still one I will recommend on the basis of a pretty solid gameplay concept.

      And yeah FTL, goodness. Subset Games REALLY took the ideas they were playing with there and enhanced them significantly for the structure of Into the Breach. You can see the building blocks but since I don’t enjoy the moment to moment of FTL nearly as much I don’t see myself really going back to it.

      Liked by 1 person

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