(Originally posted on When Nerds Attack.)
Before fiery forums and contemptuous comment sections damned No Man’s Sky as the poster boy for Overhyped Disappointment, that distinction belonged to Watch Dogs. With showstopping E3 demonstrations years before its actual release and a marketing campaign that inflated the game’s reputation into the next-gen second coming, Ubisoft’s open-world title had expectations stacked to the moon.
But Watch Dogs wasn’t the crowbar to GTA’s knee it was gassed up to be. And it certainly wasn’t the next-generation tour de force of 2014 that displayed the sheer computational power of our eighth generation consoles. It was a bog standard open-world crime game, compounded by a weak story centered on one of gaming’s worst leading men. The one concept that separated it from its peers – the ability to hack parts of the environment to your advantage – felt more like a shallow distraction than a tantamount feature. Shit, Watch Dogs isn’t even the best open-world game with “Dogs” in its title. Despite huge out-of-the-gate sales, Watch Dogs became the cornerstone of Gamestop’s $9.99 bins.
That’s why Watch Dogs 2 is such a huge surprise. Ubisoft has made a herculean effort of addressing the original game’s biggest problems. We’ve ditched the dreary reinterpretation of Chicago for a lively, sometimes uncannily accurate recreation of San Francisco. Aiden’s half-baked revenge quest has been traded up for a lighter toned but more resonant tale of rebellion against a voyeuristic big brother. We’re given a cast of characters that matter, headed up by a charming, cocksure protagonist who’s instantly likable. Watch Dogs 2 is a vast improvement over its predecessor. It’s the biggest turnaround in quality an Ubisoft sequel has managed since Assassin’s Creed II.
“Revelations 2 is a solid chunk of morbid tone, creeping disasters, and fraught action. Unlike its big budget brothers, it treats players to a scaled back, almost intimate jaunt through the dark that ends up being one of the better detours Resident Evil has taken in the last five years.“
All great sagas come to a close. No matter how long we want to stay in the universes we’ve grown to love, a finale is imminent; needed even. The ambitious sci-fi RPG Mass Effect was destined to end from the start, planned by Bioware as a three chapter odyssey where the most important game mechanic was choice. The galaxy rippled and changed depending on your actions, with every decision shaping the course of the narrative. Change can be ushered in by something as insignificant as a conversation. Or as big as taking a life.
Every choice and mistake were yours to own not just for one game, but for all. Bioware promised the path you blazed with Commander Shepard would uniquely affect every title in the series, right up until the finale. Mass Effect 3 does in fact drop the curtains on gaming’s best sci-fi series, but you’ll be disappointed to learn that three games worth of building alliances, crushing enemies, and choosing how to best save the galaxy have no effect on the game’s ending, very much robbing Bioware’s opus of a sense of finality. Keep in mind that Mass Effect 3 is still the spiraling, nuanced sci-fi adventure you want; just not the epic conclusion fans deserve.