We like to keep things positive here at Gaming Nexus, but we’re not people without expectations. The majority of games go by with nary a look. How many looks? Nary. People that keep too close an eye on Steam will see a dozen new games go up every day. Every day! We’re not talking about those games. We’re talking about the games that were, more likely, on our radar. Games we anticipated but didn’t have that anticipation pay off. Games we wanted to like but didn’t. Games whose marketing sent the wrong message, or whose marketing we interpreted the wrong way. Or even games that we went into with zero expectations yet still couldn’t sift any gold from the pan. It happens. We aren’t mad. We’re just disappointed. Thankfully we can just move on. Too many fish in the sea. But we also don’t want to dogpile on any one title from the year, which brings us to Our Biggest Disappointments (Not Called Anthem) 2019.
Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 — I had quite a few expectations for this one when I got the chance to review it. I recall enjoying the 2014 Winter Olympics outing but it’s been a few years since I fired it up, so I don’t remember much about it in terms of events and game modes. The 2020 Tokyo outing I enjoyed to an extent, that extent being the events themselves. The events are good with a couple here and there that, for some reason, I just couldn’t get much past what was required to continue the story (which I forgot to put in the review that after so many fails you can opt to just skip the event entirely and continue with the story), but that’s about it. The story mode has you reading a lot more text than actually playing the events which last maybe a couple of minutes max. Couple that with the fact that there’s no tournament mode--in a game based on a world-wide tourname--and there’s really not much replayability beyond trying for a personal best score or time unless you play online.
Life Is Strange 2 — The original Life Is Strange was my game of the year for 2015. Life Is Strange 2 however? Ehhh not so much. Life is Strange 2 isn't a bad game, but my issue with it is that everything I loved about the first game is now gone. I loved the small town setting, the high school, the big cast of lovable side characters, the Twin Peaks murder mystery story, but most of all the time travel mechanic. All of that is gone with Life Is Strange 2.
WWE 2K20 — Now, I had Life is Strange 2 penciled in for this award for a while...and then WWE 2K20 happened. Good lord this was a complete mess and without a doubt one of the worst games released in 2019. I understand Yukes leaving might have screwed them up a bit, but you do not release a game in this state. What's worse is that 2K has refused to accept responsibility for this. It's been almost two months since launch and we have not gotten a single apology from them. In fact, they even had the audacity to say that they were releasing a patch because "some players" were experiencing problems.The WWE games are in the worst state they have ever been and we all deserve so much better than this.
Wolfenstein: Youngblood — Man, this one hurt. Machinegames has been doing pretty great work with its pseudo-reboot of the Wolfenstein genre. With New Order, Old Blood and New Colossus, they effectively humanized B.J. Blazkowicz, the original FPS cipher, and through strong worldbuilding and the creation of a few fairly chilling villains, they somehow made the Third Reich scary again. All that came crashing down in Wolfenstein: Youngblood.
To be fair, in the months since the game’s release, Machinegames has improved a lot of the glaring gameplay problems, like the essentially broken partner AI, tedious lives/checkpoint system, and the online co-op which was basically non-functional at launch. That doesn’t change the fact that they turned a series of linear, story-based adventure shooters into a poorly implemented open-world microtransaction grind. It also doesn’t change that they burned the amazing story they’d been working on for three games straight to the ground.
Youngblood shifted focus from the soulful soldier Blazkowicz and his quiet but secretly awesome wife Anya, to their thoroughly unlikable twin daughters. This was a pair of protagonists so inconsistently characterized and so completely obnoxious that they somehow make the previous games about their parents more depressing--and this is a series about how Nazis take over the world. To see these dopey frat kids bumble-frick their way through the world their parents and parents’ dead friends fought and suffered to wrest from the forces of pure evil, combined with a gameplay structure that utterly abandoned the satisfying Tarantino-esque Nazi-stomping for cynical level and loot grinding…It really did kill me a little inside.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order — With respect to Nicholas Leon, I hated Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. It has the same problem as Star Wars: The Force Awakens--it isn’t out-and-out bad, just thoroughly mediocre. Something that’s bad is at least interesting; you can talk about it, analyze it, commiserate with fellow fans. But something that’s barely competent, a rote, paint-by-numbers obligation, something that falls just short of good? That’s somehow even more disappointing. And that’s Fallen Order, top to bottom.
Every inch of gameplay in Fallen Order is pinched from a better game, and while imitation is the highest form of flattery, Respawn wasn’t even subtle or elegant about it. The combat is lifted straight from Sekiro, but the blunted difficulty and borderline broken enemy AI means it has none of the desperate, nail-biting edge of FromSoftware’s game. The traversal mechanics are stolen from a long lineage of great adventure platformers, from Prince of Persia to Uncharted, but here again it’s sloppily implemented. The exploration is clearly inspired by Metroid Prime, but instead of rewarding you by making your Jedi incrementally stronger, exploring rewards you mostly with a series of samey cosmetic items. The whole affair is wrapped up in a fairly incidental plot that does more fiddling around between Episodes III and IV, and generally Fallen Order feels rushed, lazy and in desperate need of some hefty patching.
What’s worse, this is in comparison to Raven Software, who took the Quake III engine—a piece of software purpose built for twitch multiplayer fragging—and finessed it into the most nuanced Force powers and lightsaber combat experience yet made. That was Jedi Outcast, in 2002, by the way.
This is all after EA screwed up so royally with Battlefront II and the lootbox fiasco blew up in their faces. If you want to come back from a FUBAR like that you need to turn in your best work, not stagger in half-drunk, and hand in homework that has been sloppily copied from the smart kids. My opinion on Fallen Order remains the same as the new Star Wars movies: you have Disney money to throw at this thing, and this is the best you can come up with?
But hey, at least the little robot is cute, right?
Felix the Reaper — Conceptually, I was excited about this one—not necessarily personally invested in it, since I wasn't really plugged into the news before it landed in my lap to review—but I found that it fell short. "A romantic comedy about the life of Death" has such potential! Such intrigue! Such opportunities to make us guiltily laugh at Felix's misfortune and cheer for his successes! But the clunky Switch controls, the vague/repetitive puzzles, and the slow progression made it a slog to play. Sir Patrick Stewart as comedic narrator/mentor kept it alive for me at first, but the less I heard his voice the more I drew away from Felix's escapades. Poor guy. I hope he found love.
Warhammer: Chaosbane — For all appearances, Chaosbane was set to be a satisfying dungeon crawler—a Diablo clone of the highest order. What it turned out to be was just...dry. I can't even get myself excited enough to slam it. In a year full of games that didn't live up to their potential, here was a game that just seemed to wave weakly in potential's direction, right before it laid down for a nap.
The Church in the Darkness — What a way to take an intriguing "Are they good Christians or bad Christians?" premise and boil it down to clunky stealth mechanics, eyesore art design, and being beaten over the head with loudspeaker audio logs. Well, come to think of it, that's been a small part of my experience with the Church in the past, so maybe they nailed exactly what they were aiming for.
Below — I would be made to feel so small in an enormous cavern crawler. I would feel like survival came down to this last sputtering torch. I would learn the What and the Why of diving into this darkest dungeon, where the inky black fog of war would be my biggest enemy. Instead? Being small only felt tedious. Clinging to the light lost its impact. And the darkness wasn't hiding anything scarier than repetitive gameplay. [This game came in at the buzzer in 2018, but I'm talking about it now in 2019. This is fine.]
Generation Zero — But I mean it’s my "biggest disappointment" in a good way? As far as countrysides go, I couldn't ask for much better than the homeland of Ikea. For character skins, I think the '80s were pretty alright. For enemy types, the "Boston Dynamics is everything we feared" robo dogs are great. But it was too little butter scraped over too much bread, as Bilbo Baggins once said. Even me, a consummate in-game explorer-type and person that doesn't use the term Walking Simulator pejoratively, felt there was too little to see and do. Plus, the AI ain't the sharpest tool in the shed. I'd complain about that more, however, if I didn't feel the constant need to take advantage of the robots' wonky pathing, clipping, and getting-stuck issues.
Borderlands 3 — This one might come as a surprise. Honestly, it surprises me too. The only reason Borderlands 3 makes its way onto this list is, well, because I wasn't disappointed by any other games this year. For there to be a disappointment, there must be an expectation. And I had very high expectations for Borderlands 3. I will say Borderlands wasn't a "big" disappointment. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit—the gun variety is there, the shooting mechanics are improved, the sense of humor still flourishes. But I never felt hooked. I didn't feel inclined to keep vault hunting. I played it on and off for a few weeks, and then my interest faded. Maybe I'll pick it up again and feel differently. Maybe I won't.
Gwent — I loved Gwent when playing through The Witcher 3. I loved it when I was playing the beta years ago. In that aforementioned desperation to jump into a CCG this year, Gwent was at the top of my list. But they've changed the play mechanics so drastically since the iterations of the Witcher/beta that I just didn't recognize this stranger anymore. Then I discovered there were no cross-saves between PC, mobile, and PS4, so I just moved on.
The Blackout Club — I feel like this is a prime example of why multiplayer-only games are a mistake. A game that tells its story through repetitive multiplayer engagements, it’s an annoying, almost oppressive slog through the same environments again and again, with little reward.
Kingdom Hearts III — Sorry everyone, but in a year of heavy hitters, Kingdom Hearts III is easily the most disappointing of the bunch. What wound up being multiple retreads of Disney storylines with Sora inserted into them tangentially does not salvage the end-game storyline that concludes (at least) Xehanort's story. Everything felt like it was rushed to conclusion and then, by the end of the game, we didn't even get a good resolution. Riku, Sora, and Kairi are still separated, Organization XIII is still up to no good, and it feels like this story is just going to keep going. Hopefully the DLC that releases next year can offer some closure, but I'm not holding my breath.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Randy gravitates toward anything open world, open ended, and open to interpretation. He prefers strategy over shooting, introspection over action, and stealth and survival over looting and grinding. He's been a gamer since 1982 and writing critically about video games for over 15 years. A few of his favorites are Skyrim, Elite Dangerous, and Red Dead Redemption. He lives with his wife and daughter in Oregon.View Profile