I’ve been burned a few times when buying games. It happened more often when I was a kid. There were times where I spent around $20 on a game and ended up playing a slideshow or a very underdeveloped game that only hooked me because of its fantastic box art.
As I grew older, I like to think that I grew smarter too. I became more knowledgeable about what games would probably be worth it. Still, I didn’t know developers or publishers by name. I had no clue who these logos and titles belonged to except during the initial load of a game.
I made due with mediocre purchases and came to stumble upon some of my favorite games like Dungeon Keeper 2. Then I aged a bit more and finally figured it all out. I pieced together what publishers actually did and who developers were. I came to understand who to trust and who to be wary of. In this stage of growth I was enjoying high quality games and seldom bought something that I didn’t enjoy.
I fell off my smart buying pedestal when I found out about a game called Dungeons. It was promised to be a spiritual successor of Dungeon Keeper, a missing link at the end of what I always hoped would be a trilogy. The game’s entire style brought back waves of nostalgia (as dangerous as it is intoxicating).
Dungeons called to me so strongly that I actually broke my pre-order cherry with it. I would come to check on the calendar every now and then for a few months, waiting for the release date to draw nearer and my Amazon copy to finally ship. I was excitedly waiting for a game that seemed to be made just for hardcore Dungeon Keeper fans like me.
During this whole time I saw little of the gameplay, but I do recall answering a survey about the game. One of those questions explicitly asked if I was a fan of Dungeon Keeper. Just having a survey ask that question was enough for me to put my faith and $39.99 into the game.
My package arrived on time, maybe even a day earlier. I pushed my coursework off my desk and into the late evening. I didn’t need to be bothered by trivialities like food and sleep, there were dungeons to be erected and heroes to be tortured!
I spent around three hours working through that game and its mechanics before I rested my head on the fact that it blew. It simply blew. I won’t try to fluff this article with the details because I’m sure that you all know how it feels to play a bad game. Everything is just off.
I came into the game expecting Dungeon Keeper but instead came upon something far too uninteresting. Dungeons now permanently rests on a shelf alongside multiple World of Warcraft boxes and Doom 3.
I might forget to pack it when I move next month. I haven’t decided yet.
From then on, I learned to not trust any game unless I saw definitive gameplay. I never pre-order a game without a personal beta test. Dungeons bit me so hard that I also became distrustful of the companies involved with it, most notably its publisher, Kalypso Media.
Now you may know of Kalypso already. They are the publisher behind Tropico 4, a strategy game that I’ve since spent 86 hours on. After ending up with a free copy of that game due to a Steam contest, I was happily surprised at how fun it was. My trust for the publisher slowly returned over time. After all, Dungeons was one game. It can’t speak for the entirety of the Kalypso catalog.
After Tropico 4, I came to review Hard Reset, a fresh but distinctly old-school FPS game. I gave it a good score along with bits of praise. Hard Reset was self-published by Flying Wild Hog at the time but when the Extended Edition was announced Kalypso grabbed the publishing rights, telling me that it saw the game’s value as much as I did.
Now it’s 2012 and I’m running GAMElitist, reviewing a few games here and there for the website. There was one game that recently popped up called Legends of Pegasus. We received a copy from Kalypso and I asked the crew who was interested. A few ellipses later, I tasked myself with the review. Honestly, I was the perfect fit since I had just reviewed another 4X game by the name of Endless Space maybe a month earlier.
I wasn’t as distressed with Kalypso as I was before. I forgot about Dungeons. In my mind, it was railroaded by Tropico 4, a game that I still come back to on the weekends. Seeing the publisher didn’t give me a single pause. As with other games that I review, I kept my mind clear and did not check up on the game’s popularity with other reviewers or customers.
Once again I hit a wall after three hours. The game was an honest disaster. It was buggy, boring and devoid of substance. Look up the game now and you’ll find hordes of dissatisfied customers. If you’ve ever been privy to bad game launches like Diablo III and Stronghold 3, you’ll think you know a thing or two about it all. Trust me when I say that this game puts every other one to shame.
Being in my position, I can’t exactly avoid this situation. It comes with the territory of being a reviewer. The same thing has come up before with other games this website has reviewed. I view the gaming industry as a bell curve. There are a lot of decent games that release every year along with fewer standout titles near the top of the curve. But for every standout title, there’s an equally standout game opposite of it.
Since smart gamers want quality bang for their buck, they work to avoid these bizarro titles by screening for good gameplay footage and headstart access. You may already know this. I’ll be the first to admit that before my experiences with Dungeons and Legends of Pegasus, I wasn’t the best practitioner of the research-first methodology.
I was too trusting and put too much faith in products that I didn’t know. Every bad game I’ve ever bought has been because of a lack of research beyond box art and a few choice screenshots. I hope this has been a little helpful if not entertaining.
Feel free to share any terrible game purchases you’ve had in the comments below.