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While 2017 was definitely a banner year for video games, not every highly anticipated adventure turned out to be a resounding success. As games like The Legends of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Horizon: Zero Dawn were making headlines for their soaring successes, others were more noteworthy for pulling off a belly-flop.
While 2017 offered success stories from a wide variety of games, this year's disappointments were equally varied. We've got a little bit of everything here, ranging from a beloved series that fizzled out to an indie darling that didn't quite turn out as intended. A couple of complete duds also turned up, as well as a game that we're deeming massively disappointing for nontraditional reasons.
Let's get this show on the road.
On paper, LawBreakers seemed like an easy home run. You've got Cliff Bleszinski, of Gears of War fame, and his new studio promising a hero shooter that rewards skill and offers a darker edge than you typically get out of the genre. While it would have been wiser to stick to a free-to-play model, they were charging just 30 bucks for the game with all future hero/level/mode DLC getting added in at no extra charge. Finally, the game itself was super solid. The gunplay was fast and fierce and the mobility added an interesting new spin on your typical arena-style blast-a-thons.
I'm not going to pretend that the game wasn't without its faults. The character and world designs weren't too fleshed out, the marketing was poorly targeted and there wasn't a heck of a lot of meat on the bones when LawBreakers launched. Still, the positives greatly outnumbered the negatives and we felt pretty confident that the game's quality and word of mouth would help it build some momentum.
Instead, LawBreakers landed with a resounding thud. As of this writing, today's peak number of concurrent players on Steam was just 21. It's a kind of downward spiral we figure is impossible to pull out of, and that's a real shame. LawBreakers itself wasn't a disappointing game, but its extremely fast death (which felt avoidable) certainly is.
Agents of Mayhem
Over the years, the Saints Row series became known for its memorable characters, fun open world, varied mission structure and crass yet clever scripts. The spinoff series, Agents of Mayhem, offered none of the above. The game's character-swapping gunplay was its sole strong point, with everything else happening on-screen seeming custom made to overshadow that with blandness.
We had some high hopes for Agents of Mayhem given its pedigree and, again, the clever shooting mechanics made for some interesting gunplay, but the final product completely failed at delivering on those expectations. The world was uninspired and devoid of interesting activities, the missions felt like the same shooting galleries plopped onto slightly different locations and the characters were utterly lacking in, well, character.
While some of the games on this year's list are disappointing for reasons only tangential to the games themselves, Agents of Mayhem was itself just an extremely disappointing game.
Mass Effect Andromeda
You can't talk about 2017 disappointments without bringing up the one that likely broke the most hearts. Mass Effect Andromeda was billed as a sort of fresh start for the series, leaving behind the complex story (and controversial conclusion) of a fan-favorite trilogy in order to let a new cast of characters live out their own adventures in a totally new setting. What we got felt like it needed an extra year on either end of development; one at the start to better flesh out the game conceptually and the other at the end to actually finish development.
Mass Effect Andromeda had a rough start, which is a two-fold reference to the weeks following launch and the slow-as-hell opening hours that many felt incapable of playing beyond. There were bugs aplenty and even game-ending glitches, and we refuse to let "Well, it's BioWare" serve as an excuse anymore. The game also suffered from a bad script and possibly the worst facial animations we've seen on modern consoles.
Even if expectations weren't sky high, Mass Effect Andromeda didn't really deliver on any front beyond some decent combat. It was a big, expensive, dull game that, sadly, appears to have tanked the series for good.
It's especially hard to hate on Yooka-Laylee because it's indie as hell, but it's also hard to overlook just how lackluster the final product turned out to be. We've actually heard buzz that the Switch version of the game is miles better than on other platforms, so consider that a potential silver lining if you were convinced by previous reviews to just stay away from this well-intentioned platformer.
To be fair, the hype leading into the launch of Yooka-Laylee was developer Playtonic's own creation. And to their credit, they kinda-sorts delivered on their promise to create a game that harkens back to the mascot-driven platformers of yesteryear. The problem is that their formula included all of the bad stuff early genre entries suffered from, such as some rough level designs, unclear objectives, clunky controls and an even clunkier camera.
Yooka-Laylee had a lot of heart but, touted as the spiritual successor of Banjo-Kazooie, it just didn't deliver. If you want to see what a more modern take on the genre should look like, maybe check out A Hat in Time or Super Mario Odyssey instead.
Star Wars Battlefront II
We consider Star Wars Battlefront II the most disappointing game of 2017 because, quite frankly, it didn't have to be. As far as gameplay and content are concerned, the team at DICE absolutely delivered. The experience isn't as nailed down or focused as Battlefield, but it offered a polished and visually stunning adventure spanning the entire Star Wars narrative. The campaign offered some decent fun and nostalgia aplenty, the competitive multiplayer is varied and exciting and the new space combat mode was absolutely fantastic.
Unfortunately, EA stepped in and muddled the whole thing up. While the game itself was dandy, things like a ridiculously unrewarding progression loop, gross loot box practices and equally gross emphasis on microtransactions has earned the game some well-documented controversy and well-deserved criticism. EA has since rolled back many of the game's greatest offenses and even made some solid adjustments to the remaining issues, but it's too little and far too late.
It's an absolute bummer that things had to go this way for Battlefront II. Left the hell alone, it would have been a pretty great celebration of a beloved IP. Instead, it has become the poster child of how you can perfectly screw up a practically guaranteed success.