I have played games for 25+ years and have been watching movies and television for as long. I hope you find these articles interesting.
You’re enjoying a game when all of a sudden, something happens that completely derails the experience. Maybe it’s a silly plot, bad voice acting, or in the case of this list, a game mechanic or feature that just doesn’t fit. Here’s my top 10 game mechanics or features that almost ruined an otherwise good game.
The following is in no particular order.
10. Fallout 1: Water Chip Time Limit
As the only Vault Dweller seemingly smart enough to stand any chance of surviving the post-apocalyptic world of Fallout 1, you are sent to retrieve a broken part for your Vault’s water purifier. The Wasteland is a huge, interesting place with hundreds of wonderfully written NPC’s (including Richard Dean Anderson), many locations to explore in intricate data… you’ve failed. Time’s up.
You’ve now become one of the many players of this game that didn’t notice or pay enough attention to the fact that you had a time limit. You took too long enjoying the game and now everyone in the Vault is dead. Good work champ! Unfortunately, you’ve also been saving on one save file for the last week, so now you can’t even go back to when there was enough time to complete the quest.
Fallout has always been a game to get involved in, to soak up the lore and enjoy speaking to characters. It should never be (and hasn’t been since), a race against time. The feature irked many players and put a sour note on what is otherwise an amazing game. If you notice the time limit, it is actually possible to complete that quickly first and then take your time if truth be told.
9. Final Fantasy 8: Junction System
How do you follow up a game that has since become legendary to gamers? By messing around with everything! Let me be clear, I love this game. Final Fantasy 8 has a brilliant soundtrack, an intriguing story, and most of the mechanics work fine in theory. The junction system, however, needed more time in the oven.
So what is the Junction System? To answer that, we have to look at how magic was presented in the games that came before. Usually, you’d have MP (Magic Points) which you used to cast any spells you had learned via levelling up or other means. In FF8, you had to suck those spells out of rocks, grass, and your enemies using Draw during battle. Not only did it slow the game down, but it destroyed any tension. It was possible to hold 100 of each spell but when using draw, you’d be lucky to get 3 at a time. You then had the choice to either keep these spells or bind them to your other stats. If you bound Fira to your HP, you’d get an HP boost which rose alongside how many of that spell you had stocked up. If you cast that spell, however, you’d have one less, so your HP went down. It was the start of a good idea, but it really sucked the fun out of the game in places, plus, with little effort, you could completely OP your characters and break the game.
8. Mario Kart: Rubber-Banding
This may be the most maddening on the list. It’s a casual game meant for having quick bursts of fun, so why it is so goddamn awful and annoying?! ARRGH! If Princess Peach overtakes me one more time when I’m 800 miles in front, I swear to God I will turn her into a soup for Bowser.
Rubber-banding is a term used for the cheap and artificial boost given to a game opponent (mostly racing) that allows them to catch up even though they are sufficiently far enough behind you that, realistically, it wouldn’t be possible. It’s designed to give the game a more tense finish, but it’s horribly designed and not even remotely hidden. It’s a nasty, cheating feature that threatens to ruin the entire game.
7. Mass Effect 1: Inventory System
Is it too much to ask in this day and age for a clean UI with which to manage your kleptomaniac hoardings? It seems so. Mass Effect 1 was the first time I ever noticed people talking about a bad inventory management system and after a few hours of playing the game; you can see why. Rather than having an intuitive layout, Mass Effect 1 went for a “stylised” approach. This left the player unsure of what items they had, which boxes to click on to make things happen and how to find out if one thing was better than another. There’s nothing worse than getting a new gun or armour and having no quick, visible way to see that it was better. Mass Effect would make this better as the series went on and then forget the progress and make Mass Effect Andromeda’s the absolute worst of them all.
6. Kingdom Hearts: Gummi Ships
This feature on balance seems neither loved nor hated, but it's greatly hated by those who hate it and loved by those who love it. The idea is pretty sound and shows a willingness to try to add variety to the gameplay. Unfortunately, they got Brain-Dead-Barry in from the janitor’s closet to design the UI interface for designing these things. You’re meant to collect blocks and weapons and other such things to build a fun little ship of your own design with which to fly between worlds. However, the interface is so bad that you will instead end up flying a single block with an engine on a gun wherever it would attach and then giving up on trying to design it any better. The 3D “area” you have to use to build these is maddening, the up/down, shoulder-button, unlabelled menu options are murder-inducing and it’s all for almost no reason as the game barely uses the feature at all anyway.
5. Metal Gear Solid 2: Raiden
You love being Solid Snake right? He’s a badass. Enjoyed that tanker level at the start yeah? Seeing Snake in glorious… slightly better graphics? Oh yeah! Well tough shit. You’re now playing as Raiden—a dude that sounds like Dogtanian and whines as much as a crap power supply.
Luckily, being Raiden didn’t change the core gameplay too much, but it did seem slightly mean to have a game start with the character you’ve grown to love and then take him away for what amounts to a 30-hour game with only the odd scene “cameo” from them. Fans were in uproar over it, but quickly realised the game itself was too “boss” (see what I did there) to stay mad at it for long.
4. Elder Scrolls Oblivion: The Dialogue Wheel
Most people play RPGs for either the story, the loot, or the NPC interactions. It’s always fun being able to talk your way out of a situation using Charisma or Speech checks.
Sadly, Oblivion’s speech system was baffling and, worst of all, not fun. Comprising of a small “wheel” in the corner of the screen, you had to choose how to talk to an NPC by either being funny or trying to charm them, but the interface was poorly described and seemed to have no real effect on anything. Future games would simply add lines of dialogue and tell you the chances of passing a speech check somehow, but back in Oblivion’s day, we were stuck with the cheese wheel of misunderstanding. A shame for an otherwise great game even to this day.
3. Mafia 1: Race Time!
You’ve been working for the Don for a while now, shooting up rival mobsters and driving at a leisurely pace around a well-realised and designed city. The car controls have been serviceable, but this is an early 2000s game, so they aren’t brilliant.
Knowing this, you’d probably hate to suddenly be thrust into a must-win race, right?!
Midway through the game, you have to locate a super car (for the times) and take it to the race track to win the race. Unfortunately, you can’t come in any other position and progress the game. The car handles like crap and there is no concession given for the fact that you have to win. The other drivers don’t give a shit that you want to carry on with the main game and they will overtake you in seconds. Expect to do this many, many times…
2. Divinity Original Sin: No Quest Log or Markers
Divine Divinity is a Baldur’s Gate-style RPG full of quests and people to speak with. It takes a keen mind to remember where everyone is and what quest you are currently on, which is why other games track them in a diary or journal.
Not Divine Divinity! In this game, you’re given some text in a diary that simply pieces together a little story about what you are meant to be doing. You have to remember the names of characters, what you were doing for them and then just wander around hoping to find the right places. Although this is more realistic, it doesn’t respect your time and you will more than likely just stop playing because you can’t find the person you want or the place you need to go. It’s quite an irritation on an otherwise great game.
1. Dead Space: Shooting Rocks
During the creepy, scary, and otherwise excellent Dead Space, you have to put down your space-nail gun and get comfy in a chair… attached to a massive asteroid shooting mega-gun.
This part of the game doesn’t mess around. It’s not a quick diversion, a bit of fun to break up the rest of the game. It’s a brutal, try it 100 times shoot-fest where dying is not just possible, but very, very likely. It breaks the tension of the game, slows it down massively if you can’t complete it, and is utterly mandatory… so if you can’t do it, you’re outta luck! No more game for you!
- Mario Kart’s Blue Shell
- Fallout: New Vegas Bugs and Glitches
- Minecraft Creepers
- The Walking Dead’s “Your Choices Matter”
- Diablo 3’s Auction House
- Discworld 1’s Puzzles
Thank you for reading! Please feel free to comment below and if you enjoyed this, check out my other articles.