Overrated is a loaded term. It looks good in a headline. It’s often used for no purpose other than to goad a reaction. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. When I call a game overrated, I don’t mean it’s bad, that the reviews were wrong, that the people who liked it were dopes, or even that I didn’t like it. It just means I’m surprised more people weren’t more critical, that the conversation wasn’t more often about ways the game could have been better.
After the jump, the ten most overrated games of 2014.
10) Banner Saga
How did this under-developed framework for a bog-standard by-the-numbers city builder get to be such an indie darling?
8) This War of Mine
It’s an elegant enough survival game, and I really like the day/night cycle. But I’m surprised that anyone culls from it any sort of insight into war, much less any insight into the degree of human suffering going on right now in places like Syria and the Gaza Strip. What a facile and insulting claim. This War of Mine is no more relevant than, say, Don’t Starve.
7) Forza Horizon 2
As sterile as the regular Forza games, and with no meaningful economy, player progression, or sense of place. I’m convinced Forza fans are Forza fans mostly out of a sense of loyalty to the Xbox. See also, Halo.
5) Civilization: Beyond Earth
Firaxis dribbles mostly disappointing sci-fi schmutz all over Civilization V and mainstream reviewers gobble it up hungrily. For a better strategy game with a unique take on faction design, I recommend Endless Legend. For a better sci-fi game, I recommend forgetting the sci-fi and just getting Endless Legend anyway.
4) Far Cry 4
What a generic take on setting. If it weren’t for the elephants, these forested valleys might as well be the Ozarks. And the whole thing simply doesn’t hang together very well. It feels less like a game and more like a collection of Ubistuff you can do if you want. At least Watch Dogs had a vividly realized setting and a unique approach to the usual Ubistuff.
3) Dragon Age: Inquisition
I enjoy the potential of the tactical combat, but after about fifty battles, I can’t help feel it’s suspended uncomfortably between the pace of Diablo and the detail of Baldur’s Gate, unable to make up its mind about which way to go, and with a default difficulty level that couldn’t care less. I do enjoy the Skyrim-inspired openness of the world, but it seems mainly like an excuse for the crafting system, which is based on scraping scattered collectibles out of the world. The war-table strategic level is a disappointing smoke and mirrors act of no consequence. What’s eventually left over is Bioware’s usual turgid storytelling and awkward dialogue, but minus a branching storyline that tricks you into thinking your choices matter.
Bungie knows their gunplay and I can hardly blame anyone for being enthusiastic about the gunplay. But, boy, did they fumble pretty much everything else! In fact, I’d argue that Warframe, a free-to-play downloadable game, is a much better overall game than Destiny, a premium priced AAA flagship title.
1) Elite: Dangerous
A long shallow progression grind, zero social elements, online-only DRM, wretched documentation, a half-baked attempt at the new-user experience, a painfully clunky ingame map of the universe, sheepish and muted world-building, and a complete lack of space porn by keeping your view tethered to the interior of the cockpit. Other than that, this is fine if you’re looking for an immersive, wide-open, make-your-own-fun sandbox sim.