2023 has been a great year for video games, with plenty of all-time classics launching throughout these past few months. Games like Baldur’s Gate 3, Street Fighter 6, Hi-Fi Rush, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Final Fantasy XVI, Pikmin 4, Armored Core 6 and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom have earned plenty of critical acclaim, alongside remakes like Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space.
Unfortunately, with every success that occurs within the gaming industry, there’s disappointment too, and there’s been a good amount to be disappointed with during these past 12 months. From games to a lot of crappy business decisions, the negativity was hard to avoid in 2023. With that in mind, here’s the biggest disappointments in gaming of 2023.
You’d probably be expecting games like Crime Boss: Rockay City or that GameMill King Kong game to be on this list, and while they might be just a bit rubbish, let’s be honest with ourselves: no one was expecting those games to be GOTY contenders. It’s hard to be disappointed with a game when the bar was already so low, so let’s instead talk about a game that raised a lot more expectations instead: Starfield.
Bethesda’s first new IP in decades, Starfield was looking set to be the next big blockbuster for both Bethesda and Microsoft as a whole, but now, a few months after the game has launched, Starfield has seemingly faded from the public consciousness. The fact that Skyrim has had more players on Steam recently than Starfield says it all about how much staying power this space-RPG really had.
While no one would say that Starfield is a bad game, as the improvements made to the gunplay and movement over a game like Fallout are immediately noticeable, playing Starfield means accepting a reality that their depiction of space is mostly empty and boring. The majority of the planets and moons are just barren land masses, with the occasional ancient ruin or pirate outpost scattered every 500m to a kilometre apart, making exploration feel like a chore. When the game’s core mechanic is its least engaging feature, you’re in trouble.
9. Atlas Fallen
Deck13 had made a decent name for themselves in the past, largely thanks to their work on the sci-fi Soulslike series The Surge, which carved a wonderful niche within the hardcore AA space. It’s no wonder that some were excited about the potential of Atlas Fallen then, which looked set to be more of a AAA release fully backed by Focus. Unfortunately, you’d be forgiven for thinking it hadn’t even launched yet, as Atlas Fallen dropped with about as much fanfare as a fart in a tornado.
Despite an impressive looking reveal trailer, and the promise of an open world action RPG that boasted fun traversal and unique combat, Atlas Fallen failed to capture the attention of pretty much anyone when it launched. From the story to the world and its gameplay, Atlas Fallen is just bland. It’s nowhere near the worst game of 2023, but disappointing it most certainly is. However, Atlas Fallen’s lacklustre reception might have been affected by another disappointment that launched earlier in the year.
8. AEW: Fight Forever
Wrestling fans are no strangers to disappointment, whether it’s matches that don’t live up the hype, or storylines that lack a worthy pay-off. Wrestling game fans have been disappointed too, especially with the early days of the WWE 2K franchise, so when AEW announced that they’d be partnering with Yuke’s to create a wrestling game throwback, fans were excited. The end result, AEW: Fight Forever, left a lot to be desired.
AEW: Fight Forever aimed to emulate the likes of N64 classic WWF No Mercy a little bit too accurately, and trying to release a game in 2023 that plays (and some would argue looks) like an N64 game for £50+ is a bold ask. With its overly simplistic gameplay, lack of modes and match types, along with an inferior creation suite compared to WWE 2K, AEW: Fight Forever ran out of steam before it entered the ring.
7. The Walking Dead: Destinies
While we might have mentioned fellow GameMill title Skull Island: Rise of Kong in the Starfield entry as being one of the worst games of the entire year, that isn’t the publisher’s only entry into the world of crap. The Walking Dead fans (specifically of the TV show) might have had hopes that The Walking Dead: Destinies wasn’t going to be just another rubbish game in a series that’s spawned countless mobile titles and Survival Instinct, but those hopes were quickly dashed.
Pitched as a game that would allow players to rewrite the storyline of key events in the TV show to see how things would play out, The Walking Dead: Destinies fails to properly utilise its admittedly lofty premise. Meanwhile, the gameplay is about as janky as you’d expect from a GameMill title, but given how the devs who work with GameMill have been reportedly made to crunch on games like Rise of Kong, the fault should lie squarely at the publisher’s feet.
6. Payday 3
Starbreeze’s hit co-op shooter series Payday has been a core part of many a gamer group, so the promise of Payday 3 and even more heisting action with your friends was naturally going to be one of the most anticipated games of 2023. Unfortunately for Starbreeze, they haven’t been able to stick the landing, and with predecessor Payday 2 boasting a lot more players on Steam than the sequel, things aren’t looking good for this third effort.
While those who have properly played Payday 3 think that the gameplay mechanics and improvements are great, the community at launch was decimated by a wave of matchmaking issues and always-only requirements, which made actually playing the game a laborious experience. The initial patch slated to improve things was delayed multiple times over too, ultimately pushing the patience of its player base too far. Considering that Payday 3 exceeded sales expectations though, expect Payday 3 to be one of gaming’s redemption stories in 2024.
5. Immortals Of Aveum
It’s always great when first person shooters try to do something different with the core formula, which is why Immortals Of Aveum seemed so interesting from the outset. Instead of shooting guns, players wielded magical spells to defeat their enemies, in a campaign that could only be described as “Call of Divination”.
Look, that was the only magic word beginning with D I could think of. The joke still works.
Despite the “out of this world”, magical premise however, many critics decried Immortals of Aveum as being a bit too formulaic, which is practically a death sentence for any game that’s trying to make you invest heavily in its fantastical premise. Poor in-game performance at launch only exacerbated the problems for Immortals of Aveum, and weak overall sales led to nearly half of the developers at Ascendent Studio being laid off, something that’d become a theme during the year.
The game that possibly made people gunshy about Atlas Fallen, Forspoken’s fall from grace could theoretically be seen from space. Some were skeptical about Forspoken’s quality ahead of launch to begin with, largely due to the overly quippy, MCU-esque dialogue in what appeared to be a semi-serious fantasy RPG, but the jokey script turned out to be the least of Forspoken’s worries.
While the magical parkour gameplay was almost universally praised, especially as it was the only thing that made traversing the mostly empty world somewhat fun, the combat was seen as Forspoken’s weakest aspect by many. Compared to some other games on this list, it’s certainly not a bad game, and the developers have been putting in work to improve the experience, but compared to the pre-release hype, Forspoken was a massive disappointment. The lacklustre sales are a testament to that.
3. Wanted: Dead
A big disappointment in the lovers of janky games community (hello, it’s me), Wanted: Dead had the potential to be an enjoyable blend of character action titles like Ninja Gaiden and third person shooters such as Fortnite, with a dash of Like A Dragon-esque mini-games thrown in for good measure. It’s a potent cocktail, and if all the elements managed to blend together, Wanted: Dead would have been a real unsung hit of 2023.
Also, the rhythm-action mini-games were out of sync.
When Arkane, creators of some of the most inventive and unique first-person action games of the past decade, announced that they’d be creating a four player co-op shooter, opinion was split into two camps. You had the first camp, who were excited to see Arkane apply their trademark skill at creating imaginative gameplay mechanics to a co-op structure, while the second camp thought that the studio had overextended, and that a co-op open world shooter was too steep a departure to work.
Guess which camp were disappointed come May 2023?
Upon launch, Redfall was overwhelmingly lambasted by both the gaming press and the wider community at large, with players citing issues with the characters and story, the undercooked looter shooter mechanics, and the baffling fact that progress through the campaign was only tied to the host. Borderlands had the co-op progression issue sorted out well over a decade ago, making Redfall feel like a step backwards in a lot of ways. Arkane have worked tirelessly on improvements to the game throughout the year, but the damage has seemingly been done.
1. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
A prequel Lord of the Rings following everyone’s favourite cave-dwelling riddler was always going to either sink or swim, but no-one was prepared for Gollum to hit the bottom of the ocean when it did sink. Considered by Metacritic to be among the worst reviewed games of 2023, and perhaps one of the worst high profile game launches in years, The Lord Of The Rings: Gollum is a disappointment in every sense of the word.
Gollum could have been panned by everyone just for the game’s woeful performance and technical issues, but if that was the only problem, it wouldn’t be ranking so highly on this list. Instead, critics and players alike found the game’s endless fetch quests, pointless dialogue and uneven pacing to be an utter chore. Perhaps the most disappointing part of all was the apology issued by the “devs” that was actually written by AI. Terrible work all around, really.
The Lord of the Rings franchise is such a huge franchise that’s begging to be explored further in video games, but the sheer failure of a game like Gollum is inevitably going to make future developers more gunshy in the future.
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