Gaming: The Unblogables

Over the years, I’ve mostly been consistent about blogging on every game I’ve played, but there are exceptions. Usually games that I didn’t play for very long. I don’t have enough to say about each one to fill a whole post, but I thought it might be interesting to collect them together into one quick list. Today, the unblogables will come to light (all right).

The Inn of the Prancing Pony in Lord of the Rings OnlineThis isn’t necessarily an exhaustive list of games I’ve played but not blogged about, but these are the more noteworthy ones.


I played WildStar during its open beta, and I actually wrote up a fairly extensive impressions piece for a paying client. Unfortunately, due to circumstances outside my control, the article never saw the light of day.

The fact that I never returned to WildStar after the beta should give you some idea of what I thought of it. I did like the housing, at least. Every MMO on the market should be rushing to steal WildStar’s housing system wholesale.

The combat was also pretty fun solo, though it turned into an incomprehensible rainbow spew in a group setting. And the environment art grew on me — like playing a Dr. Seuss MMO — but I never did learn to like the character models.

Overall, though, I found the glacial pacing, grindy gameplay, and obnoxious forced humour were enough to turn me off the game pretty fast.

I regret that my article never saw the light of day, because I feel like I was one of the few who predicted WildStar’s collapse early on (if anything I underestimated how badly it would crash and burn). But now I can’t prove that, so my opportunity to gloat has been denied.

A space mission in WildStarI could just see that this was a game that didn’t know who its audience was. It has a deep backstory, but Twitter-style word count limits on quest text. Its constant humour and silliness screams casual game, but the actual gameplay is a brutally grindy homage to the days when MMOs were more like second jobs.


I can definitely see how Skyrim could be an amazing experience for a certain kind of gamer.

I’m not that kind of gamer.

Really my gripe is that it’s mislabeled. It gets classified as an action RPG, but it’s not. It strikes me as more of an exploration sandbox/kleptomania simulator. And again, that’s fine, and they do it well enough, but it’s just not what I’m looking for in a game. The phrase “a mile wide and an inch deep” does come to mind.

EVE Online

I thought it’d be the infamously cruel and ruthless community that drove me away from EVE — I did love how the very first thing the tutorial tells you is “don’t trust the other players” — but actually it was the clunky UI and stiff gameplay that I couldn’t get over. After a couple hours, it was just making my brain hurt, and not in a fun TSW kind of way.

Lord of the Rings Online

A screenshot from Lord of the Rings OnlineAs a big fan of both Lord of the Rings and MMOs, LotRO seems like a game I should love. But when I finally got around to trying it, I barely lasted an hour.

It’s the same old story: It’s a WoW clone, through and through. When I want to play WoW, I’ll just play WoW.

And more importantly, if there’s one setting that doesn’t belong in that mould, it’s Lord of the Rings. In a Lord of the Rings game, I do not want to be doing meaningless kill ten rats quests for faceless NPCs. I do not want to be an overpowered god who can one-shot any foe with a dirty look. I want to feel the texture of the world’s history and challenge myself against epic foes.

Give me The Secret World: Middle-Earth Edition, and we’ll talk. I’d also settle for Elder Scrolls Online: Middle-Earth Edition.

I also found it a profoundly unappealing game from a visual perspective. I know Lord of the Rings Online is considered one of the most beautiful MMOs out there, but for the life of me, I’ll never understand why. It’s not just that it hasn’t aged well (although it definitely hasn’t aged well), but the fundamental art style is just unpleasant. Everything is muddy and dull and bland and just… ugh.

Ironically, the character models — the one aspect of the graphics that does usually garner complaints — was one aspect of the graphics I didn’t mind. They’re not great, but they’ll do.

MY Elven hunter in Lord of the Rings OnlineI will grant that getting to visit the Inn of the Prancing Pony was really neat, and I am often tempted to give it another try. Maybe I’d like it better with a different class (I was a hunter), but the only other one that strongly appeals to me on paper is warden, and you have to pay for that.

Pay-gating classes is a really good way to make sure I won’t play your game.

I suppose if any LotRO players out there want to suggest a (free) class they think I might like, I’ll take it under advisement. Despite how my above ranting may come across, it’s a game I want to like.

Viking: Battle for Asgard

This was some no-name title I picked up dirt cheap on a Steam sale just because Vikings.

I actually made it pretty far in the game before I called it quits. It’s very mindless and has no real plot, but the combat was delightfully brutal, and it was enjoyable in a simplistic sort of way. I was also impressed by some of the huge battles you can participate in; it’s surprisingly rare to find games where you can participate in large scale battles as one of the boots on the ground.

The main problem was for some reason the developers decided to stick a bunch of mandatory stealth missions throughout the game. They felt totally out of place compared to the rest of the game, they were very frustrating, and after a while I just couldn’t be bothered anymore.

A screenshot from Viking: Battle for AsgardThe Witcher

I didn’t like the combat.

That’s pretty much all there is to say. I gave up after about an hour because the core gameplay was just too unpleasant for me.

I know everyone’s over the moon about Wild Hunt these days, but having seen Moiren stream some of it, I’m not getting what the fuss is about. Seems like a very standard open world fantasy game to me. It certainly doesn’t look bad or anything, but I also feel confident that I’m not missing much.


I think the surest sign video games are now being taken seriously as an art form is that, as in all art forms, there are now emperor’s new clothes situations where incomprehensible titles are praised simply for being incomprehensible. Enter Transistor.

They just sort of dump you into the game with little to no explanation of the controls, the game mechanics, the story, the characters, the setting, or much of anything else. You’re just left to fumble blindly and hope for the best. I feel like it might have been an interesting story if I’d had the faintest clue what was going on, but I didn’t.

Art from TransistorAs frustrating as that was, it was losing abilities upon death that soured me on the game permanently. That’s a strong contender for the worst design decision I’ve ever seen in a game. It’s the traditional RPG formula in reverse: Every time you fail, it gets progressively harder. It makes for the most unbelievably miserable experience.

I did like the artwork. I’ll give it that.

Things I Love About Things I Hate

As promised, I now present the second half of my series attempting to bring a nuanced view to my passions. Previously, I looked at the terrible flaws of things I otherwise enjoy. Today, we’ll be looking at unexpected strengths of things I otherwise dislike.

To be fair, not all of these are things I actually hate. Some are just things I’m indifferent to or underwhelmed by.

Deep Space Nine: Sisko and Dax

Jadzia Dax and Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space NineIt is no secret I have no love for Deep Space Nine. It is by a wide margin my least favourite Star Trek spin-off.

Yet even this debacle of a series has its strengths. Namely, Sisko and Dax.

Even despite my dislike for the series as a whole, I would rate Sisko as my second favourite Trek captain, only narrowly behind Picard and significantly ahead of Archer. He has nearly the same level of strength, dignity, and grandeur as Picard while also embodying a great deal of warmth and humanity.

Dax, meanwhile, stands as a breath of fresh air compared to how bland Star Trek’s aliens usually are. Too often Trek treated aliens as either humans with bumpy foreheads or else bland, one-dimensional archetypes with no real personality.

Dax stands as a rare case of a character who feels convincingly non-human yet also like a complete and multifaceted person. I find the blending of personalities found in joined Trill endlessly fascinating, and I deeply regret that the only way for me to learn more about them is to wade through the misery that is Deep Space Nine.

To be fair, Bashir ain’t half bad, either.

Star Wars: The universe

Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars: The Force AwakensStar Wars is definitely not something that I hate, but I think it’s clear by now I’m not a fan. Yet there is still much about it that appeals.

The setting of Star Wars is fascinating. It’s a mythic story, essentially a fairytale, transplanted into a gritty sci-fi setting. That’s a very odd idea, yet it works incredibly well. Everything about Star Wars has this wonderful, exotic grandiosity, and there’s incredible potential in the depth and scale of the universe that has been built for it.

In fact, much of my gripes about Star Wars stem from how poorly they make use of that potential. It could be so much more than repetitive, shallow conflicts between one-dimensional hero archetypes and even more one-dimensional caricatures of evil.

And lightsabers are just about the coolest thing ever. Well, next to Elves.

Marvel Heroes: The voice-overs

Marvel Heroes has the dubious distinction of being one of the very few MMOs I’ve tried that I found genuinely unpleasant to play. Just slogging through enough of it to be able to write an informed article was a horrid chore.

A cartoon cutscene from Marvel Heroes featuring ElektraBut credit where credit is due: That game has great voice-acting. Much like Heroes of the Storm, it’s full of incidental dialogue, and it adds a lot of fun and flavour to the game. I particularly liked Storm and Thor trash-talking each other over who could command thunder better.

And the voice-overs are of a pretty high quality. All of the actors nail their parts quite well.

WildStar: Housing

My feelings toward player-housing in MMOs are at best lukewarm, but if every MMO with player housing treated it like WildStar does, I might change my tune.

To my view, there are two fatal flaws that tend to afflict most player housing systems. One is that they’re too much work, being limited to endgame characters and/or requiring a lot of effort to build the house you want, and the other is that they rarely provide any significant practical benefit. What’s the point of spending hours designing your virtual dream home if you never have a reason to visit it?

WildStar neatly solves both those problems. It allows players to earn their own homes very early on, and it doesn’t take much effort to get enough items to give your home your own flair. It also makes housing useful by offering crafting nodes and other bonuses for having an in-game abode.

A space mission in WildStarAnd of course it does all this while also offering incredible customization potential to make the home you’ve always dreamed of.

Mine was full of books. Whoda thunkit?

Orphan Black: Felix

Orphan Black is one of the things on this list that I definitely don’t hate, but the fact remains it wasn’t interesting enough to keep me watching past the first season.

I do miss Felix, though. Man, Felix was the best. I still often think back on many of his scenes and smile. Particularly that time he was bumming drugs off Alison in the bathroom.



Abramsverse Trek: Zachary Quinto’s Spock

Zachary Quinto as Spock in Star TrekI think my feelings on what JJ Abrams has done to Star Trek are well known by now. I deeply regret paying to see the first one in the theater.

But there was one saving grace to the experience: Zachary Quinto.

I’ve never been fond of the image of Vulcans as soulless automatons. I much prefer Enterprise’s take: a simmering cauldron of furious passion barely held in check.

Zachary Quinto captured this masterfully. Much as I disliked that movie as a whole, the scene where he finally snaps and tries to strangle Kirk was absolutely brilliant.

And I’m not just saying that because I spent the whole movie wanting to strangle Kirk.

Diablo II: Ambiance

Diablo II is the source of a lot of my long-running gripes with the RPG genre, but if there’s one thing that game nailed, it was ambiance.

From the music to the sound effects to the voice acting, everything about the game was just so eerie and spooky. It was a game where venturing forth into the wilds took a genuine degree of courage.

I really wish more games could offer this level of creepiness. It allows the player to feel so much more heroic.

Well, there’s always The Secret World.