Games that took you by surprise.

Jul 18, 2022
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Howdy, *tips hat* ūü§†

I'd recently seen @Colif reply in another thread..

"Games aren't movies, you don't just watch them. You have to actually enjoy the game as well. Graphics only impress once, bad games live forever."

..And it's made me wonder, (this is a two part question). The first being what games took you by surprise on release for either how bad they were or how much better they turned out to be compared to the E3 conferences, critics reviews and general hype?

The second part of this question, is what games did you play more than once and when you came back for another play through, you were pleasantly surprised at how good the game really is. The example being for me when I played Skyrim for a second time, I was still genuinely surprised how good it looked even without mods and the game just felt ahead of its time.
 
I played Age of Conan on launch and it was clear they had put an amazing amount of effort into the 1st zone where most reviewers would see and mention in reviews, but the further you got into the game, the less that was actually there... to point end game was broken. I stopped playing it for about a year and when I came back it was more completed, and I played it for about 2 years after that. The extra year had let them flesh out rest of game. The intro was only area with voice for most part.

I don't watch E3, most of what they show are cut scenes and that isn't an example of what game is like, just how pretty it can be. I wait for game to come out and watch videos of it then, as many games change between preview and release. I don't care for hype, the more I see about a game, the more I look for what they are trying to hide.
 
Dying Light.

I also dont really plug into a lot of buzz beyond watching an odd trailer or listening to podcasts. Reviews were middling to decent but for me it was a 9/10 game. Maybe partly because I hadnt played Dead Island before so it was completely new to me.

Parkour was fantastic and the melee combat really good fun. there was a real sense of progression from the beginning where groups of regular zombies were a genuine threat to the end where you can dive in a pop heads all over the place. I thought the story was alright, certainly much better than reviews had led me to believe it would be, and some of the main side quests were actually good. I also didnt feel let down by the final 'boss' encounter as some did. Great game.

Dont often play through single player campaigns more than once, but I'll go with Dead Space which I replayed about half of a couple of years ago after playing it first time at release. I felt like it really held up all around and I'm looking forward to Callisto Protocol and the remake.
 
I don't watch E3 steams, but I do follow E3 (and similar shows) in the news, especially for games I have an interest in, as well as read previews for games on PCG (or in the PCG Magazine). But as @Colif mentioned, a lot can change in a game from preview to final release, just look at what happened with CP2077.

But as to the first part of your question, there were several games that I played for the first time in the last few years that immersed me far beyond my initial expectations.

Solasta Crown of the Magister- was a huge surprise for me. I picked it up on a sale, and while I expected to like it to some degree, it was made by a small indie developer (Tactical Adventures), employed a turn-based combat system instead of real time w/pause (which I've always been a huge fan of), but I thought I'd try it. The turn-based D&D combat was the best I've ever experienced (to date), the environments were varied and detailed, and the main story arc cohesive enough to drive gameplay. And the character creation was highly detailed, including dice rolls that you could re-roll & re-roll until you got the character you wanted.

Elex and Elex 2 - both games were pretty much disrespected by reviewers, as well as many players, especially Elex 2. But for me, both those games completely immersed me in a huge open world that was a unique blend of fantasy and post-apocalyptic environments, and in Elex 2 there's even an alien invasion. Combat mechanics have a learning curve, much like the Witcher games did, and can be brutally hard in the beginning until you level up your character, learn combat strategies, and how to survive.

Wasteland 2 Directors Cut - Another game that I picked up on sale that I put off playing for several years, mainly I think, because so many Steam forum topics and some of the reviews complained about how difficult it was to create a party of Rangers that could survive the entire game. And I guess it is difficult in a way, because there are so many details to consider, and character creation takes a lot of thought to be successful throughout the game. It's a very "old-school" approach that I found appealing, and the turn-based tactical combat, aa well as the detailed quest system completely hooked me, and was as close to the Fallout 1 & 2 experience that I've seen in a newer game.

The second part of this question, is what games did you play more than once and when you came back for another play through, you were pleasantly surprised at how good the game really is. The example being for me when I played Skyrim for a second time, I was still genuinely surprised how good it looked even without mods and the game just felt ahead of its time.
As to that part of your question, I replay a lot of older games, and each time I do I think, "man, this is such a great game". Just off the top of my head: Baldur's Gate 1 & 2, Mass Effect 1-3, Deus Ex (first game), Dragon Age Origins & DA Inquisition, Fallout New Vegas & Fallout 4. There are probably others, but those games always give me an appreciation for how good they were (to me) each time I replay them.

But I have to agree with you that the ultimate in re-playability and greatness is Skyrim. Granted, I always play it modded now when I re-play it, but each time I do I'm always discovering something, or some location I hadn't seen or experienced before, or encounter a quest or conversation that's new. It is definitely a game that was ahead of it's time, and remains one of the best single player RPGs ever created not matter how many times someone plays it.
 
A few that come to mind are...

Spec Ops The Line

This game is uniquely written in such a way that makes the player question the morality of what they are doing. It's a full on cognitive dissonance story, where the protagonist's voice actually changes as you progress through a story that has the "hero" doubting his own sanity at times. It also makes good use of unique environmental attacks, and also the need to fight in extreme sand storms. It has tons of replay value, but the hardest mode is brutal, and requires careful consideration of weapons, as they carry over by level.

Doom Eternal

My surprises were two fold here, I was immediately pulled in by the graphics, weapons, and enemies, but also intimidated by the fast pace and difficulty. There was also some tough platforming I had a hard time getting through. Once I got the hang of how to repeat the glory kill, flame blech, chainsaw combat loop, to keep health, armor and ammo stocked, dominate small areas of a tough battle one at a time, go strait to tough enemies when they spawn, and shortcut platforming, it became Zen-like, even on Nightmare.

Halo Infinite

Dual surprise here too. Most fall in love with the Grappleshot immediately. It does everything from open up new navigating and climbing possibilities, to allowing you to pulverize enemies with a powerful Shock Punch. The game however has a flip side, in which if you opt to not upgrade anything, you now feel significantly more vulnerable. You have FAR less suit shield strength, no ability to continuously climb or evade fire with the grapple, and no threat sensor to see cloaked enemies (reflections & fog can help). I eventually got to know it well enough to beat Nightmare with no upgrades though, which was both fun and a bit daunting at times. However careful weapon selection can make a huge difference.

The Evil Within

One of my favorite Survival Horror games of all time. At first I thought it too awkward to control and too difficult to sneak up on enemies. I also didn't like the letterbox view, and performance was not smooth. Once those problems were patch fixed, and I studied the game more, I was eventually able to beat it on Akumu mode with no upgrades. The tricks are to stop running once out of sight, THEN hide, as enemies can hear where you ran to, carefully watch for enemies twitching left and right before sneaking up, gather scrap whenever you can (except wall mines on Akumu), use stomps on Alter Ego enemies when prone, approach prone melee weapon enemies from the head when face up, and from the foot when face down, run in large loops when facing enemy waves (so they don't keep spawning) or Ruvik, and make use of those one hit weapons (axe, torch, bottles thrown at wall mines).

Days Gone

Another one of my fave Survival Horror games. It's unique in a couple ways, it has a very good story, characters, and voice acting for this genre, and the Freaks are not actually zombies (won't spoil it for you). They also move fast, but travel slowly in hordes of various sizes. When horde hunting, they roam and feed at 3 different places at night, but hibernate in caves at day. This means you'll often be checking their feeding zones or sleeping spot depending when you look. You also travel via a chopper you can deck out with more off road-like gear, and it serves as a handy save point and ammo cache when near it. Some of the most fun (especially doing jumps with it) and scariest moments are traveling the trails and roads on the bike.

Stray

I never thought I would like this game, in fact I kind of went meh when I read the description. This is an "Adventure" game where you play as a stray cat in a post apocalyptic setting, but it's far more than that. There's a lot of peril involved as well with everything from toxic creatures that relentlessly swarm you, to hovering sentinel droids that can quickly find and kill you if spotted. It has a lot of good puzzles and platforming, great graphics, and the story is well told and both sad and humorous at times. Really good varied level design too.
 
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Spore was the biggest disappointment of my gaming career. I'd followed all of the development and there was so much content that was cut from the final game. All of the depth had been taken out, leaving only a shell of the game I thought I would get.
i think Spore is reason I don't believe Hype. It was sold to be everything...
it is why No Mans Sky was de ja vu to me.
  • Cyberpunk as well.
  • Star Citizen as well.
  • Most Bethesda games.
Promise too much, either game disappoints or is never released.


maybe this will be better
i didn't watch very far, I hope its not an NFT/crypto game game
 
May 11, 2022
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Spec Ops The Line

This game is uniquely written in such a way that makes the player question the morality of what they are doing. It's a full on cognitive dissonance story, where the protagonist's voice actually changes as you progress through a story that has the "hero" doubting his own sanity at times. It also makes good use of unique environmental attacks, and also the need to fight in extreme sand storms. It has tons of replay value, but the hardest mode is brutal, and requires careful consideration of weapons, as they carry over by level.

God yes, and even the title screen changes as the story gets more and more screwed up. I watched so many youtube analysis videos on that one and the amount of insane details is kinda mind blowing.
 
God yes, and even the title screen changes as the story gets more and more screwed up. I watched so many youtube analysis videos on that one and the amount of insane details is kinda mind blowing.
Yeah my only nit pick about it at first was the need to revive your two squad mates often when they go down, which can be really hard to do without dying on the hardest mode. I found out I just needed to suppress the tougher enemies better in the tougher battles, while ordering them to fire. It takes quick and accurate shots to get the lesser enemies first, but after that, when all 3 of you are pummeling the heavy armor guys at once, they go down a lot faster.
 

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