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Games That Missed The Mark So Far In 2021

E3 2021 is still fresh in audiences' minds. The expo was an opportunity to look towards the future and the great games that are on the way. But why are fans so excited for games like "Elden Ring" and "The Outer Worlds 2?" Because their predecessors were award-winning titles. And why are fans apathetic about the upcoming "Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy" title? Because audiences were burned by "Marvel's Avengers" when that game turned out to be a Hulk-sized disappointment.

Releasing a game is always a roll of the dice. Studios and publishers never truly know if audiences will actually gravitate towards their products until they appear on store shelves. Perhaps a game was hyped into hyperbole, and when the title released, audiences learned that reality didn't (or couldn't) measure up to their imaginations. Maybe a game was doomed to failure from the start. 

2021 was full of disappointing video games, and here are the ones that really missed the mark. Please note that "disappointing" doesn't necessarily mean "bad," just that the game didn't live up to expectations — especially if those hopes and dreams were unrealistic.

Destruction AllStars

You can't make a second first impression. If a company releases a new console, they need to put their best foot forward and introduce launch titles that push sales. No manufacturer wants to miss the precious launch window — or produce a game that doesn't live up to next-gen promises.

Sony hoped to win over audiences with PlayStation 5 titles such as "Demon's Souls" and "Godfall." The console's exclusive neon demolition derby, "Destruction AllStars," was also on that list ... until the game was delayed. And when "Destruction AllStars" finally released, its reviews painted it as less of a roaring success and more of a mumbling false start. But what really caused the game to spin out into the gutter of disappointment was a steadily leaking playerbase.

Fans reported that "Destruction AllStars" started hemorrhaging players shortly after launch. Not even a temporary price drop from $70 to free (with a PS Plus subscription) was enough to save it. While the game's developer, Lucid Games, plans on adding bots to help pad out matches, "Destruction Allstars" has continued to draw an astonishingly low number of participating players. Forbes' Paul Tassi theorized that the game's PlayStation 5 exclusivity — and the rarity of PS5 consoles — may have played a role in its fate.

Lucid Games envisioned "Destruction AllStars" as a "global sports entertainment event where stars & cars collide." Instead, it became a venue where dreams collided head on with reality and couldn't go forward.

Biomutant

Shigeru Miyamoto once said, "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad." However, awful delayed titles such as "Duke Nukem Forever" and "Too Human" have challenged the validity of that belief in the past. As of 2021, "Biomutant" threatens to join those ranks. 

"Biomutant" was the first project of studio Experiment 101 and was built with one goal: produce a "post-apocalyptic kung-fu fable" that would release in 2018 (via Destructoid) and blow audience minds. But you know what they say about the best laid plan of mutant mice and mole men.

Not only was "Biomutant" delayed until 2021, but critics found that the extra work unfortunately only amounted to a mediocre experience. While sites such as ScreenRant and Twinfinite praised the game's aesthetic and world, they also stated the game likes to think it is deeper than it actually is — a feeling that was not helped by the game's universally reviled narrator. 

The game's morality system is overly simplistic and many of its missions are little more than repetitive fetch quests. You might think that a so-called "kung-fu fable" would guarantee solid, weighty combat that lets players flip around like a Bruce Lee-esque ferret, but GamesRadar claimed that the fights constantly shift between "brilliantly silly" and "clumsy and clunky."

Despite all the polish Experiment 101 tried to put into "Biomutant," the game was ultimately far too ambitious for its own good. Plus, audiences hated the game's narrator so much that Experiment 101 relented and offered a downloadable mute button.

Balan Wonderworld

It's easy to fall into the trap of assuming that beloved game developers are infallible. Just because they made three or four amazing titles that defined your childhood, it doesn't mean they can't fumble down the line. Assuming otherwise is how fans got disappointing (if not downright abysmal) titles like John Romero's "Daikatana" and, more recently, the massive bomb that was "Balan Wonderworld."

Yuji Naka has created many Sega classics over the course of his career. He programmed and produced "Sonic the Hedgehog" and "Nights into Dreams." In 2018, he joined forces with Square Enix to direct what would become "Balan Wonderworld." Square even founded a new subsidiary, Balan Company, to help develop the game. One of the title's key designs was accessibility, with the goal that even little children could play, but that idea doomed "Balan Wonderworld" to a murky fate. Even before the game released, audiences savaged its clunky demo. Unfortunately, opinions didn't lighten with time.

When "Balan Wonderworld" launched, critics and gamers alike complained about its antiquated gameplay and a glut of superfluous costumes. Since "Balan Wonderworld" was designed to make every button perform the same action, depending on the protagonist's clothes, Naka and Square essentially created a platformer that would occasionally take away the ability to platform. Oh, and the game's actual narrative is only explained in a novel. No, seriously.

According to Naka, "Balan Wonderworld" was his "one chance" to make a platformer for Square Enix, and since the game bombed, he's already packed his things and is considering retirement (according to a tweet translated by Polygon).

Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection on PC and Switch

Due to the growing popularity of gaming PCs, a recent trend has seen companies porting previously console-exclusive titles to PC. However, there's more to PC games than just cramming them into a Windows 10 environment and hoping the hardware can brute force its way to compatibility. Creating a half-cocked port is an excellent way to ruin a great game.

Even though the "Ninja Gaiden" franchise hasn't seen a new entry in almost a decade, audiences still fondly remember the series, especially the "Ninja Gaiden" trilogy from the 2000s. Because of this, audiences were ecstatic when Koei Tecmo announced "Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection." Some of that elation disappeared like a ninja in the night when the bundle released.

Don't misunderstand; "Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection" is a solid bundle, but only on Xbox and PlayStation. The Switch version, however, suffers from major resolution and framerate woes, while the PC port is downright embarrassing. Sites such as Kotaku and Gamespot have reported that you can't play the game on mouse and keyboard — the default control scheme of PC games — and you need to actually modify the bundle's properties to change resolution. To pour salt into the 1080p wound, the only way to maximize the game window is to click the maximize icon in the game client's window, making for an overall clunky package for something people were looking forward to.

Koei Tecmo might have a spotty history when it comes to computer releases, but "Ninja Gaiden" is definitely a low point.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood

"Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines" is the undying epitome of a cult classic. While the title was a buggy, incomplete mess at launch, audiences realized that a gem of a game beat within the core of the janky experience. Many gamers assumed the same would hold true for "Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood," another video game inspired by White Wolf's World of Darkness. However, that game just turned out to be a mess all the way down.

"Bloodlines" and "Earthblood" share some DNA. For example, both games let players use supernatural powers to either sneak around or tear open enemy throats. Unfortunately, critics didn't enjoy that gameplay loop in "Earthblood." Outlets such as GamingBolt and Destructoid found the game to be overly repetitive — no matter where you go or what you do, you keep exploring the same warehouses, hacking the same terminals, and ripping up the same enemies.

Given the deep lore of World of Darkness — and the fact that "Bloodlines" fortifies its inconsistent gameplay with a strong narrative — you might assume "Earthblood" also makes up for its shortcomings with an engrossing story. Instead, "Earthblood" squanders its narrative, which DualShockers pointed out is in stark contrast to the usual fare from the game's developer, Cyanide Studio.

Ultimately, "Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood" is a sickly sheep in wolf's clothing that can't live up to the hype of its trailer.

Harvest Moon: One World

Developing a sequel for a beloved franchise is harder than it sounds. Studios often have to invent new features that don't overshadow the main draw, and fans tend to judge any new installment based on what came before. Woe be a game that doesn't measure up to previous titles.

"Harvest Moon: One World," as you might expect, is the latest entry in the "Harvest Moon" franchise. This time, the developers wanted to rake in fans with a large, explorable world. That decision was ill-thought out because, according to reviews from Nintendo Life and IGN, the game world is as big as it is bland. Moreover, this new world mutates the task of obtaining plantable seeds into an exercise in tedium. Instead of just buying seeds as usual, players need to scour the earth for Harvest Sprites, ask them for a bag of seeds, and then return to the sprites the next day for even more. Repeat until bored.

Moreover, games that tout big, open worlds usually try to simulate a lived-in land, but not "One World." Most of the game's NPCs are samey, with generic titles instead of names. These "characters" only exist to provide fetch quests — no hopes, dreams, or personalities, just an unending thirst for eggs and wool. The only positive feature of "One World" is the ability to plant seeds in different regions and obtain mutated produce, but White Eggplants are far from a saving grace.

"Harvest Moon: One World" isn't just a bad "Harvest Moon" game, it's a rotten farming simulator game, too.

Outriders

Many studios want a piece of the looter shooter genre pie, and who can blame them? Lots of gamers love pilfering fallen foes for equipment that improves damage output. While audiences lost faith in the genre thanks to underwhelming offerings in "Anthem" and "Marvel's Avengers," Square Enix wanted to rekindle that trust with "Outriders." The company only partially succeeded.

Gamers had high hopes for "Outriders" thanks to its pedigree. The game was developed by People Can Fly, the studio behind beloved titles like "Bulletstorm" and "Painkiller." If anyone could create a fun new looter shooter, PCF could. Plus, People Can Fly promised that "Outriders" wouldn't be a traditional live service title (a dirty word in today's gaming landscape) and likened its narrative to the movie "Apocalypse Now" and the novel "Heart of Darkness."

To People Can Fly's credit, "Outriders" hits most of its targets. Reviews praised the game's gunplay and loot. According to critics, though, the story "takes a backseat" and lets the guns do all the talking, which is in contrast to the developers' promises. However, for all the game's polish, "Outriders" was also kneecapped by server issues at launch. Yes, even though "Outriders" isn't a live service game, it requires a constant, live server connection. Many players couldn't sign in or play together at launch, and those who could took to Reddit when they discovered their inventories vanished when they logged off. Well, two out of three ain't bad.

While it wasn't a total loss, "Outriders" might have threatened to fly too close to the sun.

Apex Legends on Switch

Whenever a game is developed, studios must determine the lowest common hardware denominator. If a game cannot run reliably on a console, it probably shouldn't be released on that console. CD Projekt Red learned that lesson the hard way when it released the buggy "Cyberpunk 2077" on last-gen consoles, and EA also learned it with "Apex Legends."

On PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, "Apex Legends" runs like a dream, but on the Switch, the game is the apex of unplayable. Although Panic Button worked its magic to port "Wolfenstein" and "DOOM" to the Switch, "Apex Legends" was beyond the studio's capabilities. Numerous outlets, including GameSpot and Eurogamer, complained about the performance. The Switch port's textures are either muddy or outright missing, and the draw distance is severely reduced when compared to other platforms, which isn't conducive to avoiding sniper fire from PC players.

You might assume that these hamstrung graphical capabilities would at least result in smooth framerates, but you'd be wrong. Nintendo World Report experienced constant sub-30 fps gameplay, both while docked and in handheld mode. To make matters worse, firing a gun chewed up a huge chunk of the game's framerate. When a port for a game that is supposed to be 90% shooting guns can't handle the recoil of a firearm, you know something's desperately wrong.

Virtually every review out there agrees that "Apex Legends" on the Switch is the worst way to play. You should avoid the port unless you have no other alternative.

Elite Dangerous Odyssey

"Elite Dangerous" is one of the most ambitious space sims to date, since it takes place in a self-proclaimed 1:1 scale recreation of the galaxy. However, audiences weren't content with exploring the cosmos and discovering rare materials and aliens; they also wanted to scout planets on foot. The "Odyssey" expansion was supposed to introduce that feature sooner, but it was delayed until May of 2021. When "Odyssey" finally launched, "Elite Dangerous" players saw their hopes, dreams, and framerates jettisoned out the airlock.

Reviews from outlets such as Attack of the Fanboy and ScreenRant tore into "Odyssey," claiming that the expansion demolished the game's performance. Framerates were cut in half, and one Redditor claimed that "Odyssey" utterly broke the game's renderer, which slowed overall performance to a crawl.

Since "Odyssey" is supposed to revolve around planet exploration, you might assume its studio, Frontier Developments, would at least ensure that probing worlds on foot would be worthwhile. Surprisingly no. According to Attack of the Fanboy, planets are "half-baked" at best. Most extraplanetary bodies are ugly, and several promises, such as ice planets and colored atmospheres, are missing in action. And, if you thought framerates took a nosedive while playing "Odyssey" normally, they vanish into a black hole whenever you step onto a planet.

Overall, "Elite Dangerous Odyssey" has been found to run worse than most unoptimized early access titles.

Hood: Outlaws and Legends

Robin Hood isn't just the Prince of Thieves, he's the downright king. Tales of his heroism and borderline supernatural archery skills have inspired a band of merry men's worth of characters and IP. One of the most recent examples is "Hood: Outlaws and Legends," a PvPvE game that pits two teams of players against each other to rob from rich NPCs and give to the poor — or to themselves, so they can purchase character upgrades. 

On paper, "Hood" sounds like a fun cross between "Assassin's Creed" and "Payday 2." In practice, it is, as Twinfinite put it, a "half-baked heist." In fact, numerous critics claimed that "Hood" feels unfinished. IGN, for example, criticized how classes are unbalanced — and claimed that a team full of Little John clones outclassed any opponents who tried to play the game as intended. Meanwhile, Wccftech stated that "Hood" has zero variety. Since the game only has four character classes, five maps, and one game mode to its name, repetition is inevitable, which is not a good sign.

However, the biggest kick in the teeth for "Hood" is its population. GameRant ran into numerous matchmaking hiccups — possibly due to a small playerbase — and witnessed braindead NPC enemies that meandered about when they should have been on high alert.

The developers of "Hood: Outlaws and Legends" plan to add more maps and modes in the future, but as it stands, the game is a case of loading a cart full of gold and then forgetting the horse to pull it.