Is No Man’s Sky the greatest game ever made? Is it overhyped and terrible? The answer to both those questions is ’not really’-it’s actually somewhere between the two statements. It doesn’t deliver on many of its early promises but that doesn’t make it awful. It’s also far from the first game to suffer from being overhyped.
In honor of its release, we’ve taken a look at five games that also struggled thanks to the hype machine, despite remaining fairly entertaining games in their own right.
The Fable series
It’d be hard to pick just one Fable game that was overhyped. Much of that is thanks to its creator, the ever-ambitious if occasionally misguided Peter Molyneux. The first installment promised that you could have children, and watch the game span your hero’s entire lifetime. You’d be able to plant an acorn at the start of the game and enjoy the sight of a huge tree by the end of it. None of this came true until the second game, and even then it wasn’t quite as great as it sounded, but it was a lovely idea.
Such lofty ambitions continued with the third installment. Fable 3 aimed to give you a sense of higher purpose as you worked your way up to fame and fortune through the ‘Road to Rule’ feature. But again, it didn’t quite work out, feeling more repetitive than inspirational.
This is a common trait of Molyneux’s games, but the end result is usually a good game. Just not one that’s quite as amazing as we’re promised.
Spore was 2008’s No Man’s Sky. Promising to be everything for all players, it had no chance of actually being all those things. In his defense, even the game’s creator Will Wright considered it to be overhyped before launch, and it really was.
The game was meant to be six full-length games all seamlessly connected. Your decisions would echo across history, highlighting the effect you can have on organisms and evolution, as you controlled a whole new species. In reality, the stages of development felt like a series of clumsy mini-games that struggled to maintain your interest, and were a little too ‘casual’ for even the casual gamer. It was still a fun ride, being distinctly cute and likeable, but it was far from the ultimate gaming experience we were promised.
These issues were compounded by controversial DRM software, and a plethora of bugs.
It was fun to create creatures and buildings for them to inhabit, but the experience was so much more shallow than players had hoped for.
A Rockstar game, L.A. Noire couldn’t help but be hyped before its release in 2011. Set to do for gritty film noire what Red Dead Redemption did for westerns, it had a hard act to follow. In one way, it was a breath of fresh air, offering a setting that few games dealt with. Playing a detective rather than some kind of criminal was an inspired step, giving players the chance to interrogate perps and solve crimes. The problem was that it was a slow-building experience, and one that turned rather repetitive.
Interrogations were meant to have players concentrating on the facial reactions of each suspect, deducing if they were lying just by looking at them. Indeed, the technology involved ensured that the visuals were stunning for the time. It didn’t stop L.A. Noire being very repetitive at times, though. Within a couple of cases, you’d find yourself poking around the same kind of areas for clues, without much need to think too deeply about what was going on.
Its practically non-existent replay value didn’t help matters, ensuring that while this was a memorable experience, it was a one-time-only deal.
The BioShock series has been a case of diminishing returns each time. While the original was a sublime game, the second didn’t quite hit the spot in the same manner. By the time of BioShock Infinite, too many players were desperate to experience that same feeling invoked by the original.
It garnered almost impossibly great reviews at release, but secretly, we all knew that BioShock Infinite wasn’t quite as great as it should have been. Feeling a little too open world-ish in nature, rather than utilizing the claustrophobic nature of the first two, Infinite felt more like a high-quality FPS game than a revelatory tale.
Lacking the emotional wow-factor, and providing a gimmicky sky-hook, BioShock Infinite proved to be good, but not great.
Final Fantasy XIII
The most over-hyped Final Fantasy game out there (at least until the Final Fantasy VII remake emerges), Final Fantasy XIII never really stood a chance. Development began in 2004, so there was nearly six years in which fans could get overexcited about what was coming.
Final Fantasy XIII received mostly positive reviews, and rightly so, but it didn’t fulfill its promise. The idea of battling through linear, corridor-style layouts for a number of hours, before the game finally opens up put off many players, which was unfortunate as it eventually turned into a great game. Later parts had you exploring new areas, luring chocobos, discovering new forms of magic, and many other things that tied into the Final Fantasy franchise. Its sluggish start doomed it, though, along with its chances of being the next great Final Fantasy game.