BY SAMUEL NOLTON: Ambition sometimes outweighs talent, lofty goals are faced with the limitations of budgets and current-gen technology. Sometimes a game doesn’t quite stick the landing, and it launches to middling reviews and a lukewarm reception. When that happens, most AAA studios will cut and run, but sometimes, dedicated developers or a passionate fanbase will work to improve the game post-launch, and giving it a second look a few years down the road can yield surprising results.
Today we’re looking at four games who make the case for re-reviews, taking a fresh look at a game that launched unfinished, unrefined, or just plain unlucky.
1. No Man’s Sky
There’s no redemption story greater than the development of No Man’s Sky. When it first premiered at VGX in 2013, No Man’s Sky seemed to good to be true, offering unlimited exploration and a thriving universe full of retro sci-fi excitement. When it finally launched in 2016…those first impressions proved correct. The game wasn’t broken or particularly glitchy, but it failed to live up to the expectations its first trailer inspired. Worlds seemed hollow and lifeless, the gameplay was repetitive and boring, the story wasn’t particularly interesting and multiplayer was practically a pipe dream.
However, after three years of continuous development, free updates, patches and expansions, No Man’s Sky is starting to live up to its impossible dream. Developer Hello Games has put tons of work into adding more diverse wildlife, new story-driven narrative content, player character customization, base-building and more into the game’s open-universe sandbox, and the result of their hard work shows just how great a game can be when there’s real passion behind its development. Hello Games and director Sean Murray set out to make a game with endless possibilities, and, although their initial result was flawed, they kept going, delivering free content and updates that drew gamers back to the universe of No Man’s Sky in droves – because that effort and passion showed that they were serious about the promises they’d initially made.
Now, with so much vested in improving the game into its final state, and even more to come in 2019, No Man’s Sky broaches on being a perfect 10/10.
2. Tom Clancy’s The Division
The “shared world shooter” genre got off to a rocky start with Destiny and The Division – but while Bungie’s offering picked up steam almost immediately (despite its flaws), The Division is arguably the greater ‘failure at launch’ title. While the game itself played very well, and the campaign and Dark Zone were thrilling for gamers initially, the Division’s endgame fell flat – repetitive mission design, bland loot-chasing, and not nearly enough to do make the game’s open world New York setting and techno-thriller premise fall flat.
However, Ubisoft has a lot of resources and a skilled team of developers, so after the game’s middling launch they started work on DLC to improve upon The Division’s solid foundation. Although now overshadowed by a sequel released this year, The Division’s post-launch improvements included: Underground challenging “raid-like” missions, Last Stand PVP gameplay, and Resistance with an entirely new map segment and tons of expanded content. Altogether, this made the Division a fully fleshed out, thriving game that was drastically improved from its launch state.
While early reviews gave 6s or 7s out of 10, after two years of updates The Division is much close to the 8-9.5 range, living up to the promises laid out when it was first revealed.
3. Fallout 76
This one might be “too early to tell” but if the Wild Appalachia update is any indication, Bethesda is committed to improving on Fallout 76’s less-than-favourable reception. Initially dismissed as broken, buggy, and boring, Fallout 76 had a rocky launch, to say the least – more so than any other game on this list. It was so bad that Giant Bomb refused to publish a final review – stating “nobody on our staff has any interest in playing more of this game.”
But, as with most AAA titles with “games as a service” plans, Fallout 76 lays a solid foundation for future updates to come. Whether by incident or design, the future is brighter for Fallout 76 – the newest major DLC, Wild Appalachia, adds to the atomic wasteland of West Virginia with new weapons, creatures, quests and consumables, as well as a few NPCs (something the base game is sorely lacking) in the form of new vendors and quest givers.
While we’re not quite at the re-review-worthy stage yet, it’s safe to say that in another 6-12 months, Fallout 76 could be a very different game.
4. Star Wars Battlefront 2
This is sure to be a contentious one. On the one hand, there’s EA Games’ mismanagement, greed, and the loot box scandal. On the other hand, Star Wars Battlefront 2 represents one of (surprisingly) few video games bearing the brand of everyone’s favourite space opera today. At launch, Star Wars Battlefront 2 was lauded for its authentic-feeling, authentic-looking, and authentic-sounding action set in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. However, its pay-to-win loot box system, limited map count, and several design choices left a bad taste in players’ mouths.
However, DICE is nothing if not dedicated to making mass-battle FPS games the best that they can be – and hot off the heels of Battlefield 1, they refocused their efforts into Battlefront 2’s post-launch landscape in a big way. In the last year alone they’ve added the massive Battle of Geonosis and Capital Supremacy modes, new maps, new cosmetics and new heroes to the game, making it feel more complete and drawing players new and old back into the fold in a big way. There’s more to come in 2019, and if the updates continue to be as impactful and awe-inspiring as the last ones, Star Wars Battlefront 2 could easily be taken from a 5 or 6 out of 10 up to an 8 or 9 upon re-reviewing.