I still pre-order games and I deserve to be mocked
I have a confession to make: even though I know I shouldn’t have, I pre-ordered quite a few games in 2017, about six or so by my count. They were all AAA titles produced by large AAA development studios, and in every case I ended up either mostly or entirely regretting having pre-ordered them in the first place. Not because I didn’t find them to be fun to a certain degree, but because I feel the meager amount of entertainment they provided me wasn’t worth the compromising of my principles, of basically telling AAA publishers it’s ok to keep trying to coerce players into financially committing to a game before it’s even released.
Call me an idealist, call me weak-willed, but I just can’t help but get sucked into the pre-release marketing hype surrounding a game I’m already interested in. I always seem to fall back on the same heat-of-the-moment justification: if I already know I’m going to want to buy the game and play it, why not earn myself a few pre-order bonuses along with the ability to play the game as early as possible? It’s a weak justification, I know, and I’m here now to tell you about the different games I wound up pre-ordering and the specific reasons why I now wish I hadn’t.
Mass Effect Andromeda
Oh boy did I have high hopes for this game. I have been a huge fan of BioWare’s Mass Effect series ever since the very first game, and while I wasn’t entirely over the moon about the idea of a game that left the legacy of Commander Shepard behind, I was still very much looking forward to a new fully fledged Mass Effect game. Sadly, as we now know, Mass Effect Andromeda was a straight up disaster, so much so that Electronic Arts and BioWare ended up cutting ties with the game and abandoning any plans for story DLC they may have had had.
For what it’s worth, I ended up liking Andromeda’s story campaign very much, and it was nice to see the return of the co-op multiplayer mode that I enjoyed immensely in Mass Effect 3, but it’s still very clear in many regards that Mass Effect Andromeda’s production was rushed, and not even the ongoing support for the game’s co-op multiplayer was enough to retain my interest for long after I had beaten the story campaign.
Honestly, I don’t regret pre-ordering Injustice 2. I think it’s a solid fighting title which appeals to both my love of the fighting game genre and my full-on DC comics geekdom. However, I do regret going all in and springing for the $100 Ultimate Edition of the game, mostly because my initially strong interest in continuously playing it started to taper off shortly after the game’s DLC fighters started arriving.
Sure, I really dug getting to play as Injustice 2’s very first DLC fighter, the anti-hero vigilante Red Hood, and the appearance of Mortal Kombat’s Sub-Zero gave me a second wind of sorts, but now that we’re on the cusp of the third and final batch of DLC fighters, I find myself revisiting Injustice 2 more out of obligation to try out the new DLC additions I already paid for rather than a genuine desire to do so.
In hindsight, I think I would have been better off just buying the base version of the game and investing only in the first pack of DLC fighters. I have definitely learned that, no matter how cool or fun a game may look before it is released, investing in a pricey collector’s or “complete” edition pretty much never winds up being worth it (at least for me).
I was absolutely enthralled by For Honor’s story hook: a world in which different historic fighting cultures that included Vikings, Knights, and Samurai battled it out endlessly in a three-way conflict which spanned both an entire story campaign and an in-depth multiplayer component. For what it’s worth, I actually liked the game’s story campaign, especially since it was playable as both a solo or co-op experience.
However, my excitement for the multiplayer component quickly died off once I realized there was little else to do than grind through matches so I could buy exorbitantly priced cosmetic items and random loot boxes.
Now, in fairness, I liked how For Honor didn’t stifle the rate at which I earned rewards too much if I stuck solely to co-op vs. AI matches, and in the months since its launch, the game has gotten better and bigger thanks to both free content updates and the addition of paid additions like new playable multiplayer characters.
However, when I look back on the total amount of time I actually spent playing For Honor and, more importantly, the long stretches of time during which I have felt no strong desire to play it at all, I definitely regret pre-ordering it at full price.
Similar to Injustice 2, I actually don’t entirely regret pre-ordering Destiny 2, mainly because I’m a pretty big fan of the Destiny series, but considering how long it has taken Bungie to tweak and update the sequel to the point where it’s actually worth playing over the long term, I do now wish I had simply waited and grabbed it during a Black Friday deal or some other discount period. Destiny 2 is the perfect example of a game that definitely wasn’t worth $60 when it first launched, and I feel like a bit of a sucker being one of those people who paid full price anyways.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Middle-earth: Shadow of War seemed like such a sure bet considering how solid of a game its predecessor, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, was. However, as has become the case so many times when a big publisher tries to fatten its cash cow as much as possible, Warner Bros. ended up tainting Shadow of War’s otherwise solid gameplay premise with a very intrusive random loot boxes system that ended up feeling near-mandatory during the game’s final act.
Ultimately, Shadow of War never felt completely pay-to-win, but considering the fact that I paid full price for it, I certainly didn’t appreciate the game trying so hard to wheedle more money out of me.
Star Wars Battlefront II
Where to begin...I’m still kind of in awe that Electronic Arts managed to screw up a Star Wars game as badly as it did with Star Wars Battlefront II, but here we are. Nevermind the poorly-justified gameplay limitations like the Arcade credits cap and the confusingly restrictive item-crafting system, EA also didn’t even bother to hide the fact that the game’s random loot boxes and Star Cards system permeate a completely pay-to-win environment where those who are able to quickly purchase lots of loot boxes can more easily gain gameplay advantages over other players.
It’s a shame because, in several other regards, Star Wars Battlefront II is actually a pretty solid game. The single-player story campaign is engaging, the gameplay feels good, and the ship-based Starfighter Assault mode is so fun and immersive it could honestly be made into its own full game.
Developer DICE has shown it is willing to scale back on the game’s more egregious offenses, but in its current form Star Wars Battlefront II is absolutely not worth $60 and I’d argue it’s barely worth half that. It just goes to show that even strong brand recognition like Star Wars isn’t enough to make a game worth pre-ordering.