1. Dragon Age 2 -- The Characters


Dragon Age 2 had a lot to be disappointed about, no matter what kind of RPG fan you were. If you loved the first game, Dragon Age: Origins, you probably missed the deep and traditional PC role-playing game structure that gave its world so much depth. If you were entirely new to the series, there's a good chance you didn't love the often tiny, recycled levels strewn about the game. Meanwhile, stripped down combat did nobody any favors, as it removed much of the previous game's strategic oomph.

Yet the game did get just about the most important thing in any Bioware developed game very, very right. Namely, the core cast of characters was pretty damn solid. The often dry and archetypical characters of the first game -- memorable as they were, in their own way -- gave way to a unique cast of lovable weirdos. Together, they nailed the half-wacky, half-high fantasy tone that was often swallowed up by Origins' sea of numbers and dialogue choices.

One prime example is Varric Tethras, the surface-dwelling business-dwarf in love with his own semi-steampunk crossbow (her name is Bianca, if you were wondering). Probably not coincidentally, the wisecracking storytellers was also the only card carrying party member to make it into the third game in the series.

Varric stands out for breaking a lot of the soft "rules" that come not only with high fantasy, but with Dragon Age itself. He's a dwarf, but not some surly warrior or noble type. Instead, he writes popular, trashy romance novels in his spare time. In so many ways, he perfectly encapsulates the charming offbeat nature of Dragon Age 2's entire cast.

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Other party members include an elf named Fenris, who's hardly high, mighty, and magical like the douchey dandies of Tolkein lore. As a former slave/lapdog of the magic-obsessed Tevinter Imperium, he's more into chopping off wizard's heads with his big-ass sword than helping them deliver rings all over the realm. Merrill, meanwhile, does like a good spell or two... or three. In fact, the embarrassingly babbly nerd kinda doesn't know when to stop dabbling in forbidden arcana. Yet her "I might accidentally kill us all with ancient magicks" attitude is always softened by the fact that she's a total dork.

If those weren't enough, there's Aveline Vallen. As the token human fighter of your merry band in Dragon Age 2, logic dictates she should be the most mundane among them. Yet even she stands out by virtue of, shock of all shocks, has absolutely zero interest in the player character -- no matter what kind of character you or dialogue choices you make.

Truly, a completely unboneable, non-robot character in a Bioware game denotes just how unconventional Dragon Age 2's cast could get. And in a series that's 85 percent talking people out of their underwear, that's interesting enough to be worth noting.

2. Dynasty Warriors -- The Spin-Offs

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Yes, Dynasty Warriors is the butt of many, many jokes in the gaming community. Yellow Turban Rebellion this, Lu Bu has come to destroy us that. It all boils down to the fact that, with few exceptions, all Dynasty Warriors games are basically goddamn identical. Hell, we're not above making a crack at the series' expense, ourselves. That's why on this list of five disappointing games, the entire Dynasty Warriors franchise only counts as one. Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck!

The thing is, we only laugh to keep from crying. Dynasty Warriors could be so much more interesting than it is. The idea of mowing down thousands of soldiers in five minutes, in every level of the game, should inherently be pretty rad. The only reason it isn't is because of same-y, button mash-y combat that doesn't just get old after 37 sequels -- it gets old from moment to moment in each individual game.

Yet we know for a fact that it doesn't have to be that way. The reason being that, for every six identical Dynasty Warriors sequels, there's one incredible series spinoff that shows a better way. We're talking about games like Hyrule Warriors, Dragon Quest Heroes, and Arslan: The Warriors of Legend, and even Attack on Titan.

While produced by the same developers at Omega Force, these games all share one key difference from Dynasty Warriors: they're not Dynasty Warriors games. They all draw from source material that's separate from Omega Force's usual comfort zone. And the devs respect that distinction to a shocking degree. They use the basic controls and rhythm of their favorite series and, for various story reasons, take them in entirely new and interesting directions to match the source material.

Dragon Quest Heroes, for instance, serves up a surprisingly faithful set of JRPG mechanics between and during battles. Meanwhile, since it's a Dragon Quest game, Omega Force was able to draw from a veritable army of existing enemies. Suddenly, instead of just fighting the same frumpy-looking dude cloned 67,000 times, you have different foes with different abilities, shapes, and sizes to prioritize.

The same goes for Hyrule Warriors -- the series Zelda-themed sister game. Attack on Titan, meanwhile, turns Warriors-style combat completely inside out, by having players focus on a handful of massive opponents, instead of a mountain of tiny ones. And, most importantly, the slightly more obscure Arslan basically lets you punch people with horse armies. Horse armies.

All of which is to say that the Dynasty Warriors formula isn't completely terrible. It just needs to get out of its comfort zone more often -- and include more horse armies.

3. Destiny -- Actually Playing Destiny


Prior to its launch in September of 2014, developer Bungie's loot-driven first-person shooter, Destiny, promised, well, a lot of things. It was meant to be the studio's grand and glorious debut, after leaving Microsoft and the accompanying Halo series behind once and for all. It was meant to be launchpad for at least 10 years of content and sequels. It was meant to be great.

The jury is still out on a few of those promises. With the game's first true sequel just around the corner, however, (depending on when you're reading this) we feel it's safe to say that Destiny was definitely not great. It was okay, sure. And like a lot of people we put a fair few dozens -- even hundreds -- of hours into the sucker.

The problem was that Destiny wasn't anything near what it promised to be. Instead of a sweeping epic to get players excited to see what came next, the story was muddled nonsense. In fact, the story was so ill-explained that the game even acknowledged that frustrating lack of info. Rather than wink and nod along with the devs, players turned Destiny's most ludicrous line -- "I don't even have time to explain what I don't have time to explain" -- into a seemingly never-ending meme.

Then there was the lack of content, the bugs and glitches, the infuriating randomness to getting good loot drops, and holy crap that lack of content. Destiny wasn't just flawed. It would have -- should have --been bad game, full-stop.

Yet one redeeming quality dragged it out of the muck of its own making: playing Destiny. The level design didn't always showcase it, but the actual act of firing guns, punching aliens, or chucking grenades into their bug-eyed faces makes for, according to many, the best damn combat in any first-person shooter on the market. It's tough to put into words if you haven't played it, but look no further than the insane amount of time most players put into this hugely flawed game. Then ask yourself what would compel them to do that.

And, mercifully, Destiny got much better over time. Subsequent DLC releases brought more content, as well as better writing, level design, and loot balance. Towards the end, the first Destiny actually started to resemble the great game that should have been wrapped around its own great combat. Although it never did quite reach its full potential, seen in those early promises by Bungie. Oh, well. There's always the sequel.

4. Final Fantasy XIV Online -- The Warriors of Darkness

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To start, we should point out that we're talking about the original Final Fantasy XIV, here. The MMO's incredibly successful relaunch -- subtitled A Realm Reborn -- is one of the all-time best massively multiplayer games on the market. Hell, it's so good that it gets away with charging a $15 monthly subscription in the age of every MMO under the sun going free-to-play. And it isn't even called World of Warcraft.

OG 14, on the other hand, was a proper disaster. It ran like booty, even on the best PCs of the age. The user interface was a garbled mess that made otherwise interesting combat almost unplayable. It was slow, grind-heavy, and so critically panned that Square Enix never bothered to charge a subscription fee for it. To be clear: we're not saying the game was free-to-play. We're saying the developer was actually so embarrassed by the debacle of a game that it suspended already planned subscription fees, indefinitely.

The whole nightmare prompted them to shut the game down (in flashy, yet unsurprisingly busted fashion) and pass development of ARR off to a new team under new leadership. The resulting sequel/relaunch is, actually, probably enough of a saving grace for FF14 all by its lonesome. It's a great game, after all, and isn't showing any signs of slowing down. Yet we wanted to highlight something a little more specific.

Said specific item would be the "Warriors of Darkness." And that's our cue to warn you that spoilers are ahead. We know, we know. Who cares about spoilers for a massively multiplayer RPG -- where the "story" usually consists of some thin excuse to kill nine rabbits and hawk their corpses to some leatherworker named xXDemonVape69Xx? Well, ARR actually has itself a pretty solid plotline. Which is part of why what we'll talk about next is so damn cool.

When vanilla FF14 shut down, it marked the occasion with a fancy cutscene that doubled as a trailer for ARR. In it, we see a pre-rendered band of adventurers -- representing the players of FF14 -- rescued just seconds before certain doom. For years, these were the generic, default "Warriors of Light" that greeted players anytime they logged into ARR. Until they weren't. With the release of FF14's first expansion, Heavensward, players actually met these characters. Except they weren't Warriors of Light at all. They were assholes.

More specifically, they were the Warriors of Darkness: ex-heroes from another world in the FF14 multiverse. They revealed that the so-called Light -- the force that ARR players had been working for up to that point in the game -- actually destroyed their home universe by bleaching it dry with boring, orderly, endless perfection. Naturally, this meant they had to destroy the world of ARR to reset the balance between Light and Dark. Which is a big no-no, even if it did have the awesome side-effect of complicating and re-contextualizing hundreds of hours of story up to that point in the plot.

And all it took for that awesome, shocking reveal was for someone to release a total failure of a game and nix it right before our very eyes.

5. Pokémon Go -- The Community Togetherness


Pokémon Go kinda sucks, as a video game. For all the (honestly deserved) hype over the wonderful idea of hunting and catching Pokémon in the real world, there isn't a whole lot to do with it. Unless of course you include walking till your toenails liquefy in order to look at a Sandshrew on your phone.

Though a substantial update to gyms has just now rolled out a year later, at launch the game was a wasteland of wasted potential. Combat was, and more-or-less remains, a series of tactics-less head-butts. Glitches and sometimes seemingly unfair capture rates caused players to waste precious in-game resources. And woe unto anyone that picks the wrong faction in a town that's pretty much already chosen its favorite color -- you're unlikely to ever capture and hold your own gym. Last but not least, Pokémon Go is pretty much a bust if you live outside populated areas.

In short, the game is only even playable for a certain segment of the population. While those that can play it are greeted with overly simple gameplay and sometimes questionable payoff. Although, admittedly, parts of it are getting better (while other things are still broken in all-too-familiar ways).

However, Pokémon Go has had one thing going for it since day one: It's a fad. We don't mean that in a bad way, either. Seriously! The nice thing about fads is that they bring people together -- figuratively, if not literally. They create a language of experiences and interests that people who are "in on it" can share without needing to explain things to one another. It's... genuinely really neat!

Pokémon Go benefits doubly from its fad status, in that it does bring people together literally. The "PokéWalk" phenomenon -- wherein players congregate to look for juicy pocket monsters and share their love for, as well as the locations of, said creatures -- actually got human beings to go outside and meet each other. Truly, nothing is impossible in this age of wonders.

Sadly, this is also the thing that's been hit hardest by Pokémon Go's dwindling player base. We say "dwindling," but around 5 million active users ain't nothing to scoff at. Still, it's unlikely the game will ever draw the kinds of crowds it did during its 20+ million player heyday. For a time, though, the shared experience, interest, love, and certainly not unhealthy amount of exercise saw Pokémon Go rise above its very basic faults on the regular.