Four games I’d like to finish but probably never will

In a lot of ways I consider myself a completionist, but there are still some games I never got round to finishing for one reason or another. I’d like to take a moment for the ones that got away.

The Witness (2016)

screeenshot from The Witness video game
Although I didn’t finish it, The Witness remains one of my favourite games of all time

I loved this game so much. It’s one of the few open-world games I’ve enjoyed playing. I’ve never been a fan of games that require me to wander around for ages encountering things that may or may not be useful. Don’t get me wrong – I like a nicely drawn backdrop and mystical scenery, but I also want to be actively engaged and solving puzzles.

Thankfully, The Witness combines both these things. The island on which you find yourself is incredible.  There are mysterious structures dotted around beautiful vibrant nature. You can be walking through a multicoloured field and out of nowhere emerges a platform with ropes and pulleys, a tantalising maze or a curious group of trees that seem to form a pattern.

The perfect subtlety between what is just nice artwork and what might be another puzzle waiting to be solved is what makes it. It’s serene and exciting all at the same time.

Why didn’t I finish it?

You know, with this one I got really quite far. I must have been near the end (I won’t say how I know this – spoilers!) and yet I lost interest. At this point in the game I was searching for those final pieces of the puzzle to no avail. I didn’t want to cheat, nor could I ask for help.

And I guess this is where the downside of open-world games comes into play; non-linear gameplay makes it difficult – if not impossible – to ask for hints. IGN provides a good walkthrough that details the different puzzles in different areas, but to suddenly view the game in such a structured, compartmentalised way seemed to do it a disservice. Plus I’d got so far on my own that it seemed a shame.

Obduction (2016)

screenshot from Obduction video game
Nice scenery, now show me the puzzles

Conversely, Obduction was a stark reminder of why I generally don’t enjoy open-world games.

I’d heard a lot of good things about Myst, and then spotted Obduction in the Steam sale. It sounded great on paper – a first-person puzzle-solving adventure following the story of a person transported to an alien world that looks just like home. While it wasn’t my usual style, it looked interesting and hey, I enjoyed The Witness.

Unfortunately, I was stumped and frustrated right from the get-go. Where am I supposed to go? What are these train tracks and levers that appear to do nothing? Where’s everybody else? When will the puzzles start?

Why didn’t I finish it?

This was a little too open world for me. I couldn’t figure out where to start, and I got fed up with wandering around. Puzzle elements weren’t really highlighted in any way, and it was all a bit too, erm… mystical. The scenery is gorgeous, but after so long tracing and retracing my paths it didn’t matter.

Checking back through some walkthroughs and reviews, it’s likely I became too impatient too quickly. People have even compared it to The Witness and The Talos Principle (which I also loved), but for me it didn’t cut it. I don’t want ‘slowly unfolding origami’ as one reviewer put it; I need to feel like I’m making progress.

Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders (1988)

screenshot of Zak McKracken video game
‘Insert cashcard for airport transit’

I was excited about exploring another of LucasArts’ adventure masterpieces, and Zak didn’t disappoint. Great artwork, great puzzles and some of the best wit I’ve seen in an adventure game (see above). Oh, and the killer intro. Zak had all the classic point-and-click nuances and I was hooked. It’s certainly one of those I’m most sad about not finishing.

Why didn’t I finish it?

Hey Zak, it’s me, not you.

I think this is another example of my slight aversion to the non-linear nature of some games. Yes, I know I’m an adventure gamer and that is usually how they work, but this one just had too many variables for my poor little brain: darting between different locations; switching between characters; and the knowledge that I could flunk the game by running out of money or making an unredeemable mistake early on (which I did, when I took off from Mars too soon, doh).

If it was a case of one of those elements, I could cope. But trying to save at different points just ended up very confusing because a lot of the time I couldn’t remember what I had and hadn’t done, and in which playthrough of the game (given I had to restart a few times). Like The Witness, this also made it hard to ask for help.

It’s a shame – looking back at websites and screenshots of the game does make me want to give it another go. Maybe next year I need to reign in my doggedness in the face of a small hint or cheat. I’ve found a list of all the dead ends (not actually that many) that I could prepare for, which would help.

Populous (1989)

screenshot from Populous video game
It may look peaceful now, but you wait

Populous was great, and highly addictive. Even if you didn’t have a God complex (and especially if you did) there was no greater feeling than playing the omnipotent deity over swards of teeny tiny land-dwellers. Building your territories and impatiently watching your mana increase until you could hit that armageddon button was an investment worth making. During less patient moments an earthquake or volcano was almost as satisfying.

It was something quite innovative back in 1989 and became one of the best-selling PC games of all time. The world editors allowed players to design their own landscapes, making it even more fun and dishing out more of that sadistic control.

Why didn’t I finish it?

Seriously, do you know anyone who’s finished Populous? There are 500 levels. It’s like listening to all five Tool albums back to back. Howlongtobeat.com says the main story takes an average of 13 hours to complete, but bear in mind that back in the day you couldn’t save your game, and while the likes of GOG.com make it easier today, I like to play a game in the tough ole way it was intended (Here she goes again).

The four pillars of giving up

So taking these four examples, the reasons for my abandonment appear to be stubbornness (The Witness), boredom (Obduction), brain freeze (Zak) and intimidation (Populous). There are other examples too, such as shoddy mechanics, unclear objectives and simply being distracted by something more fun.

What games do you wish you had finished? What are your abandonment traits?

9 thoughts on “Four games I’d like to finish but probably never will

  1. Awww, don´t give up on Zak! There is so much you´re missing out. At least you seem to leave the door open. I know I would have given up on Space Quest without help from you (I think it was getting something out of a trunk I didn´t even know was there) and in the end I had more fun that way (like deceiphering your hints and generally speaking with you about my progress) than not playing it at all. Really as someone who got through those games, Zak is really not that unfair. Give it another shot some time!

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      1. I feel like just having a chat about the game´s lore might help you a great deal. And you wouldn´t feel spoilt either. The hints in the newspaper are actually really helpful, but they´re done in such a roundabout way not to spoil you it may be difficult to relate them to what you actually need to do. It really is worth it and I believe there´s even less dead ends then in Maniac Mansion, actually.

        As for me I sometimes stop a game when it´s just so frustratingly difficult that I just can´t go on. If I really like it in spite of that I´m sorry to quit. But often the games that start to bore or frustrate me to much don´t hold my attention much more anyway.

        I never finished Secret Of Mana on the SNES which is a gorgeous, wonderfully designed game and that I would have loved to complete, but it´s really difficult if you don´t play with two other players. So I never gotten to the end on my own. With two more talented players, sure I´d give that another shot.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ditto with Zak and for the same reasons! I think I gave up pretty early on because I just knew I wasn’t going to enjoy it and I haven’t been back to it since.

    With regard to The Witness, it’s definitely more about the journey than the destination. And Obduction was ok but the last part of the game felt a little rushed… something which seems to affect a lot of projects brought to life through Kickstarter.

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    1. Aha, glad it’s not just me on the Zak front!

      Re The Witness, yeah it’s definitely more focused on the exploration, which makes me wonder why I like it really. I guess the puzzles keep me hooked! I’ve heard mixed things about Obduction so it is a bit of a weird one. Maybe I would’ve liked the ending then, haha.

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      1. Story-wise, it’s pretty good and I liked the ending! But it kind of felt as though it was rushed to be summed up, if that makes sense. Hopefully Cyan’s next game will be a good mixture of plot, puzzles, direction and open-word. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I never finished Final Fantasy VII, even though I actually made it to the final volcano. I can’t stand the way that game (and many of its ilk) implement that random encounter junk and somehow I just reached a tipping point.

    I’m surprised you didn’t finish Zak though; I found it much more engaging than Maniac Mansion. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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