Bronze: Dark Souls 2 by From Software
It's well known at this point that the first Dark Souls is one of my favorite games of all time, and most likely the best game of last generation. So perhaps with such a high bar set, it should have been easy to recognize that its direct sequel, Dark Souls 2, would fail to live up to that powerful original game. The warning signs were there: new director, new world and a desire to return to the (in my opinion) weaker design sensibilities of Demon's Souls, the rough first draft version of Dark Souls. But what is important to note is that while Dark Souls 2 is one of the most disappointing games of this year, it's by no means a bad game. Dark Souls 2 is most likely better than most games that came out this year. But even with all of these facts before me, it's still incredibly hard for me to not feel disappointed by what Dark Souls 2 turned out to become: a game that in a lot of ways, barely feels like a Dark Souls game.
by Isaac Wagner
Silver: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII by Square Enix and tri-Ace
The story of the Final Fantasy XIII franchise is an extremely complicated and intriguing one, reaching its conclusion at the end with the incredibly disappointing and miserable final entry, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. It's a sad story, as while I despised the original Final Fantasy XIII for its myriad of misguided issues, Final Fantasy XIII-2 was a borderline fantastic game that took a comprehensive look over all of the flaws of the first game and resolved all of them to create my favorite Final Fantasy title to date. The stage was set for them to wrap up this trilogy of titles with a truly masterful final game with Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. Instead what we got was a game that took a comprehensive look over all of the positive aspects of Final Fantasy XIII-2, and threw them out of the window, replacing them instead with truly awful design decisions and a plot that ruined everything that the Final Fantasy XIII series had been building up to its point. With the shaky track record of Square Enix and the Final Fantasy series as a whole, it should have been easy to see this coming, but still it hit me hard right in the face.
by Isaac Wagner
Gold: Transistor by Supergiant Games
A continuing theme of this year is that perhaps I was expecting too much from the developers next game, given the quality of the previous game, with this case being Supergiant Games latest title, Transistor. Bastion is one of my favorite games of last generation, and was an extremely colorful and unique debut that set up Supergiant Games as a high-profile developer to keep an eye on going forward. The announcement of Transistor was strong, with a compelling sci-fi premise making it by far the most promising game on this list. It appeared that Supergiant were taking their design sensibilities such as the ability to craft engrossing RPG systems and strong world-building to create a brand new experience. The result is a game which honestly doesn't feel that much different from Bastion, but significantly worse in every single aspect. From the weak soundtrack, lifeless world, nonsense plot, ridiculous ending, and most disappointing an at first promising turn-based combat system that promised depth but turned out easy to brake, Transistor is an incredibly lesser game than Bastion. Unlike the other two games on this list, Transistor showed no warning signs which could hint at its actual released reality, so my massive disappointment when I finally played Transistor hit me the hardest.
Better luck next time, my friends at Supergiant!
by Isaac Wagner