You can’t judge a book by its cover, and you also can’t judge a game by its first level. (Or its cover, for that matter.) However, a game has to hook you in to keep playing it. Some games have such bad openings, though, that players might put them down before they even get any further.
Games don’t have to be perfect at the start, but they have to be fun enough to make you keep playing. Not every game accomplishes this, and for one reason or another, the beginning can be the actual worst part of the game.
Here are five great games that we, and many others, hated in the beginning.
Fallout 2 Temple of Trials
The original Fallout, released in 1997, started your character off with simple RPG fare. Your vault dweller’s only threat were some rats, and you were free to dispose of them however you chose. You were pretty free to start off your character’s build and plan however you wanted. The rats wouldn’t kill you instantly if you decided to be a charismatic public speaker instead of a fist fighter.
Fallout 2, which came only a year later, had a much more restrictive opening. The introductory “tutorial,” named the Temple of Trials, has a big focus on combat. It penalizes you for not taking Unarmed or Melee as a skill. The dungeon itself becomes even more tedious if you insist on starting your character off with a build centered around bartering and energy weapons.
For an RPG that encourages you to play your character however you want to, Fallout 2 did a bad job in the intro. For both new players and returning players from the first game, the Temple of Trials left a bad impression.
It’s a tutorial for a racing game. How bad could it be, really? Surely if the game is good, teaching you how to drive can’t be that difficult. Right?
Well, Driver does things a little bit differently. The game throws you into a very evil looking parking garage in a black Buick Skylark. On the top right of the screen is a shopping list (literally a ripped piece of paper) with a list of tricks and maneuvers to do. On the top left is an ever-ticking timer with exactly one minute on it.
Some of the tricks are fine and dandy. One is a “brake test,” and one is just donig a lap around the place. But there’s also a burnout, a slalom, and a reverse 180. There are also cars in the garage that you can’t hit; three strikes and you’re out.
Suffice to say, this isn’t a great way to introduce players to the game. A lot of players ,especially those playing on a Blockbuster rental, just dropped the game right then and there. Plenty must have thought the game was only going to get harder from there, but honestly, the final boss was right at the start of this one.
Baldur’s Gate II
When it got re-released as a special edition on PC, Baldur’s Gate II brought with it a bevy of forum and Reddit posts about being stuck in the first dungeon. Few games come with such a high learning curve right at the start of the game. WRPGs are unique in that aspect.
This dungeon isn’t a good tutorial for impatient players because it is a “complete” dungeon in many ways. It doesn’t teach you about combat before teaching you about interacting with NPCs, nor does it teach you about loot and stats. The game just throws you in, expects you to solve puzzles, expects you to grasp combat quickly, and expects you to like it.
There are many posts on Steam from 2015 and 2016 that ask if the game is supposed to be that hard, and the replies state that yes, it is. The learning curve is front loaded, and the game even expects you to have a character build ready before you even start. Further, it expects you to know how to use it.
Mega Man X4
Megaman is a great game. Megaman X (and its sequels) have some of the best gameplay that the genre has to offer. Fans play the game for impeccable side scrolling action and the titular character’s awesome powerups.
You know what they don’t play it for? Dialogue.
Megaman X4 bombards you with several text boxes and plot elements that interrupt the flow of gameplay. Instead of a tutorial, or a simple first level (like in Megaman X2), the game expects you to mash the X button just to start the real meat of the game.
Once you’re past that, it’s smooth sailing for the rest of the game, but the first level is genuinely off putting for a lot of gamers. It’s even worse for fans of the original series, who never had to deal with anything of the sort — just a couple boxes here and there.
Final Fantasy VIII
Developers sometimes find it difficult to find a rhythm for introducing new game mechanics. Final Fantasy VIII is the “middle child” of the PS1 Final Fantasy installments. One of those reasons is its deep, complicated, and sometimes clunky magic system.
Because of the way magic works in FF8, Square Enix can’t feed gamers the system in pieces. The tutorial to start you off is long, detailed, and doesn’t even explain the entire system. It left a lot of gamers confused as to how combat was supposed to work, especially because many were coming off the heels of FF7. Materia was very easy to understand compared to FF8’s system.
Those that stuck around were free to experience an easily exploitable magic system that was like a game in and of itself. The game itself was polarizing for a number of reasons, magic being one of them; some appreciated how easy and fun it was to figure out how to break it, while others craved a simpler (and more normal) spell system.
No matter what you think of the magic system itself, its introduction definitely offered a lot to be desired.