My first impressions of Final Fantasy XV, which would go on to become my favourite game of all time, were not good. I could see why it would appeal to some players but at the time it just didn’t feel right for me, and wouldn’t begin to until a couple of hours in following constant assurances it would get better later. This week I want to look at five game experiences where I either didn’t like them at first or even after finishing them, but over time I can look back at the experience more fondly than I thought I would.

None of these are terrible games, some reviewed very well at launch, so this list is personal to me. Don’t expect to find any critically panned games that I just happened to enjoy. Looking at you Godzilla.

Nier: Automata

Wow, I can hear you angrily sucking air between your teeth from here. The simple explanation is purely that I didn’t enjoy Nier: Automata while playing it because the combat felt too floaty and repetitive, and the story kept losing me. I got lost a couple of times in my first playthrough which did little to help the situation, and after spending an age trekking around that unnecessarily huge and empty desert I often found myself switching over to any other game to ease the tedium.

Over the years that have passed since I finished 100% of the game, I occasionally catch myself reflecting positively on it overall. The ability to buy trophies you missed with in-game money after finishing the story is nothing short of genius that I wish every game would implement. The Adam and Eve cutscenes and fights were spectacular even if I didn’t totally get why they were happening; and the music and overall sound design in the game was pretty perfect as well.

How can something so cute be so deadly… but which one am I talking about?!

I want to give an extra special mention to the Romeo and Juliet sequence as it was, and still is, one of my favourite segments from any video game ever.

I expect if I ever replay Nier: Automata it will be an entirely different experience to the first time I played it, but only time will tell on that front..

Life is Strange 2

The strangest thing about this game is that upon finishing it for the first time I hated it so intensely that I restarted the game and played through it again. Yes, you read that correctly, and no I have no idea why I thought that would help. Here’s the thing though, it did.

After seeing how calamitous the ending would be with the choices I had made, I wanted to see what would have happened had I not unwittingly played Sean as the world’s worst big brother, and with the invaluable gift of hindsight. Almost immediately the game felt fresher and I engaged with the characters more. As I knew which areas were unimportant to the story I didn’t spend ages exploring rooms and reading flavour text which ultimately led to nowhere, and could fast track myself to the moments where my choices would actually make a difference.

I’ll never trust a man wearing a “Squad” shirt, that’s just a smart rule.

One of the shock twists at the midpoint of the final episode actually carried real emotional weight when I cared about the affected characters compared to my first playthrough when I just wanted the entire experience to be over so I could trash the game in a review I never ended up getting around to writing.

Life is Strange 2 is heavily based on player choice but the issue with it is that some of those choices are so badly implemented that it makes players hate the game itself. When I think back about my time with it I only think about my second playthrough, and I can’t help but wonder if a lot of the lower scores the game received were from reviewers who had made the same choices I had at first.

Doom (2016)

Again, cue the angry sucking air through your teeth. I’ve spoken about and praised Doom 2016 before but it wasn’t always bloodshine and gorebows for me and this absolutely phenomenal game.

Doom 2016 lost me during my first playthrough in the boss battle with the Cyberdemon. I had just acquired the BFG and used all my ammo for it and my other main weapons when I took out its first health bar, just for it to transpire it was a two-stage fight where all I had left was the pistol and gauss cannon for the second half. I couldn’t get passed the fight after a couple of attempts so angrily uninstalled the game until somebody convinced me to try again a year or so later.

I’m sure we can talk this through guys… but I don’t want to

I’m not sure what changed but I can tell you I had the biggest smile on my face for every moment of my second attempt. I was high on adrenaline and an unhealthy dose of caffeine at the time so I blazed through most of the game in one sitting with the feeling my heart could explode at any second like a grotesque eruption.

For the record I still hate Doom Eternal and I’m going to need a few more years to pass before I give that game another go.

Anthem

A lot of us in Respawning were looking forward to the overhauled version of Anthem, so were naturally very disappointed when the news dropped in February that the project had been canned. While the world map was huge but predominantly empty, the gameplay was good fun and had so much potential to deliver on a bigger and better experience than the one provided at launch. I keep meaning to go back to it at some point but the fact it is completely dead in the water now means I keep pushing back my return.

Hunting is a breeze with power armor

Even though I found Anthem to be one of the blandest titles I had played in years I still find myself reflecting positively on my brief time with my tiny nimble Iron Man suit who used daggers over guns for some reason. It looked cool but unless I was supported by other players I died an awful lot. Worth it.

Maybe one day it will somehow be miraculously revived but I’m not holding my breath. Turns out EA are bastards. Who knew?

Sleeping Dogs

I have no idea why I disliked this game as much as I did when I first played it, but rest assured that opinion is now in a worse state than Big Smile Lee. I’ve played through Sleeping Dogs multiple times over the years, partly because it is my favourite hand to hand combat game (though the gunplay is also very fun) but mostly because of the gripping story and excellent driving mechanics. Imagine if the Yakuza games swapped their cutscene to gameplay ratio; this is what you would end up with as a result.

For anyone out there yet to play any of the games on this list, Sleeping Dogs is the one I give the most enthusiastic recommendation for, with a guarantee you will not be disappointed.

“Dude that’s right next to my f*cking ear!”

Thanks for reading about five games I was originally down on but believe improved with age. Let me know in the comments which games you reflect on more positively now than you did while playing them, or let me know if you agree with any of my picks. I’ll be back next week with another article and so I will speak to you then!

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