ambitious disaster games

what are your favorite games that are unmitigated ambitious disasters?

big tangles of unbalanced or unhinged systems. maybe it’s super ugly. maybe the game sucks to play. maybe it’s absurdly niche. but the developers overscoped, reached for the stars, came up short, rolled with the punches, and released something fascinating.

i’ll start with some fun and normal picks:

mount & blade warband


distant worlds universe


i will elaborate later


pathologic, obviously, especially because the 2nd one is a more refined/better executed sequel/remake of the original. talking about pathologic has been done to death so id rather waste all my words on other games

boiling point road to hell, its like a proto-far cry 2 with a weirdly complicated factions system and RPG mechanics. its the only game ive ever played where i actually cared about my car because its full of my shit and i have to maintain it, its your lifeline and incredibly important. its also the only game ive ever played where you can get cripplingly addicted to the medkits to the point where they stop fucking working and you have to have a doctor inject you with medkit hurting juice for them to be useful again. its got weapon degradation, weapon upgrades, reputation systems, a bus driving minigame, a huge open world, car maintenance, a fuel system, etc. and all these systems are totally half-baked but compelling and ambitious regardless. its such a bizarre game too, the last mission is a direct ripoff of the final level of far cry 1 with all the same problems that piece of shit has. doing cocaine (“adrenaline plants” lol) makes you run faster and gives you bullet time. all the grandmas in the game world carry hand grenades and toss them at you if youre too mean to townsfolk

warband is also one of my picks, ive never bothered with the town construction shit or marriage or god knows what else because its just that kind of sprawling disaster of a game. i feel like every time i play it i get to a point where all the systems interact in such a way that it makes it an unplayable mess of morale management, bitchy vassal politics, and shitty sieges but GOD i will always love this stupid game if only for the equally disastrous mods that have come out of it and the incredibly distinct visual style

i will always adore how impressively fucking ugly mount & blade is, theres just something charming and amazing about how fucked up and dirty everyone looks. inbred peasant warlord simulator

i guess i always file the bohemia interactive operation flashpoint/arma games under this category, like theyve really done a lot to make them more accessible and not completely inscrutable but at their core there is still the lovingly crafted european mess that made me love them anyway. like they can add shit like RELOADING WHILE MOVING and a “step over objects” key and all these things to make it play like a shooter and not feel like shitty first person crusader no remorse but you just cant soften the edges on shit like this

dynamic civilian spawning scripts breaking and dumping dozens of flaming vietnamese fishing boats from the sky

the complicated inventory system shitting the bed when someone dies and causing the game to multiply their corpse over and over again, creating enormous spilled piles of bodies and magazines and bandages

i wish i still had my gaming pc because i had tons of screenshots and footage of stuff thats just impossible to recreate, precariously tied together game systems interacting in bizarre ways to generate swarms of civilians all playing a tinny .wav file of microsoft sam yelling YOU ARE ALL COMING WITH ME before exploding in a framerate destroying cloud of shit, the COMBAT BANTER feature from the vietnam mod being built in such a way that the virtual arsenal where you could look at all the equipment was a neverending cacophony of vietnamese screaming and a guy blowing into a fucking whistle (which also spilled into gunfights being an insane web of overlapping dialogue from like 2003 czech vietnam war FPSes and aforementioned whistle blowing), the incredibly complicated and stupid medical system where you had to speedball adrenaline shots every 10 minutes if you got shot or youd pass out leaving trails of bloody bandages and discarded epinephrine shots as you went…helicopters literally just disappearing midair for no reason and everyone suddenly falling 600 feet into the fucking desert, helicopters flying upside down, tapping a rock with the wheel of your humvee and having all 4 wheels explode and everyone getting minor wounds all over their bodies and a fucking concussion from the accident, every session being 20-40 minute segments of waiting around and driving and getting stuck in fucking scenery for that cherry 5 minutes of chaos where all the bloated and bizarrely complicated systems start to stretch and fall apart in such a wild and extreme way aching to go out in one big computational aneurysm that it becomes the most incredibly compelling gunfight simulator youve ever played before a fucking helicopter falls out of the sky randomly and flattens you or an old pakistani farmer clips thru the wall behind you with a PKM and unloads 200 rounds into the back of your head before getting stuck in a fucking doorway. arma is simultaneously a perfect videogame yet also a horrendous, farcical piece of shit with terrible PvP and incredibly boring, predictable public PvE servers populated by the dumbest and cruelest people in the world that i never want to play again


oni on the ps2


Deadly Premonition

Nano Breaker

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No Man’s Sky when it first released. Stupidly ambitious, really beautiful and ugly, so many pointless systems that still somehow added up to be “nothing to do but walk around.” Vagabond in space.

I’m in the minority in thinking that base building, tutorials, more NPCs, and multiplayer all made the game less special.


dwarf fortress is the king of this category


My fav ambitious disaster game is raw danger.


It’s time to talk about GRAFFITI KINGDOM.

The idea is simple: you’re an action RPG protagonist with a magic wand/paintbrush that lets you draw creatures whom you endow with the abilities you need to defeat your foes and overcome obstacles. You pilot these drawings and switch between them as needed; defeating enemies unlock additional abilities for your drawings as well as the option to load enemy models and customize them for your own use.

It’s an ingenious concept, not far removed from stuff like Spore and Little Big Planet, but GK falls apart: first, because its plot is cloying and juvenile nonsense, and second, because the PS2 controller is really substandard as an input device for drawing and 3D modeling, to say nothing of the PS2’s own processing and graphics limitations.

Plus, the game balance is nonsensical, and the enemies really only serve to provide token resistance and demostration of what kind of tricks you can pull off with the paintbrush. My favorite was a drawing of a Bad Boys-esque pair of cops back-to-back with guns drawn: the game treats this model as a four-legged, four armed crab-like creature that scuttled furiously about, the cops’ heads swinging back and forth as you advanced or stepped backwards. You can probably still find some impressive creations on YouTube.


Oh yeah, and apparently Mitsuda did the soundtrack?! So it sounds GREAT, right up until any voice acting kicks in, at least for the English dub.


okay time for post #1

let me introduce you to NeonXSZ

NeonXSZ is a Descent-like that takes place within cyberspace. You fly around the internals of a computer, shoot viruses, help the operating system, and generally kill stuff.

But it’s also an open-world action-RPG? The computers you fly around in have zones of “tech level” which determines the quality of upgrades which drop there. To slot upgrades, you have to kill enemies with said upgrade, upon which they will drop some % of the upgrade (modified by a ridiculously inscrutable series of variables, like the kill streak you’re on, your difficulty level, the level difference, etc). Once you reach 100%, you can run to a station with a garage and slot it.

You can click on everything in your cockpit by holding down the right mouse button to pause the game and enable the cursor, which I have never seen in another cockpit game like this. It’s actually useful, too; you can control various HUD elements, look at target info, swap weapons, call for help, all from the safety of a pause screen that is a single mouse click away.

I heard someone compare this game to Diablo and it’s not wrong. You’ll spend a lot of time just flying around and picking fights with enemies you think you can kill, hopefully going on kill streaks to keep your drop rate high. Patrols of enemies and friendlies alike fly through convenient highways. Convenient because you can go to an intersection and let all enemies come to you, but also convenient because there are little “shoulder lanes” you can lure enemies into or use as cover to break away from units in the highway. Fighting in the highway also means friendlies drive by and will respond to calls for help.

You don’t have to help the initial friendlies; you can always flip sides and join the viruses by killing enough friendly ships. Stations don’t really care what side you’re on so you can fly into an enemy base, kill everyone, dock, change gear, and fly away. The only reason to return to friendly space is if you’re fleeing from a high-level enemy.

There’s not really a plot or anything; all of the ambition is in the systems around killing ships, modifying your own ship, and picking engagements. Once you reach certain “tech levels” (average ilvl, basically), it buffs your weapon damage and enables you to take on challenges in the center of your CPU. Completing all of them progresses you to a new, higher level CPU.

This game rules. The Descent-like combat and Elite-like facade are enough for me, but that there’s so many weird and cool touches - the right-click interaction pause, the way upgrades are visualized on your ship, that you can customize the level and ship colors, the absolute glut of tutorials and customization features - really cements it as a personal favorite.


That sounds like the screen interaction from Doom 3, which was neat enough that it deserved to get re-used.

There’s a lot of good stuff covered here and I love so many of these games, but you’ve been saving E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy for me, a game so convoluted even its name is incomprehensible.

A terrifyingly realistic simulation ofwaking into a world far beyond your competency, of a pre-industrial peasant thrust into today with a desktop PC and a call center tech support job and told to get on with it

Does it have body-part region damage? Of course it does

Does it have dialogue trees with multiple paragraph-long responses requiring intimate knowledge of a Christian/futuristic/samurai/urban setting explicated in some 10,000-page book deep in somebody’s hard drive?

oh yes

Does it have a tech tree with understandable upgrade paths like “Cosmogonical Metapsychology”, “Necro Cybermancy”, and “Streumonic Complementarity”?

what game doesn’t?

Can your community play guides be reused as paranoid crime boards in detective movies?

well why not?

“Thanks for this,” comments a player who has learned things from this image


EYE Divine Cybermancy is incredible, like a Sven Co-op server mod gone rogue, hordes of screaming enemies assaulting you forever as you do extremely bewildering quest objectives.

Bullshit! Ultra-failed attack!


My legs are OK.


Get your brain hacked by a door! Cast a spell that instantly gibs anybody! Go through dialogue trees with space bandits about weed! Kill the metaphysical representation of your wife! Find a burger and fries in an egyptian-like tomb on Mars after going constantly insane by looking straight at a five-story cyberdemon and HL2’s gunship fighting each other!


easily one of my favorite lines in EYE is from one of the gang member guys in the sewer/prison level where you get attacked by weird crab monsters who says “Wow!!! Dis gonna be hardcore man, an ultra-violent party” because it is essentially the core of the game


eye divine cybermancy is an early 2000’s sci-fi movie you swore you watched on cable as a teenager at 2am and a lurid promise of what videogames could be


EYE is the amphetamine psychosis coma dream made manifest, like the continuation of the promise of the esoteric '90s ccru occult deleuzo-guattarian writing before nick land did too much fucking speed and got obsessed with stupid shit like numerology and “hyper-racism” instead


In E.Y.E, door hacks you!

lets play some eye co op

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