There is one thing experiencing bad fantasy worlds in movies or books, but those in games can demand plenty of hours and my constant interactivity. Because of this, I always quit early on unless I can make a good review or an entertaining list. Luckily, Casper challenged me to make the latter, where I can both complain and relive dreadful adventures. Keep in mind that this is not about the worst places to be in, but really about games where I could not care less about the world, lore or characters introduced in them. To make this list slightly more interesting, I am taking the liberty to also include sci-fi worlds as long as their science are on an over the top level. Also: this is only my opinion. If you legitimately enjoy these places, I am happy for you. Just do not take me there, please?
#12 Mystik Belle – Worst School Ever
If I can give this entry any praise, it is that I do love its cute style. It is cartoony and reminiscent of older titles from the early 90s when PC gaming was a strange world in itself. Unfortunately, that is all I can give the world of Mystik Belle: Hagmore School of Magic. There is nothing here that screams charm when it comes to the enemies, due to a lack of varied mythical creatures. While there are a few nice characters, it does not help when the rest of the cast are either based on poor puns or simply underwhelming.
This is made worse by the stubborn and annoying teachers that forces an unfair deed on the main character out of nowhere. It could have been a decent setup for a dark and cruel world, but even the school is empty for what it should offer in terms of classes and unique rooms. In the end, I wanted to rather leave this place than be subdued to any more unfair management. This entry is not higher on this list because I see some neat potentials here, but it feels like a project where the developers simply gave up halfway through with their ideas.
#11 Two Worlds – The Stale Bread
I will admit that I was considering putting in either Darkest Dungeon or Dragon Age for their bland and uninteresting presentation, and worlds designed to be just sad and depressive for the sake of feeling mature with nothing clever to them. It is among many reasons for why I never got into Game of Thrones, which I am fully aware of how alone in this statement I am. However, it is hard to not say the same about Two Worlds, which is arguably even more forgettable.
This was a title that clearly wanted to take on The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion‘s popularity, but sadly offered nothing of substance in its lore or world-building. All the tasks were just fetch quests with no interesting story to them, and everything felt created to follow a list of what fantasy RPGs needed to have in them. It is almost to the point where it could have been hilariously bad, due to strange references, names, and the stiff acting. Sadly, things never leave a solid impression and it all just becomes dull and superficial. That is impressive to turn a magical world into.
#10 What Remains of Edith Finch – A forgettable trip
This is probably the bane of my existence and a prime example for how bad walking simulators can be. What Remains of Edith Finch takes you to a house where the main character reminisces of those who lived there, all with an abstract and magical take on their stories. To not give away too many spoilers, this title deals with a cursed family where each tells about their last moments before death, be it through a dream, comic or movie. However, they never blend well or are fascinating tales told in creative ways, making it hard to care about any of the characters or their minimal backstories.
Just as lacklustre is the house itself. It is a messy and strange place with plenty of hidden rooms, trying to convey a sense of wonder. Unfortunately, while there can be some nice trinkets to find, the game never goes far enough with the exploration and becomes a straight line with nothing interesting to dive into. I believe this title wanted to emulate other insane projects in its own dramatic way, like LSD: Dream Simulator or Illbleed, and that is difficult to do. Because of this, what wants to be a neat concept with imaginative stories to tell simply becomes underwhelming. While visiting this house, I ended up looking at the time and wishing for this stroll to reach its destination sooner.
#9 Tales of Zestiria – Just a bland anime
Western RPGs can be subjected to very similar looks and concepts, making it very important for them to be presented with quality. Otherwise, they will just turn into generic fantasy adventures. However, Japanese RPGs are completely different. I find them usually trying to be as surreal as possible, which can lead them to instead become too silly and serious simultaneously with their setups. This is what I feel about 90% of the animes my general crowd of friends subject me to. Actually, the ones that I have been lucky with, are those recommended to me by Reasons to anime.
Tales of Zestiria is an example of going over the top with absolutely nothing. The story is about a group of heroes saving the day with their chosen one, and that is it. Strangely enough though, this title forces this idea hard into every single event and lore, even if it only repeats itself. None of the towns have interesting cultures, the cast is made of shallow stereotypes, and I cannot for the life of me remember even the vegetation in each area. There is so much bizarre flavour text with no meat to them, it is the same as eating only spices for dinner. Even Tales of Graces was not this bad.
#8 Final Fantasy X – Annoying Lore
Probably the most controversial title on this list, I will say that I do love its neat take on the turn-based combat system. Sadly, that does not mean I ever could get into this world. Final Fantasy X should not have taken itself as seriously as it does, with its insane outfits that are impractical, annoying characters that whines and acts without really thinking, and contraptions that must be from a poor fanfic. I remember that I turned off the game when I realised my party cared more about a bloody ball game over the fate of their world. Even if beach balls are as dangerous as swords in this universe for some surreal reason.
Just as awful are the towns’ cultures and lore. This comes from how linear the game is, with there even being an old man in every location spewing out lore to you because they could not let you explore the areas instead. This entire world just bases itself on the fans protecting it, which is probably why there exists books outside of this game to defend its terrible storytelling and writing. Even the camera shots are bad, giving unintentional fanservice and uncomfortable views. This game here is why Final Fantasy is a very hit and miss series for me. At the very least, we got to see neat monsters and be introduced to the cool fighter Auron.
#7 Diablo 3 – Soulsucking
The first two Diablo-titles have a distinct style that is beautifully dark and emphasises on its sorrowful mood to create a world where hope is nothing but a spark. Diablo 3 neglects this for a brighter and more over the top style, that really comes forth as trying too hard. There is one thing about going with a different style despite being a sequel, but it is filled with attires and costumes that looks like the silliest of power armour from World of Warcraft. It actually makes the entire experience reminiscent of a free to play mobile game, that wants to seem mature and edgy.
However, that is just one reason for why Diablo 3 is on this list. What nailed it on number 7, is the lore everywhere that adds nothing of substance to the areas you are in. This comes from how nothing is believable, seeing as everyone is basically a demigod in pain. Combine this with a world that never becomes diverse or memorable, and scriptures that are hidden more often than not through menus, and I quickly lost interest in what was presented. Changes can be healthy, but this is lacking a coherent and steady tone, to the point where there must have been some kind of stubborn arguments between multiple creative minds.
#6 Viking: Battle for Asgard – Read a book
I do not mind artistic choices in order to make a product based on historical mythologies and cultures entertaining, as it can lead to some creative results. However, Viking: Battle for Asgard is just a lazy cash grab. This is a shallow take on Scandinavian mythology that relies on utilising vikings to sell its game, and it shows. There are only minor elements added to make this setup remotely accurate, like runes and mead, with very little insights to their importance. The rest this game offers for world-building is closer to none, as it just has you fighting undead warriors and summoning traditional dragons. The latter which was never a part of viking mythology.
It is impressive how this title never tried to make its lore seem interesting or use it for creative ideas. Even the world itself is bland and only uses gore to make itself seem cool. Every area is constructed of reused resources and has the bare minimum to be called an establishment. Sure, there are windmills or apiaries, but we never see them have clear uses for this world, just being told about them. This makes it all clearly a game you are playing with no immersion or elements to make you interested in this world. Through this, it has no respect for the northern mythologies or its players.
#5 Lords of the Fallen – Overcompensating
This entry is ridiculously funny to me. Imagine a combination of Warhammer 40K’s insanely decorated and big equipment, set in a world that is almost as “dark” as Diablo, add Dark Souls huge amount of lore, and then sprinkle some generic monsters in it all. That is Lords of the Fallen, a title I hoped was going to give me something that would make me appreciate its premise. It did to a certain degree, as it is an insane ride that made me believe this entire project was made to compensate for something. I am not sure what that was, but this game is as subtle as a hammer to the face.
It is surreal to witness rouges wearing what looks like heavy armour to fight uncreative monsters with or the numerous bizarre shortcuts that I cannot comprehend why were even made. Then we have the lore filling up this world and it is terribly presented throughout, as every long flavour text could have been shrunken down to one sentence easily. Even visually the game is trying too hard, with every construction being made out of strong bricks to seem religious and important, without them being so. It is all so awkwardly put together, that it actually makes me smile and laugh at it. Terrible in all the right ways.
#4 Stonekeep: Bones of the Ancestors – No effort
You might not have even known this title existed. It is understandable that making a sequel can be difficult, but even King’s Quest 8 or Ultima 9 cannot compete in what a train wreck of a sequel Stonekeep: Bones of the Ancestors is. Let us get over the poor technical presentation, as that is the least of our problems when we are talking about this adaptation of the world of Stonekeep. Even if the game is an insult to hard working developers to the point where it should never have existed, especially when considering the original being so full of charm.
There are no interesting characters or creatures to enhance this world, the wallpapers and floor repeats so often that just seeing the colour blue is a breath of fresh air, and the lore is completely shallow and thrown in. Even a story is barely presented, where the developers even misspelled the main villain’s name. There is no attempt here at even making something of substance, and when a dungeon crawler has nothing of interesting elements to its structure or the inhabitants, it will turn into a long hallway of tedium. It is sort of like explaining a stain on a napkin; do I really have to go in depth on this mess when you can just see it?
#3 Borderlands – Dick jokes everywhere
There is one thing being generic, tiresome or simply made with no effort. How about having all of that in your face uncomfortably? Like a teenager trying to be funny with vulgar jokes, the Borderlands series can be outright dreadful with its setup at times. Even if I enjoy Borderlands 2 and The Pre-sequel for their entertaining characters, it does not help when there are plenty of others that can be downright idiotic, loud or just forces gross elements on you in desperate attempts at being funny.
Mainly Borderlands 1 and 3 contained the worst elements of both worlds, with the original dragging on with tiresome lore and a bare-bones world, even for a wasteland. As a terrible form of contrast, the third numbered game contained a compilation of everything bad about the internet, including villains that I had no interest in getting to know and just wanted to shut up. This latest entry in the series could be argued for having the worst fantasy world of them all, as it just throws in different ideas based on other setups, like Japanese locations and swamps, only to see what sticks. It is all simply sluggish and tiresome, which can be worse than overcompensating or generic. Strange how Tales from the Borderlands actually had a good story.
#2 Darkened Skye – Ad: the game
Not surprised to see this one entering my scene of hate again. I wonder what else I can say about Darkened Skye that has not already been said. However, if we look at the world we have to deal with, it is a mess of ideas, terrible humour that easily makes me give up on the game entirely, and awkward characters that only serves as convenience for furthering the game. It is impressive how dumb the game thinks the audience is, but while it has no interesting creatures or cultures to speak of, it does not compare to why Darkened Skye was created.
You know how magic is a thing of wonder, right? It might have been passed down through historical writing, divine powers or even bloodlines to name some decent examples. Darkened Skye brushes those off as a stupid ideas and says Skittles are the source of magic. Indeed! This game was only made to promote Skittles through minimal work. Even if this was just a marketing tool, games like Chex Quest and Pepsi Man tried to provide entertainment despite advertising their products. Darkened Skye is just a hot flaming garbage that never cares about being interesting, a solid parody or anything that resembles quality.
#1 Advent Rising – A world not worth saving
Nothing angers me more than this title. Advent Rising takes the basic premise of Star Wars, and turns it into a messiah complex that has nothing of value to it. Everyone acts like the worst stereotypical college students, making every single person unlikable. This is to the point where it made me actually root for the villains instead, as they were at the very least intelligent creatures. If that was not enough, even the aliens are a lost opportunity to be interesting, as they are just fish people worshipping humans as gods. Even if they act like spoiled jocks.
The writing is all over the place in tone, and never with substantial value or character. That includes low humour anyone could come up with on the spot, forced love interests, terrible structure in storytelling, and characters that never think over this prophecy or the problems of being a god. Even the lore is as bland as the sterile buildings and the unimaginative attires. Every entry on this list had something that made me stop playing them and take a break. Advent Rising made me actively angry and hate how low of a bar creativity can have. This world is not worth saving and I am happy this title never got a sequel. That is why this is the worst fantasy world to me.
This was traumatic to relive. I am right now going to take a hot shower, look through my D&D books, and listen to the beautiful soundtrack of Phoenix Glendinning. Meanwhile, we need something positive about a controversial subject. Seeing as I need to clean away this awful stench of worlds I have been travelling to, I want my dear friend to elaborate on the best water levels in video games (in your humble opinion, of course). The only requirement I wish for your entries to have, is that you can swim in them.