VR gamers familiar with The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners will know how big of a deal the original release was. It completely flew under the radar and, when it came out, blew absolutely everyone away. I'm not alone in having called it the single best Quest 2 game since its debut for a reason.
So, when Chapter 2 is the game — that's the full sequel, not just a new piece of episodic content for the existing game — was announced in early 2022 for a late 2022 launch, the VR community got excited. But the game was a disaster when it launched, plagued by game-breaking bugs, glitchy graphics, and problems galore.
Surprisingly, a patch delivered not even three weeks after release made it finally worth playing and it proves a very important point: big games need more time in the oven and simply should not be rushed.
Amazingly enough, it has now replaced the original title on our list of best Quest 2 games available, but it wasn't without the developer spending extra time and money, and even eroding trust in its capabilities along the way.
Here's what happened
It all began in August 2022, when Skydance Interactive hosted a "hands-off preview" for members of the press. In essence, a hands-off preview is one in which the company hosts a live stream session of a developer playing through a portion of the game, typically holding a Q&A session once the presentation is over.
This is quite different from a hands-on preview where a developer would either host an in-person event or pass out demo copies of a game to the press to try themselves. In this case, the stream was pre-recorded and edited with a live Q&A after.
Hands-off previews aren't uncommon — I've attended several over the years, particularly since COVID — but they aren't common, either. Most of the time, a developer wants the press to form their own opinions of an upcoming game instead of riffing off what amounts to a glorified extended trailer.
On top of that, no specific release date had been spelled out at that time despite the fact that the year was more than half over and the game was still being promised by the end of 2022.
That's where my worry began but I held out hope because, as I said, hands-off previews aren't entirely uncommon and it's always wise for a developer to be at least a bit ambiguous about a game's release date if they aren't 100% certain it'll be done by then.
But then the game came out.
Leading up to the December 1, 2022 release of The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners - Chapter 2: Retribution (yes, it's quite a lengthy title), Android Central was told that Skydance Interactive wouldn't be offering review copies ahead of time "to ensure the highest-quality experience possible" for the final version of the game.
That's never something you want to be told as a gaming journalist. Sure enough, when the game was released on Dec 1 and we got our review copy on launch day as promised. Unfortunately, the game was extremely buggy to the point that I couldn't progress past the first mission because an important mission objective wouldn't load. That's on top of a bevy of other bugs that were well-documented on YouTube streams and review channels everywhere.
Needless to say, I pushed the review back until it was in a playable state. Thankfully, that day came just a few weeks after release.
Fixing the problem
Thankfully for Skydance Interactive — and the future of The Walking Dead in VR — the patch that fixed the game came just a few days before millions of gamers opened their Christmas presents.
We know that millions of Quest 2's were sold during this time and, given the high-profile nature of this game — including all the advertising dollars that went into its promotion — it's entirely likely that a lot of gamers picked it up on or after December 25.
I've put a fair number of hours into the game since the patch and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it has largely been fixed. I still ran into one game-breaking bug that caused me to have to restart a chapter — why this game doesn't have autosaves throughout a level is beyond my understanding — but, other than that, it's been a solid experience that's worthy of being called the sequel to the best single-player VR campaign of all time.
But Skydance Interactive had to spend a lot of time and money fixing a problem they could have prevented if they had just delayed the game a whopping three weeks. Once the patch dropped, we saw that Skydance sent out emails to a number of content creators asking for what was, essentially, an advertising campaign to re-promote the game now that it got fixed.
In essence, the developer spent not only extra money beyond its original development and marketing budget, but it eroded the trust it had built up in gamers' minds everywhere. Every VR gamer and gaming journalist I spoke to about the issue felt the same way I did about it. This is Skydance. How the heck could this happen to such an acclaimed developer?
I don't know who to blame and, to be fair, it's hard to know how to resolve this issue, but I do know that Skydance Interactive isn't alone here. Cyberpunk 2077's PS4 and Xbox One debut is quite possibly the worst in history for any high-profile game, delivering a game that was almost completely broken despite being in development for ages and being delayed several years before eventually being released.
If I'm going to be an armchair quarterback about it, the game never should have been released on hardware that's as old as the PS4 and Xbox One in the first place. Developer CD Projekt Red finally fixed it on those platforms but only after gimping the heck out of the driving experience so the city is a complete ghost town instead of a thriving metropolis, something that should have been flagged during testing as "not shippable."
On the flip side is Hogwarts Legacy, a game that's also been delayed several times and, with its most recent delay, is showing the PS4/Xbox One versions of the game coming out a few months after the PS5/Xbox Series X|S versions. The Switch version follows after those as it'll likely need the most TLC while being ported to such a substantially underpowered piece of hardware.
My hope here is that Hogwarts Legacy's developers have nailed the formula that should be followed by others for a big-name, multiplatform release. Without having played the final PS5 version of the game just yet, I cannot say for certain that this is the case but, based on lessons learned from Cyberpunk 2077's disastrous launch, it certainly gives me hope.
As for The Walking Dead in VR, let's just hope we don't see another one of these poor releases for fear of having the IP disappear entirely from virtual shelves. The Walking Dead Onslaught's horrendous release in 2020 — another VR game by a totally different developer — proved that Saints & Sinners was the exception in the world of big-name licensed IP games, not the norm.
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