Finish Them!

finishthem1While most gamers have to-play piles, and like to worry about them (while forever adding to them) others are infinitely more concerned about that irritating sub-pile: the half-played pile. This wretched heap consists of all those games that, for whatever reason, someone never got around to finishing. Mine is full of games that were too hard, and in which I got stuck or fed up, and then put aside; games that I rode into on the hype bandwagon and just as quickly slipped away from; games that were too involved for the time available to me; games that I stepped away from trying to finish and instead tried to work on achievements for (fatal stuff), and more.

From the days of the Spectrum onward (always forgivable to have a library of half-finished Speccy games – I swear that most were never meant to be completed. Booty, anyone?), through various SEGA and Nintendo consoles and handhelds, I have slowly accumulated a collection of half-played games. The PC and Amiga added to them and the more recent console generations have done the same.

Coming up to the end of the year, it occurred to me that I should set aside some of my newly acquired releases and attempt to knock down a few of the abandoned games that I had been meaning to finish for an age. Every time I had previously considered trying there was always something else to play, and it was easy to keep putting it off, but I decided to add that motivational kick: a time limit. I gave myself a month. One month in which to complete as many half-played games as I could. Framing the task as a sort of personal contest or race against time immediately made it appealing and do-able, and I began to make a long-list of games that had been left incomplete.


I quickly abandoned the NES/Master System and SNES/Mega Drive eras when I came across titles like Alex Kidd in Miracle World, Ecco the Dolphin, Desert Strike, Taz-Mania, The Addams Family, and The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants. Any of those games can fuck your life, your stress levels, and your sanity. They are difficult, unforgiving, and more draining than an hour with two toddlers and a bucket of Haribo. Secret of Mana, Terranigma, and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of  Ages, would take bloody forever. I quickly decided to jump ahead a few generations to find games that wouldn’t devour my month or see me hurl a console though a window and still yield no end screen.

finishthem3The PC presented other problems… strategy and management games. Those things can go on forever. There was no way I could devote my precious month to just playing Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, or Pharaoh, or Patrician III, or Rollercoaster Tycoon 2. If the idea was to knock down as many pins as possible with one month long bowl, then I needed to be more canny. I started looking at games that were more than halfway through, or that were likely to be short and could, therefore, be blasted through with no stumbling blocks (which left point and clicks out because I didn’t want to sit staring at a screen while a red mist of rage slowly descended because of an elusive solution to an obtuse or broken puzzle.)

The first game to be checked off my ‘finish them’ list was the easy LEGO Jurassic World. I only had a few chapters to go on the last film and, although it took a touch longer than I would have liked, it was soon done. One down. Although it may have spoiled the film for me (which was still on my to-watch pile at that time), I reasoned that it was worth it. However, given how recently it had made my half-played pile, it wasn’t a very satisfying completion.


So, for the next game, I went to the Xbox 360 heap and pulled out Bulletstorm. I had no idea why I had abandoned it in the first place – I remember enjoying it immensely – and it seemed like a great pick, especially as I was (or so I thought at the time) about half way through. I expected to spend a few brief evenings playing and have it ticked off my list in no time. Hah.

One of the problems with coming back to a half-played game is, essentially, starting again but from halfway through. I had no idea what the story had been, what the controls were, what weapons I had picked and why, and where I was headed. It took a while to reacclimatise – especially with the batshit-crazy stuff the game allows – but soon had my bearings, remembered how awesome Trishka was, and re-clicked with the glorious over-the-top insanity. I was soon happily steaming through the decaying city, kicking people into cacti, exploding them, or splatting them against ceilings. What also grabbed me was how gorgeous the game was – somehow I had forgotten.

finishthem5For a game that is unashamedly violent, bombastic and over the top, it lacks those fifty shades of brown and grey that often dominate the genre. Instead it boasts a rich palette of colour and texture: reds and greens, glass, chrome, electric blue, and more painting the world’s decaying grandeur and devastated hopes. It was a joy to move through, although, that being said, I spent most of my time hurtling through at breakneck pace, leashing, booting, and shooting. When I did occasionally stop to enjoy the view, it was expansive, vibrant, and impressive and I was grateful for it.

Days later, I was feeling rather more jaded as Bulletstorm still wasn’t over. From rooftops, to weird, underworld prison tunnels and toxic rivers, I’d seen most of what the planet had to offer and we still weren’t done. As much as I was enjoying myself and the endless aggro banter, I was becoming impatient to get the game checked off my list. Once we got into the ship and were away I thought it wouldn’t be long. And then we were back out and plummeting down to the planet’s surface. Are you shitting me? I found myself once again fighting my way through wrecked, crumbling buildings, scrambling against the clock to get off-world before we ended up dead. I breathed a sigh of relief when it was all over. And then felt sad that, after the end credits promised a lively follow up, we’d likely never see a sequel (but fingers crossed).


It may have taken longer than expected but I’m glad as hell that I got to tick this one off my list. Almost absurd, comical, and action packed, it wears its irreverent credentials on its suspiciously stained sleeve. Any dicktits who wants to be entertained for a handful of nights could do worse than to check it out if they haven’t already done so, and if you need more convincing then Tim goes into Bulletstorm in far more fantastic detail here.

finishthem7Borderlands was an even easier choice. Having played it on the PC to around the midway point some years ago and then drifted into trying for the Moxxi’s Underdome cheevies before moving on, I fancied heading back to Pandora to finish the job. And I did. My adventures and odd feeling I was left with are chronicled in another article, here, but I’m glad it’s done. It was a satisfying takedown and a long time coming, but nowhere near as long as the last and most important game I suspected I could fit in in the dying days of my lone month. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.

Oblivion was my first Xbox 360 love and the game that drew me, body and soul, to that console. It was the game that gave me some of my best memories and my first ever achievement, and I was desperate to finally finish it after all these years. If it is one of my all-time favourite games, then why hadn’t I completed it? Pottering. Faffing. Collecting and storing magical weapons, meandering around the countryside, raiding forts, killing bandits, finding Nirnroots, and completing the occasional quest. When I got sidetracked by the guild quests early on, the main one fell by the wayside and lay forgotten, even once the guilds were finished. It wasn’t that the main quest wasn’t absorbing, it’s just that I didn’t enjoy it as much as the others, and the thought of having to tackle any more Oblivion gates filled me with simultaneous dread and laziness. Urgh. Really. More red, more fire, more grotesque imagery and places that certainly have a suspect Trip Advisor rating. And,  given my level, the enemies would be dicks. And I had to do a fuck-ton of those gates because that was what was between me and the end game.


Or was it. I checked the guide and, actually, I could skip most of the gates. I’d already taken down Skingrad, Kvatch, and some other place. At first I thought they would be worth it, as I am a sucker for a bunch of spiddal sticks in a pretty vase and a backpack full of magical weapons, and I knew that there were a few Easter eggs lurking in some of the gates. But I’d have to make the effort. And I didn’t want to do the damn gates. I decided that, since I was supposed to be a stealth character, I should just play to type. I did the Bravil gate at a run, making judicious use of an invisibility spell and blasted the nuts off the gate in pretty good time. Hurrah, Nirnroot Pimms all round. I really didn’t fancy the others though, so in shocking not-very-heroic style, I blew them off. Sorry Cheydinhal, Anvil, and the rest of you, but I was busy trying to cram half a dozen outsized pieces of weaponry into a jewellery box in an attempt to clear my backpack.

finishthem9I skipped past the remaining gates and, guessing I had gathered enough troops for Martin’s cause, went straight for the big scrap. Only I couldn’t because I had forgotten that I hadn’t yet retrieved the armour of Tiber Septim. What the hell had I been doing when I’d last properly played it, years ago? Why hadn’t I got that already? Fuck sake. I speedran an Ayleid ruin because I didn’t fancy fighting zombies and wraiths, and got it sorted. On the way I also picked up (read: graverobbed) some nifty ancient gear for my house in Skingrad. Hoping that my housekeeper would have some ancient alchemy or at least a tin of Pledge to get rid of the smell of angry skeleton from the gear, I dropped it off and sauntered back to Martin.

I admit to having butterflies before kicking off the endgame stuff. Watching Martin give his speech before the Oblivion gates opened and spewed forth their legions was a memorable moment. Then I remembered that he was voiced by Sean Bean and knew that if I didn’t accidentally take him out with friendly fire, some other bastard would probably snuff him before the day was done. We slashed and spell-cast our way through Oblivion’s not-so-finest, and then I headed into the Great Gate. Which was on a timer. Superrrb. Because if there is anywhere I can and will get lost it’s an Oblivion gate. Could be worse, though, I could get lost in my own museum or something. Anyway… I ran. And cloaked myself. And mistimed a jump and landed in some lava from a great height – or was that in the Bravil gate? Anyway, I made the Sigil Stone in good time and shut that thing down, but it wasn’t over yet.


I had to venture into Mankar Camoran’s Paradise in order to retrieve an amulet, only for a droning megalomaniac to begin giving the world’s longest and most irritating speech. I wanted to get out of there just to make it stop. It was as off-putting as Donald Trump wearing Piers Morgan’s face. After finally finding and killing Camoran it was off to the Imperial City for some armageddon. Stuff happened, a handful of people turned up to attack the city (but mainly us), and then the end thing occurred. And that was it. Aside from some armour that I had to wait a fortnight of in-game time for (and wasn’t as cool as the stuff I’d long ago enchanted for myself) it was done. The game I had started around a decade ago was finished.

I didn’t really know what to do at first. Suddenly, I was without real purpose. Whereas before I always had the main quest waiting patiently in the wings while I messed about, now there was nothing. Oh, there were quests aplenty in my inventory, but the game itself, the main narrative was finished, and it was strange. I felt oddly pointless in a world that was already moving on. Taking a last look at what became of our last stand, I set off and wandered through the city, dragging a comet trail of nostalgia and melancholy behind me. I remembered when I stole food from every room in that inn, when I broke into that house and tried to pickpocket the sleeping owner, when I found out Thoronir’s dirty scheme, when the door to the Mystic Emporium glitched and refused to open at any time of the day, leaving me to break in just to legitimately buy stuff… and so it went on.

finishthem11I eventually ended up standing in the Imperial Market District, where much of my early time during the game had been spent, rummaging through boxes and barrels, trying to salvage enough bric-a-brac to sell in order to afford some armour and a few arrows or repair hammers. My coinpurse was now more than copious but, back then, every piece of gold counted. Back then the world was full and exciting; it was tough and a struggle, and I had to earn and/or scavenge and steal everything. And I loved it. Now things were greyer somehow. Sadder. I pulled open a few crates and took a bolt of folded cloth, a silver plate, and a lockpick for old times’ sake. And then I walked away. Not my character, me.

I left her where I had spent so much time, in the place I loved most, the heart of the Imperial City, watched over by legends, a legend myself, but feeling very out of place and adrift in a suddenly less-full world. Oblivion was complete and I was done. After hundreds of hours, over many years, I was finished. I quit out, smiled for a minute at the music that never fails to move me, and then shut down the Xbox 360. Perhaps I’ll go back, in the future, and finish some of the quests I still have hanging around, but perhaps not. At the moment, I can’t face it, somehow.

A strange part of me wishes that I still had it to do, that it was still sitting there, full of potential, the grand quest yet to be completed, but I am glad I saw it to the end. I may have accidentally offed Martin with the sword of Umbra after the tit got in my way during a scrap, I may have rushed the last parts of the quest line, and I may have denied myself some top loot from a number of Oblivion gate Easter eggs, but I wouldn’t take away the achievement. It was worth it. And with it ended my experiment.


While completing just four games on my half-played pile wasn’t much, it felt like a lot. Oblivion was the grand, shamefully unfinished one, Bulletstorm was the piece of fun that didn’t want to end, and Borderlands was well past due. LEGO Jurassic World was just something I wanted done and was there to make up the numbers. There were certainly many more I could have worked on, but they would have taken a hell of a lot longer. Besides, they’re there for another time. And there will be one, because I’m pleased that setting myself a timeframe helped me to actually knock down a number of titles and earn some sense of closure for the stories and characters, and a feeling of satisfaction. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some folded cloth and a silver plate to sell.

Last five articles by Lorna



  1. Rook says:

    I thought you had completed Oblivion a number of times already and was surprised to see this mentioned. I’ve went back and finished games partially played and know how good it feels to have them complete. Although I still need to go back and finish a Professor Layton game which has been wanting progress for about 2 years.

    Well done on clearing some of the backlog.

  2. Richie richie says:

    Great article, Lorn. That’s pretty good progress too.

    Over Xmas I had nine days off work and was determined to butcher my pile of half-completed games. In the end I managed two. Bah!

    Bulletstorm was indeed fab.

  3. Stu Stu says:

    I need to do this. Elite: Dangerous has swallowed me whole and my pile grows ever larger with the recent deluge of releases. Many of those games are not short ones either, with Wasteland 2, Just Cause 3, Divinity Original Sin all in the mix.

    I loved Bulletstorm, it was such a shame so few others had it…a completed game but never managed to fully max the achievements thanks to multiplayer.

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