by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 7th March, 2019
Janky, buggy, overly ambitious, and always trying to be overachievers. Eurojank games usually come with lots of rough edges but many are a blast to play.
Eurojank is a term used for a specific type of games that are trying to go way over their budget and to come stuffed with features that more often than not don't work as intended. They are ambitious with (usually) complex gameplay but the lack of time and budget results in lots of bugs and glitches, poor optimization, ugly and user unfriendly interface, and a general lack of polish. In other words, most Eurojank titles are games where developers bite off more than they can chew but in some cases that didn't stop them from creating marvelous experiences.
These games are usually made by Eastern European studios on a tight budget but the term can be used for all janky games that still provide lots of fun. In the past, these games were limited to the PC but in recent years we've seen more and more Eurojank games landing on consoles. Games like Metro Exodus, Risen, and Elex broke the PC barrier and can be found on consoles but most titles can only be played on a PC.
The most recognizable Eurojank title is Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl, which is closely followed by ARMA series of games. But Stalker is the epitome of Eurojank. A game made by an independent studio on a tight budget that took almost a decade to complete.
A title that tackles many ambitious goals not achievable by many AAA games of the time - open world gameplay, ambitious story, lots of gameplay mechanics that sometimes simply break under the pressure resulting in a ton of bugs, detailed world that looks and feels better than in many AAA titles, and a plethora of stuff to do in addition to a huge number of NPCs populating the ruined world of the game. All this made the first Stalker one of those cult titles that aren't too famous but that are worshipped by many gamers.
These days the market is clearly divided into AAA and indie scene so there are less Eurojank games than before (most of these games could be considered as AA games, and that market is virtually dead today) but nevertheless, these games live on and some of them are still a blast to play. Of course, most Eurojank titles are utter crap not worthy of anyone's time but when they work they are fun as hell.
Check out some of the best Eurojank games that will sometimes make you angry because of the sheer number of glitches but most of the time you will be lost inside their worlds that are exciting and filled with excellent atmosphere and a ton of swag. The list includes games mostly made by European studios but I included one title that definitely falls into this category even though it has been made by a famous studio based in North America.
The poster child of the whole "movement," Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl is a perfect example of a Eurojank game. It was in development for almost a decade and during the time developers had to cut a bunch of features in order to finish the game.
The original vision included full open world with a bunch of factions that fought, traded, broke treaties, and did all sorts of things in the game in real time along with usage of vehicles and other advanced mechanics that should've made the world of Stalker a living, breathing place where player is simply a small cog of a much larger machinery.
But, all those features were cut because if they were included the game would need another decade and a much bigger budget in order to be finished. But even its cut down form Stalker became one of the best open world survival shooters of all times.
Vast maps that were interconnected, amazing visuals that showed Chernobyl plant and the whole irradiated "Zone" around it in striking detail, excellent survival gameplay, advanced enemy AI, lots of weapons, chilling horror atmosphere with some scenes making you not scream but simply freeze in fear, and an amazing story with a couple of unexpected plot twists (like the fact that the game featured half a dozen endings out which only one was true) were the main strengths of the game.
On the other side of the scale, we had a ton of bugs. Some missions couldn't be finished (luckily, all of those were side adventures), many NPCs would simply freeze instead of following you, there were lots of graphical glitches, and optimization was horrid to put it lightly. Luckily, fans of the game created many mods and patches that, over time, made the first Stalker a stable and bug-free game it is today.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zzDGh9LFTw
The second part of the series was a complete failure because GSC Game World (the developers of the game) tried to implement some features that had to be cut from the first game. That caused Stalker: Clear Sky to launch as a completely busted title that doubled the amount of bugs found in the original.
You could get stuck on the map, get caught in random objects and invisible walls, many missions (main ones, just to be clear) lacked markers so you had to improvise and manually discover mission locations.
Other missions couldn't be finished, and a couple of those were main ones. Other game breaking bugs included repeated crashes, AI that would sometimes simply shut down preventing NPCs to speak with you, give you missions, or simply allow you to finish them, and items regularly dissapering from your backpack, which was exceptionally frustrating. The game was a complete bust but the sad truth is that, during rare moments when everything worked as intended, Stalker: Clear Sky was a blast to play.
And then the third and final game, Stalker: Call of Pripyat, came and it was a triumph of game design.
The open world worked excellently, added gameplay features were implemented without making the game unstable, optimization was much better than in last two games (although not perfect), and the game was overall pretty polished. But of course, this also was a classic Eurojank title with various visual glitches, lots of clipping, poor animation, and a couple of mission bugs. But the game was great fun and almost as good as the first one.
Metro Exodus, the latest from the series, can be considered as a proper AAA game. It had a big budget, it was promoted all over the place, and the production is on a pretty high level. But the other two games from the series were classic Eurojank titles, especially the first one. Metro 2033 was built inside an advanced engine that allowed developers to implement a bunch of next-gen features and because of that, the game worked at snail's pace on consoles.
PC wasn't much better and despite the fact that the game looked marvelous for the time optimization was definitely subpar. Other glitches included sound problems, various bugs happening all over the game, bad animations, horrid voice work, and overall poor production. But Metro 2033 was an excellent game that emphasized its horror atmosphere, survival mechanics, and cutting edge visuals.
Metro Last Light had a noticeably larger budget but the game still lacked in some departments, like many other Eurojank titles. Optimization was, again, lousy on consoles and on PC the game worked much better than its predecessor except when on surface levels, where the game staggered to keep steady frame rate.
General gameplay bugs were in much smaller numbers but the production again showed that the budget wasn't been huge. Still, Metro Last Light was better than the first game and it paved the way for Metro Exodus, the first AAA title of the series.
Metro Exodus incorporated pseudo open-world environments and is by far the biggest game of the series but still, early versions of the game suffered from graphical glitches and random crashes. Optimization is still all over the place. Luckily, console versions work much better than the first two titles.
You get stuck on various objects while traversing the world of Metro Exodus but a quick jump solves all of your problems. Shotguns sometimes fail to hit targets from point-blank range, and the glitch can be problematic for those playing on hard difficulty because you're always short on ammo. There are other noticeable glitches and shortcomings (like the awful boats that move slower than glaciers) but overall Metro Exodus is an excellent horror FPS that's definitely worth its price.
The first two Gothic games were, along with The Elder Scrolls games, some of the earliest examples of fully 3D open-world RPGs. They were a sort of sleeper hits but both games suffered from all kinds of bugs, glitches, and poor design choices.
Quests that couldn't be finished, awful controls, graphical glitches, poor optimization, and RPG gameplay that was at times simply too complex to enjoy were the main faults of Gothic 1 and 2. But both games were excellent open world RPGs with Gothic 2 being considered as one of the best open world RPG games and one of the main sources of inspiration for developers of hits like The Witcher, Dark Souls, and more.
Then Gothic 3 came out and it was clear that developers tried to make the biggest open world RPG of all times and failed horribly. The game was practically unplayable for at least a year.
The main problem was the poor optimization and awful code that made the game to crash all the time and to stutter non-stop while areas around the player loaded in background. The game ran in 20 frames per second even on most powerful machines of the time! And then we have thousands of quest and world-related bugs that killed the motivation for even the biggest fans of the series to keep playing. In the end, developers and publisher gave up and abandoned the game and it was up to the community to make it better.
The huge fan-made patch gradually improved Gothic 3 until it became playable but the game suffers from micro stutters even today, even if you play it on a Core i9 combined with RTX 2080 Ti and 32 gigs of RAM! But the world and story are amazing, the combat is satisfying and there are tons of superb quests, all of which makes Gothic 3 a blast to play even today, despite the fact that the game is still janky as hell.
Risen is one of those Eurojank titles that don't suffer from a plethora of bugs that can be game breaking, or from visual glitches and poor optimization. No, this game is still an excellent RPG and all of its shortcomings are caused by poor production values.
This spiritual successor to Gothic 3 looked okay when it came out; it was colorful with solid visuals and long draw distances. It ran great, even on moderate PCs for the time (Risen came out in 2009). The basic RPG leveling system was super addictive and the story was actually not too shabby. Quests were interesting and the game world was filled with mysterious locations that hid lots of cool gear that couldn't be found by simply following the main quest line.
But the game suffered from poor animations, lack of details on models, especially those of human NPCs that talked with your characters, and from hideous voice acting.
Further, the combat was laughable, with strong and weak attacks along with the block that made it super simple but also not very enjoyable. These rough edges made Risen to fall below its true potential but despite them, the game ended as another cult classic Eurojank RPG many still love to play even today. Sadly, the next two games were utter disappointments and are not worthy of a mention.
I still remember playing Two Worlds, being enchanted by the addictive RPG gameplay, by pretty visuals even though artistically, the game looked like someone tried to place all of the world's cultures on a tiny map resulting in a total mess where you had a forest that was suddenly turning into a desert, with medieval castles that hosted Samurai warriors, and other bizarre artistic decisions.
The game also featured a convoluted story but the phenomenal leveling system, great loot system, solid combat, and the sheer number of enjoyable quests made me play the game for hours each day.
I laughed at bugs and disregarded them; I looked away from jaggy animations and horrid facial animations; I didn't want to admit that the game is basically a poor man's Gothic 3 (but one that actually works). I enjoyed it for about a week before the game simply kicked me in the face.
During one late game main quest I stumbled upon a game breaking bug that made me hate the game like no other. Inside some desert area (that was cut from the rest of the map by poorly looking mountain range) I had to find and kill a white dragon in order to collect some item that would allow me to progress the story (I don't remember what the damn dragon carried). Anyway, the first encounter ended with dragon simply disappearing from thin air after I hit him a couple of times.
Then I searched for him for about an hour all over the desert and he was nowhere to be found. Finally, I loaded the previous save that allowed me to find the dragon and kill him. And then I realized he didn't have anything on him so I loaded the same save for at least a dozen times, each time killing the dragon and finding out that he doesn't carry the item I needed.
I finally went online and discovered that the bug was common for the game and that the patch is on its way. The patch came but it fixed nothing. That's Eurojank for you; a great game with poor production values marred by bugs and if you're unlucky enough you will encounter a game-breaking one that will turn all that joy and good times into fury.
But if you're lucky you will be frustrated with the jerkiness but will finish the game and will love it despite its (many) shortcomings. Luckily, Two Worlds is the only good Eurojank game that treated me with a game breaking bug.
Alpha Protocol was made by Obsidian, RPG masters located in the USA but the game is, by all means, a classic example of a great Eurojank game. The premise is pretty cool and not something you would expect from a classic RPG game.
An exciting techno-thriller story that includes lots of spies, black ops missions, hidden agendas, plot twists, and tons of excellent dialogs. Next, the RPG system used in the game was also great, with lots of cool abilities and skills, excellent leveling system, and perfect pace when it comes to earning experience. But the game suffered greatly from poor QA and low budget.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyD62XH-Tl0
To say that Alpha Protocol is janky would be an understatement. The game was full of bugs and while some players finished the game without problems others faced game breaking glitches that ruined their game. Visual glitches were also in large numbers but poor animation was probably the most hilarious part of Alpha Protocol.
That duck walk crouch animation became sort of famous because it looked like something pulled off from some poorly executed asset swapping "video game." Gameplay was also subpar, with atrocious gunplay and unsatisfying weapons but on the other hand, exploration was addictive and the game offered plenty of unique locations.
At the end of the day, Alpha Protocol is another excellent Eurojank game, only this time made by US developers. The game showed that quality Eurojank title doesn't need to have any connection with Europe.
Cryostasis was a sleeper hit of 2008 made by relatively unknown Ukrainian studio. The game is a mix between an FPS and a survival horror that takes place on an abandoned ship deep inside the polar circle. The atmosphere is stunning and the game used all graphical bells and whistles of the time.
Snow and ice were especially beautiful, looking like real things with advanced shading techniques like high def reflections and next-gen specular effects. Further, Cryostasis didn't suffer from any serious graphical glitches and the game ran pretty well on most machines. It didn't even have any serious bugs that could ruin the whole experience.
Nevertheless, the game is Eurojank because of its poor production values and other stuff that made it janky but incredibly enjoyable. Guns behaved like airsoft rifles and their sounds effects weren't any better.
Voice acting was horrible at best, done with zero emotions. The UI was ugly like it came from 1995 and movement was so slow that your hero felt like he moved across a swamp, his boots stuck in sticky mud all the time. Oh, and enemy AI was virtually nonexistent. On the other hand, enemies were chillingly frightful, the unique time-bending gameplay was perfect for telling the game's story, and the story was so good it deserved to be used in some high budget Sci-Fi title.
And sound design only increased the fright level, which was already pretty high even before you heard hellish shrieks of undead enemies. Yes, Cryostasis suffered from poor production values but everything else made the game one of the most unique horror games ever made.
ARMA games are, in addition to Stalker, the best-known examples of excellent Eurojank content. The first title came from then completely unknown Czech studio that didn't have any prior experience in making games.
They wanted to give the world a hardcore military shooter and boy do they delivered. Regarded as one of the most realistic shooters of all times Operation Flashpoint garnered cult status among gamers who wanted a proper sim shooter. Tactical approach to every mission, huge open world maps (which was impressive back in 2001), and unrelenting focus on ruthless realism garnered the game a huge military fanatics following.
Operation Flashpoint offered never seen before hardcore military simulation but the game was janky as hell. A huge number of bugs that waited to bite you at every corner and unreasonably complex control scheme put everyone except hardcore virtual soldiers away from the game. The lack of a proper campaign and the worst UI you've seen in any game, ever, also hurt the overall experience. But the game gained cult status just a few years after release because it offered a sense of realism like no other shooter on the market.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QT71wwriBqk
And then Bohemia Interactive (developers) and Codemasters (publisher) crossed spears and parted ways so the former had to create a new IP (Operation Flashpoint was and still is owned by Codemasters) so they decided to call new games ARMA, which is short for Armed Assault.
The first ARMA wasn't welcomed positively but the two sequels returned the glory days of the original Operation Flashpoint. Huge, sprawling open world maps set in fictional countries (ARMA 2) and Islands (ARMA 3) were perfect sets for large scale armored warfare depicted in both games. Sure, campaigns were again pretty uninspiring but the fan base made a huge number of mods that provided hundreds of hours of realistic warfare along with cool stories.
And yes, all three games kept the signature issues (or features maybe?) in form of a huge number of bugs, atrociously complex controls (each game is using literally every key on the keyboard for various controls), and equally atrocious UI that looks like a complex Excel sheet superimposed on top of the screen (really, user interface in ARMA games is probably the ugliest UI I have ever seen in a game) but since the level of realism was (and still is) unmatched they are still the holy grail of gamers who like their shooters to be as real as real life, but somehow even more complex.
What, the Witcher is on this list? Yep, the first Witcher was a perfect example of an incredibly enjoyable Eurojank title. The game offered an adult-themed story without simple division to good and bad guys, it had beautiful visuals that made the world of the Witcher dreamy and ruggedly realistic at the same time, its rhythm turn-based combat was enjoyable (at least to me, most players hated it) but weird at the same time, and the storytelling was better than in 99 percent of other RPG games.
All this quickly made the Witcher one of the best RPGs of 2007 but the game was also known for its instability. It would crash pretty often, performance was all over the place, bugs kept some side quests from being finished (but luckily main quests worked excellently), and the UI left lots to be desired. Yes, the first Witcher was definitely Eurojank but it was sweet as honey.
And unlike most other games on this list, The Witcher received a special edition of the game about a year and a half after the original release that fixed almost every weak thing found in the game. Bugs were squashed, the engine was tightly optimized, and the UI was improved (although it remained a complete opposite of user friendly).
It was amazing to see developers who actually cared so much about their game and their fans they spent nearly a whole year polishing their game until it shined so brightly it simply couldn't be called Eurojank anymore. The second Witcher also was a bit janky and buggy but it was far from being called Eurojank, and from then on CD Projekt RED became one of the most lovable video game developers in the world, and they managed to vindicate all that love and trust with each game they published since the original Witcher.