Today I decided not to bother finishing Overlord II. This adds to a long list of recent games where I quite literally get to the final boss and say, "ehh, whatever. I'm done."
I'm trying to figure out why this is.
At first I thought it might be a singularly uncompelling narrative. There haven't been many modern games where I've actually said, "I wonder what happens next?" It's all too predictable, too pat. But that can't be it, because there are lots of older games where the narrative was even worse and I happily completed them. Like every JRPG since FFVI.
I think it's because I've been wounded to my very soul by cheap-ass cop-out endings that have nothing to do with the rest of the game.
It's this "good vs evil" crap, where you can be "good" or "evil". (Really, you can be "insufferable pansy" or "idiotic twelve-year-old pyromaniac".) These "choices" over the course of the game end up literally never mattering: at the end of the game you are ALWAYS allowed to choose ANY of the endings you prefer. I understand why the decision to do that was made, but it's a bad decision. It robs the ending of any meaning, any connection to what I've actually done over the course of the game. It gives me agency, and then spits in my face and tells me my choices don't matter, they never mattered.
I think that this has destroyed my respect for video game endings. I spent so long getting spat on by them that now I can't muster up any excitement over the idea of getting spat on again. Even if I know the game won't pull that cheap-ass idiocy, I'm still trained to hate.
Narrative can still be used to guide me through the end of the game, as Portal did. But it can't be a beacon at the end of the tunnel: it has to be a series of runner-lights that are with me the whole way. Because when I see the light at the end of the tunnel, I presume it's a giant bucket of spit.
The other factor here is one of gameplay. Modern games are much too long for the amount of gameplay they actually offer, with very few exceptions. Any way you cut it, when you're in the final level, there are no new avenues of play left to explore. So all the designers can do either is make things unreasonable, be boring, or both.
But I can't blame everything on final gameplay, because I frequently give up before I even see it.
Edit: Actually, I think the narrative thing really IS it. I think I've become trained to see when someone's pulling a "string of pearls" narrative design and instinctively distrust it. That gap between the pearls is very easy to see... so easy, you might not actually notice that you're noticing it.