Welp, it is the time of year again where everyone is throwing out their game of the year picks and all that jazz. I’ve not really been updating this blog too well, but I figured I’ll type out a little bit about what my top games of the year are. The reason I’m just doing “top games” instead of “Game of the Year” is because this year it is really difficult for me to pick what game I think is the overall best. So many new IPs, incredible upgrades on existing franchises, and unique gameplay experiences happened this year. What I’m going to do is a “top 5″ and then follow that with some honorable mentions (Note: None of this is in any particular order). Every single game I’m going to make note of in this post is worth every dime you could possible spend on it. With that being said, let us dive right into it.
XCOM Enemy Unknown
XCOM Enemy Unknown is a perfect change of pace from your standard mindless AAA shooters and action games that tend to come out every year. It forces players to intelligently think about how they go about every detail in the game. I’m not talking about just combat here, I mean everything. Macromanaging your base is just as important in XCOM as the micromanagment of your troops in battle scenarios. Thinking about where to allocate your resources in the early part of the game is the difference between being prepared for everything to come at you, or scrambling to keep yourself in the game with a steady flow of resources. The grid based strategy action is also extremely well done and works perfectly on any platform that the game is played on (I actually played the game on the Xbox 360 mostly, and never had any issues). Aside from the superb mechanics, XCOM also has a good story to progress through that has you doing a lot of unique things during combat missions. All in the name of science and survival! If you’re looking for a unique turn based strategy game with tons of depth, look no further than XCOM Enemy Unknown. Easily one of the best games to release in 2012.
Note: XCOM Enemy Unknown also features a rather unique “Warhammer” tabletop style multiplayer mode. I just can’t really comment on it because I’ve not played any of the multiplayer yet =X.
The Walking Dead
Two words best describe Telltale Games’ episodic The Walking Dead: “Them Feels.” As I understand it, The Walking Dead the game is a prequel to AMC’s The Walking Dead TV show, which is an adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic book. Now, with all of that out of the way, The Walking Dead the game is one of the best story driven games you could possibly play. Just about every choice in the game is specifically designed to tap into some sort of emotion. Choices like picking a specific person to save, or taking supplies at someone else’s misfortune are all designed evoke an emotional feeling players. Whether it be guilty, angry, frustration, shock, or anything else I guarantee that you’ll come out of each episode of the 5 episode series knowing what I mean when I say “Them Feels.” I really wish I could say more, or give examples, but literally every decision and every little detail about this game can be a spoiler. Suffice it to say that this is one of the best story driven games I’ve ever played. Telltale learned from previous titles like Jurassic Park: The Game and other hits in the genre like Heavy Rain and vastly improved the formula. At only around $25, this is a steal for one of the best games in 2012. EVERYONE should play this.
FarCry 3 was a massive pleasant surprise for me. I was on the fence about getting it and playing it because of how little I’ve heard about it from Ubisoft. However, when I got my hands on a copy and started playing it, I was hooked. There are a bunch of things that set this game apart from your standard military guy blasting stuff away. First and foremost is that the main character, Jason Brody isn’t really the “shooter bro” type. Jason is actually more of the really annoying preppy frat kid type. So naturally Jason starts off a little whiny and having to progress into toughing up a bit. It is a little weird how he basically goes from whiny rich kid to stealthy pirate killer in the course of a couple of days, but that is a little nit-picky. The open world aspects of the game are awesome too. The organic feel of the FarCry 3 rival that of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. There were many times where I would be setting up to liberate a stronghold (Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood style) and a creature of some sort would meander in and spice things up a bit. The majority of the predatory creatures (Tigers/Bears/Komodo Dragons/Dingos/etc) will just attack anything that moves. I’ve also been in fights with some of those same creatures while hunting that would end up on the road. Then, out of nowhere, some bad guys would speed down the road and accidentally run over the creature I was fighting while they began to try to shoot me down. Stuff like that just happened, unscripted. It really made the island feel a bit more chaotic and alive. Probably the biggest thing that sets FarCry 3 out from the rest of the shooters out there is its story and how it plays with the theme of insanity and changes in mental state. You see it very obviously in the antagonist Vaas. However, you also see Jason’s personality slowly change. Jason will also start to question himself, and it leads to some interesting plot points. Aside from that, the FarCry 3 has stellar gameplay, amazing visuals, and loads to do. The cooperative missions weren’t anything fantastic but it was a nice touch, and I’ve not touched any of the PVP multiplayer so I can’t really comment on that. However, if you want an amazing single player shooter experience, you should definitely check out FarCry 3. It is definitely the best shooter to come out this year.
Next on the list we’ve got Dishonored, an action-stealth-first-person-adventure-thing. So yea, Dishonored doesn’t really fall under any specific genre of game. It has a lot of different genres blended into it to make a really awesome experience with a lot of replayability. You’ll see a lot of inspiration from other games in Dishonored. It has some Bioshock, some Half-Life 2, some Assassin’s Creed, and a little bit of Fable thrown in. None of that is a bad thing. Everything about Dishonored is designed in such a way that there are multiple ways to accomplish any task. Whether brute force, stealth, pacifism, or violence is your thing, Dishonored gives you a way to complete a task. The introduction of the “Chaos” mechanic even has the city of Dunwall changing to how tasks are completely. If you’re ultra violent, Dunwall will start to have more enemies and unpleasant things about due to the high amounts of chaos you’ll be generating from leaving all the bodies around. Alternatively, you can go through the entire game without killing a single person. The amount of Chaos one stir’s up also affects the game’s ending (there are 3 separate endings I believe). Dishonored’s story is also very good. Centered around Corvo Attano’s needing to prove he didn’t murder the empress, his revenge of the people who did murder the empress, and his role in protecting the empress’ daughter Emily. The story as a whole was very good, and you add all the stuff I already mentioned to that and you’ve got an awesome game.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
And finally, our last game in the top 5. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an amazing Action/RPG title. Imagine the open world aspects of Skyrim with the combat mechanics of God of War inside of a fantastic fantasy world with thousands of years of story written by R.A. Salvatore. There are a lot of epic quests lines, one shot quests, and the overall story is amazing. There are tons of things to do in the world and tons of depth. Not just depth in the world though, the RPG and crafting systems also offer tons of depth. You can mix and match class from a standard “pure” warrior/rogue/mage type to hybrid rogue/mage rogue/warrior warrior/mage too. And these hybrid “classes” even give extra benefits. It is all an awesome system on top of a deep world setting with great game play and fantastic lore. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning hasn’t gotten the recognition it deserve this year. Any RPG or Action game fans will love this game. I wrote a full review for Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning over at InteractiveDistractions.com.
That is my top 5 list for this year. If you’ll notice, all of those except FarCry 3 are brand new video game IPs. Which is awesome for the industry this late in the current console life cycle. It goes to show that new IPs can still do really good. Hopefully production companies will be a little less scared of releasing some new IPs next year and we can see some more awesome games come our way.
These 5 games aren’t the only good games this year though. Here are all the honorable mentions I can think of. Every one of these is worth your money (again in no particular order):
- Assassin’s Creed 3
- Borderlands 2
- Mass Effect 3
- Darksiders 2
- Halo 4
- Tales of Graces F
- Mark of the Ninja
- Sleeping Dogs
- Dragon’s Dogma
- Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
- Legend of Grimrock
- Spec Ops: The Line
I’d also like to make a note for Doom 3 BFG Edition and Zone of the Enders HD Collection. They’re not new games, but did come out this year. They’re both totally worth playing through.
Couple things to note: 1) I didn’t get a chance to play a lot of Indie games this year, so a lot of the new indie games aren’t on my list because I don’t really have an opinion of them (I think FTL and Lone Survivor are the ones I haven’t had a chance to play that got good marks). 2) I don’t own a Wii or a 3DS. I’m kind of starting to get interested in playing some of the Nintendo games again, but I don’t really care too much about them.
Thoughts? Opinions? Shout at me! Leave a comment here or yell at me on Twitter!