Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 In (My) Gaming

I played a lot of games this year, but very few were actually released this year, so I can't do a traditional GOTY sort of thing.  So let's instead talk a bit about all the games I finished this year (although I may be forgetting one or two), ranked from best to bester.  Obviously this list should be taken as completely subjective.



LIMBO
[Insert snarky joke about yet another indie artsy physics puzzle platformer] LIMBO was a game that really stood up more on atmosphere than gameplay.  The gameplay wasn't particularly bad, but it was just very average physics puzzles.  Not nearly as interesting as something like Vessel.  The atmosphere, however, was absolutely fantastic.  It's rare to find a legitimately creepy sidescrolling platformer, but LIMBO is one.  Arachnophobes stay away.  Sadly, the game's atmosphere takes a dip after you leave the forest and it never quite recovers.

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

*Sigh*  I love The Longest Journey.  The sequel...  Well, it's still got a great story, but it is sooo boring.  There are no puzzles, very little interaction, and some extremely mediocre combat and stealth sequences.  I know you're a good writer and all, Ragner Tornquist, but try to keep in mind the game part of your games next time.  Speaking of which, the TLJ series has some bizarre sequel naming.  The first game is The Longest Journey.  Second is Dreamfall: The Longest Journey.  And the eventually-coming-out-episodic-trequal is Dreamfall Chapters.  It's got this weird title migration thing going on.


Stacking

Any legitimate criticism I might have of Stacking is blown away by how relentlessly charming it is.  Okay, it's rather easy.  It's short, too.  Maybe slightly overpriced.  The controls can be a bit iffy initially.  But I don't care!  It's too charming!  You win this round, DoubleFine.  Review.

The Secret Of Monkey Island

The special edition, to be specific.  There's not much to say about Monkey Island that hasn't been said a billion times.  It's funny, it's got some wonky puzzles, it's fairly short.  It's a classic.  Possibly a slightly overrated classic, but a classic all the same.


Mount & Blade: Warband

One of the best sandbox games, and probably the best medieval combat game.  It's a true sandbox game, you're just plopped down and can basically do whatever you want.  Want to be a trader?  Go ahead.  Bandit?  Sure!  Mercenary?  Why not?  Soldier?  Alright.  King?  Eventually!  It's kind of like Sid Meier's Pirates, but on land and a fair bit deeper.  Of course, the sandboxy-ness means it can feel a bit aimless at times, and peace time can be kind of boring.  Still, it's great.  There also tons and tons of great mods for the game.


Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Civilization III, Civilization IV, and Civilization IV: Colonization

I'm putting all of these down in one entry to save space, because we've still got quite a while to go.  They're all justifiable classics, which most people probably know a fair bit about.  Out of all of these, my favorite is Alpha Centauri.  I like how it takes the core Civ gameplay and adds some interesting new ideas like native life forms and terraforming.  Also, a surprisingly good story, with interesting philosophical underpinnings.  Also, GOG recently added the Alien Crossfire expansion for free to Alpha Centauri, so now it's even more awesome.

Fallout

Another classic RPG.  Short and tight, with a good variety of choice, a great world, and a fantastic character building system.  I like the AP-style combat system in theory, but it can be annoyingly slow-paced when lots of characters are around, and you being able to only control yourself means there's not that much real strategy to combat.  Still, I mean, it's Fallout.  It's a fully justifiable classic.


FTL - Faster Than Light

Fun fun fun rogue-like-like.  Challenging, random, and rewarding.  Great for those who like rogue-likes, those who like sci-fi, or those who just want something different and unforgiving.  Not for those who get frustrated easily, however.  Let's Play.


Psychonauts

Charm so charming I bought it twice!  Well kind of.  I got it when it was on sale on Amazon, and then as part of the HumbleBundle.  Psychonauts is probably DoubleFine's best work.  Wonderfully funny and charming, but with some pretty dark undercurrents.  As is Tim Schafer's style, even the most minor characters have unique, interesting personalities.  The platforming is average and can be a bit frustrating at times, although the psychic powers vary things a bit.  Still, the brilliant writing and aesthetic outweighs mechanical concerns on this one.


Bastion

Fun gameplay with a lot of options due to the many weapons, as well as great visuals and music!  The real reason I loved Bastion, however, was the storytelling.  Everything is told from the point of view of the narrator, but it works surprisingly well, and the handful of the characters in the game are sympathetic and well-developed.  Special mention goes to the end, which is a very nice example of multiple endings in which there's no obvious good or bad ending.  It just depends on what you value: Second chances or moving on.


Might and Magic VII
My personal favorite first-person open-world RPG.  Well, okay, its a bit lacking in actual roleplaying.  Still, it's got a fun story, a big world to explore, a very nice character development system, and a fantastic sense of progression.  And it doesn't take itself too seriously, which is quite refreshing.  Review.

Alpha Protocol
A flawed third-person RPG from Obsidian that was undeservedly panned on release.  The shooting's a bit iffy, if you go in expecting Gears of War you'll be severely disappointed.  But really, it's an RPG and it does RPG well.  In fact, Alpha Protocol is one of the more reactive games ever made.  It's fundamentally linear, but the player experience twists and bends depending on how you act and what you do, such that there's quite a lot of replay value.  Review forthcoming.

Mark of The Ninja

Oh man, you guys.  This game is awesome, you guys.  You get to be a ninja and stuff, you guys.  I'm going to stop talking like this now, you guys.  Mark of The Ninja takes the awesome bits from several different types of stealth games and combines it within its own ideas and awesome style to make a fantastic game.  It's flexible, it's sneaky, it's fun, it's stylish, and it's even got a surprisingly engaging story.  Review.

Fallout: New Vegas
If I was just talking about the base game, New Vegas would still be on this list but it'd probably be a fair bit lower.  The base game is good in its own right, with good writing, fun gameplay, and much more roleplaying and Fallout-ness than Fallout 3.  However, what really makes the game great is the DLC.  The DLC did an excellent job of tying together a story across all four installments, with interesting multi-level characters and themes of obsession with the past.  If you get it, I recommend playing the DLC in this order: Honest Hearts > Dead Money > Old World Blues > Lonesome Road.

Miasmata
Easily the best game that actually came out this year I played, as well as one of the best indie games I've played in general.  A first-person survival adventure game thingy developed by two guys.  Although rough around the edges, it's beautiful, incredibly engaging, and has an interesting and brilliantly told story.  I'll beg you to buy this some more in my review, but you should buy it.  Review forthcoming.

King of Dragon Pass
A singularly unique game that combines RPG, management, turn-based strategy, and choose your own adventure into a great whole.  Great audio-visual presentation combined with unique and immersive gameplay is a formula for greatness.  Review.

The Longest Journey
A long adventure game with very good, if occasionally a touch wordy, writing.  The puzzles themselves are fairly nondescript, with a few exceptions (rubber ducky, anyone?).  No, we're here for the story.  The story's a fun epic journey with a few twists along the way, but the game's real strength in writing is in the characters. TLJ was one of the few games I was sad to finish because I'd grown attached to the characters.

Arcanum
Like every Troika game, Arcanum is a brilliant game marred by some flaws.  It's buggy (though has a fan patch) and unbalanced, and there're some parts of the games that drag.  However, it's got a wonderful world, a great character building system, tons and tons of choice, and a great story with a fantastic villain.  Review.

Grim Fandango
I can say similar things as what I said about The Longest Journey, really.  Grim Fandango has better puzzles, but the game's real strength is again in the world, story, and characters.  The game's bursting with charm and great characters, and for that it is my favorite game.

Award Time!

Best Action: Mark of The Ninja (Runner-ups: Bastion, FTL, Warband)
Best Writing/Story: Grim Fandango (Runner-ups: ...Most of the list)
Best Graphics/Visual Design: Mark of The Ninja (Runner-ups: Grim Fandango, Miasmata, Stacking)
Best Music/Sound Design: Bastion (Runner-ups: Mark of The Ninja, Miasmata, King of Dragon Pass)

GOTY: Miasmata (Runner-up: Mark of The Ninja)
Best Game I Played: Grim Fandango (Runner-ups: Everything below it on the list)

4 comments:

  1. Awesomeness. I was looking forward to reading your 2012 roundup. I have to admit I'm surprised to see Fallout: New Vegas so high on the list. I didn't think it was bad at all, but I did find it a little lacking somehow. Then again, I didn't play any of the DLC. I really should do that at some point :P

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    1. I actually didn't mean to put it quite that high, I restructured the list a bit and forgot to move it down, but it was still one of my favorite. The DLC definitely set it above, much better than the base game imo. Plus, it was heartening to play a mainstream AAA (kind of) release that was an actual RPG instead of an action game with RPG elements.

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  2. Should I assume you liked Grim Fandango so much that you didn't play Primordia so that it wouldn't eclipse GF as the best game of 2012?

    Still waiting for a review <.<

    @FTL: I got bored with it as soon as I won. Looking back, I can't believe how much fun losing was.

    My GOTY is La-Mulana. It's one of the two games (along with Alpha Centauri) expertise in which (I think) would look good in a CV. I just wish it didn't have half a dozen of obscure ways to become permanently stuck.

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    1. Heh, no Primordia conspiracy on my part, I'm afraid. I am looking forward to playing Primordia, but I have other adventure games on my plate right now.

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