I’m not a game reviewer.
Yup, just lost half my audience there. Anyone left. Trask? Mom? But I’ve played quite a few this year, probably more than previous years, and this is despite some unfortunate trends in the industry. These trends—good and bad—became more transparent and some (especially the bad ones) exploded violently in some faces. Some professional game critics have cited this year as one of the worst years in gaming, given delays with certain franchises as well as the poor showing of major installments. Games polarized fans, started word wars, and sent clear messages that even though big game companies want to sell to the casual gamer, it’s very dangerous for them to ignore (or even ridicule) the hardcore fans. I’ve talked about games more this year than any other. I agree this was a poor year, but it had some gems. This was the first year I played an MMO. It would also be my last year playing an MMO. I discovered how unfulfilling murdering unaware targets can be and how alternate endings only matter if there’s a reason for an alternate ending to exist.
So here are my choices for best and worst in categories no one should particularly care about. However, before I do so, I need to voluntarily list the games I actually played this year, just to prove how opinionated this article really is.
Anomaly Warzone: Earth
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Faster Than Light
Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning
Mass Effect 3
Orcs Must Die 2
Serious Sam BFE
Spec Ops: The Line
Star Wars: The Old Republic
X-Com Enemy Unknown
The Witcher 2
So let’s segregate and adjudicate!
GAME I WISH I NEVER BOUGHT
- FTL: Faster Than Light
Yes, everyone loved it but me. I believe there’s a reason why games like Rogue don’t exist anymore…because some people don’t want to play a game for two hours and realize they’ve just wasted their time. Some love it. I don’t. Music was good though.
GAME YOU PROBABLY PIRATED BUT SHOULD PAY FOR
- Binary Domain
A third-person shooter with a story that forces you to pay attention, Binary Domain wades lovingly through the exaggerated pool of Japanese cyberpunk. It features some decent sci-fi concepts, sharp dialogue, and game-play way more satisfying than you might think. And in a ten-hour game, you barely kill anyone. The game grows on you, an experience the demo simply doesn’t sell, especially with writing like this…
“She looks familiar. Reminds me of an actress, or someone.”
“Come on Bo, you know, the only movies you watch are porn…OH yeah, right with the…”
It’s not perfect. The voice recognition is clunky, you can’t map the buttons in game, and for some stupid reason you select options with the spacebar instead of enter, but given everything else, it’s still worth it.
GAME WHICH SUCKED THE MOST HOURS FROM MY LIFE
(WHICH I DIDN’T REGRET)
- Orcs Must Die 2
Purely running on hours played (and thanks to Steam I can check), Orcs Must Die 2 recently clocked past 81 hours, besting even the 69 hours of Borderlands 2. It wasn’t without its hiccups. I didn’t appreciate the shift from single player in the first game to practically imposed multiplayer in the second, and this enjoyment was entirely based on duping my best friend to picking up the game as well (damn, cat’s out of the bag), but in the end, it worked out for both of us.
Obviously, the five months I spent playing Star Wars: The Old Republic would add up to more, which is why I added the second statement above. Of the hundreds of hours I probably sunk into TOR, I’d wager I enjoyed about thirty of it. Grinding, me not like.
BEST VALUE IN A GAME, MEANING FREE
- Black Mesa
If you haven’t picked up this nugget, do so. Half Life was an amazing game, but like all games, it aged…badly. I have to salute those tireless souls that invested so many hours for no monetary gain to update the old bird to modern graphics. And it looked amazing, coupled with a soundtrack superior to any of the professional entries in the franchise. And the best part is the games ends before you go to that stupid planet!
BEST IDEA SQUANDERED ON A SHITTY GAME
I had to read the synopsis on Wikipedia to discover the cool and interesting twists that lay in store for the characters of Inversion. This was because I’d gotten so frustrated battling the same boss monster three times; I put the game aside and gave up. Clumsy gameplay and poor writing marred a concept that could have been amazing.
BEST GAME WITH A SHITTY IDEA
- X-Com: Enemy Unknown
It’s so good. Like warm butter tarts a half hour after being removed from the oven, that’s how damn good X-Com is. There’s so much to do with memorable moments emerging organically from gameplay. It was like a role playing game where you didn’t control one character, you controlled seven to ten. I knew their faces and names, got depressed when they died, and cheered when they shot an alien through a window from two hundred yards away. But let’s not fool ourselves, the whole experience was kind of stupid. I mean an alien fleet appears over our cities and decides to send ground troops rather than obliterate targets from orbit, and mankind’s solution is to underfund a single military group tasked with defending the entire planet. A good movie, this would not make.
WHY DOES THIS GAME EXIST?
In a casebook example of flawed thinking, a well known game company takes a strategy title few people would remember and turned it into a FPS. Those that didn’t know Syndicate had better games to play and those that did remember got pissed that they were denied a perfectly good strategy game.
BEST GAME REQUIRING YOUR SUPPORT
- Spec-Ops: The Line
Sales could have been better. The creator blasted his parent company for making him include a multiplayer mode which no one played. And I’ll admit that at some moments you’ll end up fighting the controls in order to survive. Through that gauze, you’ll encounter one of the darkest and best written games of the past few years. Rich dialogue, impeccable voice acting, and an almost satirical look at the FPS genre, Spec Ops is the one game most of you didn’t play, but should.
GAME WHICH PISSED ME OFF THE MOST
- Mass Effect 3
Yeah, I should just skip this one and move on.
Damn it, I can’t
Everyone knows I had issue with how this game ended. I’ve played games with bad endings. Hell, I just finished Metro 2033 and that ending was hideous. Before that, it was Dishonored, which was a great game but with no climax…it just fizzled like a leaky whoopee cushion. The unpleasantness of Mass Effect 3 came because it was a great game until the end, like enjoying a nice steak only to chew on gristle for your last bite. You’re forced to spit it up and it makes you a little sick. It wasn’t just the ethical issues I had, it was the fact that decisions you had accrued for hundreds of hours of gameplay were summarily ignored. It pissed me off because up until that moment, I was firmly convinced that I had just witnessed the greatest achievement in gaming…and yes, the ending can spoil the journey.
BEST GAME I WISH I COULD HAVE PLAYED
Runner Up: The Walking Dead
Huh…that’s odd. Have to admit the irony given the previous sentence. Regardless, haven’t played Journey…wish I did. Gonna buy it soon. Promise.
BEST GAME WHICH I HATE ADMITTING
I don’t isolate games by year. I look at my history of gaming, all thirty years of it. I can’t simply divide them, like a game I loved in December is not judged against a game bought in March but is with one released six months later. I can’t help but look at Mass Effect 3 and claim Mass Effect 2 was superior, that the game with the best multiple endings was 1997’s Blade Runner, or the most underappreciated game I’ve ever played was Homeworld: Cataclysm. I think the most overhyped setting in game history is Warcraft (said it) and the single best game I’ve ever played was…hmmmm…probably Ico. But hey, that’s just me.
But if you insist on me singling out a game as the best in this 12-month period…
I’d have to say
- Mass Effect 3.
Yeah…call it tough love. The level of rage I had for the ending was because of the love I had for the remaining 98% of it. It’s like you care for someone so much but leave them because of unforgivable sins, but there’s always that part of you that hates yourself for doing so. It’s why I’ve kept away from playing it even though I’ve yet to uninstall it since March. Part of me wants a reason to return. The last two DLCs have been received so poorly, they’ve failed to persuade, but there’s this small part of me that wants to forgive, let bygones be bygones and move on. I still hope that day will come…
Or maybe it’s because not a lot of games measured up. Spec Ops and Binary Domains are both great games underappreciated, but both suffer from clumsy gameplay. Borderlands 2 is fun but utterly shallow. About the only game I think could compete with ME3 is Dishonored, and Dishonored is an incredibly fulfilling game, probably the most rock solid experience for the money, but it to suffers from a soft third act, not nearly as bad as ME3, but ME3 wins it out in total experience.
And here are the awards that really matter:
Best Soundtrack: FTL: Faster Than Light (buy the soundtrack, not the game)
Runner Up: Black Mesa
Best Graphics: Dishonored
Runner Up: Trine 2
Best Character: Claptrap (Borderlands 2)
Runner Up: Talia Vas Normandy (ME3)
Best Game Ending: Spec Ops: The Line
Runner Up: Binary Domain
Best Gameplay: Dishonored
Runner Up: X-Com: Enemy Unknown
Best Multiplayer: Orcs Must Die 2
Runner Up: Borderlands 2
Best Single Player Only Game: Dishonored
Runner Up: Anomaly Warzone: Earth
To those games I didn’t play, here are the reasons why:
–I don’t like being an assassin and appreciate that in Dishonored you don’t have to be one.
–I’m not eight years old so collecting toys required for my game is not something I’m terribly interested in.
–I hate the fact I have to share the road with morons so I don’t particularly care for them in my racing game.
–I don’t like building things in real life so doing so in a simulation is even less appealing.