Wulfy’s Favourites of 2012
We’re almost at the end of the year 2012, and it’s the time for making lists! So I sat down to make your typical top 10 list. It ended up being a top 13. Yeah… and really only felt certain of the top three positions. Plus I wanted to do one honourable mention, and one dishonourable mention.
See, I’ve been picky about my games this year, so I haven’t really played enough bad ones to make a “least favourite” list. So one dishonourable mention will have to do. Regular readers (and those I’ve told) have probably guessed what it is already.
There is also the issue that I’ve had financial trouble the past 3 months, so I’ve missed out on games that might have made it onto this list, like The Walking Dead, Assassin’s Creed 3 and Far Cry 3. And then there’s stuff I just didn’t bother to get because of a general lack of interest, like Diablo 3, Torchlight 2 and Borderlands 2. I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with me, but it is my list, and all bias. :3
Right, let’s get this stuff started. We’ll get the bad out of the way first and then work our way towards the top 3. I will only award titles if I can think of a good one (now that I’ve said that, I’ll likely try to come up with something for all of them), and I’ll add links to games I’ve written about already.
I’m sure that anyone who knows me is not the least bit surprised at this. I raged at this game a lot, which turned into cold disappointment at the release of the extended cut DLC. And the biggest shame is that I was having a very good time with the game before the final mission. Of course there were problems. Cerberus were dumb and unbelievable, Kai Leng was daft, most of my big choices had been rendered moot, we were suddenly starting on Earth, and for some reason it was important now when it hadn’t been before. I was willing to forgive and forget all these little problems though, because it delivered an epic space adventure with a lot of little nods to stuff that happened before (nothing big, I’ve noticed in hindsight) and I was sucked in. Finally wrapping up the Krogan genophage and the Quarian/Geth conflict were among my favourite parts. Then the final mission mission left me feeling increasingly frustrated until the ending simply took the cake. And I really wanted that cake. To top it off the developers didn’t exactly act gracefully, before or after launch. So congratulations Bioware, I am done with you and your games.
Best Tank Simulator/MMO
The reason this is just an honourable mention is that I started playing the game last year, so it’s not technically part of my favourites of 2012. I’ve still played it quite a lot this year though, and I still love it. There’s been a lot of updates since I wrote that post on it, most notably a fancy new physics system that is both more realistic and hilarious. There are also a lot more tanks into the game, even a whole line of British tanks that are quite fun. I’ll likely do an update post on it at some point, but might wait until the Chinese tanks are in the game. Wargaming.net are constantly improving an already excellent and fun game, and I like being along for the ride.
10 Favourites of 2012:
While I’ve played a lot of good and fun games in 2012, these 10 had some good or great qualities that made me feel like they needed pointing out.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
I had some hesitations about actually including this game on the list, as it had caused at least as much frustration as it had enjoyment. It’s a buggy mess, the Random Number Generator is definitely not on your side and the aliens cheat. However, the fact that this game simply exists is such an extraordinary thing that it definitely warrants a mention. Getting a remake/reboot of an old game that is not made into a first-person shooter is nothing short of astounding, and on top of that it works well as both a tactical strategy and a base management game. Triumphing through adversity and building a team of unstoppable badasses creates a certain sense of accomplishment that just isn’t found in many modern games, and certainly not big-budget ones. Hat’s off to Firaxis for pulling this one off, and 2K Games for allowing it.
Kung Fu Surprise
I hadn’t really thought I would like this game as much as I did, but it didn’t take me long to get drawn into this open-world game set in a modern Hong Kong. See, I never really got into GTA4, and didn’t really expect to enjoy this game that much either, which is why I didn’t get it until it was on a low sale. I was happy to go through it all the way to the end though, just to see where the story took me next, and to spend a little more time in this vibrant city. It helped that the melee combat was tricky, but excellent fun once you got a feel for it, and the gunplay was satisfying as well. Even the driving was pretty good. United Front Games put a lot of effort into making sure the game felt good to play, and crafted an interesting story focused on the Asian Triads. It might not be perfect, but I quite enjoyed my time with it.
Best Animal Roguelike
Even though I don’t own a PS3, I have put a lot of hours into this game at a friend’s house. I typically don’t like games similar to roguelikes at all, but this little charmer is amazing. If I ever get my own PS3, I am buying this immediately. I love running around as whatever animal and just doing my best to survive and slowly trying to untangle the story of whatever happened that made all the humans go away. You can play as anything from a tiny chick or a pomeranian, to a huge tiger, velociraptor or elephant! If you have a PS3, you really should check it out this gem from SCE. Surely you can see the appeal of hunting hippos with a pack of tiny yappy dogs?
Snarkiest Main Character
I enjoyed the first Darksiders, and had high hopes for the sequel. I’m happy to report that the game exceeded my expectations. Death is a far more interesting main character than War, the combat system works a lot better, and the different lands we get to visit provide some neat variety in scenery. Okay, maybe the Dead Lands stretch on a bit long, and the dodging doesn’t always go as planned, but I had fun with this extended look into the Darksiders universe. I hope they make another one, in spite of THQ’s current status.
It’s Cruel To Be Kind
A first-person stealth game that lets me play entirely non-lethal, gives me interesting magical powers and is an entirely new IP? Yes please. Unlike most people I talk to I found the non-lethal play-style of Dishonoured far more enticing than the murderous one. They complain about the lack of different take-down animations and methods, but I see the variety in planning how to get close to my targets rather than having different ways of choking them out. And thank every god I can think of that they let me climb any ledge I can reach! Why is that not standard in first-person games? My super-soldier can’t do a chin-up? Yeah, right. The story is not the greatest, nor are the characters, but it’s set in a fascinating new world that I hope we get to explore more of in whatever sequel Arkane Studios are planning.
Most Interesting MMO Setting/Best MMO Writing/Awesome Mindfuck
I have tried several new MMOs this year, and they’ve all had some disappointing aspects to them. Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2, Mechwarrior Online and even The Secret World. There is good reason I’m still including The Secret World as my only new MMO on this list though. The writing and world building they’ve done is spectacular. This game has managed to illicit feelings in me that no other MMO, and certainly not any MMORPG has done before. Like the time Jarenth, Desgardes, friends and I (I am bad with names, sorry guys) went into a dream-scape of the past and fought an eldritch dragon! Or the time I squeed because I found my first Draug. Or feeling pride at working out some brain teaser the game threw at me. But I think most of all I will remember the time I was freaking out because a house was growling at me, I was seeing things and the walls were bleeding and there was nothing I could smash with my hammer to make it stop. I probably ranted and raved at a friend for like an hour afterwards about how awesome it was. So it has earned its place on this list, and it’s not just because Funcom are from Norway.
Most Interesting JRPG In Years
JRPGs get a lot of flak, and a lot of it deserved as well, for not really innovating. Maybe they’ll make a new combat system, but otherwise it’s much the same as before. I kinda expected that from Xenoblade Chronicles as well. So yeah, I started it up, and found that it did indeed have a different combat system. A neat one, but even so it was par for the course so far. The voice-acting and characters were different from what I expected though. And then I discovered the jump button. And everything went uphill from there. This is one of those games I’d consider a must-have for Wii owners. It is nothing short of glorious, and the plot and writing are really quite good as well. The villains are definitely the cherry on top. They’re masterpieces. I salute Monolith Soft for their work.
I will confess that back in the 90s I had no interest in the first-person dungeon-crawling genre. So Legend of Grimrock was really my first proper experience with it. And I had a blast. It has a simple setup, and simple controls, but you quickly learn there’s a lot of nuance and depth to it. And just being stuck in a labyrinth full of things wanting to horribly murder you sets up a tense, oppressive atmosphere that suits the game well. Oh, and the nasty, nasty traps. The game can be really unforgiving, but it feels pretty good to progress through cunning and strategy. And of course getting some sweet loot along the way. Even the minimalistic story managed to throw in a nice twist I didn’t see coming. Congratulations to everyone at Almost Human Games for a job well done.
Best Stealth (Possibly Ever)/Most Ninja Game Ever
I figured this game would be good after all I heard of it, but I didn’t think it would be quite so excellent. I’ve played games with ninjas in them. I’ve played games where you’re supposed to be a ninja. This is the only game that has really made me feel like a ninja. I did two playthroughs: One where I didn’t kill anyone but my targets and never got detected, and one where I murdered everyone in my way (and still didn’t get detected). As usual I preferred the non-lethal approach, and the fact that there are no non-lethal take-downs here made it an extra challenge that I felt all the more awesome for pulling off. Klei really nailed it with this one, and I wish them all possible success.
Spec Ops: The Line is not fun. It is not enjoyable. It will make you feel bad and uncomfortable. It will take you to task, and it will make question yourself. I consider it one of the most important games of 2012, and an important step towards the medium of games moving forward. It is an ugly experience that I recommend to just about everyone over the age of 18 with the slightest interest in gaming. The story is one of the best-paced I’ve ever seen, the visuals are astounding in their excellent use of contrast and colour, and the soundwork is fantastic. It might also make you feel physically ill, but you should play it anyway. Yager Entertainment made some risky decisions making this, and 2K Games are phenomenal for letting them do it.
Top 3 Games
So these are my picks for the three most exceptional games of this year, based entirely on my own bias. Only one of them gets the crown of my “Game Of The Year”.
Till All Are One
With War For Cybertron High Moon Studios did something I thought impossible: They rekindled my belief that Transformers could still be good, even after Michael Bay’s ravaging of the franchise. With Fall of Cybertron they delivered a much stronger and more focused game that I think is superior to its predecessor. From the small chassis of Bumblebee, to the titanic form of Bruticus; you get a varied and interesting game that tops everything off by letting you become the fire-breathing space-T-Rex Grimlock. And it’s every bit as satisfying as you imagine it to be. I’m not sure there will be more games, but either way I’ll keep playing this one for years to come.
Profound Multi-player Experience
I really do wish I had some idea how they came up with this game, but however they pulled it off: thatgamecompany created a masterpiece with Journey. The way multi-player works in this game is unique as far as I am aware, and it really helps make the game the powerful experience that it is. Even though you can’t speak to eachother, or likely because you can’t, there forms a certain bond with whomever you meet as you journey across the desolate and ruin-filled landscape. You only have eachother, so it’s like there’s some innate instinct to stick together. For me there is no debate whether games are art. I know they are.
Game Of The Year
Amanita Design are a curious company known for making weird little games, and Botanicula is just that. As far as I’ve been able to tell, it’s made from happy, colours and a pinch of madness. In addition to that they threw in one of my favourite game soundtracks ever and employed marvelous sound design for all the effects. It’s quirky, it’s charming and it reminds me why I’m so fond of videogames. Why they matter. There is so much beauty in here that it’s making me teary-eyed, and to top it off it’s just a lot of fun as well. You owe it to yourself to play this. So Botanicula is my definite Game Of The Year.
So those are the games I played this year that I felt deserved to be pointed out. I doubt anyone will completely agree with me, but that’s part of the beauty of human beings. We are just so different. And I know I missed some games because of a lack of time and money. I think some of them might have made the list had I been able to play them.
Now I am curious to see what lists the rest of you will make. 🙂