2011 was a good year in gaming. Just counting new releases, I enjoyed all of:
- Bastion (PC), an isometric action game with pretty art design and an original world;
- Dark Souls (PS3), which (so far – I haven’t played enough to form a verdict) offers a promising mix of finely tuned challenge and great drop-in co-op gameplay;
- Frozen Synapse (PC), a stylish and clever squad-based indie strategy game;
- Section 8: Prejudice (PC), a bargain-priced team-based shooter. This is a genre I wouldn’t normally touch, but I had a great time roving around Prejudice’s battlefields as an engineer-medic-tank commander, a role that could survive my lack of reflexes;
- Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP), the modern remake of Yasumi Matsuno’s 1990s tactical roleplaying game; and
- Total War: Shogun 2 (PC), the latest and – by far – most polished instalment of the long-running historical strategy series.
One title, though, managed to stand out from the pack. One title was the best example of its genre I’d seen in years. One title is my Game of the Year. I present to you:
Game of the Year – 2011: Total War: Shogun 2 (review here), developed by Creative Assembly and published by Sega. This truly deserves the “strategy” label: it’s packed with interesting and well-executed sub-systems (diplomacy, realm management, campaign manoeuvre, and battlefield tactics), well-paced, and blessed with a clever computer player. With this, CA has addressed every complaint I’ve had – and redeemed its mistakes – as far back as Rome: Total War.
And there is one more with a similar appeal:
Runner-up: Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (review here), developed and published by Square Enix. This is the pinnacle of the “traditional” turn-based TRPG genre; built around combat that’s fluidly lethal without being frustrating, it then tries to sand away every little annoyance in the genre – from unskippable random battles to unclear camera angles – and tell a story more meaningful and mature than “kill the foozle, save the world”. It doesn’t quite succeed at those two goals, but it aims high and comes close to its mark, something I appreciate all the more after going back to older, cruder TRPGs.
Well done, Creative Assembly and Square Enix. And Happy New Year to all of you!