And my Game of the Year – 2010 is…

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Game of the Year Awards

This would normally be the time to review the best and worst of 2010’s games, except I only played a handful of the titles which came out this year. Despite being an RPG fan, I played neither Mass Effect 2 nor Fallout: New Vegas, and despite being a strategy fan, I did not play Starcraft II.

 

That said, I liked most of the ones I did play. Highest-profile amongst them, and the one into which I sank the most time, was Civilization V – here are my thoughts on the city-states, and on the game design as a whole. I didn’t spend a huge amount of time with Resonance of Fate, the steampunkish gun-fu JRPG from tri-Ace, or Supreme Commander 2, the RTS from Gas Powered Games, but I liked what I saw, and I know I’ll return one day to finish off Resonance of Fate.

 

Ultimately, though, one game this year charmed me more than all the others. It was just right for me in every way: in its length, its pacing, the feel of its world, its gameplay mechanics, and its premise. And it alone makes me think, “I wish there were more games like that!” With that, I present:

 

Game of the Year – 2010: Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale (write-up here), developed by EasyGameStation and localised by Carpe Fulgur.

 

Congratulations, guys. Keep up the good work, because I’m looking forward to what you do next.

 

Happy new year, everyone!

My Game of the Year – 2011 is…

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Game of the Year Awards

2011 was a good year in gaming. Just counting new releases, I enjoyed all of:

 

  1. Bastion (PC), an isometric action game with pretty art design and an original world;
  2. 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;
  3. Frozen Synapse (PC), a stylish and clever squad-based indie strategy game;
  4. 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;
  5. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP),  the modern remake of Yasumi Matsuno’s 1990s tactical roleplaying game; and
  6. 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!

The Best Games of 2012

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Game of the Year Awards

Happy Ne1st Place Award Ribbonw Year, everyone!

 

2013 has dawned, and it’s time to review the best of last year’s games (that I played). This year I’ve opted to break from the traditional “best RPG”, “best strategy”, etc format normally used in Game of the Year rankings. For one, it papers over the vast differences that exist within any genre: Dark Souls is not Skyrim is not Mass Effect. For another, there are sometimes multiple standout games within the same genre. So instead, I’ve opted to recognise games for their special achievements. Here are 2012’s exemplars:

 

Continue reading “The Best Games of 2012”

Games of the Year: 2013

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Game of the Year Awards

1st Place Award RibbonAs promised, here is my list! As with last year, I’ve highlighted noteworthy achievements, as opposed to trying to single out favourites (so you will see some that I thought were more interesting than fun). I’ll kick off with what I thought were the year’s overarching themes:

 

Theme of the year I: march of the small games. Every year has its notable short and/or cheap indie games, such as FTL in 2012, and in 2013 these included Skulls of the Shogun, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Papers: Please, and Gone Home. However, the year also saw a large publisher, Ubisoft, throw its hat into the ring with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Ubisoft is set to continue this trend with Child of Light, and it’ll be interesting to see the extent to which other publishers follow – especially after Tomb Raider missed Square Enix’s expectations, sparking the latest bout of soul-searching about the future of AAA games.

 

Theme of the year II: iteration. In 2012, my favourite games (XCOM, Wargame: European Escalation, Analogue: A Hate Story), as well as other notable titles (FTL, Journey) were all quite novel. Even XCOM, while thematically faithful to the 1994 original, was mechanically unique. 2013, though, was more like 2011 in its preponderance of evolutionary rather than revolutionary games, from the big end of town (Assassin’s Creed IV) to the little guys (Dominions 4), plus expansion packs (Civilization V: Brave New World, XCOM: Enemy Within). That said, we’ll see exceptions below.

Continue reading “Games of the Year: 2013”

My Games of 2014

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Game of the Year Awards

Welcome back to another Game of the Year list. This year, I’ve tweaked the format again — many of the games I played in 2014 were released in previous years. Sometimes, I played the old game “as is”; sometimes, I played a new port or an expanded version of the old game. So I’ve broken this post down into two parts. First, I review the accomplishments of 2014. And second, I take a look back at the notable games I played, whether or not they were originally released that year.

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My games (and memorable moments) of 2015

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Game of the Year Awards

Welcome back to my Games of the Year list. This year, I’ve highlighted notable achievements, as well as favourite moments from games old and new.

Favourite aesthetics: Several games deserve a mention: Apotheon, for sheer uniqueness (below); the vibrant, colourful Tales from the Borderlands; and Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence, with its evocative art. Nobunaga’s Ambition also has great ambient music — I still listen to it on loop.

Apotheon - graphicsFavourite characters: Rhys and Fiona, the heroes of Tales from the Borderlands. Fiona is sharp and capable and funny; Rhys is a loveable bumbler, dreaming nebulous dreams of wealth and power. When his ridiculous get-rich-quick scheme collides with Fiona’s, the plot is set in motion. Throughout the game, I did my best to play them as decent people — loyal to their friends and, where possible, respectful of human life — and was rewarded with satisfying, sympathetic leads. They gave me many laughs, several moments that resonated with me, and a triumphant scene where Rhys demonstrates his character growth.

TFTB - Rhys Fiona reaching Continue reading “My games (and memorable moments) of 2015”

My favourite games that I played in 2019

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Game of the Year Awards

What were my favourite games that I played for the first time?

If 2018 was the year in which I bought a Switch and rediscovered the joys of Nintendo games, then 2019 has been a wonderful year for new releases. I played three excellent new games, any one of which would qualify to be Game of the Year: Dragon Quest Builders 2, Total War: Three Kingdoms, and Fire Emblem: Three Houses:

  • Dragon Quest Builders 2 has been my unexpected hit of the year. I love building towns, rooms, fields, even defensive walls. I love DQB2’s charming, cheerful characters and world. And even after finishing the story months ago, I love tinkering with my island in the postgame: adding spas, barns, irrigation, and a rail network, fleshing out floor plans, and renovating my early projects with everything that I’ve learned since. I am pretty confident this will be my evergreen Switch game for the foreseeable future.
  • Total War: Three Kingdoms is beautiful, challenging, and immersive — a return to form after the hit-and-miss Rome 2 generation. Whether desperately battling to save my capital from a superior invader; planning elaborate, multi-pronged campaigns; haggling with computer players that finally act believably and in-character; or simply admiring the aesthetic, this was almost everything that I hoped for.
  • Similarly, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is my favourite in its series. It rewards careful planning — both in battle, and when strategising how to recruit, train, and develop my crew of heroes — with triumphant satisfaction when those plans come together. And its epic narrative, closer to Legend of the Galactic Heroes than to traditional fantasy, has me intrigued. I estimate I’m 70%-80% through my first run, and I look forward to seeing how it will conclude.
  • Honourable mentions go to three more games: Rule the Waves 2, which challenges players to design, build, and command not the shiniest navy — but the one that’s most appropriate and cost-effective; and Wargroove and Crying Suns, which show what indie strategy games can do with a striking aesthetic and solid gameplay.

Incidentally, this marks a change from the last couple of years. My favourite games of 2018 were mostly Switch titles that had been released in 2017, such as Super Mario Odyssey, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and one of my all-time favourites, Zelda: Breath of the Wild. And my favourite game of 2017 — Shadow Tactics — was likewise released in December 2016.

What are some games that I revisited?

I also revisited, or kept playing, a number of games that I’d played in previous years. Sometimes, this followed the release of new DLC or updates — as with various PC strategy games. Other times, it was about continuing an existing play-through. Some I particularly enjoyed were:

  • Continuing to explore Hyrule in Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’m still not finished, but with Breath of the Wild 2 announced, a brand-new copy of Link’s Awakening awaiting me, and the DLC a tad too hard for me, perhaps I should just move onto the final battle with Ganon.
  • Playing through the postgame of Super Mario Odyssey;
  • Exploring alien archaeological sites and building a galactic empire in StellarisAncient Relics DLC;
  • Saving the world from fascism for the umpteenth time in Hearts of Iron IV: Man the Guns – and leading the NCR in the Fallout total conversion mod;
  • Trying out new civilisations and winning the space race again in Civilization VI: Gathering Storm.
  • Playing Battletech’s career mode — aka Galactic Mercenary Hand-to-Mouth Simulator — in ironman.