As 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”
Happy New 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”
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!
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!