Slightly missed the window for acceptable end-of-year round-up post timing, but you know how it goes. I’d planned to make “no procrastinating” one of my new year’s resolutions, but never got round to it. Etc.
It’s customary at this point to summarise 2012′s release quality in comparison with other years, and so: 2012 was a year in which games were released. I liked some of them.
Never let anyone tell you that industry analysis is difficult.
- 10 “Game of the Year” games, in no order, plus a bunch of runners-up, comprised of stuff that was interesting/brilliant, but not interesting/brilliant enough.
- A game only counts if it was released on a platform I own this year. It’s a fairly arbitrary ruling, but also the easiest way to keep release dates straight and let me talk about Sword & Sworcery.
- DLC doesn’t count. Unless it does. I dunno, I’m making this up as I go along.
- I have not played every game released in 2012
- I do accept that I’m probably wrong.
Games of the Year of our Lord Twenty-Twelve
I had Spelunky freely available for my PC for years and just never got into it. It took buying an Xbox and paying money for the game for it to click.
Once it did though… well, put it this way. This song is going to haunt certain friends for years:
Many of the funniest gaming moments of the year have arisen from watching Adam get to grips with it. Although, many of the funniest gaming moments of most years have arisen from watching Adam get to grips with something.
Did what it needed to do: resurrected X-Com, did it well, did it as a tactical strategy game and made it hard enough that the familiar sting of losing a trusted soldier really hurt. Also went further by making it accessible for non-strategy fans, and different enough from the original to make the more faithful looking Xenonauts a really interesting prospect. Yes, I’m aware it had some bugs.
HUMAN BEING AND A REAL HERO REAL HUMAN BEING AND A REAL HERO REAL HUMAN BEING AND A REAL HERO REAL HUMAN BEING AND A REAL HERO REAL… wait, wrong hyper-violent revenge story.
It even had a soundtrack that rivalled Drive’s.
I love sneaking about places far too much to not include this, despite the fact that I’ve still not finished it. Also it feels tighter and thus more replayable than last year’s stealth favourite DX:HR. I look forward to my inevitable “kill everything” run.
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
It would have been nice if the PC version wasn’t quite so obviously an iPad port, but whatever, it was still brills. I’ve probably mentioned before how obsessed I can get with games that tie strongly with their soundtrack, so that’s basically what’s going on here. That soundtrack has followed me through most of the year – at least until its composer, Jim Guthrie, released the Indie Game: The Movie soundtrack, which was equally amazing. Basically, Jim Guthrie is the best.
Crusader Kings 2
I’d argue this was my overall game of the year, except I’m acutely aware that having only just clicked with it, I’m experiencing an especially strong case of “HOLY SHIT THIS IS THE BALLS!”
Tying the system driven strategy simulation into feudal family plotting makes for some very special campaign moments. And the antiquated laws of the era means that, more than blind territory wars, it’s the intrigue that pushes both the story of your game and the majority of your actions with it. It’s just a shame that it’s so bloody complicated to get to grips with.
Notepads full of scribbles! Any game that requires me to get out a notepad and take down notes, doodles, workings out, etc. is an instant favourite. Fez not only looks beautiful, but the layer of hidden secrets makes it a compelling world to get lost in.
About the highest compliment I can pay it is that it took me a good few hours before I realised the game had no combat. It felt complete enough without it.
Also: brilliant soundtrack, obviously.
Mass Effect 3
Kind of pissed that you seemingly can’t praise Mass Effect 3 without mentioning the ending shitstorm. It didn’t matter. The whole Reaper thing was always stupid. It ended stupidly? You don’t fucking say.
Mass Effect 3 was a game of endings, and while one of them wholesale stole Deus Ex’s deus ex machina route, some of the others – the ones that mattered – were perfect. Mordin’s proud, sad, stoic exit was exactly the right way for him to depart the series. And Thane’s final moments… As the best character from the second game (and the one my Shepherd was sexing), it was emotional. For all the series’ AAA baggage, it hit some properly high notes when it was at its best.
But no, we should really be focusing on the giant robot space gods. Ugh.
Multiplayer was ace too.
The Walking Dead
If the Mass Effect complaint was that the ending negated the player’s choices, then people really need to take a closer look at The Walking Dead – a game that, more than any other, plays to the “journey not the destination” adage. The most important decisions were exactly the ones that didn’t matter. The small moments.
Well written, with an admirably diverse cast of characters, it was certainly the most emotionally draining game I’ve played since To The Moon. The only problem I have is that the very fact its exceptional is proof of how shit most game stories are.
Er… To be honest, the tenth slot could have easily been filled by half of the games on the runners up list. So fuck it, let’s just have Sleeping Dogs.
I’m probably just including it to make a point. I’m probably just including it because I’m an idiot. That and it was this or another indie game, and apparently indie games are mediocre shit now. What, didn’t you get the memo?
A lot of the reviews were, if not dismissive, critical of its generic open-world structure. I actually think it’s a more interesting game than many give it credit for. For starters, there’s the scarcity of guns, which if nothing else gives the combat a more personal vibe. More importantly the scale is right. Your character doesn’t feel too big for the city he inhabits. Scale is something I’ve been kicking around as a topic to explore in depth for a while, but – as you can see – I’ve not fully chewed through all the critical angles yet. Sleeping Dogs gets it right though.
Also, every time I spot a pork bun stand, I’ve taken to grabbing an NPC and slamming them face first into it while shouting “PORK BUNS!” to the chagrin of those in and out of the game. No, I’m not sure why I find this funny either.
The Runners Up
Thomas Was Alone
Strong contender for the shortlist, this.
Loaded it up the other month after a period in the unplayed wasteland. Completed it in one sitting. Charming puzzle-platformer, gets great characterisation out of a bunch of rectangles, and is both genuinely funny and somewhat touching. Proper ace, basically.
PS. This list can apparently also double as my Soundtracks of 2012. Time saver!
Rift: Storm Legion
Strong contender for the shortlist, this.
Currently the only MMO I’m subbed to, and really only getting a mention for two reasons. 1) I didn’t play enough Guild Wars 2. 2) I got a bunch of Level 50 characters for the review. MMOs are ace when you’re at the max level. Why do they even bother making you go through the other shit?
Strong contender… well, you get the idea.
This was probably the most downright lovely game of 2012. The cheery “yoohoo!” of your characters when you complete a puzzle and their cute scurry off screen absolutely made it. Plus, just listen to this:
Just the happiest of games.
Far Cry 3
Fuck this is a long list.
Still a bit unsure on this, hence its relegation to the runners up list. Still not played much of the actual campaign, hence its relegation to the runners up list.
Haven’t played it as much as the first. Suspect that I may be burnt out on Borderlands after the first. Still enjoying it when I do set aside the time though.
So, yeah. Pretty much refer to the million blog posts about why Journey was great. I will say that it’s been good to see the PSN store pursuing some of the weirder boutique titles that typified its first few years.
Papa & Yo
…Like this, which was a moving personal allegory about a drunk, violent father. The imagery totally works. The first time the “monster” rampaged I was genuinely angry at the situation.
It’s not often I’ll criticise a specific review, but this one by IGN completely missed the mark.
“In every respect that matters, DYAD is the only video game you will ever play.”
Basically replaced the space that TF2 once held. Brief sessions of obsession, followed by not playing it for ages. This and Planetside 2 are the two shooters I really want to spend some time on this year.
Wins the award for most shouting caused by a video game in 2012.
I enjoyed it, but spent most of my time thinking how great it would be if combined with Flotilla’s random event system. Flotilla had some ace random events.
This was the perfectly executed, highly focused “worthy” indie game. Hotline Miami was the messier, more sprawling one. Both were great, Hotline made it into the top 10 because I prefer the mess. It’s the Zelda/Skyrim argument on a drastically smaller scale.
Mad, stupid, hilarious in co-op, technically a bit shit. Those first three points do a lot to override the fourth.
30 Flights of Loving
Brilliant story short, stripping away the action to leave disorientating cuts of plot. I’ve spent too long writing this list to even consider any in-depth analysis, so see here and here to read others do it better.
Also, Goldblum mode!
Probably my favourite free game release of the year. To be honest, I think I prefer its take on a pop-punk skating aesthetic to Jet Set Radio’s.
“Hey Phil, does it have an amazing soundtrack?”
Glad you asked.
God, just listen to that frantic chaos.
Brief, intense period of playing this around its initial release, but I’m basically just waiting for the standalone release now.
Picked this up around Christmas, so only played it a bit. Had I played much more, I’m convinced this would have made it into the top list. It’s basically the game Need for Speed: Most Wanted should have been.
Most of the missing games will be stuff I’ve not played but (briefly) here are a few that didn’t make it for legitimate reasons.
Spec Ops: The Line
It was fine. Good story (even though its cultural references weren’t exactly reaching for the stars). Off-puttingly generic third-person shooting. I think I know what exactly it is that turned me off about the game portion of the game, but I’ll save it for a future post.
Assassin’s Creed 3
UGH! To be fair, I’m enjoying it more now I’m sticking to the optional objectives, which tend to actually require some degree of stealth and panache. I am so fucking sick of Ubisoft’s infini-tutorials though, and what the hell is the crafting all about. Ugh.
Remember Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Ubisoft? That was the good one. If we have to have annual releases, then just make them like that. Also it would be nice to assassinate a person once in a while.
Need for Speed: Most Wanted
Biggest disappointment of the year (note: I’ve not played Hitman Absolution yet). It was supposed to be Burnout Paradise 2! Burnout Paradise was great – absolutely amazing in online co-op. NfS:MW isn’t much fun and the online co-op is a mess of annoying playlist menus.
The Secret World
I wish they’d had the conviction to go the Guild Wars 2 route from the start. Cut the chaff, focus on the good stuff, release it as a one off payment with updates as DLC. It’s great that they’ve dropped the sub, but the chaff remains. So much chaff.
Right… I think that’s it. Anything I’ve missed?