Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Top Ten Games, 2012 Edition

Another year of video game blogging has come and gone - actually, my first full January-to-December year doing this. Fifty-two weeks in a year and one review per week (skipping last week) means I've played 50 games to completion this year. But wait, that's not quite true - January was indie month at 3 games per week, and I played some games I didn't review, so that puts me well over 60 this year.

Anyway, if you remember my list from last year, the purpose is not to talk about the best games that came out this year. I don't play games soon enough after launch to do that kind of a list. No, this is simply my 10 favourite games I played this year.

And so, with no more ado, and in alphabetical order, here we go!

I really loved this game. It has an interesting story, a great narrative format, plenty of references to other works in the horror genre, looks fantastic on the PC, and most importantly to me, it does an excellent job of providing combat that's tense and scary, which is pretty difficult to pull off in a horror game. I'm very excited to see what comes next.

There's almost too much going on here, what with the tower defence, the huge gear loadout, the city management, the assassin recruitment, the new combat moves... but not quite. I was pretty skeptical of a third game featuring Italian assassin Ezio Auditore, but Revelations did a great job of (finally) providing a strong, thoughtful conclusion to the stories of both Ezio and Altair, leaving a clean slate for Assassin's Creed 3.

Arkham Asylum did Batman right. Arkham City is that but more and better. The core plot might be a little predictable for fans of the comics, but the game has a surprisingly effective balance of all the villains in a big story, including some who aren't really bad guys. Of course the best part is still the feeling of being Batman: movement and combat flow wonderfully and make you believe that Batman can really take on thirty guys at once with nothing more than his body and a handful of gadgets. The only improvement I'd like to see is a stronger focus on Batman's role as a detective with less of that being done automatically.

As a small indie game, Bastion might have slipped below your radar. Don't let it stay there. It has a surprisingly emotional and mature narrative under its cartoony graphics, as well as some really solid gameplay. The narrator is absolutely fantastic and I'm sure you'll be doing his voice in your head for a few days after playing.

One of the most ambitious mods of all time - and Black Mesa pulls it off. It's a full overhaul of Half-Life, and it does a fantastic job of reproducing what was great about the classic while throwing in a few little tweaks here and there. Whether you skipped Half-Life because it felt too dated for you, or you just haven't played Half-Life in a while, you really should try Black Mesa. It's free!

Crysis 2
The Crysis series is sneaking its way into my short list of favourite franchises. The sequel's suit is streamlined to make it easier and more fluid to use, which really opens up a lot of freedom in how you approach a given combat scenario. The sci-fi elements of the series just keep ramping up, with new developments in the nanosuit and more alien awesomeness. And of course it looks fantastic.

Guild Wars 2 does have some problems, and it doesn't quite live up to the pre-launch hype that it would revolutionize the MMO industry... but it has some of the best design philosophy of any game I've ever seen. Every action awards XP and character progress, so nothing is pointless and you're always accomplishing something no matter what you do. More importantly, the game was built from the ground up with cooperation in mind and bends over backwards to make sure that you'll always be happy to see another player. That's something that just doesn't happen in most games, and that combined with ArenaNet's very strong community policies make Guild Wars 2 feel like one of the most friendly and cooperative games ever made.
I'm completely addicted to this game and have played more than 500 hours since it launched on August 25th.

Skyward Sword leans heavily on series lore. While a new player won't be confused as to what's going on, they'll miss out on the dozens of references and tidbits related to other games in the series. But even without those references, the game looks gorgeous with its impressionist style, and refines the formula that's been around since Ocarina of Time to its absolute best. And the motion controls are great, making combat feel more like a puzzle to be solved than a mindless hack-and-slash.

I just can't stop loving this game. It keeps getting better and better. This year's major updates added some hilarious new lore and some very ambitious new gameplay mechanics, including an entire co-op mode featuring upgrade trees and a whole different set of tactics. Even weapon unlocks seem to have entered somewhat of a renaissance, adding plenty of new mechanics rather than simple numerical tweaks. The only reason I haven't played much in the last couple of months is because I'm too obsessed with Guild Wars 2.

The thing I loved the most about The Witcher is its choice and morality system. "Deep choice and morality" is something that's seemingly trumpeted in every RPG now, but it's never as open or deep as the ads would have you believe. The Witcher does a great job of portraying a more realistic and complex system - you're never faced with "good" and "evil" options, but rather constant shades of grey and real dilemmas. The second game has improved and streamlined a lot of the clunkier bits of the first, and it works very well.


Well, that's it for this year! I've already got a good-sized backlog, so I'll be getting started on next year's list soon.

How about you? What games did you play this year that stood out to you?


  1. I was away from any sort of gaming device for most of the year, but I was a huge fan of Ys Oath In Felghana for a while. Super hardcore bosses and some pretty decent music.

  2. My favorites that I played this year:

    Batman: Arkham Asylum (haven't placed AC yet...backlog...)
    XCOM: Enemy Unknown (just fantastic)
    Civilization V (the Gods & Kings expansion greatly improved it)
    Black Mesa
    And, believe it or not, Diablo III