Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2012 in Review - the Games

So I played a lot of games this year, a lot more than I ever have. Let's see how this list goes.. probably more on the good list than the bad. Obviously, this will be a very subjective list and you won't agree with everything.

Let's start off with the bad, shall we? In no particular order:

The Bad:

Diablo III

I've played Diablo II, but that was recently and I just borrowed it to play through it. I certainly don't have the memories of LAN parties lasting for an entire weekend and just playing through the entire campaign a few times with a few friends. For me, a game like this turns into a very solo experience. I just explore, mess around some, make sure to fill the ENTIRE map, and kill some dudes. It's just not the kind of multiplayer I enjoy.

I could do that with Diablo III. I DID do that with Diablo III. I even enjoyed doing that with Diablo III (By the way, Tyrael is awesome) Then I finished, started up nightmare, and played it for a few days. About half way through, I stopped. I didn't even stop because it was a bad game. I stopped because it wasn't for me. Clickfests and looting being the entire point of the game just doesn't work for me, at least not with this kind of combat. (I enjoyed Borderlands 1 well enough even solo. Of course I got that for like $20 will all the DLC, not for full price at launch)

Guild Wars 2 

This one I should have seen coming. I DID see this one coming. Guild Wars 2, before launch, was being touted as a 'completely different experience' from the WoW model, a 'WoW killer' as it were. Oh look 'skill' based combat! Auto-scaling areas and enemies! Area quests! Dynamic events! Isn't this so awesome and DIFFERENT!

Spoiler: It's not. It's the same thing except with a undeniably shallower combat and progression system than WoW, terrible crafting balance, a tendency to make you want to do EVERYTHING and thus almost inevitably underlevel you. (In a game where scaling YOU down to the enemies was a selling point!) The only motivation seemed to be 'Isn't this fun and cool and DIFFERENT?!?'

Maybe someday someone will make an MMORPG that actually IS different. I'm still looking.


Now, don't get me wrong, I appreciate Dishonored for what it is - a fully realized new IP in a very creative world with some interesting mechanics, but I'm the victim of my OWN hype here. I've been saying 'this game looks awesome' for over a year, when what I really meant 'hey this game is like those games you guys all say you like so you'll probably like this!'.

They did, I didn't. My playstyle isn't conducive to this type of game, I guess. I took the boring, simple, but guaranteed to be always useful powers and used one of the least interesting and unique strategies in the game for the ENTIRE GAME (sneaking and backstabbing, btw). I couldn't bring myself to play with the other mechanics because I didn't think they'd be more effective. Blink is cool, if a little overpowered, and there's a lot of neat ideas. But for whatever reason I didn't have all that much fun (the story and characters weren't the best either). There were some cool moments, but overall a disappointment for me personally. I'll probably enjoy it a lot more the second time around.

Assassin's Creed 3 

AC3 disappointed me because it had the potential to finally get out from the shadow of the Ezio trilogy and really be the BEST game in the series, and it dropped the ball. It's just so fundamentally broken in the way it uses its mechanics it's almost a tragedy.

Sure, it had the most interesting moral themes and characters of the entire series, but when the game itself is so broken when previous games have been so much better? I had higher hopes for this game. 

 The Good:

Mass Effect 3

I won't say much about ME3, that's beating a dead horse that was resurrected and then fell down Mount Everest. Twice. I'll just say that everything but the ending was about what I expected and even hoped for, and I refuse to let the admittedly TERRIBLE ending tarnish my view of what is STILL probably my favorite series of games ever.

 The Old Republic

"But Aldowyn, you spent two paragraphs slamming GW2 for not being different!" No. Well, yes. Kind of. I slammed GW2 for being different just for the sake of being different. TOR, on the other hand, knows what it wants to do differently and does it rather well. If you like Bioware's style of writing and storytelling, and the WoW model isn't an instant turn-off for you, TOR may be the game for you.
 I do really enjoy the class storylines, the voice acting, and how every quest has context that games like WoW really doesn't. It even has area quests somewhat similar to some of GW2's area quests, just always available as long as the mobs are there. I admit it has downsides to GW2's approach, but the base game is better for me and less reliant on gimmickry.


If you start off with an Arthur C. Clarke quote, I'm PROBABLY going to like you. Now, others have discussed the downsides of XCOM: Enemy Unknown's tactical turn-based system before, and it was sufficient for me, but that's not what I want to talk about. What I really liked about it was how it manages to naturally and intuitively fit a cohesive narrative into a tactical game that's meant to be repeated. These soldiers' lives are in your hands, and they will fight for you as heroes and, sometimes, those that can't quite cut it.

Firaxis, which if you don't know is also the developer behind the Civilization series seems to be good at this. They make these sprawling tactical systems and manage to put enough personality behind it that it doesn't feel bland and boring. This is no exception. 

The Walking Dead


This one blindsided me. I'd heard of it, and certainly the television show, but until Shamus and Co. decided they were going to cover it on Spoiler Warning (Shamus' blog should be on the sidebar somewhere if you don't follow him already), I hadn't really looked. I'm glad I did.

TWD has some of the most fully realized characters I've ever seen. The writing and voice work are both quite great (try closing your eyes and just listening...), and this is a game that's not afraid to use its mechanics to make you feel TERRIBLE. The narrative and the choices have been discussed a lot, so I'd like to bring something else up.

Quick time events. They're the primary mode of combat in this game, and this is how you do them right. Simple mouse clicks for hitting stuff, Q and E or sometimes space for struggles, and it's almost always predictable, which is the main reason QTEs genuinely suck. Very few of them are actually HARD, but you know that if you mess up you might get your brains eaten - and sometimes that makes you mess up.

Far Cry 3

Those of you that follow me on twitter may know that I am pretty much obsessed with this game right now. It's one of the most fun games I've ever played. It knows what it wants to do and delivers on it nearly flawlessly. The themes and narrative are interesting, but I haven't entirely figured them out yet, and that's a bigger discussion than I want to have here. (Not to mention I already had the first part of it in my "Welcome to the Jungle" post back in December.)

So.. yeah. Lots of cool games, lots of disappointments. I didn't play anything that was just fundamentally terrible, luckily, but there were some that were about what I was expecting, some better, some worse. Hopefully I've learned a bit more about what games I personally like, enough to ... not get every single one of my big disappointments at launch. (The only other games I got at full price were ME3, which was always going to happen, and XCOM)

Next week I'll discuss some of the constant themes in the industry from 2012 and what I expect to happen in 2013. See you then! (Who knows, I might write something before then. I should tell you guys WHY AC3 sucks instead of just 'man this was awful' all the time)

P.S. If there's something you think I'd have mentioned that I haven't, I probably didn't play it. Notably Spec Ops: The Line, Borderlands 2, and maybe Max Payne 3. FTL isn't on here because meh I don't like talking about indie games as much, sorry :P


  1. "I won't say much about ME3, that's beating a dead horse that was resurrected and then fell down Mount Everest. Twice."

    Best. Analogy. Ever. xD

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it, I enjoyed writing it :D