It's that time of year AGAIN! It seems like a yearly cycle or something where we all get together and make lists as if our opinions mattered or something!
Well, my fucking opinion matters, so I'm doing this again! IT'S GAME OF THE YEAR TIME!
In the past two years, I did Top 25 lists...because fuck Top 10 lists. This year, I'm doing a Top 10 list...because fuck Carpal Tunnel.
I know you all wait in hot anticipation every year for me to pop the cherry on the Game of the Year lists. FRET NOT, for I am right on time this year as well! I've been keeping a running list all year long of what games I felt really defined 2012 as a banner year for gaming. In the past, my choices have been a bit unconventional. For example:
2009 - I picked Assassin's Creed II while the rest of the world was getting down on Uncharted 2.
2010 - I picked Bayonetta when everyone was singing praises of Red Dead Redemption and Mass Effect 2.
2011 - I picked Bastion while the world was swooning over Saints Row The Third and Skyrim.
My picks aren't unconventional just to be unconventional. They are based on what I personally played over the year. In essence, it means this list will have some things that aren't even considered, like Journey and Far Cry 3 (which I'm sure as fantastic games). It's not the end-all be-all of Game of the Year lists. Actually, it is. It totally is. I'm sorry for telling you otherwise.
Anyways, enough babbling. LET THE LIST COMMENCE!
|1. The Walking Dead|
If you had told me that a point-and-click adventure game filled with cinematic storytelling based on the Robert Kirkman comics that continues the oversaturation of zombies in video gaming would rank at the top of my list, I would've told you that you were fucking high. Nonetheless, The Walking Dead goes above and beyond in so many ways beyond just the game itself. Yes, the story of Lee and Clementine surviving in the wild new world alongside a myriad of supporting characters has its twists, turns, and intense emotional moments. However, I also look at how the game has delivered on all fronts. The gameplay that is present is some good ol' point-and-click adventure done right, the quick-time event moments that show up are played off well, the episodic delivery of the game was a perfect bait-and-hook to keep you coming back, the writing was smart and witty, the graphics worked perfectly with their hand-drawn grittiness fused in 3D models... Literally, the only problem I think most can find with the game are a handful of bugs and frame rate issues on consoles. Beyond that, there is not a single other game this year that I could honestly say deserves this top slot more. Good on you, Telltale, for delivering what is a fantastic breath of fresh air to a beloved gaming genre. As to the continuing argument of whether it's a game or not - people need to get over themselves about it. It's a game in the same way that your beloved Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, Secret of Monkey Island, and Beneath A Steel Sky are games. Fuck off with the stupid arguing and celebrate such a lovely masterpiece of game development.
|2. Hotline Miami|
Okay, so that last part of The Walking Dead...where I said "there is not a single other game this year that I could honestly say deserves this top slot more?" Hotline Miami is that other game I would say could be in the first place slot. It's a dark, gritty, ultra-violent, fucked-up, over-the-top orgy of everything great about video games. Sure, there are the people digging into the "meaning" of the game. You know what I think the "meaning" of the game is? *baseball bat to the side of your head* THAT is the "meaning" of the game. Okay, okay. That's a hostile statement. Sure, it could be a message about violence in games, but even if we set all that shit aside, Hotline Miami was this surprising came-out-of-left-field indie game that delivered tight controls, bloody fun, and brutal difficulty. It also committed completely to its concept of zany madman-like insanity, which propelled it to its own unique pedestal...that is decorated in decapitated heads.
|3. Legend of Grimrock|
This downloadable homage to RPGs of yesteryear like Eye of the Beholder still keeps my nerd boner raging all these months later! I loved the game so much that I have dedicated myself to recreating the entirety of Doom in Grimrock's dungeon editor! There's a method to all of the dungeon-adventuring madness, a mystique to the story that unfolds, and a complexity to the combat that I thoroughly appreciated from start to finish. Once the main quest is done, there is still a heavy modding community delivering fresh new adventures on a regular basis, making this one of the most worthwhile packages of the year hands-down. The only...ONLY...reason it isn't higher on the list is because I couldn't trample a guy onto the ground and then gouge his eyes out with my fingers after shotgunning two of his friends in the room beforehand.
|4. Guild Wars 2|
Many out there will scream "it's the other MMO that launched this year". While there is no denying that Mists of Pandaria finally did right by those of us who loved vanilla WoW and Burning Crusade, Guild Wars 2 delivered in spades on its promises. They broke the holy trinity of RPG gaming up, continue to offer dynamic and massive world events, and the PvP (specifically the WvWvW) is FUCKING I-N-S-A-N-E! If anything, THIS game reminds me of the reason I loved something like Dark Ages of Camelot's realm vs. realm gameplay. Even then, continuous updates have been keeping it fresh since launch, and ArenaNet shows no signs of slowing down. This is definitely a game I'll be playing for quite some time.
|5. Torchlight II|
With the release of Diablo III earlier this year, a lot of people expected Torchlight II to fall by the wayside, forgotten by the masses. Once Blizzard dropped the ball with Patch 1.03, a mass exodus from the D3 community led people to Runic's sequel. In the time I've played Torchlight II, I feel confident in saying that it is what Diablo III should've been. There are great "open-world" areas reminiscent of Diablo II, the CHARACTER HIMSELF becomes powerful while the gear supplements his capabilities, and the introduction of INFINITE New Game Plus (much the same way as Dark Souls) means that you can finally start a character on the lowest difficulty just for the hell of slashing shit up and then finally end up on the highest difficulties after enough NG+. The classes are a bit more interesting as well, and the online multiplayer setup is vastly superior thanks to solid netcode.
|6. Forza Horizon|
Forza Horizon took me by surprise. I was expecting to plug the game in, fiddle around with it a bit, then forget about it almost immediately. It has done the exact opposite at every turn. What's more interesting is how Forza Horizon - either on purpose or inadvertently - takes from so many other games that have existed to create a solid product. Random drivers on the road to pull up to and race (Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero), open-world racing (Need for Speed: Most Wanted), bonuses for driving with style (Burnout), a plethora of things to do in an expansive world (Elder Scrolls), solid customization options both above and under the hood (Gran Turismo, Forza), challenges worth XP towards leveling up in the world (Call of Duty), audio navigation help (Dirt), A FUCKING STORY...that actually has me watching the cutscenes (any game ever), slightly looser gameplay than a simulation game (Need for Speed, Grid)... Literally, this game is such an amalgamation of things that make so many games great, and Playground does an incredible job of meshing it all together to build what I firmly believe is the greatest racing game made to date. It's going to be VERY HARD for a company to build another racing game that takes my breath away like Forza Horizon has.
|7. Path of Exile|
Path of Exile is still technically in beta, but even that beta has proven to be a fantastic ARPG in a dark world. It also handles a few things in a different way than other games. For starters, there is no currency in the game. If you want to acquire things from merchants or other players, it's all based on a barter system. You trade Identify Scrolls for some potions, some chunks of rare metal for some new gear. There's also the socketing system: you gain whatever skills you use based on whatever gems you socket into your gear, and each of those gems will level up individually based on the XP you gain through combat. The skill tree...OH MAN, THAT SKILL TREE... It's essentially the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X, helping to offer THE deepest level of customization ever in an ARPG. If you haven't joined up on the beta for Path of Exile, it's worth every bit of your $10. If you love ARPG games, there's no reason you should be avoiding this.
|8. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning|
It was a sad year for 38 Studios. We all know the woes that the studio went through shortly after the release of Reckoning. Nonetheless, what they allowed Big Huge Games to deliver to us was a great and impressionable RPG. What impressed me more was mainly the merging of combo-based action combat with deep RPG mechanics like Elder Scrolls. Amalur also proved to be a gorgeous world of wonder, harnessing a unique luster. Because of the downfall of 38 Studios, it unfortunately means this was a small trip and glimpse into what could have been. It saddens me, but the game that they released was a fantastic testament to the people who worked on it as well as how to push the RPG genre forward.
|9. The Darkness II|
Much like its predecessor, The Darkness II kind of came out of nowhere like a gut-punch to the solar plexus. It wasn't just about the solid shooting mechanics, but the surprises that were bestowed upon us. There were skill trees, deeper mechanics, solid enemy AI, slick graphics, a solid villain, and a fantastic ending for fans of the comic books. There were also the emotional moments, made ever so much more impactful by the fantastic performances all around from the voice actors and animation teams. All around, it's sad that this game is going to be largely ignored by so many people in the industry, but it's definitely one of the best games that came out this year.
The level of excitement for Fez was probably the biggest thing I've seen in indie gaming ever. Around its release, Phil Fish said some shit that pissed a lot of people off. Boo-fuckety-hoo. Fish's comments aside, Fez was an astounding feat, a labour of love from a guy that truly loved the world of gaming. Every single thing in Fez was purely fascinating and mind-bending, but what made Fez really stand out wasn't its unique gameplay and beautiful pixel-art. It was its dedication to its own world, the commitment that it offered to build a believable fantasy realm to play around in. I tip my hat to you, Mr. Fish. I hope to see more from you in the future.
|11. Borderlands 2|
HONORABLE MENTION: I didn't get to play much of Borderlands 2 for two reasons: 1. There were a LOT of games to play this year. 2. I decided that I would wait until next year when all the DLC has been released to get the eventual "here's the version will everything for cheaper edition". Nonetheless, I played to about level 10, and what I played makes me believe it would be a fucking travesty to not include it somewhere on this list. It had everything that you want in a Borderlands game, only done better. The AI is some of the best I've ever seen programmed in the industry, to the point that I tell everyone I know they should play Borderlands 2 at least ONCE to see what GOOD AI programming in games is like. There are shitloads of cool guns, skill trees that show a lot of thought put into it, character customization, better quest development, and fun co-op multiplayer. What I played of it was highly enjoyable. I just could not genuinely put it in my Top 10 because of the limited amount of time I had with it. Nonetheless, I feel like Borderlands 2 could easily be a contender for 2013's 2012 Game of the Year.