2012 was a bizarre year for video games. The big budget games mostly failed to deliver or were pushed back to 2013 so the indie scene took over and is flourishing. This is something I expect is more than a trend and will be here to stay. Thanks to the indie and middle tier games 2012 was a solid and interesting year for games. The idea of what is a game has been brought into question as the scope of the medium is broadened. 2012 is Not a year that will go down as an all time great but had some fantastic and memorable games none the less. It was hard to order some of these but at some point you gotta go with your gut and move on. So without further ado here is my top 10 favorite games of 2012.
Cinders tells a more fleshed out and grounded version of the classic, Cinderella. It takes simple simple those stereotypical characters and makes them both believe and reliable by fleshing them out with quality writing. The step sisters are not cartoonish, cackling villains who hate Cinders because she is different. You learn who these people are, where they are coming from and why they treat cinders poorly. I actually sympathized with the step sisters and tried my best to keep moral high around the house.
It simultaneously critiques the harmful messages of fairy tales and cherishes the kind of escapist fantasy they allow and the imagination they foster. This duality is reflected in the gameplay. As You can mold Cinders in either direction. In the original tale Cinderella was passive and beguilingly accepted her fate until one day when by magic she was carried away into a life of happy ever after. Cinders actually has agency and takes charge in her life, for sit around will accomplish nothing.
If you have played a Tales game or even a JRPG before, Tales of Graces F is a familiar experience. But it is well executed JRPG hitting all the right buttons. One thing that does help it stand out is the structure. The games spend it's first few hours playing as the main cast as kids. Gives the character and world a real sense of growth and help you gets attached to their plights.
The plot may be standard JRPG fare with political intrigue, a magic power source and crystals but the characters are enduring. Although they fit archetypes they have great chemistry with one another. The dialogue is often silly, lighthearted and humorous. Never taking itself to seriously and allowing the drama to have weigh. I grew to care about the cast. especially pascal. She is just so darn energetic and oblivious to social norms it's hard not to like her.
The combat is great. It's flashy the CC systems makes it more involved and stand out from past Tales games. All the characters are fun and useful in combat. I really like there level up system which allows skills to be gained by ways other than combat, the characters highly customizable and gives a steady steam of new stats and abilities to ensure even fighting the simplest of foes stays exciting.
My favorite thing about Fez it it's world. One which exudes mystery and intrigue with every location. It's a cryptic place that gave off the impression that there is more going on than is immediately apparent. I am ever impressed with the amount of detail and care that went into every section of that world. It is filled with cryptic details which are obtuse in a way that demands to be uncovered. What does this giant telescope possible do? What is with all the Tetris like imagery everywhere? It has enough respect to the players to offer clues but never spell it out.
There is a game with a clear vision and cohesive design. The art and incredible music add reinforce the peculiar, enigmatic atmosphere. If this The perspective shifting mechanic is enjoyable to use and super cool to look at. But it's also a metaphor and way to nudge you on that you should be paying attention to whats around you in a nontraditional way. In the story the character gains the ability to see the world around him in new ways, which phil fish expects the players themselves to do.
In a year where a lot of people are discussing the merits and relevance of non traditional games Mark of The Ninja stand outs. It is a fantastically designed game. With precise, snappy controls that ensure you are always able to do what you want. It sports terrific level design which allows for multiple valid approaches. I loved stalking out the enemies and thinking of new ways to dispatch of them. Or I could avoid them completely. The game rewards you well for any style of play and gives you the tools and classes to play however you want.
I have never gotten into open world city games. They don't appeal to so i'm surprised I like Sleeping Dogs so much. The game gets labeled as derivative but I think it's more original than given credit for. It has a different feel to other games in the genre. Sleeping dogs pulls from classic Hong Kong action movies as opposed to gangster films. Sleeping Dogs is more about finesse and style over brute force and gunplay.
The primary objective of Sleeping Dogs is to be pure dumb fun at every turn. The melee fighting is brutal with great impact and enough moves to keep it from ever getting stale. Cops are never a problem because you can easily ram them off the road and hop from car to car, creating a awesome chase scene from some movie on the fly. The story is smart in that is never creates a dissonance between the player and narrative. Being affiliated with both cops and with a experience bar for each make either play style feel valid.
The world is well made with plenty of varied and quality side quests to do which are spaced in a such a manner that you will come across them on your way between story missions. You are rewarded with meaningful experience and skills with every side objective you can do so they don't feel like needless padding. The city feels like a place inhabited by actual people that looks beautiful at night. It and other small details such as how many of the characters speak Chinese immerses you in the Hong Kong's lifestyle wonderfully.
To me Mass Effect 1 shown because of it's universe building. It painted a intriguing picture of the the universe filled with interesting and varied races all with years of intricate back story and conflict. Mass effect 2 took that universe and inhabited it with characters we grew to care about. Mass Effect 3 does a excellent job of combining and capitalizing on both these styles. Intertwining the The personal relations we forged with our crew mates and the fate of all galactic civilization.
The central theme of Mass Effect 3 is about coming together to stop impossible odds and the sacrifices that must be make to get there. Which it portrays through it focus on the people and conflicts we care about. It uses these per-established story threads, because we are attached to them. It brings together the long standing issues of the series and attaches them to the characters we care about. so instead of getting the help of the Krogan or Salarian by talking to random people we never heard of we are tasked with solving the issue of the Genophage.
This is how it gets us to care about the universe and actually want to stop the reapers from wiping it all away. Because we don't want to people like Tali whom we grew attached to. Some call it cheap how everyone you ever met keeps showing up I think it's a well done story device taking advantage of the past games. Plus I enjoyed catching up with Jack, shooting with Garrus in the middle of the citidel and facilitate a romance between AI and human. Mass effect 3 reminds us that just because the galaxy the people whom we at attached are as important as ever.
The combat is also great. As a third person shooter Mass effect 3 stands out for the use of biotic powers. flinging foes around with Liara's warp as I charge around into them causing a mini explosion never gets old.
For me to like a fighting game it simply has to "feel" right. I have always loved the flow of combat in Dead or Alive games. They are dynamic and flashy looking. Akin to a well made martial arts movie. Where people gets knocked through glass, real from strikes and any attack can be reversed to gain advantage. It has that back and forth I love, a match in Dead or Alive feels like a honest to goodness fight.
Dead or alive 5 keeps this signature style and improves upon the mechanics behind that fighting in smart ways that make past games feel obsolete. Things like un-holdable stuns, guaranteed hits after getting slammed into a wall and critical bursts give the gameplay more depth plus are fun to do.
The mechanics of journey are simple but engrossing and in context absolutely beautiful. Controls are perfect ensuring immersion and the animation convey the hardships of trekking though the environments. The mere act of jumping is elegant. Sliding down a sand hill is gleeful fun. The art design is gorgeous. I love the consistent red cloth aesthetic. It give an impression that everything was connected, environment, player and the peculiar creatures trapped in cages. I would be filled with inexplicable joy whenever I filled a piece of cloth in the environment.
The co-op is in a word, brilliant. With no words I felt connected to my partners in travels. I experienced gratitude when they waited for me, sorrow at losing them in the midst of a snow storm. me chirping away as the only way to cope at the realization we got separated. Elation undercut with wistfulness at reaching our curious destination. A combination of hope and fear as we huddled together behind a rock formation under the stare of a enormous beast.
The word experience is over used when describing games but it fit Journey to a tee. I would recommend it anyone.
This game is about the characters and making difficult morally grey choices that involve and effect them. I'm not a fan of zombie settings but the way they are used here is well done. The world is bleak and oppressive yet grounded and relatable thanks to fantastic writing, characterizations and voice work.
I picked my choices based on the characters around me and how I felt any given decision would affect those individuals and overall group morale. All choices are presented as having pros and cons, never does the game force one upon you. It proves that solid writing and characters are key to story investment not a binary moral system with meters that fill up.
The clear star of the cast is Clementine who is one of the best child characters I have ever seen. She is a child but capable on her own and not to be talked down to. She is a developed character in her own right instead of a whiny kid who is forced upon the audience and used as some easy plot device. I respected her enough to tell her the truth in near every situation. Her relationship with Lee is the backbone of the game. Their interactions are both sweet and heartbreaking. Often at once like in the incredible ending. I'll be honest here, I cried during that ending. Never would i though going into this year that some zombie game would evoke such a response from me.
The way the game makes you care about Clem and always keep her in mind during any decision may be it's biggest achievement. I wanted to survive for her sake. She deserves better than the the hand she was dealt. I truly wanted to be a positive role model to her, show that despite the sullen state of the world there was still good people left.
Where to even being with this game. It is hard to describe why exactly Katawa Shoujo connected with me on a level so few things ever do. I just love it, I love the tone of it's story and I loved spending time with Lily, Hanako, Rin, Emi, even Shizune and Misha. Each of their routes had a different overall feeling to it but was coherent to the overall tone. Mundane tasks such as shopping for gifts and playing chess were enjoyable with them. Through this time spend together you get to learn of the characters, there relations with each other and watch them grow with Hisao all in a natural and sweet way. It's that focus on interaction and little things most games would never have you do that endear me so much.
For a concept that could of gone horrible the result is passionate, sincere, and even poignant. For the two weeks I spread this game over I was truly immersed in it. Part of this is thanks to Hisao who I think is a great lead. I connected to his bitterness and resentment towards his current situation. He had a heart attack at the worst possible time for a teenager. He feels weak, pathetic, and lost all those close to him as he was forced to move to a school for disabled students. Hisao himself is a great character yet still works as a surrogate for the player.
He started out awkward and unsure of how to act towards the people around him in fear of hurting their by acknowledge their disabilities. Katawa Shoujo teaches the harm in this line of thinking. For avoiding the topic with good intentions he was actually defining the characters though their disabilities. Instead of looking at it as merely part of a multifaceted and complex human being. Hanako's story gets this point across beautifully.
As I sit here and write this and reflect on my time at Yamaku high. I remember the moments it gave it and the feelings they evoked. No matter how much I write I can't possibly express just why I love Katawa Shoujo as much as I do or the way it made me feel. Just know that I do love it and that it's my Game of the Year.