Because nothing quite says bringing in a new year like dragging the old one through the mud a bit. Which is fine with me. 2012 wasn't necessarily a great year for me personally, but as my GOTY list will attest, it was preeeeettyyy good for video games. So thus, let's talk about some games that I've now had the opportunity to play thanks to my overly long Christmas break. So let's dive in?
Dragon's Dogma is some sort of weird masterwork, a "flawed gem" if you will. While the first 90% of the game itself is a open-world RPG with not a lot to do and has a story that doesn't really go anywhere until you fight the titular Dragon, that last 10% of the game, with the dark, messed up world, the multiple chambers of the Everfall and the utterly insane ending are kind of brilliant. While I was already on board enough to give it the #7 spot on my list, I think the ending probably would've put it above Borderlands 2 on that list, though obviously I still think Dragon's Dogma has some problems that would probably make someone who isn't me balk. Be it the utter lack of charm from any of the characters (though I find the pawns' tendency to spout encyclopedic nonsense every 3 seconds charming in its own obnoxious way), the lack of fast travel or the somewhat clunky menu structure, I can see why this game isn't for everyone. It's messed up in some pretty obvious ways. To use a direct, albeit confusing comparison, it's basically Final Fantasy V (or basically any other game that I'm weirdly into) in that my enjoyment of the mechanics at play far trumps whatever other inadequacies the game has.
But know what? Most of that didn't bother me, and some of what excites me about Dragon's Dogma is the potential it brings for a sequel, and the various directions Capcom could go in reaching that goal. The core gameplay, being the combat, is already solid. Maybe make it a bit more dungeon crawl-y, maybe throw in some 4 player co-op (I mean, with the whole mechanic of pawns you're practically halfway there), and make there be more giant monsters for me to crawl up and stab in the face. All of those things would make whatever sequel that comes out of Dragon's Dogma something that I could justly support. In other words, you should play it, but only if you are a crazy person who can be sustained by good combat and not a whole lot else. I still like it more than Amalur, something that I probably should use the last week of this break to finish as well.
Persona 4 Arena
If I had played it before writing my GOTY list, Persona 4 Arena would have been available for the following awards: Best Fanservice, Best Justification of a Spinoff, Best Bad Ending, Best Visual Novel (sorry Katawa Shoujo!), Best use of Foreshadowing, Best Robot Ladies, Best Spinoff to a Game I've Never Actually Beaten But Have Watched Being Beaten, and also probably Best Fighting Game, but that's mostly because I didn't even find Street Fighter x Tekken disappointing or infuriating enough to mention in my Dishonorable Mentions category. While the story mode echoes that of Blazblue in that there is proportionally more dialogue than there is fighting, the difference is that Persona 4 Arena has fantastic writing that I enjoy and more than its fair share of callbacks to both P3 and P4, rather than bullshit anime nonsense (and not the good kind either). In fact, since I have yet to face an actual human opponent, the story is really all I can comment on, since you can literally win every battle in story mode by mashing X (or square). It certainly seems like an ArcSys fighting game. And with that said, the story mode is some sort of narrative genius, since it manages to believably justify its existence, the (oh!) collusion of the casts of Persona 3, a robot having a northeastern accent, and in the process sets up story events that make me really want to see where Persona 5 will go. I mean, seriously. In a year of bad endings, it's nice to know that Dragon's Dogma and P4A are still holding the torch for conclusions that are kind of balls crazy in a good way. If you have any love of Persona 4, any at all, you should play this game. I picked it up for $30 new at gamestop, so you don't have much of an excuse. Hell, it's probably a good fighting game too.
Mark, of the Ninja
Mark the Ninja is a preeeettyyy great Stealth Game that also happens to look really good and probably would have been somewhere on my list had I played it before December 23rd. It succeeds at making you feel like a crazy badass Ninja, and while the ending twist is predictable, at least it's executed well for the level of ambition that the story pursues. That being said, while it is mechanically excellent and pretty awesome, it is by no means my favorite stealth game, and find the comments of the Bomb Squad during GOTY, namely those of Patrick and his somewhat retarded claim that "Stealth is terrible and all trial and error but nope this game isn't trial and error at all" (yes I am aware that everyone else on the GB crew has shared something of a similar opinion, but he was the most vocal so he gets the call-out) to be unfortunate. In it's mechanical preciseness, Mark of the Ninja loses a lot of tension that comes with stealth, because you know exactly what a guard will do upon you using an item or tactic. Some may find this predictability comforting, but it irks me in some odd way because of how artificial it feels. Sure, stealth in games has never been the most believable of mechanics, but the absolute nature of the mechanics in Mark of the Ninja make it feel like a machine. I'm nitpicking and probably being a crazy old games person, so I'll have to mention that I'm probably crazy and you should still play Mark the Ninja,
even if the Giant Bomb staff is a bunch of pussies who are probably incapable of playing any sort of game that challenges them and praise games that make frustrating mechanics palatable to their watered-down game journalist sensibilities. Blargity Blarg I am so hardcore.*
Far Cry 3
So, to get off the subject of things that will probably incense the wrong sort of people on these forums, I think Far Cry 3 is alright, 8 or so hours in. I've done barely any story missions and have instead taken out every radio tower and base with a focused precision. Silenced Sniper Rifle is my friend and companion, and I've died far more times to falling and wildlife than I have to enemy gunfire. I'm having a blast, so I'm hoping it stays that way once I accidentally clear out the entire map before getting anywhere in the main quest. I guess we'll have to see, won't we?
*: Obviously, I'm exaggerating, but yeah I am still sort of annoyed that the kind of games I like are ignored or treated with derision by the staff of this website (see: that awful, borderline insulting Baldur's Gate Quick Look) Probably the reason why I read Rock Paper Shotgun even though those guys are on the opposite end of the spectrum and are crazy old-guard PC enthusiasts (or elitists) who gush endlessly about some C64/Amiga game that came out before I was born before complaining about how the kids these days don't get what makes the games good.
Happy New Year?