By Alaska_Gamer 5 Comments
Happy New Year, duders!
No, this is not the return of [insert title], that’s this coming Saturday. Instead, this is where I bring up to speed what I’ve been doing the past two weeks as well as my top 10 games of 2011. I’ll save the list for later.
Well, with the Steam Christmas sale and two weeks of no school, that meant plenty of time to play games. And as it turned out, too many games at some point. Before the break started I had bought all the Ultima games that were on GOG plus Shogo, and then the GBA games for 3DS came out. I even planned to keep playing tons more Skyrim but I didn’t. Games like Magicka, Bastion, Hard Reset, and Saints Row the Third took priority, especially when some of those games I was looking to consider for my top 10 list.
Of course there was Christmas, so I got quite a few neat gifts. I got the Skyrim 4 CD soundtrack autographed by Jeremy Soule, Reboot: The Definitive Mainframe Edition, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World on Blu-Ray, and best of all, a new monitor for my computer. That’s great because I can have two monitors hooked up without any usb device or whatever to make two old monitors work. Plus, I can now full enjoy widescreen content on my PC. Yeah, for the longest time I’ve been stuck with two standard def monitors. Instead I have one widescreen monitor and one SD monitor. And the setup works pretty well. Depending on which thing I want to watch, I can put it on the appropriate monitor. Wish I could figure that out for some of the games I own, but I guess that just means putting them in windowed mode.
Other than that, it’s just been nothing but games. I’ll save the other details about that stuff for [insert title] when it starts again on Saturday. But for now…
Top 10 GOTY
I had to have this game mentioned somewhere, if only because Video_Game_King would never let me hear the end of it if I didn’t. Heck, this spot on the list was hard to figure out because the other 9 are kind of a jump up from the rest of the games I played this year. Ultimately, I decided on El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron as my #10 game of 2011.
The game is a rather simplified character action game, which is what kind doesn’t put it on the same level as the rest of the games on this list from a gameplay standpoint. However, the experience of seeing Japan once again taking ancient religious and mythlogical stories and putting it through its own perspective was enjoyable. The art style is like an evolution of the visuals in Okami, and some of the places you find yourself in as you climb the Tower of Babel are rather surprising breaks from what you think the game is based on the first few hours. Heck, the timespan that gets abstractly covered throughout the game is rather crazy when you look back on it (it takes Enoch hundreds of years to find the Tower of Babel. You would have thought God got fed up and just flooded the whole world).
It’s a simple game, and it almost doesn’t feel like it should be in the same league as the rest of the games on my list, but El Shaddai was definitely a fun, visual experience.
Two years ago, Uncharted 2 Among Thieves was not just my game of the year, but it was also my game of the last decade. It was so amazing that I still lose my mind just thinking about that game. It’s two years later, and now the sequel is near the bottom of my list (if I had gotten my hands on more games, this probably would have been pushed to the #10 spot).
That isn’t to say that Uncharted 3 Drakes Deception isn’t terrible. There are some small holes and problems in the story, but the formula Naughty Dog has constructed for this series is still excellent. The combat is like a more limited, animation heavy version of the Arkham Asylum combat system, but it was still fun to use, and ended up using it more than I expected to resolve enemy encounters. The set pieces are also fantastic, and are even better than most of the set pieces in Uncharted 2. The cruise ship during the storm that starts flooding and changes the geometry, as well as the burning chateau are the two standout action pieces, and the only disappointing thing that can be said about those is that they were already shown months before the game’s release.
Once again, the sequel to another game from 2009 that was high on my list from that year and is now in the lower five this year. It’s kinda funny thinking about it. Two years ago after hearing the amazing debate between the Giant Bomb crew over Uncharted 2 or Arkham Asylum as GOTY, we kinda joked that the same thing would happen again with these sequels. Not really the case in reality. But again, Arkham City is not a bad game. In fact, I like it more overall than Arkham Asylum.
Story wise, it’s once again Batman in a dangerous situation in the course of a single night with a lot at risk. In fact, way more is at risk than in Arkham Asylum. I still won’t say what happens at the end, but man…it left me sad, and amazed that Rocksteady would do that. Aside from the story, the amazing combat system from Arkham Asylum is expanded on with new upgrades and gadgets to use, making an already great system even better. The open world was well executed, there are plenty of riddler trophies and challenges, and plenty of Batman’s rogues gallery gets their due, even if it’s a short cameo. This game is packed with so much content. It just sucks I couldn’t play the Catwoman missions because I was renting it from Gamefly and it was an online pass deal. The first time I’ve been personally made upset by an online pass.
If there’s one thing I can think of that infamous 2 does to improve it from the original are not powers that let you cause destruction, but powers that makes mobility super fun. Grinding on electric wires and floating through the air was fun in the first game, but launching yourself into the air with a pillar of ice, shooting up sides of the building on an electrified pole, and an electrified tether to latch onto things makes mobility and traversal so much fun and so much faster.
Of course, inFamous 2 isn’t all just that. The city is more vibrant and colorful looking, the way the game handles stacking variations on your powers is smart, the in-game cutscenes are a major improvement over the Sly Cooper-esque stilted animations from the first game, and both endings to the game, well at least the good ending anyway, makes a possible 3 inFamous to be drastically different from what the series is now. Kind of a “screw you” to the idea of making Cole’s battle against the Beast drawn out into a trilogy.
I may have bought this game just a week ago, but it was worth waiting to get it to enjoy on my new monitor, because the art is so good looking. And it plays as good as it looks too. A lot of stuff can start filling up the screen all looking to murder you, and on top of whacking/shooting them, dodging and knowing when to time it makes combat rather methodical. Also, the game narrating the kid’s actions is well done and probably the best use of narration or commentary on what happens in a game without it getting repetitive. Man, this whole game is so good.
Nintendo continues its move to make 3D Mario more and more resemble 2D Mario with Super Mario 3D Land, and unsurprisingly, it is the best game currently on the 3DS as well as a pretty fantastic Mario game. It’s a slow starter, in terms of both movement and difficulty curves, but later levels in the game can get devilishly tough and very fun at the same time. There’s extremely limited control of the camera, but the angle and view works really well, and allows for some neat hiding spots that would have been easily spoiled by a fully controllable camera. It’s 2D Mario in 3D, and I say the blend between the two styles of Mario games works splendidly.
There’s just so much great stuff to say about Portal 2 that it is hard to start off where. The single player story is amazing, introducing new characters like Wheatley and Cave Johnson and Valve continues to use its environmental story telling on top of it all. The decaying halls of the facility give you more small glimpses at what Aperture Science was like, foreshadowing what would happen later in the game, and a neat easter egg or two to remind you just enough that Portal is still connected to the Half-Life universe.
And that’s only half of the game. The other half is the co-op, which I was lucky to find someone earlier this year to be my Portal buddy and go through the two player campaign. The co-op campaign was less focused on the story as it was creating new puzzles for you and a friend to solve, and thinking up how to solve puzzles and experimenting was a lot of fun. There are even some fun achievements out there for screwing over your partner. I was able to get one by fooling my partner to stand on a lightmass bridge and wave to me. Then I removed the bridge and made him fall. Didn’t think it would have gone that smooth.
I never thought I would get to play this game by the end of the year. For half of the year my Wii’s disc drive was busted but it was only a month before the game’s release that I had enough money to spare on setting up a repair order with Nintendo. The one thing that kinda disappointed me that wasn’t the game’s fault was that I didn’t spend as much time with it during the first week that I had it. It was a lot of short bursts with the rest of my time devoted to Skyrim.
Despite taking a longer time to beat the game, my time with it was very enjoyable. It’s a Zelda experience that makes slight variations to differentiate it from other games in the series, but it’s still identifiable as a Zelda game. The motion controls and their implementation are really outstanding, with only a few instances where it felt like a burden. Sword combat, controlling a flying beatle, solving lock puzzles, and other instances makes the experience just different enough to be enjoyable. I’m only on a second playthrough with the intention of completing all the side material, and it is fun looking for every hidden nook and cranny. Some slow moments in the beginning and after the third dungeons, with some minor motion control issues does not keep this game from being near the top of my list.
For the last month and a half I’ve felt the need to play this game, thanks to Jeff and Ryan’s insistence for everyone to play Saints Row the Third. I figured “all right, I’ll wait for the Steam Christmas sale and buy it then.” Bought it on the first day of the sale, installed it, started playing, and I was very quickly drawn into the insanity. Like Skyward Sword, as of right now I am on a second playthrough and still find myself enjoying it. Even more so now that I’m actively looking to acquire as much territory and raise my hourly income. I’ve not played many open world games, but Saints Row the Third has to be my absolute favorite.
It’s weird that I would ever say that I love Saints Row the Third, because I did not like anything about Saints Row at all. The first game, all I remember from it was almost every other word coming out of people’s mouths was an f-bomb, and the gameplay accompanying it wasn’t that interesting looking. I didn’t look at Saints Row 2, or even realized it existed, since I figured it wasn’t that much different from the first game. This game though, all it took was that trailer introducing Professor Genki and that pre-order bonus stuff that it finally caught my interest, but I still wasn’t sure. Now I’m surprised I even doubted this game at all.
So many things that Saints Row the Third does is all in service of giving you easy access to making mayhem as quickly as possible without making the consequences immediately punishing. You get access to UAVs in the third mission, and shortly after you can outfit your cars with nitrous and spikes that protrude and retract from the side of your tires. And even though I thought it was incredibly stupid the first time I heard about it, I had a bizarre amount of fun beating up people with the penetrator. Yeah, whacking people in the head with a giant dildo. Who knew?
The game shows you what it’s capable of doing early on, and it continues to ramp up the absurdity as you dive deeper into the game. In fact, I’m gonna get back to playing this game immediately because it is still so much fun. Everything around what you do is so ridiculous and funny, and that’s why it works.
Saints Row the Third is pretty good, and so is Skyward Sword and Portal, but nothing else I’ve played this year, and I mean nothing, compares to the game that is the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
I already spoke about this game highly in my previous blog post, but I’ll continue to say this: Skyrim is an amazing experience that gives me what I’ve been wanting since I was first introduced to the series 5 years ago with Oblivion. Not just a more refined gameplay system, but a whole new world to explore. Oblivion and Morrowind stole so much of my time, but on subsequent playthroughs I found myself less encouraged to do it all again because I already knew what to expect, and even then, there was only a finite amount of content set up to cover a specific amount of area. Skyrim provides a new providence in the world of Tamriel to explore, but Bethesda created a new dynamic quest system and other refinements that I did not expect.
I’ve already talked about how amazing dragons in this game are, so I’ll skip the details and refer you to my last blog post (short version: they’re awesome. Wait, I already said that. Oh well). The Radiant Quest system works surprisingly well, and not because the quests themselves are truly amazing, far from it. What’s great is the game solving an issue with past Elder Scrolls games being that there is so many things crammed into a single one of those games that it is almost, or just straight up is impossible to find without consulting outsides sources and walkthroughs. Instead, the game designs the quests with some broad descriptions in the dialogue to point you towards a place in one of the 9 holds you have yet to explore. This includes guild quests, bounties, hunts for dragon shouts, anything. And once you start going on one of these randomly generated quests, they lead you to an area that has its own unique story and quest, and just like how many people play these games, everything starts branching out and you start going on a rabbit trail to see where it leads, not knowing where you’ll end up.
It’s really amazing that this and the other systems at play work amazingly, as well as this game feeling the least broken of anything Bethesda has put out. During the first few dozen hours of gameplay, I had experienced atleast one hard lock and one crash to desktop, and none of those instances where repeatable in the same area. Normally in something like Oblivion it would have been a spot where two much was happening as soon as I entered an area in the overworld, or for some other messed up reason. Here the most frequent bugs are things like backwards flying dragons and killing a bandit and having him immediately stand back up in a fists raised fighting stance (no joke, this just came up on me hours before posting this). They don’t break the game, and they may seem immersion breaking, but I just role with it, because it doesn’t prevent me from finishing something, and atleast it gives me a good chuckle.
The skill system has changed quite a bit, and the introduction of perks and skill trees kind of makes up for the reduction of skills from Oblivion, and before that Morrowind. Skill trees allow stuff like blade and blunt to be placed under the one hand or two hand skill trees. Although I have come to terms with it in this game, I miss having the traditional 8 attributes and picking from several preset classes along with the custom class option. The game works fine without it, since that’s how they built it, but the original system in past games worked just fine before that I don’t see how there’s any real reason to scrap it. But the game itself is so good that those things don’t cross my mind, so it’s only outside of it that I really think critically about it.
And while I don’t consider this a big factor in it being high up on my list, but even without the Creation Kit people have put out some really good mods for the game, making an already great game even greater. Some menu tweaks, post processing effects, even the 4gb patch, which is defunct now that Skyrim got it during an official update, have made the game so much more amazing ALREADY than what vanilla Skyrim offers. You know how I’ve had a couple moments early on where the game either locked up or crashed? Ever since I used the 4gb patch, and now the official Large Address Aware in Skyrim’s official executable, I’ve had nothing of the sort at all. I’m still amazed that it works this well because even with all the mods and fixes I’ve applied to Morrowind and Oblivion, they still crash on me every now and again.
I could probably go on to write a freaking song about this game, but I’m sure I don’t need to say that much else. Skyrim is amazing, far surpassing my expectations, even for all the excitement that I had for this game leading up to its release. I’m gonna keep playing it and I’ll be ready to by whatever DLC Bethesda puts out during the year. God…I love this game so much.
Now, those are my top 10 games, but there were others that I hoped would make the cut, but didn’t. Instead, I will give them an honorable mention. Here are the games.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
I only got the game on the 30 because it was 66 percent off on Steam. Why couldn’t it have been that way a week earlier? WHY!?
I like the magic system, but so far, playing it solo hasn’t been the most fun for me. Feel like I need to find a buddy to play with.
Really love how fast the movement is and it looks gorgeous, but I’ve been playing it in rather small bursts and not enough of it.
Binding of Isaac
Also bought this the same day as Deus Ex. It’s fun, but I’ve played enough to know it isn’t one of my top 10 games of the year.
E.Y.E Divine Cybermancy
Ah, who am I kidding?
I don't even own this game and wanted to buy it during the Steam sale, but I had already spent my limit on everything else during the sale. Oh well, wasn't as big of a priority, but would've been nice to have.
One More Thing...
I’ve briefly described my Christmas break, put together my top 10 games of 2011, but I have one thing to talk about, and that is the return of my blog, [insert title].
I used part of the break to come up with some changes to the blog, primarily the images. Figured it would be a good idea to change up the design a bit, and unfortunately, I can’t decide what I want to go with. So I’ll let you help me decide. Basically which of these two pictures do you like better
The first is a pretty simple and easily reusable format, but from a more artistic standpoint I’m kinda leaning towards the latter. Only problem is whether or not I can come up with something visually unique for every single game I decided to play and write about. For the record, the latter image does have a format. It's the logo in the middle with a collage of images from the game in the background, inspiration coming from some of the old Toonami promos when TOM first came on as the host. If I don’t get any good opinions on which one to go with, I might just do a coin toss or something to decide.
The game you see in both pictures I intend to write about for my first entry of [insert title] this year. Consider it a little preview.
Also, I am expanding my blog outside of Giant Bomb, and once again, it’s another case of me trying to decide which of two sites I want to post it on as well. Rather than ask for opinions on which I should choose, I’ll just go with both. On January 7, this coming Saturday, [insert title] will be on Giant Bomb as always, as well as Wordpress and tumblr. Hey, the more people that see the stuff I slave away at, the better I’ll feel.
Anyway, that’s all I can think of for now. Hope 2012 is an interesting year, and something involving the end of the world or some crap.