By ArbitraryWater 39 Comments
Best of 2011
Alright. I figure now is as good a time as any to put out my GOTY list for this year, as I probably won't be playing any more new stuff for the remainder of December. Unlike last year, I actually played an acceptable amount of actual console releases this time, and not just the downloadable stuff either. List is in order, but as always take it with a grain of salt. I'm particularly bad at numbering things in any specific order, and most of these could probably switch places with one another with very little disagreement.
Anything marked with an asterisk has additional comments below, assuming you're reading the blog and not just the list.
|1. Dark Souls|
While I have not finished it, it's safe to say that unless something HORRIFICALLY BAD happens in the last 1/3rd or so of Dark Souls, it wins my Game of the Year. *
|2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim|
As you may expect, the competition between these two was fairly fierce. Skyrim is, in essence, everything one would want out of a new Elder Scrolls game, without most of the stuff that one wouldn't want out of a new Elder Scrolls game. *
|3. Deus Ex: Human Revolution|
The gunplay may be mediocre, the stealth may be somewhat artificial, but Deus Ex Human Revolution represents a rather logical progression to update the first game into the modern era, without sacrificing what made it good (i.e. The ability to approach any given situation how you would like.) As someone who has played all 3 games in the series this year, this is easily my favorite. Loses points for having perhaps the singular worst Boss Fights this side of Alpha Protocol.
|4. Portal 2|
Portal 2, while not some sort of messianic title you people seem to claim it is, is (once again, like practically everything else on this list) more of the previous game, but done better. Indeed, this game is as high as it is thanks to Cave Johnson and Cave Johnson alone, who is by far the best new character this year. Now let's do some science!
|5. The King of Fighters XIII|
I like Fighting games. King of Fighters is a good fighting game. Less crazy than Marvel vs Capcom 3(or indeed, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3), more sophisticated than MK, it is different enough from Street Fighter to be interesting but close enough to be comprehensible.
Bastion earns its place, even disregarding my love of anything Greg Kasavin related, for being the kind of game that surprises one how good it actually is *
|7. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective|
It took these forums to remind me that Ghost Trick did come out this year. Other than perhaps having too much melodrama for my tastes, Ghost Trick succeeds at being both a puzzle game and having a totally crazy story in the vein that you would expect from the Phoenix Wright team.
|8. Dragon Age II|
No. This is not a dream. Yes. This is on my list. I'm sorry. *
|9. Frozen Synapse|
Because everyone needs a Dark Horse pick, this one will be mine. Even when I'm not being TOTALLY AND UTTERLY DESTROYED by British people (because the UK servers are the only ones with life in them), I still totally enjoy Frozen Synapse's unique brand of asynchronous Turn Based Strategy. If anyone wants to play, I'd be down.
|10. Might & Magic Heroes VI|
Ehhhhh.... Just read below *
And now... explanations and special mentions for games that didn't make it on the list:
My 2011 Game of the Year: Dark Souls
It's only been a week since I posted my impressions blog, but yes, this beat Skyrim. Dark Souls is the kind of game that rewards caution when it isn't constantly smacking you across the face. I can't tell you if From Software is genius or batshit insane for making a game where, clearly, everything is the way it is on purpose, but I'm ok with that. The measured feel of the combat, the surprisingly consistent difficulty curve, and the totally bonkers multiplayer all come together to make something that is more enjoyable than frustrating... even if its still hella frustrating. As I said though, have yet to finish it all the way through (because its hard and I can only take so much at any given time). My opinion may change, but I doubt it at this point.
Oh yeah. If someone came up with a theory that this game is a commentary on repetition and failure in the human existence, I'd totally believe them.
My not-2011 Game of the Year: Skyrim
In essence, Skyrim is everything I wanted it to be. A progression from Bethesda's previous works, taking what worked and tossing what didn't, it is at least a few steps above Oblivion and Fallout 3 mechanically, if not structurally. However, since nitpicking things people really like is the cool thing to do, I might as well mention that it doesn't peak as high as Oblivion in terms of quest design. Certainly, the Daedric Shrine quests are all some variation of amazing, but the questlines themselves are noticeably shorter and filled with more procedurally generated stuff than the previous title. There are like what, 3, Dark Brotherhood missions that aren't the generic "Kill dude here" stuff? Then there's my problems with the difficulty, and how remarkably easy the game gets once your stealth is high enough, even on Master. These are just small things though, and don't really detract from how amazing and impressive this game is.
Best Downloadable Title: Bastion
If there wasn't a narrator, Bastion would still be a very good character action game type thing with an isometeric perspective and a great visual aesthetic. What brings it up however, is the inclusion of the Narrator, who's very pronounced style of speaking and narration actually contributes to a story that, above all else, surprised me with how much I cared by the end, not to mention that ending, which actually caused me to agonize over which choice to make. I look forward to seeing what Supergiant puts out next for sure.
Most Apologetically Present Game: Dragon Age II: Dragon Harder
It must say something about me and my tastes that I'm willing to put my least favorite Bioware game (that I've played mind you. No Sonic RPG here) since Jade Empire on this list, even if I still don't like Jade Empire more. But whereas the internet was on Bioware's side back in 2005, it isn't here. Dragon Age II is the sequel to my favorite game of 2009, a game that I straight up consider to be Bioware's best work since Baldur's Gate 2. But whereas Origins will likely be remembered as a classic, DA2 will likely be remembered as a disappointment, rightfully so.
Then why the fuck is this even on this list, if I still admit to it being a screw up on most levels? Because I still like the parts where it isn't a screw up, perhaps more than I should. I consider most of the supporting cast in DA2 to be some of Bioware's best, and they do a good job of making them interact with the world, your current situation, and each other. I also find the combat to be just as good, even if it is more blatantly MMO-ish in its structure and enjoys making the combat hard by throwing waves of reinforcements at you rather than making the initial wave super challenging. Those aside, the main story is a trainwreck. Not because of the presence of Hawke, something that I have no problem with, but more the way it doesn't exist for the first 15 hours, then gets crazy, then gets incredibly, utterly, entirely stupid and not in a FFX2 way of something I can get behind. I feel like I could go on and on discussing the faults, but I'll suffice to say: This game is on my list and I like it more than I probably should. Sorry internet.
Most personally conflicting game: Might and Magic Heroes VI
Like Dragon Age II, I probably like Heroes VI more than I should. It has a lot of interesting ideas that shake up the game in some major ways, and they work quite well for the most part, but I'm not sure if they actually make the game more fun or not. After writing that Heroes VI blog, I went back to the previous games, namely III and V, and realized that yep, they're probably more fun. That's not to say that this game doesn't still have its chance. Mind you, Heroes V didn't become great until its second expansion, so I'm hoping that something like that happens here. Maybe they can fix the AI while they're at it too.
Stuff that didn't make it on the list, but is still worth mentioning
Game number 11: Mortal Kombat
After deciding that I really did like Frozen Synapse that much, MK had to be axed, unfortunately. It deserves its kudos for being the only fighting game with a single player worth playing for reasons other than "unlocking everyone", having something resembling an interesting story that is miles ahead of the crazy nonsense stuff like King of Fighters or Blazblue seem to vomit out on regular occasion. It's not art, by any means, but it's still better than most video game stories, which is sad in a way. Where it falls apart is the actual fighting, which I find perhaps a little too stiff for my liking, but I guess its still enjoyable overall. As a bit of a sidenote, I bought this game to distract myself from a rather malicious rejection that I had suffered from a girl I liked at the time. It worked. Mortal Kombat > Female Companionship?
Most inoffensively bland game: Divinity 2 The Dragon Knight Saga
Divinity 2 has its heart in the right place. It wants to be an epic adventure of epic proportions. It just lacks the budget, the talent, and the design to get it there. What you get instead is something that feels rather Singleplayer MMOish in its quest design, with skills that don't really feel any more powerful when you put points into them and enemies that always seem to be a little stronger than they should be, not to mention somehow making being a dragon the least exciting part. It also tries very hard to be funny on occasion (it isn't), and tries to convey a story that the player might ostensibly care about (nope). Personally, I'd rather play its poorly named predecessor: Divine Divinity instead. Or maybe Two Worlds 2. I didn't play enough to make any sort of serious judgement, but it seemed better than this from what I played of it.
Most Minecraft-like game to not actually be Minecraft: Terraria
I have no real interest in playing Minecraft. I'm sorry. If I wanted to play with Legos, I would go back home and get out the tupperware bin containing all of them. That being said, Terraria offered a similar experience for a lower price, in addition to being slightly more game-y. Still, I had my fill after about a week, so I'm totally cool with never playing it again.
Best game to be like a game that is on my other GOTY list, but is less deserving and therefore not on this one: Mount and Blade With Fire and Sword
When I eventually release my other GOTY list to the public (Best of 2011 that didn't come out in 2011), Mount and Blade Warband will probably be on it. But, being the fool that I was I bought the entire series even though they're literally all the exact same game. What makes With Fire and Sword worse than Warband however, is the inclusion of muskets. Muskets suck all the way, both from a giving and receiving end and manage to make the otherwise chaotically enjoyable multiplayer significantly less fun when you are being one-shotted by some german dude halfway across the map, not to mention the singleplayer where a single lucky shot to you can ruin the entire battle. Still fun, and probably would be on this list otherwise if it were not for the presence of a superior title that already exists.
Most Pokemon-ass Pokemon Game: Pokemon Black and White
You people. You people. How can you justify this game? I had my fill after around 5 hours, because apparently that's all I can take without the nostalgia of Gold and Silver keeping my interest. I'm not interested in any of the metagame shit, because I'm not crazy and because I apparently am not on a college campus where people are way into pokemon for semi-ironic reasons. Without that, all I find is a game that is disgustingly similar to previous games. Very little, if none at all effort has been made to streamline or otherwise mix up the mechanics from the structure established 17 years ago (because Japan got Red and Green in 1995). I'm totally cool with Skyward Sword being another Zelda game (if only because the general consensus is that its better than Twilight Princess), and may even ask for it for chirstmas. But these games? Nuh uh. No. Why. Why do you do these things.
Oh yeah. 5 Internet Dollars this is the paragraph I get the most crap for. Not the Dragon Age II one
That's it for now. I guess. You can expect my other list next week, when I am done with finals and am heading home for the holidays. Until then.. bye?