Beforet's Super Awesome End of the Year Gaming Wrap-Up!

It is that time of the season, folks, where everyone gets together and spams the General Discussion board with all of their Top 10 Games of the Year lists. I have almost never participated in this event, but not from a lack of desire. Every year, I see the threads and think “man, wouldn't it be cool if I made one of those? And then people could read it and be amazed by my fantastic tastes!”

The problem has always been that nowadays I don't play too many games. I tend to get into this cycle of buy a lot games, start playing one, not love it, then stop. I start playing something new, but, instead of throwing my passion into playing it, I feel a weird sense of guilt. Like I've abandoned something. But I still don't want to go back to playing that last game. The result is that I just kind of float around my games, never really touching them, instead whiling away the hours on the internet. It's kind of like a strip joint, but on the internet. So it's king of like porn. Also, I developed something of a social life, and have been busy with school, LARP, and girlfriend.

When I do get around to playing a game for realsies, I also tend to play older games. Not 20 year old classics, but pieces from within the last five years that I own but never got around to playing. So most of these games aren't going to be from this year. Hell, I don't know what year most of these were released in. And there's no real order to them; I'm just going from what's fresh. With all that said, here's my massive EotYG wrap up!

#1 – Demon's Souls

I got this game around the time it was released, and started playing two weeks ago. I had started playing in starts and fits, only ever killing that first boss, and even then only once. I just never put in the time to get good at the game, and I didn't even want to. Then a couple weeks ago I put it in my PS3, for no other reason than my PC was out to pasture and I needed something to waste my time during finals, and it clicked. I don't know what happened. Maybe the lack of distractions from other games, or having a roommate casually watch and occasionally coach me as I derped around Boletaria. Maybe it was from starting off as a Royal, by far the easiest class to play. Magic AND a MP regen ring? Whatever it was, Demon's Souls sunk its teeth into me. The game is very specifically paced to encourage caution instead of charging head first. The difficulty seems like a lot to take in at first, but once I developed the skills needed to tackle the challenges, it became pretty manageable. That said, it will still fuck you up when you get cocky.

On the other hand, it's not perfect. The atmosphere is solid, and the story has good concepts, but literally every story has good concepts. Not much is done with Demon's Souls's plot though, and it's a real pity. All the NPCs are distinct and have their own character and agenda, and I kinda wish more had been done with that stuff. The fact that there's a guy who, after you effing rescue his ass, will go to the Nexus and start straight up murdering your more helpful NPCs is nuts! And the fact you have no indication he's even doing it until it's done is insane. I wonder how many people got screwed over just because of that.

While that sounds cool, it does highlight one of the main issues the game has design wise. In that it doesn't tell you much. The tutorial tells you the controls, and the item descriptions give a vague idea of what their special effects are, but otherwise you're left on your own. What the hell is a Primeval demon, and how come I haven't seen any in the twenty hours I've played. What's with those sparkling geckos? What do you mean the game gets harder if I die in body form? What the hell is World Tendency? And why is it separate from Character Tendency?

None of those questions actually need to be answered if you just want to play the game once. The problem is, even if you want to go deeper, there's no mechanism to actually discover any of this stuff other than blind luck. It's great that the community has made such a drive to spread this information in the form of wikis and guides, but why does the game need that in the first place? As for the wiki, while I found it very useful, I sometimes wish I hadn't found it. Now this is my fault, but when I read over the soul farming page, I started to only grind in those spots. And while they were great spots, at some point, in the New Game+ specifically, it started to feel like I was grinding just to level up to the next best grinding spot. That's a problem I tend to run into when playing these sorts of Japanese RPGS, so it may just be I have a crappy play style. Your mileage may vary.

#2 – Fallout New Vegas

I bought this game day one, played it a little bit, then just dropped it! I don't think I ever actually got past Novac. I remember one time rushing to the Strip, then not having enough caps to actually go in. I put it aside, and silently curse my impulsive purchasing whenever I saw it go on Steam for five bones.

So when I started playing earlier this semester, I kinda feared the same thing happening. Lo and behold, I manged to take my meager 20 something hours played to just under 90. And I've been having a blast. I don't know about you guys, but when I play an Obsidian game, I always make sure to put my points into conversation skills before Guns.

I'm glad I did, because the writing in this game has blown me away. It's not a great, moving narrative about the human condition, but the small pieces here and there really it all together. Every bit character feels distinct from the next. At least, they do right then. Looking back, it was only a couple weeks ago, but I couldn't name anyone for you. Part of that is I hadn't run across any of the big players in the plot, which I'll explain in a bit.

What really stood out to me was the DLC, Old World Blues. At some point, during one of my aborted attempts to play the game, I bought all the DLC in hopes of attaining the “true” experience. I can't speak for any of the others, but Old World Blues is smartly written, has cool shit to shoot and shoot with, hilarious, and hard as hell. I went in at level 20, but a level 20 with an Endurance of 2(needed those charisma points) is going to get chewed apart.

OWB actually taught me the use of the Survival skill as I was starving to death, hunting across the barren wastes for some morsel of highly irradiated food that dropped my strength by three points. Which feeds into another thing: I don't know what Jeff was talking about, that crafting is almost vital. Food is one thing, but being able to build and recycle ammo makes for a huge convenience.

As for bugs, I'm just glad I waited all this time for the game to fix itself. I haven't run into any particularly egregious problems not present in Bethesda games. I shouldn't have to quick save before fast traveling, but when that's the most of my concerns with a Bethesda or, even worse, an Obsidian product, then I'm happy.

I actually had to put the game down for a bit after finishing OWB, hence why I haven't met any of the bigger names like Caesar or Yes Man. But I'm really looking forward to eventually coming back and finishing this game.

#3 – Just Cause 2

This game was the beginning of the end for me. It was my first Steam sale impulse buy, because holy crap 7 dollars! I would be losing money! I proceeded to launch it once, then never again for YEARS. Then I started playing this years, and it's all right. I don't have much to say on this game. It's dumb fun, but I think it might have been oversold. There are some design decisions that just seem bizarre. Like dying. You should not die in Just Cause. And if you should, it should not be so easy. It's a game where you are encouraged to go out and do crazy, stupid shit. So why is it that spending two seconds in enemy fire causes a reloading screen? Playing the PC version(which looks amazing, by the way), I should have just enabled those cheats Vinny talked about.

The island is huge and packed, but the missions within it are pretty hit more miss, with mostly misses. Most of them are fairly generic, with only a couple like the crazy island with the hundred year old WWII Japanese soldiers or the whorehouse IN THE SKY, standing out.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed this game, and taking out a base in a push of a button, causing the twenty pieces of C4 you planted on every red surface to explode in a ball of firey death and laughter, feels incredibly satifying. I think the best way to put it is that it doesn't quite live up to the size of its island.

#4 – Outland

I loved this game, and I hated it so much. For the most part it makes smart use of its color shifting mechanics to craft challenging but rewarding experiences throughout the game. That said, the last stage, with the shifting colors? The game I feel crossed a line there over from difficult to frustrating. This ended up being one of those games I finished because I was too angry to stop. Tie that with an incredibly disappointing ending (“The big bad broke out of its cage anyway, but took a look at the world and decided it was too cool to destroy! Yaaaaaay! Kill me”) and this is a game that started really strongly, but petered out by the end.

Also, to step back from the game a second, but what's the deal with games allowing online co-op but not local? I was pretty excited to learn about the co-op, and my girlfriend wanted to play with me. She usually doesn't play games, and I was actually pretty excited to play with her. Then we couldn't, and that was a bummer. I'll step off the soap box with that, but man. That really sucks when it happens.

#5 – Neverwinter Nights

At the beginning of Summer, I got it in my head to start playing those old style DnD video games like Balder's Gate and NVN. I own a bunch on GoG, so why not! I never went further than NWN, mostly from running out of steam. I played through Shadows of Undrentide for the first time, and I had Hordes of the Underdark ready, but I couldn't. Let me just say the Dragon Age: Origins is a fantastic evolution on this style of game, so good it made going back somewhat difficult. But I still had some fun with my weird Fighter/Sorceror dual class spec, the writing kept me interested, though this is definitely a Bioware, go collect the MacGuffins questline.

Honorable Mention – Walking Dead

So close, I was so close to playing a 2012 game in 2012! Alas, it was around the time I started playing Walking Dead that I had to retire my computer for some time due to overheating caused BSoD. So I'm giving Walking Dead an honorable mention for seeming pretty cool and for definitely being the game I hit up when my computer is back in working condition.

So that's it. Sorry about the inconsistency in length between the pieces, but I played Demon's Souls last night and Neverwinter Nights during the summer. I've bought a couple things during this sale, games I actually intend on playing (such as Spec Ops: The Line, which jumped to the top of my list after the Best Moment discussion on the Bombcast deliberations).

I don't know how to end blog posts!