By dankempster 13 Comments
Happy New Year, Giant Bomb!
2012 is finally upon us. In habitual fashion, I saw it in sipping cider and playing board games with my family. That's become something of a tradition for us, as it allows us to be sociable and see the New Year in together, while also having a lot of fun in the process. This year our weapons of choice were Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble, with my dad pretty much cleaning up across the board. Hilarious deliberations were had over dubious answers to trivia questions, and the viability of the word 'GAYEST' (something I'm sure would have been a non-issue had it not come into contact with a Triple Word Score square). Today, all three of my grandparents will be joining us for a lovely roast dinner and hopefully some more board game fun. Who knows, we might even bust out the Wii and play a few frames of bowling. It's sure to be a great day.
Right now, though, I want to mark the occasion by taking a look forward at what the next twelve months have got in store. I want to take a pre-emptive glance at the upcoming releases I'm psyched for, try to guess what other games I'll be playing over the course of the next year, and also briefly explain what I hope 2012 brings outside of my gaming habits. Let's get stuck straight into my Anticipated 2012 Releases!
Anticipated 2012 Releases
2011 was a great year for games, and 2012 looks set to be even better. Off the top of my head, I can think of a whopping nine titles that I'm really stoked to play this year (to put it in perspective, last year there were only five games that I was interested in enough to pick up and play). Below is a list of these titles, along with some brief reasons why I'm so excited about playing them.
|1. BioShock Infinite|
BioShock is one hell of a game. The way its story unfolds through various audio logs as you delve deeper into Rapture is one of the most memorable experiences I've ever had with a video game. While a direct sequel exists in the form of BioShock 2 (which I still haven't played yet), I'm much more interested in this spiritual successor. Swapping the ocean floors for the floating city of Columbia, BioShock Infinite looks set to replicate the distinct look and feel of BioShock while also telling a brilliant new story in an exciting new setting. I'm confident Irrational Games can pull this off, and I cannot wait to play it.
|2. Borderlands 2|
I really liked the first Borderlands. I felt like it merged two different schools of gaming perfectly with its fun, responsive gunplay and a constantly compelling quest for bigger and better loot. Borderlands 2 looks like it's going to be more of the game, and I'm perfectly ok with that. Gearbox are promising a better, more involved storyline this time around, and I hope they can deliver on that promise. I won't be too disappointed if they don't, though, provided that they can still keep me interested in hunting down more loot and guns.
|3. Darksiders II|
I played Darksiders earlier this year, and was pleasantly surprised by how well all its seemingly disparate parts came together. The combination of Zelda-style exploration and God of War-style combat made for an enjoyable adventure, and the promise of another such adventure is a tempting prospect.
|4. Far Cry 3|
I'm one of the select few who absolutely loved Far Cry 2. Between its gorgeous visuals, a buddy system that actually makes you care about its characters, and an open world that encourages an emergent approach to every combat situation, I don't think that any other game has come close to offering a similar experience yet. If Far Cry 3 can capture that same atmosphere and feel, while also ironing out some of its predecessor's kinks, then it could well become one of my all-time favourite video games.
|5. Final Fantasy XIII-2|
While I certainly wouldn't rank it among my favourites from the series, I enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII for what it was and wouldn't mind playing another game featuring those characters and set in that world. Some of the promises that Final Fantasy XIII-2 has been making seem like sensible, logical progressions from the less appealing aspects of its predecessor. It's hard to say this without sounding like some deluded fanboy, but I really hope Square-Enix can deliver on this. Given it will most likely be the first game I buy in 2012, I shouldn't have too long to wait before I find out.
|6. Grand Theft Auto V|
I feel absurd including this on this list, because we've only seen a single 90-second trailer, and this isn't even a confirmed 2012 release. Even in spite of these facts, though, this is still easily my most-anticipated game right now, and I'm really hoping it will hit retail shelves in the next twelve months, so it would've been even more absurd not to include it. Grand Theft Auto IV remains one of the greatest games I've ever played, so I'm expecting big things from its successor, but I'm also confident that it will be able to deliver.
|7. Mass Effect 3|
It's kind of hard to allow myself to get hyped up for Mass Effect 3, what with 2011 proving a cruel mistress for Bioware and instilling a lot of worry and doubt into a previously confident fanbase. Hopefully it's just a case of people making a mountain out of a molehill - the existing Mass Effect games lay such a brilliant foundation that I think it would be very difficult for BioWare to really do anything damaging to this franchise. I'm really excited to find out how my own Shepard's story arc will end, and to see how my previous decisions come back to influence proceedings in this final part of the trilogy.
|8. Max Payne 3|
Up until a few months ago, Max Payne 3 was not on my radar at all. After playing the original Max Payne late last year, though, it's suddenly become a strangely high priority on my list of 2012 titles to check out. My loose plan is to play Max Payne 2 at some point in this first quarter, in preparation for Max Payne 3's touted March release. As someone who doesn't really have a huge attachment to the Remedy-developed games, and as someone with copious amounts of faith in Rockstar Games, I'm confident that Max Payne 3 is going to be a great game.
|9. Tomb Raider|
I was really hoping I'd already be playing this right now. I have a lot of history with the Tomb Raider franchise, and was seriously excited about this reboot, which at one point was scheduled for a late 2011 release. Now expected in the second half of 2012, my hype for it has grown if anything. Crystal Dynamics really know how to handle the Tomb Raider franchise, as they've proven with the Legend/Anniversary/Underworld trilogy, and I have every faith that their vision is going to turn this into the best Tomb Raider game yet.
Games I'm Carrying Over To 2012
Of course, the games above won't be the only things I'll be playing in 2012. I've also got some games that I'm currently playing, which I'll be carrying over from last year into this:
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Ok, so I'm not actually playing this right now, but I really should be, and that's why it's on this list. Unfortunately I've had to postpone starting it, because I can't read any of the menu text on my standard-definition TV. I'm hoping to part with my Christmas money and pick up an SDTV next weekend, so as soon as I do, I'll be leaping into Skyrim and losing myself in it, quite possibly for the whole year.
- Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES - I've been playing this since roughly the start of November. Since then I've put over fifty hours into it, and am just coming up to the full moon at the start of September - judging by the in-game calendar, just before the game's halfway point. I'll definitely be continuing this social sim/dungeon crawler in 2012, and I anticipate spending another fifty hours with this game before I see the end.
- Final Fantasy VII - I'm determined for 2012 to be the year that I see my Enduring Final Fantasy VII blog series through to the end. Considering we're now around half-way through the game, I'm pretty confident that weekly instalments will see the project reaching its conclusion around the middle of the year.
Addressing The Pile Of Shame
So that covers the games I'm looking forward to this year, and the games I didn't quite have enough time for last year. What does that leave, you might ask? Well, it leaves my massively daunting Pile of Shame to contend with. Towering almost to toppling point, attempting to reduce the size of this pile has been a primary focus of mine for the last three years. 2012 will be no different, and I have a couple of cunning plans to try and ensure that by the time I exit this year, the pile stands a little shorter than it did when I came in.
Dan's Role-Playing Run-Throughs
This endeavour was inspired my fellow Giant Bomb user Soap, who embarked on a Horrible JRPG Challenge a while back. His aim, as I understand it, was to finish one JRPG a month, totalling twelve in a year, in a bid to both clear some of his unfinished backlog, and reignite his failing passion for the genre. I've decided to attempt something similar, which I'm provisionally calling 'Dan's Role-Playing Run-Throughs'. My plan is to play through six JRPGs over the course of 2012 - one every two months, because I think that attempting one a month would genuinely drive me crazy. My motivations are identical to Soap's - I want to see the end of these games, but I also want to get re-acquainted with the genre that switched me from casual platformer fan into full-on gaming enthusiast. The provisional idea format is that I might write fortnightly updates covering my progress. I've constructed a rough schedule below, but like everything preceding it, it's just a rough outline which is subject to (and probably will) change:
- January and February - Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES - A nice, simple cop-out planned for my first two months. The fact I'm already half-way through will hopefully account for all the time I'm likely to lose to Skyrim and, when it comes out, Final Fantasy XIII-2.
- March and April - Final Fantasy VIII - One of only two core-franchise, non-MMO Final Fantasies that I haven't finished. As a long-time fan of the franchise, the fact I haven't yet seen the ending of this game is almost blasphemous.
- May and June - Vagrant Story - I chose to include Vagrant Story at this juncture because it's a lot shorter than any of the other games on this list. As a consequence, it will hopefully provide me with a nice mid-year break from JRPGs once I've finished it.
- July and August - Final Fantasy XII - The other core-franchise, non-MMO Final Fantasy that I haven't finished, and one of my favourite Final Fantasies full-stop. It will be nice to finally commit to it and hopefully complete it.
- September and October - Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King - After the mechanical innovations of Final Fantasy XII, I thought it might be nice to reward myself with an old-school, no-frills JRPG. Dragon Quest VIII fits the bill perfectly.
- November and December - Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions - While it's arguable that I've saved the best for last, I do have another reason for leaving this PSP port of Final Fantasy Tactics until the end of the year. It's likely to be the game that takes up most of my time, and it's the game I'd feel most comfortable about taking into 2013.
Clear Some More High Priority Titles
One of the steps forward I made this year in terms of my Pile of Shame was to assign every game that's on it a priority ranking of either Low, Medium or High. It's made things a lot easier for me in terms of prioritising the games I want to play and then actually playing them, and I hope it's a trend that continues into 2012. After re-assessing my list, I've compiled a smaller list below of fifteen High-priority games that I'd like to tackle over the course of the next twelve months. Of course, this is just a rough guide, and there's no guarantee that I will finish or even play all of these - I'm a very fickle person, these aren't the only games with a High priority ranking, and my mood might fluctuate and push me towards a game that I otherwise wouldn't have considered. These were just the ones that happened to leap out at me today.
- Alan Wake - I've heard great things about Alan Wake's atmosphere and narrative, albeit some not-so-great things about the action-oriented aspects of its gameplay. I'd love to experience its story at some point this year.
- Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - A Christmas present from my sister, who evidently knows me very well. I liked the first Assassin's Creed and loved Assassin's Creed II, so I'm really excited to play this continuation of Ezio's adventure.
- Bastion - I'll admit, this wasn't very high up on my list of priorities, but seeing it appearing so frequently (and highly) in Giant Bomb's end-of-year content has really piqued my interest. Now I can't wait to get stuck into Supergiant Games' debut.
- Beyond Good & Evil - It's one of the gaming community's highest-revered titles of the last ten years, and one that I've been meaning to get around to playing for a long while now. Hopefully 2012 will actually be the year it gets played.
- Deus Ex - Another highly respected piece of gaming history that I've had for years but never played. Given the popularity of Human Revolution and the resulting resurgence of the franchise's reputation, it would arguably be daft of me not to check out the original game at this point.
- Far Cry - With Far Cry 3 on the horizon, and Far Cry 2 holding up as one of my favourite games of recent years, it would be cool to see where the franchise began. If it's more of the same open-world, emergent combat formula, then I'm sure I'll like it.
- The Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver - I played the second Soul Reaver back at the very start of 2009 and was impressed by its sophisticated narrative and environmental puzzle-solving. If the original game is in the same mould, then I'm confident I'll be equally impressed.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - I attempted this about three years ago, but didn't make it any further than about halfway through. After revisiting my old save over Christmas, though, I'm eager to push through and see the rest of what this game has to offer.
- Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne - I played the original Max Payne last year and was really impressed by the noir-style aesthetics and narrative. With Max Payne 3 on its way, I'm planning on playing Max Payne 2 in the interim in order to prepare myself.
- Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee and Stranger's Wrath - I've always had a lot of love for the Oddworld franchise, but despite sinking countless hours into the 2D games, I've never spent much time with the 3D games. I hope to change that in 2012, and play through both of them.
- Psychonauts - I remember buying this on Steam when it was only £1, back in 2009 I think. Similarly to Beyond Good & Evil, I was lured towards it by its reputation. It's definitely been sitting on my Pile of Shame for long enough now, though.
- Red Dead Revolver - After playing and falling in love with Red Dead Redemption, I was eager to discover the inspirational roots of the game. I picked up Red Dead Revolver about halfway through last year, and fully intend to play through it before 2012 is out.
- Tales of Monkey Island - It's been a while since I last played a point-and-click adventure, and I'm beginning to feel an itch start to manifest. This five-part series from Telltale seems like the perfect way to scratch that itch.
- Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory - This is yet another game that I've been meaning to get around to for far too long. It's been just over two years since I played and really enjoyed Pandora Tomorrow at the end of 2009, so I think it's about time I got re-acquainted with Sam Fisher and finished the trilogy.
Plans That Don't Involve Games
Of course, games aren't the only things that are on my mind where the coming year is concerned. I also have a lot of personal goals I want to fulfil outside of my video gaming ambitions, and hopefully 2012 is going to be the year that I come good on most of them. I suppose you could call them New Year's Resolutions, if that term better suits your sensibilities. Some are small things, some are pretty big, but all of them are very important to me, and I'll be doing everything I can to achieve all of the following over the next twelve months.
- Find work - Probably the most important item on this list, in the grand scheme of things. I've been out of Uni for five months now, and still haven't been able to find myself a job. I can't really do more than I'm already doing, so my plan for 2012 is just to keep doing what I've been doing and hope it eventually pays off. If I'm really lucky, this might be the first thing I'm able to cross off this list, as I have an interview this coming Wednesday.
- Try to read more - Now that my reading habits are no longer dictated by a University course, I can finally read what I want to again, instead of what I have to. This was a God-send for the second half of this year, when I got around to reading a lot of the books I've accumulated over the last three years. There's still a lot of work to be done, though. That's why over the course of 2012, I want to spend more of my free time reading.
- Finish my first novel - Another positive of being out of Uni is that I have more time to focus on writing. I took advantage of this at the end of last year by pouring a lot of my spare time into beginning my first novel. Provisionally titled Dreamscaper, it plays with the concepts of reality-versus-dreams and social escapism in what I hope will be some really interesting ways. If things go as planned, I hope to have the first draft finished by the middle of this year.
- Maintain my Writer's Unblock blog - Another way I'm planning to maintain a focus on my writing is through keeping a blog dedicated to it. This blog, which I'm calling Writer's Unblock, will be updated more-or-less daily with pieces of original creative writing, progress updates on my novel, and anything else related to my writing process.
- Start drumming in a new band - If there's one thing I've really missed over the last few years, it's been playing as part of a band. It's been four years now since my former band, Self Diagnosis, fell by the wayside in light of University commitments, but now I feel like I'm ready to re-commit to something in that respect again. Hopefully in the coming weeks I'll be joining a couple of guys for some jamming sessions, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes of that.
- Take my darts more seriously - A small one, this, but something that means a great deal to me. I've recently re-joined my old darts team, but my playing level has diminished significantly during my time at Uni. Now that I have more time to devote to it, I'd like to put a little more practice into my darts and get myself back to where I was before, skill-wise.
With all that written, I think all that remains for me to do is wish each and every one of you a Happy New Year. Here's hoping it presents us all with the best of opportunities, both in and out of gaming. If you've got any New Year's Resolutions, or games that you're looking forward to this year, then please share them in the comments below. For now, thanks very much for reading, and I'll see you around.
Currently playing - Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES (PS2)