By dankempster 8 Comments
It's become something of an unwritten tradition towards the end of the year for me to put together a list of games I'd like to beat before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. So far this year I've finished a total of twenty-eight titles, so I figured with just under three months still available to me, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect myself to finish another ten games in 2013. Below is a provisional list of those ten games that I hope to polish off before the year is out. I've tried to accommodate a variety of consoles and genres on the list, to try and avoid potentially burning out on anything. As always, it's probably best to take this list with a pinch of salt - my gaming desires can change on a whim, so some of these titles might end up being substituted for others as I go. Ready for those games now? Here they are!
Not long after posting my last blog, I picked up Crimson Shroud from the Nintendo 3DS eShop for what seems like a reasonable price point of £7.19. I've played about four hours of it thus far, and I really like what I've played. Mechanically it's an interesting emulation of table-top RPGs, with a lot of actions in battle determined by rolling a handful of dice on the 3DS's touch screen. The battle system places a lot of emphasis on buffs and debuffs, making them pretty much essential if you want to gain an upper hand over the enemy, which gives every battle a highly tactical and strategic feel. The way the game handles MP is pretty novel, too - it gradually depletes outside of battle, and is replenished when characters perform (or are hit by) certain actions. These two aspects of the gameplay come together to create a battle system that encourages players to spend their first few turns laying a solid foundation before beginning to exchange blows. It's a cool twist on traditional JRPG battling, and one that definitely works.
That table-top RPG feel I mentioned earlier on extends to the game's presentation, too. The characters and enemies all appear in-game as figurines, a design choice that's a little jarring at first due to the lack of animation, but I quickly grew to admire it. Coupled with the well-written narrative, the whole thing has an interactive-storybook feel not dissimilar to the '1000 Years of Dreams' short stories from Mistwalker's Lost Odyssey. The world, characters and story of Crimson Shroud ooze that archetypal Matsuno atmosphere - the frequent mentions of zealous religious types, corrupt government officials and mysterious magic echo his previous works like Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy Tactics, and serve to build an incredibly detailed world in a fairly short space of time. I get the impression that Crimson Shroud is pretty short by JRPG standards, given its fairly limited mechanics and status as an eShop title, but that's fine by me. I imagine I'll have this wrapped up fairly soon.
As you can probably tell from my last blog, it's been a pretty Pokémon-heavy summer for me. Having chalked up playthroughs of LeafGreen, SoulSilver and Emerald, I've grown gradually more and more interested in the upcoming release of the sixth generation of Pokémon games. Strangely, this is the first time I've ever boarded the hype train for a new Pokémon release. The fad hit my primary school a couple of months after the launch of Red and Blue, and by the time sequels were being teased in the form of Gold and Silver, my friends and I had already moved on to whatever the next playground craze was. I completely missed out on the Game Boy Advance generation of games, and was late to the party with both Diamond and White, both of which I ended up buying on a nostalgic whim. X and Y mark the first time I've followed the steady trickle of pre-release info, allowing myself to get excited for the impending launch of a Pokémon game.
I've opted for Pokémon Y over Pokémon X, mainly because I prefer the look of the version-exclusive legendary (evil flying monster beats fairy deer for me). What I'm looking forward to most, though, is the fact that a couple of my friends have decided to jump back into the franchise along with me. I can't wait to pretend I'm ten years old again, collecting, trading and battling with friends as we explore the Kalos region together. I know at least one of my friends has pre-ordered X, so it'll be cool to trade version-exclusives with him (something I could never do as a kid - all my friends and I owned Blue). I expect Pokémon Y to keep me busy through what remains of October and into November. Depending on the amount of post-game content and Nintendo's penchant for Wi-fi events, it may even end up staying in my 3DS into 2014.
Okay, I know I said I was going to try and keep this list varied as far as consoles goes, and this being the third 3DS game out of three doesn't do that argument many favours, but trust me - it'll be the last 3DS title on this list. It's also a bit unorthodox to include a game that has no discernible end, given this is supposed to be a list of games I'd like to beat before the end of the year. As far as New Leaf goes, my requisite for 'beating' the game is simply to try and pay off all my loans to Tom Nook. If I can manage that before the year is out, I'll be happy.
I haven't played an Animal Crossing game in over six years (my last experience with the franchise was with Wild World on the original DS through late 2006 and early 2007). After such a long break from the series' gameplay, it's refreshing to come back and do it all again in a new town with new residents. The game has an undeniable charm, from the cute character designs to the off-the-wall writing that breathes so much life into every animal you meet. Given that the world changes with the seasons, and every day in the game brings something new to experience, I'm pretty sure I'll be playing this right through 'til the end of the year, most likely in half-hourly sessions to unwind after work.
This is the first of two unfinished titles I intend to return to and complete before the end of 2013. Those of you who followed my blogging antics earlier in the year will be aware of Metal Gear May Madness (subsequently just Metal Gear Madness), an attempt to make it through the entire series of Metal Gear games in as short a space of time as possible. Of the eight games I set out to beat, Peace Walker is the only one I didn't manage to finish. Burned out on the franchise after two-and-a-half months of little else, I decided to call it quits on Big Boss's exploits in Costa Rica about half way through, with every intention of returning to it later on.
It's been another two months since then, and I think I'm more than ready to jump back into Peace Walker and see it through to its conclusion. I love its specific twist on the established Metal Gear formula, combining a deeper and more engaging version of Portable Ops' squad-building mechanics with a structure not dissimilar to quest-driven games like Monster Hunter. Playing the HD version on PS3 definitely goes a long way to improving the experience too, thanks to the availability of a second analog stick that's absent in the more fiddly PSP original. I look forward to pressing on with this one in the near future, especially since learning that I didn't actually 'finish' it when I played the PSP version a few years ago.
Another game that's been sitting unfinished on my shelf for some time now, I started playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance around this time last year. That means it's been in and out of my 'now playing' rotation for over a year now, so I should really be pushing to finish it. It's a great little strategy RPG, boasting a ton of features and versatility without ever becoming overwhelming or obtuse like its spiritual predecessor, the original Final Fantasy Tactics. The story and characters aren't complex, but they serve the gameplay well enough to keep me interested in what's going on in the realm of Ivalice between the myriad battles faced by Marche, Montblanc, and the rest of Clan Gaslight.
My biggest problem with FFTA is that it's difficult for me to play for prolonged periods of time. The battle system is fantastic, but it results in battles that are often protracted, and the game ends up feeling a bit like a drag. This is especially true if, like me, the player spends lots of time taking on side quests and dispatch missions in lieu of making story progress. I've clocked up around eighty hours of game time in FFTA across three separate play sessions, and I'm still only three quarters of the way through its twenty-four main story missions. It's a great game though, and I hope I can find the patience to persevere with it and finally cross it off my Pile of Shame.
After playing the original Assassin's Creed back in 2010, it's become something of a tradition for me to play through one game in Ubisoft's flagship stealth-and-stab-'em-up franchise every year. In 2011 it was Assassin's Creed II, and in 2012 it was Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. It stands to reason that before 2013 comes to an end, I should try to make it through the final piece of Ezio Auditore's story arc.
Playing Brotherhood last year, I was seriously impressed with the advancements made on the gameplay front, but found its Borgia-centric story to be a little lacking. I've been informed that Revelations' story is a marked improvement on account of its return to a more personal angle, exploring the link between Ezio and Altair while still furthering the story of the ongoing struggle between the Assassins and the Templars. If Revelations can deliver the gameplay improvements of Brotherhood with a story that's as engaging as that of AC II, then I could see it potentially becoming my favourite game in the series to date. Either way, I'm still eager to explore fifteenth century Constantinople and find out how Ezio's story ends.
I feel like I haven't shown my PC enough gaming love this year. At the start of 2013 the relationship was thriving - I polished off the remaining episodes of Series One of Telltale's Sam & Max, and became totally absorbed in the brilliant The Walking Dead. I even invested in the Xpadder software, in the hope of mapping some of my Steam games to a controller to make them more comfortable to play. In spite of all this, though, my laptop faded into the background once more as I turned my attention to Metal Gear May Madness and an unscheduled Poké-marathon. I feel guilty for neglecting my PC gaming catalogue through the summer, and I hope to try and make amends for that by playing a couple of titles before the year ends.
I played through the original Max Payne about two years ago and thought it a very fun and competent shooter, with a pretty interesting 'film noir' tone and aesthetic. Ever since I've been meaning to check out the sequel, which many people have informed me is an improvement on its predecessor in just about every conceivable way. I also bought Max Payne 3 earlier this year and am itching to play it, but I know that I can't in any good conscience unless I make it through the second game in the series beforehand. All these factors point to it being a perfect game to get reacquainted with my PC on. I can see this possibly being a late November/early December job, a shorter action game to break up the lengthier RPG and open-world games on this list.
If this year has confirmed anything, it's that I really like BioShock. I adored Infinite, and found a lot to like in BioShock 2 as well after playing both games in quick succession. This year coincidentally saw the release of BioShock's predecessor, System Shock 2, on digital delivery services like GOG.com and Steam. With both of these facts in mind, it seems somehow fitting to devote some of what's left of 2013 to finding out where BioShock came from, and why System Shock 2 is held in such high regard.
Another factor in me picking System Shock 2 over any of the other many games presently on my Pile of Shame was reading fellow Giant Bomber @MajorMitch's latest blog, in which he sings its various praises and draws some comparisons between it and Ken Levine's more recent work. What was previously my innate gamer's curiosity has now been cemented as a full-blown desire to play this game, and MajorMitch's blog is largely responsible for that shift. You should definitely check out his blogs, by the way - he articulates his opinions brilliantly and succinctly, in a way that makes me look like even more of a dithering rambler than I already am. Go on, what are you waiting for - follow him!
The Tomb Raider franchise has always occupied a special place in my gamer's heart. It's a series I grew up playing, a series that I stuck with through depressing lows and incredible resurgences. The last couple of years have been no different - last year saw me revisit the Legend/Anniversary/Underworld trilogy, and at the start of this year developers Crystal Dynamics presented us with a whole new Lara Croft as part of their successful series reboot. But in spite of all this recent hands-on time with Lara, I still find myself wanting more.
Tomb Raider III is one of those games that I played a lot of when I was younger, but never actually finished. I recall its puzzles and level design perplexing my entire family, a frustration only surpassed by the reward of eventually figuring out the solutions to those puzzles. More than any other, it's the game I regret not finishing the most out of those first five CORE-developed titles. I'd like to pick up this game for the first time in fifteen years and at least try to make amends for never beating it, even if I'm not entirely convinced that I'll be able to.
Remember when I said there were two unfinished games on this list? Well, I guess this takes it up to three. Since 2010 I've been putting out an episodic serial blog called Enduring Final Fantasy VII, a blow-by-blow account of a run through Final Fantasy VII, trying to determine whether or not the game is still relevant and enjoyable over a decade after its initial release. It's been a long ol' road through what is arguably Squaresoft's most divisive RPG, punctuated by prolonged hiatuses (most of which were caused by missing PSP chargers), but I like to think of the series as my 'blognum opus', a piece of internet writing that has come to define my online presence just as much as my avatar and username.
It's been just under a year since the most recent episode of Enduring FFVII was posted. That seems crazy, but it's worryingly true. I'm at a point where I'm pretty sure only three episodes remain - one covering the game's multitude of optional content, one covering the descent into the North Crater, and the finale covering the final boss battles and ending sequence. I'm in a position where I could quite comfortably play through what remains of the game and knock out those remaining episodes, but I've been suffering a major lack of motivation to actually sit down and get it done. I'm hoping to put the procrastination out to pasture in these last months of 2013, and finally bring Enduring FFVII to the end it so justly deserves.
So there you have it - a list of ten games I'd like to try and beat before the end of 2013. In all honesty, laying it all out like that makes it seem a little more daunting than I'd originally thought it would be, but I'm prepared to rise to the challenge. If any of you guys have your own 'check-lists' for the remainder of the year, I'd be interested to know what's on them. In the meantime, thanks very much for reading, and I'll see you around.
Currently playing - Crimson Shroud (3DS)