By YI_Orange 0 Comments
I've finished all the games from this year that I'm going to finish(Mario unfortunately won't happen this year) and man, what a weird year for games. This list is incredibly tight, but I'm happy with the way it turned out. Anyway, Let's get to it! (there might be spoilers)
This tenth spot was the most hotly contested of the entire list. DMC, Revengeance, Saints Row IV, My number nine game, and for a brief moment, Remember Me (hey, that game's ok) were all battling it out to be on this list. In the end, I decided that I enjoyed my time the most with DMC. The writing in Saints Row and Revengeance are no doubt better and both those games are plenty fun to play, but something about the DMC combat just clicked with me. I'm not gonna pretend I'm some insane combo master or even great at the game, but it was a ton of fun and I found the writing good enough for what it was. I didn't hate it and there were some parts I enjoyed. What's more, unlike Revengeance, I never found myself frustrated with the combat, though I found using the dodge moves to be rather clunky with a controller. But that satisfaction that comes with laying waste to an entire room of enemies going untouched in one long combo is what earns DMC a spot on this list.
Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies almost didn't make this list. I was ready to cut it, but my brain had one last argument to make. I heard the showdown music, and I knew it had to be on here. Whether or not this is the best Phoenix Wright game is hard to say. I think Athena is a great addition to the cast and Apollo really comes into his own. Fulbright was ok, but I always liked Gumshoe. BlackQuill was fine, but no Edgeworth, Von Karma, or Godot. But there was no Wendy Oldbag, so, big bonus there. But whether or not this is one of the ten best games of the year? I can confidently say that it is. Despite the fact that this is probably the least interactive Phoenix Wright of the series, I also found it the most enjoyable to play. No more pixel hunting, barely any convoluted logic, no running around showing every witness every piece of evidence until you stumble upon new dialogue. Dual Destinies might lean heavy on character quirks at times, but it's easy to see beyond the exaggerated character traits to the interesting character underneath. Aside from having a fantastic cast of characters, Dual Destinies makes a rather important improvement to the formula. The new revelation system(or whatever it's actually called) mostly rehashes things you've likely already figured out, but despite the choices being obvious, it feels really great doing it and serves as a nice release to the building tension. I love this series, and this game reminded me why.
8. Gone Home
I don't like adventure games. I'm not the type of guy who clicks on everything in the environment or needs to hear every bit of dialogue. But for the hour and a half I spent with Gone Home, I was. One of my favorite things to bring up when talking about Gone Home, is when searching your sister's room, you can find a piece of paper with a move list for Chun-Li written on it. One of the inputs is crossed out and corrected. To me, that is Gone Home. All the small details that really bring this world and these characters to life. It's not the journal entries(though they are fantastic and absolutely important), it's the adventures of Captain Allegra. It's not what you're suppose to see, it's what's hidden. Gone Home is not a unique story(though to games it may be), but the way you discover it is something special. I've seen complaints about the feelings of supernatural elements at the beginning the game, but I think that tease is just a bonus. I mean, if you showed up to a large, strange, empty house in the middle of a storm at night(with an ominous note on the door), you'd probably be a little uneasy. I always knew there wouldn't be ghosts or whatever in Gone Home, but that feeling was still there for a bit, just because it's a creepy setting. I don't want to say too much about Gone Home because I think it's best that people discover it for themselves, but I will say that after I found the final Journal Entry, my heart was pounding and I was cursing the game for not having a run button.
Divekick is probably the biggest surprise for me this year. I knew this game would be fun, but I thought it would just be dumb fun for a little bit and then I would never think about it again. Turns out, Divekick is a lot of actual legitimate fun. It takes my favorite part of fighting games, mind games and hit confirms, and turns them into an entire game. It helps that the game is incredibly easy to pick up and learn, and I learned most of the matchups within a day. Like with Persona 4 Arena last year, the Giant Bomb community has something to do with this. Though there was only one tournament, it was a ton of fun, super intense, and left me wanting more. Every once in a while I get an itch to play some Divekick, and though I often don't because the online doesn't interest and my local partners are limited, I'm sure I will revisit Divekick in the future and it will continue to be more fun than it has any right being.
I think I finally get art. I mean traditional art, paintings and such. They say when you look at it you're supposed to feel something, I never did, but after playing Brothers, I get it. This game provides you benches so you can sit and look out at the world they created, I sat on every bench I saw. This game is awe inspiring. I can't remember the last time a game has filled me with such wonder just from gazing out at the landscape. That's not all there is to love about Brothers though. Despite having no real dialogue I found the interactions of the Brothers to be entertaining and the more I played the more I really felt their bond coming through. Sure, the death of the older brother is obvious, but I still found it impactful, more so when you had to channel him to complete tasks as the lone younger brother at the end. I can see the argument being made that I'm giving it too much emotional credit, but the game being so wonderful up to that point is probably what made it so crushing. The only real knock I have against brothers is that I never really got the control scheme down perfectly. It could be mildly annoying when I'd have to stop moving one to fix them because one was at a slightly wrong angle and messed me up. Maybe more my own error than the game's but still. Had Brothers had more game to it and been more fun to play, it would no doubt be higher on this list.
Unlike many, I never did a complete 180 on Bioshock Infinite. I certainly see the flaws, but I thought Columbia was a great world, and the Luteces and Elizabeth are fantastic characters. For all the griping people do, I think they're forgetting that Bioshock infinite had some truly special moments that made them love it in the first place. When you first escape and Elizabeth is dancing, when you find the guitar, the songbird's final moments. Bioshock Infinite is a hell of a game. Unfortunately, I've been tired of first person shooters for years. I just don't find that style of gameplay to be very fun anymore, and often times find it more frustrating. Bioshock Infinite was serviceable in terms of combat, but there were times when I found it to be a burden more than anything else. Also, there was apparently some issue that caused me on multiple occasions to lose half an hour or more of progress, forcing me to replay sections. I'm not sure how widespread that problem was, but it definitely detracted from the experience for me. These annoyances would have caused me to drop a lesser game, but Bioshock Infinite was worth seeing through.
4. Tomb Raider
I've never been a fan of Tomb Raider(though I know this one is wildly different), but the prospect of an Uncharted-esque reboot had me intrigued. That's not what I got. In fact, I think comparing Tomb Raider to Uncharted is similar to comparing Gears of War to Uncharted. Tomb Raider is it's own game, and a damn fine one. If this is still the year of the bow, let me go ahead and give Tomb Raider the award for best bow right now. I almost exclusively used the bow for the entire game. Not just because I felt it added a nice bit of flavor, but because I found it to be incredibly fun to use. Third person shooting is becoming a bit redundant, but the bow made it feel fresh and alive again. Gameplay aside, I hope there's a future for this franchise. I'm not going to pretend that the writing and characters are stellar, but I enjoyed them and would like to see more and see where they go with them. WIth Lara having acknowledged how surprisingly easy it is to kill someone at the beginning of the game, I hope in the future she's a bit more of a badass. Watching her get beat up for 8 hours was in a way grounding, but at a certain point felt like a bit too much. Tomb Raider might not be the best game in any one respect(minus the bow), but the whole package made it one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences of the year.
3. Rogue Legacy
Every year there's a game that doesn't even need to pretend it's trying to have a compelling narrative to win my affection. This year, that game was Rogue Legacy. Like Super Meat Boy three years ago, everything about playing this game just felt right. If I died, it felt like my fault. If I had a great run, it was because I played exceptionally well. Rogue Legacy is not a complicated game. You run through a castle, kill monsters until you die, maybe upgrade your lineage a bit, repeat. To keep things interesting, Rogue Legacy had a number of classes with different properties, and each character came with a randomized set of traits that would either help you(spikes don't hurt you), completely screw with you(turn the game upside down), or do nothing(you fart a lot). Eventually I figured out which traits I loved and which traits I hated and started making selections based on that, and sure I preferred classes and would just pick Hokage as much as possible, but even if I was just constantly running a Hokage with the same exact traits, Rogue Legacy would have stayed fun. It has just enough progression and the runs are just quick enough where you can fall down a serious "one more run" hole. Even when I had seen all the game had to offer, learned all it's tricks, and solidified my play style, Rogue Legacy kept me coming back until I beat it. I never did go in for New Game plus, but sometimes I still want to. Rogue Legacy quickly went from "This is neat" to easily one of my favorite games of the year. Seriously, you should play it.
This honestly took me by surprise. I love Fire Emblem, and Awakening might be the best Fire Emblem of the one's I've played(could also be Path of Radiance). I love Valkyria Chronicles. I love XCOM: Enemy Unknown. So what took me by surprise? How easily Fire Emblem Awakening secured the number two spot when I had a second to think about it. The story is nothing unexpected for Fire Emblem, but it works well enough for what it is. And I'll admit I have a habit of getting more attached to the characters in games like this than I probably should(even in stuff in like XCOM and Final Fantasy Tactics where they don't have personalites) so I probably like the characters more than they deserve. But Fire Emblem Awakening is still almost the best game I played this year. I love the style of gameplay, and though I reset if a character dies, the threat of permadeath adds a nice layer of tension to the battles. The support conversations were fun and I took more pleasure in pairing off my characters than I care to admit. Sure, after a while the game lost most of it's challenge, but there's a certain satisfaction in watching your country boy who couldn't kill a thing when you met him lay waste to an entire army by himself. I knew this game was going to be on my list, but I thought it was going to be lower. That is, until I realized that since beating it, I've had an unscratchable itch. I want more. I don't want the same exact game again, and I've exhausted my library of games that would be satisfactory(I tried playing Valkyria Chronicles II, but all my PSPs are garbage. Also, those load times are really long). Very few games make me wish I had the sequel right next to me so I could dive right in immediately after finishing, but I can't wait for the next Fire Emblem game, and I'm sure I'll be searching for anything to hold me over until then.
The Last of Us is one of the most compelling gaming experiences I have ever had, not just this year. Joel is a great character, but most of the credit goes to Ellie. For me, she was really the driving force behind this game. Not only do I think that she is excellently written, I cared about her. Sometimes games will make you do something that I don't think is the right choice, but there wasn't a question in my mind about the end of The Last of Us. Sure, it's the selfish choice, but if I was Joel, I would have made the same call. And concerning the end, I'm glad neither of them died. That would have been the easy and obvious route to go. To have them both alive with this secret(that Ellie probably knows about) is far more interesting and compelling. To see Joel being more fatherly at the end, and Ellie being more distant is a great shift. To end the game with the word "Okay.", brilliant. Of course, the end isn't the only thing that makes The Last of Us a special game. Ellie's joke book, the Giraffes, Ellie yelling obscenities as she breaks a bottle on an enemie's face, the rise and fall of the unerground society, and just all the banter between Joel and Ellie. Then there's the gameplay. I get why people don't like it, but once I got the hang of it, I started to really enjoy it. I was able to do most sections by stealth killing a good amount of enemies before being discovered(either with takedowns or the bow) and that was satisfying, especially when I managed to clear an entire area. There was one section(the generator) that was frustrating, but outside of that the combat added more to the game than it detracted for me. Even when I was discovered I didn't have an issue with small firefights. I understand why people have problems with The Last of Us, but for me, it is unquestionably the game of the year.