It's that time again.
It's been a long year and a good one for gaming - well..no yeah it's been a good year.
As such here is a selection of games I enjoyed playing this year - not in any particular order and not all of them are from this year.
I'm a big fan of handheld gaming. I actually prefer it to sitting in front of a TV - being able to stop and start as you wish is a boon for someone who generally has 15 things going on at once (and a very bossy cat to deal with). Rorona Plus is the updated version of the original ps3 release for this long running series. It's a game about a cute girl doing cute things with alchemy. That's it. There's no world ending mystery, no masked final boss giving it the old BWAHAHAHA who turns out to be your evil clone (urgh, too much Gundam). The only impediment to progress is a time limit on the amount of days you have to get stuff done - and it's hardly taxing. It has a great turn based battle system, amusing dialogue and is really refreshing after all the usual JRPG storyline cliches to just work in an alchemist's shop. The only real downside is the engine/frame rate not really being optimised and I hit a hard crash point, but I was able to work my way around it.
If you can stomach the anime kawaii and want a different sort of RPG which places crafting ahead of combat - please try the series. It's worth it.
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away I originally played this on my OG Xbox (which I still have and love by the way) but it wasn't until earlier this year that I found out how much was cut from the game. Obsidian weren't given enough time to finish the game and the overall package suffered - but by the gods it was a great RPG to begin with. So 10 years later and with the hard work of Stoney and Zbyl2 (among others) the cut content has been mostly restored. Is it worth playing again? Hell yes. It's among the best representations of the Star Wars universe in gaming. It's one of the few Star Wars games that understand that shades of grey exist and that both the light and the dark have their drawbacks.
Highly recommended for RPG fans.
This is TBK's fault...just so we are clear.
I never played Freespace when it was originally released. I was too busy playing FFVIII (We don't talk about IX where I'm from) and Tenchu 2..probably. I didn't have a machine capable of playing Freespace nor did I have a joystick. I now have a hotas and..not that much time to play anything - but when I do have time I play Freespace. I played a ton of the original Descent (it's direct forefather) but not Freespace. With the added work and improvements brought about through the Freespace Open project (not to mention the mods, the glorious glorious mods) there is really no excuse not to play this wonderful space combat sim. I can't say I'm a fan of open world games - I prefer mission based games so I don't have to faff about getting to the next trigger point, I can just play the mission and move on..and this delivers in every way. I've completed Freespace and I'm half way through Silent Threat (it's expansion)..and then I got bogged down in mods (*glares at TBK*..yes I will finish Age of Aquarius). I would highly suggest anyone who enjoys being a cockpit jockey try thi...what am I saying, you all already have and I'm late to the party.
For me this has been the year of adventure games. I have played through all of Telltale's output this year, I have my beloved Dreamfall Chapters waiting to be played and D4 is giving me the come hither look. I'm not entirely sure that LiS is the best of the games I've played in this genre (second playthrough didn't really stand up with a friend, we went straight back to Game of Thrones which she loved) but it's certainly the one that I enjoyed the most the first time through. As mentioned elsewhere much time was spent discussing the ins and outs of the plot and possible meanings (spirit animals yo) but I think the most important thing the game managed - at least for me - was how well rounded the relationships were between Max, Chloe, Kate, Warren and the other characters. As someone who grew up mostly in the late 80s and 90s it really hit that 'John Hughes' nostalgia and whatever else people may say about it - I thought that was hella great.
As someone who spent a good chunk of their recent past working in criminal defence I had a whole load of deja-vu going on while playing this...game. I am a big fan (BIG) of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and what they game attempted to do so when I heard Sam Barlowe was working on something new I had to check it out. For those who haven't played it I will avoid spoilers (and thus avoid talking about the game pretty much) though I do like that there is an open question at the end. I think the framing device is absolutely fantastic, and even half inched it for one of adaptations for radio. If there are faults it's that perhaps the system is too open ended - it comes across as more of a novelty than a game, something that would be on an ipad. That's not to discredit what has been done here or the fantastic performance by Viva Seifert (of Witcher 3 fame..cough) it's just so different to gaming standards it might throw some people off, or just feel like another day at work to others..sigh.
I love this game. I absolutely adore this game.
Take Megaman, good 3d Sonic, speed running and Prince of Persia - slap it all together in an almost perfect whole and you get Cloudbuilt. Easy to play, near impossible to master. Just watch the above video - if that doesn't sell you on the game then nothing I can say will. Extra levels have been added over time, new routes have been found to shave those precious seconds off. There are few things that have made me feel so good as getting an S rank in some of the more difficult stages - or beating my friends times on the leader board.
Probably the game I sunk the most time into this year. I don't entirely know how I feel about that. As most know this is a diablo style game - click, click, click, press number key,loot, rinse and repeat. That's it. To be honest that's generally enough for me - I love Diablo style games. However the amount of love for the Marvel Universe that has been layered on top is staggering. The small little things like Lockheed or HERBIE...dammit Magik is in this game - if you want to get me into something shove the New Mutants into it - that's my childhood right there. While I had an issue with the late game progression and moving on to the cosmic midtown etc (it's a massive power gap for a first time player without enough Omega points) I think I enjoyed a good 80% of my time with the game...it probably went up to 90% when I turned off the chat - especially around the release of the FF movie, god help us all.
Probably the game I actually sunk the most hours into this year that I would admit to in public - and I know exactly how I feel about that. Fantastic. I picked up a new 3ds for this beast and I was not disappointed. While I prefer the environments from 3, the new combat mechanics, verticality and general ease of use changes were great. Adding online play to the 3ds version made it even better - granted most people didn't know what they were doing but that was fine until the 2nd carting...sigh. Perhaps the most interesting thing for me was that I went from being a die hard dual blader to a staff user solo (need that added mobility) to being a gunner/horn user when playing multiplayer. That bowgun that auto reloads when dodging is hilarious in the early game. Not slime bow level of hilarious but still..pretty crazy. It's good to see that MH is slowly beginning to crack the west, and X will probably take that a tiny bit further if it's ever released here. Oh and the free DLC mission and items/costumes...from Capcom? Who would have thought?
Another Gust game on the vita, and one I have yet to finish.
It's a traditional style RPG which uses the song battle system from the earlier Ar Tonelico series (which this is a spiritual sequel to) with added wave clearing mechanics (build up song power over time and then blow them all away). The real issue is that Ciel Nosurge, the prequel to this game and a visual novel, was never released in the West (though there are subbed playthroughs up online) and a lot of the backstory and meaning is lost - similar to how Xenosaga 2 was the only game of the series released in the EU. The game suffers from a degree of fanservice that I could do without but the base storyline, themes and..god..the music are fantastic. They actually created their own functioning language to sing in and that kind of attention is prevalent throughout the game. There are still some issues with the engine but it's far more stable than Rorona..at least at the moment..and I look forward to finishing the game when I have time.
This needs to be emphasised - ONLY ACT 1
I was totally on board up until everything went Orwellian - and by that time (after 20 hours or so) I said enough was enough and stopped. I didn't need any extra story - I had closure..but it just kept on going. I think everyone can agree that there are serious issues with both the narrative, characters and progression systems. I also think that nearly everyone agrees that the baseline gameplay systems are the best that stealth has ever been. It never stops being fun sneaking into a base and messing around with the enemy AI or just getting out of there unseen. The gameplay loop is so damn tight that you almost forgive everything else...almost. I am fascinated to see what happens with the series now that Kojima has left and Konami seem determined to make another game without him - I'm equally interested to see what Kojima does now, free of the idiocy of Konami. Do we finally get that Snatcher game we (me) all have been waiting for? Does ZOE return with a few name changes and a new lick of paint?..or will we get David Cage mark 2? It'll be something - that's for sure.
So that's a brief look at the games I enjoyed the most this year that currently come to mind.
Downwell: Simple yet brilliantly done platformer with a deceptive amount of depth (see what I..nevermind) that recalls the best times of the Gameboy.
TellTale's Game of Thrones:
If I'm honest I probably enjoyed this more in the end than Life is Strange, if only for watching a beautiful Brazilian woman scream and throw the controller around when anything involving QTEs happened on screen. Top quality entertainment.
Pokemon Alpha Sapphire:
I have never been able to get into Pokemon. I remember playing Yellow on a friend's gameboy when it originally came out but it just didn't grab me. It wasn't until everyone at Uni started talking about it (postgrads..what can you do? *shrug*) that I thought it would be a laugh to make each one of them their favourite Pokemon. Let me tell you - that adds legs to the storyline like you wouldn't believe. Inter framework romances have hit a new level and the talent shows are hotly contested.
Blazblue Chronophantasm Extend:
Terumi - that is all.
Do I...Do I need to explain this?