By AndrewB 1 Comments
Let's get this out of the way: I haven't played enough new games from this year. 2011 was the year of 'retro' for me. I bought countless Steam sale and GOG releases from yesteryear. Thus, I cannot make a top 10 list, or even top 5, in good conscientiousness.
A top 3 list, however, I feel totally justified in making. So without further ado, here are my top 3 games of the year, beginning with my overall game of the year for 2011, followed by the runners-up.
Best of 2011
My top 3 games, from those released in 2011.
|1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim|
This is the game I've been waiting for since Oblivion.
It's the sort of game that appeals to *me*. I can understand why it might not be your game of the year, but I feel like everyone should be able to appreciate why it might be seen as such an amazing accomplishment to others. A n open fantasy world for you to explore, like no other.
Skyrim fixes almost every complaint I've had about the series since it drew my interest with the release of Morrowind. TES III and IV were wondrously fleshed-out open worlds with the underpinnings of a broken character leveling system that ironically punished you for playing in the style you wanted; the opposite intended goal. Playing how you wanted led to you being underpowered, due to the way attribute points would only accrue after you'd used a ton of minor skills that didn't fit the style you wanted to play. It led to me console cheating in those 5 extra attribute points per level in both games, because I just couldn't have fun with the game otherwise.
There remains room for improvement. For instance, I'm having significantly less fun playing as classes other than a straight-up mage. Melee combat versus leveled ('boss') creatures and mages is simply frustrating, and the animation system continues to disappoint, even though it is significantly better than its predecessors. But honestly, I've already had too much fun with the game to let any of these little things bother me.
Skyrim is an imperfect masterpiece. It is the embodiment of why I love video games as a media. With almost 200 hours pumped into it within the last month or so, there's no question that is captured my heart, and my position as my favorite game of the year.
|2. Deus Ex: Human Revolution|
It's still amazing to me that a game with the Deus Ex namesake could be this good.
This being the year in which I finally finished the titular game in the series, the first Deus Ex, it's amazing to contrast just how much more fun I found this game to be from both a gameplay and story standpoint. While it's unfair to compare a game from 11 years ago to that of today's standards, that I could feel more comfortable with this title over its legendary predecessor still speaks volumes.
With stealth play that feels like the best moments from a Metal Gear Solid game, to shooting reminiscent of Mass Effect 2 (but still not quite as good as your dedicated cover-based shooter), interesting and well-voiced characters (not including the most hilariously racist moment in gaming in 2011, and yes, I think the rest of the cast is great, even Adam and Sarif), and a story that fits in surprisingly well with the original game, Human Revolution did an amazing job of balancing being most things a Deus Ex fan would want from a sequel with a grasp of modern game conventions.
The only problem I had with the game was the ending. Or, I should say, the endings. The choices you face at the end are abrupt, and worse, meaningless, since they all lead to the same outcome. It's the limitation of working with a prequel, but knwoing that doesn't make them feel any less shallow, especially since they all lead to the same after-credits easter egg dialogue.
Though I admit that scene, and the music that plays after, left me fist-pumping with nostalgia, even before I actually finished the first game.
Were it not for Skyrim, Human Revolution would easily have coasted to become my overall game of the year.
|3. Portal 2|
It's a case of character acting making a video game for me. Not that Portal 2 doesn't stand up on any other level; it's just that the most memorable thing about this game to me was the voice acting from two individuals: Steve Merchant and Ellen McLain, with an emphasis on the fresh now individual introduced in this episode of Portal.
And then there's the rest of the game.
Valve continues to squeeze every ounce of awesomeness that they can from an engine created before the current generation of consoles truly existed. Source still looks amazing. This is evident from the opening of the game, with Portal 2's 'tram ride' moment. And honestly, I figured Portal 2 would just be more of the somewhat brief Portal 1. This wasn't the case. Physics on top of portals on top of the newest mechanic of liquids keeps the gameplay fresh in a way I wasn't expecting.
Portal 2 is magnificently produced and crafted. Valve and their subsidiaries continue to craft some of the best works of art in the video game medium. From the puzzles to the voice acting to the visuals, Portal 2 serves to illustrate why Valve has remained perhaps the only development brand I can trust in the whole of the industry.