ArbitraryWater's Best of 2011 (that didn't come out in 2011)

Best games of 2011 that didn't come out in 2011

As someone who until recently had a totally garbage computer and not much spending money, I had to make due with whatever old games would come my way. Thanks in no part to Good Old Games, as well as that shady Gamestop downtown, I have been able to play more stuff than I used to, both new and old. That's not to say anything about my free time though, which I probably abuse more than I should.

List is in a particular order, but as always should be taken with a grain of salt because whatever man they're all good. Stuff marked with Asterisks have extra comments below, assuming you are reading the blog and not the list.

1. Planescape: Torment

I figure that Planescape probably deserves it more than ToEE, even if this game has its share of flaws. *

2. The Temple of Elemental Evil: A Classic Greyhawk Adventure

Since I've apparently written two blogs about the game, I figure I can always write more about Temple of Elemental Evil, and when I'm not doing that I can bribe people to do it for me. *

3. Team Fortress 2

This was the year I finally got into Team Fortress 2, and thanks to it I managed to avoid the temptation to spend money on any other First Person Shooters. Even if you are bad at shooting rockets or totally dislike being a heavy because everyone immediately starts shooting you, there are plenty of other classes that one can have fun with and still contribute to the team effort. Plus, now there's loot!

4. League of Legends

Two F2P games right next to each other? Yep. I have not reached level 30, so I cannot comment on the high level play (and high level douchebaggery) that exists. Otherwise, this game is what sold the DotA formula to me, even if all my memories of DotA are traumatic experiences mostly related to being yelled at back when I was into Warcraft III.

5. Deus Ex

Deus Ex is not without its problems, but honestly those don't detract as much by the end of the game as they do at the start. The shooting is straight up bad, the stealth is similarly questionable, but the ability to approach any situation in any given way and be rewarded for doing so is not something that many other games can claim to have accomplished.

6. Sid Meier's Civilization V

Civilization V was originally going to be way higher on the list, but certain specific annoyances have brought it down for me. *

7. Mount & Blade: Warband

Seeing it now, I can only wonder how great Mount and Blade would be if it actually had a budget and some polish behind it. *

8. Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike

(Tie) As someone who started with SFIV, I can tell you that Third Strike is a very, very slick fighting game and well deserving of the praise it gets. You haven't lived until you have experienced the majesty that is a Sean vs Sean or a Twelve vs Twelve mirror match.

8. Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium

(Tie) I couldn't decide between these two, so they both tie. Don't like it? Too bad. I like CvS2 because of its roster, not necessarily because the fighting itself is super great. It's perfectly fine, with the way you can pick your super meter and subsystems, but its more the part where I can beat up people as both Kyo and Vega that makes me approve this thing

9. Final Fantasy X-2

What? You think I'm joking? I'm not. While my enjoyment of this game is around 70% irony and 30% the combat system, it's still enjoyable. Assuming you approach it as flippantly and cynically as I do. If I cared one bit about FFX, I'd probably consider this game to be a travesty the same way you guys do.

10. King's Bounty: Armored Princess

Consider this a spot for King's Bounty: The Legend as well, considering they're pretty much the same game. *

Best old game of 2011: Planescape Torment

Honestly, I'd consider this to be a pretty weak number one, as I could switch it with ToEE and feel comfortable with doing so. Unlike Dark Souls, which at some point demanded that it be number one or else it would gank me, Planescape has its share of problems, namely the mediocre combat or the part where on some basic level most of what you are doing amounts to fetch quest after fetch quest. Those detract, certainly, but they don't overshadow the part where the writing is amazing, the characters are likeable, the world is well fleshed out, and the situations you find yourself in are incredibly unique. The game also does a pretty good job of allowing you to play as a neurotic asshole if you so choose, which is different than the standard "murderous psychopath" that seems to show up in games like these as an evil option. (Original Blog)

Second best old game of 2011: Temple of Elemental Evil (assuming fan mods are installed)

You see those parentheses? Those are the caveat that this game has, and the ultimate reason why I decided it couldn't be number one. And specifically, I'm talking about the vanilla version of the Circle of Eight mod as opposed to the new content one, as the New Content actually serves to break the game's vaunted difficulty at a certain point. Hilariously, sure, but once ToEE loses its edge it becomes a kind of shitty D&D game with ho-hum story and generally awkward pacing. The genuine reason this game (almost) wins is the combat, which manages to be pretty great most of the time even when your party is being slaughtered en masse. Whatever. I've written enough. Mento has written enough. Video_Game_King has written enough. If you like older RPGs you should play this game. (Original Blog)

Most annoying minor quirks: Sid Meier's Civilization V

On any level, be it a purely objective level to a more subjective one, Civilization V is the best game in the series by a wide margin, streamlining without really dumbing down and having a technology reader guy who somehow tops Leonard Nimoy. Indeed. What singularly brings this game down is the way it encourages a military victory, pretty much over anything else. At some point in Civ V, you are going to have to go to war. The AI is too erratic to be your friend for any real length of time, and science and culture require a game-wide active attempt at obtaining them. Thus, I feel like even when I'm someone non-militaristic, I figure I might as well go the whole way with an enemy civ and wipe them out before they can attempt to attack my culture cities again, which leads to other civs denouncing me and eventually declaring war on me. A minor complaint yes, but one I feel the need to express one year later.

Most awesome major quirks: Mount and Blade Warband

Mount and Blade, in general, has a lot of serious issues. It's ugly, janky, and the singleplayer is far too bare-bones and open for its own good. And yet, there's a certain charm to it all. I'm not going to pretend that the game couldn't use a more effective interface, perhaps have a bit more direction in how to progress your character, or not look at home among many of 1999s top releases, but the combat is good enough that its easy not to care. The kind of game that can consume a weekend, only for you to realize that you screwed up somewhere along the way and have to reload a previous save.

Most caveat-filled inclusion: King's Bounty series

I say series, because they're basically the same game. Armored Princess has some minor mechanical differences from The Legend, mostly in terms of pacing and character building, but they use the same engine, a lot of the same assets, and still have that enjoyably derivative gameplay. If you haven't figured it out by my icon of the evil skeleton wizard, I am a huge fan of the Might and Magic series and its spinoff Heroes of Might and Magic. King's Bounty blatantly steals a lot of concepts of those games (and more specifically the DOS game King's Bounty, which was basically the precursor to Heroes) and runs with them. And its pretty fun, for the most part. Where King's Bounty gets me is the way that your progression through the game is pretty much artificially tied to your character's leadership stat, as that allows you to field bigger armies. Thus, most of the game is spent going between the different areas, surgically eliminating the monster armies that your army can handle, battle after battle, until you level up and can recruit enough troops to deal with the next largest stacks of enemies. It's a bit of a slog sometimes, but it's also an enjoyable slog. Assuming one experiences it in short bursts.

Stuff that didn't make it on the list but deserves mention

Best Games I haven't finished and therefore will possibly include on next year's list: SMT Nocturne and Icewind Dale II

Really, both of these could be on the main list. I just figured I would make this special category as a way of making it less hard to whittle down to my top 10 (or 11, as the case may be). Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne seems like the kind of JRPG explicitly designed for me. Its astoundingly difficult, especially in comparison to stuff like Final Fantasy X-2. It has a very distinct visual aesthetic, which is backed up by a great soundtrack by the guy who does all the Persona music before he was way into J-Pop and engrish lyrics. It's also astoundingly difficult, which is one of the reasons it has yet to be finished. Ironically, I kind of tossed that fact aside when I was talking about Dark Souls, soooo.... whatever. It's great.

Icewind Dale II is about half-finished at the moment, but I can already tell you that it is probably not as good as the first game. This is for several reasons, the implementation of 3rd edition rules being among them. Listen, I think 3rd edition is way better than AD&D 2nd ed. Temple of Elemental Evil proves that. But the way it's implemented here is awkward. The Infinity Engine clearly was not designed for it, and the actual character building options are somewhat slim. There aren't a whole ton of useful feats or skills, and being that this is regular 3rd edition and not 3.5 a lot of special abilities are of questionable use. Its still fun though, with all the subraces available (guess what guys: Drow Magic Resistance is actually somewhat useful, even if it doesn't compensate for the fact that my Drow Wizard is on average 2 levels behind my sorceress.) and that combat that forces you to micromanage or die. Just perhaps not paced as well as it should be. The reason this game was unfinished was Skyrim, and with that game currently being taken a break from, I will probably try to finish this sucker over the break. We'll see.

Most Civilization-esque game: Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.

I'm just going to stop here and tell you guys: Yo, this game is like Civ II, but in space. I really appreciate the way the factions are based on philosophy, rather than nationality, as well as the way that you get a quote read to you every time you research something. It still has the things that annoy me about older civ games though, such as the glacial pace, the demanding AI, and the rather un-informative interface. I didn't even know you could change government types until around halfway my second game. Enjoyable nonetheless, especially when you get planet buster nukes, but not something that would crack my top 10.

Most Inoffensively Bland Game: Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader

Never heard of it? Doesn't that video make it sound great (or "great")? Of course you haven't. Lionheart was the last game to be published (not developed) by Black Isle before it went under and spawned Obsidian, which is basically has the same level of talent without the same budget. But I digress. Lionheart is hilariously deceptive about what kind of game it is. The first hour or so can be likened akin to something like Fallout, but in an alternate history version of Spain where there are monsters 'n stuff, even going as far as having the same stats and the same kinds of skills as Fallout. After that hour though, your speech skills will be worthless, your pickpocket skills will be worthless, and from what I understand the rest of the game is pretty much a straight linear hack-n-slash with a generic save-the-world-chosen-one type plot that doesn't capitalize on the unique setting. Ok. I've posted that video like a dozen times already, but I had to do it again. It's just that good. The actual gameplay isn't terrible. It's just not great either.

Seemingly best D&D game that I should possibly play more of: Dark Sun

Once again, I get into some obscure stuff on my internet travels, and that includes Dungeons and Dragon games from the DOS era. While Eye of the Beholder and the Gold Box stuff is arguably pretty well known as far as old games went, its the stuff in the interim between EotB and Baldur's Gate that seems to be forgotten, usually for a reason. While I have yet to play the absolute worst in terms of D&D games, I would need a 3DO for that apparently, I have messed with some of the less good stuff, Menzoberranzan included. What surprised me though, was the Dark Sun game, which features the same kind of tactical turn-based combat reminiscent of what Temple of Elemental Evil does. Also there are bug people who get twice as many attacks per round. That's pretty ballin'. I should really print out a walkthrough or something and actually sit down and play through it, because it actually seems quite good.

Best Open World-ish Diablo Clone: Divine Divinity

Once again, this is more a matter of not playing enough to make a comprehensive judgement than a qualitative assertion. Divine Divinity is far, far better than Divinity II. The Skills actually do things. The soundtrack is great, and yet the open world aspect is somewhat defeated by the fact that it's also really hard. Still, an interesting game to check out. It's half off on GOG, so that means its like $3. So is Lionheart by the way. Sure, you could spend your money on quality products, like all the D&D games or maybe Fallout 1, but why do that when you can buy the RPGs that time has understandably forgotten about. Hell, you should pick up Arcanum while you are at it, because I haven't smack talked that game nearly enough in the present it seems.

EDIT: Most worst baddest not good entirely terrible game of the year. That I beat: Deus Ex Invisible War

Hey guys. What if they made Deus Ex, but then made it for the original Xbox and made it totally terrible? Well, that's what Invisible War is. While it is competent from a basic mechanical level, at least as compared to the first game's dice roll shooting, it's designed way worse. The level design is atrocious, the plot is somehow more laughable than the overly-earnest conspiracy theory mumbo jumbo that the first game consisted of, and the actual character progression is pretty much over halfway through the game. (original blog)

And thus, it ends. Until next year. Or perhaps not?