GotY - 2013

I played more than three games this year, but most of them were older games. This was a year of transitioning my game library from the X360 to my PC, which meant waiting for strategic sales on Steam for my favorite multi-platform titles. To be honest, Top 10 lists are for "professional" game critics (which I say with a bit of a sneer and roll o' the eyes), and I have lost interest in trying to stay current. It doesn't matter WHEN you play a great game, and I've learned that the "zeitgeist" is to be avoided whenever possible.

That said, my PS3 died this year so no The Last of Us for me until a PS4 version comes out. Of course, I'd have to get a PS4 first...

So it was all PC versions for me this year. I finally got around to playing Borderlands (around 80 hours so far and into Playthrough 2- so it did SOMETHING right). Fantastic game and an argument for less-is-more when it comes to plots in games. Focus on characters, keep a maelable framework plot and let the world and gameplay carry the experience.

Dust: An Elysian Tale has been pretty good so far, certainly pleasing from a visual standpoint and satisfying combat.

Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine is a surprisingly great game. There isn't another shooter/melee hybrid that comes close. In fact, the mix of melee and shooting in Space Marine is so seamless it makes the distinction between shooter and brawler seem ridiculously artificial. The action fits the world and characters; this is HOW an Adeptus Astartes fights so why let genre conventions limit the action? Simple answer: don't. This game got me into the Warhammer 40k universe, and now I've got two giant books (Eisenhorn and Ravenor) towering on my bookshelf daring me to approach. That's this game's fault. It made me (someone who will NEVER play the board game) a fan of its franchise's fiction and universe. I can't imagine higher praise for a licensed video game.

Gone Home was also an interesting experience, but I will not address it as a video game. It just isn't a game,not if the word is to have any useful meaning. It is a virtual environment with a story: Everything a video game is when you take out the game. However, elements of its presentation can be used to great effect in video games. Its an excersise in almost-completely ambient story-telling and regardless of the actual content of that story, it is very effective in its execution.

Anyway!

Oh, I just noticed how Booker and Lara are both striking a very similar pose, looking down to the left. The protagonists this year were not particularly happy ones on their boxart it seems. Even Older Brother is looking off to the left! Only Younger Brother has the good-manners to look us in the eye.

List items

  • I spoiled myself rotten on the plot of this game before playing, so I knew all the twists going in. Either in spite or because of that, I found the story to be engaging but fundamentally flawed. Presentation over substance can work and here it mostly does. I found the combat quite good, particularly in comparison to the nearly suffocating design of most shooters.

    A great game with a fun adventure and great looks. Ken Levine certainly puts in the effort, even if his worldview and raw writing talent hampers him.

  • I didn't get around to playing this until late this year. I had very low expectations based on previous entries in the series and anticipated a simply better looking version of those titles. This is a reinvention of Tomb Raider into something between an Uncharted and a Red Dead Redemption, with just enough open world to satisfy a sense of discovery and just enough action set-pieces to scratch that cinematic action itch.

    It makes Lara Croft into a character I actually LIKE and root for. And man, that moment near the end when she finally acquires her signature dual-pistols was one of the most subtle legacy call-outs in any remake I've seen. They don't overstate the moment but it is the culmination of everything you've been waiting for.

  • An excercise in narrative simplisity that pays off. Games need to worry less about complex plots until they figure out how to do a much more fundamental story-telling pillar: character.

    Brothers:AToTS creates characters without dialogue that still relate everything you need to know and, most importantly, makes them likeable and worthy or rooting for. The dialogue diarrhetics like Hideo Kojima and Dan Houser should take heed.