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GOTY 2012

This is my personal GOTY 2012 list for 2012, in order. It has games on it. I wrote a lot.

List items

  • XCOM is amazing. It provides you a simply unrivaled tactical gameplay experience that can all change based on your choices, which can be rare for some strategy games. Earth is invaded, and as the head of the XCOM Project, you must build up a fledgling base and a handful of rookie soldiers into an elite alien-destroying squad, complete with lasers, invisible armor, and jet packs.

    Did you research lasers before better body armor? You might kill the aliens faster, but your soldiers will take less damage to die, and in a game with permadeath, you don't want that to happen. This dynamic plays throughout the entire campaign, with some story objectives that guide you to the end providing a loose framework for the rest of the missions. The real story comes from your experiences on the battlefield; each encounter is a microcosm of choice and consequences for your actions, and that’s really rewarding/heartbreaking to see your squad emerge victorious/get eaten alive by Chryssalids. Losing a Colonel to alien mind control and then having to kill him before he murders the rest of your squad is tough, but necessary to win. Commanding soldiers feels fun, as is being rewarded for thinking tactically.

    It's entirely possible to fail your campaign, and the difficulty doesn't make that any easier. And that's totally awesome. Sometimes games can be scared of letting you put yourself into a fail state, but that’s part of the charm of the original XCOM, and it still plays today. Also, who doesn't want to run their own super secret multinational alien defense organization?

  • If you haven't already, just stop reading and watch the Quick Look for Sleeping Dogs. If you have, you know why it's on here. If you haven't, it's because Sleeping Dogs is a blast to play. It's an open world game set in modern-day Hong Kong, where you as Wei Shen has to infiltrate the Triad and take it down. It borrows the melee combat from the Batman games, has a ton of interesting and varied side and story missions, and fills the world with collectibles that actually give you tangible rewards, as opposed to collecting pigeons in GTA or film reels in L.A. Noire. The story is a good one, and provides an excellent reason as to why it's not necessarily out of character to grab a pedestrian, throw them in the trunk of your car, and drive that car off into the ocean as you dive out of it. Stepping into a virtual Hong Kong is also a really great setting, as I was fascinated with the look of the world compared to say, Steelport or Liberty City. The curry fish balls will blow your mind.

  • Ninjas? Check. Fluid, captivating animation? Check. Groundbreaking stealth systems? Check. Stabbing dudes violently? Check. Mark of the Ninja excels at making you feel like the most badass ninja ever, with a wide variety of moves, tools, and a stealth system that visualizes everything on the screen, solving the problem of "How did that guy see me? What?" Seeing guard vision cones and displaying the area of how much sound you make let you know exactly why what happened just did. It never feels cheap, and the simple act of walking, or grappling to a light, or jumping down on a guard to stab him, or just barely diving into cover looks and plays very well. The story also has a neat little finish to it that doesn't overstay its welcome, and lets you focus on the game.

  • Journey is one of the few games I've played that made me feel legitimate, tear-bringing joy while playing it. Unlike Mass Effect or The Walking Dead, I spilled tears of happiness while playing the ending. Journey is a beautiful game, and its silent partner co-op lets you begin working together without having the chance of being yelled at or harassed by said partner. The game really is a journey to find what lies at the peak of this mountain, and players will find greater meaning to its message playing multiple times. Journey is proof that great design and gameplay are all you need to create an emotional response, and is a step forward for the industry.

  • I really started 2012 thinking this was going to be my #1 pick, but that was not to be. In short, it wraps up a lot of things very well in satisfying ways for fans, and the combat is much better than before. However, it's just not as good as ME2 was. There are so many weird choices with quest design, multiplayer being tied to the endings, poorly used characters, locking story behind DLC, logic inconsistencies, and the worst ending to a game I have ever played. But that other 90% of the game still let you experience one of the most well-designed Sci-fi universes across any media, and I did tear up several times while playing, but that emotional attachment was gained through the first two games and wouldn't have meant anything without playing them beforehand. Even so, even a slightly worse Mass Effect game is still a very good game.

  • The Walking Dead is special in that its characters are the heart of the story. The zombies aren't your real enemies; instead the warring ideologies of how to survive become your foe as you struggle to make choices that don't always work out. This game will make you cry, and that alone is remarkable for most games.

  • FTL is an addicting rogue-like game in space. You jump from sector to sector with randomly generated maps, trying to build up your crew and weapons while escaping a rebel fleet that ceaselessly follows you across the galaxy. You can unlock different types of ships as you complete objectives, allowing you numerous ways of play to try and bring down the huge Rebel Flagship at the end.

    FTL is similar to Binding of Isaac in that you get that 'just one more run' feeling. Maybe next time you won't encounter a Mantis ship that boards you and torches the engines, forcing you to open up the blast doors to the vacuum of space to put it out while commanding your crew to take them out before they do more damage, all while your ship and their ship are exchanging lasers and missiles.

  • Dishonored plays phenomenally; thanks in large part to the ease of traversing the steampunk, whale oil-powered city of Dunwall. The short-range teleport "Blink" move alone is worth trying this game for, because it's so fun to zip across rooftops above unsuspecting guards. The melee combat is also handled really well, something first person games have a hard time doing. The story didn't catch me so much, but the gameplay is top-notch.

  • If you've ever played a 4X game like Galactic Civilizations, this is like that, but in real time. I am a big fan of RTS's in general, and having a massive space empire to manage and fight with has been my dream since I was 10. It has all of the content from the past 3 micro expansions, along with new tweaks and Titan ships for each faction. This is the definitive Sins experience, and you already know if you want more of that if you've played the vanilla version.

  • The story mode has some cool moments for fans of the series like myself, and the accessible fighting engine made this an easy choice to come back to. I am a fighting game neophyte, and P4A has easy to perform combos and really eye-catching visuals that kept me engaged. It also has instant kill moves, which are great.