Here is my top 5 games of the year (2012). Read and enjoy.
5. Mass Effect 3
So much has been said about the ending of this game. I know what happens, and I don’t care. This was an epic conclusion to quite the epic series. Honestly, I was flabbergasted at the outrage over this game and the ending. I thought that the combat felt tighter and more refined than it was in Mass Effect 2, which was tighter and more refined that Mass Effect 1. Yes, I am sad that the game went further away from the RPG systems in the first game, and that in the end, your choices didn’t really matter. I didn’t like that the game glossed over the fact that I cheated on Liara with Miranda, and that the citadel felt like a dumbed down quest hub. But think of the missions! I discovered protheans, caught up with my old buddies, and said goodbye to a few. I think that the mindless rage over the ending of this game, and the overall frothing EA hatred put a smokescreen over some of my favorite moments I had in gaming this year. There were some amazing missions in this game! The multiplayer was really deep and engaging. I leveled up several characters and played both in random groups and with friends. I don’t think the multiplayer in that game gets enough credit. Spoiler territory here. Remember Tuchanka? That mission alone earns this game a spot in the top ten. Taking one of my favorite characters in a game of all time, and allowing to redeem himself and simultaneously go out with a bang was heart-wrenching. The whole end of the mission, I knew that Mordin was going to do something crazy, and when we got to the elevator I knew what was going to happen. I salute you, you Scientist Salarian.
4. Xcom: Enemy Unknown
I hate strategy games. I hate them. Hate them. Hate them. I get too confused, I can’t move my mouse fast enough, and I always feel like I am being trolled by the AI. It feels like I am in math class when I am playing strategy games. I can deal with the civilization series, and I have dabbled in Heroes of Might and Magic, but usually I am not a fan of the genre. Putting X-com up here in the top 5 is saying something. I gotta respect a game for making me go across genre lines. Years ago, I heard a lot of praise of X-com: Ufo Defense, and I picked up the game on steam for 5 buckaroons. Completely lost in a sea of menus, I outfitted my group and went after a downed UFO. I know you have heard this story a hundred times, but seriously, stay with me. Upon exiting the skyranger, my entire platoon was wiped out after about 5 minutes of me fiddling around with positioning. I was in over my head, and I decided to never tread the x-com waters again. So, when I heard about this game, I was definitely a bit skeptical. After hearing so much positive buzz about the game on the internet game-o-sphere I caved and purchased the game on steam. Boy was I pleasantly surprised. Heck, I was more than pleasantly surprised, I was positively chuffed! Here is the part where I brag about how awesome my squad is. My first real veteran and colonel was a heavy I had from the start of the game. A hispanic gentleman who goes by the nickname “Lights out”. In my 3rd or 4th mission I lost my first squaddie, and all of the rooks panicked. “Lights Out” kept cool and finished the remaining sectoid scum while my newbie squad moistened their drawers. It is experiences like that, and like so many more you have heard your friends tell you, that makes this game number 4 of the year.
3. Planetside 2
Going way way back I have always been a fan of online shooters. (See the tribes ascend blurb) I wore my keyboard down shooting germans in Battlefield 1942, and reduced my mouse to a pile of dust playing tribes. I have always had an itch for playing large scale online shooters. I was too young to be able to subscribe to Planetside 1, and by the time I had my very own debit card, the game was basically forgotten. I was really interested in the original game in this series, but I was never able to play it. So, I suppose some of the joy derived from playing this game is due to the fact that I am playing a sequel to the game I never got to play, but I think that largely part of the reason this game cracked my top 10 was just how damn good this game is. This game isn’t for everyone, if you don’t like running long distances only to be killed without firing a shot don’t bother. If that last statement sounded awesome to you, you’re my kinda gamer and this is your kinda game. There are so few online shooters that have the sense of scale that Planetside 2 has, and it is just perfect. Defending a base with 10-15 of your squad-members, and seeing the sky blacken with enemy transport ships is simultaneously breathtaking and scary as hell. Everyone runs to man the turrets, but the ensuing wave of armored units destroys you before you get a chance to fire one piece of flak into the sky. This game is full of moments like this, masssive shifts in battles, close calls, hiding behind enemy lines, and leading a charge with 70-80 other players. I love this game, and I expect to log plenty of hours in 2013.
2. The Walking Dead
Adventure games have never really been my favorite genre. I don’t hate them like strategy games, but I have never been drawn into adventure games before. I remember my older cousin showing my younger brother and I the Secret of Monkey island when we were young. That was a lot of fun, we adventured, laughed, and drank grog (which is what we called root beer, a nickname we used for a while). Other than that, I think my patience for adventure games has been thin. I always end up getting stuck and looking up an FAQ, it is a bad habit, but I can’t help myself. That wasn’t a problem with this game. The puzzles seemed pretty easy to figure out, but challenging enough for me to sit and think for a bit. I never felt frustrated. That was an emotion I didn’t feel while playing the game, but it probably was the only one. I can’t think of any game that has had me scramble to input a command as hard as this game has. What? I have to make this decision? I only have 5 seconds to think about it? This could drastically change my experience of the game? Whoa. Whoa I say.
I can’t remember the last time I was playing a game where my grin slowly grew from ear to ear as I finished it. Maybe frog fractions? This was a good year for grinning in gaming. This Gringame ™ is basically a fantastic piece of artistic work and a social experiment in online gaming and communication. In this game you are tasked with traversing an unforgiving and lonely desert, creepy cave, and windy mountain top. There are no spoken words, just haunting music and gorgeous visuals. At first you run around lonely and confused about where to go. There is no real tutorial, you figure out the controls as you play, and after about 10 minutes you see (or hear) something unusual. Without any announcement another player has joined your game. No PSN ID name, no real way to know who you are playing with. You only communicate through beeps and teamwork. I think it is kind of sad that one of the most engaging online experiences I have had playing multiplayer was mostly in part that the person I was playing with couldn’t speak. Maybe it is Genius? It is certainly number 1 on this year’s list in my book.