It’s that time of the year – the time for reflection. Every gaming site in the world is doing their top five or top ten games for the year. So why am I doing one? Well, because everyone else is stupid, of course!
Sure, I enjoyed Borderlands 2, but it embodied the term “iterative”. When I think of something that should be considered in a top five, it has to do something truly unique. I guess it should be no surprise that three out of these five are indie titles. Also, one of them came out last year, but I didn’t play it until this year, and that’s why it’s on my top five for this year. Fucking deal with it.
Some praised it for its innovation, some called it a boring stroll on an island that wasn’t even a game. Regardless of which camp you fall into, if Dear Esther wasn’t what you had expected it would be, then you’re stupid. It should hardly even be considered a new game, since it’s just a recreation of a free Source mod from 2008. You had no reason to not know what you were getting into. I think Dear Esther perfectly demonstrates a problem in reading or listening to reviews – you should stop listening to people telling you that a game is great; you need to listen to why they think it’s great. If more people had done that, there wouldn’t be so much whining over this title.
This ended up on a few lists for games of the year. And it’s pretty much the only one I’ve seen that I agree with, because it was the only one that did something (or many things) that were markedly different. For being such a year of innovation and great new indie titles, all of the games I saw on top-five or top-ten lists were the same boring AAA shooters that are always there. Except Journey. What fascinates me about this is that Journey is only minimally more interactive than Dear Esther, and yet Dear Esther is absent from nearly every GOTY list, and is lambasted for not being a game. I see this as progress, however, as years ago, Journey would have been right there with Dear Esther in the “not a game” camp. So we’re broadening our horizons with our definition for what a game is. I hope we continue to do so.
This is the only game on the list that wasn’t released this year (technically – you could also include Dear Esther). But I played it this year, and it’s too damn important to leave out. I need to preface my praise for this game with one important thing: I don’t usually care much for story in video games. It’s a nice bonus, but I’m much more focused on gameplay. I could spend another whole post explaining why this list so far has been nearly absent of gameplay, but for now, the important take-away here is that I normally don’t pay much attention to story in games. That makes it all the more important that I’m saying this: To The Moon has the greatest story ever told in a video game. I want to compare it to some great movies (one in particular), but I worry that it would spoil plot elements. I had a few annoyances with it on a technical level (no windowed mode or resolution options, etc.), but the game itself is stunning in every way. This is a criminally under-exposed game. Unlike Sententia, this is not an “art game”. It is a work of art, and the only game I recommend regardless of what you’re looking for in a game. Buy this game. Play this game. Do it now.
A Vita game?! This one slipped in at the last minute. Some genius realized that if you took Monster Hunter gameplay and threw it into the Ragnarok universe, you’d have a whole bunch of fun on your hand[held]s. It’s far from the most innovative game on this list, but it just does everything so right that it just has to be here. Great character customization (for a handheld), online multiplayer, clothing options that aren’t locked to specific gameplay benefits, and fun action combat. It’s nearly everything I’ve wanted in a handheld game. If you own a Vita, get it already.
And an MMO! This is a bizarre GOTY list, to be sure. In my heartbreak from FFXIV, I tried to fill the hole with other games. Mostly Diablo 3 and Guild Wars 2. And if you’re thinking just now that Diablo 3 isn’t an MMO, then tell that to Blizzard. ArenaNet found a clever way to deal with so many issues with MMO gameplay that if only they weren’t determined to slap a boring old hotbar on the battle system and keep the same lame-ass control scheme, it would have easily been the best MMO to date – granted, that’s with my JRPG bias. With global quests where everyone gets rewarded for their part, the ability to have anyone help you out with anything, regardless of level, random platforming challenges to secret areas, and a story that you’re able to choose some starting elements of (not to mention make further decisions down the line) that actually held my interest for more than five minutes, it’s difficult to ask more of a game. Maybe gamepad support. But that’s too much to ask for most PC games these days, let alone MMOs.
So there it is. There are things that I actually like. You may notice that even the indie games did not have Kickstarters. I suppose it must be a miracle that they were made without someone handing them $100,000. There were a few games that I wanted to put on this list, but I had to restrict it to games that I at least discovered this year – even if they didn’t come out this year. But as an honorable mention, I probably had more fun with Terraria this year than all of these games combined – though my enjoyment of To The Moon was on a deeper level that is difficult to just classify “fun”. I have a hunch that Starbound will make next year’s GOTY list. If it comes out in 2013, that is. *fingers crossed*
On another year-end note, my New Year’s resolution is to post more consistently. I’d like to say weekly, but let’s take it one step at a time. Even if it’s every other week, I want it to be expected on a certain day. I’ll work out some details for that.. soon. Next resolution: stop putting things off. I’m also cleaning up the front page with those fancy “more” breaks. Putting some professional paint over this highly unprofessional drivel. Get ready for another great year of shitty Kickstarter projects.