Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 - Favorite Games Played This Year

2013 was fantastic year for gaming. So many good games and innovations. There were a ton of great movements that happened, the whole indie game boom, advances in gaming narrative, and leaps of technological capability. Now that the new generation is here I'm so excited to see all the great things that developers will no doubt do in the coming years.

  • Batman: Arkham City (2011) - Everyone is pretty much a fan of Batman now so this one is a no brainer. The Arkham series has had one of my favorite combat systems (that while I'm sure can get old) hasn't gotten old for me yet. I still kind of suck and miss counters and dodges from time to time, but even attempting to play on the hardest difficulty and predicting all the combat cues makes you feel like a Jedi. (However I hear that the repetitiveness is one of the flaws of Arkham Origins
  • Bioshock: Infinite (2013) -  The Story. The Atmosphere. The Aesthetics. The Gameplay. The Mechanics. Elizabeth.
  • Borderlands 2 (2012) - I've already played this thoroughly in 2012, but I bought it again on Steam and after a bit of a break this game still holds up and you just want to shoot everything in the face again and again. Getting all the DLC on your N-th playthrough keeps it fresh too. This will be one of my favorite titles for a long time and I can't for wait the Telltale Borderlands game as well as the inevitable Borderlands 3.
  • Animal Crossing: New Leaf (2013) - I couldn't decide if I wanted to put this one my Best of 2013 list because there are times where I'm not sure if I'm actually doing anything productive, but the fact that I can't stop picking fruit, fishing, picking up seashells, or digging WAY TOO MANY holes to catch that stupid Mole Cricket determines that it should definitely belongs here.
  • League of Legends - An obligatory pick for some of us. As much as I'll complain about how toxic the community is, League of Legends is here to stay for quite some time. And when this game is fun, it is damn fun. With a fully fledged e-sports scene and Riot releasing new content month after month, League of Legends will hold it's crown for years to come. (HEROES OF THE STORM THO)
  • Pokemon X (2013) - C'mon.
  • Planetside 2 - This was one of the games I was excited to play a lot of when I built my mid-range PC and even then the hardware I had wasn't enough, because you needed a high end  computer to run this at a butter smooth frame rate without making all the textures look like Play-doh. Imagine Battlefield Conquest on the scale of an entire continent, add in 3 different factions each with specific combat qualities and weapons on top of your own soldier you need to 'level' and gear up and you have Planetside 2. They're in the process of fully optimizing the game for any gaming rig that didn't cost an arm and a leg and the results are pretty great so far. In battles that I was able to play at a drudging 20-30 frames I now get well over 40.
  • Tomb Raider (2013) - A title I didn't initially plan on playing at all until it the Steam Summer Sale. I was never a huge fan of the classic Tomb Raider games as a kid because I played one of the demo discs I had as a kid with my Playstation 1 and just remember getting devoured by wolves and never playing it again. However this was one of the games that really felt "Pre-Next-Gen" to me. There were a lot of little nuances that happened that just seemed advanced. Lara raising her arm to block the rough wind from her face, shivering and rubbing her arms to warm herself. These aren't by any means AMAZING and revolutionary, but it really helps the overall experience. It played well as an adevnture game and was surprisingly enjoyable as an action-shooter. One of the best things the game did was make Lara Croft human. She was no longer just the polygonal bombshell of previous generations. Her instincts and tenacity for survival evolved Lara into a strong character and that development is something great.
  • Battlefield 4 (2013) - I was extremely excited for Battlefield 3 in 2011 and I played the hell out of it. I enjoyed it so much I got it on Xbox 360 as well as PC later on. So being excited for the next step for DICE and Battlefield was only logical for me. The parts that are good are great, and the bits that are bad are awful. I realize that it's sort of a work in progress with DICE trying to work out the flaws that slipped by and it might be a while before everything is smoothed out. I do enjoy the gun play, but I still can't get over the fact of fast (at least it seems so with the lack of damage warnings) you die. It could be the piss poor netcode that shows your soldier where you no longer are as well. Over all this is a good game when it works. It doesn't feel like an entirely new game at times though and a lot of the elements feel the same as Battlefield 3. Some of the voices (the voice actors are the same at least) are exactly the same and some weapon sounds definitely are (this isn't a bad thing since Battlefield has some fantastic sound design). Though they did away with that constant blue tint though, and that's a huge plus. 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Gone Home (2013) - I honestly played this one because I saw it on so many Best of 2013 lists and saw it receiving a lot of high praise. I went into this not knowing what to expect and was so surprised and taken off guard by the way this game plays out. I don't want to say anything because going into this game blind is exactly how I feel someone should play through this one. Absolutely a play first, ask questions later. After some more time maybe I'll make a post discussing this one, because the ending will sit with me for quite some time. S+L 
  • The Last of Us (2013) - This is only going on my Honorable Mentions because I didn't actually play it, but I watched an entire playthrough of it. This was another one of the games that looks and feels like the beginning of the next generation. Moments like when you're stealthing around with Ellie crouched and instead of your arm phasing through her face, Joel's arm wraps protectively around her while skating across the wall for guidance. And while I didn't personally play it, the tension of conflicts and the anxiety of always scrounging for materials and ammo to sustain yourself in fights was always present. 
  • Beyond: Two Souls - Another game I watched a playthrough of (Things you do when you don't have a Playstation 3) and watching this one absolutely makes sense because the brunt of this game that makes it enjoyable and makes it so you want to keep playing (or in my case, Watching) through is the story and it's powerful narrative. One might argue that the entirety of the "gameplay" was just quick time events and reacting to specific key prompts, but that's not entirely the focus in my opinion. Also some of the best motion capture we've seen from a video game yet. Being able to capture actors' faces and put them in video game scenarios is amazing and I'm so eager to see what this can evolve into. In the end Beyond was a strong story that had me returning to Youtube for each sub-sequential playthrough episode.
  • Terraria (2011) - I sort of avoided this title for a while because the aesthetic didn’t really appeal to me that much, which is a pretty lame reason to not play a game, but after only hearing good things and it going on sale for $2.49 on Steam I bit and damn was I hooked. All I wanted to do was keep excavating to find the next level armor/tools/weapons. By mid-game my Terraria map looked like the busiest ant farm I've ever seen. The high kept going until I achieved full Shroomite armor and my friends I pretty much beat all the bosses in the game. After that the game stopped calling to me. BUT where it “ends” there for me is one of the reasons Starbound looks fantastic with multiple random gen worlds to explore after you “finish” one world. Oh and the whole Sci-Fi feel with lasers and your very own starship that you can later develop into a full blown frigate, yes please and thank you.
  • Warframe - I played this one because I really had a craving for a co-op Third-Person shooter experience like Mass Effect 3's co-op while not being exactly the same. I first played this when it was in a closed beta phase and really thought nothing of it. Just another Free 2 Play. Months later there were a few people on my Steam Friend List played this game near religiously. It had to be pretty good for some of my friends to clock hundreds hours of playtime, right? So I started up more recently and wound up really enjoying it through the [open] beta bugs and dropped near 100 hours into this one. There are times where the fact that it is still a beta is very apparent and the bugs can be pretty terrible. The things I enjoyed in the game were aspects of the very fast paced combat system fleshed out with wall running, wall back flips, sprinting and then sliding while you shoot all the bad guys in the face just like all those action movies. The item building system is fairly good too depending on how much you enjoy (see also: tolerate) grinding for items. Crafting items is based on farming/buying blueprints and then farming up all the materials which can either be done fairly quickly or take a while if it's a painfully rare material (Looking at you Control Modules...) In the end there are many improvements to be made to Warframe, but it's still a pretty enjoyable experience. Bonus: The developer and community team at Digital Extremes does a really good job and their enthusiasm for their game is the type that just makes you want to play Warframe and support them.
  • Path of Exile - So here's a game that has some hype behind it a really really long time ago and finally hits the web by storm in 2013. It was a Free 2 Play isometric dungeon crawler that gave avid worshipers of the church of Diablo 2 a new and promising prospect. My absolutely favorite element of this game was the unique way abilities worked. You had gems, and gems aren't new to any type of RPGs at this point, but each gem instead of buffing stats gave you a certain active or passive ability and each one of these gems leveled up as you mowed down hordes of undead. This meant as you leveled you could literally save your abilities for later by putting a gem in your safebox and you could try out another ability as you wished. Combined with the absolutely massive and nearly overwhelming talent tree you had all the flexibility you could ever want in a dungeon crawler to become any sort of character your imagination could conjure. The story and atmosphere are supremely dark which I'm sure Diablo fans will love, but I personally dreaded the levels with the pools of blood and moans and screams of tortured souls. Another gripe I had with the game was how all the gear looked the same, and when the gear never looked good to begin with. There isn't any Leg Armor so you might just be wearing torso armor and have normal cloth pants on, which is absolutely silly.
  • Guild Wars 2 (2012) - I haven't played an MMORPG hardcore since World of Warcraft which I quit before Wrath of the Lich King came out because I was sick of raiding (and not progressing with my guild) and I don't think I was mature as a gamer for PVP (Intellectually Mature to practice and study the mechanics). After World of Warcraft I was hoping for Star Wars: The Old Republic (WoW clone, not interested) to be the game that brought me out of MMORPG sobriety and made me hand in my chip, but that wasn't the case. The game that actually did was one that I did not even plan on checking out at all, Guild Wars 2. A had a few friends that were far into their leveling and capped out before I even got the game, but leveling to catch up to them was fairly enjoyable and probably the easiest leveling experience of an MMORPG I've played. Being level 80 was a different story however. I really love the idea of World vs World with and ever continuing PvP element vs 2 other servers at all times, BUT like Planetside 2 it just sort of of drags out after a while of playing. You keep capturing keeps and outposts only for your enemies to take them back a few hours later and you better hope you're on a competent World vs World server because the entire experience is soured when your server just doesn't care about what is happening in the Battle of the Mists. There was also something missing for me PVE wise with the existing dungeon system at the time. Each dungeon instance rewards you with tokens to cash in for your loot instead of bosses actually dropping that awesome sword you want. This takes out the RNG (Random Number Generation) aspect of the game which is good, but can also make the game seem much more grind-essential. And speaking of grinding, if you plan on acquiring a legendary weapon you'll have to grind for months upon months for the materials. It is legendary after all. Overall Guild Wars 2 does a lot of things that really tries to break away from the tropes of the MMORPGs we've grown accustomed to and still offers up a solid experience.