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Games of the year 2012

RogueyWon (735973) writes | about a year ago

PlayStation (Games) 4

This year's list is perhaps a bit more limited than some of the ones I've put up in the past. There are two real reasons for this; first of all, I moved home in April, buying a place for the first time and getting on the property ladder - complete with the inevitable mortgage. This has curtailed my disposable income a bit, so I've had to be slightly more selective in my purchases (though this hasn't stopped me from accidentally picking up a couple of absolute stinkers).This year's list is perhaps a bit more limited than some of the ones I've put up in the past. There are two real reasons for this; first of all, I moved home in April, buying a place for the first time and getting on the property ladder - complete with the inevitable mortgage. This has curtailed my disposable income a bit, so I've had to be slightly more selective in my purchases (though this hasn't stopped me from accidentally picking up a couple of absolute stinkers).

Second, there's a console out there that I don't have access to. I own it, but I haven't yet been able to lay my hands on the thing. See, Nintendo released the Wii-U in the UK on the exact day that I was due to fly out to the USA for a fortnight. I went through all manner of possible options for getting my hands on one, but couldn't find one that actually worked. Nervous (wrongly) at the prospect of stock-shortages, I ordered from Amazon and got it delivered to the parents, who live 200 miles away. I won't be able to pick it up until I visit them at New Year, so no Wii-U games got a chance at inclusion on my list.

Anyway, with no further ado... let's start with the top 10:

10) Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy (3DS) - The first really compelling 3DS game I've found. It's hard to escape a slight sense of missed opportunity at some of the lightweight RPG mechanics, but this is a lot of fun and an absolute nostalgia trip. It's been many years since I last played Final Fantasy XI, but I was shocked at just how vividly the Ronfaure theme stirred up memories.

9) Final Fantasy XIII-2 (PS3, also 360) - Square-Enix have clearly addressed the key problem that undermined its predecessor; the lack of decent game mechanics. This is a quirky, well designed game with some clever stuff going on beneath the surface. Now if only they could find some people who could actually write plots and dialogue...

8) Uncharted: Golden Abyss (Vita) - A Vita launch title and, slightly irritatingly, there's yet to be another game which makes such good use of the Vita's features as Uncharted. The Vita's hardware limitations compared to the PS3 actually work in the game's benefit to an extent, forcing the focus away from cinematics and back onto the gameplay, giving the most "fun" Uncharted game since the original. Oh, and the campaign is a pretty generous length to boot.

7) Binary Domain (360, also PC) - This console generation has seen some truly awful attempts by Japanese developers at aping Western gameplay styles. Binary Domain, however, doesn't suck. More than that, it's actually bloody good, with tightly tuned shooting mechanics, a clever squad system and some neat plot and character development.>

6) Forza Horizon (360) - I was worried this game would be awful - but it isn't! The first hour or so has some cringe-inducing dudebro moments, but there's a solid, hardcore racing engine at work under the arcade trappings. If, as rumoured, Forza 5 is a next-gen project, then Horizon is a damned good way to pass the time until it appears.

5) FarCry 3 (PC, also 360 and PS3) - Pretty and fun open-world shooter with more brains than most entries in the fps genre. The storyline loses focus a bit, but there's plenty here to keep you interested. Might have ranked higher if the PC version didn't force me through that uPlay shitpipe.

4) Spec Ops: The Line (PC, also 360 and PS3) - Mediocre shooting mechanics don't really matter much in the face of a plot as good and as intelligently written as this one. I kind of hoped that this would make it more difficult to churn out endless, hateful "play it straight" modern warfare games. Sadly, I was wrong. Be warned that the PC version is a really, really crap port.

3) Lolipop Chainsaw (360, also PS3) - Ok, ok, it's a guilty pleasure. But it's also a hilariously written and surprisingly deep game. About a cheerleader killing zombies with a chainsaw. I mean, what's not to like?

2) XCom: Enemy Unknown (PC, also 360) - Fantastic updating of a classic franchise, which streamlines where it makes sense to do so, but isn't afraid to be seriously cruel to the player when the situation demands. My only complaint is that (whisper it softly) the campaign is over just a bit too soon.

1) Borderlands 2 (PC, also 360 and PS3) - Well tuned gunplay, an interesting loot system and dialogue so funny that at times *cough* Tiny Tina *cough* it had me laughing so hard I couldn't even aim properly. Add into the mix a campaign so long that you could fit a dozen Call of Duties inside it (not that you'd want to) and you've got my pick for the bext game of the year.

And now, in alphabetical order, the "also pretty good" games, which didn't quite make the top-10 list:

Angry Birds Space (iPad, probably also on every other platform under the sun) - And there goes my credibility... actually, no, this is a clever and fun update on the Angry Birds franchise, with some interesting gravity mechanics thrown into the mix.

Atelier Meruru: The Adventurer of Arland (PS3) - Cute and sometimes-amusing conclusion to this particular 3-game arc of the Atelier series. A bit on the grindy side, but then, it's a JRPG so what do you expect?

Bad Piggies (iPad) Less random than angry birds. Endure the first few stages and it opens out into a clever and fun mad-inventor game. Plus the theme music is awesome.

Corpse Party (PSP) - Fantastic, scary-as-hell adventure game/visual novel hybrid. Also noteworthy for having a Japanese voice cast which is pretty much a who's-who of the anime voice acting scene.

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition (PC) - I kept this out of the top 10, as it's essentially a rerelease. However, this is the definitive version of one of the best games around, particularly with the 3rd-party resolution patch.

Darksiders 2 (PC, also 360 and PS3) - Basically a retread of the original, but that's by no means a bad thing in this case.

Dragon's Dogma (360, also PS3) - It's nice to see a Japanese developer trying something different, ambitious and outside of its comfort zone. Sadly, it doesn't entirely work and the game never entirely gelled with me. Still, a promising effort.

Guild Wars 2 (PC, also Mac) - I haven't really had the time to do it justice, but this is a clever game which takes risks by unpicking some well-established MMO tropes. Not everything about it works, but it's a good sign that the industry is finally starting to move away from its obsession with cloning World of Warcraft.

Halo 4 (360) - I've never really liked the Halo series, but I can admit that this is definitely one of the better entries in it. The new developers seem to be rather better than Bungie at actually telling a story.

Kingdom Hearts 3d (3ds) - Yes, it's pretty fun. But can we PLEASE have Kingdom Hearts 3 now? On a proper console? Pretty please?

Persona 4: Golden (Vita) - Top-notch remake of one of the best JRPGs of the last generation. Fantastic game, but it does make me wish they'd get on with Persona 5 already.

Littlebigplanet Vita (Vita) - Sony's platforming series finally finds its natural home. The game's a damned good fit for the Vita, even if some of the mechanics are starting to feel a little stale.

Rayman Origins (Vita, also on pretty much everything else under the sun) - Beautifully drawn and animated platformer. Takes a while to get going properly, but a lot of fun once it does.

Resistance: Burning Skies (Vita) - And here I go massively against the consensus. Most people seem to have hated this game. Personally, I quite enjoyed it. Then again, I'm a sucker for fpses which don't observe stupid 2 weapon limits. They Bleed Pixels (PC) - Clever, somewhat disturbing Lovecraftian indie platformer. Not everybody's cup of tea, but I liked it. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier - Probably the best "straightforward" modern military shooter of the year. Definitely less hateful than its competition.

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron (360, also PS3 and PC) - Lacks a bit of the wow-factor of its predecessor (and the early chapters drag a bit), but still a solid, enjoyable third person shooter.

And now the disappointments. The games which might not have been outright bad, but which either didn't live up to expectations, or else could only just about scale the dizzy heights of mediocrity:

Assassin's Creed 3 (360, also PC and PS3) - The ingredients for a really good game are all present and correct. Unfortunately, the game desperately needed a few more months in development to add some polish and kill some of its many, many bugs. Annualisation works for some franchises, but is killing this one.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (PC, also 360, PS3 and Wii-U) - Actually slightly less hateful than the last couple of installments in the series, with the odd neat idea floating around. If it had focussed more on the RTS-lite style side-missions I might have quite liked this. As it is, it still drowns under the weight of a pompous, badly written campaign.

Mass Effect 3 (PC, also 360, PS3 and Wii-U) - Despite some good scenes here and there, poor quality writing trips this game up. Incredibly disappointing given the strength of its predecessors. It also lacks the robust shooter mechanics needed to support the gameplay, now that it's essentially become a shooter with dialogue. Look at Binary Domain to see how it can be done better.

Max Payne 3 (360, also PC and PS3) - Not a bad game, but consistently fails to shine. Neither its gameplay nor its storyline are quite as good as it thinks they are.

Resident Evil 6 (360, also PS3) - In most respects a truly dreadful game, with an incomprehensible plot, dull combat and atrocious hit detection. Just about saved from the "awful" list by two factors; the generous length of the campaign and those occasional moments where it slows down a bit and tries its hand at suspense. The first 30 minutes of Leon's campaign are some of the best Resident Evil we've seen in years. It's just a pity it degenerates so fast.

SSX (360, also PS3) - I wanted to like this, I really did. Unfortunately, there's only a certain level of dudebro I can bring myself to tolerate, even if it is covering a solid game. SSX goes way, way beyond that level.

Star Wars: The Old Republic (PC) - Technically released last year, but hey, MMOs are a bit funny. There were some good ideas here, but buried under outdated ideas and a lack of confidence in taking its own direction. I did sort-of like this for a while, so it was heartbreaking to see the painful death of its community over the first few months of the year.

Tales of Graces F (PS3) - An utterly by-the-numbers uninspired JRPG, several years after the point where this sort of thing ceased to be acceptable.

Touch my Katamari (Vita) - Oh, it's not bad as such, but seriously, the whole Katamari thing is beyond stale now.Assassin's Creed 3 (360, also PC and PS3) - Could have done with another few months of development time to give it a bit more polish (and kill some of those damned bugs), but there's a highly impressive game here.

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria (PC) - Mists of Dailyquestia. Actually, there's some neat content in this expansion. Too bad the daily quest grind kills it.

And finally, the awful games. The catastrophes. The absolute bottom of the barrel:

Carrier Command: Gaea Mission (PC, also 360) - I wanted to like this game. It could have been great - just look at the XCom remake. Sadly, it was released in a condition which barely counts as playable, and the game itself lacks a coherent structure. Also, worst fps sequences EVER.

Diablo 3 (PC, also Mac) - There are the bones of a decent game buried in here somewhere. Sadly, they are ground into dust by Blizzard's blatant attempts to drive players onto the real-money auction house, regardless of the impacts on the quality of the game.

Mugen Souls (PS3) - Hideous aborted mutant JRPG that manages to bring the PS3 chugging to a sub-10 framerate despite moving PS1-era graphics. Incomprehensible game mechanics and hateful characters. Seriously, who buys this shit? Oh, wait, I did.

Persona 4 Arena (PS3, also 360) - I've not played it! But when you introduce region locking to a previously region-free console, you go on my shitlist. End of story.

4 comments

Cutting back (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about a year ago | (#42299857)

I got my own place this year as well, so I've mostly been cheap games off of steam sales, and a few old console JRPGs I never got around to.

New ones I played this year (pretty much all off Steam), in no particular order:

Fortune Summoners: Interesting little side-scrolling action Jrpg/platformer. Controls can be a bit cantankerous (a lot of people griped about how hard it is to hit something behind you before the main character learns a turn-and-attack move) but if you can do any move other than the 100 hand slap in street fighter, you should be able to beat most monsters.

A Valley Without Wind: side scrolling action rpg/platformer with procedurally generated terrain/worlds/etc. Continuously under development, so you could say the game was procedurally generated as well, since it was never the same game twice ;) Interesting in terms of a way to waste time, but there was little by the way of plot so once you cleared a few continents, there wasn't much to do but fire it up every now and then to see what crazy new thing was added.

Torchlight II: Finally got to play this with a friend, it really does make a difference in fun. The classes are a bit more teamwork-oriented with more effort (over TL1) into making them have a unique play style than "here are the weapons you're allowed to use". I can't say that everyone will enjoy every character, for instance I didn't much like all the jumping and flipping skills for the Outlander, so the starting glaive skill was basically the ONLY skill I used for a lot of the game with that class.

They Bleed Pixels: Enjoying the hell out of this one. I haven't actually got anywhere yet because I'm certain that one of these times I'm actually going to pull off a flawless first level completion (carrying a checkpoint gives you double blood gain, and it will let you out of the "drop a checkpoint here" tutorial room if you wait long enough) and blow away everyone who isn't cheating on the leaderboards, but the tiny ledges between spikes leading up to the pages are hard to land on. The most disturbing part is the corpses left behind when you die. Mostly because I know that impaled little girls are someone's fetish.

Scoregasm: Twinstick Shooter. I suck at them and yet enjoy getting my ass handed to me. Trying to coordinate BOTH thumbs makes me completely flip out and ram bullets. The only kind of game that screws me over more are the mouse and keyboard shooters. Stages are inventive and interesting, though most of them are unlocked based on your performance, so I suck too bad to unlock several of them. Once unlocked, you can replay that stage at any time without having to start from the beginning, which is always a plus.

Sine Mora: Horizontal Side-scrolling Shooter. 2.5D with wall collisions, which is a punishing combination when you can't tell what wall-like things you can fly through and what you can't, especially in tunnel stages where you have spaces slightly wider than the width of your ship to fit through, and enemies already occupy that space. I suck slightly less at this, but not a lot less.

Krater: "squad based dungeon crawling", which plays sort of like diablo with three characters that have two skills each, only you can't change skills (without changing characters) and there's only a handful of classes (including "mutant" versions with an alternate second skill). The world is fairly large, with lots to explore, and the humor is almost as good as borderlands (I can't help but think "this would be funnier to me if I hadn't already played Borderlands"). With only 6 skills in all, combat gets repetitive fast, even if you swap out mutant classes and mod the skills for new effects. I finished the singleplayer campaign, but none of my friends got into it to try the co-op expansion with. Love the music though.

Legend of Grimrock: Old school dungeon crawling, in memory of Dungeon Masters. I played DM 1 and 2 way back when, and this is a pretty good take on it, complete with the rune-based spell casting and food management and the magic hand that can carry more than the four characters combined. It lacks the ability to repeatedly throw rocks at the wall until your party is full of unstoppable ninja badasses though. The new game feels a bit smaller than my memory of Dungeon Master 2, but I haven't even begun to look at the map editor or other player's creations in the Steam Workshop

Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness 3: Fun little game with a lot of options going into combat. The extra dungeon that was added in the last update is a killer, even with grinding (especially since all the grinding you've done is wiped out).

Frog Fractions [twinbeardstudios.com] : In-joke game of the year, completely pointless unless you figure out all the secrets and in-jokes. And then it's still rather pointless, but amusing.

For old console games I've really only had time to mess with a few:

Soul Nomad and the World Eaters (PS2): Made by Nippon Ichi, I have to say that THESE are hateful characters. The main character is possessed by a complete asshole and is fighting against completely sociopathic assholes, and that's not counting the depressing "bad end" route where the main character goes mad and kills everyone. The assholes here make most of the shit Marona puts up with in Phantom Brave tame. Combat actually has some interesting mechanics though... expanding on Disgaea's tactical RPG combat, each unit is made up of various soldiers in a "room" (which is reminiscent of wargame "trays") where their position in the room (front row, middle row, back row) determines how they attack, and the room itself provides some bonuses. The main character's room is free, but you have to pay to summon any other room to story battles based on the room bonus and character levels. Remarkably ungrindy for a N1 game, though they give the option to grind the hell out of it if you really want through "room inspections" that improve the rooms and increase attack range/movement/etc.

Ar Tonelico (PS 2): As I understand it, the innuendo was supposed to be naughty back when this was released, I guess after all these years later the novelty has worn off. After all, I can bang a prostitute and then shoot her to get my cash back in GTA. The psychoanalysis parts of the game are a little interesting so far, but you have to wonder why the AIs can't just fix their own problems or come up with a better solution to them than "EXTERMINATE". Combat is fucked up in a couple of ways. First, the reward system is fucked up, since (as one post I read put it) you get better items the worse you do. If you kill everything too quickly, you get trash items which are useless for crafting. Instead, you have to use successive weak attacks to raise the harmony level while using weak spells to raise the number of harmony gems so you can get better items. Second, about everything short of a boss can be blown away in a couple of turns thanks to the completely overpowered Reyvateil attack (there's really only one attack, the only difference is in how quickly it kills everything) and so far the only thing that has been able to kill me is the one boss that happens to absorb Reyvateil attacks. Mostly I'm finishing this because of Gust's music.

Dragon Quest 7 (PS1): When I was moving I found a couple of PS1 games I never finished, so I finished DQ7. It's Dragon Quest, not much else to say.

Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth (PS1): A tactical RPG that I assume probably came out right after Final Fantasy Tactics and hoped to ride on its popularity. Rough on every edge, it has a battle reward system similar to Ar Tonelico's: you get crap for beating maps quickly. Instead, you're supposed to "combo" enemies by positioning your characters on the field just so and having them waste a turn "preparing", then using a knockback attack to push an enemy into one of your teammates, who pushes the enemy to the next teammate, who pushes... Of course, once you've got your 6-7 units all lined up with the right spacing and ready to go, the enemy you're trying to hit walks around to the other side of one of the characters, putting them out of alignment. After several 15-minute-long battles, I finally finished the first dungeon, but by then I forgot what the game was about, and subsequently forgot why I was even playing anymore.

Re:Cutting back (1)

RogueyWon (735973) | about a year ago | (#42304177)

Can't believe I forgot Legend of Grimrock.

I played that and it was, indeed, awesome. Eye of the Beholder for the modern age. Now give us a decent Icewind Dale remake and I'll be really happy.

Walking Dead and Dishonored? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year ago | (#42304049)

I'm surprised that these two games didn't make one of your lists, if even the "Most Disappointing".

I wouldn't have either as one of the games of the year, but I give them credit for effort.

And I absolutely agree about Far Cry 3. I've been at it for a while now, and it's still fresh. I totally missed Binary Domain, so based on your list I'm going to have to go back and try that one.

Thanks for giving us this list, RW.

Re:Walking Dead and Dishonored? (1)

RogueyWon (735973) | about a year ago | (#42304181)

I've missed both of those thus far, though I picked up Walking Dead in the recent Steam sale. Dishonoured fell victim to my newfound shortage of disposable income. I may pick up in a future Steam sale.
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