The lights are on
This year had no shortage of amazing games that I knew I
would love and put countless hours into. However, there were also a few games I
never thought I'd even play, which turned out to be among my favorites.
Dead IslandWhen I first heard of Dead Island, I was instantly
intrigued. An open-world survival/horror format is exactly what I had been
waiting for in a zombie game. When I got the chance to sit in on a demo of the
game nearly a year before it came out, I went into the meeting with high hopes.
Those hopes were quickly dashed when the developer revealed
the combat was melee-focused. Suddenly, none of the other interesting-sounding
aspects of the game mattered to me. A zombie apocalypse where you're stuck
using oars and broomsticks to kill zombies? Lame. Add to that a rough demo (it
was still an early build of the game), and I walked away thinking the title had
potential, but it wasn't really on my radar anymore.
Eight months later I played some Dead Island co-op with Tim
while he was working on his review and was blown away by what the game had
evolved into. The detailed environments were massive and encouraged
exploration, and the melee combat that I had scoffed at was visceral, nuanced,
and supremely satisfying.
Best of all, zombies are once again formidable foes, which
make them as scary as they are deadly. Stumble into a lone undead corpse, and
you're probably okay, but if there's more than a few, you'd better run for your
life. In most zombie games the undead are weapon fodder, but Dead Island
reintroduces players to the "survival" side of survival horror.
Dead Island wasn't a perfect game by any means, but it's
probably my favorite zombie game of all time. In a way, I'm glad it fell off of
my radar so that I could go into it without any real expectations. For better
or worse, the same wouldn't be true for a Dead Island sequel – which is
something I'm praying Techland is working on.
Dark SoulsWhen I first heard about Demon's Souls, I thought it sounded
stupid. Some people feel the need to play punishingly hard games in an attempt
prove their worth as gamers, but not me. Long ago I stopped butting my head up
against games that are too difficult – if I struggle with a game to the point
where I'm more frustrated than entertained by it, I either turn the difficulty
down or stop playing. In contrast, the community that formed around Demon's
Souls sounded downright masochistic. I didn't think twice about skipping it.
Dark Souls was also on my list of games to not give a crap
about, but it had one intriguing twist that its predecessor lacked: it was
open-world. It also came out a month before Skyrim, and I was craving a
large-scale RPG to sink my teeth into. So, I took a chance on a game I would
have otherwise never played. I'm extremely glad I did, though I wasn't at
At first I hated Dark Souls. The notorious difficulty lived
up to its reputation, and the perfect storm of death penalties (you lose your
progress, souls – which serve as your currency and XP, and all of your enemies respawn) abruptly ended my first
night of play in a flurry of obscenities.
But the next day I wanted to play more. Returning to the
game, I triumphed over the previous night's obstacle (that stupid bridge
monster), only to have my will crushed and night ruined again by another
overpowered foe (that stupid armored boar). The game wasn't just difficult – the core structure felt totally broken.
And yet like Bill Murray in Groundhog's Day, I awoke the following day destined to do it all
over again. But by that point something had clicked. I was playing the game
differently (more cautiously and deliberately than any other action game), I
had conquered a small section of Dark Souls' world, and I was no longer put off
by the challenge, but enthralled by it. I still think the soul system breaks
the game somewhat, but my enjoyment of Dark Souls now vastly outweighs my
frustration with it, and I look forward to (and slightly dread) spending many
more hours in From Software's creative and memorable world.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.
I'm actually a little surprised NBA is on there since that franchise has been around for a while. I mean driver has too but i felt like the new mechanic made it kinda like a different game.
Dark Souls is my GOTY, the multiplayer alone has added so much replay value that I have it in my Xbox more than my CoD games.
Of my surprise hits of 2011 I'd certainly have Dead Island up there, but I'd also have Shadows of the Damned.
Dead Island was gorgeous, I loved starting out on this idyllic island, right on the beach with the bright sun and clear blue water, and the contrast of permeated walking death. The combat was great, and the weapon modifications were fun too. I co-oped through it with a friend and had a blast.
Shadows of the Damned I went into with moderate skepticism, since it was a new IP and I had never played a Suda 51 game before. The gameplay felt similar to Resident Evil 4's style so I likened to it pretty fast. The aesthetic and characters are what nailed it for me though. I hope it releases through Steam when it goes to PC, I would definitely gift it to a few friends.
I do plan on getting Dark Souls and the NBA 2K12 in the future, but that'll be much later after this heavy holiday.
I didn't think that Beyond Good and Evil was going to be as good as everybody says it is, but I played HD and loved it. Also Kirby's Epic Yarn for Wii. I was extremely put off by the fact that couldn't die so I waited until it was super cheap and picked it up about 2 weeks ago, and the cute visual style has completely won me over.
Wow I didn't play any of those games. Time for game shopping. :)
Dark Souls is my personal Game of the Year. Too innovative and unique to overlook, must-play for every gamer.
For me it was Dead Island. after the trailer hype went out of control i lost intrest. then when i read that it was open world i figured it would be like Dead Rising. then after reading all the reviews i rented it on a whim and just fell in love with it HARD! suffice to say that i thought about it for the next 2 months after playing it that weekend that i finally saved enough cash to get it.
Dead Island for me as well - wasn't even on my radar until August when an employee at a local Gamestop showed me a trailer and got me hyped up enough to give it a buy. Glad I did because I enjoyed playing co-op with my friends.
Same here Jeff, loved me some Dead Island and Dark Souls.