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Veteran Member - Level 13
"Stupid fontmeme wouldn't properly do the apostrophe....-shakes fist-"
As you probably know from my "My Thoughts On (random number) Games" series, I'm often playing catch up on a lot of games. It's not really an issue for me as I like to take things at my own pace. I will admit though, that ever since I started blogging, I have wished I could keep up so I can offer my thoughts on subjects such as today's. Truthfully, I maybe play two or three games tops from the current year, and most others are usually from the year before or so. While I maintained that latter habit this year, I also, for once, managed to play the games that were hot at the moment. Not a lot, but enough where I feel comfortable to rank them, and actually debate which game was my favorite of the year. Eight games and eight reasons (varying from petty to legit) why I placed them where I did.
But first, I'd like to talk about....The Games I Wish I Could've IncludedTomb Raider- From the Game Informer issue covering it all the way to Conan O'Brien's Clueless Gamer bit featuring the game, I've long wanted to play Tomb Raider. As is the case with a majority, if not all of the series' that got their start on the Playstation, I missed out on all the pre-reboot games. Not surprising given that my interest in the franchise has always varied, but after enjoying the demo I played of Lara Croft and the Gaurdian of Light (which, sadly, I didn't buy) and reading Game Informer's article on it, Tomb Raider had my attention. Chances are I'll probably play it sometime next year.Injustice: Gods Among Us- I vastly enjoyed 2011's Mortal Kombat (even though I didn't have it that long....), so it's no surprise to me that I wanted to play this game. I enjoyed Injustice's demo, and had my sights set on buying it. As you see, I didn't, because otherwise it would be down in the second half of the blog with the games I did play. Anyway, I DID play the Kindle Fire version of the game. Not bad, but it only makes want to play the console version of Injustice: Gods Among Us all the more.The Stanley Parable- Though it sort of teetered close to being just a very funny walking simulator, I enjoyed the demo of The Stanley Parable. It sort of seems like it has the potential to be like Thomas Was Alone, which I loved, and I've heard nothing but good things about TSP. Unfortunately for me, I had no money during the last Steam and have opted not to buy it this time around, either, as I thought the game I did wind up buying were a better investment. But I won't get too down, because as with most of the games in this section, I will play it eventually.Dragon's Crown- Though I sucked at Odin Sphere and probably would've been just as bad at Muramasa: The Demon Blade, and not to mention I've never been that good at side-scrolling beat-em-ups, the moment I saw Dragon's Crown it had me. As I implied before, I do have a bit of a history with side scrolling action games, largely playing X-Men back in the nineties while waiting for my personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut. Seeing Dragon's Crown took me back to that, and really, I've always liked the art in Vanillaware's games. I look forward to playing it at some point.Mario and Luigi: Dream Team- I'm a big fan of the Mario and Luigi rpgs and when Dream Team was announced back in February, I knew I would be on the game at some point. Unfortunately, that isn't likely to happen this year.Pokemon X & Y- Now here's one game that I really can't help but feel I'm missing out on. Many of the Pokemon games may not seem that much different from one another, but I've always enjoyed them. However, I've been away from the series since playing Diamond on the DS, and haven't really felt like I needed to get back into them. Then I started seeing trailers for X and Y, and honestly, the little boy in me who grew up playing Pokemon Blue yearned to get back to the series. Well, that hasn't exactly gone to plan, and here I am at the end of 2013 still missing out on the kick in the a** the franchise seemed like it need. It's only made worse by the fact that now being on twitter, a good chunk of the GIO people I talk to seem to play the game nonstop. Grrrrrr. I will play Pokemon X or Y at some point (which is exactly what I've told myself in regards to Skyrim, and I still haven't played that).Super Mario 3D World- You know, I really was not a happy camper after Nintendo's rather underwhelming Direct at E3. I expected them to come out ready to knock it out the park and really give me a reason to buy a Wii U. With Nintendo announcing their typical games, Super Mario 3D World being one of them, I can't really say those expectations were met. That's changed recently though, as the more I've seen of the recent Mario release, the more I've wanted it, so much so that -gasp- it can be said that I'm sold enough on the game to buy a Wii U for it. As you definitely know by now, that's not going to happen anytime in the little of the year that's left, but I'm sure as hell looking forward to playing it in the future. Now that I'm done lamenting about what I didn't get to play, it's time to move on to the games I did play. Here is...My Game of the Year Countdown8. Antichamber
A game I featured back in my Steam summer sale blog, this isn't a bad game by any means. The puzzles are fairly challenging and the controls, for the most part, work as good as you can imagine. Hell, throw in a beautiful cel-shaded visual style that can be a total mind-f*** from time to time and you have an altogether well made game here. Unfortunately for me, I'm not good at puzzle games and a lot of my time came to be reduced to just walking around, trying to figure out how to complete the puzzles I missed and, most importantly, trying to beat the game. And while Antichamber's manipulation gun works well, I sometimes found movement just a little too sensitive, wished the game could've had a crouch function, and found the game's pathetic jump almost completely useless. Again, Antichamber isn't a bad game, but I honestly can't think of a moment where I said to myself "I sure am having fun playing this". It was interesting for a while, and I really did want to stick it out until I actually beat the game, but ultimately I got bored with it.7. Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus
As some of you know well by now, I missed out on all of Sony's big three action platforming series (this, Sly Cooper, and Jak and Daxter) even though I was a huge fan of the console. I fixed that problem by playing all three HD collections for each series, and along with first playing the Future saga, have come to adore the Ratchet and Clank franchise. The galaxy faring adventures of the lone Lombax (at least after A Crack in Time) and his robot companion are always fun to play, immensely entertaining, and often hilarious with the series' great casts, from the later well intentioned but self obsessed doofus Captain Copernicus Leslie Qwark to the laughably maniacal midget Emperor Percival Tachyon. So when Insomniac announced Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus would close out the Future series and more than likely the franchise's run on the PS3, you bet I was happy to hear it. And honestly? It may be the best Ratchet and Clank has been on the console. The return to more classic and standard platforming from the various experiments Insomniac has tried with a couple of the last few titles is both welcome and improved, especially with the additions of gravity manipulation and the 2D Netherverse and much the same can be said about the visuals. Weapons also continued to be the franchise's special brand of insane. So why do I have this at the second to last spot in my countdown? Well, being one of the most petty things I've held against a game, it was the length. I'd heard it was supposed to be short, but I never expected beat in no more than four hours. You might be saying that plenty of games get by being short and that length doesn't make a game any lesser, and normally I would agree with that. But honestly, this is the first game where I'm confident in saying it is negatively impacted by it's length, so much so that I feel the game is incomplete. It tells a full story I know, but even that had the potential for more exploration. I guess Into the Nexus being at this spot of my list has more to do with my issues with the game than it does with any real issues of which it has none that I can think of, really. I don't know, I just really felt this game could've offered so much more than what it gave.6. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
Now this was a hard one to place, as truthfully I consider Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time to be the most complete game of the year. No one area, unlike popular votes BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us, felt like it was the sole focus, and the game covered all bases in story, graphics, sound, and gameplay. Sure it wasn't the best of the best in each department, but the fact, to that point at least, that I thought it was the most well rounded game I'd played this year had it as my Game of the Year pick, despite my aversion to making that call so early (I played it around mid-to-late summer). When I played the rest of the other games I got around to in 2013, well, they made it a little more complicated to precisely pick a spot for Sly 4. It can be said that the other games I played this year highlighted that while I found everything in Thieves in Time solid, I find it a stretch to put it anywhere past that. Gameplay was good, Sly's ancestors and the various outfits especially bringing some nice variety, but ultimately resulted in the typical collectible hunt characteristic of even the greatest three dimensional platformers. Same can be said of the graphics, which look nice, but are blown out of the water by the various PS3 Ratchet and Clanks. There are some groovy tunes in the levels, but again, when you focus on trying to complete as much as you can, that music gets a bit irritating. Lastly, while the plot is fine, it's about what you would expect out of a Sly game. Not that that's a problem of course. Ultimately, I do still think Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time was probably one of the most entertaining titles this year, but when everything it does varies from good to very good but not great, I can't in good conscience place it ahead of the next game on this countdown.I will say though, much like the next game, it contains one of the best sequences of this year.5. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
You want to know something very astounding? Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is the first and only Metal Gear game I have ever played. I've been interested in the franchise ever since my brother and one of our best friends played Metal Gear Solid 3 and absolutely raved about it, but being that I used to float away from stealth games, I never gave it a shot. I would play the games in a heartbeat if I got my hands on the HD collection today, but for now let's talk about the fun installment of the franchise that came out this year, Metal Gear Rising: Reveangence. Developed by Platinum Games, the creators of Vanquish, the Bayonetta series, and the recent The Wonderful 101, Revengeance is as entertaining as you might expect. While I found the combat slightly repetitive, and thought Blade Mode was a bit flawed depending on how you used it, the gameplay was pretty good overall. Not as much of a hoot as the faster paced Vanquish, but still, you get the idea. As for story and characters, well that varied. Without extending this section talking about the plot, I thought the story was decent. As for the characters, I never experienced the "disappointment" of Raiden having never played MGS 2, so really I didn't mind him. He was a cool character brought down somewhat by the silly alter-ego Jack, rooted in his days as a child soldier. As for his adversaries, Desperado (a private military company involved in terrorism) members Jetstream Sam, Sundowner, Mistral, and Monsoon are all predictably but endearingly over-the-top stereotypes: Sam being the cool Spanish guy who ultimately only cares about doing his own thing, Sundowner being the big bad American country boy who loves war, Mistral being the sexy underdeveloped and lone female member of the group, and Monsoon being the taunting Top Ten Nerds of the Year-material that reminds me of Buggy the Clown of One Piece fame and sounds like Raymundo from Rocket Power (same voice actor). All are, amazingly, beaten in their excess by none other than the central villain, U.S. Senator Steven Armstrong. I thought those first four enemies were enough, and then Revengeance hit me over the head with this buff, prone to anime style excessive body language use meathead who, in one of the strangest and most hilarious moments of the year and generation, kicks Raiden like a football to the cheers of a nonexistent crowd. The entire ending sequence with and versus Armstrong was just absolutely surreal to me after the only mildly crazy encounters throughout the game. I guess it's not something I hold against it, but the shift from controlled insanity to the batsh** insane finale still flabbergasts me months after finishing it. Speaking of the various encounters in the game, I will definitely say MGR had some of the best boss battles this year. I'd be remiss if I also didn't mention the awesome soundtrack. Might sound like cheesy tween electro metal to some, but it matches the game very well and is probably one of my favorites of 2013. Overall, I found Revengeance far from the best game this year, but if you're a fan of action games you owe it to yourself to give it a look.4. BioShock Infinite
Ever since the reveal trailer for the game years ago I looked forward to BioShock Infinite. I loved the first BioShock and it's once wondrous seeming underwater city of Rapture, and was immediately blown away by what now could be considered the logical next location for a setting in the floating city in the sky, Columbia. Fast forward to the multiple gameplay demonstrations and trailers that followed the initial one, and, like many gamers, my expectations for BioShock Infinite got pretty high. It lived up to those lofty expectations...at least initially. Yes, while I would still rate it above the first four games on this list, the months since I last played Infinite have not been kind to it. I'll start with the issues I had with it immediately, the first being weapons and vigors upgrades: for almost all of the game I felt that any one you purchased felt absolutely useless. Where in BioShock I felt upgrading the two (plasmids in BioShock) were positively essential and gave you an edge against the enemies, I never got that sensation playing this game and I feel perfectly confident in saying I could've made it through the game without any of them. In continuing my criticism of some of the aspects of combat, the exclusion of a proper weapon wheel and just the decision to limit the player to only two weapons itself was a letdown. I can forgive that though, as regardless of it, BioShock Infinite controlled and altogether played better than BioShock. Where movement sometimes felt slow and slightly stiff in the first game, Infinite felt more fast paced and flexible. Not to mention traveling via skyhook was a blast, which in my opinion could've made multiplayer a completely entertaining madhouse had Irrational Games decided to feature it (missed opportunity there, I think). Keeping with what I liked, I loved what Elizabeth brought to both story and gameplay. She was a good character who I felt was developed very well throughout the narrative, and with her ability to summon weapons, health, and cover helped when I was in a pinch. I suppose that just leaves the plot and the city of Columbia itself. I loved the story, which felt fuller than the twist-driven plot of the original BioShock, and like many of you (I'm guessing), the ending had me quiet for about the entire runtime of the credits. Admittedly, I thought and still think it fell back on the mind bending twist formula simply to deliver a moment, but it works for me anyway. As for Columbia, while I was awestruck at the beginning when you're launched into the clouds and see the city in all it's beauty, I couldn't help but feel underwhelmed by the time the credits rolled. I still love the concept of it, but without hesitation I'll say Rapture was much better realized. Where the underwater city felt threatening and lends itself well to revisiting, sometimes Columbia felt, I don't know, empty. By the second half, it felt like I was just going to and from locations, not really impressed with what I was seeing. Definitely a part of the game that failed to deliver on the promising looking trailers and game demos. Despite those faults, with it's excellent feeling gameplay and highly enjoyable story, BioShock Infinite is still a fantastic experience.
3. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Ah, Ni No Kuni. The beautiful Studio Ghibli animated, Level 5 developed, and Joe Hisaishi composed rpg I've been fawning over since the first trailer. Alongside BioShock Infinite especially, this is one of those game I'd been long looking forward to playing. Fortunately, it made that wait worth it, for the most part at least. It starts out slow, following the main character Oliver on an eventful day in his daily life for the first hour or so. Once certain story events come to pass, and once Drippy, a stuffed doll of Oliver's that actually turns out to be an imprisoned fairy gets introduced, Ni No Kuni steadily begins to take off. Even though the Ghibli style is there from from the get go, it truly didn't start wowing me until you leave the normal world for the other world, which with the game's focus on magic, is a fantasy setting. I'd imagine some might find the different regions (the green Summerlands containing the royal city of Ding Dong Dell, the kingdom of Al Mamoon based in the giant desert called The Shimmering Sands, the mountainous half dead, half autumnal Autumnia, where the industrial city of Hamelin is located, amongst other locales) somewhat cliche, but the art style made it hard for me not to like it. Add to that a somewhat unremarkable yet still strong soundtrack, and it creates a world I greatly enjoyed my time exploring. Shifting to the gameplay side of things, I adored the battle system. While you don't immediately get familiars (the monsters you can catch and use to fight in the game, a la Pokemon), once you do it's fun to take care of it (food and whatnot raises stats) and to see what they bring to battle. A negative is that when you evolve a familiar, it's level resets to one, but that's easily countered by using your currently higher leveled ones until said newly evolved familiar is a suitable level to fight again. Quests and hunts are varied enough so that you won't get tired of them, and added to my overall enjoyment of the game. Flaw does rear it's ugly head on a certain of things, story and characters for me being the weakest part of the game. The plot is largely about Oliver trying to find a way to bring back his deceased mother and trying to help the downtrodden of both worlds on his merry way. If you can't tell, I rarely if ever was much interested and though charming, it was eventually a little too happy-go-lucky for me. Part of the problem is that Oliver just isn't super likable. There's nothing wrong with him per se, but I never found him all that interesting, and once his connection to one the central antagonists, who is supposed to come off as evil incarnate but ultimately is more of a bumbling disappointment, it only makes the villain even more of a loser. While I liked Esther, a girl Oliver meets in Al Mamoon, and Swaine, a man who joins the party not that long after, they're both never really developed. They're just there and everyone has their typical similarities and differences with one another. Swaine's younger brother Marcassin, prince of Hamelin, joins up eventually too, but at that point it's too late for him to even make an impact. Despite my problems with the game, like Sly at number six, this was at one point probably my Game of the Year. That's changed, but I still hold Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch in high regard. Definitely one of my favorite rpgs of this last generation.2. The Last of Us
"Joel and Ellie wonder what could possible be number one. Meanwhile, Tess ties her shoes"
Despite being a fan of Uncharted and coming to like the Jak and Daxter series through playing the HD collection, I don't recall ever being feverishly excited at any point for The Last of Us. Even when it came out and my brother and I bought it, where he had been looking forward to the game tremendously, I still had my reservations. I remember being slightly disappointed when the subject matter was fully revealed and the gameplay never lit anything under me. Despite all that, there was a little bit of excitement there, fanned due in large part to the response of critics and gamers alike, and the fact that my brother loved the game. Through some of the game's weaker points, The Last of Us most definitely exceeded what I was expecting out of it. And how do you talk about TLoU without first talking about it's excellent plot and characters? Without spoiling anything, The Last of Us has without a doubt one of the best stories to come out of the PS3/Xbox 360/Wii era. From the beginning of the game where you see the initial outbreak of the Cordyceps virus and what the frenzy of evacuation costs main character Joel, all the way to the moral dilemma that is it's ending, through and through, I found the narrative a challenging force, always keeping me worried about what might happen. Joel and Ellie, both great and (I think) realistic characters, develop well throughout, getting to the point that you know the two come to care deeply for one another despite a rather cold beginning to their partnership. Most of the supporting cast is good, with most characters besides the villainous David being as believable as Joel and Ellie. Shifting to gameplay now, if your familiar with Uncharted, you should know what to expect. The two systems are similar, but I would easily give the nod to The Last of Us, which feels a lot more in control than any of the aforementioned series' games. There is some beef I do have with this department of the game though. First, while it's simple, I never really cared much for the crafting. Two, and strangely important to me, is how close this game came to being an unplayable mess. Recall going through a section where it's an absolute necessity to use stealth, and while you are doing everything not to get caught, Ellie and whatever other person you're dragging along are running all over the level willy nilly. You so much as take a wrong step and it's the player character that winds up paying for it, naturally. While this situation makes me grateful that the enemy AI won't recognize the companion AI all the time, ever since about the second day I played the game it's scared me how awful the game could've wound up otherwise. More of a personal and theoretical issue I know, but it's always nagged me. Aside from that, The Last of Us is great. A visceral, realistic feeling, and highly entertaining experience that should be played at least once by gamers the world over.
And now for my favorite game of the year...1. Grand Theft Auto V
No game is ever perfect. Regardless of how much fun we may have with one, no matter how the game touches us, even when we think that a game is perfect, each and everyone does have some flaws. I felt this way about a lot about of the games from this year, and out of everything I played, no game better exemplified this line of thinking to me than Grand Theft Auto V. Where I thought it had three of the best character of this year and of the seventh console generation in general, I ultimately found the story too loose to REALLY like it. Where there were some great missions spread throughout the game, I felt there could've been more of them (mostly big heist based, I wish) and that the campaign was over just a little too soon. Where I felt that Rockstar made a good choice in toning down the importance of hanging out with your friends that most people found very annoying about GTA IV, I felt, as much as I liked Michael's family, Lamar, and Trevor's friends, that it sacrificed some crucial character building that made me like some of the previous game's characters more. And lastly, while I considered the Los Santos in V loads better than Liberty City in IV and thought that it delivered on what I expected, I still think that San Andreas' locale blows both out of the water. All of those "yeah, buts" and I still haven't gotten to the smaller issues I had with the game. But you know what? Grand Theft Auto V grabbed me almost immediately, something that every other title I've listed here failed to do. Whether it's because of the significant improvements over IV or just that it's one of those games, before my first few hours with the game were up I knew that it was far and away my favorite game from 2013. Sure I'll admit that all the negatives I listed did gnaw at me, but I was having so much fun playing GTA V that at the end of the day the positives far outweighed them. Driving felt better, shooting felt better, the open Los Santos and Blaine County were MUCH better locations than Grand Theft Auto IV's Liberty City ever was, and the score, goodness gracious this game's awesome score, was easily my favorite of the year. Again, it isn't a perfect piece of media (as demonstrated by the decent but boring, at least in my brief time with it, online multiplayer), but Grand Theft Auto V did enough right to put itself above every other game I played released in 2013.
"Feels great to finally take in GOTY discussion!"
....And there you have it. I imagine some of you have differing opinions on some of these games, but that's no surprise. Feel free to talk about what your favorite games of the year were below. Personally, I've enjoyed finally being able to do a blog like this, and I hope I play more games next year so I can make a more proper list. Speaking of 2014, I wish you all a Happy New Year and the best of luck in the twelve months to come. Take care and thanks for reading!