Fez a game that is not only a unique 2D /3D puzzle platformer on the surface however, has hidden messages ciphers which reveal deeper layers and bring a whole new meaning and experience to the game. I really wish I could have experienced Fez first-hand instead of just being shown a video. Journey is another game I wish I had checked out this year, the art style and music seem incredible and I really experience the game with both of those aesthetics together. There are also a few games that I just got my hands on because of the steam sale. Games on sale that also just came out this year such as Double Fine’s Iron Brigade (formally known as Trenched) a WWII inspired mech tower defense game featuring a silly saluting mechanic that is awesome. The other is Binary Domain a 3rd person shooter set in the future with humans fighting cyborgs. It is a bit of a cliché summary, but I have been told the story and characters are interesting and its worth checking out especially now that the game is on sale. Also the game’s creator Toshihiro Nagoshi is also the creator behind the Yakuza series which indeed I love for its setting and story.
The games I described are my mentions before my honorable mentions since I have not gotten to even play the games above, they were highly recommended by friends or have been highly regarded.
Here are my honorable mentions the games on a technicality prevents me from putting on my favorite games of 2012 list.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of KingsThe game came out last year, but it was not until the Enhanced Edition and XBOX port which came out this year that I decided to check the game out. I really ended up enjoying the Witcher 2. How it handles mature themes and content, its rich narrative, and the fact that the game looks gorgeous grabbed me from the game’s prologue. The game is essentially two games in one depending on if you side with Vernon Roche or Iorveth. While In my playthrough videos I chose the Iorveth storyline, I did go back and see the other side of the story with Roche. Let’s face it, in a game that’s already as lengthy as most RPG these days to have this entirely different set of narrative in an already branching narrative is bold. Both storylines are excellent and the fact they are going to release a trilogy is impressive.
Persona 4: GoldenThe fact that I do not own a Vita and also already have playthrough the original Persona 4 almost three times over is the only reason P4 Golden is not on my top 5 list. Persona 4 was the first playthrough I recorded and the only one which I blogged about every single major plot milestone. The new features and new content added seem to be worth wild for existing fans and a great package for someone who’s looking to get in.
X-COM Enemy UnknownFiraxis’ X-COM has the elements of sci-fi film I like; secret organization employs a group of quirky individuals tasked to save the world equipped with high tech armor, weapons and vehicles. I only just had the chance of playing a few missions and already I am feeling the all too familiar “just one more turn” symptoms coming down.
5. SyndicateLast year Deus Ex Human Revelation was one of my favorite games of 2012, and left me wanting more of the futuristic cyberpunk theme. However, two games are nowhere equivalent. While Syndicate does not have the open and emergent gameplay that enjoyed in Deus Ex, there are novel ideas in Syndicate that made it really enjoyable. Syndicate trades exploration for a solid first person shooter experience while still allowing player experimentation facilitated through the Chip abilities. Abilities like hacking into your enemies mind either forcing them to commit suicide, or to even turn on their allies and fight on your side. In contrast to Human Revolution’s narrative focus on human physical augmentation (robotic limbs and parts) Syndicate’s is about enhancing the human brain. Everything is streamed into the mind through cybernetic implants, and what happens when corporation are competing to get inside your head. Both games similar deal with the controversial idea of man surpassing god’s creation.
The blinding saturation of all the colored lighting and slick animation movement of the character give Syndicate its own stylistic aesthetic. If Deus Ex was too orange, Syndicate is over the top with its blinding color and motion blur effects. However, these effects do suit the game’s setting, as the orange (Gold?) motif did also in Human Revolution. Your character Miles Kilo in Syndicate sprints with his pistol extended and titled to the side, that is sort of sense of over the top style Syndicate tries to evoke throughout the game while surprisingly still remains grounded within a serious tone in the narrative. Syndicate’s CO-OP multiplayer is surprisingly interesting as well, presenting players with objective based missions and giving players similar chip abilities seen in the single player campaign. It is just unfortunate that not a lot of people are playing the multiplayer.
4. The Walking DeadI’ll be frank, I have not read any of the comics or seen the TV series but I do not think you need to be heavily invested in either to enjoy Telltale’s episodic the Walking Dead Series. From a game perspective, the best comparison I can make of The Walking Dead is to Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain. In many respects the gameplay and mechanics is an improved mirror of Heavy Rain. However, much like Heavy Rain the game’s focal point is its interactive narrative. You quickly get invested with the characters, the player shares the motivations as the main character Lee, as his goal is survive and protect this little girl Clementine during the Zombie apocalypse. If you have not played or seen this game, do not let the cel-shaded graphics fool you this is a violent and gruesome world filled with difficult choices. Now I am going to talk about the story in a more roundabout way (if you have not already have notice for all these games) in particular because story telling is what this this game. In contrast to other zombie survival games, this one sets itself apart because its story focuses less on the zombies and more on the human drama and hardships of group of survivors. A story of strangers who have to suddenly work each other to accomplish the impossible in a setting more grounded in reality. As this story advances from episode to episode I felt more and more attached to these people but yet forcing steeling myself for the next casualty waiting. Characters I disliked in the beginning, I later cheered on as I went through this journey with these characters. Regretted some of the decisions I made, but my advice is to see them through. How the game handles player decisions with its storytelling is excellent in maintaining the facade of choice and making the story the player’s own, while the writers still had control over the overall narrative. They also do not pull any punches and towards the end of episode 5 left a truly resent and lasting feeling of sympathy and compassion for characters in this season.
3. Sleeping DogsThis year’s biggest surprise for me was Sleeping Dogs, considering its history as cancelled True Crime Hong Kong. Sleeping Dogs has the silly over the top gameplay on the level of Saints Row the Year (my favorite game last year) while the seriousness of an actual Hong Kong action film. Not in any other open world game have I had the urge to drive cleaning and safely. With its three star rating systems during the missions you are incentivized to act like an undercover cop. It served to stop me from feeling that narrative dissidents that most open world crime games has. A couple examples seen in other open world games is seen in Grand Theft Auto IV Niko throughout the story is saying that he wants to leave the life of crime but then outside and inside the story missions through the player, Niko essentially murders anyone and wreaks havoc on Liberty City. In the Assassin’s Creed series Ezio in the game says people should always respect those who have died, yet in then proceeds to loot the bodies of those he just murdered. Sure that is all the player’s doing but for me this is a narrative breaking thing that has always bothered me. Sleeping Dogs awards the player for sticking to who the character Wei Shen is during those parts which matter. Yet, still gives the player freedom to do whatever he likes outside the context of the narrative.
Sleeping Dogs combat system where mixed material arts are blended with the ability to interact with the environment is one of the reason I love this game. While some may argue the combat may not as fluid as a Batman Arkham City however, to me the combat Sleeping Dogs is more interesting and fun. If not, more gruesome too and truly evocative of the Hong Kong action film inspiration. The story is well told although I wish they had stretched out the plot a little more, the story comes to an abrupt climax and ending. The voice acting is good and the characters are memorable. The character Jackie, Wei’s childhood friend has a good narrative arc.
2. Mass Effect 3Despite the many complaints I have with Mass Effect 3 from its monetization strategy of “Day One DLC” and DLC that should have been in the main game to its poorly designed fetch quests and controversial ending I still put it as my second favorite game of 2012. Having been invested in the characters, the setting, and the lure of mass effect for several years now I was all too excited to once again board the Normandy as Command Shepard and travel throughout the galaxy. Mass effect 3 revisits the themes and major conflicts of the series and puts Shepard in the center of exploring and resolving them with player choice. For the most part, the pay offs are awesome for fans of the series. From revelations revealed about the Protheans to settling the Genophage. What a great space drama. If all these terms seem foreign to you I recommend you check out the Mass Effect Trilogy. The combat in the game has been iteratively improving. By far Mass Effect 3 plays the best of series. For the brief percentage of my time I spent playing the hoard mode co-op, I quite enjoyed the multiplayer. Most of time was spent in the core of mass effect 3 enjoying the characters, dialogue and story.
1. Borderlands 2I spent a lot time with the first Borderlands. The scary part is that again I’ve already put 100+ hours into Borderlands 2 and that’s with the base game, and having not done any of the DLC content. A borderland 2 has improved on all the aspects of Borderlands which I loved: the feel of the variety of guns, shooting down mobs of enemies, to the game’s overall personality. Borderlands delivery of narrative through its characters has become a lot stronger. No I don’t just mean the occasionally hilarious jokes and referential humor. Borderlands 2 improves from its predecessor by presenting a more coherent narrative with a memorable villain. All the characters from the previous characters are back as NPCs as you play a whole new cast of Vault Hunters with a new set of abilities. As you traverse a more flushed out Pandora with greater variety including better structured quests. I am highly anticipating sinking my time into DLC now that I have finished the main story.