Sunday, January 6, 2013

My Top 10 Games of 2012

 (Pictures taken from various sources. Also you will notice ad links on these blogs now. I NEED to make money somehow. I'm going broke! These ads are suggested by Google and are safe.)

2012 has come and gone.

No, I don't want to start off a blog like that. It's been said too many times. What I can say is that almost everyone of note has a Top 10 of the year blog or video posted. Games have affected each of us differently. Some of us have had to choose our experiences carefully.That being said my list isn't full of AAA titles like most are. I quit my job late in the year and started a new one a few months ago. I'm getting paid less and even my collecting of retro games has slowed to a near-halt. So any new releases are pretty much out of the question right now.
Keep in mind, like everyone else says, this is MY personal top 10. This hasn't been influenced by anyone. No company is paying me. This is not your list, do not tell me I'm wrong. Additionally these are games that I have played, not just watched a bunch of videos and wished I had played them.


#10: Lego Lord of the Rings - Nintendo 3DS
The Lego series is best known for its goofy, some might say childish, humor. Meanwhile The Lord of the Rings series are some of the best epics that have ever been written. I became a fan of the movies out of the blue and I'm eager to read the books (sorry Tolkien fans, read the part where I quit my job, money's tight and I got the movies out of the $5 bin). Some might think that combining the three pieces of fiction to make a Lego game was a bad idea. It would be hard to make a violent movie into a kids game. Well its hard to take that violence and fearful tone seriously when its being done with Lego men. Hands popping off, comical deaths, and soundbytes taken from the movies all work well together to make sure that the LotR name is dulled down to a goofy, mindless adventure. The humor doesn't show at every cutscene and the story path follows the movies closely. Gameplay-wise, its a typical Lego game where you can switch out characters with the press of a button, run through the storyline a second time to unlock things you had to pass up first, and a TON of unlockable characters. To 100% this game will take more than 10 hours. What's best is that you can sit and play for an hour or so at a time and not feel bored. For the 3DS version, the 3D is just a minor addition. It doesn't really add any precedence to the gameplay and would probably have the same impact as the DS version. I bought this game after playing the demo and before that I was heavily considering selling my 3DS. Basically, this game saved my handheld and that's what's worthy of a mention.

This game most certainly would have made it higher if it was easier to play. Every time I log in I feel inadequate and unprepared for a fight. While most players level up quickly, this adds an imbalance. New and better weapons are unlocked at higher levels so its easy for someone to go in and obliterate noobs, myself included. I haven't played the beta since day one and my mech is pretty much stock. Despite this, I will play Hawken in the future because its unique. Mostly. Mechs can be customized with new paint, weapons, and armor. New weapons can be bought and designs saved. The levels are nicely balanced and offer plenty of cover. There's always a chance to run away from a fight. On top of that, if your mech is badly messed up, you can repair it on the battlefield. If you can find a team that works well together or get some friends that you can communicate with, then you're pretty much unstoppable in Hawken. The gritty and barren feeling of the world around you is a perfect touch and the graphics are amazing to look at. Don't get caught ogling the scenery for too long because someone will come by and pick you off for an easy kill. 

#8: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD - XBLA
Yes, I know I wrote a scathing review of this game in an earlier blog, but you KNOW its bad when a free Android game, Rage of Bahamut at #8, beats out a $15 XBLA game. Still, it made this list, but ONLY because I wasn't able to play many AAA games this year. Borderlands 2, Dishonored, Assassin's Creed, even Lollipop Chainsaw would have easily knocked this one off. I won't go into details because you can read the review I've already posted. Go do that.

#7: RAGE OF BAHAMUT - Android
Not many people are into CCGs or TCGs these days. Magic the Gathering, World of Warcraft, Pokemon, and Yu-Gay-Ho are the only ones I can name off the top of my head. While looking at some cards earlier today I noticed a pack of 2007 baseball cards still on the shelf. Reduced price. Its awfully sad how the once-mighty companies of Topps, Fleer, Upper Deck, and Donruss are now just memories for older folks. A 1970 rookie card has probably reduced in price on eBay by a lot. Cards have evolved and so have games. If you haven't guessed by now, Rage of Bahamut is a CCG game on Android and iPod where the player is given a basic starting deck and they work their way up the totem pole through quests and by fighting other players. The game starts slow but there's never a feeling of helplessness. Meters for stamina and attack power drain with each quest attack and each battle. These don't refill once a day but rather 1 unit per minute, and with power ups you can play for even more time. What's great about it is that it can be played by both the casual and the hardcore. If someone wants to log in and play through the quest until their stamina runs out, they can. For the hardcore there are event quests, orders, trading and a lot more. I've spent over an hour before playing quests, battling players, and enhancing and evolving cards. This game is much bigger than you'd expect. Cards have rarities and the more rare they are, the more powerful they can become. Cards can be enhanced at the cost of other cards and rupies, and cards of the same kind can be evolved into more powerful ones. Real world money can be spent to buy power-ups or card packs and every once a while the game GIVES you a ticket to get a Rare card. Trading can be done among players and there are so many rewards for just participating. Best of all: ITS FREE. Its not a freemium game and buying a card pack doesn't always guarantee the best cards. Rage of Bahamut will stay installed on my phone for a very long time. I rarely find myself being bored with it.

#6: The Walking Dead - XBLA
A video game has never made me cry. At least not until Episode 3 of the Walking Dead when one characters desperation reaches a point where a suicide death is the only welcomed feeling they have, it becomes very heavy. The choices made at certain moments affect how other characters react to you or options you have down the road. Playing as Lee Everett, you're tasked with taking care of an 8-year-old girl named Clementine whose parents are lost. Traveling through Georgia (w00t!, about time we get recognized for something) you make stops throughout each episode and meet new people along the way, all the while watching your back for a zombie invasion. But sometimes the zombies aren't the only things you need to be afraid of. What makes the Walking Dead comics and show so great is that they're about the people and how they cope and survive during what might be a worldwide crisis. Its not all about hacking zombies to pieces. Old habits die hard among some and survival becomes the main mission. What's best for the group may not be best for one person and they will remember that, most of the time at bad moments down the road when there's a thousand walkers coming for you.

#5: Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams - PC
This is the late entry into this list and the reason this blog was delayed. I had been wanting to play it for a for a few weeks and decided I might as well go for it during the Steam Winter Sale. The gameplay is based around dual personalities, one light and one dark, residing in Giana (why its called Giana Sisters is beyond me). You can get a better understanding of the plot by reading the Wiki page about it. It wouldn't do you any good for me to try and explain things. Switching between a cute and punk personality changes the world between dark and light. You can only collect red crystals as the punk and yellow crystals as the cute. Its a really smart mechanic and done amazingly well. I haven't seen this sort of flow since Ikaruga. The artstyle is awesome and the difference between the light and dark worlds flows with an even pace. Its never the game's fault when the player dies, its all on the player: a mis-judged jump, not switching personas at the right moments, repeatedly dying so you can understand a pattern. Whenever I get past an obstacle there's never really a feeling of being rewarded. More of an expectancy of "what's next?" The enemies that roam through the levels are never the major concern. Its all about the environment and puzzles.
The game comes with two bonus levels based on Halloween and Christmas. The artwork gallery pictures are unlocked by discovering big blue crystals, these are always found on an alternate path. There are hardcore and uber-hardcore modes to unlock as well as score and time attacks. The game has a great replay value and if you can find it on sale on Steam or a, then I highly recommend snagging it. Keep in mind, I'm still playing this game and have only made it to chapter 2, but from what I have played it most definitely deserves the fifth spot on this list.

#4: Guild Wars 2 - PC
I'm a huge fan of Guild Wars. I've sunk so many hours into the first game that its unbelievable. I pre-ordered Guild Wars 2 a few months before it came out and I dropped $150 on the collector's edition (which, honestly, doesn't seem worth it now when looking back) and reveled in how amazing it was. But a month before the game was released I was kicked out of my guild and after playing Guild Wars for a mere two weeks I found I just didn't have it in me to continue. Not only was I alone for most of the game but there was no one to have a friendship with. And then the WoW players started pouring in. I suppose after hearing all the good things about it, they checked out GW2 and liked it. Now the world is full of people who only play PvP, GvG, WvW and the ones who play PvE are the ones barking orders at people whom they can't control. GW2 may be doing well with others, but to me its just another MMO now. The magic is gone and I'm just not feeling it anymore. I will go back to it because I love the exploring aspect, I love discovering everything, but I'm hesitant because I'm constantly alone.
But I digress, what I did experience was amazing. A huge world, amazing art style, so many attack combinations and a unique unfolding story that's tailored to the choices I make should have made this my Game of the Year. What I said about players giving orders to others whom they can't control, I meant it. Freedom is the name of the game and the choice to go an do whatever you want is only limited by your character's level. The expansive world means you should never get bored easily and the quests that suddenly pop up, (such as having to fend off a town that's being attacked by minotaurs, followed by finding out where the minotaurs live, followed by attacking them) means a near-infinite variety of things to do. I should definitely get back into playing soon.

#3: Forza Horizon - Xbox 360
Forza Motorsport 4 is currently #6 on my list of All Time Favorite Games. The depth and lengths that the game goes to please every player is astounding. From the gearheads with steering wheel controllers, who turn off all assists and manually shift, to the casual players who want no damage and a lot of help controlling a fast car, Forza 4 does things right. Unfortunately I'm not talking about 4 here, just Horizon. A horrible misstep in the wrong direction for a well-established franchise, Horizon goes out of its way to draw in the crowd of people who loved the Need For Speed Underground games, and subsequently the next 5 games after that. Its a pseudo-sim-arcade street racing game and while it is easy to master, I for one only miss the depth of the previous games. While the cars have a definitive weight to them, the gearhead aspect is non-existent. Besides that, the game just CAN'T SHUT UP. The event organizer who must describe every fart she's ever made in her life, the radio DJs who give scripted monologue, and the racers who talk smack at the start AND during every race, it seems someone is talking at all times. Would it kill one of the star racers to just say "I've heard good things about you, don't disappoint me"? The game is tied together in a festival atmosphere. Music and speed gathered at one place in Colorado. If you're a fan of mostly alternative music then you'll be glad to know that the soundtrack is varied, and it might introduce you to some new music.The problem here being that ITS ALL BAD. From anti-music dubstep to indie rock bands you've probably never heard of, the soundtrack is one of the most useless I've ever heard in a game. I just play without the music on, and at one point I became so frustrated with the speaking that I just completely muted the sounds altogether.
Still, despite all of this, Horizon is solid, well-built, knows what it wanted to deliver and delivers it. Speed is abundant and the community is alive. Too bad I will NOT be buying any of the DLC or a sequel if it comes to that. So just to be clear, the only reason Forza Horizon makes it this high on the list is because of its quality. My overall feeling of the game however is that Forza Horizon should die.

#2: Spec Ops: The Line - Xbox 360

Extra Credits said it best when talking about this game, "Its engaging. Not fun, but engaging." (They give a better review in two videos than I could ever give.) Spec Ops: The Line wasn't on my radar until I played the demo for it. I was blown away by the action. I was sold after the first time I tried it. I pre-ordered after barely debating it. After playing through I can definitely say that this game deserves to be this high on the list. It takes the player, Cpt. Walker, through a mission to find Colonel John Konrad somewhere in Dubai, which has been overtaken by sand. Walker and his two squadmates must fight against the army of Dubai and later against the US Army. It becomes a sticky situation and by the end it delves into some aspects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I don't mean to make a spoiler of it but the story is expertly crafted and all throughout you begin to uncover some things that make you question who the real badguy is. On top of the excellent single player, the multiplayer is just as thrilling. Using the same game mechanics, you play through the usual multiplayer affair: deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, etc. Throughout the multiplayer games, sandstorms happen that obscure the player's vision, disrupts the radar, and sometimes changes the environment.
While Spec Ops: The Line might not be a AAA game for years to come, it certainly made an impact on me simply by being different. It didn't want to follow the norms of other shooters and whenever I finish a game of single or multiplayer, I walk away satisfied.

#1: Halo 4 - Xbox 360
Please, anti-fanboys: Shut up and remember that this list IS NOT my top games of all time, just a top for 2012. That being said, Halo 4 is the most gorgeous-looking game I have ever seen on the Xbox 360. This is a step above Halo: Reach in the right direction. Adding new elements to gameplay, both single and multiplayer, while still keeping it familiar to the veterans, while even STILL making is accessible to newcomers is what makes Halo 4 so admirable. The single player campaign delves into the relationship of Master Chief and a failing AI Cortana whose own thinking is ripping her programming apart. The main mission for this new trilogy is to get Cortana to Dr. Halsey to be repaired all the while fighting your way through a sect of Covenant who are ignoring the truce in favor of discovering what's contained in a Forerunner planet. The solo campaign is vast but the usual "narrow way leading into an arena" is still present. Regardless, its just as much a star of the game as the multiplayer, which has a ton of various gameplay types in War Games and introduces Spartan Ops, an episodic side story where you play as your custom Spartan through a storyline separate from the main campaign. Multiplayer contains the usual fair of Slayer, Team Deathmatch, CTF, and the others you've come to expect in the Halo series. However I miss Firefight but its understandable since the number of differing enemies has been reduced, even with the new race introduced in the solo campaign.
It would be wrong of me not to mention the cutscenes that happen between the storylines in both campaign and Spartan Ops. 343 has outdone Bungie completely and not only is this game impressive to see, but it also backs it up by having astonishing gameplay. For those who lost faith in the first Halo Trilogy because of the extra games, Halo 4 is a great start to get back on track. I was never a huge fan of the Halo games but Halo 4 has made me a believer.

Keep Playing.
(I noticed when I started writing this that all top 4 games are ones that I pre-ordered. Go figure.)

No comments:

Post a Comment