It’s March! Do you even care at this point what I thought of games from 2012?
Well screw you! I’m catching up on my backlog! Feel free to leave, and make sure the door smacks you in the arse on the way out…
As always, there are notable absences on this list; my gaming backlog is a pretty large one and there’s a pile of games sitting there that I haven’t finished or even started from as far back as the mid-90s. You know I still haven’t gotten to Dragon Age 2? Admittedly, some of that is due to some issues with EA, but that’s a story for another time…
And yes, I’m still trying to finish Star Wars: TIE-Fighter – Enemies of the Empire on hard. If anyone who reads this has some pull on LucasArts or Disney Interactive, please ask them very nicely to do a full re-release of the X-Wing Series for modern gaming systems please?
Once again, the thing about all the games on this list is that arguably none of them are perfect; they are all flawed in some minor way. That being said, they are all within the reach of perfection and well worth your time if you haven’t looked at them yet.
I’m doing something a little different this time around as well; five favourite games of 2012 and five honourable mentions.
So, in release order…my favourite games of 2012:
Mass Effect 3
Have I extolled my love for the Mass Effect series with you all? Looking over my previous posts, apparently not, which is a massive oversight. I have started an entry going through my playthrough of the entire trilogy as Commander Jeremiah Shepard, colonist-sole-survivor-paragon and Malcolm Reynolds expy, but it is nowhere near finished. Sufficed to say, I believe the Mass Effect Trilogy to be one of the finest space operas crafted in any medium. Any flaws it has are purely from a gameplay mechanic or technical perspective. The story, whilst not wholly original, is an excellent reworking of science-fiction themes that still manages to surprise you. The world building is fantastic and deeply rich. The characters are beyond brilliant from a design, backstory and performance perspective; every one of the main characters in this series could hold their own stories. The music is sublime and clever with its usage. I could go on, but let’s just hit the high points:
- The flight from Earth is surprisingly harrowing. And props to BioWare with James Vega and his voice actor, Freddie Prinze, Jr. You managed to make a clichéd character archetype fresh and interesting, despite a poor introduction.
- I knew Jeremiah Shepard would have to leave Miranda and try to win Ashley back when I automatically purchased a book of her favourite poetry in the hospital as a gift without even thinking about it.
- Not telling Kelly Chambers to change her appearance, and subsequently finding out that Cerberus forces had murdered her. I wound back 15 hours of game time to save her. I don’t regret it.
- The Last Prothean, Javik, is one of the most tragic characters in this or any other story.
- General Adrien Victus staring up at his shattered homeworld is one of the best moments of the entire series.
- Major Kirrahe’s pledging the services of the STG warmed my heart.
- …actually, fuck it, ALL of the Tuchanka missions. My heart swelled with all of Wrex’s triumphant declarations. I cried when Mordin sacrificed himself in so noble a fashion, but I could not fault it.
- Thane’s Last Stand. Holy fuck…
- A young Quarian dying in peace on his homeworld as he looked up at the stars.
- Legion’s sacrifice, and the Geth Colossus coming to welcome its makers.
- Tali not having to be asked to come with Jeremiah Shepard on his mission, as he and her share a moment on her homeworld as she removes her mask.
- The Banshees on Thessia…I’d actually had that monster spoiled via multiplayer, but the cry from my friend of, “Jesus Christ! WHAT IS THAT!?!” when we first encountered them will stick with me.
- Receiving the message that Kal’Reegar had sacrificed himself on Palaven. The weight on Jeremiah Shepard’s shoulders seemed so much heavier then, and even I slumped with the weight of it.
- “That’s for Thane and Miranda you SON OF A BITCH!”
- The relationships. I love Jeremiah Shepard’s platonic relationship with Liara. I love how she comes to check on him when it all gets too hard. I love that he misses Kaidan. I love how Liara and Garrus say goodbye to Shepard…
I could go on, but you get the point.
As to its flaws, I liked the ending. I was very disappointed by the fan dumb that went on about the ending for this game; I haven’t seen that level of misplaced fan entitlement since 1999 and the release of Star Wars - Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. I even got dragged into online fights about it, and I try to never argue on the Internet. I’ll admit I’m not always successful.
While all the story beats were there, the execution however was lacking. Why was Joker flying away suddenly? How were those guys on the Normandy? I would love to know the decision-making process involved from BioWare that lead to that. Regardless, as a whole, this game is a great cap off to the trilogy.
As of writing, the final DLC has been released. I’ll get to it eventually once my issues with EA have been sorted…
This one surprised me. I enjoyed That Game Company’s Flower; it’s one of the games that first convinced me that games could be art. So naturally I was interested when Journey was finally released.
This is a beautiful experience, made all the more so as it is shared with strangers. You will encounter other travellers on your journey, though they will never be identified until the end, and only by their screen name. And communication is rudimentary, only through a series of tones. But that companionship was what contributed to the experience. Huddled together in snow storms. Calling out to each other as we were lost in the dark. Leading each other to safety away from monsters…
I finished the game in two sittings. And for the final sitting, I was paired with the same traveller for the majority of it. Near the end, somehow I lost them, so I approached the mountain alone. Just as I was about to step over the threshold, I heard a frantic chirping behind me. I turned, and it was my companion. I waited for them, and we walked into the light together…
I don’t know if there is enough of community now to play what is essentially a one trick pony. But it is a damn fine trick, and well worth your time.
Spec Ops: The Line
I’ve already reviewed this one, so I’ll say little else. A brilliant deconstruction of the modern military shooter, and a game that has to be experienced rather than told about.
The Walking Dead
Telltale Games have made one or two missteps in their time developing episodic adventure games, but you can’t fault their ambition. In The Walking Dead it’s clear they have learned from their mistakes as it tells a brilliant and engaging story within Robert Kirkman’s post-apocalyptic world. I regret to say I still haven’t finished the final episode, but this placement is based on the strength of what has come before. Lee Everett is a fascinating protagonist to play, and I love that this game does not shy away from making some tough choices. The other characters range from admirable to despicable, but they are all believable. I’m also fascinated that two of my favourite games last year have me acting as guardian for a little girl and manipulating me into caring for this character. Here it’s Clementine, the young girl Lee finds and rescues early in the first episode. Their relationship is the heart of this game, and by the end of the first episode I would do anything to protect that little girl.It ends tragically, I’m sure. But what do you expect? This is The Walking Dead. You want something positive from Kirkman’s mind, read Invincible.
The other game where I was manipulated into caring for the character of a young girl; here it being Emily, the young princess. Again, I’ve already reviewed this one, so I’ll only reiterate that this was a fun game for an old Thief fan like me, and an excellent homage to that series.
And now in release order…five honourable mentions for 2012:
Max Payne 3
I was terrified this was going to be an unnecessary sequel, but it was actually fun. Taking the storytelling aesthetics of the first two games and filtering them through a Tony Scott directorial style, this managed to be a well made and true to the original neo-noir tale of the utterly fucking miserable life of former NYPD detective Max Payne.
A Hong Kong Crime Opera video game? Colour me interested. The story, the voice acting, the gorgeous visuals on PC and the most brutal and enjoyable combat mechanics since the Batman: Arkham games made this a lot of fun. But the controls had a fair bit of clunk to them, particularly the vehicle controls, though they were better on PC. And the inclusions of some of the side missions were frankly baffling. But this was well worth my time.
Battlestar Galactica: Disapora – Shattered Armistice
Yeah, I’m including a FreeSpace 2 mod in my honourable mentions. Why? Cos it’s frakkin’ awesome! That’s why! I love space flight sims; it’s a dead genre, so any day I can dust off my HOTAS set up is a Good Day:
That setup was a stone cold bitch to get working in the mod though. A lot of fiddling.
Regardless, this is a damn fine mod. It manages to capture the tension of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica and find a balance between jumping straight into the cockpit of a Viper and making the birds feel right for the more experienced fighter jockeys among us so you could hear nothing but the rain…
FTL: Faster Than Light
I’m not a huge fan of rogue-like games, but this was just so charming with it’s more primative aesthetics and simple, desperate space opera story. That being said, as much fun as it is, this is a punishing, sometimes cruel game. But that can be the way of the ‘Verse. It’s cheap, so I strongly advise you to pick it up. But be warned, it is a time sink, and “just one more jump” will become part of your lexicon.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
I really wanted to put this in the first five, but I felt I’d already put one genre homage in that list. Arguably XCOM is a better game than Dishonored, but I enjoyed the latter more, so this is where they lay.
I love the first two X-COM games, and this is a worthy reboot that keeps a lot of the core mechanics that made the original game so great but updates the mechanics and visuals for a modern audience. The learning curve is still steep; you’ll never be well prepared enough. And the harder difficulties are exactly what they say on the label; you’re gonna get your ass spanked on Impossible Difficulty.
I managed to maintain my tradition of naming squadmates after myself and my friends. I find it helps me fight harder to keep them alive. They all got through to the end too.
And that’s Games of the Year 2012. Again and still sadly it’s not an episode of Everybody Hates Escort Missions. One day…
Be seeing you.