Monday, 23 December 2013

Game of The Year 2013

Tis the Season I guess. Everyone is doing their list, anywhere I turn I see these lists being posted. So, in order not to just stand around awkwardly and end up with some back-breaking task I decided to join the fun, and at least pretend to do what everyone else is doing. All in the name to avoid more work. We could say this is the real spirit of the season.

First things first. That means more explanations before we get to the real thing. When I talk about game of the year, it simply means games I played this year. It does not mean games that came out in this year. There is couple of reasons for that. First, I am very, very, very, emphasise on very, careful consumer. Or at least I consider myself as such. I rarely buy a game on first day, or even the first month. Most often, before I get it in my hands, it is at least half a year old, and it was held under scrutiny of many others.

Why is that so? First, with the Steam and GOG, there are so many games in my collective library that I still did not get to play, that I do not see the point in buying new stuff until I play through the old. There are exceptions of course, every now and then I will play a new game instead of one of the old ones, but this is only an exception.

Second, with the sales being a regular thing on the Internet, I like to buy cheap. Even if the game is good and worth more, I like saving money. First, because there is never enough money in  the first place, and because there is money to be spent on something else. Like books for example. While I buy digital games, I still buy good old fashioned books. I love the smell of the book, and I like the idea that a forest had to be cut in order for me to read it. If they come bound in leather so much better. The latter is just a poetic exaggeration, but I would not mind.

There are games I play on regular basis, and there are games whose experience could be described as binge drinking. I play them non-stop for some time, and then leave them behind for a couple of months. I am particularly fond of doing this with RPGs. So, with no further ado, let us move to the list of five game that made the greatest impression on me in the year of 2013 Anno Domini.

Honourable mention goes to World of Warcraft and Mists of Pandaria, and League of Legends. While I enjoyed them both a great deal, and sank into them considerable amount of time, they are the old wolves still going strong. They have their flaws, and they have their strengths. Thus, they get only a honourable mention. Mists of Pandaria introduced a whole new set of tools of how to tell the story, yet I found myself more and more running through the old content, than doing the new. With LoL, it is just an exercise of nerves. Training of patience. because once you learn how to deal with your teammates in LoL, you graduate and become Zen Master.

Another honourable mention goes to Witcher I. It would certainly be on this list otherwise. The only reason it is not, is that I started playing it in 2012. It would not be fair to the other games, thus deserves only an honourable mention.

This was the game that with time I developed love-hate relationship. I loved it for what it was, and hated it for being so frustratingly coy. In short, the things I hated, were the things I loved. Antichamber was meant as such, and it delivered. It plays with the player, toys with him, leads him around and at same time forces the player to step outside of his comfort zone. The usual smash and continue approach is rendered useless. The game expects an intelligent player, and it does not at any point try to make things easy for you. As such, it was great to see that such games exist. After all stupid to ground tutorials, it is nice when game takes you for an intelligent individual and lets you figure things out on your own. And this on your own requires much on unconventional thinking, thus it can be quite a puzzling experience.

Chivalry is in the similar boat as Antichamber. I love it in one moment and hate in another. I love the FFA, and team objective. I love the ability to customise your knight. I love the flow and brutality of combat. I love how everything you do depends on you and you alone. What I hate is what started only a few months ago, random crashing of the game on regular basis. It disrupts the play, the flow, and the mood. I also hate archers, but that is a story for another time. Come here and fight like a real warrior, you cowards!
Yeah, getting an arrow in your eye when you were about to decapitate your opponent can be quite frustrating. :)

It is rare these days, to come across a game that focuses so much on pure narration, and actually succeeds. More often than not we can witness a game with some grand idea, and the poor execution. In that regard, Thomas Was Alone is a shining beacon of what should be a standard when it comes to narration and story. A shining beacon of what a good character development and a strong characters are. And all that with just a bunch of rectangles. Or maybe because it is a bunch of rectangles. In any case, it is worth your time. I loved every moment in this game with the exception of the total darkness when my jumps were based more on blind faith, luck, or sense of direction, than actual knowing of what I am doing.

From my early age I played card games. Many of them in fact, and all with one set of playing cards. Even now I at times play games that most of the people these days never even heard of (Schnapps is not the same game as Sixty-six). I also played Magic when I was older, and could buy my own deck. So we could say that Hearthstone was a nostalgia hit for me for two reasons. Both being a nostalgia. Nostalgia for the old days of Warcraft III and early days of WoW, and the other being that I always loved to play cards. Hearthstone is in many ways an easy to learn, but hard to master type of game. At times you can curse at the amounts of RNG, but at the same time it is this RNG element in it that keeps you at your toes, ensuring you never really know what to expect. Just remember, Lady is as fickle as ever, capricious even, and if you rely on her, she will punish you accordingly.

The first place goes to Witcher II. It is mature, dark, gritty, even realistic. As much as fantasy genre allows realism. In every aspect it is an improvement of the first instalment and it leaves me longing for the third game. It makes me long to play it again, and see what is on the other side. It is enticing to try and play otherwise than I would usually. Although I need to finish it first. Right now, I played it for forty hours. I enjoyed each and every one. I will probably finish it in the coming months. No promises though. What needs to be mentioned as well, is the morality in the game. We see so often, or was that thing of the past, and now everybody tries to make this a murky territory? Anyway, morality and decisions actually carry some weight, and are not simply +2 to lawful, or -3 to evil.

This concludes the list of my top games I played in the year of 2013. I hope you enjoyed it, as well as I hope you might give some of them a try for yourself if you did not do so by now. Next year I should cut it down to three games, and honourable mentions. It would be more in spirit of competition and the best of the best I think. But tht is for next year to think about.

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