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Dealspwn's Game of the Year 2012

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Borderlands 2, Dishonored, Far Cry 3, Game of the Year 2012, GOTY 2012, Guild Wars 2, Halo 4, Sleeping Dogs, The Walking Dead, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Dealspwn's Game of the Year 2012

Typically, with our small staff size, there's simply no way we get to play all of the best games each in a given year, there's simply too much reviewing to be done. It can often make these end of year debates rather personal, with individual writers championing games that have had a personal effect on them, and the shortlists get longer and longer. There came a point where I was worried there'd be no overlap, that the internal voting process would yield only singular choices, rather than clear frontrunners.

Of course, all that really means is that the true winners of 2012 have been the consumers. We've seen genres busted wide open, brave new approaches to distribution and development, new ways to get projects off of the ground and in front of an audiences, new IPs when "experts" declared there'd be none. There have been mechanical marvels, fresh waves of indie innovation, sublime storytelling, wondrous worlds in which to wander.

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Dealspwn's Game of the Year 2012

Borderlands 2

We described Borderlands 2 as "the best co-op shooter of its generation" and it still holds true to that accolade. Outstanding AI, superlative scripting, one of this generation's finest villains in Handsome Jack, and more loot than we knew what to do with, Borderlands 2 was a huge step up from its predecessor. Not that Borderlands 1 wasn't great, it's just that its bigger, badder, bolder brother was so very pleasing.

Dealspwn's Game of the Year 2012

Dishonored

Dishonored did better than simply revive the stealth genre, it made us wonder why the hell it went away in the first place. Arkane delivered a blank canvas in Corvo Attano, with a commendably mature approach to player freedom that asked much of you, and delivered ultimate gameplay satisfaction in return. In Dunwall, we had one of the finest video game worlds of this generation. Nothing short of astonishing.

Dealspwn's Game of the Year 2012

Dragon's Dogma

It was broken in places, and Gransys was one of the more forgettable worlds we've seen from an RPG, but Dragon's Dogma was one hell of an endearing game. Breathtaking combat, an innovative Pawn mechanic, and deep customisation options made it a firm favourite in spite of its flaws. Plus, the opportunity to take down a hole bunch of mythical beasts made it all the sweeter. Refreshingly mature.

Dealspwn's Game of the Year 2012

Far Cry 3

Far Cry 3 undoubtedly takes took the SP crown in the shooter category this year. Magnificently epic in scale, stuffed with things to do, and set in a living, breathing jungle, Far Cry 3 empowered the player to become the ultimate tropical predator, with a cracking story and lashings of immersion.

Dealspwn's Game of the Year 2012

Guild Wars 2

It touted a rather bold MMO manifesto in the run up to its release, and while it didn’t quite match all the claims they were hoping for, what they did deliver provided the biggest shake-up to the genre in years. With a huge world that was an explorers paradise, personal stories that went in the direction the player wished, a scaling system that meant no content ever got out-levelled, and more PvP options than you could shake a Quaggan at, it gave players a complete MMO experience, all without an subscription.

Dealspwn's Game of the Year 2012

Halo 4

343 Industries were up against it, the pressure must have been huge. Yet, with Microsoft's biggest frnachise in their hands, they pulled off the incredible: not only did the match up to Bungie's predecessors, they even managed to surpass some of them. Halo 4's campaign was excellent, but it was in the multiplayer modes that 343 really pulled out all of the stops. War Games is still giving us tons of fun, with expanded loadouts and greater gameplay variety than ever before. And then there was Spartan Ops: yes, there were examples of some lazy content recycling, but we've simply been having too much fun to care. An utter blast.

Dealspwn's Game of the Year 2012

Journey

Gloriously life-affirming, utterly transcendental, Journey was one of those few games that not only provided a thoroughly unique experience, but also deeply personal one too. It didn't matter whether or not you considered it art, or even if you defined it as a "game", one thing was for sure: it was absolutely unmissable.

Dealspwn's Game of the Year 2012

Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs was this year's little-big game that could. Dropped by Activision whilst it was still True Crime: Hong Kong, Square Enix snapped it up after a year in the wilderness and dropped it over the summer. Wei Shen's adventures provided the perfect antidote to the traditional sunny lull. Perfectly sized, utterly OTT, United Front Games refused to take themselves too seriously, instead providing an immaculately balanced open world game, stuffed with things to do, and supported with a near endless stream of cracking DLC.

Dealspwn's Game of the Year 2012

The Walking Dead

Telltale could perhaps have structured their releases with a little more organisatiion, and maybe fixed that infuriating cross-platform savegame bug, but otherwise there was little to complain about from The Standout Storytelling Experience of the Year. A cracking adventure game, with some utterly fantastic scripting and voice work, Telltale's take on Kirkman and co.'s zombie-ridden franchise was miles ahead of the TV series, and showed BioWare that it's possible to pull off a brave ending without compromise. There were tears. So many tears.

Dealspwn's Game of the Year 2012

Uncharted Golden Abyss

A staggering technical achievement, and undoubtedly the lead launch title for the Vita, Golden Abyss carried on the series’ tradition of excellent adventure games with all the familiar elements working fantastically on the new handheld. The list of collectibles had us replaying it obsessively, the Vita’s unique control features were used to fantastic effect, and the bar was set incredibly high.

Dealspwn's Game of the Year 2012

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

XCOM: Enemy Unknown was a sensational game and a truly exquisite reboot. We fell in love with the series all over again, even as Firaxis blew the classic turn-based formula wide open for new players to consume and enjoy. Sid Meier and co. gave us the freedom to make many terrible choices over the course of countless non-linear campaigns, but the first one was simple: buy the damn thing!

Previously in this year's season of Game of the Year awards, we've dealt with difficult decisions by looking at the nature of the genre in question, searching for innovation from the games in question, forward-thinking approaches to development and distribution, value and longevity in content and effect, and how the games in question might define, or in some cases redefine, those genres.

But when it came to Game of the Year, presented with a clipped shortlist of Dishonored, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Far Cry 3, Journey, and The Walking Dead, we had to cross genre boundaries. There were games on the shortlist that didn't play by the book, so we threw the book out of the window.

Last year's winner - Skyrim - proved to be the game on everyone's lips at the end of 2011, a watercooler game that saw players come together in the playground, in the break room, in university libraries, pubs, clubs, bars, coffee shops, train stations etc., to discuss their personal adventures and trade anecdotes. More than a game, it was a gaming event - one that has lasted well into this year thanks to some large DLC packages, though variable in quality.

There've been games that have provided similar experiences this year: Halo 4 gave us Spartan Ops Day, Journey yielded a myriad of personal reflections and challenged the way we thought about games, XCOM let us name our squad and then send our friends and families to their deaths against the alien menace.

But then there was Telltale's The Walking Dead.

Game of the Year 2012 | The Walking Dead

Dealspwn's Game of the Year 2012

Kirkman and co.'s original creation was ever drawn to the humanity (or lack thereof) that might emerge during a zombie apocalypse, and Telltale's decision to craft a new narrative with new characters  was a brave one. Placing story front and centre, and taking an almost perverse delight in subjecting the player to emotional narrative torture.

But through masterful writing, some of the best voice acting that this industry has ever seen,and moody soundscapes and a srikingly emotive and communicative art style, The Walking Dead provided the storytelling experience of the year with five superbly wrought episodes that forced us to make hard choices time and time again, and care more about a bunch of virtual characters than many of us do about things here in the real world.

There have been few games that captured our imaginations so quickly and made us care so deeply with such apparent ease. We didn't expect to find ourselves relating to convicted killer Lee so quickly, and we certainly didn't expect a nine year old girl to wind up as our pick for Best Supporting Character of the year.

Dealspwn's Game of the Year 2012

The Walking Dead impressed in form as well as function, though. Although Telltale had been experimenting with the episodic download model for some time, here it truly exploded into its own. Money was recycled, invested into the development of the next episode, and the expectant audience swelled with each release. The release schedule itself could have perhaps been handled a little better - often we only got a day's warning, but that was enough. The hashtags were circulated, the news bulletins and PSAs went up, the chattering whispers began, and those who couldn't play on day one shoved whatever they could find into their ears and shut their eyes tight until they could.

Every time, after the smoke had cleared, we held council to find out who'd done what this time round. Who'd died, who'd been saved, who'd been left behind, whether generosity had prevailed or circumspection, whether mercy or anger had won the day. We came together in loss and gaped aghast at some of the plot's twists and turns. We laughed, we debated, we shouted and exclaimed, we cried and agonised. In the end there was no disappointment, no cop-out, no compromise. Just a heartfelt, bravely carried-out finale to an adventure that had us enraptured since April.

As important as it was astounding.

NB. Readers' Choice voting for GOTY 2012 will go live tomorrow.

Add a comment5 comments
Late  Dec. 30, 2012 at 17:20

Cynic: Premature. It's only the 30th of December. Another great game might come out tomorrow.
Dealspwn: We'd know if there was a big title coming out.
Cynic: Like you saw The Walking Dead coming?...

;)

Currently playing through TWD at the moment, and loving it. Fantastic story and acting, and the way you're forced to make difficult decisions with a tight time limit is fantastic (though I'm not sure how much difference most of these decisions make).
Incredibly buggy game, mind.
Can't disagree with GOTY though. Whilst I'll get more play from Black Ops 2 and it's much more polished it doesn't innovate and excite and you don't care for the characters (perhaps you do if you play the campaign, but I've not done so yet).

Last edited by Late, Dec. 30, 2012 at 17:21
BetterThanLife  Dec. 30, 2012 at 17:37

Fair call. Personally I would have given it to Dishonored, couldn't get enough of that game. But TWD is a really good shout. Cried my eyes out at the end.

I'm glad Dragon's Dogma made the list. Quirky, but I'll be damned if there's another game (aside from Pokemon Black 2 and Borderlands 2) that's taken over my life so completely this year. Loved every second of DD.

Ilium  Dec. 30, 2012 at 17:57

Dishonored, gotta be. Journey was good, but almost too vague. TWD was excellent, but really awful actual gameplay mechanics. Dishonored had everything: good story, fantastic game world, slick smooth mechanics, glorious stealth, amazing score, sumptuous visuals.

Bethesda again this year for me. Hell, if they bring out a Fallout title at the end of next year, that'll be three years running! Id also die of sheer delight!

BetterThanLife  Dec. 30, 2012 at 17:58

Hell, if they bring out a Fallout title at the end of next year, that'll be three years running! Id also die of sheer delight!


Well my pants are ruined now.

Ilium  Jan. 2, 2013 at 14:30

:D

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