Our newest recruit Chris takes a look back over a long year that saw the second year in a row won for him by Bethesda, a surprisingly muted launch for the Wii U, a flawed gem in Capcom's Dragon's Dogma, and a glorious Platinum in Skyrim at last!
Game of the Year | Dishonored
For me, Bethesda pulled it out the bag again this year with their stealth, magic, assassin, first-person, action game. The first thing that really works for this game is that its so easy to get absorbed into it. With the first-person perspective, and the “choice” system of how to complete missions that makes a difference, it really does take you in and feel as though your really are Corvo Attano pacing through the streets of Dunwall. It makes you think about how you should continue, and not in a forceful way, like a game like Dark Souls, but in a personal way of how you want to play the game, and how you want it to pan out. And there’s so much fun to be had on further playthroughs to discover where different decisions could have led.
And the way in which you can make those decisions also made this a great game. A combination of weaponry and various powers at Corvo’s disposal provide you with plenty of options to tackle each enemy and situation. I also found the AI to be a step up from most games, where a quick hide in a corner might be enough, but Dishonored is less forgiving of rash movements – in a good and thought-provoking way. To top it off the visual style of the game is also very good and the landscape of Dunwall oozes character, creating an overall gaming experience that for me was the best this year.
Favourite Game of 2012 | Dragon's Dogma
There’s only so much dragon-slaying a guy can take right? With Bethesda’s sprawling Skyrim adventure already doing the rounds, Dragon’s Dogma was already going to have enough of a challenge differentiating itself from the former, let alone convincing us it was worth a purchase also. Luckily for Capcom they struck a perfect chord with me this year by providing a game that felt like Diet-Skyrim in terms of content, but then with its new Pawn system, bought enough interest and excitement to be a game that could hold its head high and slay dragons with the best of them.
I certainly felt more absorbed in the quest at hand than I did with Skyrim – Grigori was gonna die if it was the last thing I did! And being able to recruit Pawns both self-created, and those others have made meant the game had additional depth and tactics rather than just creating the single character. Sure, over time, the Pawns dialogue got repetitive, but the fact that we were all in it together provided a sense of camaraderie rarely seen in single player experiences. Whilst it is clearly smaller in scale to Skyrim, there is no fast-travelling in Dragon’s Dogma, which helps keep the world of Gransys as grand as it needs to be, and every journey felt like exactly that – in a good way. Overall it wasn’t the perfect game, but for a new IP, Capcom provided me with a really enjoyable experience that I will keep going back to.
Best Gaming Moment of 2012 | Platinum of Skyrim
For any that have played Bethesda’s epic title, you’ll know of the sheer amount of hours you can easily put into the game. You can while away the hours just wandering around the landscape, admiring the beautiful scenery as the sun sets. Or you could be delving deep into labyrinthine crypts to seek out long forgotten treasure. Or you could just ‘shout’ in the face of obnoxious soldiers and watch them fly into the distance over the edge of a convenient cliff to their death. Good times.
Whatever you spend your time doing in Skyrim, you’ll enjoy your time whilst doing it. And that’s why for me the best gaming moment this year was when I dropped the Platinum on this beautiful game. And not just because it’s a Platinum that takes a lot of time and effort to get, but because I realized that my view on the game was different towards Skyrim after I’d got the trophy. Normally I want a break from playing a game in that situation, but with Skyrim I still had a thirst to continue, just one more level up, just one more dungeon, just one more sidequest. It was then I realized just how much fun this game had been and how much it will continue to be until the next Elder Scrolls game arrives.
Biggest Surprise of 2012 | An Unexpectedly Lacklustre Wii U Launch
Have you heard the news? Apparently a brand-spanking new Nintendo console has been released at the back end of this year. In fairness, if you’re reading this you probably have, but the sad fact of the matter is that if I was to go down the pub and ask my mates to tell me 3 things about Nintendo’s new console they would struggle. Some would even struggle at the name – and its only an extra letter from the last console. And whilst my friends are by no means hardcore gaming enthusiasts or indeed as (stupidly) loyal to Nintendo as me, their response is fairly typical of the masses. The Wii U is generally an unknown console on the marketplace right now, and that, given the fanfare of the Wii launch – and therefore the potential with this console – is what surprised me the most this year.
In my youth – and sometimes nowadays if you catch me at the wrong moment – I would vehemently defend Nintendo and their decisions. “They’re not out of touch, they’re innovators” and such-like. But it surprised me how low-key the launch of the console has been, proving that they’re certainly out of touch with how to launch a product with a bang, and they’re certainly a lack of innovation going on at the PR department. And it’s a shame because the Wii U is actually a decent piece of kit, which has bags of potential. Its just that the only reason I know that is because I researched it online beforehand, and then went out and got one. Most other people that buy consoles wont be willing to put that much effort in. It is down the Nintendo to give them a desire to purchase through advertising and launch activation, rather than launching with a whimper and keeping those fingers crossed. Sure it’s a cheaper strategy, but will it end up costing them in the long run – watch this space.
Biggest Disappointment | LittleBigPlanet Karting
A contentious decision perhaps, but for me the biggest missed opportunity this year - and therefore my biggest disappointment - was LittleBigPlanet Karting. When you think of karting games, you instantly think of the Mario Kart franchise. It’s almost impossible not to. The little Italian plumber has been pootling around in his little 150cc four-wheeler for 20 years now, and for the most part, each outing has delivered a high quality karting experience. Each has provided that simple, fun and enjoyable racing we all fell in love with way back in 1992, but with additional extras thrown in too over the passage of time. The problem with LittleBigPlanet Karting is that it focused so much on the new and different extras that are synonymous with LittleBigPlanet, that it forgot about the simple, fun and enjoyable racing.
The karting itself wasn’t terrible by any means, and the drifting mechanic was simple and smooth, but the overpowered items and dodgy collision physics lead to a game that was a frustration more than a pleasure to play. If there was an icon that had a chance to dethrone Mario in the karting genre, then Sackboy and his LittleBigPlanet world had every chance with its cute design style and loyal fanbase. But the karting itself just felt limp and poorly executed, which is a shame because with a few tweaks this game could have been truly brilliant.
Most Anticipated For 2013 | Zelda Wii U
Yep that’s right, sharpen those pitchforks because I’ve dared to put a Wii U game as my most anticipated game of 2013. Truth be told ever since the initial demo at E3 two years ago when the first idea of the Wii U was announced, with a demo of a HD Zelda game using the Wii U features was shown, I was hooked. And before the masses start jeering at the stupid fanboy before you, then let me just explain myself. I’ve been a fan of Nintendo since I started console gaming 20ish years ago. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the big N over that time, its that their triple AAA franchises very rarely disappoint. On the whole they are examples of how to make a great game on their system – they seem to be able to find that sweet spot of enjoyment across so many different genres. Now of course for every Ocarina of Time, Donkey Kong Country Returns or Super Mario Galaxy, there is a Metroid: Other M – but these anomalies don’t detract from what is normally a banker these days – Nintendo franchise games are normally good. Very, very good.
So, it’s with that in mind that I cannot wait to play their first big Wii U title. The reason I have listed Zelda, is because it’s my favourite Ninty franchise, and also it’s the only one I’ve seen footage of so far – even in demo form. And truth be told, its not just me or the Zelda fans that want this to be a great game. Nintendo need a AAA title for their Wii U. New Super Mario Bros U is all well and good, but is a game based on a 20-year old platformer. They need to inject some purpose of the controller and its functionality into a game like Zelda to demonstrate to the potential and get more people interested. And if I’m honest, with that kind of pressure, I’m eagerly anticipating what Nintendo are going to deliver.