Despite there being a number of games I enjoyed last year, and the fact it ended on a personal high with Skyrim (catching fish with your hands, yo) overall 2011 didn't excite me in the way I had hoped. So with 2012 on the horizon I was a little worried that after the initial releases in the spring I was going to be left with a similar feeling of apathy overall. Thankfully, I was so very, very wrong. Phenomenal games of a Triple-A nature all the way to the boutique titles have been some of the best I have played in several years, and 2012 also saw the emergence of a new wave of MMO titles that, while faring differently on the scales of success, tried to mix up the conventions we had become used to with the genre.
So as such I must admit that this has been the hardest personal Game Of The Year article I have had to write for Dealspwn. Shooters, RPGs, MMOs, Adventure and Strategy titles have all vied for my attention over the last twelve months, and even with this article submitted, and now posted, I am having second thoughts on my final picks as there were many that were in contention. Seriously, it feels like I've betrayed a love one.
No matter. The deed is done and my decisions are set in virtual stone, so let's get this show on the road.
Game Of The Year | Guild Wars 2
I'm so sorry Borderlands 2. Despite the fact Handsome Jack was quite clearly the best character of the year you just fell short. And to you XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Your re-imagining of one of the toughest stategy titles ever made was nothing short of brilliant, but you just missed out on my top spot. The Walking Dead was there as well, a master class in interactive entertainment as we fought to protect dear Clementine, nipping at my indecisive heels but ultimately didn't make the cut. This is because in the end, I realised that one game has had me enthralled throughout most of 2012 (and some of '11) and continues to do so now - that game is Guild Wars 2.
Although it didn't quite match the ground-breaking claims it had hoped to reach, what ArenaNet did create was the biggest shakeup to the MMO genre in years. Providing a sense of free-form play by being able to do whatever you want and still level up, and building classes that were both visually and mechanically exciting, Guild Wars 2 also ended up being on of the better looking games of the year thanks to its water colour inspired art style. A lack of subscriptions made it a one-off purchase worth making, and the scaling system ensured that latecomers would not be punished or left out. With regular updates adding more quests and events, it helped to make gamers think of something else other than WoW when the letters MMO are mentioned, and that's why it's my Game Of The Year.
Favourite Game Of 2012 | FTL
I was admittedly a little late to the party with this one, but thanks to the ridiculous deals we highlight here at Dealspwn I finally got my hands on FTL: Faster Than Light recently. I cannot believe I waited this long, as it truly is one of the most addictive things I have played this year. What could have been a complicated mess of managing a ship (which we’ve seen with other similar titles) was made an intuitive affair thanks to the simple design of its UI, and the ability to rename your crew made me care about their well-being as they attempted to reach the Federation base, all the while the rebel fleet are on your tail.
I’ve had mixed fortunes with FTL so far, with one go getting me as far as the second battle with the Rebel capital ship, to another where half my crew were wiped out after the first jump. The random generation of the jump points ensures I was never really prepared for what waited on the other side, but that risk (along with the permadeath) made the experience even more exciting. For example, I wept for Jon as he was punched to death by a Mantis, shed a tear for Matt as he was eaten by giant space spiders, and then yelled at him in another playthrough when he had to gall to transcend his existence, leaving me to put an inexperienced Slug in charge of the ship’s engine. It’s the little game that managed to provide big adventures, as well as help me get my fix of sci-fi adventure, and that’s why it is my favourite game of the year.
Best Gaming Moment Of 2012 | Running Riot In PlanetSide 2
There have been many story elements I could have put in this section, with the Tuchunka mission from Mass Effect 3 and pretty much anything from The Walking Dead being clear front runners in that department. However, it has really been the multiplayer moments that have stayed with me this year. For instance, I almost out "Running over Matt with a Ghost in Spartan Ops" as my gaming moment of 2012 (in my defense, it was very, very funny) but I ended up going with another moment with a fellow Dealspwn colleague that I like to call Carl & Jon's PlanetSide 2 Road To Victory.
I was already on PlanetSide 2, knee deep in the bodies of friends and foes trying defend a base from some smurfing bastards when Job hopped online. Joining me in a valiant defence in the middle of the (in-game) night, we and our fellow TR soldiers held off wave after wave of enemy forces attempting to push forward and destroy our defensive generators. This battle went in for a good 30-40 minutes, with me healing and Jom swapping between being an Engineer and a Heavy Weapons soldier, but as moral started to wane I said over the comms "They're going to take us out in the next wave, but we've had a good run" a number of times... but we somehow held the line. The sun rose over the base, no word of a lie, a huge convoy of friendly tanks and aircraft rolled in, obliterating the attackers and driving them out.
Now it was time for some payback, TR style.
Jumping into a tank, Jon and I joined the convoy as it zerg-rushed several occupied bases along a stretch of road in an offensive campaign that saw sweeping gains for the Elmos. This cumulated in a charge upon The Crown; a key basest the centre of Indar. The thing is, just moments before that we joined up with a second convoy, causing the only time I have seen a traffic jam of heavy tanks, light tanks, troop transports and buggies going all the way up the hill, each one being driven by another player. It was a glorious sight.
Eventually our advance would be halted, and partway though myself and Job attempted an experimental excursion in a Liberator bomber (ie. it crashed within seconds) but it was one of the best couple of hours I've spent playing a game all year. Massive action with hundreds of players in a real time futuristic battlefield, and we were there to fly the Dealspwn flag.
Biggest Surprise | Star Citizen
It came out of the blue: Chris Roberts, the man who gave the world Wing Commander (and the very idea of expansion packs) was returning to game development after a decade making films. The clues started trickling in as pieced of artwork were being slyly dispatched in news updates for the community to jump onto like hungry dogs. We were heading back into space, that much was clear, but what was the game? Would it be more of a story-driven Wing Commander experience or would it give us the freedom of Freelancer?
The staggering truth was that we would be getting both.
Star Citizen was announced with a mind blowing trailer that knocked everyone for six, with Roberts promising not only a storyline campaign that would feature an entertaining narrative, but that we would also be getting a persistent online universe in which we could fly around in. Soldiers, merchants, mercenaries, miners, pirates; there would be room for all, and then some. For it to go on to become the most successful crowd-funded game ever shouldn't be too much of a shock, but its reveal (and the scope of the project) sure as hell surprised me. Roll on next November and the pledger's beta access, I say.
Biggest Disappointment | Resistance: Burning Skies
The Playstation Vita hasn't had the best of times since its launch earlier this year, but the potential for it to produce great games has always been evident. You only need to look at Uncharted: Golden Abyss (and even Motorstorm RC) to see that, but the momentum should have continued with another Sony IP making its debut on the device - Resistance: Burning Skies. We at Dealspwn were all impressed with how it was progressing when we saw it trade shows, and even I was fairly enthusiastic when I got hold of a preview build a few months before its release.
But then it came out, and it all went to hell. The tight controls (which proved great shooters can exist on the Vita) were overshadowed by poorly designed levels, sub-par graphics, and unforgivable performance issues. It could, nay, should have been better, and instead it made people think the Vita wasn't up to par. Who was to blame? It was easy to call Sony the guilty party in wanting the game out the door on time, but considering the utter shambles Call Of Duty: Black Ops - Declassified ended up being, hindsight suggests developers Nihilistic should be held to account for apparently not giving much of a damn. Burning Skies should have been great and ended up being barely average, tarnishing a series that I have on many occasions stated is one of my favourites from this generation. It's for that reason that it is my biggest disappointment of the year, and I certainly hope that another developer gives the Vita the FPS game it actually deserves.
Most Anticipated For 2013 | WildStar
SimCity, Grand Theft Auto V, Bioshock Infinite - each one of those would be worthy of being called my most anticipated for 2013, but I'm going to cop out and instead say "Running over Matt some more in Spartan Ops."
It looks 2013 will be the year we will once again be getting hands-on with WildStar. In the latest state of the game address by Carbine Studios' Jeremy Gaffney, we learned that a closed beta is very near, and as you might be able to guess from the preview articles we've run in the past I'm rather excited by the prospect of a space-cowboy online adventure. This year has seen exciting developments for WildStar, with its combat taking more of an action focus (with improved telegraph indicators), and word that raids will involve huge numbers of players, all being added into the mix of classes and player paths.
However, the aspect that truly has my attention is the social side of WildStar, as Carbine have stated that community would be a big focus of the game. They proved this with the announcement of player housing earlier this year, something that hasn't been achieved successfully in an MMO since Star Wars Galaxies. Along with upcoming reveals of new classes and the playable Dominion faction, I cannot wait to see more and, hopefully, get hands-on with it during 2013.