Was 2013 an especially defining moment for games and gamers? What the hell would define a year as good for gaming? We got new consoles, great games, further support for indies, new technologies (like the Oculus Rift), I personally got to go to E3 and Australia’s first PAX, but somehow I’m not completely blown away. Maybe it was the spade of disappointments, the swinging extremes of mindless vitriolic commenters and the excited vapidity of PR and developers, or maybe, just maybe, I am a jaded games writer that needs to pull his head out of his arse.
I’m guessing it’s the latter.
Whether or not I have my head right up my own arse can wait for a different article on a different site – until then, enjoy my picks of 2013!
Most Surprising – The Legend of Zelda, Painting By Numbers
Editor’s Note: I forgot the title, and think this is hilarious, so it stays. Also, I’m the editor, so what you’re reading right now is basically my thought process.
I’ve never played a Zelda game before this one. “OMG UR NOT A REEL GAMR :(“. Go to hell. Moving on, this is probably the second game that I’ve wanted a taste of, not knowing whether the game would be like a delicious, buttery veal schnitzel or a mouldy piece of tofu upon my gaming tongue. It was definitely the former.
It could simply be a matter of timing, but the simple arcade-y feel, the ‘oh boy you’re a hero now!’ plot and the just challenging enough puzzles got me hook, line and sinker. I didn’t have to think about character development or plot, didn’t have to stress about getting the best build or optimise my equipment, didn’t have to worry about improving my PvP skills or even my reflexes – Zelda: Paint Me Like One Of Your French Girls was the palette cleanser I needed to remind me that at their core, games are fun.
Favourite Competitive Game – Dota 2
I’m not going to lie – I didn’t have a massive selection of competitive titles to choose from. Killzone: Shadowfall utterly failed to impress, Rome II was a shocker, and the game I spent the most amount of time playing competitively was Shogun II. That being said, Dota 2 has also taken a lot of my time, and it’s the first game I’ve played in years where I’ve felt as though I’m playing with a team and not a bunch of randoms with objectives that range between ‘I’m going to run around in circles not helping anybody’ and ‘I just like having something on the screen’. There’s also an ultimate called Walrus Punch, and I’m having a hard time faulting a game that includes such a phrase.
Most Disappointing – Total War: Rome II
I had HUGE hopes for this game. Shogun II was great, and its multiplayer was, if not a little unbalanced thanks to some units, an amazing way to test myself as a strategist and as a samurai warrior. Turns out I am amazing at both.
However, it seems as a Macedonian general, I don’t fair so well. Maybe it’s because the enemy AI is about as herpy as a goldfish in a vacuum cleaner. Maybe it’s because they stripped all depth out of the multiplayer. Maybe its because my pike units start walking around in a weird cyclonic fashion after I give them a move order, making them easy to mow down. Maybe it’s because every time they patch an army, they make it ridiculously broken.
The thing is, I should have known that the game was going to be released as a basically broken piece of crap. The CG trailer was terrible (seriously, this is a trend I’ve noticed way too often in games), the developers avoided a lot of questions I had concerning the multiplayer, and my time spent with the preview build had me confused as to whether I was terrible at the game or whether the game was terrible. It was the latter. It’s always the latter.
Shittiest Game Without Being Technically Broken – Beyond: Two Souls
It boggles my mind that this game has managed to please anyone in any fashion. It’s just so terribly, terribly bad. Between the dreadful dialogue and the half-formed plot and the non-existent difficulty and player involvement, what the hell did anyone see in this!? Between laughing so hard I was crying and gesticulating at the screen saying ‘what!?’ and raging while angrily shaking my controller saying ‘WUT’, I went through the entire emotional spectrum of ‘what is this horrific garbage?’
Please, just kill it with fire and be done.
The Game With The Most Feels – Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons (Spoilers)
This is one of the very few games that suffers from being too short – I’m not sure if they couldn’t figure out how to elongate it, or how to give enough time to the moments that should have mattered most, but god damn, the potential there was amazing. Over and over again, I felt my heart rise, but it never quite got to the point of bursting.
Until the end.
Spoiler Warning: The younger brother lives. The elder brother does not. And in what was one of the saddest moments of my gaming life, I had to drag the corpse of the brother into the grave that had been dug, and then bury him. Manoeuvring that corpse, seeing it as a lifeless object, much like the objects I had manipulated to get to that point, almost broke me. It reminded me of human fragility, of how little it takes to quench the fires of life. It also showed that there was no such thing as a magic cure, as much as the point of the game may have been about that. Every other part of the game that held emotion never gave you long enough to care, but the brother that you controlled, the brother you watched interact with his younger sibling – he was half of your game. And like a small snap of the fingers, he was gone.
Best Game – The Last of Us
Yeah I know, predictable right? There are faults with this game, mostly concerning gameplay, but as any readers of any of my work know, I can forgive gameplay faults when the writing is strong enough, and by Mario’s left testicle, the writing is phenomenal. I believe in Joel and Ellie as real people. I recognise the survivor’s guilt in Ellie, I love the complexity of Joel (he’s definitely not a good man) and the ending, not many people have the balls to pull of an ending like that, and it’s been years since I’ve personally seen any form of entertainment end on such a note.
Further, it actively defies this era of story-telling. When was the last time you saw something so unapologetic? It offers no closure, no hope, no sense that humankind is somehow special. We’re talking Confederacy of Dunces, here, or The Beautiful and the Damned, 1984 – these are endings that do not go down well with today’s audiences because they don’t give us that super happy feeling that we love so much, that closure we desire as humans to feel as though our place in the universe is justified.
While I hate to be the smiley faced balloon at the puppy play pen, exhausting you with positivity and love, I have to say I’m looking forward to 2014 – Hyper Light Drifter, Dark Souls II, next-gen games that actually feel next-gen – there are great things to come.
As usual, what do you guys think? Leave some comments below so my mum can be proud of me.