weekend recap: holiday 2011

Here’s hoping you all had a wonderful, loot-filled holiday season.  I certainly did.

Lots to cover today, so let’s get to it:

1.  I finished the main story in Skyrim – almost by accident, similar to what happened at the end of Fallout 3 –  and I think I need a little time away from it.  Certainly I need to wait until a new patch comes out, because a whole slew of my side quests are bugged, and the problems they’re causing are rather serious.  For example:

  • There’s a civil war-related quest where one of the Jarls gave me an axe to give to another Jarl.  Problem is, there’s no dialogue option when I talk to that other Jarl to give him the axe; furthermore, the axe is heavy, and because it’s a quest item I can’t drop it.
  • There’s another quest where I need to retrieve a Forsworn heart in order to concoct some sort of recipe, and I need to kill a specific Forsworn dude in order to get it.  I killed the dude.  I looted him.  I didn’t get the heart.  His corpse is now listed as “empty.”  There’s a gaping hole in his chest, implying that I’ve already taken it.

As much as I’ve enjoyed my time with the game, there’s a reason why I couldn’t put it at #1 in my GOTY post.  Bugged quests are a pretty serious offense – especially since they’re still there, after 2 significant patches have already come out.

2.  I’ve hardly touched The Old Republic since I bought it, but that’s not the game’s fault – it’s my wife’s, as she is a full-blown addict.  She’s gotten her Jedi to (at least) level 10 – she crafted a light saber, acquired a companion and made it off the first planet, if that means anything.  It’s gotten to the point where it’s useless for her to ask me any questions, because at this point she knows more about how the game works than I do.  I’m thinking about running an interview with her, actually, since she’s a prime example of the audience that Bioware was hoping to reach – that of the hard-core Star Wars nerd who doesn’t play games.  This is my wife’s first real game-playing experience, actually – I mean, she’s played DS puzzle games on airplanes and she’s played Rock Band and You Don’t Know Jack, but she’s never actually said “I’m going to play my game now – see you in a few hours” and then strapped in and just straight-up disappeared for an entire afternoon/evening.  She’s never binged, I guess you could say.  But she played 2 or 3 marathon sessions this weekend, and last night she had some Star Wars dreams, which means the addiction is in full effect.  It’s a shame that her laptop doesn’t have a graphics card, too; there’s only one computer in the house that can run it, and it’s mine, and so we can’t play together.

3.  My wife got me a really nice pair of wireless, 7.1 surround headphones for Christmas.  This is great for everyone involved – it means I’m not keeping the house up late at night, and it also means that I get to truly experience the audio side of games for the first time.  As such, I kinda raided my library, wanting to hear the ambient soundscapes in Red Dead Redemption, the ferocious engine roars of Forza 4, and Cave Johnson’s cantankerous baritone in Portal 2.  But ultimately, I spent the most amount of time playing Rayman Origins (which my dad got me for Christmas).  I’d rented it previously and loved it, but I was so focused on Skyrim that I never really gave it proper attention.  And honestly, that game’s got one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard, and the headphones truly give it justice.  (This Kotaku feature is an excellent primer – correctly noting the brilliance of the Sea of Serendipity music, and “Lum’s Dream” in particular – and it should be noted I found and downloaded the official soundtrack this morning – for free, no less.  Do a google search and you’ll turn something up.)

4.  I should remember to start my 2012 GOTY post with a category called “The Best Reason to Wait Until January Before Starting a GOTY Post.”  For one thing, I’d be able to talk about The Old Republic at least a little bit, and I’d also be able to correct a glaring hole – that of Battlefield 3.  One of my oldest and best friends bought an Xbox360 last week, and he’d asked me what to get – he thought about picking up Modern Warfare 3, and I said “no no no, if you want to play that sort of game online, you should get BF3.”  And then I felt like a hypocrite, since I hadn’t yet bought it (and hadn’t yet planned on playing it, actually).  Anyway, I bought it, but none of my BF3-playing buddies were online, so I didn’t end up playing very much.  I gave the single-player a whirl, mostly just to learn the control scheme, but I don’t plan on sinking too much time into it – the general consensus is that the single-player campaign is pretty bad, whereas the multiplayer is the best thing going right now.  As I’m not really an online-shooter kind of guy, I’m not expecting to have that great a time, but certainly playing co-op with friends is always fun for a little while, at least.

5.  Finally, I decided to clean up some side missions in Saints Row the Third.  That game’s post-story world isn’t really all that compelling, but it’s still fun in limited doses, and some of the side stuff is fun in and of itself.  I’m not sure I’m ever going to 100% it, as I hate the Snatch missions (and some of the Mayhem missions are fucking impossible), but I’m certainly down for leveling up my dude and making him impervious to everything.

The Old Republic – the first hour

I had a plan.  And like most of my plans, it fell apart.

The plan was that I wasn’t going to even think about Star Wars: The Old Republic until at least a month had passed after launch.  That would accomplish several things at once:

  • It would let me finish Skyrim
  • It would give Bioware time to work out the launch bugs, since MMOs almost never launch in a working state
  • It would also give Bioware enough time to add more servers and reduce the queue hassles
  • A month would be enough time for the community to form a general consensus as to whether it was a worthwhile experience


Well, wouldn’t you know – a whole bunch of podcasts came out on Tuesday talking about TOR, and the general critical consensus was that it was actually pretty good, even according to people who were not big Star Wars fans.  And it’s pretty obvious at this point that I am a consumer whore, and so guess what.

The installation was around 10gb, so while I bought the thing on Tuesday evening, I didn’t get a chance to play until last night (Wednesday).

I only played for about an hour or so.  I’m still not entirely sure how I’m ultimately going to roll, so I figured I’d roll a bunch of different characters and see what sticks.   Because my general inclination when playing a morally-guided RPG is to at least start out as a nice melee fighter, I started as a Jedi Knight.  But I’m also really interested in checking out the Smuggler class… and of course I’m interested in seeing what the Sith side is like.

Anyway.  As I said above, I am currently a level 3 Jedi Knight (named Hermano) on the Whitebeam Run server.  The server was lightly populated and I had absolutely no problem at all logging on and getting down to business.

First impression:  it felt very familiar.  Definitely takes a lot of cues from World of Warcraft, and why not.  It looks quite good – my PC is somewhat powerful and I’m running it on generally high settings, and I must say I’m impressed.  Didn’t run into any lag, and for the most part it plays quite smoothly.  I did get stuck in level geometry a few times, but there is a “Stuck?” button and that did help – although the first time I got stuck, it warped me into an area that was filled with level 10 enemies, and I was barely level 2 at the time, and it was all I could do to run like hell back to the starting area.  Good news, though: I learned what the death penalty is like!  And the death penalty isn’t all that bad.  Quite forgiving actually; instead of endless corpse runs, like in WoW, you can choose to respawn after a few seconds at the nearest safe point, or wait around 15-20 seconds and respawn exactly where you died.

I’m hearing from the critics that the game is very solo-friendly, which in my case is great.  I’m very much a solo kind of guy in general, and that certainly made my first days in WoW a pretty difficult slog – especially since I, as an MMO noob, had no idea what being a “tank” meant except that everyone told me I was doing it wrong.  I’ve nothing against groups, and hopefully, when I settle on the character I want to stay with, I’ll eventually find some cool people to play with.

Are you playing it?  What do you think?

The Year In Games – 2011

I know I’m prone to excessive hyperbole on occasion, but I really did think that 2011 would go down as one of the best years of all time.  Last December, I did my usual Lust List and my predicted top 5 looked like a Murderer’s Row of kick-ass:

  • Uncharted 3
  • Portal 2
  • Skyrim
  • Batman
  • Mass Effect 3

Now, as it happens, that Top 5 isn’t totally off the mark.  While it’s true that Mass Effect 3 ended up moving to 2012, those other 4 wound up in my Top 10.  That being said, when I look over the year now, I think it’s clear that this was not the mega-fantastic year that I thought it’d be.  Truth is, we’re near the end of this console cycle, and so developers are reluctant to do anything terribly risky.  (Exhibit A – 8 of my Top 10 games are sequels.)  Graphics have improved, certainly, but there’s only so much more that developers can do in that regard.   Frankly, I spent far more time whining this year about how nothing was coming out than I did praising all the good stuff that I was enjoying.  And I developed shooter fatigue in a big, big way.  Still, all things being equal, this was a pretty solid year.  The big blockbusters delivered, more or less, and pretty much everything I played this year had something worth experiencing.

As for the nitty gritty:

I used to start these year-end recaps with a count of all the games I played.   Last year that count went a bit askew, because I’d included iPhone games in the total.  Well, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that despite my OCD tendencies when it comes to keeping track of this stuff, I kinda went a little bananas with iPhone games this year.  And I should also say that Steam killed me this year; I bought way too many games for my PC because of rampant Steam sales, and I hardly played any of them.  (Furthermore, a lot of those Steam games were games I’d already played on consoles.  I am a whore.)

So I think it’s more accurate to look at the games that I actually sat down and played, like, for real.  This isn’t to discount the iPhone as a platform, though.  In fact, fuck it – let’s just get to the iPhone section.

The biggest thing I came away with, when reviewing 2011, is that I clearly do not have any need for a 3DS or a Vita.  I am done with Mario and Zelda, for one thing, and there’s no indication that Nintendo is interested in moving beyond their core IP, ever.  And anyone who bought a 3DS in its current form is a sucker, regardless of the insane price cut Nintendo was forced to apply; everyone knows that v.2 is coming next year with a 2nd analog stick.  (Is there any compelling software yet, though?  That doesn’t have Zelda or Mario in the title, I mean?  No?  OK.)  The Vita is a bit more intriguing, certainly, but since it isn’t a phone or a tablet, it’s 100% dependent on killer software, and I just don’t know if the killer software will ever show up – it certainly didn’t for the PSP.

Meanwhile, the iPhone continues to be the coolest gadget I’ve ever owned, and I am totally OK with it being my handheld gaming device.  I’ve grown accustomed to being able to listen to music or podcasts while I mess around with a game.  And I’ve gotten really accustomed to paying $1-3 for an engrossing experience, and splurging for Infinity Blade 2 at, like, $7 is worth it.  The fact that I’ve currently got a nice-looking, playable port of GTA3 in my pocket is awesome.

So, yeah, OK, let’s do my iPhone GAME OF THE YEAR:  I am still obsessed with Tiny Tower, as it is a remarkable outlet for my aforementioned OCD tendencies, but the game that I enjoyed the most is probably Jetpack Joyride, the best iteration of the popular “non-stop runner genre” on the iOS platform.   (Surely there’s a better name for it than that?)  The objective is still, generally, to keep moving while avoiding obstacles, but there are also numerous sub-objectives that constantly shift how you play – whether it’s high-fiving scientists, or rubbing your head on the ceiling, or reaching a certain distance without picking up any coins.  It’s got a great sense of humor and whimsy, and Halfbrick has been great about providing a steady stream of updates to keep the game fresh.

Honorable Mention:

  • Sword & Sworcery
  • Quarrel
  • Slam Dunk King
  • Tiny Tower
  • Infinity Blade 2

OK, as for the consoles.  I played around 55 games or so, spread around the Xbox360, PS3 and PC.   (As noted above, I bought a lot of games through Steam’s numerous sales, but I’d either (a) already played them on consoles, or (b) didn’t really spend more than 30 seconds with them, and so I’m not really counting those.)

I “finished” 22 games this year, although this list is in no particular order:

  1. ICO
  2. Portal 2
  3. L.A. Noire
  4. Batman Arkham City
  5. Deus Ex: HR
  6. Mortal Kombat
  7. Stacking
  8. Bastion
  9. Dead Space 2
  10. Bulletstorm
  11. Dragon Age 2
  12. Gears of War 3
  13. Uncharted 3
  14. Modern Warfare 3
  15. Little Big Planet 2
  16. LEGO Pirates of the Carribbean
  17. Resistance 3
  18. Rage
  19. Killzone 3
  20. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
  21. Infamous 2
  22. LOTR: War in the North

GAMERSCORE:  I started 2011 at 64607.  I will most likely finish it at around 77200, depending on how Achievement-hungry I get in Skyrim.   Speaking of Achievements:

FAVORITE ACHIEVEMENT:  This is silly, but I have to give this to Rock Band 3, “Well Connected.”  All I did was link my virtual band to the Harmonix website, which netted me 6 points; more importantly, it got my total Achievement score back to 0s and 5s.  This had been driving me crazy for years, people.  I’ve stopped being so insane about chasing Achievements, but it’s very, very nice to have round numbers in my life again.  And speaking of numbers:

BEST GAME WITH A 3 IN THE TITLE:  (Apologies to Tim Rogers and this Kotaku feature.)  Certainly didn’t think this is the way it would go down at the beginning of the year, but I have to give it to Saints Row the Third, and it’s not even all that close, surprisingly enough.  I’ll have more to say about Saints Row a little later on, but for now it’s fair to say that this franchise should be Exhibit A when it comes to the right way to develop sequels.  Each game has been markedly better than the last, while still keeping the series’ roots intact.  And considering what the “roots” of this series are – i.e., being as completely insane as possible – it’s a pretty remarkable accomplishment.

Honorable Mention:

  • Uncharted 3
  • Dirt 3
  • Gears of War 3
  • Modern Warfare 3
  • Killzone 3
  • Resistance 3
  • Serious Sam 3

RANDOM OBSESSION:  I got fiercely addicted to Plants v. Zombies over the summer, and I played it on pretty much every platform it’s available for.  No idea why, actually – that game is (1) old, and (2) stresses me out.

DID NOT FINISH, WOULD LIKE TO FINISH SOMEDAY:  There’s no excuse for me not having finished Trenched / Iron Brigade.  I was having a blast with that when it came out – some of the most fun co-op I’ve ever had.

Honorable Mention:

  • Driver: SF
  • Yakuza 4
  • Serious Sam 3

DID NOT FINISH, COULDN’T GET INTO (BUT STILL RESPECT):   Quite a few of these, actually, but the winner is The Witcher 2.  Enough people gushed about this to make me feel guilty for giving up on it.  I tried it both pre- and post-patch, and while I appreciated the patch’s new tutorial, I still had a hard time getting sucked in.  It’s absolutely gorgeous and I can see why people love it, though.)   I also really feel bad about not getting into Dark Souls, and every time Amazon’s had it on sale lately (which is a lot), I keep thinking about splurging for it.

Honorable Mention:

  • Dead Island
  • Dark Souls
  • Shadows of the Damned

DID NOT FINISH, DO NOT WANT TO FINISH:  The winner of this category immediately follows the runners-up.

  • Crysis 2
  • Alice: Madness Returns
  • Burnout: Crash

WORST GAME / MOST DISAPPOINTING GAME:   I feel bad just admitting that I bought it, frankly.  But I was home, sick, and Duke Nukem Forever had finally launched on Steam, and in my delirious state I went against my better judgment (and all the advance reviews).   I had been a huge Duke 3D fan back in the day, and ultimately that won out.  What a huge piece of shit this turned out to be.  Let’s move on.

THE 5-MINUTES-OR-LESS ALL-STARS:  You know how you can just tell that a game isn’t for you, right from the beginning?  Yeah, there were a few of those.

  • Shift 2 Unleashed
  • Dungeon Siege 3
  • Metal Gear Solid HD.  I’m just not sure I’m ever going to get what’s so great about this franchise.


  • NBA2K12
  • Need for Speed: The Run
  • Battlefield 3
  • Zelda
  • Minecraft
  • Catherine
  • Halo Anniversary
  • Once Upon a Monster
  • Nintendo 3DS

OK, let’s move on to the good stuff.

BEST NEW IP:  There really wasn’t much to choose from, actually, which is sad.  That being said, while it had its fair share of problems, I really enjoyed L.A. Noire.  That facial tech is pretty extraordinary, and Team Bondi did a pretty spectacular job at recreating post-war Los Angeles.  (It’s a shame that there wasn’t all that much to do in it, but it was really nice to explore just the same.)  I think Rockstar could clean it up a bit and put out one hell of a sequel, the way they did with Red Dead Redemption.

Honorable Mention:

  • Bastion
  • Bulletstorm
  • Rage
  • Dead Island

BEST SOUNDTRACK:  I don’t know if it’s because I’m a composer and am therefore inherently snobby, but I generally don’t really pay that much attention to soundtracks – be it game or movie or what-have-you.  There’s only been two times where I’ve seen a movie and needed the soundtrack as soon as I walked out of the theater (Rushmore and Ocean’s 11), and it’s never happened for a game.  That is, until this year.  Surprisingly enough, the game in question is an iPhone game.  I never did end up finishing Sword & Sworcery, but I fell in love with the soundtrack immediately, and bought it on iTunes (where it actually costs more than the game, I think – and it’s worth every penny).

Honorable Mention:

  • Rayman Origins
  • L.A. Noire

BEST TREND:  This isn’t necessarily a 2012 thing, but we saw lots of HD remakes of classic games, and I’m all for it.

BEST HD REMAKE:  Alternately, this is the Most Anticipated HD Remake:  Ico/Shadow of the Colossus.  And I haven’t even finished Shadow yet!  That said, it was really nice to finally experience some of the most talked-about games ever made.  Definitely on board for The Last Guardian now.

Honorable Mention:

  • Beyond Good & Evil HD
  • Metal Gear Solid HD

GAMES I’D LIKE TO SEE GET THE HD REMAKE TREATMENT:  I know this isn’t strictly a 2011 category, but while we’re on the topic, a boy can dream:

  • Skies of Arcadia
  • Grim Fandango
  • Rayman 2
  • Crash Bandicoot 1-3 / Crash Team Racing

GAMES THAT ARE GETTING THE HD REMAKE TREATMENT IN 2012 (that I’m aware of, and that I’m totally psyched about):

  • Tony Hawk Pro Skater (sort of)
  • Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee / Exoddus  (judging from the Stranger’s Wrath screenshots, these games should look fantastic)
  • Rayman 3
  • Final Fantasy X

MOST-PLAYED 2010 GAME:  Pinball FX2, whose steady stream of quality DLC kept it in my rotation for pretty much the whole year.

MOST FORGETTABLE:  This was a pretty dismal year in terms of quality driving games, and so I give this out to both  Motorstorm Apocalypse and Test Drive Unlimited 2, both of which were also quite terrible.

MOST OVERLOOKED:  I’d never played the first two Resistance games, but I ended up trying Resistance 3, and it was really, really good.  Certainly one of the best weapon arsenals I’ve ever messed around with, and the leveling up system was smart and well-implemented – it encouraged you to play with everything.  (Unlike Gears of War 3, where I used the Lancer from start to finish.)

MOST OVERRATED:  I’m not sure there’s a game that came out this year that was truly “overrated”, as I tended to agree with the general critical reception of any particular game.  If I had to award this to anything, I’d probably give it to Crysis 2, which got so incredibly stupid towards the end that I started getting angry.  It featured some of the worst  dialogue I’ve ever heard, and in service of a nonsensical story.  It looked great, sure, but there’s only so much stupid I can take.  I know that creating an engaging narrative is not necessarily priority #1 in today’s games, but this was just ridiculous.

THE “SACRED 2” AWARD FOR MOST TIME SPENT PLAYING A GAME THAT I ACTIVELY DISLIKED:  I didn’t hate it the way I hated Sacred 2, but I only played Lord of the Rings: War In the North to completion because I was home sick for two days with nothing to do.  And boy, that’s a lot of time that I’m never going to get back.

THE BEST ARGUMENT BOTH FOR / AGAINST USING HEAVY DRUGS DURING THE CREATIVE PROCESS:  The Japanese are weird.  And Shadows of the Damned is fucking weird.  And I don’t do drugs anymore, and so I’m not sure I’m ever going to understand what all the fuss was about.  Still, it’s hard to deny that there was a pretty fierce vision behind this one.

BEST IMPLEMENTATION OF A “SEASON PASS”:  The Season Pass is a somewhat controversial topic these days, but when it’s done right, it’s a thing of beauty.  The Season Pass attached to L.A. Noire was worth every penny; it kept me engaged in that game for months after its release.  Sure, it felt like the cases were “deleted scenes” from the game proper, but it was still fun to play.

BEST SYNERGY BETWEEN WRITER, PERFORMER AND ANIMATOR:  This is a complicated way of saying that while Stephen Merchant’s performance as Wheatley in Portal 2 was perhaps the greatest voice performance I’ve ever heard in a game, credit must also go to the incredible dialogue and the remarkably humanizing animation, considering that Wheatley is a talking sphere.  Apologies to the cast and crew of Uncharted 3, but holy shit.

BEST GRAPHICS:  If I’m being honest, there was a lot more to Rage than a killer graphics engine; it did fall apart in the end, but for the most part it was a really enjoyable experience.  But WOWEE ZOWEE, I didn’t know my Xbox could look that good.   (As noted above, I didn’t play Battlefield 3, so, you know.)

Honorable Mention:

  • Uncharted 3
  • Skyrim (kinda)
  • Rayman Origins

I WISH I DIDN’T SUCK AT FIGHTING GAMES:  I did eventually finish Mortal Kombat, but only on the lowest difficulty setting.  Clearly, that’s one of the most complete packages ever released, and if you’re a fan of the franchise, you probably already know that.

DEVELOPER OF THE YEAR:  You know how happy it makes me to give this award to DoubleFine?  So happy.  It looks like they’ve finally found their niche, with these delightful downloadable titles.  2010’s Costume Quest, Stacking and Trenched – er, Iron Brigade – were all wildly different from each other, and all had a ton of charm and were fun as hell to play.  All were memorable, distinctive, and unique.  And I would’ve played the Sesame Street game if I had a kid.  (Still might, eventually.)

OK, let’s do this.

GAME OF THE YEAR, Honorable Mentions.

  • You Don’t Know Jack
  • Dragon Age 2
  • Resistance 3
  • Killzone 3
  • Little Big Planet 2
  • Dead Space 2

10.  Bulletstorm.  I said before that I experienced some serious shooter fatigue this year.  That certainly wasn’t Bulletstorm’s fault, which did every goddamned thing it could do to stay interesting and distinctive.  And colorful!  Who knew that it was still possible to have colors other than brown and gray in a shooter!

9.  Gears of War 3.  It’s the best Gears game yet, despite that ridiculous football fantasy sequence.  I didn’t spend enough time with the online stuff as I suppose I should’ve, but the end of the year sorta got away with me.

8.  Deus Ex: Human Revolution.  I had such low expectations for this, and I can’t tell you how happy I was to see that this wasn’t a total piece of shit.  Indeed, it totally wiped away the sour taste that was still lingering after all this time from Deus Ex 2.  Even though the bosses were kinda shitty, and even though the ending was only rivaled by Rage in terms of least amount of effort applied, this was a great game, and I do plan on playing it again eventually.

7.  Uncharted 3.  OK, the combat grew tedious and tiresome.  OK, the “story” was just something they patched up after they came up with their setpieces.  OK, the spiders didn’t make any sense.   Still, the things that this game does right, it does better than anyone else.  I still prefer Uncharted 2, but this was not too shabby.

6.  Bastion.  Seems like every year there’s an XBLA darling that makes an appearance on my list, and Bastion is a worthy entrant.  Remarkable music, gorgeous art direction, simple and intuitive gameplay, and a compelling story.

5.  L.A. Noire.  Everything I said earlier applies here.  But I was also pleased to see that they implemented Red Dead’s combat system (to the extent they could), which means that it’ll most likely appear in GTA5, which is good news for everybody.

4. Batman: Arkham City.  What was nice about the first game was that it left me wanting more.  Arkham City gave me so much more that I felt a little overstuffed, frankly.  But that’s hardly enough reason to complain.  It’s still the best melee combat system in the business.  The side missions were a great diversion.  And I was totally hooked by the story – and that ending!

3.  Saints Row The Third.  You can’t talk about Saints Row without talking about GTA, but it’s really nice to see that Saints Row has truly embraced its own thing.  The game is completely insane, and it’s also really well made.  I wouldn’t mind seeing GTA borrow some of its innovations – like the new GPS system, which keeps my eyes focused ahead instead of in the corner, trying to make sense of a tiny map.  It’s not an open world – it’s a sandbox, through and through, and they give you so many toys to play with that they’re almost daring you to get bored.

2.  Skyrim.  According to my profile at raptr.com, I’m 55 hours in.  Some of that is from extended pauses, but still – that’s definitely the most I’ve spent with any game this year.  And I only hit level 30 last night.  There is SO MUCH MORE TO DO.  I could see this game taking me straight through to February.

1.  Portal 2.  This is my friend (and sometime SFTC contributor) Gred, who says it better than I ever could:

When I think about the “best” games of the generation, the thing about Portal (and Portal 2) that I keep coming back to is that I cannot honestly think of a way the games could be better, that they could execute better on what they are trying to do.  Furthermore, they are doing plenty of new and ambitious stuff.  So it’s not simply a matter of executing a genre game perfectly, it’s a matter of inventing a genre, and then executing it perfectly.

Skyrim is excellent.  But ultimately I feel like its existence was inevitable.  It is the living D&D video game you pictured as a kid in the far-off future.  It is a bigger and better Oblivion.  It is still unique, because no one has dared to try this on anything approaching the scale Bethesda has tackled here.  But Bethesda or not, there would have been a Skyrimish game eventually.  Maybe not this generation, maybe not this good, but its newness derives mostly from its insane scope (including its wonderfully deep ecosystem and all its component moving parts).  True, that lends itself to insanely varied and complex gameplay experiences, while Portal will play much the same for everyone.  But the existence of Portal, to me, is a gift in a way that the existence of Skyrim, while very, very welcome, was a matter of time.

Thanks for reading, everybody.

The 2012 Lust List

I’m slowly plugging away on my own GOTY list, which I’d like to think will be out by the end of this week.  In the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with looking ahead to what 2012 will bring.  

I came into 2011 with high hopes that it might be one of the greatest years in gaming history.  I’m not entirely sure that ended up being the case (and we’ll get to that later), but 2011 certainly offered up a lot of top-shelf quality.

2012, on the other hand, doesn’t quite seem to be as chock-full of jaw-droppers as 2011 did.  I can’t help thinking that this is because the publishers and developers are reluctant to throw out new IP this close to the beginning of a new console cycle (as all rumors currently have the new Xbox (and presumably the new PlayStation) coming out in 2013-14).  That being said, the good stuff looks awfully good.

The GOTY Front-Runners.  This assumes, of course, that Diablo 3 and GTA5 actually come out in 2012; no release dates have been given, or even hinted at.

  • Mass Effect 3
  • Diablo 3
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • GTA 5

The Must-Plays.  

  • Torchlight 2
  • The Last Guardian
  • SSX
  • Darksiders 2
  • Max Payne 3
  • Kingdoms of Amalur
  • Tomb Raider
  • Prey 2
  • Borderlands 2
  • the Tony Hawk HD thing

The Definite Rentals:

  • Dragon’s Dogma
  • Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2
  • Twisted Metal
  • Darkness 2
  • Asura’s Wrath
  • Ninja Gaiden 3
  • Metro: Last Light
  • Witcher 2 (360)
  • Far Cry 3
  • South Park RPG

Keeping Fingers Crossed:

  • XCOM
  • Half Life 3

UPDATE:  Can’t believe I forgot my 2 downloadable darlings:

  • Fez
  • Journey
%d bloggers like this: