When the new year comes around, people all over the Internet would usually give their own top ten list of whatever came out during the outgoing year, and I guess I’m no different. I do like to quantify and enumerate my subjective experiences, and video games is my main thing right now. I had a lot of fun with all of these games and I would like to share my experiences to you, so here are my top ten games for the year 2012.
This list is limited to video games released in 2012 that I’ve played in the same year.
10. Borderlands 2
The prequel was my number one game for 2009, and I still love the gameplay that Borderlands 2 has. Perhaps the only reason why it’s only at number ten is because it feels sophomoric to me, so I didn’t feel the same kind of wonderment that I felt for the first one. Another reason why I loved the first game is because of the Berserker, and the Gunzerker doesn’t really feel the same.
I would impersonate Rambo while I play this game, and it’s quite fun while I’m mowing down cannon fodder with nigh infinite ammo. However, it still wasn’t as fun as playing Anvil of Crom while punching enemies in the face in the first Borderlands. Mind you, that was after I got the character build down that lets me go into berserk mode again and again during a fight.
Perhaps what does make this game good for me is that it’s Borderlands in more varied settings, which is definitely refreshing. The new classes aren’t that bad at all, it’s just about getting the hang of the new ways of playing the game.
9. Far Cry 3
Hunting tigers and bears with a flamethrower in an age when Greenpeace and PETA rule the hipster consciousness of the world while not being another deer hunting simulator is something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. The fact that you can ride vehicles haphazardly to get one place from another in the island is pretty cool too. To me, that feels less like Grand Theft Auto and more like that old game Command & Conquer: Renegade, wherein I would usually just buy a buggy and rush all the way to the enemy static defenses and C4 the hell out of them.
Some say that it’s Skyrim with guns, and maybe they’re right, not that it’s a bad thing at all. I’ve played Far Cry 2 before, and I do like its gameplay mechanics and setting, despite the sea of brown that makes me want to check my underwear every five minutes to see if I defecated inadvertently in my seat. Also, the story of a carefree tourist who is then forced to become a battle-hardened warrior is something I have personal inclinations to.
This little game is something I took a liking to due to both its aesthetics and its difficulty. Transcripted is basically a combination of match-three and bullet hell shooter, which is like a gaming version of tapping your head while rubbing your belly. The cool gameplay mechanics are coupled with the visuals, which makes use of bright colors and bloom lighting, which I’m an absolute sucker for.
Dynamic puzzle games have become casual gaming favorites, combining cerebral puzzle solving with time pressure to stretch the player’s pattern recognition and eye-hand coordination to its limits. As beautiful as a game like Transcripted looks, it can be quite brutal for the uninitiated. I like that kind of contrast in a game.
7. Torchlight II
Well, Diablo III was a bit of a disappointment, even though I still play it every now and then just for kicks. Torchlight II is almost four times less the price of Diablo III, but over four times the fun. This is placed higher than FarCry 3 because of that fun-to-price ratio. The first game had been the little flicker of light that kept isometric RPGs alive in this age. While Diablo III was set to do the same, it turned out that Torchlight II and other similar games are to pick up the pieces.
This game had no Error 37, to say the least. Instead of three, it now has four character classes, each with three skill trees to play with. The gameplay is a combination of established formulae and new concepts that make this game an action RPG showcase. I bought the bundle pack on Steam with friends, so I got this game for $15, plus a free copy of Torchlight 1, so it was pretty much a steal.
6. Max Payne 3
People were somewhat disappointed with how this third installment of the noir action game that changed my life as a 14-year-old nerd had turned out, and I do see why. However, like a lot of them, I found myself playing it again for kicks, even if it has lost that classic noir touch and the cool narrated graphic novels, which I really liked in the first two games since I like comic books.
This game does have its replay value, despite how different it was from the rest of the series. As for story, it’s quite a curveball from the first two games, but it does give Max Payne the closure he needed. It was kind of understandable that he’d leave the police force and lend his services to rich families overseas like a lot of other private security contractors, so it wasn’t too unbelievable.
As for gameplay, it reminds me a bit of Stranglehold. You get to slide over tables and other environmental elements, but with a bit more polish and smoothness. This game basically takes the old Max Payne formula and shines it up, making the gameplay even more dynamic that it already was. While this still seems lacking for a lot of people due to the nature of action gameplay, I liked the fact that it’s all about mowing down baddies. We do need games that are just about shooting stuff up, no matter how refined our tastes may be.
Playing as a bald Max Payne killing bad guys left and right is pretty sweet too.
5. Darksiders II
I’m not as big of a hack-n-slash fan as I thought I would be, especially with games like Devil May Cry and the Prince of Persia ’08, both of which I liked for the aesthetics and the characters. Perhaps what got me to like Darksiders II is the main character Death, who is portrayed as neither too dark nor exaggerated in this game. The fact that he was voiced by Michael Wincott doesn’t hurt either. The soundtrack is also pretty good, although I prefer the remixed version by DJ Crinkles.
The gameplay mechanics are blended quite nicely in Darksiders II, and you can get good at this game and make it look like a dance of violence and flying body parts. This ties in well with the skills you use in combat and the items that you can move around in the inventory. Nothing is either overemphasized nor ignored, which is something that a lot of other hack-n-slash titles tend to show. Also, riding your horse in this game looks so damn cool.
The visuals, the story, and the narrative progression of this game is beyond what most people, especially of this generation, have ever experienced in gaming. It still does have ample gameplay and is not just some other adventure game that only has you clicking things on the screen. It’s neither just an interactive story nor a script put together overnight, but a sublime blend of storytelling and gameplay rarely seen in a market saturated with mediocre fare.
The only reason why this isn’t in the number one spot is because it’s a pretty short game and that the magic of that first playthrough is never as strong with the succeeding ones. But in terms of quality, this game is providing a very strong case for video games as art.
I mainly liked this game for how it gives you options to either be a Victorian ninja or a steampunk Jason Bourne. Aside from the fact that it has roughly the same stealth mechanics as Deus Ex and Thief (both are my personal favorites), the skills you can use here lets you do combo kills, which is also something that made me like Bulletstorm back in 2011.
The trailers were pretty cool too, so I was excited when it came out. This game is one of those singleplayer fares that I’ll be replaying from time to time for years to come. My suggestion for those who want to play this is to speedrun it first, then go for a full stealth playthrough on the second run.
The thing about stealth games that makes them less fun is both being too cautious while sneaking around and having to quick load all the time. It’s that balance between carefulness and bravery that makes stealth gameplay fun, like how it was when Deus Ex: Human Revolution first came out.
2. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
This game brings hope to those who still value solid gameplay that there are developers out there who are not just putting out more cash cows. Most people who understand what’s going on in the video game industry would agree that not everyone can pull off a game like this nowadays, but this is exactly what Firaxis Games is known for. Civilization fans would definitely understand that.
I’m a big fan of turn-based tactics gameplay, and this title breathes new life into the genre for the 2010’s. I’ve replayed games like Front Mission 3 in the past, and it seems like I’ll be replaying this game for years to come. Perhaps what makes this game distinct is how it has the same mechanic as Fire Emblem, wherein soldiers who die in battle stay dead for the rest of the campaign. That means you have to get good in order to keep everyone alive, and every death is a complete waste.
1. FTL: Faster Than Light
This game is absolutely fantastic. I really love lightweight games, and this is just a bit over 150 megabytes. This game reminds me of a similar, albeit more rudimentary-looking game called Hyper WARP for the iOS. It had the same premise of you taking control of a ship and traveling through space, skipping from star system to star system, battling hostile ships in your way, as well as earning money to acquire equipment, upgrades, and crew. It’s also a lot like Freelancer, but without the 3D pew-pew action. You still get to shoot laser beams at enemy ships though, but from a top-down perspective.
You must fight off pirates and get stronger weapons and equipment to prepare for the final confrontation with the rebel fleet. While the random encounters is definitely random and does contribute to a luck factor in playing a complete run, knowledge of the game holds a bigger key to victory. This is definitely a game that you’ll play multiple times over, unlocking ships and familiarizing yourself with the lore and the equipment you can acquire. If you die, then you have to play a new game, wherein you can pick a new ship that you may have unlocked, which then gives a different gameplay experience. This and the random encounters mean that no two playthroughs are exactly the same.
Despite its simple-looking exterior, FTL is a rather complex game that I would definitely recommend to gamers everywhere. I’m a big fan of games that reinvent the Roguelike. While most of the current generation of gamers wouldn’t really appreciate reading text for narrative progression like I would, the rest of the gameplay mechanics should earn it younger fans and even introduce them to the wonderful world of old school RPGs. Even though this is more of a real time strategy title, the role-playing elements are there as well.