Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Games of 2012, Runners Up

Here's the first of the last batch before I am finally done with Game of the Year stuff (aside from "Games that Weren't my Games" which I might not do right away because good god) detailing the three games that were not number one on my Game of the Year list.  This was, of course, the hardest part, and I'm sure that'll get across in the way I talk about the games individually since, in most cases, I will be trying to convince myself of why I -didn't- pick it as my Number One, but liked it so much that it was that close.  It's weird to say that any of these games, hell even the last three games before this, could have just as easily been my number one pick.  They're all special and wonderful in their own ways, so it was just a matter of trying to pick the one that I'm going to remember the most down the road.  In that, I think I figured it out quite well, but even still, it's a hard call.

4.  LittleBitPlanet PS Vita

It's no secret that I am a man who enjoys LittleBigPlanet in any and all facets, be they the regular Sidescroller ones or even Kart Racers, so that the iteration that happened to appear on what is rapidly becoming my favorite system ever is one of my most favorite games of the year is absolutely no surprise.  It is probably the antithesis of a surprise, and I am imagining everyone reading this was probably just awaiting the occasion where it would finally come up in numbered form.  That it is in the number 4 position is mostly a surprise to myself, but it's mostly because I didn't spend as much time with LBPV as I would have liked thanks to my profile getting corrupted right before I was going to make a real, proper level.  Game.  Whatever the term you want to use is.

Of course, that was honestly -my- fault, as I'm fairly certain that I closed the game while it was auto-saving more than a few times and doing that is just asking to have your game messed up.  I'm not holding it against the game, but in the same vein, it made me consider just how much I wanted to do all of that again, like I had done with the first title in the series after losing my save/profile there to a PS3 YLOD.  I love the LittleBigPlanet games, and I love replaying the story levels in them, but I love doing them at my leisure, not having to worry about dragging in some random to grab three score bubbles halfway through a level every other level.  It's fantastic indeed, truly, that LittleBigPlanet Vita can support proper LittleBigPlanet multi-player, it really is.  However, I'm not so much a fan of multi-player in general, so I can't help but cringe at the thought of all those bubbles where I will have to, once again, involve others in what is my game and my fun.  Especially when my time is as limited as it is.

Still, I'll do it eventually.  Not only because of my enjoyment of the franchise, but because the story in LBPV might just be one of the better ones of the entire series.  The levels are rich and charming, the aesthetic is clear with each and every one, and they're just jam-packed with fun that comes with a full appreciation of LBP2's inventory of power-ups as well as the few Vita-specific ones.  For certain items, I found myself replaying levels several, several times over and not once was it ever really a chore.  Sure, sometimes it was because I was just trying very desperately to Ace a level and it was so very difficult, but even then, I was never really deterred.  Cautious, sometimes, but never deterred.  I'm not happy that I'll have to do all that over again, but I'm not too fussed either.  My return to LBPV, whenever that is, will be glorious and because I've experienced it before, I know I'll fall in love with it all over again.  It's just clearing the rest of the games in the way so that I may truly enjoy it when I get around to it that is an issue.

3.  Far Cry 3

So, did you guys know that I really like Far Cry 3?  Because I really like Far Cry 3.  I liked it so much that I just couldn't believe it.  As in, I literally could not believe that I liked the game so much and I just knew, I knew there had to be a part where it started to crack, started to fall apart for me, because not doing so was an impossibility.  Unfortunately, I was correct, but even still after seeing some cracks I can't help but marvel at this game.  It went from a relative unknown to something that I had to have when I read a rather glowing review from Chance and there is not a single point that he touches on that I disagree with.  The game is fun incarnate.  You could break off large chunks of the fun Far Cry 3 offers and make an entire other game with it and both of them would still be fun.  Fun, fun fun.

The cracks only started to show when, as Chance said, Vaas left the stage.  Directly thereafter, the larger foe in Hoyt precedes a change in scenery and a change in gameplay, somewhat, as it becomes apparent that the best way to get close to Hoyt is to infiltrate his privateers.  That's not a bad idea in the slightest, except the way that the game executes it is faulty at best.  In order to get a privateer outfit, you have to engage in a forced stealth level where you cannot kill anyone or be seen.  The entire game, you've been honing your craft, your skills for killing and yet now, in the situation where it most makes sense, you cannot make use of that skill in any way for what is absolutely a twenty minute long level if you manage to get through it in a single go.  You will not.  You will not at all.  And you might think, when you get it and look like a Privateer that stealth just got a whole lot easier, right?  You would think that.

You would be wrong.

There's no reason for you to be wrong to the degree that we all are in thinking this, however.  Obviously, direct aggression against a fellow privateer will make it clear to them that you're not one of them.  That's fine.  Anyone who witnesses it will be aware as well.  That is also fine.  However, what is not fine is that, in a mission fairly soon after you get the uniform you have to infiltrate an area with three captains and kill them to try and find some important plans and documents on their persons.  That, in itself, is fine.  It takes place along the side of a mountain, basically, which is important.  The mission area is very vertical.  The problem I have with the whole set-up is that, if I mess up with the privateers at the very bottom of the mountain, Oblivion Guard Syndrome will kick in and every single privateer in the mission zone will know that I am an imposter.  For a game that pays attention to every single other thing with such incredible detail, this is almost deplorable and it was so jarring that I nearly quit the mission in frustration.  In truth, after I cleared it, possibly a few others, I haven't played it, having focused on AssLib and other things these last few days.

Still, it's just a minor speed-bump in the road that Far Cry 3 runs and it's more happenstance than I haven't played it in the last few days than reasoned.  There's just so much enjoyment to be had in Far Cry 3 that I'll be back soon enough and I'll spend entire days within its confines before I wrest my victories from it.  There's still beasts to hunt, still relics and letters to be found and, certainly, plenty of pirates and privateers to be dealt with.  While the looming 'threat' of Vaas is no longer in it for me, meaning no more fun moments like his "Insanity" speech, the fun of the game is still there and I am looking to grab hold of that and enjoy it as the last throes of the game are shown to me.  I know they won't disappoint.

2.  Binary Domain

I expected to like Binary Domain.  I expected to pick it up and enjoy it for what it was, feel a slight swell of pride for Yakuza Studios for really doing something that they wanted to do, expanding their horizons and move on to other games.  I expected it to be fun, yet flawed and be something that I couldn't universally suggest to anyone as a great game to play.

Sometimes, though.  Sometimes what you expect and what you get are not the same thing at all.

I can say, with certainty, that I love Binary Domain.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but the game is just so wonderful to me that I just cannot say anything less of it than that.  For their second attempt, it's a magnificently done third-person shooter, especially so when you consider their first attempt was Yakuza:  Dead Souls.  Given that they nailed the gameplay, which is the only part you should worry about with a Yakuza Studios game, the rest, as they say, is just gravy.  Production values are sky-high considering, and the Voice Acting in the title is fairly fantastic as is the dialogue.  Despite the themes in the game, the moments of humor that are sprinkled throughout are genuinely hilarious.

Honestly, if I had to say that there was anything that the game doesn't do well, it would be boss fights.  It's not even a matter of them being badly designed or anything, it's just that they go on far too long.  Perhaps that was exacerbated by me playing the game on the 'hard' difficulty, but even still, they seemed to drag on forever and ever which became a bit of a problem when I would die at the end of them sometimes, necessitating that I do the entire thing over again.  When the game plays so smoothly, however, it's not even -much- of a complaint there and is more about the time invested than anything.  Even the multi-player has its own charm from what little bit of it that I played.  The 'Invasion' game mode has you and others clearing a small map of 'Scrapheads' as they flood in, giving you only a limited amount of ammo for every five rounds of survival.  The squad I was in, unfortunately, only made it to the 25th round of 50, and it was mostly thanks to a lack of cooperation (limited ammo means take it only when you need it), but it was a blast regardless.

There's not really a whole lot more that I can say to try to impress upon you how much I liked Binary Domain.  What I've said, plus the second-place rank it took should hopefully be all the recommendation you might need.  It's cheap now in the wild, I'm sure, and it's well worth the price you'll pick it up for.  From the fantastically told story (with the usual Japanese weirdness to it), to the solid gameplay, to the absolutely entertaining cast, it's well worth the second place spot in the list, much like the last few games probably are as well for their own high successes.  Still, I think Binary Domain shone just a little brighter all told, and my hope is that a few more people pick up on it somehow, for some reason.  They won't be disappointed.

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