Monday, January 27, 2014

My Games of 2013, Not the Top 10

2013, like 2012 before it, was absolutely packed with games, and the hilarious thing is that 2014 almost seems worse in that regard, at least simply thinking and looking forward at the absolute glut of games we already know that will be releasing this year.  With a backlog miles long already and the knowledge of purchasing games in the future in twos or even threes, it's...daunting at the very least, and almost borders on masochistic, considering there is a real possibility of literally -not- having enough time ever to play these games that I have been and will continue to hoard.  It's not particularly pleasant one, and even though I tell myself "I'll make time for -that- game", it's been -days- since I played Warriors Orochi 3 even though it's literally in my PS3 and ready to be loaded up and played within the span of a minute or two.  Still, I managed to get to at least 22 games in some degree last year (new ones at least), which -does- inspire a little bit of confidence.

As I've mentioned previously, the plan here is to change the format of my GotY stuff to make it a little more fresh and enjoyable for me, but you as well.  Though I suppose you probably do enjoy me having a -lot- to say about every game on my list, but you probably don't enjoy the burn out that becomes evident as I go on and on and on with it.  Which is the part I don't like.  Which is what I'm planning on remedying this year.  For at least this post which will cover games 20-10, possibly the next one as well, covering 9-5 (or maybe even 9-4, leaving 3 and 2 for its own post and 1 for its own, not quite sure on that) and the "Games That Weren't My Games" post, I'm just going to have a staggered format showing the game itself with a paragraph or two next to it.  I'm thinking it'll flow and look pretty nice.

20.  Remember Me

I wanted Remember Me to be so, so much more than it was because it was a cyberpunk game about punching people, two things which we all know that I am all about.  However, I did ultimately find it lacking, even though there were parts of it that I did enjoy, and parts of it that I did genuinely consider to be good in the grand scheme of things.  Not enough things, unfortunately, and they weren't exactly good enough to prop up the bad parts, but I can't say that I was -too- disappointed by the end of it.  Just...mostly so.

Still, that I played 22 or 23 games that would qualify for the list and that Remember Me still made it on, albeit at 20, is ultimately a testament of appreciation to presenting a game with a unique aesthetic, a unique idea and a unique soundtrack.  Had the game tried to carry its lackluster story on the back of yet-another-cover-shooter, it would've been panned far more harshly than it was and rightly so.  At the end of the day, you can at least say that Dontnod tried something different, and they get an A for Effort.

19.  Deadpool

Deadpool is without a doubt the most enjoyable game that I don't really remember a damn bit about playing.  Memorable the game is not, at least in terms of the gameplay and the like.  As an experiment in making a game genuinely hilarious by way of breaking the Fourth Wall as a matter of course and having it be this huge joke that you are actually in on?  It's astounding.  The comedy is such a central core part of the game's basis, and it's a damn good thing that it is and that they put so much effort into it.  I'd suggest that if you're not grinning or chuckling at any point while playing the game, it's purely because the actual gameplay is just getting in the way of you and your laughs.  That didn't happen with me, but then again, I didn't play the game on Hard.

I don't recommend playing the game on Hard.  Unless you really want the trophies or whatnot, I suppose.  I might do it one day because I -did- enjoy Deadpool, but I imagine it'll be an infinitely less enjoyable experience all around.

18.  Guacamelee!

Guacamelee! is the first of quite a few games on my list that I just didn't really get to enjoy nearly as much as other people did.  I liked it - it was a good game, after all - and I definitely had some fun with it, but I didn't form any real attachment to it.  So after I beat it, that was it, I very easily breezed past it to whatever the next game was on my list.  I wasn't entranced by the magical story of a man and a mexican wrestling mask with mystical properties on his journey to destroy the man that killed him (he got better), nor the smooth gameplay that allowed me to piledrive chickens and lunge across the sky with my fist thrust forward, ready to assail anything in my path.  I liked it, I thought it was pretty damn good (definitely Drinkbox's best work), but that's where it ended.  It was simply a good game.  There's nothing wrong with that, obviously, but for me, it just lacked a bit of a spark, I suppose.  My lack of enthusiasm seems to be the minority opinion, however, which is absolutely fine.  I'm happy that people are happy with the game; after all, I was, it just didn't inspire anything greater in me.

17.  God of War:  Ascension

In all reality, that I put God of War:  Ascension above the previous games is a mistake.  While I found enjoyment in Remember Me, Deadpool and Guacamelee! (though not much in the former's case) I actively dislike Ascension based on my rather disappointing romp through a portion of it before I hit a game-breaking bug that prompted me to eject it from my PS3 and not play it again to this point.  I'm not even sure that I'm entertaining the notion of looking to play it again - I'm sure my problem didn't magically get fixed, leaving me with only the option to restart over again which I'm none too happy about.  Which would be fine if I didn't have a major problem with the way Ascension plays, as it is simply....less fun than previous games.  Perhaps it feels a little less fluid, perhaps I simply miss over-powered Kratos, or perhaps I simply hadn't found the 'click' yet - I just didn't enjoy it.

Ascension made it on my list based on pedigree alone and that's really something I shouldn't have done.

16.  Dragon's Crown

Continuing the trend of "Games other people enjoyed far more than I did", Dragon's Crown makes it onto my list far lower than I anticipate it being on many other lists.  I did at least have the foresight to put it above Ascension, however, which is good because I enjoyed Dragon's Crown (and every other game on the list, obviously) but the question comes in as a measurement one.  Dragon's Crown seems to be a game where you enjoy it more the more you play it, sort of like a game of returns or a snowball effect.  At least, that's what I can glean from seeing other people talk about it, saying they've put 100-200+ hours into it and that it's so much fun and only gets better the more you play it.  Which makes sense that there's a fun game at base if it inspires you to put 100-200+ hours into it, but it's something that you have to -get to-.  So if, like me, you just played a very modest 20-30 hours of it, you're not going to walk away with quite the same feeling.

So basically what I'm saying is that I just didn't get enough time to play Dragon's Crown and it's mostly due to the fact that there's a -ton- of games to play this year.  It's a blessing.  And a curse.

15.  Killzone: Mercenary

I don't want to start a whole bunch of these with "other people dug this far more than I did", but it's a hard thing to do when it's very, very true.  I participated in the Open Multiplayer Beta and found it quite fun, as the mechanics are solid and it essentially does a far, far better job of showing what a FPS game on the Vita can be than Resistance: Burning Skies did, however competent that game was in itself.  I don't have enough experience to claim that Mercenary feels like a Killzone game in the palms of your hands, but I believe I've seen others more qualified to state as such, and what I played was good.  It felt like a natural fit, which is no small task (that wasn't a pun, I assure you) and it was highly encouraging for the upcoming Borderlands 2, if nothing else.  Also for the Bioshock game that is still coming out for the Vita because I gotta believe.

There were a few small things that I didn't like, such as not being able to save mid-mission and pick back up at that same spot (instead being forced to do the entire mission over again - one time I found that I saved almost literally at the end of it and I was less than impressed) which was further compounded by the fact that the missions were fairly long, or at least felt that way.  The other would be that it's yet another game that pushed Stealth Gameplay hard as a perk, yet when I'm spotted by one enemy, every single one has a pinpoint accurate knowledge of where I am and I'm suddenly in this intense firefight just because I missed sniping one guy in the head because I don't know, my reticule was right on his head.  Still, it was solid and gorgeous and I'm going to jump back into it one of these days.

14.  Beyond:  Two Souls

Beyond wasn't treated too kindly by the critics - it never was going to, being a David Cage production - but it could have been worse.  That's a statement on the reception and the game itself - it simply could have been worse.  We've all played Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy or at least know of it, and Beyond is leagues above that.  Does it reach the bar that Heavy Rain set?  Not quite, which might sound as a damning statement to those who didn't even enjoy Heavy Rain, but this type of game is clearly not for them, as snobby as that sounds.  It's understandable; Beyond and Heavy Rain are difficult games to like or enjoy because it turns the mundane into gameplay, and much of the extraordinary into cutscenes, which is precisely the opposite of what you'd expect - perhaps even want - in a video game.

Still, the bits of gameplay you spent as Aiden, Jodie's spectral companion, were especially interesting, as were the relationships that the story engendered in not only that pair, but just about every person Jodie comes across in her lifelong journey.  The fantastic acting segments from Willem Dafoe and Ellen Page make the game shine when it would otherwise merely sparkle and the interesting gameplay that evolves the story in different ways as you go on offers you a bit of attachment to it as it goes along makes you want to stay until the end.  I -did- finish Beyond, at least and at least a second run is in the future, if that says anything more than I've told already.

13.  Dragon Fantasy - Book II

The first Dragon Fantasy game was a game that I really liked as it was just a funny, neat little retro throw-back to the Dragon Warrior/Quest games of old, the first of which I played all the time in my childhood.  As such, it was just a neat thing to experience in that I admittedly had a lot of nostalgia to attach to the game and thus elevate it.  Then when I learned that Book II would be more akin to Chrono Trigger - one of my all-time favorite games - I was ecstatic, because I anticipated something similar.  I won't say that I'm entirely pleased with what I got as a result, and I will say that, much like Ascension, I worry that Book II got its spot on pedigree.  I like Book II, don't get me wrong, but it needed a little more polish to make it a little more mechanically sound.  This is from my brief experience playing it in the first section - I haven't managed to get back into it since.  I -expect- that it will grow on me as I continue on, because there is a lot of game left to it, but I similarly worry that it will not, which left me a bit conflicted as to where to put it.  Ever the optimist, I simply put it higher in hopes that it would earn that spot as I play.  Time will tell on that one.

12.  Killer is Dead

Killer is Dead is a game that absolutely and completely oozes style if nothing else, and it's something that I quite enjoy for it.  It also has a very interesting battle system that, while not quite what I'm used to, or perhaps what I expected coming from Lollipop Chainsaw, is very entertaining and fluid to enjoy. Regardless of that, however, you'd be hard-pressed to look at both games and suggest they came from separate studios because they both share unique art styles (that are different between the games), intense, fast-paced action and quirky, strange stories and characters.  Mondo Zappa, however, is particularly interesting for me, however, as he plays mostly the Straight Man while executing people and robots with a Katana and transforming his arm into a machine gun, freeze ray, laser cannon and a massive drill.

One thing I have to say is that, had I not bought the game new (with the DLC) and had I not been so careless to play one of the DLC chapters before an actual one, I would've been a lot more frustrated in the game.  That DLC chapter loaded me up with resources with which I bought some very needed upgrades and as such, the next few proper chapters were very enjoyable, what with me being a veritable killing machine that still had to learn the basics of dodging and perfect guarding.  So in that instance, the difficulty was just right, but if you don't have that luxury then it might necessitate a bit of grinding.  In a fun game like Killer is Dead, that might not be a problem, though.

11.  Animal Crossing:  New Leaf

Animal Crossing:  New Leaf devoured hours of my life, hours that I will never see again, and hours that I only mildly regret tossing into the black hole that is the latest iteration in Nintendo's Life simulation franchise.  As I cannot think of another way to describe it, even if that doesn't hit all the right marks.  I had an astounding amount of posts about the game, of which my Review of the game, the Gaming By the Numbers post I made about it and The Culling were definitely my favorite of the bunch, and in the end, I just could not suppress the amount of goodwill that the game engendered in me despite the fact that it was still very much Animal Crossing in formula and execution.  Which is, by all accounts, a strike against it, since Animal Crossing in formula means "Extremely front-loaded, entirely bare thereafter", meaning that you generally end up leaving the game unsatisfied because you just....stop playing it.

That happened for me.  I stopped playing New Leaf long ago and even Christmas Time didn't inspire me to jump back into it even though it really really should've since that was the precise time of game that I was waiting for.  Even considering that, I had no reason to go back.  No drive to do so.  I'd done most of what I wanted to get done in Kupolis and the remaining bits were more tedious than anything else.  However, it's due to the new additions that I enjoyed New Leaf so much and that I have something approaching hope for whatever the next game ends up being.  Because there will likely be improvements on top of those ones and that is very nice indeed.

And that concludes the bottom 10 of my Game of the Year list.  It was a hard order for some of them, and admittedly it could have used some shuffling, but my top Ten are much better lined up, I think, and I'm much more happy with their placement than the games here.  That's still just a really strong statement to just how many and how good the games were last year, and it's almost crazy to think that I had enough time to play them all, even for the limited amounts of time that some of them received.

yes, yes, I do quite enjoy that format, excellent

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