Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Best Games of 2013

2013 was another year for wide variety in my late night gaming. Miles wide in fact and mostly inches deep. I think I prefer it this way, even if my bank account is worse for wear because of it. I decided to separate out the games I played on the toilet tablet and keep them for another post on another day though. Below is my top 10 proper games of the year 2013. Below that is all the other stuff I played too.

1. The Last of Us
This year I finally realized what I value most in video games. I want story. The game play has to enjoyable enough to engage me, but mechanics never make me say wow. The Last of Us was somewhat flawed in it's combat mechanics and had puzzles that eventually grew tiresome, but the story never let up. Zombie stories The characters and their relationships were top notch. The arc that is told is a roller coaster of tragedy, but not without it's moments of hope. The ending was something I've rarely seen in any medium and certainly not a video game. 2013 had loads of great games, but Last of Us easily stood above them.

2. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Video game mechanics rarely are in support of their story. At best they do their damnedest to no detract from it, but many times they outright betray the story being told. Brothers was one of the first games I've seen where the two went hand in hand from start to finish. Controlling two characters (siblings) with a single controller is awkward at first. My thumbs learned to work in tandem though and as they did the two characters on screen also learned to work with and support each other. In a game without dialogue Starbreeze managed to tell one of the most enjoyable stories in a game this year.

3. BioShock Infinite
I was a bit skeptical about a third game in the Bioshock-o-verse after Bioshock 2 was such a let down. Infinite was by the same team as the original though.Would offer up very little in direct relation to the games setting and told a brand new tale with new characters. The story opening was incredibly strong. Slowly introducing it's world through character and environment. At some point the combat sequences became a bit dull and tedious though. The story lost it's way, but not for long. By the end it was back on the rails and presenting not only insights into Rapture, but the entire universe the game exist in. Really cool stuff.

4. Far Cry 3
In a year where I played more open world games than ever before, Farcry 3 stood above the rest. As with most open world games it's good story was not in the main plot, but in the tales concocted through it's "living" environment. "Oh man, I was sneaking up on this base. Cataloging it's defenses and plotting out my approach. When a pack of wild dogs burst from the trees and started attacking the guards. I threw out my plan and jumped into the three way fight". The game is jam packed with moments like that. All on a sprawling and beautiful island system. There is loads of meaningful side missions to go on, a crafting system worthy of emulation (see: Assassin's Creed 4) and one of the best acted villains video games have ever seen.

5. Gunpoint
I've been following allowing with Gunpoint's development since early 2011. Before it had great art and a smooth jazz soundtrack. The core concept stands up on it's own just fine. 2D stealth and puzzle mechanics. More specifically rewiring the electronics in the building you are infiltrating to remove obstacles. The light switch. You know, the one that turns on lights. Now it opens the door you wanted to sneak through or better yet short circuits a socket next to a guard and murder him.  If it was just that it would be a good time, but it also has the art and soundtrack mentioned earlier. Plus a story that is worth reading and interactive dialogue that is pretty damn humorous. It's a great game. I just wish there was more of it, I completed it right at three hours. What you get in that three hours though feels like a new experience in gaming. Maybe? Or maybe it is just Elevator Action evolved. It is a marvelous little game either way. (This write up was cribbed from my first post on this game)

6. GTA V
The single player in this game is far and above any other GTA story on offer to date. The up and coming criminal to king pin tale is out. They'd done it enough times and done it well where it would have been passable this time through. What they offered up instead was leaps and bounds beyond what they already did really well. Following three established characters from the start meant working with in the confines of their lives and personalities. You aren't meeting new NPCs every hour so you can play errand boy again. It works really well. The loses it's head of steam about 3-4 hours from the end, but the plot was still paced masterfully by comparison to the rest of the series. (This write up was cribbed from my first post on this game)

7. Don't Starve
Klei Entertainment, makers of Mark of the Ninja (ma jam!) made ma new jam too. Don't Starve is a 2D-ish (it's a 3D engine with 2D assets) open world game in the vein of Minecraft. That is to say it is a survival game where the environment you are in provides the materials you'll need to survive. What makes the game intriguing beyond being another open world survival game is the amount of trust placed in the player. The game opens with an unnamed man who instructs you to find food before night fall and poofs away. From that point on there are no instructions. The tool tips provided for left and right clicking different things in the world are all you have. What is good for you and what can kill is a trial by error process. The reward is mastering the consistent systems in the world, not starving and ultimately thriving. Bonus contentGreat article and video about Klei. (This write up was cribbed from my first post on this game)

8. Tomb Raider
In 1996 my second computer or maybe third whirled up the original Tomb Raider on it's bite sized hard drive. It was the same time frame as the Nintendo 64, so polygonal platforming was still in it's larval state. I have great memories of that game. The new game is a reboot, but doesn't evoke memories of that past though. You don't raid any tombs per se, but that is because Crystal Dynamics is too busy doing their best Uncharted impression. Which, as it turns out I wanted way more Uncharted, so good job guys. It's an action movie in video game form, with better combat than the series it apes. (This write up was cribbed from my first post on this game)

9. The Stanley Parable
What this is, is hard to describe. It's a game for the PC that spawned from a source mod in 2011. That much is easy enough. What the game actually does though is much harder. It is not a puzzle game, as much as it is a mind fuck. Most "gamers" have played enough games to know the tropes, language and mechanics of a modern video game. This one turns all of that on it's ear. It constantly breaks the fourth wall and does so in clever and humorous ways. You explore the ins and outs a world that is masterfully narrated and never what you expect it to be. You should play it and will love it when you do. Very much like portal, but not like it at all, it's strange and wonderful. (This write up was cribbed from my first post on this game)

10. Saints Row IV
Earlier this year I caught up with Saints Row: The Third, a game that I should have made time for in 2011. It was an absolute blast. What started as a GTA clone turned into a goofy parody of the videogame world. Often breaking the 4th wall and throwing out reality and tired tropes in favor of fun. The fourth game in the series actually started as a DLC pack for the third and then ballooned into it's own game. It stands on the shoulders of the third (engine, mechanics and world) and then breaks all of it's rules. Your character is now super powered. Gliding through the air, sprinting at the speed of light and leaping over buildings. There is no need for a car or even guns later on, but the game manages to stay balanced and challenging even as it gives you loads of power. The humor is the main course still though. Eliciting consistent small giggles and even the occasional belly laugh. Totally worth a play through, though you may be better served playing the third installment first. (This write up was cribbed from my first post on this game)

11. Call of Duty: Ghost
12. Prison Architect
13. Sleeping Dogs
14. Metro: Last Light
15. Hotline Miami
16. Magicka
17. Orcs Must Die! 2
18. Spelunky
19. Card Hunter
20. Guacamelee*
21. Papers Please!*
22. Gone Home*
23. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
24. The Wolf Among Us*
25. Max Payne 3**

* played it once or twice and was not hooked enough to return to it
** actively disliked playing this piece of crap

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