2012, it’s been one hell of a year games-wise. So much so that the staff here at Meodia just couldn’t decide which game was the best, so after a polite discussion that went nowhere we put down our weapons and decided to individually list our top games of the year. So without further ado here’s our personal picks for the best game of the year and our runners up:
My Pick: Guild Wars 2 – ArenaNet
For me the MMO genre was growing increasingly stagnant over the course of the past few years, mainly due to the fact that so many MMO developers set out to mimic World of Warcraft in hopes of replicating it’s success. I’d bought bad MMO time and time again for years and was nearly done with the genre entirely. Then Guild Wars 2 came out, and it was everything I wanted in an MMO: A fresh, polished, and well thought out experience. So much of what the game does well is just removing the massive time syncs that go into an MMO, and it’s always emphasizing and encouraging playing with others, and not through tooltips, but through actual gameplay mechanics and systems like the public events. The PVP and WvW systems are also exceptional, and it has a far higher skill ceiling than most MMOs, the game is called Guild WARS 2 after all. The most impressive thing about the game though is the staggering amount of content available, every class has it’s own branching storyline and the world is rich is with excellent lore that makes you want to explore every inch of Tyria. Even more impressive yet, ArenaNet is dishing out massive content patches all the time, they’re even planning on releasing a mini expansion in January, all for free! I have sunk hundreds of hours into Guild Wars 2 and I don’t see myself stopping any time soon.
Runner up: Journey – thatgamecompany
Journey was one of those experiences that really sticks with you for a whole variety of reasons. I think the most amazing thing about it hands down is the bonds players form in such a short time together. When I first played it and met another player, I didn’t expect to by the end of it feel like I’d just made a new friend. You don’t have any effective means of communicating with each other either, but somehow you come to care about each other’s struggle up the misty mountain. I really don’t know how thatgamecompany accomplished this, but it’s incredible. When I think of even my overall GOTY pick in Guild Wars 2, I pass and interact with hundreds of other players all the time, yet I never get that same feeling of companionship Journey gave me, and when I sit down and actually think about it. No multiplayer game in my experience has made me feel this way, it’s in that realization that Journey is every bit worthy of it’s title.
Runner up: Dishonored – Arkane Studios
Dishonored is a game that never ceased to put a big smile on my face, it’s just pure satisfaction through and through. What I mean is just how rewarding the game feels if you play the stealth route . Planning and executing the perfect assassination attempt takes much patience, and I reloaded my last quick-save repeatedly if I was ever discovered, but it was always oh so worth it once I was able to clear a room without being seen. Dunwall is one of the most memorable locations in recent gaming history for me, the environments are so rich with detail and there’s plenty optional paths for you to traverse. The plot and characters are also pretty well written, enough so that you can tell Arkane Studios took just as much care when creating the fiction as they did with the actual gameplay.
My pick: Journey – thatgamecompany
There were games this year with systems that were a lot more elaborate than those found in Journey. It has only a few commands: you move the camera or your avatar, you jump, and you call out to others. Rather than lobotomizing the experience, this restraint gives Journey an incredible amount of focus on the interaction between users. A player could go through the game in solitude and still have a moving experience, but they could also travel with a partner and be moved in a completely different way. Journey is so human and I can’t say that about many other games this year.
Runner-up: Closure – Eyebrow Interactive
For a game about death, Closure was perhaps the most refreshing game I played all year. Light and mirror puzzles have become so cliché that they rival pushing blocks onto switches (and yes, you do that in Closure too) but Eyebrow Interactive managed to give those tired mechanics new life by making the puzzles just as much about the environment around the mirrors as they are about the mirrors themselves. There is a refreshing amount of subtlety too. In a medium whose popular works so prominently feature violence (one of many), Closure allows the user to wrestle with the prospects of death without ever seeing the event itself. It’s a testament to the great design.
Runner-up: Dishonored – Arkane Studios
I have to admit, a big reason why I originally wanted to play Dishonored was the connection to Deus Ex. However, the reason why I kept playing was the level design. A lot of games give the player the choice to play how they want, but the Gothic architecture-inspired levels allow for judgment to be made based on those decisions. The focus on height and light that belittles tourists entering cathedrals has just the opposite effect with the climbing abilities of the player’s character in Dishonored and it ties in nicely with the power fantasy aspect of the game. Dishonored has a lot of different elements, but Arkane Studios managed to weave them all together.
My pick: Dead or Alive 5 – Team Ninja
Dead or Alive 5 took the Dead or Alive series to new heights with improved and refined fighting. The presentation also helps as the game looks and sounds great. There is much to do both online and off so Dead or Alive 5 still finds it’s way into my PS3 even with other great releases still coming out.
Runner Up: Persona 4: Golden – Atlus
Persona 4: The Golden may be a port of a PS2 game but still gets a runner up spot. Persona 4 was one of the best JRPGs on the PS2 and it has been improved on the Vita with a bevy of new extras with new social links, improved visuals, and more. It’s definitely worth playing for any JRPG and worth another trip for any Persona fan.
Runner Up: Sleeping Dogs – United Front Games
Sleeping Dogs was a great open world action game set in Hong Kong with fun and brutal hand-to-hand combat. The driving and chase scenes also made for a lot of fun. If only the shooting was better, it could’ve been GOTY.
I have unfortunately been unable to play many of this year’s marquee games, including those I was and still am eager to experience. Halo 4, Dishonored, Spec Ops: The Line, Mass Effect 3, Assassin’s Creed 3 – these titles and more have eluded my grasp this year, so I cannot therefore claim a “game of the year” in any authoritative sense whatsoever. I can, however, tell you which games meant a lot to me; games which are doubtless worthy of the nomination regardless.
My pick: Journey – thatgamecompany
Journey is a very rare game – a very rare anything, for that matter. Many times when we make our final judgements on games we do so by levying what our expectations were for them and what they ultimately turned out to be. Sometimes when a game is successful enough in whatever pursuit was responsible for lighting our imaginations, our judgement may be that it exceeded our expectations. Journey, for me, did one better: it dwarfed my expectations while still including them. The images strung together in my head prior were realized in the game, but they were mere wrapping paper on an experience profound in more ways than I could have ever expected. The game presented a precise and unflinching thesis for the videogame form in both the isolated single player sense and that of cooperation with others. Despite its crystalline and haunting beauty, its transcendental reaches, the way it mirrors one’s journey through this world with a reflection that looks nothing like it – Journey is actually an incredibly hard game to say a lot about. Its successes are whispers that echo as loud as the loudest yells. Our inevitably pointless attempts to put it into words, though, are very important because they are our pursuit to understand, and therefore honour, it. So I will happily say with that pretence in mind that Journey is my game of the year, and one of the greatest I’ve ever had the privilege to play.
Runner Up: Mark of the Ninja – Klei Entertainment
Mark of the Ninja is a quiet, astonishing entrant into the stealth genre. The stealth genre, like the horror genre and certain variants of RPG, is currently in a market-culpable identity crisis. Mark of the Ninja was the quiet student in the classroom who saw the equation on the board that the others were arguing over and humbly suggested it wasn’t the equation, but the approach, that needed rethought. The game took the stealth mantle this year by A) realizing that compromise with market pressures was resulting in sub-stealth experiences diluted with contradictory components from other genres, B) being creative about the presentation, the least of which was the perspective it was played at, and C) was remarkably well thought out and cared for. Every action one can perform in the game just…makes sense, and it creates a whole that feels remarkably cohesive and intelligently constructed. This is a game that didn’t need to feign multiple creative ideologies; it was focused on what truly mattered and delivered the best, and arguably one of the only, true stealth experiences in many years. Klei Entertainment deserves an lavish party thrown for them by their big-budget stealth-game-making contemporaries. Perhaps those others would then open their ears and learn something.
Runner Up: Sleeping Dogs – United Front Games
Sleeping Dogs is not a perfect game. It shares many problems with Grand Theft Auto and other open world crime-themed games, such as a reliance on cutscenes for narrative delivery and sometimes feeling reduced to a “grab bag” of gameplay styles, among others. But Sleeping Dogs is still, in my opinion, better than any of its peers by a long stretch. The combat contains a lot of depth and its difficulty is perfectly balanced, the driving mechanics are responsive and fierce, the story is focused and thematically demanding (poor ending aside), the chosen locale challenged the assumption that games like these have to be set in America to be interesting and successful, the missions were varied and incorporated its main pillars of gameplay in fine concert, and the visuals (on a good enough PC) were incredible. Sleeping Dogs is the best kind of success story; a game which underwent all possible hell to make it to gamers and it shows absolutely none of the wear for it. It is yet more evidence this year that gamers appreciate new flavours of experiences, even when they are on top of what’s otherwise familiar, and through something as simple as the kinds of restaurants one blurs past on a motorcycle, while the radio’s playing music with unfamiliar instruments and sung in an unfamiliar tongue.
My pick: Guild Wars 2 – ArenaNet
Guild Wars 2 definitely deserves my vote for GOTY. The bang for your buck that you get is simply immense, with over 700 hours already clocked in it’s still making me come back for more every single day. GW2 sets a new standard for the already repetitive MMO genre, not being afraid to change things up and create its own identity in the massive pool of other same-ish titles, it changes the way MMOs are played by focusing more on active action combat that’s all about moving and dodging and also adding real time events all over its massive zones that make the world come alive. With 8 balanced classes that actually play differently from each other, 15 different personal stories with tons of branching options, as well as jumping puzzles, frequent support of monthly content, balanced and time saving drop-in-drop-out PvP, ArenaNets Guild Wars 2 makes sure you stay entertained for a very, very long time.
Runner Up: Max Payne 3 – Rockstar
Max Payne 3 has its ups and downs, but its variety of cinematic and explosive set pieces coupled together with tight and stylish gunplay set a new standard for just how much fun shooting a guy in the face can be. It’s true that Max Payne 3 doesn’t do many things, but the one thing it does – it does it exceptionally awesome.
Runner Up: Legend of Grimrock – Almost Human Games
I feel that Legend of Grimrock isn’t getting its fair share of praise. This fantastic revival of old school dungeon crawling genre is an excellent atmospheric experience. Its mysterious and challenging gameplay, which can only be rivaled by that of Dark Souls, is something that the gaming scene has been truly lacking recently. Grimrocks learning curve and complicated control scheme might turn some people off, but there’s no denying that Legend of Grimrock is one hell of downloadable game in which you can sink your teeth into.
My Pick: Journey – thatgamecompany
In this time of 20-40-100+ hour games where the game length is padded and you can always find a derivative of another game in its design, it is refreshing to see such an original idea where all you do is, well take a journey. You think that this game won’t hold your interest, but as you play, encounter other players, and get a longer scarf, it becomes harder and harder to put down. This game was truly a gem in an oversaturated marked.
Runner Up: Dishonored – Arkane Studios
This is one title I had been looking forward to since I heard of it. It was a supernatural Deus Ex/System Shock set in a steampunk world. You can choose to kill or not and you choose how your powers evolve. It did have its flaws, but the visuals were incredible. It even has staying power in that solutions are not necessarily the same on a subsequent playthrough.
Runner Up: XCom: Enemy Unknown – Firaxis Games
I remember fondly playing this game on the PS1 back in the 90s. The game was hard, really hard. The interesting part was proceeding in whatever way you see fit. Sid Meier, the legendary creator of the Civilization series took this game and ran with it. We have new enemies and redesigned old ones. Death is still permanent and you must manage your base. Of all games this year, this would have been my pick if not for Journey‘s originality.
My Pick: The Walking Dead – Telltale Games
It is in complete shock and happy surprise that I find that I’m “following the crowd” with crowning Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead my game of the year. With the title gaining GOTY awards all over the place, most notably at Spike’s Video Game Awards. There’s a good reason why this rather simple point and click adventure game gets all the praise it does, it has heart. It has soul. It makes you feel. Videogames have a reputation of being lacklustre in the story, laughable in the dialogue and cliché with the characters but not with The Walking Dead. Sure other games, such as Journey many of my fellow editors have already talked about, are none of the things I’ve just mentioned but I believe this game is the bench mark for excellence. This game made me feel attached to the characters of the game like nothing else so far and it’s restored my faith in episodic gaming. Can’t wait for next year and season 2.
Runner Up: Mass Effect 3 – Bioware
Let’s get this out of the way first shall we? No I didn’t like the original ending, but you know what? It doesn’t matter; games have always had rubbish endings, and while I’m glad people are demanding better, it doesn’t change the fact that Mass Effect 3 is one of the best games I’ve ever played. A superb romp through space it merges interesting likeable characters with perfect third person shooter gameplay. The 40 hour adventure I went through was a rollercoaster of fun action, heart breaking sorrow and tension breaking humour and I plan on playing through the Mass Effect Trilogy sometime next year because I think it’s the best franchise on this generation of consoles.
Runner Up: ZombiU – Ubisoft
It’s no secret that I love a bit of zombie action (just look up) however the more you know about zombies the less threatening they become. So stories based in zombie infested worlds have to work on their characters pushing the zombies into the background. ZombiU does the opposite and brings zombies back into the foreground. A hard game this managed to make zombies scary again and was a welcome change of pace from certain Resident Evil games we won ‘t mention. The game is love it or hate it, and I can certainly understand the complaints people have, but I personally love it.
So there you have it, our top games of 2012. We’re sure you disagree so why not sign up and tell us about it?