The end of another year of gaming. Despite a sluggish start to the year and the…eventful…Mass Effect 3 launch, the gaming scene eventually found its footing and rocketed off to a level I never expected. We had such a great year of gaming in 2011 too so it was pretty unexpected that this year would raise the bar again. From Planetside 2 to X-COM Enemy Unknown and so many other games I could not possibly list off in a short paragraph, we had a lot of great games to play. To see an XCOM game after so long is also pretty dang spectacular. We also had the whole Kickstarter thing go really viral with developers working to resurrect game genres that had long seemed dead via community funding. I have high hopes that these games will come out and kick some serious butt. So here’s my Top 10 most enjoyed games of the 2012 year. The only way they can be on this list is if I played them in the year 2012. It doesn’t matter if they were published this year or 10 years ago, I just had to have played them this year. There are a bunch of games that probably should be on this list but a combination of lack of funds and a computer’s GPU dying on me in the past couple of months, it kind of prevented me from playing them. They will be up for possible contention for the list next year if I ever do get my hands on them. So let’s see what games I found the most enjoyable this year…
Top 10 List of Favorite and Honorable Games of 2012…
#10: Drox Operative
While this game looks a bit ugly, you shouldn’t judge all games by their covers. Drox Operative was a game that I wasn’t initially too sure about but after playing a number of hours during the BETA, I found it enjoyable. An action RPG set in space has you in the middle of warring factions of a dynamic, randomly-generated universe. Being an Operative means you choose how each universe you fly in is solved and there is plenty of space to see and explore. With a variety of different missions, the fact that your actions affect the universe in general and a very well put together game overall, Drox Operative secured its place at #10 of my list.
#9: Waking Mars
Waking Mars, while it might be ugly and the soundtrack isn’t so great, its still a fun game at its core. My review of the game really sums up my thoughts on this game better than I could in a measly paragraph. Simply put, I felt like the exploration was just so well done and unique to see on the iOS and PC platforms that it deserved a spot at #9 on the list. The idea of interactive alien ecosystems was just so cool and well implemented. Even if the ending was a tad disappointing, the fact that the developers tried a unique idea like this is worthy of kudos.
#8: Tribes: Ascend
Tribes: Ascend… I reviewed this game earlier this year and its one of the longest reviews I ever did. This free-to-play shooter was another attempt to play into a market that feels increasingly unfair to consumers. I’ve ranted about before and while T:A didn’t do anything to convince me that F2P isn’t bad for consumers, it still tried a worthy attempt to convince me. T:A did a pretty good job at keeping it fairly balanced early on in the game’s life. I’ve had a lot of fun times and a lot of rage-inducing times as I played the game. However, the game started to suffer from lack of development and weapons that were not side-grades but rather upgrades starting showing up into the game with increased frequency. In a competitive shooter like this one that got intolerable pretty quickly. It didn’t help that the weapons took a long time to get them either. Worse still is that projectile SMGs and automatic rifles, which were not supposed to be the “best weapons” compared to the spinfusor weapons, eventually became the superior weapon. This more than anything ruined the game for me as I would die so many times to this. It would eventually led to me quitting, probably for good. Still, I played over 60 hours in the game and had plenty of fun with Tribes during those many hours with my friends. And at the beginning it really was a lot of fun skiing around at 200KM/h. So all that helped stick T:A at #8 on the list.
#7: Orcs Must Die!
I reviewed this game in quite a bit of detail earlier this year. The short version is that I really enjoyed Orcs Must Die. This action tower-defense game had a lot of corny humor and the game was a lot of fun due to that. The main reason that Orcs Must Die 2 is not on this list is due to my friend and I’s losing interest in the sequel early on. Its a game I’m planning on coming back to sometime. OMD was a lot of fun this year and was a very intense game for being a Tower Defense game. I’m glad I got the chance to play it and you should consider giving it a go if you like the TD genre at all.
#6: A Valley Without Wind
A Valley Without Wind, the odd 2D platformer/strategy/adventure game from Arcen Games was a really experimental game for them. I enjoyed my time in the BETA but never got back to playing it once I had published my review and the game went to 1.0. The game is getting a huge amount of post-release support in the form of major patches and an entire sequel for free for existing customers. There were moments in AVWW that I liked and others I didn’t. But what I did like really pulled me into the game and while the game might be a bit directionless, its sequel looks to fix that problem. It is a pretty difficult game to look at though I didn’t mind the graphics all that much. I felt it was nicely colorful and the soundtrack was great to listen to. I’m really excited to see how A Valley Without Wind 2 turns out as I think that Arcen has something here with a lot of potential.
#5: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a lot of fun to play. Set in the cyber-punk future of our world, you play as Adam Jensen who has to investigate the organization that nearly killed him in addition to killing a bunch of scientists. What he will find are political plots and conspiracy theories among other things. I reviewed the game and something I failed to mention in it is that the voice acting…isn’t great which combined with the lacking facial animations can make the game drag in some cases. Despite that, it still had a great atmosphere, great graphics, plenty of places to explore and an enjoyable open-world game to play. The conversation system in this game was one of the best I had ever seen even over Mass Effect’s and that impressed me. I have high hopes of seeing this developer make a sequel for the game in the future as I think there is plenty they could use from this game to improve upon.
#4: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Yeah, I know. A Nintendo DS game? What the heck is this doing on the list? Well, it was originally designed for the DS but was later ported to iOS at the beginning of the year. Its what I consider the best iOS game made so far and that’s probably because the game wasn’t originally built for iOS (I know, a sad state of affairs). Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is an adventure game that’s centered around the character of Sissel. You are a Ghost who must unravel who killed him and what he was before he died. As you lost all of your memories when you died. You can’t do anything more than manipulate your environment via “ghost tricks”. This was an incredibly engaging story to play this year and I just couldn’t put it down. The characters are memorable, funny and felt real to me. The puzzles were very tricky to figure out and the story had you guessing the entire time with its twists and turns. I would love to play future games like this one on iOS. The game ported over to iOS well and was just an immense pleasure to experience. Highly recommend you pick it up if you can.
#3: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
I was able to play and finish S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat earlier this year and then reviewed it later on. The STALKER will remain one of my favorite series of open-world games I have ever gotten the chance of playing and COP holds up well. In comparison to the rough-around-the-edges Shadow of Chernobyl predecessor, COP is a highly polished and well crafted game. I enjoyed the more eerie & creepy atmosphere of COP a lot. The story, the game mechanics everything in this game was just polished to such a better level. Running around in that post apocalyptic world was a ton of fun for me even if it terrified the pants off me at the same time. Its a pity that the STALKER series looks to be a dead series as I think there could have been even more potential. But if nothing else, I’ll have these games to enjoy. Definitely recommend getting this one if you ever get the chance to.
#2: Legend of Grimrock
Legend of Grimrock was just such a fun game with excellent graphics and a challenging, engaging campaign. It combined old school dungeon mechanics with a modern take on the genre. What you get is a highly polished and atmospheric dungeon crawler. Filled with a plentiful amount of puzzles, brain teasers and tricky levels Legend of Grimrock was an unapologetic with its difficulty. The exploration was also very fun. I liked discovering little secrets in every level and it was very rewarding. I was a bit iffy on the combat system in general but its unique and it works well for the game. Its just a pity that the modding scene for LOG isn’t doing a very good job with this game because I’d like to play more of it. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the creepy and dangerous atmosphere of LOG. It had me nervous the entire time which helped keep the game interesting. I reviewed Legend of Grimrock here and I recommend you check it out if you have any interest in RPG dungeon crawlers such as these.
#1: FTL: Faster Than Light
FTL is my favorite game of the year. FTL was part of a dream come true for me as I had been waiting for a starship simulator to come out for a long while. FTL’s excellent presentation and really engaging mechanics of commanding starships made this an enjoyable game this year. And really, what isn’t to love about FTL? Its a starship simulator rogue-like game. Its just such a great idea and while it isn’t 100% perfect (the RNG is a bit harsh), they did a really great job with it. I had experiences of joy, elation and unhappiness as we suffered our loses and experienced gains. While the story itself might be basic, the story that you make of FTL is what really makes this game a lot of fun. Add in an atmospheric soundtrack and plenty of unlocks to shoot for, you’ll have plenty to do in FTL. It all just fits well together. With a growing modding scene, I have no doubt I’ll return to FTL to brave the stars once more in new and different ways. I reviewed FTL here and highly recommend you check out the game/review as I think its best game to come out this year.
AI War: Ancient Shadows - The fourth expansion for the AI War RTS game adds large Hero ships, new areas of space to explore, many more game units and new graphics for the background of the game. Arcen Games’ post release support for AI War is nothing short of impressive. This expansion also brought AI War up to version 6.0 and the game remains a highly enjoyable experience that I never get enough of. I had been hoping to get a review of this game out this year but that has been pushed back until next year. This is one of the best “RTS” games on the market and if your looking for a co-op experience that’s really fun to play, this is the game.
Black Mesa - Definitely my favorite mod of the year, this remake of the original Half Life was very well done. Crazy considering its all done for free and that it could not have been easy to bring Half Life into the modern Source engine. The game suffered from quite a few problems though, namely crashing, bugs, and really terrible first-person platforming throughout the entire game. I’m fairly certain the platforming is worse in this version of the game but I could be blanking out some of my experiences with Half Life. Still, the modern gun mechanics, great soundtrack and well done look of Black Mesa for the modern gamer is definitely worth a look if you really enjoyed the Half Life series of games.
Portal 2: Workshop Update - The Portal 2 Workshop integration is far and away my favorite update and feature of the Portal series. It allows users to easily create and experience all variety of different puzzles for Portal 2 and I have just loved it. Heck, I even started creating my own puzzle before life rudely interrupted me. With over 300,000+ puzzles to choose from, it promises to keep me playing Portal 2 for a very long time.
Torchlight II – A game I got to play a bit before my GPU kicked the bucket, I found the game was really enjoyable during that time. It has some really visceral combat, flexible & challenging combat and a loot system that is simply exquisite. Plus, a well done graphic style and an interesting world to explore makes this a game I plan on playing next year a lot. It definitely deserved a place in my honorable mentions.
So I hope you enjoyed this post. Any thoughts on the games on the list? Leave a comment. I sincerely hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed making it. It has been a great year for gaming and I cannot wait to see what 2013 is like with a brand new, rebuilt gaming rig that actually has some teeth this time. It is really exciting times we live in and with more AAA publishers focusing on the PC platform, I have little doubt we will continue to see more and better games next year. Here’s hoping! Also, visit my Steam profile if you wish to see (over 800+) screenshots I did of many of these games on the list as I played them throughout the year. Stay tuned for a couple more posts as I wrap up this year.
Until next time…