Year In Review:
This year has been a relatively disappointing year for gaming, especially when compared to 2011 which contained such masterpieces as Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Portal 2 and Dark Souls, all three of which may just be the three best games I have ever played. But let’s not get crazy.
2012 started off poorly with games like NeverDead and Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, and even Mass Effect 3 had flaws that were impossible to ignore. But eventually we got great titles like Halo 4, Dishonored and Borderlands 2, and even others I missed such as XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Journey, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron and Far Cry 3 look great and I will probably get around to most of them soon enough.
When I think about this year of gaming, the phrase “Year Of Crummy Endings” comes to mind, and no, I’m not just talking about Mass Effect 3…but I will soon.
· Darksiders 2 and Assassin’s Creed III’s endings were both depressingly vague, and I’m still not even sure if the main characters are even alive.
· NeverDead, Borderlands 2 and Inversion all had long, boring and repetitive final bosses, with Borderlands 2 being the only one I bothered to defeat.
· Spec Ops: The Line had a climax that seemed a little too serious for its own good, and all I thought was; this guy doesn’t need to go crazy, he just needs to go home, have a shower and take a nap.
· Halo 4’s ‘end stage’ was a tedious gauntlet of enemies resulting in the pseudo-villain trying and failing to kill you.
· Pokémon White 2’s ending is almost impossible to remember.
· Pokémon Conquest’s final boss wasn’t necessarily annoying, but the fact the villain had both Zekrom and a shiny Rayquaza is ludicrous.
· Mass Effect 3’s ending was just weird. I LOVED the sense of finality it had, but it felt so rushed, unexplained and too simple.
Nothing has caught my interest in 2013, except Lost Planet 3, but hopefully we’ll see some new and original ideas spring forth this year. Anyway, time for my personal best and worst games of last year.
Top 5 Best Games Of 2012
I’m surprised I don’t utterly despise this game. I’m not much of a stealth enthusiast, it looks and plays a lot like BioShock and Might and Magic: Dark Messiah Elements, two games I hate, and the latter was actually a game Arkane Studios worked on. But Dishonored is a very solid gaming experience, with masterfully balanced stealth and combat, with dynamic powers that make the game an overall joy to play.
My main complaint, and why it it’s only number five, is that the enemies are pitifully inept at noticing your presence. There was a moment when I was in an apartment building, standing near the doorway of a room with two guards inside. Just as a test, I got out my knife and smashed the glass of a nearby cabinet, without the guards, located about 15 feet away from me, noticing. Idiots.
4. Halo 4
Like Dishonored, Halo 4 is just a generally fun game to play.
Even though Bungie isn’t driving the series now, it really does feel like a Halo game. The scenery is beautiful, with lovely open maps, and your ammo is surprisingly limited, resulting in you switching between varied weapons during missions or even single battles. There isn’t much else to say about Halo 4 except what I said on the Game Out Loud podcast (that nobody can hear because the audio got corrupted apparently): I recommend it to anyone who wants a fun and colourful shooter for the weekend.
3. Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 is one of four games this year that I actually played again after reviewing it, and it’s the only one I actually finished twice in the same year.
I really needed a second go to see how much detail and love has gone into ME3, as well as the series as a whole. Characters you probably forgot about are referenced here and even show up, with Thane and Mordin’s appearances, and inevitable disappearances, being more heart wrenching than I ever could have imagined.
The combat is arguably the best it’s ever been, although I found my Warp and Throw Powers 10 times more useful than using weapons, so combat became a little too ‘magical’ for my liking. Yet the guns and Powers are dynamic and display excellent graphical animation and force, with the downright flawless sound design wrapping the game play together into one beautiful package.
However, there definitely was a lot of failed potential when it came to the idea of The Reapers, with the only display of an appropriately Armageddon-y scenario appearing at the tail end of the entire damn game. The Reapers were supposed to fall onto planets like gargantuan rain drops and shoot out putrid black smoke like Sovereign’s first appearance in the first Mass Effect. Instead, you only see what feels like four actual reapers (The smaller ones you fight on Tuchanka and Rannoch don’t count for obvious reasons), and they don’t seem to be doing anything except stepping around the place and randomly shooting ships, buildings and even vacant pieces of ground with their lasers of conveniently varying power.
But, it’s impossible to disregard the quality shown in Mass Effect 3, and is easily placed on my list of best games this year.
2. Spec Ops: The Line
At the very least, Spec Ops: The Line is a very functional and engaging cover shooter that cleverly utilizes team members allowing you to tactically kill enemies in relatively varied and intense situations.
At the very most, Spec Ops: The Line is a disturbing and provocative look at the idea of murder and the effects war has on somebody. When compared to a game like Mass Effect 3, Spec Ops: The Line is fairly standard as far as character development and story goes, but the player experiences the story so gracefully that it makes many other shooters look downright boring.
1. Borderlands 2
Where do I begin?
The landscapes are gorgeous and massive, with surprisingly different locations such as an icy tundra, an underground mine, desert, city (I guess) and bandit fortresses. It makes the prequel look like a grain of sand, and even though the area is a little too ‘set out’ to feel truly alive, Pandora sure is a fun place to blow stuff up in.
The combat is explosively engaging, and the guns are crazy as hell, though the flawed Fight For Your Life mechanic means you’ll often resort to brandishing a shotgun and crudely throwing yourself into a cluster of enemies no matter what class you chose.
I’ve probably played Borderlands 2 for at least 60 hours now and it still feels massive and creative, among other things, and has everything that made all the other games on this list great. The game play flows as well as Dishonored and Halo 4, and the almost uncomfortably good story definitely gives Spec Ops: The Line and Mass Effect 3 a run for their money. Crap final boss though.
Top 5 Worst Games Of 2012
Inversion certainly has its perks. There are several moments where the gravity idea is pulled off very well, with some awesome looking visuals, and the plot twist, if you can call it that, is surprisingly interesting and has a huge amount of potential.
Sadly, the rest is just a standard shooter in virtually every way. Even fighting enemies while in zero gravity lacks the freedom it should have and feels far too linear, like pulling yourself along the lane ropes in a public swimming pool instead of swimming around in the water. That may just be the best analogy ever.
The bosses are the only thing stopping Inversion from just being standard. They all have monstrous amounts of health and are an overall pain to encounter, making Inversion the 2nd most infuriating game I played this year.
It’s actually quite hard for me to hate NeverDead, and it’s not just because of the awesome soundtrack. NeverDead was the first game I reviewed on Bag Of Games, terribly mind you. I think I actually took up about ¼ of the page just to list two things I liked, man, why did I do that? Anyway…
The combat is repetitive, not helped by constantly re-spawning enemies, and Bryce constantly splitting apart like a piñata. Enemies are all generically demonic, though some creature designs are pretty cool, and playing through the game is just generally dull.
Like Inversion, there was loads of potential here, with Bryce starting to grow on me a little, but there just wasn’t enough ‘juice’ for me to get invested here.
I had oddly high expectations for AVSEQ. A colourful and simplistic casual game with no sense of story or context? Move over Tetris! But, no. There really isn’t anything good about this game. It’s just clicking a circle of a certain colour and then clicking another circle of the same colour.
AVSEQ has as much excitement as dusting some dirt of your shoe, and isn’t worth anybody’s time. Stick to Tetris.
2. Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City
RE: ORC contains every flaw 3, 4 and 5 has all in one experience.
The story is vague and the overall experience is ‘hypnotising-ly’ boring, involving characters with virtually non-existent personalities and most enemies being boring soldiers and zombies. Some enemies take huge amounts of damage to take down, most notably a big mutant guy with a machine gun that you need to shoot to death, despite me using literally every gun and grenade in the room on him without him giving off any animation to let me know I was even supposed to be attacking him at all.
RE: ORC is flawed is pretty much every way, right down to something as simple as gun power and ammunition. Definitely give it a miss.
1. Dragon’s Dogma
Dragon’s Dogma is more than just bad. It’s wrong. Wrong for gaming and wrong for fantasy in general. Levelling up, choosing a class, customizing your character, exploring the land, the story and even the tactics of defeating enemies feel hollow and lack any semblance of creativity.
Your character, and every other character now that I think about it, is totally vacuous, and everything about Dragon’s Dogma lacks energy, especially the idea of Pawns which just comes off as a way of having party members without going to the lengths of giving them a personality. Game play is beyond repetitive, with multiple fireballs and lightning strikes failing to take down a single bandit, and my “teammates” battle cries have nearly driven me insane.
I honestly could come up with dozens, if not hundreds of flaws Dragon’s Dogma has, but I’m getting really depressed now, so I’ll just end it here. Oh, the lip synching sucks too.
Well, that’s 2012 done. Thanks to those who stuck around and to anyone who bothered to read all of this instead of just seeing what I listed as my best and worst games of the year before closing the window. I’ll be back this year with more…whatever it is I do. (EDIT 07/10/2013: Don't hold your breath)