Gamedot end of year awards – Game of the Year

dishonored1

Our Game of the Year discussion was due to be published Friday last week, but our editor decided to go and play football on the Thursday evening. It didn’t go well for him, hence the day off on Friday. But it’s here today, better late than never.

In the series of features we published last week, the writers of Gamedot have given their opinions on which game promised the most but delivered to fail in “The PR people lied to me” category, which game offered the best multiplayer experience in the “OMG (Online Multiplayer Goodness)” category and which of the big 3 (or 4 in one writers case) had the best year in the “Generation King” category.

In the final part in a our series, the writers decide on their Game of the Year. What was your Game of the Year in 2012?

goty1Liam Hunn – Editor

Up until just before Christmas my Game of the Year was going to be Far Cry 3 by quite some considerable way. I really enjoyed my time on Rook Island, following a truly well written and thought out storyline that kept me hooked from start to finish. Some of the characters you meet along your adventures are the best any video game has to offer, while the graphics and sheer scale of the gaming environment have to be seen to be believed.

But then I played The Walking Dead and that all changed. Never before has a game managed to capture my interest emotionally like The Walking Dead. On the surface it’s a point and click adventure which won’t be to everyone’s liking (I hate this genre!), but scratch the surface just a little bit and you’ll forget about the type of game you’re playing. Instead you’ll think you’re caught up in an award winning TV drama.

The Walking Dead is so well written that at the end of one episode the missus wanted to go and give our (sleeping) baby boy a hug as it had really tugged at her heartstrings. The Walking Dead really is one of the best game releases in recent years and is a worthy winner of my Game of the Year. Bring on season 2!

goty2Allan Walsh

After some deliberation I have chosen the brilliant Dishonored from Arkane Studios for my game of the year. It sucked me in from the outset and held my attention until the very end with its mix of stealth, supernatural powers, atmospheric setting and quirky characters and after starting it again I still can’t fault the time I spend in the city of Dunwall.

At the moment I am playing Far Cry 3 and even though it’s a close contender for the title, unusually it’s Dishonored’s smaller, perfectly balanced gaming world that’s tipped the scale for me. Far Cry 3 (on PC) is without a doubt bigger, brighter and bolder in a many ways, but I have at times found my mind wandering with the sheer scale of it all. It’s my Saturday night action movie as opposed to Dishonored being the thoughtful cult film that surprised me with its intensity.

goty3Ben Skipper

To me there are two sides to gaming; the side on which games are purely that and another side on which they try to tell stories as well. Video games are seemingly determined to tell us stories and endeavour to be as raucous and loud as Hollywood blockbusters, with little out there to counter balance that. If games want to tell stories then they should endeavour to be as affecting as the most powerful books and films. They never have been – until Telltale’s The Walking Dead.

It’s not perfection, but it is a revolutionary step in the right direction for a medium that has always been a little shallow. The writing and voice acting are fantastic even compared to other forms of entertainment, and yet for all its achievements in story-telling, it still manages to be exactly what a game should be. Each player’s own experience is moulded by their actions, a quality unique to gaming and something which The Walking Dead perfectly preserves.

Telltale’s The Walking Dead was an experiment, and a successful one that has challenged people’s definitions of what exactly a video game is and should be. For that reason it’s my game of the year.

goty4David Owen

There were a number of games that could have ended up here. Early in the year I was convinced that Journey would not be toppled. Then Dishonored won me over with its beautifully realised world and dedication to play choice. The last episode of The Walking Dead had an overwhelming impact that made me think more highly of the whole series. And then, right at the end of the year, came Far Cry 3.

Far Cry 3 is not my game of the year because of the brilliant performances, the incredible graphics or the ambition of the storyline. In fact, I think its attempts to rationalise violence are poorly executed. Far Cry 3 won me over because it’s fun. It’s open-world gaming at its finest, turning a tropical archipelago into a violent playground. The sheer joy of turning a bear loose in a pirate outpost, landing headshots as you slide down a zip line, herding enemies onto one spot with fire before tossing a grenade; nothing has rivalled it this year. It’s the kind of game that leaves you with anecdotes to tell your friends, because their experience will have been completely different to your own. It’s admirable that many games in 2012 have taken a more serious look at video game violence, but Far Cry 3 reminds me why I enjoy it in the first place.

Honourable mentions: Hotline Miami, Dishonored, The Walking Dead.

goty5Jack Matthewson

Despite a strong release schedule this year, the one game that I found myself coming back to over and over again, both during the campaign and afterwards, was XCOM. As a fan of the original, I was disheartened with 2K Marin’s XCOM game taking a first person shooter direction. I had lost hope (along with Syndicate fans) of seeing an authentic reproduction of the original UFO: Enemy Unknown game outside of 3rd party, and fan-efforts which were rarely satisfying enough. Then out of virtually nowhere, a turn based strategy XCOM title was announced and released in seemingly the blink of an eye.

Keeping all the major themes of squad management, base construction, research and manufacturing from the original, yet updating and streamlining the game in places that needed it, the new XCOM game pleased old and new fans alike. Of course, the new iteration lacks the brutal difficulty and exploitation opportunities that the first held. Also, the campaign mode is considerably more linear and shorter. Despite this, the final product is still a game worthy of the franchise and one that translated well onto both consoles and PCs. Turn based strategy games are a hard sell to the current gaming crowd, but 2K and Firaxis produced a product to be proud of. It’s even more of a testament to XCOM’s quality when you take into account the competition it’s been up against. Dishonoured, Diablo 2, Guild Wars 2, Halo 4, and even from lesser covered titles such as Spec Ops: The Line.

Dishonoured takes a close second for my personal GOTY. With echoes of the old Looking Glass Thief games combined with a fresh setting and enjoyable mechanics, this steam-punk assassination title kept me entertained for hours. The Dunwall Trials DLC does a good job of expanding the experience as well. The list of amazing titles released this year is a long one. 2012 has been a great year for gaming and this trend is set to continue in 2013. It’s a safe bet we’re going to see at least one announcement of a new console from either the Sony or Microsoft Camps. Valve seems to have one toe in the hardware market, and intriguing new titles such as Elder Scrolls Online, Bioshock Infinite and Aliens: Colonial Marines are just on the horizon.

goty6James Hamer-Morton

Personal opinion on a GotY can realistically only be limited to games that the writer has played. I hear great things about Journey, The Walking Dead, even the newest COD and Halo, but I am yet to play any of them. My year’s highlights have included the third in a few series. Max Payne 3, Assassin’s Creed 3 and what I consider my GotY – Mass Effect 3. Sure, the simple but engaging Sound Shapes made a welcome appearance and even FTL became an addictive addition to my gaming year, but I didn’t get as involved as I did in ME3, a series I had been emotionally invested in for years. Bringing a fantastic replayability with its multiplayer, the game expands on everything the series has become synonymous with. Grand scale Galaxy saving, hugely important moral dilemmas and a conclusion that while divisive in its impact, satisfied what I was hoping for in an ending.

One of Mass Effect’s strengths is the wonderfully structured writing and voice acting performances. Whatever choices you make are justified by the results of your actions. Far from the cliché of ‘I’ll choose the bad option because I want to be evil’, your position on any issue in the game does more to make you feel like you’ve always made the ‘right’ choice. You’re not just being nasty, you feel like it is genuinely the best course of action. The gameplay itself has gradually adjusted to being a spectrum of possibilities easily tailored to your favourite playing style, and the vast array of characters inhabiting the deeply constructed universe are easy to genuinely care about. I bothered to struggle through the Insanity difficulty setting because of the strength of the gameplay. I had to play through again to see where each option would take me down to the strength of the narrative. No game can be for everybody, but Mass Effect 3 was certainly for me.

goty7Jeremy Thackray

Whilst it’s not my Game of the Year, Mass Effect 3 is still a remarkable achievement that deserves a mention. As one of the few people in the world not to be overly bothered by the ending, I thought it a superb addition to a vitally important series. Of course players can feel aggrieved with the last twenty minutes, but it’s to Bioware’s credit that the fans care so much in the first place.

Now to the important part. Last year I was terribly dull and indecisive, picking both Portal 2 and Skyrim as my Games of the Year. As good as those games were, I think that my pick for this year is a teeny bit more interesting.

It’s not often that a game forces you to reassess an entire genre. It’s even rarer that the game then goes on to convert you into an avid fan said genre. Well that’s what Crusader Kings 2 did to me. Having played my fair share of labyrinthine grand strategy games, I’d always viewed them as immensely obscure games that were no doubt enriching to a dedicated few, but would always struggle to create the dynamism of a more action-oriented strategy game.

By populating its medieval world with people, families and dynasties rather than states and nations, and then adding a huge range of ways they could interact with each other, Crusader Kings 2 dropped bucket loads of unpredictable human drama onto a genre rammed with more number-crunching than the City of London. That’s some achievement, and that’s what makes it my Game of the Year. Well done Paradox.

goty8Joe Bennett

When you’ve been gaming for over 30 years (yes readers, I am the cantankerous old fart of the team) it’s hard not to become a little jaded. So when a game comes along that strips back all of the hype, tacked on ’wave arms to make person jump’ nonsense and complicated controls, and instead relies on good old fashioned gameplay, it brings a tear to my ageing eyes.

It may not have the history of Nintendo’s offering, at least for me (I don’t even know most of the characters in the game), but in almost everything else it not only overtakes Mario, but it sends a nuclear missile back at it.

Each character in Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing Transformed feels genuinely different to control, each track has it’s own surprises and feels genuinely different and the weapons are superbly balanced. None of that ‘Blueshell buggery’ going on here; even when you’re out in front every attack can be avoided without even needing a weapon if you’re good enough.

It’s the best karting game to have come out for years, in a year that’s had plenty of them too, and arguably the best since the original Mario Kart on the SNES (there go the eyes again). It’s fun to play solo, excellent online and utterly brilliant in local multiplayer. Yes, that’s right, here’s a developer that still caters for friends in the same place. I know. How utterly old school. Despite having lots of content there’s even more planned to be released as DLC. And as the game launched at a very competitive £29.99 (and the limited edition can already be had for under £20), I’ve got plenty of cash left to reward the developers for their extended efforts.

Have there been better games released this year? Probably. But none have given me more enjoyment, had me dedicating so many late nights to them or reminded me what gaming can be about; simple but challenging fun and a great time with some mates. It’s just a shame we didn’t get review code so we couldn’t review it.

goty9Liam Cutkelvin

Far Cry 3 was a late entry to one of the most quality packed AAA seasons in recent memory, but as the old saying goes 2012 has saved the best for last. Experiencing Rook Island in all its insane glory is simply incredible and the sheer scale is mind blowing.

No other game this year makes you feel like you are right in the heart of the action quite like this. Playing through the transformation of Jason Brody from a naive rich kid into a bloodthirsty warrior is exceptional, you actually feel like you are going through it yourself. The dread you feel at the start when taking on pirates is very real, but is nothing compared to the sheer sense of maniacal power you feel when you are taking on hordes of enemies once you realise what you are capable of. It is nothing short of outstanding. A great story, beautiful locations, solid gameplay and perhaps one of video games greatest antagonists (Vas – he is simply superb) is why Far Cry 3 is my game of the year.

goty10Scott Griffiths

If you haven’t played this game – download the first episode. Please. I literally beg you. The Walking Dead  is a masterpiece by Telltale Games from start to finish – through all five episodes is an emotional Rollercoaster that constantly questions what side of morality you tread, having to pick the lesser of two evils and live with the consequences rippling through the game as each new episode unfolds. I could easily write how much of a fantastic surprise the release was, how much I sat opened mouthed as the story unfolded in front of disbelieving eyes and how more than a single tear got shed at it’s epic conclusion. But I won’t, I’ll ask you again dear readers – please purchase this game. If you like zombies, creative gameplay, expert voice acting and sublime story telling then you will not be disappointed.

goty11Yann Best

It isn’t its predecessor. At all. They share the same broad structure: a grand strategy overlay mixed with turn-based combat, seeing you defend the earth from an alien threat. Beyond that however, everything has changed. For the better? Perhaps. What is certain is that this newest XCOM game offers more meaningful decisions in every battle than most strategy games offer in an entire campaign, while your fallible, all-too-mortal soldiers will find a place in your heart, even as you lead them to their deaths on the battlefield.

There are flaws, not least the bugs that litter the game still, but played in Ironman mode it becomes a compelling, tense experience easily the match of any other strategy game. It seems incredible to think that a few short years ago XCOM fans were up in arms at the idea of the series being rebooted as a shooter – if only we had known about Firaxis’s secret side project, though even then few would have guessed just how successful it would be. A triumph.

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