Escapist EditorialsJustin's Five Favorites of 2011Escapist Editorials - RSS 2.0
These are actually in no particular order. There were so many games that I really enjoyed this year, that narrowing down to five was hard enough.
Bastion (Xbox 360)
First up is Bastion, which came out of left-field to rock my world. Everything about the game was simply fantastic. The story is told from the perspective of the narrator, who chimes in dynamically based on your action, lending a unique storytelling aspect to the game. It also isn't afraid to let you discover the narrative and world through play, and you'll slowly begin to piece together what caused the Calamity that wrecked the world and what Caelondia was like before that. The gameplay is suitably solid, with host of weapons to experiment with and upgrade. I personally most enjoyed the flamethrower-esk flamebellow and a secret skill I loving referred to as the pinwheel of death. There are a number of typical gameplay mechanics that have been included into the world itself. For example, instead of a menu setting difficulty is controlled by the Shrine, which lets you call upon the various spiteful Gods. They will buff the enemies in specific ways, but in return you'll reap greater rewards. Also, any mentioning of Bastion wouldn't be complete without noting the awesome soundtrack. Covering a wide and eclectic range of styles, it's the icing on the cake that makes the whole thing that much better. And all that said, this was developer SuperGiantGames first project. I am so eager to see what they have in store for us next.
Dark Souls (Xbox 360)
This punishingly difficult and intricately detailed RPG was a refreshing change of pace from most other adventures being little more than linear gameplay sections connecting cutscenes. Billed as a spiritual successor to Demon's Souls, Dark Souls builds on much of the same gameplay, while having a much less clunky title. One of the characteristics I enjoy most about Dark Souls is how nearly every mechanic pulls double duty or requires you to make some meaningful choices about your character. Souls are used both as your experience and currency, and they are also at risk if you die as as you'll drop all the souls you're currently carrying. Even the very basics of the combat are filled with this dual mentality. A giant two-handed sword will certain deal more damage to a wider area and knock aside weaker opponents, but it's also going to swing slower, use up more stamina and clang harmlessly off the walls if you attempt to use in in an enclosed hallway. Likewise, lighter armor allows you to move faster, but won't help you mitigate some damage nor avoid staggering like heavier plate. With more and more RPGs lumping most of their player agency into story based morality decisions, it's nice to still have a challenging game with detailed gameplay. And it is a challenge, expect to die a lot in Dark Souls, but with this difficulty comes some very satisfying triumphs.
League of Legends: Dominion (PC)
I have been playing a lot of League of Legends lately, which is somewhat surprising in that I completely missed out on it's origins in Warcraft 3. I vaguely remember joining one match of All-Stars back in the day and having absolutely no clue what I was doing. So it wasn't until recently that I'd given the MOBA scene much attention. Instead of trying to defend and destroy the typical towers, in Dominion you're tasked with capturing and holding various points across the map. And the changes don't stop there; nearly everything about it has been tweaked to make something that feels very different. Champions start at higher levels and with more gold, and there is a much greater emphasis on getting into team fights right away instead of after 15 minutes of last hitting and harassing in lane. Heck, most matches rarely last longer than 20 minutes, which is roughly half the time of the normal Summoner's Rift match. The best matches are when they really come down to the wire with both teams trying desperately to take that last points before their score ticks to zero.