Five Favorites 2010

Five Favorites 2010
Susan Arendt's Five Favorites of 2010

Susan Arendt | 20 Dec 2010 16:00
Five Favorites 2010 - RSS 2.0

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
This choice should come as no surprise to regular readers of The Escapist; I've been singing this game's praises since it came out back in August. I've always been a fan of Lara, but her games have sucked for so long that I'd pretty much forgotten what it was like to not sigh with disappointed resignation whenever I saw the twin pistols and short shorts. But Guardian of Light strikes just the right balance between brain and fingers, mixing clever environmental puzzles with wave after wave of beasties trying to eat your face. Stuffed to overflowing with collectibles and replay value, Guardian of Light's best feature is its exceptionally well done co-op mode, which now finally also has both online and local modes. Totec could've been some kind of vestigial tagalong, but instead he's just as fun to play as Lara, though I do have to wonder how an ancient warrior who's been stone for centuries manages to master firearms so quickly. Forget everything that the Tomb Raider games have been doing wrong for years, and remind yourself why Lara became a gaming icon in the first place.

Enslaved's platforming is nothing to write home about, its combat is pretty ordinary, and its camera just plain hates you. From a straight-up gameplay point of view, it's utterly forgettable, its few nifty ideas overshadowed by its ordinary mechanics. You should play it anyway. It's set in a dystopian future years after some immense catastrophe, and yet it's not the grim brown that we've been trained to expect. The world of Enslaved is lush and vibrant as nature reclaims the land from civilization. Offices, cars, computers and televisions might all be the junked relics of a bygone people, but there is still a great deal of beauty in the world, giving hope for new beginnings. Enslaved also has some of the best voice acting and motion capture to ever grace a videogame; the performances of Andy Serkis and Lindsey Shaw are impressively subtle. Serkis' experience in movies serves him extremely well as a digital storyteller; the cut scenes in Enslaved were some of the most entertaining and enthralling moments I experienced in a game all year. Think of it as a movie interrupted by button presses if you must, but treat yourself to the journey of Monkey and Tripp.

Mass Effect 2
Outstanding writing. Exceptional voice acting. Side quests that actually mean something. Moral ambiguity. A suicide mission that will save the universe. Show tunes. About the only thing Mass Effect 2 was missing that could've made it a better experience was ice cream.

Mass Effect 2 took everything its predecessor did well and did it just a little bit better, combining satisfying thumb-testing combat with a rich story featuring complex characters. Along the way, BioWare made sure to fix the things that were broken like Mass Effect's headache-inducing inventory system and boring resource gathering. Ok, well, maybe not everything got fixed, but with memorable characters like Mordin, a consummatable romance with Tali, and perhaps the most striking opening seen in this whole year of games, it was easy to forgive a bit of planet-scanning. Mass Effect 2 is a soaring space opera that delivers finely-tuned drama without forgetting that the greatest defense against despair is a good sense of humor. The first Mass Effect showed us that Shepard was heroic; its sequel showed us that she's human. Bring on the end to the trilogy, because I can't wait.

Susan Arendt will take you to Funkytown.

Be sure to come back tomorrow to see more of our picks.

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