Five Favorites 2010

Five Favorites 2010
Greg Tito's Five Favorites of 2010

Greg Tito | 21 Dec 2010 16:00
Five Favorites 2010 - RSS 2.0

Skirmishes against bandits take place in a third person action sequence in which you swing your sword as your mount runs them down. Like an RPG, defeating enemies earns you XP, which you can spend to specialize your leader, but you can also "level" your troops and followers (NPCs with names that advance like you do, lending their skills to the party.) As you level up, and cozy up to your liege, you will find yourself assaulting castles and gaining fiefs under your control. Or, you can get rich by buying low and selling high, and equipping yourself with the best equipment to support the bid for a bastard to claim his throne. You can even court a lady and get her to marry you to increase your power.

There is no railroad in Warband, and no real story, except for the one that you write yourself. The open-world feel of Warband more than made up for its somewhat dated interface. No game combines feel of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones with a truly sandbox Dungeons & Dragons tabletop game better than Mount & Blade: Warband.

Civilization V

Civilization V does what the sequel to a beloved franchise should: bring back the core gameplay that we love (building a network of cities), make some changes to improve the game (ranged combat), and add some new features (city-states). The hex-based no-stack combat adds a great new element without changing the fun of researching technologies, defeating barbarians and blowing that god-damned Montezuma back to the stone age with a well-placed nuke.

It's far from perfect, the diplomacy system could use an overhaul, and the AI can't quite figure out how to use the new combat rules effectively (both of which I hope the latest patch will alleviate.) But despite its flaws, I spent more than a few nights playing one more turn of Civ V until I realized that the glare on my monitor was the sun coming up. I hadn't felt like that since, well, the last Civilization came out and that convinced me that No. 5 was the continuation of a legacy that began on my tiny 386 PC back in 1991.

Red Dead Redemption

Mr. Pitts covered the Undead Nightmare, but I want to talk about the core game. Red Dead Redemption is the first great Western game and the first game that, for me, told a story on par with the greatest in literature and cinema. John Marston's trials as he's coerced to take out his former gang members after he'd gone straight is indeed a story of Redemption. It's The Godfather, Tom Sawyer and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly combined, with hints of the absurdity of Catch-22 and Vonnegut.

But the excellent story is just gravy. The real pleasure of Red Dead Redemption is had just riding around the territories of New Austin on horseback, collecting herbs, and shooting birds, bears and robbers alike. I spent hours walking around the many towns and communities which are so full of life. Some nights, I spent more time playing the Liar's Dice or Poker games than I did firing my Evans Repeater.

Rockstar Games have always included minigames but Red Dead Redemption is the first title in which they were fun enough for me to want to complete each challenge and collect every outfit. Getting 100% completion wasn't a chore or even terribly difficult because the activities required were so inherently fun. Track animals and shoot them. Done. Collect herbs from every area. Already did that. Look dapper in all my cowboy outfits? Damn straight.

Red Dead Redemption is easily my favorite game of 2010.

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