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Gavin's Top 5 of Games of 2012

MiracleOfSound | 20 Dec 2012 16:00
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And then along comes that final ten minutes. That glaringly transparent, story-ruining moment that felt like it was solely written in to force an arbitray, cliched, "difficult" choice on the player. For many it ruined the series forever. You couldn't even get the "best" ending without being forced to play the multiplayer. The extended cut fixed it a bit for me, giving at least some emotional resonance to the ending and explaining, y'know, what actually happens. But compared to the perfection of the ME1 and ME2 endings which were the same with minor differences involving the characters you cared about depending on how you played, it's still a damp Hanar.

Still, for all the game did right I really love it. It's the final part of my all-time favorite story, even if it did break the other two parts somewhat. And whatever your thoughts on ME3, gamers will never, ever forget it.

2. Far Cry 3

Ubisoft had a lot to prove in my eyes this winter after the relative disappointment of Assassin's Creed 3. The rigid, strict, hand-holding, anti-fun missions, dull location and God awful, laughable ending left me less than enamored with their 2012 output.

Then Far Cry 3 came along and made me want to hug them. It is a welcome alternative to the extremely scripted and linear design of so many other shooters this year. It gives you a bunch of tools and toys in a massive, beautiful world and tells you "Go mad, do whatever you want, whenever you want." The freeform base captures are exhilarating, the stealth is really satisfying and fun, the guns are meaty, the villains are wonderfully written and acted (though I wish we saw more of Vaas), the crafting is simple and non-intrusive and the tropical sandbox, full of dangerous and dynamic wildlife, is stunning and endlessly engaging.

As good as the game was, one niggle must be addressed - the DRM, sorry, I mean, "servers." More than once, players were locked out of their single player campaign for almost a whole day due to issues with Ubisoft's DRM, shit, sorry, again, I mean "servers." This should never, ever happen and there is no excuse you can ever give me that in any way justifies it. Dick. Move. Period. Aside from that issue, Far Cry 3 is a wonderful game that made it a tough choice for me to pick my number one spot, but in the end it just had to go to ...

1. Dishonored

It's all about the atmosphere. Most of my favorite games are ones that draw me in with their worlds more than anything else. From the Capital Wasteland to Lower Hengsha, from the Russian metro tunnels to the rooftops of Venice - nothing pleases me quite like a well-made, atmospheric game world. Exploring a new game world is escapism at its best for me. Dunwall's dark, whale-oil powered, classical beauty alone would have been enough to enamor me with Dishonored, but it just so happened to have a fantastically deep and option-filled stealth game inside those Rapture/City 17-inspired locations.

The wealth of ways you could approach the missions in Dishonored made me think of a Steampunk Deus Ex. The stealth had just the right amount of challenge to it for my tastes and the combat, when you decided to use it, worked well (despite the massive flaw of not being able to replace your sword in your right hand, rendering one hand utterly useless for non-lethal playthroughs). I'm not even into stealth games much, so Dishonored being my favorite game of 2012 is a pretty big deal for me. The story was interesting with tons of optional lore to discover, some of it very emotionally affecting. Emily, kind of like Clementine from The Walking Dead, was a perfect motivator for me; I wanted her to turn out ok and the way the game used my actions to dictate that was clever.

The way the city reacted to you was interesting, even if it did feel a little frustrating at times to almost feel like the game mechanics punished you for taking the more violent route. Becoming more infamous and eavesdropping on NPCs whispering about you like some terrifying ghost story was very satisfying. Then there was the party mission - an absolutely perfect, gorgeous, organic, beautifully freeform assassination mission with multiple paths to your goal that summed up everything great about the game, made even more memorable both for its lavish location and the moral ambiguity of the non-lethal solution.

I love seeing new IPs do well and am glad Dishonored was a success. I cannot wait to see what they do with a sequel.

It was overall a pretty good year, though 2011 is still my favorite in recent years judging by the games themselves. Skyrim, Arkham City, Portal 2, Dead Space 2 and Deus Ex in particular will take a lot of awesome games to beat. Here's to an awesome 2013 and fingers crossed Grand Theft Auto 5 is a classic.

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