I've played quite a few games in 2013, even if I didn't feel the desire to beat them…but something about this year was different. It's not so surprising given most of my games I played through Steam, and the cheap prices tend to generate a backlog. Ruminating over my top games of 2013 revealed that the percentage of the, pre-2013 games, almost outweighed the number of new games I bought/played. Even more incredibly, my top 2 games of the year were simply expanded content from games released in 2012.
This isn't to say 2013 was a bad or weak year, because I tally up plenty of interesting new titles I indulged in, and if anything had way more new IP than the last 2-3 years. Still…more of my time I saw in my Steam hour count was spent on games of the past. Quite a lot of these games I picked up to play were catalyzed by friends, or new friends specifically, asking to play with me in co-op.
My first experiences in the year were with a group of friends finally putting some time in Torchlight 2. That was the game I never made time for in 2012 because I was just off playing Diablo 3, and the rush of fall games got in the way. However, my friends Dimitri and Gabriel had recently picked up the game, and wanted something to play together. Since 2012 was a pretty heavy single-player year, it seemed like a nice change of pace. I was right to think that, because it was time well spent. Monsters, loot, and tons of particle effects were on display as we smashed through dungeons just for the sake of repeating it against stronger opponents. Now I usually don't tend to like grindy experiences, but my exceptions are when games randomize content, and when I'm playing with or against other people.
Borderlands 2 was another game I didn't get to give enough attention, and caught up playing with another group of people. While the last few missions dragged on, the game kept me laughing more consistently than any other game in recent memory, especially content with Tina Tina. There is just something magical to a quest objective to recover someone's badonkadonks.
Some co-op experiences can be fun while also being cursed. My curse with Gears of War 3 is always ending up at wave 49, and then someone has to go. See, there is no other way to open the game up to other people to fill in, unless you personally invite someone from your friend's list. Still the fun really is in the journey, and the last 10-15 waves are regularly filled with tension. I remember a wave in the 40s where I was the last survivor against 7 enemies. Friends dead, I rush one enemy with my chainsaw, and pick up a dual barreled shotgun, and grenades…almost hit by the 2 maulers. I use all my lancer ammo to take out one, and half my shotgun shells to take out the other. 2 boomers are coming up one side, and 2 armored kantuses on the other. I lure the boomers into the building, the entranced stuck with the ink grenades I planted on the wall. As they're poisoned I roll in with a sawed-off shotgun, blowing them apart down with the whole payload. The kantuses do their armadillo roll of death into the building, I fall back, picking up a boomshot as I roll, and when they get stuck in the entrance I waste every shot tearing them apart. It only took the span of 45 seconds, but I never would've been able to do it if my friends hadn't taken out the others, and I hadn't gotten experienced enough by playing through this with them.
Now into summer, I had a huge transition in my life by moving out of state, to a new city, and only knowing 1 person there that happened to be with me during college. Moving away from old friends back home that I'd known since middle-school was tough, and we were all starting to get busy with our new careers. However, my close friend Chris I was able to keep in touch with through Orcs Must Die 2. Easily my favorite co-op experience of this year, and probably of this gen. Apart from the game just being incredibly well designed, bursting with content that stretched our hour count up, and tons of different traps, abilities and items to play with…it was just a fun excuse to keep talking with each other. Not every play session was long, with many being just one level in a weekend, but I liked that the game could accommodate that. A few times we even got to indulge in the endless mode, where we fight endless amounts of enemies until inevitable failure. Tons of tension, but tons of laughs as we set up elaborate spring traps across the entire ground, that bounced enemies from the start all the way into some void walls at the ends of the level…void walls essentially being black holes of no return.
Later I got to meet some lovely people under the banner of Team Orphan Meat. A group initially dedicated to Payday, a game I still kinda suck at. However, they were inviting, I like heist movies, and this game piqued my curiosity. Also, I got to wear a bear mask, make meth, and play body bag catch.
Going from there, Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War 2 got brought up, and that I should dive back in to co-op the campaign. I was fairly tentative about doing this, for reasons I forget, but whatever they were…I was wrong. Whether the designers intended it or not, Dawn of War 2 is easily a better game in co-op. The reason being the gameplay involves controlling 4 squads of customizable troop groups, that you have to use in missions against often higher numbered armies. Imagine controlling all of your XCOM troops in real-time, each with their own abilities, and a focus on cover. It's not an easy task…but in co-op you only have to control 2. This allows more time spend on tactical maneuvers and management for both, without a loss of depth, and the fun of coordinating with a teammate. My teammate for most of this was General McFist, so you can imagine the blood and carnage that ensued.
Continue with Mcfist and Ishman, I got to dive back into Company of Heroes, namely the sequel. I had sadly not spent too much time with the game, because it was always a multiplayer experience for me, and the friends I used to play in the first…sadly don't play games much anymore. No matter, I got to jump back in, expecting it to be like riding a bike. Boy was I wrong, so wrong in fact that we lost against easy AI multiple times. However, I remember a single game where we won against 1 of the 3 AI being standard…so that's an accomplishment?
Failure isn't all bad though, so long as it's funny to watch yourself fall. Not so long ago, I joined a group of people from Team Orphan Meat to play Killing Floor again. This wasn't an ordinary match though, this was something seasonal. Picture this, a station in space, low gravity…and out of nowhere a Rudolph zombie bucks into the air to bite your face! Yes, this was zombie Christmas! Complete with vomit spewing Santas, fireball flinging snowmen, and gingerbread men with candy-can cutlery. We didn't just get eaten multiple times, we started to do worse, but over that voice chat…our mimed death screams were heard. And really, isn't that what the holiday is all about, sharing memories?
Tis the season, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas.