The year is nearly over, so the customary thing to do in the gaming world is look back on all the games you played, and recall your absolute favorite experiences. Think of this as your opportunity on TAY to shout out some of your favorite games of the year, and maybe spread that enjoyment around so others might pick them up later. I know it's a cliché, and I know it can lead to some dumb arguments where people tell you how wrong you are…but I think we can look past that here. So post your picks, even if you want to just highlight that single GOTY.
I've enjoyed quite a few games this year myself, so I'll start things out by sharing them, and maybe some of you will be curious enough to try them out. So counting down from 10 to 1:
10. Guacamelee! Gold Edition: It seems there is no end to inventive indie platformers, and this one chooses to balance combat into that mix. I want to stress the word balance, because I haven't played a 2d game that meshes traversal and combat so well, with most of your fight moves doubling as ways to keep your character moving into the air to get past hazards. Also you get grappling moves!
9. Don't Starve: This game proves to me that Klei Entertainment isn't a one-hit wonder with Mark of the Ninja, and that they're willing to go outside their comfort zone. Instead of fast-paced action, you're instead greeted with a slower paced survival simulation. More specifically I find it to be a camping simulation…in a world full of dangerous beasties, and the night will kill you without fire. Like FTL, this is game takes the drama of perma-death, makes it work because the world is so randomized, and can easily be played in short bursts.
8. Rogue Legacy: Well here's another game that makes the rogue-like experience more accessible, and does so through something both ingenious and hilarious: lineage. When you die, which you will, you will pass on the resources you gained to improve your stats, buy armor/weapons, and gain new abilities. This creates a very enjoyable loop, which encourages you to continue because you don't lose everything, and still get the enjoyable randomization that makes each run different.
7. Sang-Froid - Tales of Werewolves: Now this game also doubles as my most underrated of the year, or just unknown, because barely anyone I know has even heard of it. This is likely the most Canadian game you'll ever play, with you controlling some very manly lumberjacks against the forces of the devil (clue: includes lots of wolves). The experience plays out as an odd mix of tower defense trapping, survival components, action-y combat, and RPG progression. What amazes me is how well it all meshes together, where you begin a day with a top down strategy view, see the areas where enemies will spawn, and plant your limited number of traps. During the night you control your main character, equipped with an axe that relies on a stamina meter, a gun that takes significant time to reload, traps you have to lure enemies into, and a fear mechanic to deal with overwhelming numbers. If you like Orcs Must Die, Sanctum or Iron Brigade…you will like this game a lot.
6. Gunpoint: Yay for more indie stealth, especially the ones that add a completely novel mechanic to the mix. This game's unique innovation is the ability to rewire electrical components in a given level, and use that to gain entry to your objectives…often through manipulating guards. There is also some handy underpants that let you leap in an arc on top of people, and some light decision making. The writing is fairly witty, the soundtrack jazzy, and importantly it is perfectly paced to not outstay its welcome.
5. Skulls of the Shogun: I've always been a turn-based strategy game fan, and they've enjoyably made a comeback in recent years by being more intuitive to pick up. Skulls of the Shogun is that game, forgoing the more standard tile-based movement in favor of a ring-based radial system, smaller amounts of troops, limited base building, and not too many unit types. The game is humorous, letting you play undead samurai, and eating 3 skulls of a defeated enemy will power up one of your troops to gain an additional turn. Past the learning stage, the game does get challenging, but never feels unfair.
4. Company of Heroes 2: Even though I'm starting to feel that the 1st game might be superior, more Company of Heroes is better than most other games, regardless of genre. Some may not like the WW2 setting/aesthetic, but don't let that dissuade you. No other RTS plays like it, the battlefield is just as important as you customizable troops, the new weather and line of sight mechanics afford more surprise tactics, and resources through capturing points on the maps avoids turtling. What I also love is that even if you're losing, if you manage a few troops well, you can turn the tide in your favor.
3. Shadow Warrior: This game came out of nowhere for me, easily my surprise title of the year. In the last few years, I've been disappointed in AAA shooters, largely disliking the majority of their push towards constricting cinematic design. Shadow Warrior skews that by clinging to old school design, and focuses more on high-speed dodging than hugging cover. The real meat of the experience is the sword…easily the most engaging weapon I've used this year. That sword is proof that first-person melee can be amazing, and on its own elevated this game to something great for me. The most visceral fun I've had all year.
2. XCOM: Enemy Within: My 2nd favorite game last year again reclaims the title by just adding more greatness to a game that was already amazing. This expansion takes flaws of the original, and instead of removing them, fixes them through new mechanics and systems. Meld encourages players to take more risks and keep pushing forward, leads to new units that are both fun and needed later on, a human faction that you have to deal with, and base invasions! New levels add much needed variety, and are built around your new mech and gene-modded troopers.
1. Dishonored Knife of Dunwall + Brigmore Witches: Yep…my favorite game this year is a 2-part story DLC expansion. Am I crazy? Nope, I've just realized that as this gen closes, Dishonored will be my favorite singular experience. I like games that give me freedom within a space, that promote experimentation, that promote player agency to generate a personal story, that strive for actual immersion, that promote dynamic play to keep things interesting, and I value solid execution down to controls. Dishonored provides that package deal in a way no other game has, and the DLC doesn't just add to it…it improves core aspects of the game.
Honorable Mentions: Divinity: Dragon Commander, Tomb Raider, Monaco, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Dust: An Elysian Tail, Spelunky, and Antichamber.
Again, feel free to share your favorite games!