2012 Year End Roundup and Game of the Year

So here we are in 2013, internet, and like every other blog or publication, I have to reflect on the previous year and try to get out some sort of game of the year. That’s not to say that my nominations actually mean anything, but I am honour bound to list them. This year has been a very interesting, and was as full of surprises as it was of disappointments. Huge franchises launched highly anticipated sequels and we even got a couple of new IPs. This year saw the release of the decade anticipated Diablo 3, and the conclusion of Bioware’s monumental space epic: Mass Effect. It also saw regular releases of Call of Duty and Mario as well as the newest Halo, Final Fantasy and Resident Evil. This is coupled with particularly strong small scale game development such as Journey and The Walking Dead. These two games in particular have won many game of the year awards across the internet. Today I am going to examine the past year, by mulling over what game deserves game of the year. I must admit upfront, that despite all of the positive things I’ve said, I find this year to be lacking without any particular standout game that wins game of the year hands down. Because this is a year end roundup, I’ll skip some of the details and link to prior articles.

As in real life, nobody cares about the bronzes.

Firstly lets talk about some of the big releases this year. Diablo 3 is probably the biggest and most anticipated release this year, and I can’t deny that Blizzard managed to deliver an addicting experience and top notch gameplay. However, Diablo 3 was also plagued by some incredibly shortsighted problems. Notably there is Blizzard’s online only policy that I simply can’t get behind, then there is the atrocious real-money auction house, which I find to be a perversion of gaming. These are ancillary to the game, so they don’t hold too much weight when judging it, but there is one thing that was simply unacceptable in Diablo 3’s core experience: the story. Diablo 3’s story is embarrassing. Everyone who was involved writing it, rendering it, and allowing it to be in the game, should be ashamed. Calling it childish is an insult to children. In short, the story is unacceptable. As such, you have a brilliant game from a gameplay perspective and a terrible one from pretty much every other front. I find it hard to call Diablo 3 game of the year because of this.

When you meet me, a completely fanservice character, I will spout off lines that a cartoon villain would be ashamed of.

Next let’s look at Bioware’s concluding chapter to their Mass Effect trilogy. Mass Effect 3 was a game surrounded by controversy this year. The sheer anger that the game’s ending provoked in the fanbase was unprecedented and provoked Bioware to implement an epilogue in their game. However, Mass Effect 3 was actually a very well made game. The combat was a little flightier than Mass Effect 2, but it was fast paced and fun. Most notably, with the exception of the ending, the story was handled with a level of care and respect that you don’t see very often. There were legitimately emotional moments throughout the story as characters finished their arcs. However, there’s that ending, that lazy, deus ex ending. I want to love Mass Effect 3, but that ending leaves such a sour taste in my mouth even after the new epilogue (Although that is a substantial improvement). I’m not sure if I could give game of the year to this game because of this. If anything, Mass Effect 3 stands as a warning to all developers: the ending of a game is critical.

Resident Evil 6 was a disappointment. This was tragic.

How about the two front runners this year? Both Journey and The Walking Dead have been winning left and right this year and they are both deserving. The Walking Dead brings an incredibly emotional experience to the table that gamers are unlikely to soon forget. Journey brings a much more serene and introspective experience, but one that is equally unforgettable. The problem is that the gameplay in these two games takes a major back seat to the experience. Does this mean that neither of them are video games? No, but it does mean that they won’t appeal to a large number of people who actually want gameplay from their games. The Walking Dead in particular is almost completely lacking in gameplay with very few choices ever having any real impact on anything at all. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be game of the year, but it does cause me to pause.

The best part is when none of the choices matter.

How about new IPs. These are usually where the major innovations come from and are usually the most surprising, which is why games like the original Bioshock were so impressive. This year, two new IPs stand out in my mind. Firstly, there is Dragon’s Dogma, a very flawed, but engaging story of swords and sorcery. Then there is Dishonored, an assassins tale that isn’t encumbered by the awful storytelling and controls of Assassins Creed (Sorry Creed fans). Dragon’s Dogma was an impressive game, but, truthfully, not game of the year material. Dishonored has more of a chance. It reeks of Bioshock to me, which is a good thing and it brings a lot to the first person stealth genre. However, a host of half implemented ideas, poor graphics and voice acting that is all over the place set it back a little bit. Maybe game of the year material, but maybe not.

This is not the prettiest game.

The game I personally gave the highest ranking to this year was Persona 4: Arena. Of course, I only started implementing rankings late this year, but I can only think of one game that was unranked that deserved a 10. Truly, it was the best fighter released this year, and an overall phenomenal game. I’m sorry to Tekken and Soul Calibur, but Arksys was simply able to make a better fighter this year. However, it is still a fighter, and I would have a very hard time calling a fighter game of the year. Fighters are incredibly niche games and, while Persona 4: Arena is a sterling example of the genre, it also would not be held in as high esteem, if you look past the genre. For example: Street Fighter 2 may look great, but if you put it up against games such as Fallout or Chrono Trigger, it has problems keeping up. As such, I don’t think I can simply throw a game of the year stamp on this game, despite how good it was.

Oh, Kanji. Never change.

Then there are the sequels. Of the many, many sequels that were released this year, four stand out and three of them are first person shooters. But before I get into that I want to address Resident Evil 6 briefly. It is not up for game of the year. In fact, 6’s collage of great and terrible ideas make it easily the most disappointing game I’ve played all year. Not bad, just disappointing. Moving back to the cream of the crop we first have Borderlands 2. Borderlands 2 basically pulled a Dark Souls by creating an incredible game, so superior to the original that it is hard to believe that they are in the same series despite the identical controls. Then there is Farcry 3. This game promised a lot to fans and, truthfully, it delivered on pretty much every promise. Both games excel in the most critical of categories: they are both incredibly fun to play. Whether it’s the over the top humour of Borderlands 2, or the fantastic stealth of Farcry 3, both games are strong contenders.

Yeah, it turns out a game with this kind of character is actually really good.

Then there are the sequels to two far more entrenched series. Halo has been hit or miss. The original was incredibly influential, but its two immediate sequels were definitely underwhelming. However, Halo 4 may have delivered the best game in the series, and one of the best shooters of the year, which is saying a lot considering how many shooters get released each year. Then we have Final Fantasy XIII-2. The sequel to the much hated Final Fantasy XIII was actually a great game. Square Enix went out of their way in fixing many of the major issues with the original and they delivered a pretty fantastic game that many staunch Final Fantasy disparagers will not play, which is a shame as it is probably the best RPG released this year (Due to its strange release schedule across the three major territories, Xenoblade Chronicles is ineligible this year. If it were eligible, it would win game of the year without any effort, as no game on this list even comes close).

My response to XIII haters at this point.

So who am I going to give game of the year to? I hesitate to give it to the gameplay deficient Journey or The Walking Dead, so I won’t. Diablo 3 and Mass Effect 3 were disappointments, which was especially crushing for Mass Effect 3, as without the ending, it would have been a strong contender. I’m not crazy enough to call Final Fantasy XIII-2 game of the year, as the internet would kill me. I received an insane amount of hate for suggesting that Final Fantasy XIII was not terrible. I didn’t call it good, just not bad. Persona 4: Arena doesn’t transcend its limited genre. So we’re left with a much smaller pool to choose from. In the end this is a hard choice, because not one of them stands out as being intrinsically superior the way that games like Bioshock, Dark Souls or Xenoblade Chronicles did. However, I still have to make the choice and I’m going to choose based on which game was the absolute most fun to play, which has compelled me to play through it many times due to the sheer enjoyment I have while playing it.


My 2012 Game of the Year is Borderlands 2

Gearbox did an exceptional job in expanding the tiny cult classic, creating a game entirely superior to its predecessor. Borderlands 2 is full of something you don’t see often: memorable characters. Whether it’s the psychotic Handsome Jack, or the hilariously inappropriate Tiny Tina, almost every character is fantastic. The game is by far the funniest game I have played in years, and its topped off by an addictive loot mechanic that the game shamelessly whores out. Finally, Gearbox’s fantastic DLC and DLC policies should be commended. If every developer treated DLC like Gearbox, I doubt anyone would disparage the service. I can say that Farcry 3 had better shooting mechanics, but I cannot say that Borderlands 2 wasn’t some of the most fun I’ve had all year, and sometimes that’s enough to elevate a game to new heights.

Also, Tina gets an award for best use of the word badonkadonk.

Ok, two more categories worth mentioning before I leave you to your stale eggnog, internet. First there is the best handheld game. I don’t include these in the regular game of the year, because they simply don’t compare, and they aren’t meant to. As ports and remakes are not eligible, I don’t have to worry about comparing Persona 4: The Golden and The World Ends With You: Solo Remix, which wouldn’t be pretty. Without those two games, the best handheld game is between Resident Evil: Revelations for the 3DS and Gravity Rush for the Vita. Revelations brought a semi-survival horror Resident Evil experience to handhelds in an almost flawless manner, but it does not win this match up. Gravity Rush is the new IP this year that is worth watching and it’s almost completely because of its charm. It stumbles at times, but Gravity Rush takes risks that are laudable and when they pay off, Gravity Rush is something to behold. Resident Evil: Revelations is a wonderful game, but it plays it pretty safe, while Gravity Rush’s charm makes it a game worth remembering.

Sometimes a unique game is better than a game with fundamentally stronger gameplay.

Finally, I’m going to leave you with my worst game of the year. This isn’t technically the worst game of the year as that would be some shovelware title that nobody played. Instead it is the worst big budget or high profile release. The goes without question to Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning, which was the worst game I’ve played in years. It proved that hundreds of hours of content don’t mean anything if the game itself is incredibly boring with repetitive battles, a story so bad that it makes Diablo 3’s look like Shakespeare, and being truly generic in every possible way that it isn’t being outright bad. For draining every single drop of fun out of my favourite pass time, Kingdoms of Amalur is the worst game of the year.

Since the graphics are the best part of this game. Here is the lacklustre cover art.

There we go, internet. We’re finished with 2012 and now have to look forward to the February rush. Part of this year’s holiday rush being underwhelming is the fact that a much larger proportion of games were moved until after the holiday season this year. In other words, I hope all of you gamers didn’t blow all of your money over the holidays as you’re going to need it with the insane amount of major releases coming out in the next three months. Happy New Year, internet and I hope my little awards show wasn’t so boring as to scare you off.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer


One thought on “2012 Year End Roundup and Game of the Year

  1. …..I officially love you for getting that meme. It is now permanently saved on all applicable devices. Thank you.In a more serious tone, I quite agree with your nominees for best game. Though now I really need to get my hands on Xenoblade if it was really that good. I think Far Cry was a slightly better, if only for the sights to see, though I can understand your points for Borderlands. Oh also, your will probably receive more hate for saying FF XIII-2 was good, especially after Kung-Fu-Jesus and pals tore it a new one. Also, can you post a video of the fight between P4G and TWEWY:SR please? It seems too epic to miss.Here's to another year of great belongings!

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