Hi everyone, we here at Image & Form would like to present our very own Top 5 Game of the Year List. We sat down during our traditional Christmas lunch on Friday and picked the following titles. There was no schnapps involved (this time), so the list is legit. Happy Holidays everyone, and get the games below; you know you want them. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here they are:
The Last of Us (Naughty Dog) - written by Tobias Nilsson, art director
As many have written before me, I think The Last of Us is one of the most beautiful games ever on the PS3. In my humble opinion, only Journey beats it to the punch. The opening scene could quite possibly be one of the most painful video game scenes ever created, making this the only video game that has brought me to tears.
As opposed to Naughty Dog's Uncharted franchise, The Last of Us feels like a perfect symbiosis between story and gameplay. The relation between Ellie and Joel is unraveled with sparse dialog and without unnecessarily long cut scenes, while in spite of a fairly linear level design the illusion of a post-apocalyptic USA is maintained. The violent gameplay rests safely on the story, although a few drawn-out fights could have been kept shorter. The balance between action and exploration is exquisite, and I kept wanting to see more of the stunning world. The hunting part in the snow is simply... magical!
XCOM: Enemy Within (Firaxis) - written by Ola Frid, programmer
While originally released last year, this year XCOM: Enemy Unknown was released for the iPad, followed by the release of its expansion XCOM: Enemy Within for PC and consoles. The iPad release was interesting for a number of reasons, and made quite a few people at the office quite happy - those who don't have time these days to boot up a PC while having enjoyed the original X-COM back in the day. It's a "full title" with a relatively high price tag for the App Store, plays like its PC/console cousins with scaled-down graphics, and appears to have sold well. Maybe we can expect more good, uncompromising iPad versions of other PC titles?
XCOM: Enemy Within adds more variety to a game where many of us have already spent hundreds of hours. You're hooked by the "I'm just going to do one more thing" premise that is Firaxis' hallmark; you forget what time it is, and - many hours later - wonder why you're suddenly so hungry.
Even more so with Enemy Within, where the added mission variety removes what little risk of immersion-breaking there was before. While adding more stuff, and more power to your squad, it also stays brutally unforgiving, making you start over and over if you decide to play the harder difficulties or on Iron Man (which is basically hardcore mode). Maybe we're being masochistic, but this game is probably the one most played by Image & Formers this year - at least if you're counting hours spent on other people's games.
Year Walk (Simogo) - written by Brjann Sigurgeirsson, CEO
It was with a jubilant pumping fist I greeted the news that Simogo's iOS masterpiece Device 6 had made IGN's GOTY list for 2013. That list is only ten games long, and only the very best games deserve to be on it. So why are we picking another title from Simogo, and not Device 6? And who are these guys that can make what I think are TWO GOTY contenders in one year? You won't believe it - because it's unbelievable - but the core of this brilliant studio is two (2) guys from the south of Sweden. Not your average guys, but come on: two! Put ONE of them to work on a major title, and you could possibly save on salaries for hundreds of people. Every Simogo title so far has been unique and radically different from the one before.
Year Walk (iOS) is marvellous, period. It's rich yet lean, atmospheric, understated, enigmatic, beautiful and downright shockingly frightening at times. It builds on a strand of almost forgotten Swedish folklore, and the way these long-told stories and creatures are brought into imagery is an amazing feat in itself. Perhaps you have to be from Sweden to truly appreciate this facet of the game. So what is Year Walk? It's a progression puzzler, where you must piece things together to continue until you reach the chaotic climax. You move about using a radical, clean interface, trying to find your way in eerie, sparsely colored wintry terrain. At some points you have to be very clever, and just when you're done and think that they missed to tie up the very last loose end, you are proven wrong.
The game comes with a companion app that contains background information of the mythical creatures that appear in the game, as well as a side story that provides context to the game and clues to the final mystery. The music and sound effects are incredible, of course created by one of these two geniuses. And as I'm running out of superlatives, let me conclude that Device 6 is almost as outstanding, and that this tiny studio might as well have had two games on IGN's coveted list.
Papers, Please (Lucas Pope) - written by Ulf Hartelius, programmer
"Congratulations. The end of the year Suggestions for a Better State lottery is complete. Your name was pulled.
Your commentary on the Arstotzkan immigration and state machinery has been filed. The complaints stating that your office space is too small for the required papers and that there is not enough time has also been filed for later examination. In the event that your work thus far has been without failure citations, the suggestion included regarding improved living conditions for your family may also be examined.
There have been reports regarding an anti-Arstotzkan terrorist organisation in the vicinity of your assigned checkpoint. There have also been reports that unwanted individuals have passed through your checkpoint. Finally, the issue of unsolicited money handling is also currently under national scrutiny. These events may affect the response given to the issues raised above. We trust in your improved diligence and hard work, just as you trust in your country.
Glory to Arstotzka."
SteamWorld Dig (Image & Form) - written by Image & Form
What, did you expect us to be humble and NOT include SteamWorld Dig? Forget it - the game is just too good! :) Besides, apparently it's at #11 of IGN's highest-rated games 2013, just behind the top of the pops, so we're not that off. We're not as eloquent as either Mike Rose or Christian Nutt, so we'll pass on describing this one, save for one thing: it's very immersive - a veritable fast-forward time machine. We've obviously visited every nook and cranny of the mines, know every pixel and exactly how everything fits together. And yet we still look up in surprise as a couple of hours have flown by when we "just went in to test some little thing".
Buy this game - we have it on sound authority that this bunch of bona-fide good guys will put your money to good use. Oh, and scold/praise them at @imageform on Twitter.