Well it seems like January is the time to start reflecting on the games that came and went this year. The list below is not a complete list of every game that came out, or a relfection on all of those games, but more of a lit of the top ten games of 2011 that I played. Some disclaimer should go here I guess. I am a game developer in my spare time (as little of it as there is) and work a full time job outside of the game industry that keeps me going with a full 40-60 hour work week. That being so, along with my dev duties, I don't get a lot of time to sit down and play the latest and greatest games. SO my list is really comprised of the top ten of those games I was actually able to play this year.
I know this game got a lot of acclaim and attention, I to be honest it is probably the only reason I downloaded it. Visually and artistically the game is beautiful. I love how the team was able to make a greyscale background interesting. Negatively though I felt like just when the game was getting interesting, it ended. Also there didn't seem to be any kind of story that I could find. Just a boy walking through a forest trying to find people.
#9: Disneyland Adventures Kinect
Yup. This actually made the list. My wife and I played the demo of this at E3 in June and we were pretty excited. We both love Disneyland (yes, even after working there and quitting) and so we thought it was going to be an easy sell. It didn't get higher on the list mainly because of the poor Kinect controls. Kinect controls for most games are pretty bad, but there are some spots where this game just seems like a symbol of how not to do Kinect controls. Aside from that though the team was able to do a really good representation of the Disneyland park (aside from there not being enough people clogging the walkways) and it is nice and fun to play with our other friends. It really is designed for a younger audience but even some of us adults who still like to feel the "magic" of Disney will get a kick out of it.
#8: Portal 2
This didn't get higher on my list stricktly because of how quickly I was able to complete the game. It was a great game. It was a fun game. But it felt short to me. Granted they were able to extend the fun by adding the co-op mode, and my friend and I did have many hours of fun with it, but I think I wanted some from the story. Going back to the early days of Apeture Science was cool but once the player gets back to the more modern times it seemed like a lot of the added dynamics from those early stages weren't used enough. Personal problems I know, but it is what caused it to drop on the list.
#7: Asassain's Creed Revelations
There was a lot of inner debate on where this game should fall on my list. Originally I had it much higher, but I think that came from just how long ago it was released. It is familiar and so it would rank higher right? AC: Revelations was a fun game. I enjoyed it more than AC2 and Brotherhood since it delved a lot deeper into the lore of the asassains and tied up a lot of the loose ends throughout the series. It didn't get higher though strictly because the game didn't feel like it peaked right for me. The same happened with the previous games as well. With all of the side missions and whatnot it was hard to make the game arc as I am sure it is supposed to. I also had an issue with the tower defense mini game stuff. Not because I didn't like it, but because the triggers for it to happen didn't happen enough. I think in my entire playthrough I did the tower defense stuff maybe three times. I learned from the last installment to level my asassains up pretty quickly and so I had masters in each house fairly quickly. I think that was my bigest issue with the game. It is too easy to level early on preventing a lot of the more difficult and interesting stuff from coming up or becoming interesting at all.
#6: From Dust
I really don't remember where I heard about this game, and to be honest the whole world building genre has never been a favorite of mine. For some reason though I played the demo of this game and then bought it shortly thereafter. I wish it had been longer and a little more in depth, but I was actually pretty darn happy with the length and content it was able to deliver. The visuals were extremely high quality and I loved the narration throughout the game. There were a few times I got stuck, particularly on the volcano crater level, but some curses and retries later I was able to push through. It was so well done and interesting that I would regularly not notice the passage of time. This is a big deal for us smokers as we tend to live our lives watching the clock.
#5: Dark Souls
It really surprised me that I was looking forward to this game. When it was released I still hadn't really played through Demon's Souls yet. A lot of that was because of the very well talked about difficulty of the game. Yet still I was looking forward to Dark Souls. Coming from Demon's Souls I was really impressed by the visual upgrades as well as taking into account some of the fallout from Demon's Souls. It is still hard, but they tapered it back just a little, which made it so much more appealing to play for hours at a time. There were still a lot of curses thrown about, as well as walking away in frustration, but I felt more content with the whole thing really. I can't say I've played it regularly, because I'm just not that masocistic, but it still deserves a good place on this list.
Yup, another Kinect game. I saw some snippets for this game a long time ago when thy were first beginning the big push for the Kinect and I was excited. Here was a Kinect game that wasn't about jumping around and making a fool of yourself. It is a game that has the player controlling a puppet and his gun(s). It works really well and the controlls for it a pretty decent considering my feelings towards Kinect controls. The whole theater stage idea they try to go for works too. It brings a nice goofiness to the game which really helps sell everything (especially when you do make a fool out of yourself when playing it).
#3: Battlefield 3
I know a lot of fanfare went to Modern Warfare 3 this year, which really ins't surprising. I am not a big first person shooter/war game fan. It took a long time for me to even start liking FPS games to begin with. I played MW2 with some friends awhile back and it wasn't anything to write home about (no I do not accept hate mail) and things weren't looking good for MW3 either. I pretty much abandonded that genre awhile back. It wasn't until a couple of friends got me to try playing BF3 at a party that I became a fan of it. Playing multiplayer with various vehicles and not too much one sided-ness on the different classes was great. I soon went out and bought a copy and my friends and I still play it at least once a week online and I even bought the DLC pack, which says a lot.
#2: Dead Space 2
The number two slot was another inner debate. There were a lot of games this year that could have taken this spot, but it really came down to how much I really enjoyed the game. Dead Space One was another game I didn't really have any excitment for after playing the original demo on the PS3. It felt way to slow and cumbersome to really be enjoyable. Time went by and I eventually saw a deal on steam to get it for some ridiculous price, so I picked it up. I don't think I've ever had my mind switch about a game so fast. But this bit of the article isn't about DS1.
I'll admit it, I was very eager for DS2. I played the demo the day it was released, I looked at all the preview shots, I pre-ordered it on day one. I was excited. I loved DS1 with a passion and I was really looking forward to DS2. All the excitement was well paid off when I recieved the game. EA and Gamestop did a nice thing and gave their pre-orders some good bonuses like the prequel game that was released for the Wii and another prequel interactive comic book/game from PSN. That only wet the appetite for the actual release though. The game in itself was really good. It was just as dark and spooky as the first one with some added elements to it that just brought it to another level. Probably the most creepy moment for me, even with having only a couple of small encounters relative to the rest of the game, was when the player has to go back onto the ship from the first game. Inside the ship is all bandaged and in obvious repair, but just walking those same halls that the player does in the first game, feeling like there is going to be that enemy from the first one right around that corner was probably some of the best psycological horror I've had from a game.
#1: Batman Arkham City
Its funny with how much I loved DS2 that it didn't take the top stop. Especially considering that I didn't pre-order the game and waited until Christmas to get it. One of the big reasons for that is that everyone around me knew how much I wanted the game and so I had a feeling I would be getting it for Christmas. Was I right? Yes!!! Not one, but two copies of the game. It killed me for months waiting to play it and I avoided all articles that talked about the game. My friend brought it over at one point to show me a little of it since our game has a lot of similar architecture and it was the hardest thing to put the game down. I really loved Arkham Asylum but I felt it suffered from a lot of the issues the Asassains Creed game did where the game didn't arc right and it was too easy to level early making the rest of the game kinda anti-climatic. Arkham City though pretty much gives the player most of the tools at the beginning and allows them to explore semi-freely the whole city. The side missions integrate well enough that they can wait until the post game or be done during the normal playthrough. There were a lot of moments of fan-boy-dom where I would jump off of the couch and say "did they really put that person in the game????" I really liked the story of Arkham City and how it flowed. I had pegged a good amount of it early on, but there was still a good amount of doubt from this or that to keep me on my toes. The voice acting was superb as well as the music (I've been listening to the OST for about 3 day now). One of my only complaints about the game was how little they used Cat Woman and the actual city itself. Sure there was lots of bounding off of this building over to that one, but there is so much on the actual ground level that never gets seem. I didn't notice the destroyed freeway until that one helicopter went down. Cat Woman's story was pretty good but they don't dive into it enough to really warrant it being there in my opinion. She is a fun character to play but I would be kind of pissed if I bought the game used and then decided to pay the added fee to play her character. I can only hope that they release some DLC other than challenge mode stuff. Actual content would be great. The onyl question though is where do they go from here, or if they should stop where they are and let the series end on a high note. We'll see.
I would have liked to put more Indie games on this list, but I just really don't have the time to dive that hard into a lot of the ones out there. The few that I have played were a mixed bag of good and bads but most were not worthy of this list compared to what they were up against. I am hoping to play more this year and will maybe create a second list for strictly Indie game top tens.