As 2013 comes to a close and we all look forward to the new releases coming in the new year, let’s take a moment to look back at the gaming year that was. Here are my personal GOTY awards. Keep in mind that I’m only talking about games I’ve played, so anyone who is looking for GTA V or The Last Of Us may be disappointed.
Overall Game of the Year — Bioshock Infinite
This one is a no-brainer for me. It’s the only game this year that made me want to play it again immediately after playing it. It’s the only game that had me reading hours and hours of other player’s theories. It’s one of, if not the, only game I actively want DLC for. It’s the only game I implored my roommate to play so I could discuss it with him. Irrational Games truly has a gem with Bioshock Infinite. The visuals are stunning, the voice acting is amazing, and the story is incredibly thought-provoking.
Best PC / Free-to-Play — Path of Exile
Disappointed by Diablo 3? Nothing to scratch the itch of grinding and gearing up? Path of Exile is a wonderful action RPG with a few unique elements. To start, it’s free and the only purchases are for cosmetics (skill effects, item skins, etc.), so there is no pay-to-win. What you see above is the passive skill tree. Choosing your character determines where on the tree you start and what your starting base stats are, but the rest is up to you. All of your skills, both active (fireball) and support (50% extra mana for multiple fireballs), are equipped through gems that are found/traded for and socketed into your gear. Speaking of trading, there is no gold in Path of Exile. Instead, there are 20-something currency items that all have exchange rates. Add this all in to the amazing player-developer connection that Grinding Gear Games has forged and you’re in for a treat.
Best Portable Game — Pokemon Y
Pokemon X/Y is an enormous step forward for Nintendo’s go-to portable game series. It’s the first iteration for the 3DS, which is quickly becoming a must-own system. There is, naturally, a batch of new Pokemon to catch, including new starters and legendaries, but you are also given a Red/Blue starter very early on. Each Pokemon’s little mannerisms, sounds, and move animations are really wonderful in 3D. The addition of a new type, Fairy, adds more depth to an already complex type-matchup table. Mega Evolution, Super Training, Wonder Trading, Friend Safari … these are just a few of the new features awaiting you in Kalos.
Best Action Game — Batman: Arkham Origins
Some reviews say that Batman: Arkham Origins isn’t quite good enough and doesn’t live up to Rocksteady’s first two games in the series, but I couldn’t disagree more. WB Montreal did a wonderful job crafting a prequel in the Arkham Games universe, letting us see Batman before he is feared by all — Jim Gordon spends most of the game trying to bring you in, for God’s sake. There are combat techniques and gadgets both old and new, along with enemies from the Rogue’s Gallery (Enigma, Deadshot, Anarky) and a living, breathing Gotham City to explore and purge of evil.
Best Strategy Game — Fire Emblem: Awakening
Fire Emblem has been around for years, but the first 3DS iteration by Intelligent Systems is fantastic. You’ve got the standard base game — tile-based movement and turn-based combat, pitting you and your forces against evil, both human and demon. As usual, death for a character is permanent, so you always have to keep strengths, weaknesses, and positioning in mind. The support system has been upgraded in Awakening, allowing you to marry characters to create new ones with abilities of your choosing. Characters can also re-class multiple times and keep passive abilities between re-classings, allowing you to craft a truly unique team. Playing FE:A on hard mode is pretty difficult but very rewarding. You might even have to sacrifice a character to move on (your death was not in vain, Maribelle!)
Best Downloadable Game — Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
“What in the name of hell is going on?” you may be asking yourself. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is an 80’s-fueled adventure where only you, Rex Powercolt, can save the world from total destruction. There are bows, sniper rifles with explosive shells, cyborgs, and dragons that shoot neon lasers out of their eyeballs. It’s hard to put down for the 8-10 hours of playtime. I hope more developers do what Ubisoft did here — use a great game’s core engine to create a whole new world in a completely different setting at a lower price. Hell, it made me pick up Far Cry 3 after the fact (which I also loved).
Most Surprising Game — Resogun
Resogun was one of the two freebies for available to PS+ subscribers after picking up their PS4 at launch and it may have been the best launch game overall. Housemarque gave us an old-school shoot-em-up with three ships, five levels, and seemingly endless waves of enemies. The vibrant colors along with fire, electricity, and explosions truly pop on the PS4. On top of all of that, the world is built out of voxels (think Minecraft), so the screen is always littered with the shimmering remains of enemies. I think this is still free until January, but you should pick this one up even if you have to pay.
Most Addictive Game — Rogue Legacy
Remember playing Metroid/Castlevania back in the day, running back and forth throughout the map to collect all the power-ups and defeat the final boss? Cellar Door Game’s Rogue Legacy brings that to a whole new level. There are four zones to clear and a final boss to kill, but that isn’t where the fun really lies. The map is randomly generated each time you play and every death is permanent. But, every new game continues your character’s lineage. The gold you’ve collected and passive skill upgrades you’ve chosen will remain with you, sort of like your previous character’s lega-ohhhhhh I get it now. Each new character also has his/her own traits, which can be positive (higher HP) or negative (colorblind).
There you have it, folks. My personal favorites for the gaming year that was. Here’s to hoping 2014 can bring us even more great gaming experiences!