Game of the Year – Our Picks
Holy cats, everyone! It’s time for 2012! There were some amazing games that came out in the past year. There were so many great games in fact that I had to stagger my budget and choose between food and gaming a number of times. Gaming usually won. To celebrate the new year, Save Game’s crew has come up with their favorites from the last 365 days. Here they are, our picks for Game of the Year.
Joe: Portal 2
This has been quite the year for videogame fans, huh? There hasn’t been a year with so many fantastic titles since, well, last year. Choosing one above all others, however, proved difficult for me. But after a lot of studious research, and more than a little soul searching, I arrived at a choice. My game of the year is Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters.
Just kidding, it’s Portal 2.
The original Portal was a sensation. Repeating the game’s success was a imposing task, one that the folks at Valve weren’t even sure they wanted to tackle at first. I mean, how do you top “The cake is a lie?” But top it they did, creating a masterpiece that did what every great sequel does. It keeps everything that made the original so great, while expanding and deepening the game’s world in every conceivable way.
The gameplay, while unchanged at its core, was refined to such a degree that I rarely, if ever, found myself frustrated. Every room built upon the challenge of the last, and escaping each one was an exhilarating victory. And you’re not just hopping from room to room anymore. The white, sterile environments of Aperture Science have seen better days. Vegetation covers the walls, water drips from holes in the ceiling, and the rooms you inhabit creak and groan as if they’re about to fall apart. Working your way through these dilapidated gargantuan structures can be a breathtaking experience, especially in the later levels when the game world literally starts to tear itself apart. Honestly, though, the thrills I felt exploring and solving the game’s puzzles were secondary to the enjoyment I had watching the story of Portal 2 unfold.
Portal 2’s story is brilliant. Brilliantly funny, brilliantly twisted, brilliantly moving, just… brilliant all around. It sends Chell and GLaDOS on a journey that feels very familiar at first, but takes a sharp left turn about a third of the way through, and keeps you guessing all the way to the end. Released from the shackles of their hero and villain archetypes, the relationship between these two characters is a joy to watch develop. And unlike the original, Chell and GLaDOS are not the only stars of the show. Two new characters, aided by the immense vocal talents of Stephen Merchant and J.K. Simmons, help to broaden the narrative’s scope, and provide many of the game’s biggest laughs. But the story isn’t told just for chuckles. There’s some pretty heavy stuff in Portal 2, and I found myself being moved in ways I never expected. The story of Aperture Science, of its rise and gradual, painful fall, takes up the entire second act of the game, and serves as a melancholy counterweight to the uproarious finale that follows. At its heart, though, Portal 2 is an uplifting tale. The game’s message is a simple one, powerfully told: never give up.
Speaking of uproarious finales, there is one reason above all others that Portal 2 is my game of the year: the ending. I sort of have a thing with endings. If a movie, book, game, meal, pretty much anything ends badly, the whole experience is kinda ruined. The “yeah, but it was great up until…” argument doesn’t really work for me. So as Portal 2’s finale approached, I was more than a little apprehensive. It turned out, though, that my worries were severely misplaced. Portal 2 has one of the best, if not the best, ending to a videogame I have ever seen. It is a cathartic release (literally and figuratively) for both Chell and GLaDOS, and resolves their conflict in a surprisingly touching way. Watching the final minutes of Portal 2 play out, you’ll find yourself grinning ear to ear while simultaneously blinking back a tear. It’s bewilderingly perfect. And just when you think it’s over, you’re hit with one last flash of brilliance so unexpectedly warm and fuzzy that it will leave you wanting to hug the TV screen.
And if a game makes you hug your TV, how can it not be your game of the year?
Game of the year. 2011 has been one hell of a year for gaming. With each release it seemed like studios were pushing their creative talents farther and farther and the end result was a year full of games that transcended themselves and became art.
My game of the year will probably come as no surprise to most of you: without question, Skyrim takes the title for me. From the absolutely gorgeous world (in which I spent quite a bit of time just exploring) to the sidequests that actually felt like part of the adventure as opposed to necessary level grinding chores, the game completely stole my heart. That’s not to say that it was perfection (after all, such things do not exist), it had its flaws and quirks (the amazing backwards-flying dragon, anyone). For me, however, the game was not the sum total of its flaws, rather it was an enjoyably immersive trip into the beautiful, dangerous world that Bethesda rendered for the gaming community.
Happy New Year, and here’s to a 2012 filled with more amazing efforts from the studios we all love.
Liz: Saints Row: The Third
It’s not Skyrim.
Skyrim was great, don’t get me wrong. It was a fantastic game with limitless things to do, a beautiful game that was well crafted (spare for some bugs and writing that could leave a little more to be desired.) But was it fun? For the first 25 hours, yes.
I’ve racked up 57 hours in Skyrim. I have two jobs in the real world outside of this – so that’s a lot of time spent on one game. After a while, though, the breath of fresh air that was Skyrim turned a bit stale. I wasn’t smithing anymore because it was fun, I was doing it because I thought I had to. Skyrim became a few hours of accepting a menial quest I didn’t really care about, travelling from point a to b, travelling to a cave, clearing the gave, getting the object and returning to point b to collect something I didn’t even really want in the first place. Skyrim just stopped being a fun game.
You know what still hasn’t stopped being a fun game after 30 hours? Saints Row: The Third. That’s why it’s my GOTY.
No, I’m deadly serious about this, and here’s why: when you dedicate a large portion of your life to games, should it be because you identify as a ‘gamer,’ you’re a competitive player, you develop games, write about them, any reason, you tend to forget that games are still supposed to be fun every now and then. I know that personally, I rarely find games that I want to play because they’re fun, but rather I’ll play them because I feel like I need to finish them for whatever reason.
That’s not to say they’re not enjoyable, I’m more than often motivated to finish a game because of the narrative or characters (just look at Dragon Age II.) When I play a genuinely fun game, though, I get this feeling while I do so – it’s like being happy the whole time (unless they actually try to make you feel something else.) Think of it like the Sims: games like Arkham City, while still good games and enjoyable, only fill my ‘fun’ bar half way. Games like Portal 2 and Saints Row: The Third, however, fill it all the way to the top.
It’s not a groundbreaking game or even a technically impressive one, and Saints Row: The Third tends to get a pretty bad rap for being a ‘GTA rip off,’ or ‘crass trash that caters to the lowest common denominator.’ The great thing about Saints Row: The Third, is that it knows this and it runs with it. It doesn’t try to open your mind or relay an important message or even impress critics, all it wants to be is fun – naked, beating animal mascots to death with a giant dildo on a Japanese game show fun.
It’s been so long since I’ve actually looked forward to getting home and playing a game like this, not because it’s enthralling or immersive or even an escape, but because it makes me really, really happy. Saints Row: The Third is like South Park, it’s that parody humor I love so dearly, and it’s done so well – the game even parodies itself. I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard at a game since Portal 2, and the only reason I’m not giving Portal 2 my GOTY is because I don’t feel it had enough content (consider this an honorary mention, however.)
Saints Row: The Third reminded me that in a time where gaming is fighting so hard to be taken seriously, it’s totally okay to just switch off once in a while and play something that is essentially really, really dumb and mindless for fun. That’s all the game is – raw fun. It doesn’t try to be anything more than that, it didn’t try to change the world or even make a mark. It just wants to be a video game that you’ll have a blast playing.
Oh, and the Murderbrawl and end missions? Perfectly orchestrated, by the way.
Griffon: Saints Row: The Third
We are finally at the end of this absolutely packed year of gaming. My wallet is hiding in a corner somewhere crying to ring in the new year, but it was well worth it. There was a glut of quality releases this year, from Portal 2 to Bastion and the already heralded Skyrim. And despite this packed year, there was no wrangling and stressing over what was the best game on offer this year. It was an easy choice… Saints Row: The Third ran away with the title.
That’s right… Saints Row: The Third is my game of the year. I have not had more fun this year with any other title. Here you have a game that lets you create a character, customise various things within the game, create general mayhem and chaos, and then even gives you a story that is pure over the top absurd greatness. Where else can I run around with an exploding octopus launcher or wield my trusty purple dildo against dozens of thugs all while taking over the city in the name of the Saints? Even driving around randomly creating mass destruction or just sightseeing is a blast. From random construction sites to cops responding to an accident or to me simply trying my best to melt the game with explosions all over the screen… there is just so much to do.
Of course it doesn’t hurt that you can join a friend and run around Steelport wreaking havoc with two people. This actually brings so much more to the game. Not only is it fun sharing the destruction and absurdity with a friend, but several of the activities take on a whole new level of sheer insanity when you are getting random commentary about the client in the back of your car! And there is always the hours upon hours of being run over, punched, whacked with a huge purple dildo, or RC carred into a tree to catapult you… the fun never ends with two people!
And that right there is why this is easily the game of the year. It is pure, simple fun from beginning to end. This game has made me laugh hard and often. It might not be the most serious of stories or as deeply layered open world as other games, but the streets of Steelport offered far more memorable moments of sheer brilliance than anything else this year. Saints Row: The Third is simply the best game this year. Strap it on!
Tash: Saints Row: The Third
Saints Row: The Third is my Game of The Year. It might not have the best graphics. It might not have been the most marketed and hyped game. It might not have had the exposure of other triple A titles which released this year. But it had the fun. It had the laugh out loud moments. It had the ‘holy shit what the hell just happened? Who cares, just run with it’ magic that makes a game stand out from all others. That makes a game stay in your memory, and makes you want to play it until the early hours of the morning. And because of all these things and more, it’s my pick for Game of the Year.
The single player campaign is amazing. The missions are pure, raw magic and just when you think you’ve seen Saints Row: The Third’s trump card, it one-ups itself in a fashion that literally makes your jaw drop. I’ve never had as much fun as I have had playing Saints Row: The Third. It is balls to the wall, laugh out loud, ‘I can’t believe I just did that’ enjoyment that I have never found in any other game. There are so many moments within the single player campaign that had me in stitches, and the addictive quality of playing ‘just one more mission’ meant I was going to go to sleep far, far later than I should have been. The single player aspect of the game is, to summarise in one word, sublime. When you include the fact that the whole campaign can be played co-operatively with a friend – that just makes Saints Row: The Third the pinnacle of gaming this year.
I have had so much fun cruising around Steelport with my friends, randomly creating mayhem on the streets. With the open-world nature of the game comes an almost limitless playground of opportunities. It’s insane the amount of fun you can have just walking around the city with your co-op buddy. No other game offers this kind of experience. No other game provides so much fun via the single-player or multi-player modes. There are games that are made to make a statement, or to be considered ‘artistically relevant’. Saints Row: The Third was made for the gamer who just wants to have pure, unadulterated fun. No underlying, thought-provoking message. No biting social commentary. Just the fun that comes with running naked through a city whilst you lob grenades at pursuing cars and launch people out of a man-canon. It’s not intellectually challenging, there are no deep moral choices or discussions of existentiality, but there doesn’t have to be. Saints Row: The Third offers the player the ability to forget about all of that and just go completely wild in a open-world game with limitless opportunities for mayhem and destruction. And my god is it FUN.
Saints Row: The Third is hands down my Game of The Year. And now if you’ll excuse me, Shaundi and I have some ho’s who need some Saints schoolin.’
Jen: Batman: Arkham City
My game of the year may be a surprise to some of you. Admittedly I haven’t put nearly as much time into Arkham City as I have into Skyrim. Skyrim was almost my Game of the Year. Hell, I may even enjoy it more than Arkham City, but there were things about Arkham City that I simply couldn’t ignore. In my opinion, the game is absolutely flawless. It is mastery of all the different elements of a great game coming together for a pitch perfect experience.
Batman: Arkham City is the only game I have ever given a perfect score review and there were several reasons for this. The first was that the gameplay mechanics were some of the most instinctual, most fun and satistying I’ve ever felt. The fluid style of combat and the animations accompanying it were absolutely beautiful. The entire world was gorgeous. Arkham City’s geography was littered with realism and intensely dark colors. The mood and tone of the game was wholly immersive. Add to that a brilliant score, and you have a world that felt gritty and real.
I can’t say enough about how wonderful the voice acting is, especially Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and The Joker respectively. The story was well told and felt like it unfolded very naturally. Even in the open world setting where sidequests galore dotted the landscape, I never once felt disconnected from the main quest-line in the way I have in other open world games. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about this title. I feel the designers, writers, animators, composers and all the rest of the artistic team at Rocksteady deserve a standing ovation. This game is technically pitch perfect.
The added bonus to all of this of course is that you get to be Batman. Batman. And you really do feel like Batman when you’re playing (I suppose maybe that was just me. I was wearing the suit). In any case if you haven’t picked it up in 2011, you definitely should in 2012. Batman: Arkham City is astonishingly superb.
Keller: Batman: Arkham City
I didn’t think I would be trying Batman: Arkham City until 2012. Sure, it was on my ‘to try’ list, but therewere other games that I had planned on playing first. However, it sneaked into my gaming collection earlier than expected, a delicious Christmas present from my sister to be shared with myself and our brother. On the25th, right after present time, the three of us huddled together on the couch for a few hours; we would take turns playing as Batman while the other two took to backseat-gaming. Within those few hours, I knew I had found my choice for Game of the Year.
This game has something for everybody. Narrative, well-developed characters, a phenomenal soundtrack. Strategic combat combined with stealth and special abilities. Wonderful graphics. Great controls and camera. You can glide, fly, hang, attack enemies witha multitude of weaponry, and I actually felt like I was Batman in the filthy crime-ridden streets of Gotham City, fleshed out in grimy detail. The opening theme alone makes me shiver and I hope to get my hands on a soundtrack. The characters Batman encounters are alive with the superb voice acting,and if you want to learn more about them you can find out about them in you rdatabase. This is a considerable feat given the number of characters that make an appearance. The dialogue is exquisite as well, and I got a kick out of how Batman can be such astoic ass to those who want to help him.
This is also the first game where I’ve deliberately died. Depending on what mission you are on and when, if you there are different nemeses to taunt you should you happen fall in enemy fire. I didn’t discover this for awhile, but I found myself ‘accidentally’ getting in between assault rifles and a wall more often afterwards.
The menu interface feels very natural too, both suitable for the nature of Arkham City and the gamer. I think it’s one ofthe best interfaces I’ve come across. Furthermore, not only is the main story meaty and interesting, but there’s a multitude of side-missions to complete that I found have just as much depth as the main missions. Whether you’re saving a doctor, or collecting trophies from The Riddler, I never felt I was wasting my time. You can even collect the concept art for the game, and stories about characters and occurrences in Gotham that take place outside of Arkham City. Even then, I did not feel compelled to rush through those missions either. I spent a good hour simply gliding and swinging, beating up random thugs and exploring the environment.
You don’t need to be a Batman fan to enjoy this game either. My sister, through her backseat gaming adventures, expressed interest in borrowing it when my brother and I were done, and that, I think, says something with regards to Arkham City’s ability to appeal to multiple audiences.
Some aspects of combat are a bit tough. There are many more moves and combat skills in Arkham City than most other games I’ve played, and the diversity is refreshing albeit a tad cumbersome at times, simply for the sheer amount of combos to remember and when they work. That said, I couldn’t imagine the controls being any easier given the multitude of actions, and the diversity more than makes up for it.
I admit that I have trouble explaining this game, and this rave of mine is rather condensed. This game takes itself seriously, but it is also a blast to play. All those positive reviews that Arkham City has received, including from Save Game? It deserved them. Plus, I find it hard to think of a game that I would recommend to absolutely any and every gamer, thus it is my choice for Game of the Year.
Kim: Star Wars: The Old Republic
My Game of the Year is without a doubt Star Wars: The Old Republic.
In fact, it’s so much my Game of the Year, that my editor had to remind me to stop playing SW:TOR and write this piece. After crafting just onnnne more Reflex 3 barrel, I was finally able to get my act together and log out.
It’s no secret I have been a huge Bioware fan ever since I first played Baldur’s Gate back in the day. I have loyally bought and played and loved every Bioware game that has been released since then, and SW:TOR is no different. Although part of me will always be disappointed that I’ll never get to play my Revan again, SW:TOR has done an admirable job of filling that gap, both satisfying my KOTOR nostalgia, and giving me a new experience to enjoy (for those of you experiencing a similar sense of loss, just wait until you get to Taris; the call backs to KOTOR are perfect).
Gorgeous scenery, stirring music, and typical Bioware first class voice acting aside (o hai, Jennifer Hale!), what I love most about SW:TOR is that it really does have something to offer for everyone, whether you like to strike out on your own, or like to socialize with your guild mates, whether you want to sneak around enemy faction bases and eff shit up, or take down rebel scum/Imperial dogs out in the open in PvP.
The companion system allows the game to play just as well as a single player RPG as it does as an MMORPG.
Making the repetitive “kill x number of y enemies” quests that are so typical of MMOs (which were a big reason why I stopped playing World of Warcraft back in the day) optional was a stroke of genius.
The story line throughout the game, which varies depending on which class you choose, is engaging enough to make you keep playing, just to see what happens next.
The dialogue system, as it did in Mass Effect and Dragon Age, offers enough variation to allow you to role play your character, develop their personality, and grow attached to them in a way you might not in other games.
The only negative I can think about for SW:TOR is that I’m beginning to get a little worried I might not be able to tear myself away come March, when Mass Effect 3 releases.
In short, there haven’t been a lot of games that have kept me up playing until 6:30 AM, but SW:TOR is one of them. I encourage you to find out if it’ll make you do the same.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some people to Rocket Punch.
There you have it. Our picks for Game of the Year. We’re looking forward to more gaming and more opinionating on all things gaming in 2012 so Happy New Year to all of you! See you next year!