Save Game’s GOTY picks for 2012

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Here we are. Almost to the end of another year and it’s that time where we reflect on the year that was and decide which games were the standout in 2012. Our staff and contributors have chosen the game that they believe was the best game they played during 2012. ‘Best’ is perhaps an understatement here – these games are those which offered the most intriguing, most involving, most affective experience – the games which became more than simply ‘games’. The games listed below are a diverse bunch, and there may be some surprises amongst those picked. But there’s one thing they all share – these games made an impact on those that played them – that intangible feeling you get when you know you’re experiencing something magical. Check out our staff’s picks for Game of the Year 2012.

JeffThe Walking Dead

That hard piece of metal at the side of my head is Tash’s gun while she yells at me to put Mass Effect 3 down as my Game of the Year.  That knife at my throat is Jen telling me the same thing.  Somewhere in this room Joe is talking to a crumpled up picture of Liara T’soni and telling her that everything will be alright, that Jeff will come to his senses soon.   I wanted to tell you about the other amazing games I played in 2012, like Asura’s Wrath, Retro City Rampage, XCOM: Enemy Unknown and yes, even Mass Effect 3.  Since we’re limited to one choice though, know that I’m pouring out my 40 for those games that can’t join us today.

The Walking Dead by Telltale Games set out to do the impossible: translate one of my favorite comics into an episodic game that I would want to play.  As a comic The Walking Dead is known for the drama that is produced by character interaction with brief moments of all hell breaking loose.  As a game, The Walking Dead recreates that drama between characters and manages to tell its own story while maintaining the right blend between action and tension.

What made The Walking Dead stand out to me is that it focused on immersing the player in the world, while still giving them the freedom to make the main character their own.  In many ways it blends the best parts of Heavy Rain and Mass Effect.  You have decisions to make, people to try and please and relationships to build.   Unlike those games, you will not be making clear cut good and bad decisions.  The best way to play The Walking Dead is by choosing dialogue and actions with how you feel about the situation at the time.  Telltale’s writers border on emotional abuse by giving you very likable, real characters and then taking them from you in very violent ways.  They set the bar pretty high, and I cannot wait to see what they pull out for season 2.

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JenMass Effect 3

It probably comes as no surprise that my Game of the Year is Mass Effect 3.  Since the first game of the trilogy debuted in 2007 I, like many of my fellow Mass Effect fans have been waiting patiently (and not so patiently) to see how this epic space opera would finally end.

Finally, in March of this year, all of our anticipation was rewarded with a game that even with its faults is most definitely one of the most epic games, in my opinion, ever. Familiar characters that I both loved and hated for years got their final curtain call in a complex, cleverly written, honest and satisfying way for the most part (and especially after the Extended Cut ending was released).

Mass Effect 3 was not without its faults, and being a rabid Bioware fan  does come with a certain level of ridiculously lofty expectations that could never hope to be met by even the most amazing game.  Mass Effect 3 came the closest to the psychotically demanding perfection as possible for me.

The Mass Effect trilogy for me is far more than just a series of games. It’s a community, a fandom in which I’ve met some of my closest and dearest friends (including most of the Save Game staff).  With the end of Commander Shepard’s story comes a bittersweet closure, and one that I found very satisfying.

To watch the improvements and advancements in story, combat, design, and everything else from Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2 and then see the final culmination of fan feedback, trial and error, and new ideas make it’s way to my console in Mass Effect 3 was exquisite.  I felt I’d watched the developers and designers grow as artists and felt privileged to do so.

I know that the Mass Effect universe will live on.  Bioware has said as much, but for me the end of Commander Shepard’s story is where I place the true end, and a part of me is sad that’s over.  So sad in fact that that I haven’t even downloaded and played the newest Omega DLC, saving it for some future playthrough – a new small footnote to add to my Shepard’s history.

Thank you for Mass Effect 3, Bioware.  My Game of the Year for 2012.

JoeHalo 4

So, I chose Halo 4 as my Game of the Year.  But I’m not going to go through all the reasons why the game is great.  That’s what my review is for.  Instead, I’m going to tell you a story.  It’s about the moment I realized that playing Halo 4 was the most fun I’d had in a game all year, and the moment I knew what my Game of the Year pick had to be. 

 I was nearing the end of a particularly intense episode of Spartan Ops.  Playing solo is never easy, and this round had been especially brutal.  But I had survived what I thought was the final wave of enemies, and was making my way towards a rescue ship that would end the mission.  Out of nowhere, an enemy troop transport swooped out of the sky, and dropped off the largest pack of elites and grunts I had ever seen.  There were 3 elites, a least a dozen grunts, and they were standing between me and my ride out of there.  I was low on ammo. I had no cover.  If I charged them, I’d be dead.  If I ran, I’d be dead.  In short, I was toast.  Or was I? 

 I hurled a grenade into the crowd, causing them to scatter, and sprinted towards a rock outcropping that seemed a hundred miles away. By sheer luck, the detonation sent a grunt flying towards me, its plasma pistol skidding to a stop directly in my path.  I grabbed it, charged it up, and fired at the nearest elite, dropping its shields.  Two rounds in the head, and it dropped.  The others continued to shoot, and my shields were failing fast.  I reached the outcrop just as my sprint ran out. The air was filled with plasma fire.  My shields were down.  The enemy was closing in. I crouched, reloaded my weapon, and waited.  I was toast.  Or was I?

It was then that I heard the greatest sound in all of gaming: the Halo shield recharge.  I rose from the behind the rock, empowered and emboldened.  I used my last grenade on the elites, causing them to dive out of the way.  Thanks to my lucky plasma pistol, by the time they had repositioned, their shields were already down.  A few well placed rifle rounds, and they were gone.  Now all I had to do was deal with ten or so grunts who now had no leader.  When grunts lose their elite handlers, they do one of two things. Usually, they just throw their hands up and run away.  It’s hilarious.  But sometimes… sometimes, they turn Kamikaze.  They light their plasma grenades and run straight towards you in a suicide attack.  It’s terrifying.  And it’s exactly what every single grunt I was facing did.  I was toast.  Or was I? 

Yes, this time I was definitely toast.  I turned and ran, trying to sprint away, but I was nearly surrounded.  I spun around to face the horde, continuing the backpedal, and was mystified by the sight before me. Nearly a dozen grunts, running towards me, arms flailing over their heads, a sizzling plasma grenade in each hand. It would have been beautiful if it wasn’t so frightening.  I was seconds away from being vaporized, so I did the only thing I could: panic.  Firing wildly into the oncoming stampede of death, a lucky round caught the lead grunt in just the right spot.  It knocked the nasty little bugger clean off its feet, and sent it cartwheeling backwards.  Its two plasma grenades hung serenely in midair for a moment, before falling back down, sticking on two other grunts, and exploding. When the plasma grenades stuck, the resulting explosions caused the two grenades those grunts were carrying to go off, which in turn caused even more explosions.  My television became a blur of blue, white, and purple flashes.  I stopped backpedaling, and tried to wrap my head around what I was watching.  By the time the chain reaction had finished, I was only thing left standing on the battlefield. 

 I sat on my couch, motionless, a familiar combination of disbelief and euphoria swirling in my head.  It is a sensation unique to Halo; a feeling of doing something that is not only heroic, but also so ridiculous and improbable that I will almost certainly never do it again.  But I don’t care because I know that just around the next corner, there will be another chance for me to be the hero all over again.  To be confronted with a seemingly unbeatable enemy; yet with enough skill, ingenuity and luck, somehow emerge victorious.  This is the essence of Halo; the “thirty seconds of fun,” as Bungie famously called it.  And it is alive and well in Halo 4.  For all of it’s problems, and there are many, Halo 4 still gets the big things right.  It makes me believe that there is nothing I cannot accomplish.  It makes me want to play one more mission, and then another, and then another.  It makes me feel like a God.  And most importantly, its heart is in the right place.  For that reason, more than any other, Halo 4 is my Game of the Year.

GriffonMinecraft (360)

I know it’s been around on the PC longer, but like many, I did not get dragged into the wonderful addiction until this year with the LIVE Arcade release on the 360.  And now I’ve easily lost hours in the many worlds me and some friends created.  I love the creative imagination this game allows, the therapeutic nature of mining for resources, the music, and the ability to toggle between a peaceful worry free jaunt through creation or careful management of hunger and health.  This game is practically endless.  I haven’t even completely filled out one world, though my friends and I have tried, let alone exhaust the countless different world seeds available.  And there are even more updates on the horizon to even further enhance the game… so there is no doubt or even stray thought that Minecraft 360 is the game of the year.  It’s been the most engaging experience this year, hand’s down! 

TashMass Effect 3

I know – my pick for Game of the Year is a shock, huh? For those that know me, could there possibly be any other choice for Game of the Year than Mass Effect 3?

It was closer than you might think. This year has seen some absolutely spectacular releases. I was entranced by Dishonored – a game I hadn’t heard much about but one that I feel head over heels in love with as soon as I started playing. The Witcher 2 released on the 360 and it was every bit the magical experience that its PC counterpart was when it released last year. Need For Speed: Most Wanted raced onto the scene only recently and yet it scored the first 10 I have ever given a video game. So why have I chosen Mass Effect 3 as my Game of the Year when it didn’t score a perfect 10?

Because out of all the games I’ve played this year, Mass Effect managed to achieve something none of the others have done. It made me cry.

There were moments in Mass Effect 3 where, when playing through them, I had tears streaming down my face. I was unashamedly bawling my eyes out because the game was so well written, the voice over work so superb, that I was totally and completely lost in the moment of what was unfolding on the screen in front of me. To feel that sort of emotion – that strength of emotion – that is unlike anything I have ever experienced before or after. Mass Effect 3 is more than a game. It’s more than the third part of a trilogy. Mass Effect 3 is the culmination of an experience that has been years in the making.

These characters. These worlds. These enemies. After three games they became beloved to me. They are more than just pixels on a screen. They’re characters with strengths and flaws and emotions. Worlds with history. Enemies with motives and reason. And Mass Effect 3 gave them all the send off they deserved. Perhaps it wasn’t perfect. Perhaps it featured an ending that wasn’t what I expected. But Mass Effect 3 featured everything that Bioware, and the series as a whole is known for – spectacular writing. Pitch perfect voice over. Sublime musical scores. Cutscenes that were so full of emotion and feeling and force that they make such an impact you’ll remember them long after you’ve put down your controller or mouse for the day.

Mass Effect 3 is my Game of The Year because of what it made me feel. Heartbreak. Anguish. Fear. Hope. I ran the gamut of emotions playing this game, and I know I’ll run them again when I start up my next Shepard. The team at Bioware know how to create a masterpiece, and Mass Effect 3 is the pinnacle of an emotional adventure. Mass Effect 3 is an experience that makes you feel.

And dammit if I don’t tear up everytime I think of seashells now.


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    About the Author: (@MidnightReyn) Founder & Editor-in-Chief

    Tash

    Tash is a self-diagnosed gaming fanatic with a doctorate in Psychology. She's also a self-confessed Mass Effect fangirl and will likely talk your ears off if you ever get her started on the subject. A lover of all things RPG and adventure, she has more gamer related action figures and memorabilia than any 20 something year old professional has a right to own, and has spent more time than she’d like to admit to daydreaming about exactly what she would do should the Zombie Apocalypse actually happen.