Webb cites 'XCOM,' 'Guild Wars' among year's best
Seeing as how I am primarily a console gamer, my gaming compatriot and Byte Sized editor, Travis Webb, thought he should do his own Top 10 Games list that was a bit more representative of the PC gaming crowd. Here now are his choices. -- Stewart Smith
It was the year of the sequel in PC gaming. 2012 saw the release of numerous updates to older franchises and the best of the best managed to preserve what made their predecessors great while improving them in some way. But there were also a few great original releases this year that certainly deserve mention. Here's my Top 10 for 2012.
10. "The Walking Dead"
Based on the comic that in turn served as the inspiration for AMC's popular series of the same name, Telltale Games' point-and-click adventure surprised me. Typically, I don't expect much from games based on TV series, movies and comics but "The Walking Dead" does not disappoint.
9. "Diablo III"
Blizzard's third installment of the hack-and-slash "Diablo" series might have been the single most highly anticipated of 2012. Sadly, unlike "The Walking Dead," it does disappoint somewhat. Some questionable design decisions, including a real money auction house, which lets players buy and trade in-game loot for real world dollars, really hurt this game. Still, "D3" retains the best elements of its predecessors and remains a fun romp through a grim, but beautifully rendered realm.
8. "Darksiders II"
I know, I know, yet another grim hack-and-slash action title. But Vigil Games' "Darksiders II" distinguishes itself with fun, innovative controls and movement-based mechanics. It's one of the best of its kind I've played yet. Published by THQ, it's also notable (along with other THQ) titles, for being one of the only A-list titles ever offered on The Humble Indie bundle, which packages indie games for a pay-what-you-want prices and sends portions of the payment to charities for kids.
7. "Hotline Miami"
I'm not entirely sure how best to describe this bizarre little indie title, but "fun" should definitely be in the mix. An insane romp through an old-school styled 2Dworld, "Hotline Miami" is an entirely surreal experience. A sort of "Donnie Darko" meets "American Psycho" meets "Contra." The disturbingly violent sequences in this game are smartly contrasted with a 1980s aesthetic and soundtrack. It's weird, it's fun and if you're comfortable with mature content, you should probably be playing it.
6. "XCOM: Enemy Unknown"
This turn-based, strategy role-playing game provides a much-needed and refreshing update to the XCOM-universe first seen in "UFO: Enemy Unknown." That first game and subsequent titles were highly regarded efforts and this newest installment is no different - except that it might possibly be even better. Take control of an elite military organization and save Earth from hostile alien invaders? Yes please.
5. "Torchlight II"
Runic Games' follow up to the "Diablo" -style "Torchlight" manages to keep every element of what made the original so incredibly fun (addictive, even) and somehow, incredibly, improved on the formula. Adding multiplayer (arguably the only real criticism to emerge of the first "Torchlight" games was the lack of any multiplayer option) is just icing on the cake. This is how games should be - fast-paced and fun, with an easy-on-the-eyes, colorful look and some easy-on-the-graphics card system requirements. It costs one third what "Diablo III" does and I've played it three times as much.
4. "Borderlands 2"
Ah, "Borderlands 2," how do I love thee? This brilliant, schizophrenic role-playing game/first-person shooter hybrid is so addictively entertaining that it's probably the reason this article is late. (I'm kidding. Mostly.) The first "Borderlands," from developer Gearbox Software, was perhaps one of the most innovative games released in years and its successor lives up to that legacy with a unique look, frenetic shoot-em-up gameplay, brilliant multiplayer and most importantly, the sheer joy that comes from beating down bad guys with candy colored explosions.
3. "Mass Effect 3"
The capstone to a brilliant series, Bioware's "Mass Effect 3" brought closure to one of the best-loved series in gaming. Despite what some fans felt was a slightly unsatisfying conclusion (Personally, I thought the end was perfect), the third installment of the "Mass Effect" series was thrilling, fun and retains all that made the first two titles so brilliant. That's high praise, given that "Mass Effect 2" is widely regarded as one of the best video games ever made. This follow up isn't quite as perfect as that, but in a year ruled by sequels, this is hands-down one of the best.
I debated putting this effort from Arkane Studios in the top spot. It's great on its own merits and, even better, brings first-person stealth back to the PC. Console games are enjoying a golden-age of stealth-based games that began in the Play Station 2 era with titles like "Metal Gear Solid 2" and has continued all the way up to this year's "Assassin's Creed 3," but the last truly remarkable PC stealth game was 2004's "Thief: Deadly Shadows." Until now. Published by legendary studio Bethesda, this game is easily among the best of this year's releases, one of the only original titles on this list and silly amounts of fun.
1. "Guild Wars 2"
When the subscription based massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG or MMO to gamers) was king, developer ArenaNet bucked the trend and released what was easily the best game of its time, 2005's "Guild Wars," with no need for a subscription. Now, many MMOs have subsequently gone free-to-play, most notably Bioware's "Star Wars: The Old Republic," and fans and critics alike suggest that the "World of Warcraft" subscription model is dying. But if "Guild Wars 2" is the shape of things to come, then the MMO market still looks promising. "GW2" does everything a good MMO should and, like all great games, packages those separately well-designed elements together for a sum that is much greater than its parts.
Honorable Mention: "Far Cry 3"