Game of the Year 2012: 10-6
We continue our look back at 2012 with our second of three Game of the Year articles. Agree or disagree with our rankings? Sound off in the comments.
The indie explosion has taken the 2D platformer from a dying breed to being the most creatively fruitful genre in gaming. Fez separated itself from the crowd by breaking down the barrier between 2D and 3D games in a simple, charming manner. Puzzles are intelligently designed; few will reach the infamous 209.4% game completion without the aid of an FAQ. Phil Fish may have divided opinions among the independent community, but his vision and execution cannot be so easily contested. Fez is the Xbox 360’s best exclusive of 2012 and at just 800 Microsoft Points, is utterly essential.
9th. Trials Evolution
Trials Evolution is the perfect example of iteration working well in videogames. There are no pretensions to it; only top-notch mechanics serving as a strong backbone for the year’s most refined, standout downloadable game. There is no hyperbole in saying that it is among the upper echelon of the year’s output, downloadable or otherwise. Not so much an evolution but a rounding out of mechanics to their absolute best and simplest form. Everything Trials Evolution tries it nails and this alone justifies it in the conversation for the best game of 2012.
8th. Borderlands 2
Borderlands 2 really is the gift that keeps on giving. There’s always a new quest, new level, or new gun to be found just shimmering enticingly over the horizon. The sequel takes everything that worked in the original and refines the formula, making for a superb co-op outing that scales in difficulty and loot based on how full the team is. Gearbox has proven its interest in keeping things lively as long as possible with perfectly-timed DLC that keeps players coming back for more, lest they somehow find another shooter/RPG-hybrid with this much content and personality in it.
It may be Thatgamecompany’s least abstract title, but measured against any other game on this list, Journey is a boundary pushing experience. There’s no narrated or spoken story, its simple mechanics of jumping and bleating symbols aren’t a test of reflexes or systemic knowledge, and there’s no failure state beyond the occasional mild set-back. It’s all relatively simple in comparison to most videogame adventures, but each of these simplifications is a purposeful piece of design by Thatgamecompany, intended to create beauty on both an aesthetic and thematic level.
Glinting sun-baked sand dunes and snow-powdered mountain tops are painted in glorious light cell-shading, and there’s something hypnotically ethereal about the elegance with which your faceless, armless, triangular characters wander the desert and dance with floating cloth creatures. But on a deeper level it’s an experience that succeeds in being a metaphor for the journey we take through life. There are moments of success and moments of failure, moments of joy and moments of sadness, there are fleeting dalliances and longer lived companionships, and there is the eventual fate we all share that gives way to the cyclical nature of living things. That Journey effortlessly synthesizes these elements and ideas into one cohesive and symbolic videogame is simply astounding.
The brilliantly realised pseudo-steampunk 19th-century Londonian whaling city of Dunwall, and supernatural tale of revenge and betrayal demonstrate Arkane’s ability to craft a game with rare consistency of vision. More than any other component of Dishonored‘s design, freedom of choice is the reason that it occupies this position. Possess a rat and sneak in through through the sewers, platform your way up balconies using the distance warping ‘Blink’ ability and slip in through an unlocked window, or simply blast away the guards and blow open the front doors with ‘Windblast’? The solution is always up to you and the sheer variety of well-designed approaches on offer often makes it hard to choose. The only easy decision that Dishonored ever gives you is whether or not you should play it, to which the answer is yes, absolutely, unquestionably, right now, with a cherry on top.
Keep an eye out for the top 5 tomorrow!