As is usual with the end of a hardware cycle, 2012 wasn’t as strong a year for games as the last two or three. Sales are down, and companies have announced few games to look forward to past the middle of 2013, indicating that the next hardware generation will likely hit late next year?as expected. That?s not to say that there weren?t some great games in 2012, including some fantastic new properties. I was even surprised by how much fun I?ve been having with the Wii U, a system I wasn?t really looking forward to. If a weak year can produce games like these, I can?t wait to see what happens when the next generation of hardware reinvigorates the industry.
Marc’s Top 5 Games for 2012
#5: New Super Mario Bros. U
Platforms: Wii U
I expected just another New Super Mario Bros. game?and, frankly, that thought didn?t thrill me. Boy, was I wrong! Not only is the main game masterfully designed and wickedly difficult, but the ability to add and remove blocks in multiplayer runs adds a fantastic new dimension to the game?such a simple mechanic that you can do so much with. Just when I think I have Nintendo figured out, they throw me something new. I love that!
#4: Darksiders II
Developer: Vigil Games
Platforms: 360, PS3, Wii U, PC
I enjoyed the first Darksiders, but I wasn?t ready for how much more fun Death is as a character. Sure, War was okay in the original game, but Death is more complex, and it?s much more fun to look into his motivations. The improved camera, voice acting, and settings also helped cement this as an action-RPG to respect. Vigil Games’ God of War/Zelda mashup never received the attention it deserved?but I’ll give it the love it warrants here.
#3: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: 38 Studios/Big Huge Games
Platforms: 360, PS3, PC
While everyone I knew was still riding high on Skyrim, I found myself searching the world of Amalur to discover my character?s fate. People said I was crazy when I proclaimed it my favorite RPG of the last few years, but I stand by that statement. I?ve played through Reckoning twice, and I?m working on my third character now?and it makes me sad that we likely won?t see a sequel to this epic. Still, it?s a game for my permanent collection.
#2: Far Cry 3
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: 360, PS3, PC
The late-coming Far Cry 3 made it very difficult to pick a personal game of the year. I enjoy first-person shooters, but I?ve never been so completely engrossed in a game where the primary objective is to shoot things in the face. I found myself wanting to hunt so I could craft useful upgrades and collect plants, so I had plenty of stuff to make medicine and enhancements. I could feel my character becoming a badass like never before. Pure genius.
Publisher: Bethesda Sotworks
Developer: Arkane Studios
Platforms: 360, PS3, PC
Technically, Dishonored certainly had a few issues. Executing some of the special moves was spotty, and trying to go through the whole game without killing anyone (something touted by developer Arkane Studios) is maddeningly difficult. Despite these few issues, the originality, stylized gameplay, excellent story, and ability to choose a personal playstyle kept me hooked like no other release did this year.
Marc’s Off-Topic Awards for 2012
|Personal Disappointment of the Year
Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion
|I?m not sure what happened here… I saw Power of Illusion at E3 and later at an event, and I had a great time with it. But once presented with the finished game, I was shocked to find a short, shallow experience artificially padded by mindless backtracking?sometimes not even to access new places, but merely to find objects that weren?t there before. This should’ve been a $15 download.|
|The ?Holy Crap, It?s Actually a Good Game!? Award
|At Nintendo’s E3 2012 press briefing, I remember sitting there with the other EGM editors watching the Nintendo Land presentation?the supposed “big reveal” of the day?and wondering if I’d slipped into the Twilight Zone. How were we supposed to get excited for this? So, it was with trepidation and general malaise that I popped the disc into my Wii U on November 18, only to find myself obsessed with the wacky collection of minigames based on Nintendo franchises. No, it certainly doesn?t warrant a Top 5 spot, but it’s a fantastic diversion?and it’s a great choice for a pack-in game.|
|Clusterf*** of the Year
38 Studios closure
|I feel bad for Curt Schilling. As an avid gamer, he had a clear dream after leaving a successful baseball career: open a development studio, recruit some serious talent, and put out some fantastic titles. He accomplished all three, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning should have started a powerful RPG franchise. Instead, mismanagement resulted in defaulted loans, bankruptcy, and Schilling losing most of his personal fortune (as the saying goes, don?t put all your eggs in one basket). There?s a good chance Amalur will resurface, as the IP still has some value, but Schilling?s dream is over?and the gaming world is poorer for it.|