Been thinking about this one a bit, but I’ll keep this one quick. I mention them along with the platforms on which I played and preferred them. Starting with number seven…
7. Afterfall: Insanity (PC)
This game received very little fanfare, and still doesn’t have an official support or community discussion forum anywhere online. It’s a damn solid third-person horror game, which clearly takes immense amounts of inspiration from the Dead Space series, especially in controls and user interface. The action is fun, the scares are scary, and despite some kinda lame writing, the story is actually pretty interesting. I look forward to seeing more from this studio.
Link: Afterfall on Gamersgate
6. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PC)
I can think of at least a dozen close friends who would lovingly place this one at the top of their lists, easily, but for me, the end result of the game didn’t live up to the hype. The combat gets repetitive easily, and when you realize all the unpolished exploits that sit right in front of your eyes, it becomes difficult to ignore them, like a four-year-old pulling hard on your leg and begging for your attention the entire time you’re playing. Despite that, the exploration of the game is second to none, and I’ve paid more to MMOs just to wander around in that open beauty. I highly recommend the PC version, because as with all Elder Scrolls games, if you miss out on the mods, you are missing out on over half of the intended gaming experience.
Link: Skyrim on Steam
5. Dead Island (PC/X360)
While this game certainly did not turn out to be anything at all like that trailer, it did end up being one damn fun game. Two parts Borderlands, two parts Left 4 Dead, and a little dash of Grand Theft Auto thrown in for good measure, I had quite a blast running around on Bamoi Island and murdering zombies. While it certainly had its flaws, I found it to be a more effective zombie survival game than, say, the Left 4 Dead series. This was one of the first games I tested out with my new FragFX 360 game controller, and it worked so well that way that I ended up buying it a second time on the PC.
Link: Dead Island on Steam
4. EYE: Divine Cybermancy (PC)
This one really took me by surprise. One of my close pals recommended it to me, and I’m extremely glad that he did. This indie title is a first-person rpg-shooter hybrid, built in Valve’s Source engine. This game does not hold your hand one bit after you complete a very minimal tutorial mission, and I’m totally on board with that. There are so many elements to this game (hacking, leveling, cyberware, research, psi powers, etc) that new players to it will likely be very confused at the beginning. I was, and I almost put it away for good after a few tries. But I stuck with it and figured out “the trick” to it, and from then on it became one of my favorite all-time shooters on the PC. Best part is that it completely lacks a manual save function – in other words, your actions and decisions count, and when the shit hits the fan, you have to try and deal with it right then and there.
3. Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC)
I was trying to think of a “I didn’t ask for this” joke, but the truth is, this game is exactly what I had been asking for for some time. Pretty much everything about this game blew my mind, and I devoured it hungrily and happily. Even the boss fights, which everyone else hates, weren’t enough to mar the final experience for me. Hardcore fans of the original game like to bash this one, but it’s hard for me to accept most of that bashing as anything other than grognardian teeth-gnashing. WHile the original had some important elements that were handled better that first time, this game stays true to its roots, and delivers one hell of a noir-esque cyberpunk ride.
Link: Deus Ex: HR on Steam
2. Dead Space 2 (X360)
Visceral Games somehow managed to take one of the most concept-perfect games ever (the original Dead Space) and make it even moreso. I don’t have a single complaint about this game. Not one. From the game’s fucking insane opening sequence to the very last line uttered in the game, it is action horror at its very finest, and I can’t begin to imagine how the upcoming third game could top it.
1. Bastion (PC)
If you are a fan of Zelda-like game play, you are doing yourself a great disservice by not playing this game. I didn’t even touch it until the last handful of days of 2011, but that experience was enough for me to crown this my top game of the year. Everything about it amazes me, from the spot-on music to the story-meets-gameplay-without-pause narration, to the fun mechanics and the beautiful scenery.
Link: Bastion on Steam
Coming up next, perhaps a post on my favorite tabletop moments? Who knows…