Now that I've had a few days to calm down from my invective filled analysis of 2013 in Part I of this review - here's a few games / trends / ideas that I really enjoyed and that I'm looking forward to more of in the future.
1. Virtual Reality - This may be still in the early days but the Oculus Rift is one of the most exciting pieces of technology - in any field - to emerge this year. While largely overlooked by the main stream the OR may be the next big wave of technology innovation that is so badly needed right now to take us to the next level in terms of immersion. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention Microsoft's Illumiroom that wowed everybody with the vision of a fully immersive environment right in our living room's. Unfortunately this is just an early demo at the time and given that it's a Microsoft product, we can only expect that by the time it sees release (if it ever does) that it will be considerably less 'good' than what we're looking at here in this demo. For those that think that I'm being snarky - just go take a look at the Kinect launch video from 2010 versus the quality of the final product.
2. Steam / Steam Machines / SteamOS and everything else Steam - As a mid-term trend, I'm hopeful that the emergence of an alternative to Windows and to the major console players offered by Valve via the SteamOS initiative really takes root and begins to make some waves in the industry in 2014 and beyond. Steam has arguably had a greater impact on gaming than either the PS3 or the Xbox 360 in the last generation. I believe that it has single handedly rescued PC based gaming, ushered in an era of lower priced games and deep discounts and it has given the indie community a vehicle for launching cool mods to enhance gameplay and edgy and experimental projects to tens of millions of potential customers. It doesn't surprise me that Steam has more users than either XBL or PSN and that it owns all of the records for users, concurrent users and the like. Valve is looking to create an open source platform for gaming similar to what Google has done with Android for smartphones. I'm hoping to see this trend really emerge into something meaningful over the next few years with the Steam Machines and the SteamOS.
3. Meaningful Game Changing DLC: Firaxis leads the way here with really meaningful and game changing DLC in Civilization V and XCOM Enemy Within. It helps that these are my favorite games from 2010 and 2012 respectively - but in each case a $20 or $30 expansion (and available for much less to those patient enough to wait for a Steam sale, see above) brought me hours and hours of enjoyment for these games. This is how DLC should be done.
4. Best Games: The Last of Us; Fire Emblem Awakening; Civilization Brave New World; XCOM: Enemy Within. The fact that two of the four are expansions to older games speaks to the sad state of the industry. Last of Us was a terrific story though the actually game play was frustrating. Fire Emblem Awakening was outstanding, though I tired of the Japanese anime type tropes and the relative immaturity of many of the characters.
Here's to a better 2014!