Another year is over and that means it’s time to list my best games of 2013. This has become a little tradition and something I enjoy compiling. It gives me a chance to express my views on the year and it’s always interesting to look back on what games I considered the best. At the very least this might be interesting to read when I look back on it years from now.
7. Skyrim Dragonborn – A great little expansion that creates a small island with all the same mechanics as Skyrim. Bethesda clearly loves to give people lots of rewards for buying these DLC packs - one of the enemies drops gemstones on death. But this expansion also allowed me to revisit Skyrim and the areas that I never explored with renewed vigor. There is so much amazing content in Skyrim that it deserves another mention this year. Dragonborn is how you do DLC packs.
6. Antichamber – This excellent little puzzler has almost nothing to do with Portal, yet it incurs the very same moments of elation. Antichamber is a game about a device that” fires” blocks that can be placed anywhere. These different blocks allow you to solve puzzles in strange ways, like creating a bridge or ladder. Antichamber is also a game where things are not what they seem, inside might be larger that outside and backwards might by the only way to progress forwards. Antichamber trains you almost perfectly and it’s a rewarding / challenging experience.
5. Rayman Legends – The original Rayman got a lot of praise from gamers and reviewers. I was one of the few that enjoyed it, but was not wowed by it. Legends improves almost everything in the original. Levels are more pleasing to explore without the tedious challenge. You aren’t forced to finish specific levels; you can pursue any level that is unlocked. There are daily challenges, music levels and you can speed up the end level countdown. Everything works better and it’s just more relaxing.
4. Splinter Cell: Blacklist – Conviction was not a good entry into the franchise, but it had a few interesting mechanics (mark and execute) that kept it from being a disaster. Blacklist takes some of those mechanics and then mergers them with the stealth aspects of Chaos Theory. Blacklist is not consistently excellent, but there are a handful of great stealth missions and there is quite a good amount of content within. The main reason for the success is the effective and broad range of gadgets that allow a lot of freedom when taking out guards. It’s a game that certainly rewards stealth/ghosting over brute force.
3. Last of Us – A brilliant post-apocalyptic story of a broken man and a young girl. Joel and Ellie are core reasons this game is so excellent. Ellie is the best AI companion in a video game to date, and she takes the title from Alyx (HL2). It’s the little details that matter most to me in Last of Us and there are hundreds of them. One example is when Ellie is distant, crossing her arms, after an argument with Joel. The story is intriguing because these characters change, there are definitely learning processes and trust issues. Just take a moment in vacated suburbia when Ellie tries telling one of her jokes, some of the most memorable bits are when there isn't any stealth or action.
2. Assassin’s Creed 4 – Wow. What a turnaround for Ubisoft. Although AC4 still has some of the problems of AC3, it manages to wash them away with some great open-world piracy. The ship sailing and combat is enjoyable and the change in setting is refreshing. It doesn’t spend 6 sequences forcing you through pointless tutorials. Edward Kenway is an extremely likeable pirate too, even when he is plundering ships for all their cargo. So much to do on land or in the open sea, but it’s all achievable if you have hours to spare. I really hope that Ubisoft consider doing a few more entries into the Black Flag Universe because it has a lot of potential.
1. Metro: Last Light – This exceptional, atmospheric shooter secures my GOTY for 2013. The underground cities, such as Venice, are unmatched for detail. These civilian areas feel so real, not just attractive 3D backgrounds. Visuals are outstanding, especially when you venture onto the surface. Last Light also makes stealth a viable option when dealing with human soldiers. There is more variety to the mutant population than in 2033. There is one sequence in the game that I will never forget: When you take control of a rail car and are left alone in the tunnel. Here you can proceed almost directly to your objective, or you could stop and explore each side tunnel for supplies – a lure that was far too strong for me to resist. Last light certainly succeeded in bringing me into a game world and holding on tight until the very last mission (which was unfortunately abysmal). It is the best game I have played in 2013 and deserves many accolades.
Other good games: FC3 Blood Dragon, CoJ Gunslinger, State of Decay, Brothers, Beyond: Two Souls. Tomb Raider, Dead Space 3.
Disappointments for 2013
Unfortunately there were quite a few games that failed to reach the potential I had anticipated. These are by no means bad games, but they should have been better.
Battlefield 4 – I am still playing this game and I am still enjoying it very much so. It’s a 9/10 game hidden in a 7/10 technical package. It released in an abysmal state. I’m not talking about the usual DICE issues, they are still present. I’m talking about major issues like servers or clients crashing every hour and players losing progress. The sound was broken on some maps for over a month. They released 5 client patches and over 14 server patches in less than two months. It still has many issues, but thankfully the worst seems to be over. BF4 should have been on my best games list, but it’s relegated to disappointing because of all the issues.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs –Unfortunately getting the Dear Esther guys to delve into Amnesia did not work out. Interaction, puzzles and even scares suffer greatly. Almost nothing is interactive and the puzzles are so basic they might as well not exist. The sanity mechanic has been changed to give you a flickering lantern. It’s just a very poor Amnesia game.
BioShock Infinite – To me this felt like a lot of shooting galleries wrapped around a convoluted story about dimensions. Shooting is ok, visuals great. But I completely lost interest in the narrative in the last third of the game. I was only making my way forward so all of the weirdness could be wrapped up in a neat little bow. It was, and I appreciate the effort to create such a story. But Infinite would have been so much better if it stuck to one Columbia and approached it much like the other BioShock games. Infinite is just an infinite waste of potential to me.
It’s been months since Gamespot was changed. Unfortunately the change has been rather terrible for many reasons. The community is a fraction of its former self. The forums I visit are not as popular as they were before the change. PC games and PC hardware forums were merged, which was awful to begin with but actually a good idea given the reduced user base. Very few of my friends are writing blogs anymore which is certainly one of the main reasons I enjoyed this place. One good change is being able to add screenshots to reviews. The other improvement is probably uploading and sharing images. The rest is just no better. Here is a list of some problems with the new Gamespot
1. The forums and main site is still horribly slow compared to the older site.
2. No way to see which threads I posted in or which posts I have not read
3. Signatures in forums are small with no text allowed. This means I cannot use my raptr sig anymore and have text with links
4. Stacks are still broken. I used to use Gamespot to track my collection but that is impossible at this point and I’m probably a dozen games behind
5. Feeds seem broken or inaccurate. No game updates, blog updates only recently added, ratings are listed as reviews.
6. Search is awful. Search for Battlefield and the first title you will find is an iPhone game from 2011. The second title is a game on the commodore 64 from 1987
I don’t particularly like the new website layout. Reviews are just one continuous stream of text. I guess they are targeting tablet / phone users. I’d take the old site back in a heartbeat and would even praise them for going back. They won’t though, so we are stuck with what we have. Over the past few months I have come to tolerate the site. I’m just posting a lot less than I would normally be and that is because of the site change.
I hope everybody (anybody) who is reading this had a good 2013. Gaming wise it was alright, with a variety of ups and downs. 2014 looks like it will have some good games including: Evolve, Dragon Age 3, Witcher 3 and Watch Dogs. It remains to be seen if I will blog again in the future on Gamespot. If I do not, I would like to thank Gamespot and all of my Friends for the good times we shared. It has been a great journey.