My Top Ten Games of 2013

I played too many games to mention this year. The ones that made the best impression were the ones I’ve already spoken of. There were many games that I played that didn’t release this year, so despite loving some of them, they won’t be on this list as they aren’t “current.” I also wasn’t playing any MMOs this year (at least not seriously) so there aren’t any of those on this list. Finally, these are mostly niche games, because I haven’t been buying mainstream games as they release, as much of the AAA titles on offer this year weren’t ones I was interested in, or couldn’t afford when they released. When I say “couldn’t afford” I really mean I’m a cheap ass gamer these days. So with all that said, on to the list (in no particular order):

The Last of Us:
This is one of the only two AAA titles I played this year, though it still wasn’t upon release. I picked up my copy of The Last of Us a few months later on sale. This was a game I couldn’t pass up, not only because I have loved nearly everything Naughty Dog has ever done, but also because it’s a survival horror game which is right up my alley. I only played through the game once, but the story was amazing and the game play equally fun. Multiplayer was more of the same, but was still enjoyable at times. I will probably go back and play this one again some day, as it really was a great experience.

Ni No Kuni: The Wrath of the White Witch:
I spent less time with this game than I would have liked, but still have strong feelings about it. I can’t say that I beat it or even got all of that far through the game, but what I did play was amazing and I will be revisiting it soon. Another AAA title that I got on sale, it was most definitely worth the $20 I paid. There are so many different systems from different JRPGs present here, that it feels like a mix of most of the RPGs I loved playing as a kid, on through my adulthood. I love all RPGs, but there is something to be said about the addictive nature of ones from Japan.

Dragon’s Crown:
This is the only game I couldn’t wait to have this year. I bought it shortly after release for full price. Granted, it was less money than a boxed $60 game, but still, this needs to be notated. I have recently posted about this game so I won’t go into reasons why it’s on my top ten again, but if you are a fan of side-scrolling beat-em-ups with RPG elements, this game will suit you.

Path of Exile:
PoE is the true successor to Diablo II. I say this without having played Diablo III, but I know enough about it to make that statement. Everything about it screams “Diablo II with slightly different systems and holy fuck look at that skill tree!” This game has been playable for more than just this year, but was officially released in 2013, so it makes my list. One of the best 3/4 view action RPGs of the year.

Rogue Legacy:
One of the two Rogue-likes that made this list (FTL would have too if it would have been released this year), Rogue Legacy is an awesome 2-D platformer that redefines death. Death means you will get new powers and possibly new disabilities, all of which are random along with the levels. I have progress pretty far into the game, and I would recommend it to anyone that owns a PC, and a controller. Controls are weak without one, and that’s my only disappointment.

Sword of the Stars: The Pit:
This is my other Rogue-like pick, and it is vastly different from the aforementioned title, but still good in almost every way. Permadeath is definitely a pro and a con, in that it is great to have to take responsibility for your actions, but it really sucks to get further into the dungeon than ever, just to die and have to start over. Still, I have had much fun with the game and have written about it multiple times. Grinding recipes is about the only part of the game that is overly frustrating, because some characters simply cannot hack machines for the messages needed. All in all a must-play.

Terraria:
Terraria released this year on PS3 (though I believe other versions were last year?). I haven’t made much headway with the game, and it is disappointing that there isn’t a way to connect with people that aren’t on your friend’s list. Aside from that, I have had fun exploring and taking part in gameplay that is far from traditional. I have explained my lack of experience with sandbox games, and this was the game that opened the door for me. If you like Minecraft, I’m sure you’ll like Terraria. Just make sure you have friends with the game, as multiplayer makes it more fun.

Dragon Fantasy Book 2:
Dragon Fantasy Book 2 is the sequel to (you guessed it) Book 1. Where Book 1 was an 8-bit adventure reminiscent of Dragon Warrior, Book 2 mixes elements from the 16-bit era, with combat like Secret of Mana or Chrono Trigger, a Pokemon-like pet collection system, and other goodies that remind me of being a kid. In the “good ol days.” I haven’t finished it, but it is on my to-do list and it recommended for old school JRPG nuts. Looking forward to seeing the next iteration, that is supposed to support an engine using 32-bit graphics. FF7 clone here we come 🙂

The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 1:
This was a recent release, so this goes without commentary. If you scroll down, the dedicated post should still be on the main page. Must-have for those of you who were fans of the first season. I just wish it wasn’t so short, and hope that future episodes make up for this lack of length.

League of Legends: All Random All Mid:
In the MMO world, people will select expansions in their “best of” posts, and as League is the closest thing to a Massive game that I’m playing, I’m going to consider this an “expansion” for all intents and purposes. ARAM was released this year, and became a dedicated game mode, like Dominion and Twisted Treeline before it. ARAM most likely consumed more of my game time than any other game this year. I played my share of other modes in LoL, but I think ARAM took the cake for hours played. The game mode is my favorite way to just unwind, without the pressure of having to win, as there is no leaderboard. I love League, and will most likely keep it in my rotation for a long time to come.

I read a post over on The Cynic Dialogues about 2013 being the worst year in (PC) gaming, and I was about to argue against that fact (except the author has comments disabled), but after delving through my posts, trophy lists and memories, it was difficult for me to put together this list of ten. I am now more inclined to agree with them, despite knowing that if I had a slightly better computer I would have been playing some games that I can’t run now. Also, being rich would help to buy some of the games that I didn’t touch this year, so my list might be a little skewed from where it could be. Still, here’s hoping that 2014 blows us away. I hope to get a PS4 and a new computer next year, so maybe I’ll have more options available to me and next year’s list will be easier to pull off.

Lastly, if you are anal like me, you can verify release dates for any of the above listed games here. Just so you know I didn’t cheat ;P

The State of the Game: Revisiting The Past

This week I delved into the past a bit, playing games I hadn’t touched in a while, and in one case playing a game that released when I was still in high school, for the first time. I did play one new game, and I did end up lying about not wanting to make any new purchases, as I did grab a couple of sale items last Tuesday. The playlist this week: Borderlands 2, Dragon’s Crown, Dyad, The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 1, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, Planescape: Torment, and League of Legends.

The new game I picked up for my PS3 on Tuesday was the first episode of Season 2 of The Walking Dead game. I have already made a post about my impressions of that game, and you can view it here. I won’t go into it again. Dyad was the free game last week for Plus members, and having played it a bit, it is interesting, but not a game that really sucked me in. It reminds me of an old Atari game called Tempest (and probably other games that have a similar premise). It has its charm, but the psychedelic nature of the graphics made my eyes hurt after a while. Best played in short bursts!

I also had mentioned wanting to get back into Borderlands 2, as there were parts of the game I hadn’t explored yet, but after looking at my trophy list I decided it would be better to just jump on my Gunzerker and level him to the point where I can get his class specific trophy, and then retire him for good. I started off doing that solo, and it got boring really quick. This week, I did something I hadn’t done before in the game, I played multi-player. Well, actually I did do that with my roommate when he got a copy of the game sometime after I had beaten it the first time. But we just played together privately over the LAN, not over the internet. Because I was so bored playing by myself and doing the same damn story missions over and over, I decided that I would just join some random person’s game. The matchmaking works fairly well, and it tries to match you with people who are on a similar quest or of similar level. I ended up in a group with three other people, and being in a four person group makes the game quite a bit more difficult. I was impressed with how the mechanics changed so drastically, and I now kick myself for never having played online before — in this game or its predecessor. I’m still a few levels off from where I need to be to complete the Gunzerker, and then I can go back to my main (Siren) and level her up some more and finally get through the remaining DLC. This is still on the to-do list.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times about having played Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, and I finally sat down and finished it. Overall the storyline was the strongest part of the game, I really enjoyed feeling like I made major things happen in the old west. The revenge was sweet when finally finishing off the major “villain” that you had been chasing down the whole time. I will say that there are some stupid parts of the story that didn’t make any sense though, especially towards the end. The duel system got worse as time went on as well, as at one point you have to take out two guys and not get shot, which seems a bit unrealistic. All in all it was a cool game for the cheap price I got it for, but it would have been disappointing for full price. There are other game modes and things to do with it, but I am done. It’s already been removed from my hard drive. Moving on.

Dragon’s Crown is another game I already gave my impressions of, and I still stand behind the things that I said. It’s still a great game, a few months removed from release. Recently, a new patch was put into place (yes, a patch with new content, not DLC!) adding 156 new levels (cap raised from 99 to 255) and a new dungeon. The original progression of the game was beat the levels on normal, then go back and do the alternate routes to get all of the gems to get access to the final boss. Then you open hard mode, where you start from the talisman gathering quest, and do it again. Then the “Labyrinth of Chaos” opens, and you progress through its floors, and at the end you fight another new boss. By then you should have been level 99 or close to it, and had “completed” the game. Now, another new dungeon is added, that is randomly generated and supposedly contains “tens of thousands of levels.” As such, I can’t access the new stuff just yet, because I have only beaten the game on normal. I decided it had been long enough I could go back and play the game and enjoy it again, so I fired it up after the patch dropped. I also decided to play in online mode, so when I jumped into the Labyrinth of Chaos, I was able to play with people through the first 3 floors I had access to. Those floors actually took almost three hours to complete, so that was the only session I’ve had so far, but I made some progress with my character as a result:

WP_20131220_002

 

The other sale I took part in was on GOG.com, and it netted me a copy of Icewind Dale, Icewind Dale II, and Planescape: Torment. These are all games that released when I was in high school or shortly thereafter, but ones that I never got around to playing. I loved the old Infinity Engine games, and these will be no exception I’m sure. I also picked up Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout: Tactics when GOG announced that they were free before they removed them from the site. I never played those either, so put them on the the to-do list. Rather than starting up a game in all of these games, I decided to pick one and stick with it until it was finished. It was a hard choice as I haven’t played any of them before, but I went with Torment. I completed the first area and have been exploring The Hive, picking up sidequests and talking to everyone I can. The ever faithful ! or ? above quest givers head is missing, and that’s something that I have grown accustomed to. Now I have to actually pay attention as there really isn’t a quest tracker or way to know who gives out quests or who you need to turn something in to. I do find this more immersive, it’s just not something gamers are accustomed to anymore. I will have more on this game as I get further into it.

Finally, I have been playing League a bit more than I had in the past month. The Snowdown event brought me back, and the Showdown featured game mode has kept me interested. It’s funny how changing the ruleset ever so slightly can make for intriguing gameplay. It’s still the same old Howling Abyss, but the mechanics have changed enough to make things fresh. I am still dominating with Ziggs, but have had a few good games as other characters.

Loading screen for Showdown
Loading screen for Showdown

I did have one of the shortest games ever the other day. I was going to play as someone AP oriented (they seem to have a poke advantage in this game mode) but my partner picked Morgana, so I wanted to have some AD balance. It really doesn’t matter, pretty much anyone can pick anyone and still have success in this mode, but old habits of searching for balance die hard. Anyway, I picked Ezreal, and we were matched against a Graves and Zilean team. Under normal circumstances, this probably would have been a fairly even fight, although post level 6 (if it went that far) we might have been screwed because of Zil’s resurrection ultimate. So the match starts and me and Morgana are standing by our turret when Graves comes charging up to us. I shot him a time or two, and he stayed in turret range until he died. I thought maybe he lagged out, but then the Zilean came charging at us as well, and Morgana scored that kill. The match ended, and we were told that “Graves had to go” so they effectively suicided to end the round. Still, check the time of completion:

Call Guinness
Call Guinness

Yeah, 56 seconds. Fastest game ever. I don’t see that ever happening again. Even the 1v1 I played at some point was over quickly, but not that quickly, it clocked about 2 1/2 minutes or so. In other news I managed to open the Poro summoner icon, its requirements were only to win three times in Showdown. I don’t think I’ll be earning any of the other icons this time around, but that’s ok.

There you have it. Another week down. This week we see Christmas come and go, so I might have a little less to write about. The plus title is for the vita, so nothing new there for me. I am off of school until after the new year starts, so I will have a bit of extra free time though, so it could go either way. Time will tell.

Dragon’s Crown Impressions

I’ve mentioned Dragon’s Crown a few times in recent posts, and now that I’ve had some hands-on experience with the game, I wanted to share some thoughts about it. If you’ve played the game, or even read much about it, you’ll know that the controversial portion of the game lies in its depiction of females, in particular the Sorceress, Amazon, and most of the NPCs.

def

 

Honestly though, let’s grow up. Sure teenaged boys will go apeshit over such saucy depictions, but the audience for the game is clearly adults, and most of us pretty much ignore the graphics, and are about the story/gameplay. At least, that’s how I feel. Sorry ladies if you’re offended by these images, but really, what medium isn’t tainted by the objectification of women? This really doesn’t take away from the fun of this game, or any other where the female’s boobs take up half the screen. Sex sells, this isn’t new stuff.

Now, with that aside, I must say that Dragon’s Crown is a fantastic game. If you ever played Golden Axe, this is the next generation, on steroids. The side-scrolling beat-em-up hasn’t had much of the spot light in recent years, because really, it had already been done so many times before. These were the kinds of games I lived for when I was a kid. After doing some growing up however, these kinds of games got old rather quickly, and rarely added anything to the genre that was yet unseen. Dragon’s Crown has ultimately merged differing kinds of games into one fairly cohesive system.

The game is meant to be played on a console, as the button-mashing will begin as soon as you enter combat. This is reminiscent of games I played in the arcade in the 90s, such as The Simpsons or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and of course Golden Axe. Older games of this sort usually only had a couple of attack buttons and perhaps a magic button. Melding in the combos of fighting games, upon leveling you will eventually have quite a few more moves than you began with, and will be slightly more tactical with your button-mashing. Then, building upon the system of leveling, you will find skill trees for your given class, and a common one that all the classes share. These RPG elements have been found in all kinds of games, so I’m sure I don’t need to draw examples. Finally, the loot system and the new game + features remind me of Diablo or Borderlands. In fact, Dragon’s Crown is to beat-em-ups as Borderlands is to first person shooters. All in all, these features make for a game that is a little on the short side, that much longer.

A little off topic, but I wanted to touch on the sort of trophies you can expect to earn while playing the game. As I have mentioned recently I have weened myself off of trophy whoring because I have had game overload for about a year. I still enjoy the concept of trophies, but I found some were more effort than they were worth. I suppose if I only had one game to play at a time, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue, but with so many free games and free to play games and sales I have way too big of a collection (back log). Dragon’s Crown is a perfect example of how trophies should be designated. For example, there are trophies for completing all of the individual story missions. You receive paintings for completing side quests, and these serve as the game’s collectibles, and there are incremental trophies for collecting them. There’s a trophy for beating the game with each class. One for beating the game on Hard, and the Hardest difficulties. You see where this is going? The trophies flow with the natural order of how someone would approach playing a game. Play the game. Beat the game. Play it again with a different class or on a harder difficulty. Rinse and Repeat until you are finished. These are the types of games that I have Platinum trophies for, because they followed my general playstyle. These are the kinds of games that I want to play, and this is why I became a trophy whore in the first place.

So, back to the game. The art direction is probably my favorite aspect of the game. Everything has a hand painted feel, and despite catering to teenage boys, the women are hot, and I don’t care if that makes me sexist of whatever. The animation and frame-rates are top-notch. I have seen tons of characters on screen at one time all with magic/combat animations going and the game never skips a beat. The story line is a bit light, but that let’s you focus on your character building, and that’s the whole point of these types of games, and also what draws us to them (but that’s a topic for another time). The difficulty was just right, where I never really felt a huge challenge, but I also was a completionist and did all of the side quests and was at the normal difficulty level-cap of 35 when I defeated the final boss. I am hoping that the later difficulties really challenge me, but I have since started playing The Last of Us, so it will be a bit before I get back to it.

I haven’t played much of the multiplayer, but I did have a session one night where I turned my network settings to on and was joined by other players. I was attempting to do a continuous run (trophy related) through the levels and thought I’d see how the co-op worked. I enjoyed it. Other players can drop-in and drop-out at any time, so while I was playing alone with AI characters, eventually they were all replaced by players, and then some of the players would drop and others would replace them. I’m not sure if voice chat is compatible as I didn’t try it, but I assume it would work just fine (though it’s definitely not necessary). As an added bonus, I found that some of the bones I collected from those missions, upon resurrection, were actually copies of the player’s characters that I had played with. So I ended up with higher-level-than-me NPCs to use when I’m playing solo.

Overall, the entire game is a bit on the short side, but with the new game + and other mini-games that are available upon completion of the main story there is a ton of replay-ability. I would recommend it to anyone that owns a PS3. And if you own the game and want to play a game, my PSN ID is on the contact page.