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Games of 2011

It would seem that in 2011, I bought (or was given) over 30 games on Steam, plus at least another couple off-Steam & a few mega-awesome-packs on Steam… So, I figured, given that I must’ve spent well over $1,000 on games, I should write about the highlights, lowlights, and such. So what follows is my take on the best and worst games I experienced in 2011. It’s not a Best-of-2011 list. For a start, plenty of the games weren’t released last year, I merely happened to play them last year. More importantly, there are some games that likely strongly deserve a position amongst the best or worst that I simply didn’t get around to playing & thus can’t comment on.

The Single Worst Game Experience of 2011

There’s a little bit of contention for this one. Fate of the World is everything I hate in a strategy pc game. A retarded card-based interface for no apparent reason (if I wanted to play with cards, I would, you know, PLAY WITH CARDS) had me suspicious from the start, but the concept was awesome and I wanted to give it a go… That was a mistake. 81 of the longest minutes of my life. It’s like trying to learn a heavy Paradox strategy game. Without any documentation, with no in-game feedback, and no clear goals. Sure, I get that this is an attempt at an accurate representation of the game’s concept. Except, in real life I can dig up a few 100+ page reports and expert-opinions before enacting a policy. Not read 1 ill-formed sentence on the bottom of playing card.

Demolition, Inc. was another game with fantastic concept. Who doesn’t want to demolish a city with a giant wrecking ball suspended from a flying saucer? Too bad that’s not something you can actually do in the game. At least, not in any part I got  up to before I got sick of the sloppy UI, awkward controls, and thoroughly boring puzzles. This was not a game of hilarious city-destruction so much as a puzzler aimed at 8 year olds.

Homefront‘s marketing had me convinced it was going to be amazing. Then I started hearing the terrible reviews. I was shattered and decided not to buy it. Enter my housemate who decided it’d make a good (?birthday) present for me. The initial story is fantastic, though the gameplay was at times a little unsatisfying. A typical fps single-player experience that is more “hey you’re watching a movie whilst spamming x”. But the story made up for it. And then it ended. Just abruptly. Gone.

Battlefield 3‘s single-player deserves a mention here to. I played the opening section on Hard. It was like stabbing myself in the face repeatedly. Check-point saves. Sections where a single, tiny mistake is fatal. So, I started again on Normal. It was much more playable, but suffered from the now-traditional it’s-basically-a-movie problem. I can live with that if the story is as good as a movie I’d actually sit through. It was not. It tried, oh how it tried. But I felt no connection to the characters whatsoever and that’s just piss-poor story-telling.

(Dis)Honourable Detail-less Mention: GreedCorp

And the winner is… Games for Windows Live. I cannot explain how much trouble this gave me and a friend when we tried playing through the Dawn of War 2 campaign late 2010 and early 2011. We still haven’t finished, mostly  because every time we try to jump on to play one mission in the spare hour we both have, Games for Windows Live gives us trouble & we end up not getting to play. It’s much easier to jump in to TF2 or BF3, which just work.

The Best Story Experience of 2011

Portal 2. Portal 2. Portal 2.

I said when I played it that I thought it may actually have been the best story-driven game I’d ever played. I still believe that. Sure the puzzles aren’t amazing and were often too linear, but the story, oh the story!

The Greatest Disappointments of 2011

Homefront’s single-player storyline being so good and then just ending with no resolution and no sense of accomplishment.

Fallout: New Vegas. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed New Vegas. Racked up a little over 20 hours before I got distracted by other things. I still intend to go back to it, but Fallout 3 was a compelling game. I couldn’t put it down. Hell, I had to start a second character because I was so compelled to play through the main storyline that I finished the game before doing even half of the side quests that I really wanted to check out. Fallout: New Vegas did not have this for me. Some people have mentioned that the main story gets more compelling later on, I hope that’s the case. But at this point it’s likely to be sitting on my List of Shame for quite some time.

Brink. Another decent game that I’d expected would be amazing. The controls felt cumbersome & the gameplay whilst very tight was not at all new or original as we’d been lead to believe.

A Valley Without Wind (AVWW) wins or, rather, loses this one for me. I’d followed its development from when it was first mentioned over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun. I bought AI War on the strength of what I saw Arcen Games doing with AVWW.  It’s a decent game still, but I had visions far beyond what the game actually delivers. I still played for a good 20 or 30 hours, but it couldn’t hold my interest. Too much pointless side-scrolling quests and not enough civilisation-building. To be fair to the game, I played whilst it was in beta. Once it reaches full-release, I’ll give it another go. With a bit of luck it might be my surprise hit of 2012…

(Dis)Honourable Mentions: Metro2033, Mount & Blade: Warband

The Most Gaming Fun of 2011

Magicka. There’s no contest here. As fantastic as many other games were, nothing can approach the sheer ridiculosity and maniac bedlam of a four-player round of Magicka. It’s telling that the game could launch so very broken and still be one of the hits of the year. I’m pretty sure it’s been played and loved at every LAN I’ve been to this year. Most gamers I know have bought nearly every piece of DLC. Partly because a lot of the DLC has been hilarious, but also partly because the game has been so much fun that we want to give our money to Paradox and Arrowhead.

The various incarnations of FlatOut also deserve a mention here. They have been consistently fantastic post-2am at LANs, when everyone is starting to get tired & the precision needed for a shooter just isn’t going to happen. So. Much. Fun.

Orcs Must Die! is another fantastically fun game. I’m not generally a fan of tower-defence style games, but there’s something about trying your hardest to wipe every greenskin from existence with a combination of crossbow bolts, magic, and ludicrous traps that can’t help but appeal. The game strikes a fantastic balance between being challenging and being fun. I cannot recommend it highly enough and can only hope that at some point a multiplayer version is released…

Honourable Mentions: Monday Night Combat, Borderlands, Zombie Driver, and Portal 2.

The List of Shame

Amnesia. I’ve been trying to save this one for a stormy weekend when I’m home alone & can play through the wee hours of the night, not sleeping until I’m so exhausted the terror doesn’t matter…

Dragon Age: Origins – I tried again this year to make it through DA:O. I just can’t. The top-down D&D-esque hack-and-slashes just don’t appeal to me. I was in awe of DA:O’s story when I first played it in 2010 and remain impressed today. Sadly, I just can’t get past the gameplay to the excellent story & impressively crafted moral challenges.

Deus Ex. Yes, the first one. Yes, I know. Don’t judge me.

Mass Effect. In preparation for Mass Effect 2’s release, I grabbed a copy of Mass Effect & started playing. And, erm, yeah, then got distracted by whatever it was that came out at the start of 2011.

BioShock. Okay, I know this is one of those iconic games that I just have to have played. I tried. I played maybe an hour’s worth & just couldn’t get in to it at all. If I get through the rest of my List of Shame, I’ll give it another go…

Special Mention: I finished Red Faction! That’s one less game on my List of Shame! Huzzah!

New Additions: Portal 2’s co-op. New Vegas, the main Magicka campaign.

The Old Favourites That Just Kept Coming

TF2. Whilst I took some sizable breaks from tf this year, I still racked up at least 40 hours over the year, to bring my total to nearly 150 hours. I’ve started to specialise a bit in the Soldier class. I find it hard to play now. We used to play so much that I could pretty much guarantee that I’d be in the top 3 or 4 on my team on a Games.on.net server, my skills have atrophied & I tend to only sit in the middle of the team now. The problem being, that whenever I play I feel like I’m not doing well. Not an ideal experience in a game you consider yourself a veteran of.

Divine Wind was released for Europa Universalis III and with it I finally found a strategy that worked. 100 hours later, I’ve almost finished one campaign. I wish I had the time to play this more, but when they say Grand Campaign, they mean you can start playing now & if you’re lucky you’ll  be done sometime the year after next…

Civilization V. I’ve racked up 180 hours in Civ V now. I shudder to think what I’ve totalled across the series (Civ 2 alone would have to be > 500 hours). I played my first multiplayer games in 2011 and am thus far on an unbroken winning streak. Though I did get my capital nuked at one point. For which there will be a reckoning. Civ V is one of the few games that I *really* want to get all the achievements for. I’m at 44% at the moment. It’s going to take a while. Especially that one where you have to win 100 games… That’s likely to take over 1000 hours. Sadly, I don’t think I can invest that amount of time.

Left 4 Dead made a bit of a come-back in my typical LANning group. The original, not #2. I’m not sure exactly what the reason is, but l4d2 just isn’t in the same league as its older sibling.

Some New Favourites Emerge

Cities in Motion is probably my surprise hit of the year. I pre-purchased it back at the start of 2011, but didn’t actually play it until just after Christmas. In the few days since then, I’ve already racked up 20 hours of gameplay, ran out and bought all the DLC, have a burning desire to get all the achievements, and am eagerly awaiting more details of the rumoured next DLC release… Damn you Paradox.

Skyrim. I. Just. Wow. I put 30 hours in to this beast in the first week it was released, and whilst I’ve not managed to add another 10 in the month following that, I’m still amazingly impressed by the game. Reports of buggy patches had me avoiding it shortly after the initial 30 hours, and then I got so busy I couldn’t afford to sit down in front of a game there was no way I was going to stop playing after an hour. I’m still scared to go back to it for fear of looking up and realising it’s March and I’ve been fired…

A friend gave me Battlefield 3 shortly after my EA-is-evil rant & my decision to boycott them for the foreseeable future. Whilst the single-player was predictably disappointing, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the muliplayer. I loved bf42 and bfv, but bc2 and the more recent games just didn’t do it  for me. This feels like playing bf42 and bfv felt. I’m loving it.

There’s So Much I Haven’t Said

Arkham Asylum deserves mention, and I own but haven’t yet played Arkham City. Dungeons of Dredmor. Minecraft. Borderlands’ DLC. AI War. So, so many others. But, I’ve already talked for long enough. This year, I will try to write about the games I’ve played on a more regular basis, and on that note…

The Games I’m Looking Forward To Playing in 2012

I’m not going to talk about what games are getting released in 2012. There were so many fantastic games in the last quarter of 2011, that I’d be quite happy if no games were released until after the middle of the year…

My plan for 2012 invovles playing the original Deus Ex, and then Deus Ex: Human Revolution (which a most-awesome figure of mystery gave me in Games.on.net’s Secret Steamy Santa). I got Shogun 2 for Christmas, and that’s high up the list too. I picked up the F.E.A.R. collection in the Christmas Steam sales this year. The original Fear is one of my all-time favourites, I must find the time to play the other games in the series.

I want to get as close to 100% achievements for Cities in Motion as is possible. Completing the main quest of Skyrim is essential. More Civ V and BF3 are also called for. Now that I live alone, it should be easier to find time to put aside a dark, wintery weekend to play Amnesia. Orcs Must Die! also needs to be finished. Oh, and I should probably finish New Vegas too.

Yeah, I’m screwed…

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I’m completely unaware that the following hopefully-awesome games are scheduled for release in 2012: Crusader Kings II (February), Syndicate (February), Mass Effect 3 (March), Borderlands 2 (June), Serious Sam 3, and GTA V.

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