5. KINGDOMS OF AMALUR: RECKONING
The behind the scenes news of Amalur was a mess. The company that made the game went out of business shortly after the launch, and then were promptly sued by the State of New Jersey for not paying back loans. It was really disappointing that those news stories covered up what really was a great game. A lot of people compared Amalur to Skyrim at launch, which was fair in that they were both fantasy RPGs. But that’s really where their similarities ended. Amalur was 3rd person for starters, and the combat was a lot deeper, with combos and different fighting styles. The more cartoonish graphics gave it a World of Warcraft feel, and while the main story and side quests weren’t always interesting, it was a blast to play. Hammering away at woodland goblins with your giant hammer, or sword and shield, or twin daggers, or matching circular blades was a lot of fun. I look forward to spending more time with this game (should I ever get more free time).
+ beautiful art direction
– too many boring quests
With the release of Journey around the same time, Unfinished Swan didn’t get the attention that it deserved, which was a real shame because it told a haunting story of a son grieving his recently deceased mother. It was tragic, beautiful, and very thought-provoking. The mechanics of the game started off simply with you throwing balls of black paint onto a white canvas in order to make your path clear. But as you went along in the game, new mechanics opened up, like moving a glowing ball through a dark forest to keep the monsters at bay, or raising platforms in a certain color coded order to get from one area to the next. The puzzles were never challenging in the way that Portal or Quantum Conundrum were, but the story it told was more mature and lasting.
+ great example of video games as art
– a few instances of not knowing what to do next
3. BORDERLANDS 2
Borderlands 2 was and is a blast. I started playing it on 360, both with some friends and solo, and then we moved over to the PC version, and now I’m playing it solo on PS3. I’ve never actually beaten the whole game, but I’ve played most of the DLC and I’ve played all of the different character classes for at least a few hours each. The game’s sense of humor definitely isn’t for everyone, but I found it amusing more often than I found it childish or annoying. There are plenty of poop jokes and sexual innuendos to be had though, so if you aren’t into that kind of thing, your experience may be different than mine. But if you do plan on ever picking this up, I recommend you find some people to consistently play with, because while the story is still great while playing alone, the class synergy and the race for loot is always better with friends.
+ guns, guns, and more guns
– playing solo can’t compare to co-op
2. THE WALKING DEAD
I actually changed these top two at the very last second. So before I go into why The Walking Dead was such an amazing game, let me tell you why it didn’t win. It all really came down to the technical problems that plagued the game. I didn’t experience what some others did where they lost save files for no reason, but the game had several hitches each episode where mouths wouldn’t move when characters were talking or where cutscenes wouldn’t load entirely. It really took you out of the moment and the atmosphere of the game, which is really what made it so good in the first place. But honestly, those problems didn’t do much to hamper my enjoyment. The story was easily the best of the year, the characters were realistic and had a great amount of depth that you really only got to see if you went out of your way to talk to them at important plot points, and while the reveal of the main “villain” was a little underwhelming, the conclusion of the story was completely satisfying and tragic. I can’t wait to play season two.
+ video game storytelling at its finest
– the small amounts of combat were the low points of each episode
I can sum up my experience with Journey in one story from the game. Warning: this will contain minor spoilers. Now, Journey is a single player game, but it has randomized co-op where while you’re playing, another real player might just pop into your game without any notice. It’s your decision to work with them or completely ignore them, and they have the same decision to make about you. So, I was about an hour into the four hour game when all of a sudden I turned around and there was another player. I had heard that this might happen so I wasn’t completely surprised, and I was really excited to see how any interactions might go. There’s no chatting in the game, so I couldn’t just put on a headset and start talking to the person. The only way to communicate was to press a button that emitted a short “chirping” sound. So we would chirp back and forth while trying to figure out where to go or what to do next, and before I knew it, we were closing in on the end of the game. I had been playing co-op with this person for more than two hours, longer than I had been playing solo. The story had taken a harsh turn, and on our trek to the top of a mysterious mountain, we had reached a peak that was covered in snow with winds that could blow you off of an edge. You had to hide behind pillars at the right time to not be blown back, and having played a good deal of video games in my day, I figured this out before my silent partner. So I would try to chirp at him/her right before the wind would blow, and eventually the other player caught on and together we started to make forward progress. But the farther we got, the windier it got, and the screen started to fog up with frost. My character was sinking into snow drifts to where it was impossible to see the other player. All I could do was keep moving forward, chirping every few seconds so that they knew where I was. When I finally reached the end and was able to relax, I turned around to send a flurry of celebratory chirps to my compatriot, but they were nowhere to be seen. I kept spinning around assuming that I had missed them, but after nearly five minutes of waiting, they still hadn’t come. After crossing a desert together, after hiding from a giant monster together, after learning to glide together, after solving countless puzzles together, after braving the winds and snow together, I was alone.
I had finally reached the top of the mountain, the end was in sight. But it was a hollow victory, for I had lost something in the process. I’m not ashamed to say that I teared up in the moment. That loss had hit me so profoundly that it still resonates to this day, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget those five minutes of waiting to see their head pop out of the snow. I never heard that person’s voice, I never knew their name, and I’ll probably never play another game with them, but the final minutes of the game where I was floating on magical air drafts, celebrating my achievement of reaching the top of the mountain, it was all in honor of them. I like to think that wherever they were, they could hear me chirping from the top.
+ one of the prettiest games I’ve ever played
– puzzles can be ruined if you come across another player that’s already played the game
Didn’t see your favorite game from 2012 on this list? Let me know how much of an idiot I am in the comments below!
Also, if you like video games (and I would assume you do if you’re here), then feel free to check out my Youtube channel where I upload gaming videos several times a week!