After the ridiculously good year that was 2012. It’s particularly hard to top such timeless games like Euro Truck Simulator 2, Crusader Kings II or Drox Operative, however with the end of our current console generation looming, studios like Naughty Dog and Rockstar brought out the games fitting to mark the high point of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Whilst I regrettably did not get to play The Last of Us, this list fully summarises what I believe are some of the best games of this year that I've had the fortune of playing.
It must be said that in a year I play a LOT of adventure games, experience a lot of fantastic stories and scratch my head at more than a few puzzles, and despite such fantastic innovations in the genre such as The Raven or the hilarious situations of more than a few titles, there's nothing quite so satisfying as the bitter-sweet and almost melancholy story provided by Daedalic Entertainment's Memoria. It was not since The Whispered World that an adventure game had lured me into its world, characters and situations.
Memoria follows the journey of the unlikely hero Geron who wishes to change his friend back into the life-loving fairy that she once was, with incredible evil, and the backdrop of the infamous Dark Eye RPG universe it's not difficult to get swept into this tale spread across Aventuria. If you overlooked this game, I recommend it and its predecessor highly if you've a soft spot for fantasy and the underdog hero.
Europa Universalis IV
The original grand strategy returns, Paradox Development Studio's Europa Universalis IV was released after the absolutely fantastic tide that was Crusader Kings II, and for those that prefer a little less drama, a bit more conquering and a lot more battles, your game awaits. The mark of a good strategy is undoubtedly it's ability to lock you into playing, and whether you're building up your nation to exact revenge on your neighbours, or simply keeping your fingers crossed that you can discover the New World before everyone else, you will find yourself sinking hours into this history altering strategy as you watch the world react to your choices.
Who knows, you could be at the helm of the next Empire of Sweden!
Grand Theft Auto V
Xbox 360, Playstation 3
It has to be done, despite it undoubtedly appearing on more than a few game of the year lists, when a Grand Theft Auto game comes out, it is never without fanfare, and as a die-hard fan ever since the series' debut I wait in anticipation for the release of anything with the GTA name. Suffice to say Rockstar delivered exactly what I, and hopefully others wanted, and with Michael, Franklin and Trevor players were able to latch onto their favourite character and roam an enormous Los Santos. With car controls better than ever, your own dog, the ability to take part in a ridiculously large amount of activities and the planning and enacting of heists it was a dream come true for those that have stuck by the GTA series for its endless possibilities, sorry Saints Row, you're just a completely different game!
I'm a big fan of the different, and absolutely fell in love with Richard Hofmeier's Cart Life, so as soon as I saw Lucas Pope's Papers, Please, and read the premise it was love at first sight. In Papers, Please you take on the role of an immigration inspector who must control the flow of people entering communist Arstotzka, picking through immigrants, visitors and workers using only the documents provided to you that state the requirements for entering Arstotzka.
At its heart, Papers, Please could best be described as a puzzle game with harsh moral undertones; do you become a corrupt official to ensure the health and survival of your family, or follow the straight and narrow and watch as your loved ones die slow and painful deaths in poverty.
Beyond: Two Souls
Beyond: Two Souls was most definitely not the game that Heavy Rain and Quantic Dream fans were hoping for, and its strange non chronological sequence of events makes the least sense in a game that could have delivered far more character development for Ellen Page's Jodie Holmes; a young girl with a mysterious connection to an entity named Aiden. Whilst the game did offer some stunning situations, the homeless section being particularly noteworthy, it just did not deliver the enthralling story that everyone was hoping for.
However, I must admit that Beyond: Two Souls is on my list for other reasons, it was most certainly not my favourite game of the year, but it was the one game that entertained a group of us sat in front of the telly; from the absurdities of walking round in circles for no reason, shrugging away to every question asked of you and playing with toys when you should be following the requests of a doctor, for some reason the game became incredibly ridiculous. Granted we didn't completely take the game the wrong way, and could appreciate the tense and emotional points of it, as well as the pretty stunning graphics, but Beyond just didn't hit the mark that it should have done, although it does go to show that a game full of glorious visuals and storytelling still isn't the real world, and increasing these areas just shows exactly what is so absurd about games.
Top Downloadable Game of 2013
Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, Windows
There were more than plenty downloadable games this year, however the one that truly stuck out had me in fits of rage and frustration as I attempted the perfect run. Based off the five-star app-style system that has provided Angry Birds a success, Alien Spidy is a challenging platformer like no other. Armed with only his web-slinging abilities you must traverse all-manner of environmental hazards and towering enemies where flies, mushrooms and fish attempt to stop your progression at every corner. Its control scheme is somewhat difficult to master, however once you've got the hang of it Alien Spidy suddenly becomes the game you just cannot put down!
Most Anticipated Game of 2014
This was a very tricky decision, with previews from E3 for the tantalising Evil Within, developers like Daedalic Entertainment developing the likes of Blackguards or Silence: The Whispered World II, or the much anticipated World of Trucks from SCS Software on the horizon, there's a lot to choose from, however there is one game that has not faltered in exciting me for 2014.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments
Windows, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation 4
As soon as I set my eyes upon Frogwares' re-invention of the Sherlock Holmes franchise at this years E3, I could not wait for its release, not only has the game had a massive graphical overhaul thanks to their switch to the Unreal Engine, but the mechanics and ideas behind the once traditional point and click adventure have also changed. No longer is Sherlock Holmes solely about unlocking doors and solving logical puzzles, but in Crimes and Punishments you will actually feel as though you are Sherlock Holmes; actually deducing who the criminal is, and unravelling the steps that led to the crime in question.
The game also poses an interesting moral standpoint, taking over the role of Sherlock Holmes throws the responsibility of condemning an individual to you, which may see you incorrectly pinning the crime to the wrong person, or sending a vulnerable person to die in prison. With a release during Q2 2014, I cannot wait to see more of the game.
Here's hoping that next year's E3 and Gamescom have some new exciting announcements, with hopefully a few less sequels, until then, we hope that you all had very merry festivities and a fantastic New Year!
Watch this space for other top games of 2013.