Feb 3, 16 4:04am
66 days until Oz Comic Con!
Mar 21, 15 3:49pm
It's probably a good thing Cash Converters isn't like AG&J on Pawn Stars
Polarity blogged
Jan 18, 15 2:37am

6. Shovel Knight
5. Middle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor
4. Earth Defense Force 2025
3. Alien Isolation
2. Transistor
1. Bayonetta 2

2014 marked a bit of a strange time for the industry. While still selling reasonably well, it was rather clear that people were beginning to see past the smoke and mirrors of the hype train, and seeing some of these games for what they really were. Between Watch Dogs being mediocre at best, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes being about 3 seconds long and Assassin's Creed Unity being almost as broken as Action 52, it was clear that people aren't just going to accept any old thing unless it's actually good. Granted, people are still aboard the Pokemon train and Call Of Duty jumbo jet, but hey, the latter has its moments and the former was a pretty good remake of a pretty good game (though it barely missed the mark necessary to be on the list), so all isn't lost.

Which brings us to the AAA games that were excellent this year – Middle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor and Alien Isolation. Both of these games couldn't be any different. Shadow Of Mordor could very well be the Sleeping Dogs of spectacle fighters where traditional modern gameplay elements congeal into their own, providing the player with a smooth fighting engine (courtesy of the Arkham games), excellently designed open world with a fantastic array of sidequests and places where you can do some cool parkour moves (thanks Assassin's Creed), and the Nemesis system. It's a system that I'd love to see expanded on by other games as it offers plenty of opportunities for more dynamic enemy encounters than what Shadow Of Mordor offers (an orc makes a getaway and comes back later on, only stronger; or you question grunts as to the whereabouts of their leader). It's through the rest of the elements being some excellent that Shadow Of Mordor finds it way onto the list. On the other side of the spectrum is Alien Isolation, a first person survival horror game where you have to get away from the alien or else, it will kill you. There's no two ways around it – it gets to you, you die. You swat it away with whatever you have, there's a chance of getting away. There are a few flaws, such as some of the moments feeling more scripted than anything, the alien being affixed to your ass while being totally oblivious half the time and being dumber than a sack of rocks, and the 31 flavors of false endings for the last few hours; but it's totally clear that the seeds left behind by Silent Hill: Downpour, ZombiU and The Last Of Us have blossomed into a beautiful, blood red rose given the amount of tension derived from not only getting away from the alien, but also anything else that may attack you.

If you're looking for true beauty, then look no further than Transistor. Developed by the same geniuses behind Bastion, Transistor takes what was a very well made hack and slash game and places more emphasis on timing and chaining attacks ever so thusly. On top of all of that are downright beautiful aesthetics backed up by equally beautiful music. I know that's a bit pretentious, but one look at a screenshot and some casual listening to the soundtrack on Youtube (if it's there) should help that train of thought. That require too much strategy? Well, there's my game of the year pick, Bayonetta 2, which is more about chaining together a series of attacks, dodging at just the right time so that you can slow down time and eradicate or at least severely weaken your enemies, and do all of that while looking damn good. It not only tightens up the frayed ends of its predecessor – already a great game – but it adds the ability to power up and tear everything apart while replenishing your health, all the while retaining its campy feeling that made the first game's story halfway relevant. Both of these games represent everything that I could possibly love about gaming – games that are unapologetically fun and exciting, and games that transcend the boundaries between the traditional and the artistic in a tasteful manner as to remember it's still a game and not a picture to hang up in a museum.

Earth Defense Force 2025 is another great representation of a game that's unapologetically fun. Though far from perfect given its early PS2 graphical quality, a bit of lag when there's way too much going on and the spiders' webs shooting through buildings, it's certainly not without its charm. It makes every encounter with the giant insect army feel massive. There are loads of insects to fight through, mostly in open or at least semi-open areas, and there's a lot more that can be blown up. The long draw distance helps quite a bit in making each skirmish feel more gigantic than the insects themselves! Too low budget for you? Well, there's Shovel Knight, a game that looks and feels like a game from 1990, but with a generous amount of money donated by people on its Kickstater page. Well, it does feel like it's from the 8 bit era with its simple if very effective gameplay (go through well designed levels, kill enemies, acquire money, defeat excellently designed bosses to get more money to spend on upgrades and whatnot), but it also has some modern concessions such as the abolition of lives and having to acquire the money that was left over when you died... and if you don't get it, it's gone forever. Man, From Software stumbled upon a great idea in regards to dying in Demon's Souls and everybody's starting to copy it. But what elevates Shovel Knight beyond the rank and file is its bosses. They embody the simple yet effective quality of the overall game, but to an even higher extent as they can and will destroy you if you don't quickly get their pattern down – but when you do, each fight winds up becoming fast paced and exciting, and the boss' defeat will be incredibly satisfying.

2015 is looking to be a bit better of a year with new Uncharted and Zelda games, though what's to say that they'll live up to the hype and prior games' reputations? Either way, let's just sit back and enjoy what we can throughout the year!
Dec 8, 14 1:42am
Thank you to whoever gave me N+!
Apr 23, 14 10:01pm
Year of Daisy???
Mar 26, 14 1:30pm
The only question is, will Microsoft skip PAX?
Polarity blogged
Jan 1, 14 4:23pm

6. Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time
5. Bravely Default
4. The Wonderful 101
3. Grand Theft Auto 5
2. Assassin's Creed 4
1. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

2013 was a notable step up from last year. Whereas 2012 was such a mediocre year that I could name all of its worthwhile games on two hands, I'd at least need to be Goro in order to name every good game from 2013 on my hands. This may be a result of needing to end the seventh generation on a high note - whatever the actual case may be, I'm happy with it. I wasn't exactly happy with how Tomb Raider, Devil May Cry and Bioshock were handled this year - the former two were story driven and yet, they were both rubbish; the latter focused so much on aesthetics that the gameplay became hopelessly mediocre as a result. Thankfully, at least Sly Cooper and Assassin's Creed were handled with care. Granted, both had a nonsensical time travelling concept, but both of them either ameliorate or at least lessen the issue by either having a silly story with some fairly well written dialogue, or by having its past plot be infinitely more interesting than the time travelling concept. Grand Theft Auto was given some respect - it went back to what made the PS2 Grand Theft Auto games awesome and - my disappointment in the soundtrack and not taking as much advantage with the three character thing as they could've aside - I dare say that Rockstar had exceeded expectations. I'd also say that Metal Gear, Fire Emblem and Zelda were also handled with care, but not to the same extent as Sly or Assassin's Creed.

Anyway, let the discussion begin - Desmond's ancestors VS Sly's ancestors!

If 2013 did anything especially right however, it reminded me of the core essence of gaming - fun. Well, okay, it also had moments of being pretentious and downright pandering ala Gone Home, but it's hard to give two shits about that game when Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and The Wonderful 101 (and Sly 4, for that matter) were so much goddamn fun! The Wonderful 101 was like a flurry of style with just enough substance to want to keep going, just to see what else it had up its sleeve. Blood Dragon, on the other hand, is like a parody of 80s pop culture and modern day first person shooters. Even without the comedy, it feels like a better version of Far Cry 3, which was quite an engaging game in and of itself. Blood Dragon is a lot tighter, making things a bit easier whilst making kills feel even more satisfying. From stealth kills to lunging right up to them and wrecking them old school... goddamn, it's good! Grand Theft Auto 5, as I had just said, put the series back on track after the rather melodramatic stylings of Grand Theft Auto 4, and between all of the activities that you can do and all of the hell that you can try to raise, it's still a joy to play through it. I'll take San Andreas over it if given the opportunity, but 5 was still pretty good. Hell, Bravely Default even made traditional turn based RPGs seem like fun! Although we'll never see a developer top Skies Of Arcadia or Suikoden 2 anytime soon, being able to experiment with different jobs whilst utilizing the brave default system so that you don't get your bells whipped is enough to keep you playing, and the characters are a joy to be with.

Keep the ball rolling, 2014.
Sep 22, 13 2:00am
If I were to choose a method of getting diabetes, going to a Bon Jovi concert would be my #1 pick
Apr 14, 13 3:27pm
Men should learn how to cook. Men are usually better cooks anyway.
Polarity blogged
Jan 2, 13 3:04am

6. Dragon's Dogma
5. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
4. Far Cry 3
3. Sleeping Dogs
2. Silent Hill: Downpour
1. Mark Of The Ninja

2012 was a year full of underwhelming released, but the hits at least encompass what makes gaming still worth your time. Far Cry 3 is like that hand reaching into your still beating heart and showing it to you before putting it back in - it came out late, but it's a very good game. Perhaps the story isn't very good, but the sheer amount of things to do in that game - all of which are fun - is more than enough to keep you coming back. Same deal for Dragon's Dogma, which has a fantastic combat engine and even better bosses, but it's pretty mediocre in terms of story. XCOM: Enemy Unknown.. well, I've made it clear that I haven't played the old school games by even remotely praising this, but hey, I enjoyed this a lot so I'll want to play the old school games. Sleeping Dogs and Silent Hill: Downpour had great stories that not only keep your interest due to some deep themes (Sleeping Dogs is all about loyalty whereas Silent Hill: Downpour is more about a prisoner's journey for enlightenment and true freedom), but also give context to the gameplay, whether it relates to their structures or their "flaws".

My #1 may come as a big surprise when most people would either pick Dishonored, Far Cry 3, Journey or Hitman: Absolution (derogatory name pending as I have yet to play that game), but trust me when I say that Mark Of The Ninja, whilst not being as heavy handed as the likes of Sleeping Dogs, Silent Hill: Downpour or Spec Ops: The Line (the latter isn't on the list due to mediocre gameplay), is an intriguing tale that's backed up by excellent stealth gameplay (something Dishonored lacks, giving you plenty of tools and powers to compensate for its lackluster stealth gameplay) and fantastic level designs. Like Far Cry 3 and Dragon's Dogma, this was a lot of *bleep*ing fun to play through. Truth be told though, there are only two A's and three A-'s with Dragon's Dogma receiving a B+, which I feel sums up the year - underwhelming. Other years would have all six of my picks receiving A-'s at the very least and 2 A's and 4 A+'s at best (if you want me to do other years, just give me the word and I'll see what I can do).

Is this the beginning of the end? Maybe not - Anarchy Reigns, Ni No Kuni, South Park: The Stick Of Truth, Bioshock: Infinite and The Last Of Us are shaping up to be pretty sweet games, and it's only a matter of time before more good games come out. Mark Of The Ninja, my #1 pick, literally came out of nowhere - I just stumbled upon it on Steam. Far Cry 3, my #4 pick, came out pretty damn late in the year. The rest had hype, but only amongst smaller communities whilst games I found merely found good like Dishonored and Journey got jerked off like Ron Jeremy during a filming session. So there you have it, my picks for 2012. If you have any comments or queries or you want my opinion on other games released this year, please comment in the comment section down below, and I'll see you later.

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Marcus "Fenix" Grent

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