I have written about the “official” Video Game Awards by Spike TV, I have made my entry for the AniBloggers Choice Anime Awards, and now it is time for my own little award dealings with REYA, or Rukinet’s End of Year Awards! This particular post (and only post, since the ACAA one already took care of the anime side of things) will focus solely on gaming and video games as I go through the best of 2011, split up into ten categories including Game of the Year and Indie Game of the Year.
Before we get to the awards, I would like to introduce a few guests who will participate with their own top picks for the best games of the year: They are The Kidd (@kiddtic) and SakuRedux (@SakuRedux). You will find what they have to say at the end of each category, just click the big colored button (Yes, you get to push a big colored button!) to make the text appear.
Alright then, let’s do this, guys!
Best Role-Playing Game
Shocking. Isn’t it? At least it was to me, someone who – and don’t hate me for this – really disliked The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It wasn’t a bad game, ridden with glitches and bugs but by no means bad, that’s evident by the sheer amount of people who loved it and
wasted spent hundreds of hours each playing that game, but I just could not enjoy it.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, however, is one of the best games I played this year. Not only this year even, it’s one of the best I have ever played! The story isn’t the best, the graphics aren’t the best, even the combat and other RPG elements were not the best, but put all of those things and the huge, beautiful world together and you’ve got something truly great.
I have 76 hours clocked on Steam and before getting it for PC I played it for about 20 hours on Xbox 360 and I haven’t even touched the main questline yet. Of course, just because there is a lot to do doesn’t automatically make a game good, but luckily, Skyrim definitely is.
Best First-Person Shooter
I may be completely wrong in saying this, but there weren’t a lot of first-person shooters this year, were there? Or maybe there just weren’t that many good ones. Battlefield 3 is certainly not one of those, with its superior gameplay, superior graphics (especially on PC, assuming your rig can handle it), and slightly more mature player base than that of a certain other war shooter.
Now, I’m not a fan of Call of Duty but I don’t pretend that it sucks and that no one who is not insane could possibly enjoy it. I know for a fact that that is not true, I have several friends who like Modern Warfare 3 – most of them also like Battlefield 3 – and even I have had a few entertaining matches (though that was back in World at War), but if you look at the two games without bias there is no question that Battlefield 3 is then superior game with better weapon mechanics and sounds, better graphics, the Frostbite 2 engine (specifically the destructible environments), and dedicated servers.
The race for Best First-Person Shooter wasn’t only participated in by these two games of course, but even with games such as RAGE, Duke Nukem Forever, Brink, Homefront, Bulletstorm, Crysis 2 (a close second for best graphics), and Killzone 3 – several of which were not that good, not to mention that I only played about half of them – only a few came even close in most aspects.
I know, I know: “What about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3?!”. Simply put, I’ve not played them. I’ve not played many FPS games this year actually. Of the few I did play, for me at least, Bulletstorm was everything People Can Fly promised it would be: genuine fun.
Between the “Skillshot” system and the visceral feel of the weapons, killing the enemies in this game was some of the best fun I had all year. The fact that you can’t tackle them all the same way is something some single player first-person shooters fall short on, and they suffer for it. I know Bulletstorm isn’t deserving of anything in many peoples eyes, all I know is it was the most fun I’ve had from an FPS all year and that’s what counts.
I can only think of two big ones but even so I think this year has probably been the best year for puzzle games in a long time. Maybe ever; I really wouldn’t know since I’ve always preferred strategy games over puzzlers, and role-playing games over strategy games. Those two games are of course Portal 2 and Catherine, both of which had good puzzles and one really intriguing, good storyline each.
Although on paper someone like me would be prone to liking Catherine more, Portal 2 executed its story better and the puzzles were a lot more varied. Besides, the way you solved the puzzles were a lot more exciting as you shoot portals on every surface and take advantage of momentum to get to those hard-to-reach places with the greatest of ease (as soon as you figure it out) as opposed to just pulling, pushing, and climbing up and down cubes. In your underwear.
Maybe not so relevant to this award as one I decided to skip, Portal 2 also has some of the greatest voice acting in any game to date. Nowadays voice acting is seen in most every game that has a story to tell and most of it is really good, but Ellen McLain as GLaDOS (and the singing turrets) and Stephen Merchant as Wheatley were both on a whole other level. Furthermore, the voice acting is yet another reason why I considered this game for Game of the Year for a good while.
Okay, it’s Portal 2.
What, you want more? Okay then: Between a charming story that doesn’t get shoved in your face, a cast of 3 characters who are the most memorable cast of any game this year, as well as another healthy dose of the portal gun powered puzzles we all loved the original Portal for, you can’t go wrong with Portal 2. The new puzzle mechanics, introduced via 3 coloured gels, are strokes of genius. They add a ton of new gameplay options, and while many chastised the game for it’s habit of stopping you from placing portal’s anywhere other than the correct places had a genuine complaint, but it’s a puzzle game at heart. There’s generally only one way to solve a puzzle, and I think an Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device is the best way to solve anything.
I’ll be honest with you, the soundtrack is not something I actively pay attention to while playing a game unless it is really good, like the original Fable and Tales of Symphonia. That doesn’t make me unfit to give out an award for Best Soundtrack though; as long as I notice the best soundtracks without fail I can judge which one of them is the best. Or at the very least, which appeased my ears the most.
The Sonic games have always had superb soundtracks and Sonic Generations is no different. How could it be? It features remixes of all the best songs ever found in a Sonic game, including the extremely nostalgic “City Escape” theme. I can’t have been more than nine years old when I used to play that level, my favorite in Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, over and over. My English wasn’t anywhere near as good as it is today and I still learned the lyrics to that theme so I could sing along.
You could argue that most of Generation‘s soundtrack isn’t original, but this is not the “Best Original Soundtrack” award, it’s for the Best Soundtrack and it was no doubt the best of 2011. The gameplay and level design was also excellent, something that’s been missing from Sonic games for nearly a decade now.
This award was a tough one for me because a lot of games had amazing soundtracks this year. L.A. Noire takes the cake because not only did it help immerse the gamer into this rich early 1940′s world but also complemented the various action scenes well.
A special mention goes to Sonic Generations for remixing some of those classic tunes we have all come to love over the years, but this is also the reason it did not win Best Soundtrack, since it wasn’t a completely original soundtrack.
For what is essentially just a bunch of remixes, this soundtrack is golden. The fact that I can go blasting through Green Hill Zone as Modern Sonic with Sonic Boom as the background music actually made me giddy with excitement. That’s the kind of response this game gets from me. The actual remixes themselves are solidly put together, although I think it would have been better if Sega had reached out to somewhere like OCReMix to do the soundtrack.
Honestly, the soundtrack is probably winning me over with nostalgia. It’s impossible to say the tracks from the Mega Drive games are badly remixed though. Chemical Plant Zone sounds brilliant, although it reminds me of the purple water every time I listen to it. I hate that water.
Best Art Direction
And before anyone states the obvious (or get mad because it wasn’t obvious enough), this has nothing to do with graphics. Well, that isn’t entirely true, but it has absolutely nothing to do with technical achievement. Such an award would go to Battlefield 3 – thanks to the Frostbite 2 engine, that game is simply gorgeous – with Crysis 2 only slightly behind. But as I said, this award has nothing to do with that sort of thing because in all honesty aesthetics are way more important. That does not mean, however, that I would not have preferred to play The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword in full 1080p HD, but even so it wins on a count of the art direction.
Interestingly enough, the one area I liked the least, graphically, was actually Skyloft. What makes it interesting to me is that I have always loved the idea of floating islands but never did I think it would look better being trapped in a box of dense buttered popcorn walls. That just doesn’t look good to me, I would have much preferred clear, blue skies in every direction. Maybe that’s just me though.
A lot of beautiful games have been released this year such as Bastion and Rayman Origins. Harder than deciding what game I thought had the best art direction was actually deciding the honorable mention, the runner-up, but in the end the choice was quite obvious to me: Sonic Generations. Well, I say that, but I might change my mind before finishing this paragr– Damn it.
I love pretty colors and shiny things (I mean, who doesn’t?) so in my opinion this award should go to Rayman Origins; however, I still have not played that game. Instead, the award goes to Sonic Generations. This game plays on nostalgia and did a great job on the visuals: The levels look similar and brand new at the same time! Hardcore Sonic fans will weep from joy as they see their beloved iconic stages fleshed out before them in glorious high definition and three dimensions.
The best thing about the game, though, is how it plays just as well as it looks. Kudos to you Sega, you finally got a modern Sonic game right.
Uncharted 3, baby! Who would have guessed it? Definitely not Game of the Year material, this one, but definitely a great game. Specifically, certain parts were excellent while others were not. The combat mechanics? Not so much. But what about the jumping across rooftops and quick time events? Definitely not! No one likes QTE’s and both Infamous 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations (which I am currently in sequence 3 of) does the parkour infinitely better. So why do people like the Uncharted games so much? The narrative.
To be even considered for Game of the Year, at least to the unbiased such as me, a game cannot have a single aspect that stands out, it needs to be great in the majority of, if not all aspects, and Uncharted 3 was not. The game has been patched since release to add an option to make the combat more like that of Uncharted 2 but I have not played it since then and the fact of the matter is that the gun play was lacking, though I commend Naughty Dog for adding such an option and so soon.
With a down-to-earth (barely) plot; great, albeit quite cliched, characters; and interesting locales; Uncharted 3 was a great game to play more for the story than for the gameplay. If you can accept such a game for what it is, or pretend as if it is not true like a real fanboy, it is definitely one of those games you should play even if you only play a few games every year.
Best Multiplayer Experience
Best Multiplayer Experience does not simply refer to best multiplayer – technically it doesn’t at all but that doesn’t matter since both these games have great multiplayer modes – but also to best multiplayer experience. It is right there in the title, so I guess that was a bit pointless to say… In any case, both Battlefield 3 and the PlayStation 3-exclusive LittleBigPlanet 2 win this award because simply put they both deserve it.
They are very different games and so are their multiplayer modes, Battlefield 3 with its team and squad-based military shooter action and new co-op mode, and LittleBigPlanet 2 with its many levels ranging from classic platforming to you name it, with the much improved level creator nearly anything you can imagine is possible.
I also prepared a Best MMORPG category but with so few candidates being released this year, even if you drop the “RPG” part, I ended up scrapping it. The winner is pretty obvious but if you want to take a look all the same you can view it by clicking here. Please do, I did put some effort into it after all.
Minecraft would get an honorary mention for its multiplayer, which in my opinion is pretty much the reason one would play the game to begin with (that or all the hype it’s gotten over time), if you didn’t have to bother with servers and whatnot whenever you want to play, even if it’s just to waste a few minutes with a buddy. Besides, it won the following award…
Indie Game of the Year
This year has been great for independently made games, several of them are right up there among the best of 2011. Like Bastion which had great gameplay (as long as you used an Xbox 360 controller), incredible visuals, and a superb soundtrack. I’m running out of synonyms for “good” so I’ll just stop there. I think you see my point anyway.
Orcs Must Die!, Dungeons of Dredmor, Bastion of course, The Binding of Isaac, Terraria, Jamestown, SpaceChem, Sequence, Frozen Synapse, and Trine 2, and the list doesn’t stop there! Well, mine does, but it was getting too long, just look the rest up on Google or Steam. All of these were top notch (no pun intended), great games that rarely cost more than a meal or two, and they all had this obvious little thing in common: They were all indie games. If you don’t already own a good half of these games, a lot of them can be bought very cheaply right now on Steam – look for the “Super Indie Bundle”, “Awesome Indie Bundle”, “Mega Indie Bundle”, and whichever I might be forgetting – until their holiday sale is over. But honestly, even if you miss out on these sales, they’re very cheap as it is so you shouldn’t let that stop you from owning some of the best games ever made.
I only picked up The Binding of Isaac a few weeks ago but I have already invested some 30 hours into it. I’ve beaten it three times but I still feel like I’m just getting started, and I know I’m not the only one. It should be safe to say that if there was an award for most addictive game of the year, this one would win it, no questions asked.
However, this is not the award for most addictive game or gameplay, but the Indie Game of the Year and of course there can only be one winner. This should hardly come as a surprise to anyone as it was officially released on November 18, 2011, even though its alpha and beta stages hasn’t exactly been kept in house and private and started well before the year did. It’s Minecraft of course!
To be completely honest, my favorite indie game to play alone is either The Binding of Isaac or Bastion, but when it comes to playing with your friends, whether it is your one best friend over LAN or the well-established community on your favorite server, it truly excels more than any other co-op game I’ve played. You could play it with a more competitive spirit too if you like, playing “spleef” or just making a large dirt labyrinth at the end of which there is nothing but a horribly mean – and hilarious – lava trap. (Fine, I admit: I did that.) There is just no limit, you can do pretty much whatever you want, and that is why my pick of Indie Game of the Year is Minecraft.
Simply put, some of the most fun I’ve had from a single player game this year. The only thing it’s lacking is an online multiplayer component which is something that would be perfect for a game like this. Sort of like a third-person tower defense game, you set up traps for your orc enemies to trigger, but you also walk around and actively kill them with a combination of weapons, including a crossbow and a “lance blade” which is basically just a sword on a stick.
The animations are very well made and the game has a nice sense of humour to it. For instance, the game opens with your mentor having just slipped in some kobold blood and smashed his head open on a stone step. He then regretfully notes that it’s up to you, and only you, to stop the orcs from entering the Rifts. Orcs Must Die! is a brilliant, gorgeous piece of game, well worth the $15 asking price.
Game of the Year
Great RPG elements, great FPS mechanics, great soundtrack, great art direction, and great narrative. Deus Ex: Human Revolution was considered for all of those awards and even though it didn’t win any of them (partly because it would win Game of the Year) it was runner-up for three!
This game does all aspects well. I’d say the ones it is lacking the most in, while it is still decently good, would be the puzzles and the multiplayer, because neither exists. At least multiplayer does not, and that is a good thing. Do not waste resources and time on making a mediocre multiplayer modes for a singleplayer games. Whether there are puzzles or not depends on your view of stealth. You can sneak through the entire game without killing, knocking out, or even alerting a single enemy if you so choose (and you should, I would say that’s the most fun way to play the game) and you will have to plan out where you will go or you will fail, but whether you can actually compare that to a puzzle game, I don’t know.
True, Human Revolution doesn’t have as good RPG elements as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim; it doesn’t have as good FPS mechanics as Battlefield 3; it didn’t have as good a soundtrack as Sonic Generations; and the list goes on; however, those games might excel in one or two of let’s say ten aspects, be decent in two, mediocre in five, and absolutely fail in the last aspect or two. They are still great and deserve the awards they won, but to be even considered for GOTY (especially in a year that’s been this good for gaming) a game cannot get away with just doing a third of the aspects well and the rest not so well, it needs to be at least decent in every single aspect and good in most. Not to mention it needs to be an all-round better game than every other one, or it wouldn’t be the game of the year.
But enough with the word “aspect” for now. I have said mostly what I need to about what I deem to be the Game of the Year of 2011, but before I end my part in this spectacle I just wanted to say that as of writing this the Steam holiday sale is still going on and as luck would have it, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is actually on sale for another 15 hours, and will currently cost you $16.99 USD, €16.99 EUR, or £10.19 GBP, depending on where you live. The standalone DLC (though it requires the base game to run) “The Missing Link” is also on sale and can be bought for $5.09, €3.73, or £3.05.
Remember that feeling you got when you were playing GoldenEye multiplayer with your friends for the first time? Remember how you felt the first time you played Final Fantasy? And do you remember how you felt the first time you played Metal Gear Solid?
You knew then that what you were playing was something special, unique and timeless. You knew then you would fondly remember that experience for the rest of your life. And you knew then that the game you were playing would go down in history as one of the classics, one of the best ever made. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword gave me that exact same feeling.
The music was fantastic, the art direction was gorgeous, the story… Oh my god, that story! You really felt a genuine connection between Link and Zelda so much so that the ending made me tear up a little. The gameplay was revolutionary, I can not imagine myself playing a sword game without motion controls anymore, I just can’t. Is Skyward Sword better than Ocarina of Time? The fact that I have to think about this speaks volumes.
I honestly had a hard time deciding between The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Portal 2 for my Game of the Year pick. Both games are good choices but in completely different ways. Portal is a compact and tightly refined puzzle game, Skyrim is a massive sprawling world you can get lost in for months.
In the end though, I went with Skyrim, simply for the replay value. You could argue that Portal 2‘s level editor gives it a massive amount of replay value, but until they add a GUI for loading custom levels into the game, it’s going to be too difficult for most people to bother with. Skyrim on the other hand has literally hundreds of hours of gameplay just on the main quest lines. That’s not counting the randomly generated quests the game engine makes on the fly or the thousands of other quests that were hand crafted for the players. The massive modding community on the PC version is already a sprawling mass of texture updates, graphics tweaks, and interface mods and this is before the official modding tools come out next month.
Truly, Skyrim is a game for the ages. It fixes almost everything that people had a problem with in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and adds so much more to the pot that it’s impossible to ignore it as one of the biggest gaming achievements, not only this year, but this generation. The relatively large number of bugs is annoying, sure, but in a game this large we might have never seen it at all had they been driven to get every single bug ironed out. Here’s to the Frozen North, and to 2011! FUS RO DAH!
That’s it then. Including the images I have worked on this post for a few weeks now, since before December. I really enjoyed my time working on it but it feels good being done now. Was getting dangerously close to the deadline I had set for myself (and in turn, my guests) of “before 2012″ but it looks like we made it. I’m just going to save the draft now, it would be absolute hell if all of this was lost…
Draft saved. I don’t really have a lot left to say at this point, I just want to remind you guys of Steam’s holiday sale and I hope you enjoyed reading this post or at least found it somewhat helpful. Oh, and a happy new year to all of you! It’s getting really close now.
“The year 2011 has been a huge one in terms of gaming for me. I only got my PS3 this year, so on top of playing catch up with games like Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and Mass Effect 2 I also had to play the ones being released this year. I have to admit, this holiday season has been one of the most frenetic I can remember; so many solid games being released within the space of three months was a little too much for our wallets to handle, but at least I am glad we get to see these awesome games being made.“ –The Kidd
“2011 has been… an interesting year. It saw the compromising of Sony‘s PlayStation Network, the release of a slew of second sequels (Gears of War 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception), the release of both Sony and Nintendo‘s new handhelds, both to mixed reception, and a bunch of other news that I don’t have enough space left to blabber on about.
To be honest, I stand by my decisions on my award picks. The only one that might be weird in some peoples eyes is Bulletstorm as Best First-Person Shooter. My reasoning behind it is simple: It’s a gorgeous game; the graphics are undeniably good, even if the lip synching in the cutscenes may as well not be there. It’s fun, how many games actively reward you for slaughtering enemies in different ways, and make it fun to find new ways to kill? The story is not half bad either, if a bit predictable. I already said I didn’t play many FPS games, but of the ones I played, Bulletstorm was the most fun, and the one I’m most anxious for a sequel to. That said, EA doesn’t have a good track run with releasing sequels for games that aren’t runaway successes. I’m still waiting on my Mirror’s Edge sequel!“ –SakuRedux