2013 was just another year. Who cares? Another year where I still didn’t play Brutal Legend, learned Ron Gilbert’s new adventure game was just okay and where no one on this planet deciphered any news worth mentioning regarding The Last Guardian. Some people have even taken to putting on this cool facade like they’ve lost hope in it and don’t care anymore. You’ve lost hope and don’t care anymore? Shut up, you’re not fooling anyone. How can you pretend to not care about the spiritual successor to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus? You’re so darned, cool! You’re so cool I bet the heat is turned on in your house sometimes. That’s like if some guy ate a marvelous bowl of spaghetti and meatballs and when asked about his interest in further pasta dishes said “well, I mean, this was the best thing I’ve ever eaten but like, whatever, you know? I don’t care what else there is.” Yes you do, jerkface!
The Last Guardian is coming, humanity. Maybe that jerk’s kids will play it.
Anyway, onto 2013: for the 28th consecutive year it was declared the best year in gaming history. Damn, this industry is impressive! Keep it up, whoever’s running things.
Okay, okay: C’m’on, we all know that this was a perfectly average year, something the other year-in-review lists here have all alluded to. For AAA games it was a pretty bad year, but maybe actually one of the better years in recent memory. On one hand we got the third best Bioshock game, the fourth best Grand Theft Auto game, an Assassin’s Creed game that I think everyone agrees isn’t the worst one, a Call of Duty game that had no competition because its competition was completely broken, and Battlefield 4, the aforementioned completely broken game. On the other hand it had The Last of Us, which was like goddammit I guess I’ll pick up the slack and be the best; and it did, and it was. More on that later (but not much).
Some new consoles came out too but they’re irrelevant for now because Troll Masters of the Universe – From Software – made the Epic Troll Move of developing Dark Souls II exclusively for what we can now call last-gen consoles (and PC). Godspeed you, From Software.
“Hey Boonesauce – how’s Titanfall?”
“Forgive me, I can’t answer your question – I’m enraptured in the glory of a 36-month Dark Souls II life-a-thon.” (That’s like a marathon, but instead of mara-ing, you’re life-ing, I guess.)
In 2018 when we’re awaiting the release of Grand Theft Auto: Southern Crunk (it won’t be called VI) that’s when people will start coming out of the woodwork and admitting to themselves what an ‘okay’ game GTA V was, just like everyone did with IV.
Yes, another completely average and “meh” year – the only remark likely to be included in far off future Earth History Compendiums about 2013 would go something like “Of all the years there were, 2013 wasn’t a lot like 1156. Sometimes people turned on the heat. Rabbits went extinct, whatever those are.” Sounds like a lousy history book, but what did you expect after all the scientists left?
On to talking about games that were real and that people saw with their eyes or bat vision or whatever we see with in this bizarro present![Disclaimer: 2013 was crap, so I’m padding this list out.]
Game from 2012 that I played this year mention #1 – Spec Ops: The Line
Spec Ops: The Line is a fast-paced, light-hearted, rip roaring romp bromance dramady shooter that takes place in some fake desert where you learn how to love your fellow human. Somebody probably ate ice cream off camera too. Twelve stars out of eighteen ************ / ******************
Game from 2012 that I played this year mention #2 – Virtue’s Last Reward
Virtue’s Last Reward is the unlikely story of how a man’s dog who was lost found another man’s cat who was lost and returned it to the cat owning man and the dog and the cat became friends and the two men became friends and they took a trip together through the mountains of Saskatchewan and were thankful that their lives had become enriched with such good friendship. There isn’t much dialogue throughout and you don’t control the car for the road trip part of the game. It was developed single-handed by Wayne Gretzky’s son, whatever his name is.
Honorable mention game (honest) – Guns of Icarus Online
Yes, this was indeed on my list last year. Well it’s on my list again! The reason I’m honoring it again in 2013 is because it should win not necessarily the most improved game award, but an award for most sustained TLC given by a developer. Muse Games has been tinkering with and updating all aspects of its sky-thing game continually for the past year and keeping the small but devoted community informed quite efficiently. Kudos to their game for unlikely surviving and thriving this long.
And now: numbers, counted backwards.
#6 – Spelunky
Spelunky is a punishing but rewarding spelunking game (yeah) that, while looking cute and colourful, has more in common with Demon’s Souls than it does the average 2D cave-crawling game. Actually, while it upholds the same tenets (death, practice, patience), it may very well be considered more punishing because to beat the game you have to do it in one life; as in: no matter where you are in the game when you die you lose all your money, all your items and have to start from level 1-1 again. Oh, and the levels are randomly generated. There are shortcuts you can unlock to practice the dangers of the other worlds (I think there are about 20 levels in total, across 5 worlds) but to finish the game you have to collect specific items that require a full run – front to back.
It sounds grueling and awful but, just like Demon’s Souls, the core gameplay is enjoyable and it falls into the category of easy to pick up, challenging to master. I’ve played the heck out of it and still can get only to the second world. Anyone who can master and defeat Spelunky is a legend. It also plays great on the Vita. Wink, nudge, can I have some money, Sony?
#5 – The Swapper
The Swapper wins my 2013 award for best game I didn’t know existed a week before playing it. Seemingly stranded on a deep space science station, you the player navigate the bowels of the ghostly ship, solving puzzle after puzzle relying heavily on the eerie swapping gun.
Early on you’ll experience The First Time It Happens. This stands out as one of the more disturbing moments in video games – yet, without so much as a musical note to announce it, it is an entirely subtle event while still utterly transfixing.
The various parts of the empty ship you’ll visit do an excellent job of environmental– or perhaps more accurately: atmospheric– storytelling. The puzzles are never too easy and rarely too difficult, save a few appropriate mind-benders later on. It chips along at a perfect pace and before long I was completely mesmerized by not only the enjoyable puzzles and atmosphere, but a heady and contemplative background narrative.
The Swapper will make you think, and then it will make you think some more. In doing so it joins the list of fine, understated works of science-fiction.
#4 – Metro: Last Light
Metro 2033’s stealth mechanics were broken– not to mention confusing– to a degree that it wasn’t a viable option. At all. In Last Light that problem does a 180 and becomes almost broken in favour of the player. Unless the blue light on your wristwatch is illuminated enemies won’t see you, and that’s even if you’re in the middle of a heated gunfight. It’s pretty silly, but something I wouldn’t have discovered had I not done a second, murderous playthrough of the game.
Artyom is certainly never lacking ammunition or weapons but despite that I still feel like saying Last Light plays excellently as a stealth survival game. The tension of heading to the wasted surface– the ruins of Moscow– is second to the tension in no other similar game. Like Steerpike said in his review: as good as Last Light is, the thought of what 4A games might do to follow it up is more tantalizing.
Still, a game of this kind that is as polished as it is, and with an excellent story, is rare. Trade your copy of Bioshock Infinite to some rube in exchange for Last Light; that should replace your 2013-FPS-disappointment.
#3 – Rayman Legends
This game is zen on a disc. Or if you downloaded it…digitally delivered zen? Sure, it’s pretty much just more of Rayman Origins, but that’s only a good thing as far as I can tell.
Rayman Legends is absolutely the game for anyone who doesn’t own Nintendo’s consoles or who has the rubbish aftertaste of Little Big Planet’s garbage platforming on their palette.
There is nothing I can say to adequately explain why Legends– and Origins before it– is wonderful. Go watch some videos.
#2 – State of Decay
I said in my review: “State of Decay might just be the Zombocalypse game you didn’t know you were waiting for.” I could (and maybe should) have stopped there. That’s really all anyone needs to know about it. Yes, they’re done to death by now so many times over.
The thing is: State of Decay is just a really damn good game, and you should play it regardless of what tired cliches it wears. If you’re so inclined I’m sure for the PC version you could find a mod that replaces the zombies with hungry Canadians who have come to eat Americans because poutine ran out. Now that’s a fucking post-apocalypse.
#1 – The Last of Us
Feelings. A story. Jak & Daxter the board game. Blah blah blah.
I’m tired of writing words. Who cares what I think of The Last of Us, anyway? In summary it’s the most important big budget game that came out in 2013 because [insert words about its artistic strengths and blah blah] and the ending blah blah blah.
Blah blah blah happy 2014.
Blah blah blah blah blah the author of this post at firstname.lastname@example.org.