2013 has been a strange year for me for gaming. I’ve found myself especially distracted by Steam Early Access and other programs that allow me to play games in their alpha or beta stage, thus my time with full releases has been somewhat limited. Additionally, I found myself anticipating releases more than actually playing those delivered to me in a “finished” state. All of that coupled with my lack of access to consoles has resulted in me having a less than informed perspective on the highs and lows of 2013, which is a bit of a problem when faced with constructing a GOTY list. Being the unconventional type, I’ve decided to press on nonetheless; my list is filled with both games I’ve finished and those I’ll be following as they chug along to completion:
These games were delivered to me by an invisible digital delivery man, in a state that was what most would consider finished. That does not mean, however, that I finished them completely (I’m quite distractable).
Hype Machine Confirmed Award: Bioshock Infinite
I almost passed over Bioshock Infinite as I was not particularly excited by the trailers. Sacrilege? Only if you look to trailers to provide you with religious confirmation. Being that there was quite a bit of hype in regards to this game, I decided to run with the crowd (boy was that hipster sounding, sorry) and was pleased that I did so. When a game can immediately take your breath away and make tutorials/introductions memorable, you know you’re moving in the right direction. When it can back it up with great characters, an exciting story and tight gameplay, you know you have a GOTY contender. I hope that its earlier release date doesn’t sway people’s judgement too much as it’s very easy to forget games from month to month, let alone ones released almost a year ago.
Do I Need More? YES!! Award: XCOM Enemy Within
I didn’t know what to expect from the XCOM expansion and tempered my excitement just in case. Mechs and mutations sounded awesome, but Enemy Unknown had run its course with me last year and with Xenonauts approaching full release, I didn’t know whether or not I needed to revisit the game again. 40 hours and an episode of Brotabulous later, I remembered exactly why the series was such a big hit for me last year . This should be the model for expansions from here on out, especially given the rocky state of DLC/expansions to date. That being said, it’s a bit tougher to play this version in “Iron Man” mode when you know a mistake could be the spell the end for a mechanized soldier that you’ve developed a deep bond with over the course of many missions. While my heart is in the right place, my sense of reality may not be.
The “You Get Me” Award: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
I predicted that Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon would be the 2013 GOTY and though I eventually played games that I enjoyed a bit more, it definitely ranks up there in terms of entertainment value. Never has a piece of entertainment medium struck a cord with my childhood and teenage years in such a deep way, which is a testament to the devil may care attitude of the development team. I felt as if I was part of that very team, my brain picked through for the 80’s and earl 90’s references that dotted the landscape of the stand alone “expansion.” It wasn’t perfect but it was fun and made me smile in ways that only cats in tiny tuxedos can.
Pounded Me And I Liked It Award: Desktop Dungeons
This game can kiss my rear end as far as I’m concerned, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. Like a spurned lover, I returned to Desktop Dungeons again and again, hoping that I’d win its affections through a war of attrition, only to be punished and sent back with my tail firmly tucked between my legs. Apparently, I like abuse. This was by far the most addicting game I played this year due to its depth, challenge and flexibility as a 15 min or 15 hour experience.
Bucked The Trend Award: State of Decay
I refuse to be sick of zombies, though I do realize their presence in games has become a bit lazy as of late. This is why I wasn’t sure just how to feel about State of Decay. The genre was all but stagnant and I was woefully aware of just how bad ports can end up being. State of Decay proves, however, that the lack of quality is not inherent to zombie games themselves and offers up an experience that made the zombie elitist in me smile smugly at the naysayers. Its combination of lite-sim features and simple arcade controls was enough to carry me from beginning to end in only a few days (which is rare for me). While lack of co-op was a bit saddening, the game turned out to be for than I could have hoped for.
Card Games Can Be Fun? Sure! Award! Chainsaw Warrior
The only reason I bought Chainsaw Warrior was because of the cover art. While I’m still quite fond of the picture of a lone, cybernetic soldier fighting his way through a horde of mutants, the game it’s attached to was actually quite good. Physical card games are fun and all, but digitizing them takes away the pain of shuffling, making session after session of Chainsaw Warrior easier to stomach (considering the difficulty).
Side Scrollers Are Still Relevant Award: Tiny Barbarian DX
Being that I reviewed Tiny Barbarian DX and interviewed its creator Michael Stearns like a million times, its quite obvious that this little gem would pop up. Side scrollers are the FPS of the indie scene, which means new concepts or tight gameplay are especially important in preventing stagnation. Tiny Barbarian achieves both and does so at a very small price.
Pants Pooper Award: Outlast
My review for Outlast may have felt a bit lukewarm, but that doesn’t discount the fact that it was an especially memorable experience for me. I still think about the first few hours of that game with utter dread; my slow, cautionary crawl into the Mount Massive Asylum, my inability to open doors with any sort of gusto and the utter panic I felt every time an unsavory character chased me around. While its effects wore off after a while, I still think about that game on a daily basis and shudder.
From Pregnancy to Conception Award: Path of Exile
I should be sick of isometric dungeon crawlers by now, but apparently a lust for character progression and loot hoarding was built into my DNA. I began my time with Path of Exile during its public Beta, and followed it until the full release in October, noting the time and effort Grinding Gear Games put into crafting a top of the line ARPG. It was a great game before and has only improved, putting it neck and neck with Planetside 2 in terms of stellar free-to-play experiences.
Still Wrong 2013 Award: The Walking Dead Season 2
When Tell Tale’s Walking Dead games were first announced, I was quick to say they’d probably be bad. I was wrong. After playing through the first episode of season 2, I’m happy to report that I’m still wrong. This season looks to be just as engrossing as season 1 and from my viewpoint, way more brutal.
The “We’re Working On It”s
Seeing as I’ve spent a solid chunk of my time in a sexy swamp of Alpha and Beta stage games, I thought it was important to talk about them in the list. GOTY rules only apply when you actually care about rules.
Impatiently Simmering Award: Starbound
I preordered Starbound months earlier so when the beta release was announced, I had actually forgotten I even owned it. I was unsure whether or not I even wanted to jump into the early beta as I had just plowed through the free Terraria update and had a host of other games to catch up on. I figured I would play for a bit just to see what to expect and realized a few hours had passed. The game is going to be huge and while I have stepped away until more stable builds are released, the time I spent was enough to leave an impression with me.
Out Of Nowhere Award: Neo Scavenger
Neo Scavanger is a turn based, survival simulation that blind sided me the week before I went home for Christmas. When I got back, it was the first thing I played and the only thing I’ve played since. This is my FTL of 2014 and a game that I probably won’t shut up about anytime soon.
Waiting By The Phone Award: Project Zomboid
The development of Project Zomboid has dealt with a lot of adversity, despite that I continue to have faith in the final product. It still needs some work, but the tone and atmosphere are already firmly in place. As mentioned above, the zombie apocalypse has been done again and again, but PZ actually makes it feel tense and scary, something few others have been able to do.
First Date Jitters Award: Grim Dawn
I really like the fact that development team behind Grim Dawn have chosen a post-apocalyptic Victorian era as the basis for its setting as it immediately sets itself apart from every other ARPG out there. It also features a more open world, which is another quality lacking from the genre. With that in mind, it’s too early to tell whether it has the legs to go toe to toe with the current kings of dungeon crawling, though my fingers are definitely crossed.
So Close I can Taste It (In A Creepy Way) Award): Xenonauts
Like Project Zomboid, I feel like Xenonauts has been in development forever, especially given how early I “funded” it. From what I’ve played, it will be worth the wait. Additionally, distancing itself from the recent XCOM games can only be a good thing as it offers up an experience that’s a bit closer to the earlier XCOM games, which will make purists quite happy.
And The Game From 2012 That Made Them All Look Silly: A Love Letter
If FTL: Faster than Light had been released this year, I would have ruined friendships arguing its status as Horrible Night’s official game of the year. The funny thing is, I played the game as a bit of a joke during a live stream one day, thinking that its difficulty coupled with my lack of space knowledge would make for an entertaining playthrough. I was hooked immediately and continued playing until I’d achieved my goal of beating it on normal difficulty (in this instance, normal equates to hard). Though my fondness for the game is also related to how it made me start to think about space travel and how I’d deal should the opportunity arise. I was never a big fan of space operas, but considering my aptitude for commanding space pilots, perhaps I should be. There’s just something about flying around in the unknown expanses of space, hanging out with your closest friends and battling those who’d see space justice replaced with space jerkness. It touched my in a very special place with a free expansion on the horizon, I have a feeling it’ll touch me over and over again.
Games of the Year 2013 Lists from the Horrible Night Writers
Giant Bomb (Images)