I don’t write much about gaming anymore, which is disappointing, but I instead fill my time with development, and an indie development podcast. So this is my one chance to round up my brief, if not disjointed, thoughts on gaming this year.
Here’s a quick list of things I’ve played recently, and most of which in the last week. I had 12 days off from work after Christmas, so I cranked through as many games as I could, considering I didn’t play much earlier in the year. Hell, many of these games weren’t even released this year.
Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader – Gamecube 2001
This game holds up surprisingly well! I haven’t played it since it launched, and absolutely loved the original on the N64. It was one of the few titles that took advantage of the N64s RAM expansion pack.
Very much an arcade style space shooter, this helped to fill the void I felt after finishing Wing Commander 3 and 4 earlier in the week. There are some silly things that the game does. For example, if you press the right bumper to speed up your ship, it actually speeds up the game itself, not just your ship. Odd.
Anyway, if you’re looking for a space fighter, this is definitely one worth playing.
Wing Commander 3 and 4 -PC, 1994, 1996
I love this series. Take it from me; the FMV is among the best in the business, and I’ve owned 90% of the FMV games out there. Dialogue options within the game make you feel as though you have actual control as to what is going on. I even had to look through the included strategy guide to see if there were branching paths.
Be sure to pick these up on GoG.com. They come with a ton of goodies, like walkthroughs and the game manual. It’s amazing to see how much work went into these things back in the day, and when you consider today’s digital games, you’re lucky if you get a .PDF listing the control scheme.
I really wish there were more games like this — the FMV was far more engrossing than the uncanny valley offered by the digital stuff today.
Dark Souls – Prepare To Die Edition – PC, 2011
People rant and rave about this game, but I just can’t get behind it. I mean for one thing, it uses Games For Windows Live. You already know what kind of headache that is. On top of that, I the controls are among the slowest and most sluggish of any game I have ever played. Difficult games are great, but when most of your difficulty is introduced by your horrendous control scheme, then you’re going about it the wrong way.
Moreover, I never know where to go or what to do. Usually I’m all about skipping over a tutorial, but this game doesn’t explain a thing. The fact that it is nigh unplayable with a mouse and keyboard doesn’t help either. I just don’t see any redeeming factor behind this game.
Company of Heroes 2 – PC, 2013
I absolutely adored the original, as it took a World War II setting and placed you and a small squad of commandos in the heart of it, in the style of an RTS. Even today the first one holds up incredibly well. CoH 2 improves on the original in every way, so naturally I enjoyed it.
The problem however, is that it constantly crashes to desktop, and crashing any other program along the way, or it offers the dreaded Blue Screen of Death.
I looked this up shortly after purchasing the game, and sure enough, it’s a known error. There are a number of attempts to fix it, but no one is quite sure of what causes the crashing. So while this is a game I quite enjoy, it also requires a lot of patience, as you will crash pretty consistently.
The Legend of Zelda, Windwaker – Gamecube, 2003
I don’t know what can be said about this game, which hasn’t been said already. It is absolutely stunning to watch, controls extremely well, and the story lovingly illustrates characters you won’t forget. I bought this at launch on the GameCube, but didn’t really give it the time it deserved until this summer. I played through it with my girlfriend’s 6 year old son, and I think we both took something different from it in the end, but equally enjoyed it.
The Wii-U release this year resolved a number of the issues the game had, including the monotony of slowly sailing from island to island. What it didn’t fix however, is the damn ending, where you have to gather scrolls and triforce shards. This artificially inflates the length of the game greatly, but does so in the most boring way possible. For this reason alone, I suggest playing the game until this point, then dropping it completely. It was a fun memory, while it lasted.
Dead Rising 3 – Xbox One, 2013
Dead Rising 3 improved considerably over its predecessors, and is a great bit of mindless fun. I found myself avoiding most of the sidequests, but still enjoyed completing the main mission. The story is all over the place and quite bizarre. I’m not sure of what they were aiming for with this, because it’s actually uncomfortable to watch at times, with how hyper sexualized it is.
For a launch game, it’s a really solid title. It also makes more use of SmartGlass than any other game I’ve seen yet. As someone who was writing apps for SmartGlass, I really believe there is a future with that product. Similar to Windwaker, this game completely falls apart at the end, in that you are sent on what is essentially a large fetch quest for no reason other than to extend the length of the game. Developers, stop this trend. Quality over quantity.
Forza 5 – Xbox One, 2013
I have always been a fan of the Forza series, and this is perhaps the best iteration yet. I don’t think the music quite fits in with the rest of the game, but overall it’s a great experience. I wish that there was a way to use some of the nicer cars however, without requiring that I do so many boring races with the slow cars.
You can skip ahead, but of course you’ll have to pay to double your experience. Don’t you love the current state of video games? I did log on one day to find that my saves were wiped, thereby requiring me to start from the beginning again. Because the saves are handled by the cloud, I had no control over it. For this reason, I can’t recommend this game just yet
The Legend of Zelda, A Link Between Worlds – 3DS 2013
This is my 2013 Game of the Year, buy a mile. I don’t think there has been anything released this year which even comes close to this. Nintendo has taken the near-perfect formula that they had with a Link To The Past (my personal favorite game of all time), and managed to improve on it.
If you are even remotely interested in the Zelda franchise, then you’d be foolish not to play this. I bought a 3DS for this game alone, and it was worth it.