'Tis the season to post your favourite games of the last year and not wanting to be left out, here's my belated list. I'm not going to try and be arty, clever or pick some obscure nonsense for geek cool points, I'm just going to pick the games that I genuinely enjoyed the most from 2011 releases. Not that I'm sneering at the indie releases or some of the big production masterpieces that are blatantly missing, there's been many high quality games for sure, it's just that if I'm honest none of them had anything like the impact that these did for me and my "hours played" in Steam says it all. As such this is probably not going to be that shocking a list, other than an almost complete absence of online games, but if nothing interesting launches what can you do?
So in no particular order:
I like Nordic themed stuff, RPGs in general, non-linear games, huge arse dragons and the previous Elder Scrolls games. How could I not like Skyrim? Easy, I bloody love Skyrim. Ehem, that is as much as it's possible to get emotionally attached and a little aroused by fantasy pixels anyway. Is it perfect? Of course not, no game ever has been or ever will be, but for me it's pretty damn close and is easily the most immersive and utterly beautiful game world ever created. I spent my first 30 hours or so with Skyrim just walking around enjoying the scenery, dealing with whatever I encountered and actually having an adventure. "Having an adventure." That's the key phrase with Skyrim and one I don't think any other game comes close to.
I really hope the multi-player co-op play mod works out well for this, because if so there's a bunch of us that will probably not been seen elsewhere for a good long time :)
Football Manager 2012
Like any self respecting Englishman, I am heinously obsessed with Football (or sawwkerrrrr for my friends in the colonies). It should be no suprise then that since probably the SNES days I've bought each of the annual updates for the holy trinity of football games (Pro Evo, FIFA and the FM series), but in recent years I find myself playing console games a lot less and as a result I've missed out on the last couple of FIFAs and Pro Evos. The FM series however (which is PC only) I just can't quit and this year was no exception. Somehow every damn year Sports Interactive manage to make the game just that bit better and 2011's FM2012 is no exception (the year in the title is because of the season being 2011/12 btw). The match engine is a joy to watch and really does allow you to see the impact of your tactics and adjust as required. The player database remains the most detailed and accurately researched in the industry. And then somehow the UI and options you have as a manager are staggering in both their detail and accessibility, which is quite a feat.
If you're not interested in Football then of course the game is baffling, but if you are interested, and I mean really interested, then it's just bloody glorious.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
I wasn't sure if I was going to include this, as it is early days really, but it did release in 2011, is a very good game that I am enjoying a great deal and I know I'll be playing it for at least a couple more months. I won't say much more about it in this post as plenty has been said already.
Is Spacemarine really one of the top 5 games of the year? No. But it's still makes it to my top 5 because it's the best Warhammer shooter ever made (not a hard feat I know...) and I had a blast playing it. Don't get me wrong, it is definitely a very good game even without taking into account my Warhammer bias, but I do recognise that it's that bias nudging Spacemarine into this list. The fast paced and DAKKA DAKKA packed campaign has a dense and near perfect 40k atmosphere. With the in-game melee and ranged combat, Relic have absolutely nailed the uber killing machine that a Spacemarine is supposed to be, the Chainsword is a thing of the most horrible beauty to employ... Plus they also provided a thoroughly enjoyable multiplayer mode.
So whilst Spacemarine's only "groundbreaking" claim can be that it's the first very good Warhammer game that isn't an RTS, that is actually a fairly big deal for some of us. And when you combine it with the fact that Spacemarine is just bloody well fun to play... Yup, that sure works for me
Total War War: Shogun 2
I've got a bit of a soft spot for Japanese history and I'm also an Akira Kurosawa film nut. In addition I really like games that require some thought to play. As such it should be no shock that I was a huge fan of the original Shogun Total War and was therefore quite excited about it finally getting a proper sequel. To be honest I was never really in any doubt that it would be good, I've enjoyed every game in the Total War series and I had faith that Creative Assembly wouldn't screw up a re-imagining of what is pretty much their ultimate and most classic game.
They nailed it. It's an exceptional game in all departments. Absolutely beautiful throughout, from it's menu page backgrounds, to it's campaign map and right down to the real time battles themselves, the graphics and art are spot on. Then there's the audio (particularly the music) which adds wonderfully to the atmosphere and can be quite dramatic. Of course the main thing is the gameplay itself, which is solid in all areas and when played at higher difficulty levels it has suitably aggressive AI. That aggression fitting the historical setting rather well. I won't explain the gameplay as everyone should know how the Total War games work, but if you really don't... just go buy it, unless of course you don't do strategy games.
For me all of these games were great and it was an easy choice for my top 5. Sure there may well be games that for all sorts of reasons may have been more important or even to some people "better" games, but they are the ones I enjoyed the most and continue to play. Yet from those games there is one I can comfortably pick as my Game of the Year. OMG SHOCK HORROR!!! It's Skyrim.
Finally a couple of honourable mentions:
World of Tanks (EU launch was 2011 and I played the crap out of it)
No Time to Explain (so funny and just retro-modern-crab cool)