My Favorite Games of 2011
The end of the year is upon us, and while it hasn't been that great of a year in the MMO department (in my opinion), there has been quite a few good games this year I think for gamers in general. I wanted to wrap things up for the year here and just gloss over some of the games I've played in 2011 that I felt really delivered a great gaming experience and value. These are not ranked in any particular order.
This game literally came out of nowhere for me. A $10 dollar steam game that is on sale all the time, has really been one of the best values of the year for me in terms of hours played per dollar spent. While I wrote about Terraria briefly back when it first came out, this game really deserves another mention.
Terraria is basically what happens when Minecraft and Metroid have sex and produce a child. Randomly generated maps that are absolutely huge give this game massive replayability as you never get quite the same experience twice. The price tag is dirt cheap, and the developers are cranking out free content patches on a regularly basis that make the game better and better with every update. Consider the fact the the original game at release was made from scratch in about 3-4 months time, and it's exciting to me to see where this game will be in a few months or a year or so down the road from where it is now. If you ever see this game on sale on steam you'd be a fool not to snatch it up immediately. The multiplayer is a blast with friends, and with an optional hardcore mode with permadeath, you will laugh and cry as you and your friends have their dreams shattered trying to defeat all the games bosses and survive the newly expanded endgame.
League of Legends
I think this was an absolutely massive year for League of Legends. While the game actually released before 2011, this year brought a ton of new changes to the game in terms of a new game mode with Dominion, their Tribunal System for players policing other players, and their consistent bi-weekly updates.
A lot of companies are very shy when it comes to talking about the numbers of people playing their game, unless that number is massive. Riot has literally seen their playerbase grow on an exponential basis this year with the number of registered people playing games of LoL topping out upwards of 30 Million plauyers globally. Whether you like the game or not, League of Legends has become the new WoW and is the elephant in the room when it comes to MOBAs. It's free to play pricing model is astounding and prevent players from buying power, and I expect that LoL will continue to enjoy a lot of success in the future. Cost to play = free, hours played = countless. That's good value right there.
Dungeons of Dredmore
Here is another indie game that snuck up on me, again brought to you via Steam for only $5 when its not on sale. Dungeons of Dredmore may not be the prettiest looking game, but what it lacks in graphics it makes up for in gameplay and fun.
If you have ever played a "rogue-like", then you pretty much know what this game is all about. You create a character by chosing a handful of skills from a list and test your meddle in a randomly generated dungeon that features 10 massive floors (+5 more if you get the DLC) full of monsters and booby traps. Combat is turn-based on a grid system, and permadeath makes death's sting something you will fear. Of course there is the option to play with permadeath turned off, but it pretty much defeats the purpose of playing a rogue-like, and pretty much makes you a bitch in my book. A game that is sure to suck hours and hours form your life and leave you shrieking aloud when your character perishes 8 or 9 floors deep. With varying difficulty levels and a ton of achievements, the game has great replayability and a good sense of humor as it is loaded with many pop-culture references to help lighten the mood when you have the pistol in your mouth because you drank from a water fountain that turned out to be acid.
The Binding of Isaac
Here is another $5 indy Steam gem brought to you by the sadistic developer who brought you Super Meat Boy. Similar in many ways to Dungeons of Dredmore, Isaac is a rogue-like that is a lot less RPG and a lot more action and also has permadeath.
The game has you being turned loose into randomly generated dungeons and plays exactly like the original Zelda from the 8-bit NES. Heart Containers, bombs, and coins included, you'll make your way to the bottom of the dungeon through random rooms, random floor layouts, find random items along the way, and even fight random bosses. Unlike Dredmore which saves your progress when you are done for the session, Isaac forces you to play through the entire dungeon in a single sitting. The good news is that a playthrough is much shorter than Dredmore and can usually wrapped up in around 40-60 minutes depending on your luck and how methodical you are. The game is also based on the premise that you will be playing through it over and over, as each time you win the dungeon, it becomes harder. The more you play, you also unlock new items and bosses that will have a chance to appear on future playthroughs. There is a lot of meat here for achievement chasers, and for the pricetag you will probably get your money's worth even if you only play through it a few times.
Sorry if you are a Call of Duty fan, but Battlefield 3 is the premier FPS right now. Frankly, I can't even will myself to play another FPS that doesn't have destroyable terrain after Bad Company 2. BF3 takes that mechanic and applies it to a game that is grander in scale in every way.
Giant maps with every game mode available in each one, this game literally has something for everyone. Aside from it being one of the best looking games I have ever seen on my monitor, the audio is some of the best I've heard. I saw on ad once that made me laugh that took a jab at CoD asking why call for an airstrike when in BF3 you are the airstrike. I really just don't see how from a gameplay perspective, the competition can do it better. Sure the game has its warts with the stupid Origins bullshit, but the game itself really is the FPS to beat right now in terms of online multiplayer. The newly released Karkand map really takes the favorite map of most Battlefield fans and takes it to a new level.
Game of the Year awards from some of the major sites, and justly deserved. This is the premiere single-player experience of the year. If you even remotely enjoy single player RPGs, this game is a must have.
Skyrim offers all the things we expect from an Elder Scrolls game with its massive open world, interesting quests, staggering amount of content, and sets a model in many areas that I think most MMO players would love to see developers of this genre pick up on. I did a lot of quests in this game and played multiple characters, and out of all those quests there were very few that were as uninspired and tedious as the standard MMO "quest" we see today. Almost everyone I know who bought this game played it and started over immediately with another character, that's a sign of a good game. It's also intersting to me to hear how everyone is playing the same single player game, but everyone has stories about their playthrough that are so different from the next guy. Just an absolutely stellar gaming experience that you really can't afford to not play.
I was gifted Portal 1 on Steam having never played it before, and I fell in love with the game right away. My only beef was the game was over too soon. Portal 2 really was one of the more memorable gaming experiences of the year.
Portal 2 took everything about Portal 1 and expanded on it. The game had a much better story, and the length of the game was greatly expanded to make it feel like a real game and less of a mini game. Tons of new mechanics introduced to the games many puzzles really made you wonder how you were going to get through a room when you first walked in. In addition to this the co-op was a great deal of fun, although I do wish it were a little longer. Overall and great game that is well worth picking up if you see it on sale, which most likely will be quite often.
Have you ever played a game where you honestly felt that the people making it hated your guts? If you haven't, you should check out Dark Souls. Following the tradition of punishing difficulty, this game offers a very challenging gaming experience not for the weak-hearted.
Looking beyond the challenge, the game also provides an amazing single player console experience that shouldn't be missed if you are up to the challenge. The game pretty much drops you into a world of shit and turns you loose to try to explore and figure what the hell is going on and how to stop it. While there is a progression to things, the game opens up frequently letting you decide the order in which you'll tackle some of the horrors that lie within. If the game wasn't hard enough, you have the threat of having other players come into your game and try to kick you when you least expect it, but on the flip side you can call for backup to help tackle certain encounters in the game. The real icing on the cake however is that while Dark Souls is one of the best console games this year, the ending is probably the worst I have ever seen given how hard it is to beat. I literally felt the develops spitting on me through my TV after beating it as if to say, "You might have won somehow, but f$#k you anyways!".
I've never really played or been a fan of the tower defense type games, but I ended up picking up Dungeon Defenders out of sheer boredom waiting for Bf3 to come out and the fact that half of my friends on Steam were playing this. I was really surprised how much fun this game was and the amount of play someone could get out of this game. Something about the sillyness of a situation where you are holding off literally thousands of monsters with your friends just makes for a hectic and fun experience.
Basically this game is the 3D version of tower defense but with a lot more rolled in. You create a character from one of the classes and you team up with other people and try to conquer the various maps. Each character class plays completely different from the next, and each has a role to play and brings something to the table. On top of that, you get to create a build for your class spending skills points as you level up to either focus on tower building stats, straight character DPS stats, or a hybrid. The game also features a random loot generator, and each item of loot can be leveled up. I guess the game is somewhat of a grind game at it's core, but the gameplay never really made me felt like I was grinding because of how fun it was. Between playing all of the classes, playing with the different builds, finding the best gear, leveling that gear, and trying to complete the dozens of missions and challenges at varying difficulty levels, Dungeon Defenders really gives you a lot to see and do for it's $15 price tag. On top of that, the devs are constantly adding new stuff to the game very regularly and many times for free.
That about wraps it up for 2011. If you see any of these games on Steam for the holiday sale I give them all a thumbs up. While I am hoping that 2012 will finally deliver us an MMO worth playing again, there definitely has not been a shortage of great titles to play outside the genre this year. I do find it kind of funny that some of the best games I played this year were price between the $0-$15 price point and made by indie developers. Don't get me wrong though, I enjoyed the big name games like Skyrim and Dark Souls, but the hours don't lie. I find that I have been getting for more hours played per dollar spent hitting up the indie games this year, and many of these games I am still playing even now because of regular free content updates. I think there is definitely something to be learned here from some of the big house developers. See you next year!
Co-Leader of Inquisition