I’m going to be honest here and admit that there were few, if any, MMOs that I played simply because I wanted to play them. Most that have found their way to my GotY list are there because I needed to play them for work but ended up being surprised by them and playing longer than was required. Still, 2012 gifted me with a lot of games with tons of fun times within. Even if I initially started most of them as a function of my job, all ended up being worthwhile time sinks for those hours I could just sit back and enjoy.
Guild Wars 2
GW2 has won a lot of awards this year and deservedly so though I will cautiously admit that I was not and am not a slavishly obsessed fan of the game. Still, it’s a terrifically fun game that has brought a lot of people back to the genre. ArenaNet took many things that were good in Guild Wars 1 and enhanced them for the second game while adding a ton of fun and interesting new features. While the road since launch has been fraught with a few bumps, it’s been an overall success. ANet is committed in a big way to keeping players interested in the game and in continuing to be innovative even if it means taking certain systems and features back to the drawing board. I say good on ‘em.
One of the best things about Guild Wars 2 is that it’s what I call a “no guilt” game. Pay to play is, in my opinion, the wave of the future. I know that I’ll come back to GW2 a lot over the years simply because I can without having the hassle (and the guilt) of maintaining a monthly subscription. It’s like that old friend that you don’t see for years but when you do, it feels like you were never apart. That’s something that ArenaNet understands and that the rest of the industry is just starting to get.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
BioWare sucked up a lot of my gaming time this year, mostly in good ways too. While I didn’t play Star Wars: The Old Republic much longer than my thirty days of free game time, I loved the time that I did devote to it. As a huge fan of the original trio of movies, there was no way I could have missed this game. I mean…light sabers? Wookies? R2s? It was a sci-fi fanatic’s dream.
That’s not to say that SWTOR was perfect. We all know that it wasn’t. But BioWare has been making a concerted effort to improve the game, to live up to the hype that surrounded the most expensively developed game in history. Now with the ‘F2P’ option, it just might be time to go back for a visit.
Rift is my one concession to subscription MMOs. It’s a beautiful and fun game to play and, most importantly, Trion Worlds is on board with making sure that the game stays fresh through a consistent update release schedule. I honestly believe that the Rift team is probably one of the hardest working groups in game development today. With monthly, or bi-monthly, updates, Rift has continued its steady progression as one of the top games in the genre.
It’s my honest belief that Rift’s “dimensions” will change the way that every other game does the housing thing from here on out. The flexibility that players have for designing their home space is astonishing. Trion took what every other game with housing had and made it something even better. I expect that the Rift team will continue to innovate on existing MMO features in ways that will surprise us all.
The Secret World
Of all the games I played this year, The Secret World was one that I truly felt brought something new and different into a pretty stale market. Funcom worked hard to make sure that players of their game were given something unheard of in the MMO space by introducing a futuristic-horror-conspiracy laced game into the mix. Sadly, it came at a time when people were caught up playing TERA or waiting on pins and needles for Guild Wars 2 to come out. TSW got lost in the proverbial mix.
But never ones to sit around wringing their hands and wailing “DOOOOOM”, Funcom recaptured our collective attention by dramatically shifting the revenue model to one more closely akin to Guild Wars 2 than to World of Warcraft. By making TSW pay to play, Funcom revived a game that deserves attention for being something unlike anything else. As the year closed, Funcom continued to keep people focused on its unique game with Joel Bylos’ hysterically funny “end of the world” video blogs and more. It’s my hope that 2013 brings lots of terrific new content and an even more committed community to The Secret World. No game deserves it more.
Diablo III/Torchlight 2/Mass Effect 3
I have, in my mind at least, called 2012 “The Year of the Single Player RPG” for the obvious reason that these three games ate up the vast majority of my gaming time.
While Mass Effect 3 isn’t on our games list, it does have a multiplayer component. I spent and am still spending a lot of time playing it when I can. BioWare is the king of RPGs and the Mass Effect series has been one of its finest. Even being involved in its controversial ending and its attendant protest didn’t sour me enough to keep me from playing MP. BioWare has made consistent and interesting updates to multiplayer over the past several months and I eagerly anticipate more as 2013 wears on.
Torchlight 2 is another game that took up a lot of my game time this year. It’s a terrifically fast-paced and fun game that gave a lot of players the Action-RPG game they wanted if not totally enamored of Blizzard’s Diablo III. With more gear than you can shake a stick at, boss monsters coming out your ears, endless game play mode and a variety of difficulty settings, Runic Games scored big with fans of the genre. In addition, there was (and is) no beating the price for all of the features listed above. Coming in at $20, not another game gave its players more bang for the buck.
Still, my top game for 2012 is Blizzard’s Diablo III. It’s a controversial choice but it’s definitely the game that has eaten up the VAST majority of my gaming time since last May. I realize that a lot of players have been disappointed in D3 and there are times when I shake my head wondering why Blizzard omitted certain features that were so wildly popular in D2 but I can’t help myself: I simply love the game. I love the gear hunt. I love the challenge of beating monsters on high difficulty Inferno settings. I love accumulating gold to buy things from the Auction House. I love NOT using the real-money auction house. In short, I simply love the game. There. I said it. Diablo III is definitely my top game of 2012.
So there you have it. There’s nothing scientific here or anything beyond my own opinion about the games that gave me a lot of good times in the year that was. If anything, 2012 has taught me to temper my expectations with a reality check. I’ve decided that I will not give in to the enormous hype machine that some titles spawn and to refuse to overlook games that fly under the radar. That’s my commitment to 2013 as I look forward to Neverwinter, WildStar, The Elder Scrolls Online and other titles set to release this year. What about you?