While 2012 may not have been the juggernaut that 2011 was; it was still a great year for gaming with a cornucopia of titles worth remembering. Mass Effect 3 marked the end of one of gaming's most ambitious undertakings, while the Halo series saw a new life with developer 343 Industries at the helm. With a stronger than ever indie scene, an industry wide push for digital distribution, and the success of the free-to-play model, the gaming industry is on the cusp of great changes. With a year that offered so many influential games that will inevitably change the way we think about the medium and game design, here were some of our favorites.
Game of the Year: Dishonored
We spent several days going back and forth between all of the editors on staff, trying to pick out one game from all the others that could legitimately be called the 2012 Game of the Year. It wasn't an easy choice - this has been something of a banner year for big titles.
2012 has given us a major expansion to WoW, the decade-in-the-making Diablo III, Mass Effect 3, which was the end of an era, the reboot of XCOM, unexpectedly fantastic indie titles - I could go on.
The game we picked, however, was one of the few truly new properties to hit shelves this year. In a time when most companies are seeking to rehash old titles into something fresh and new for this generation, this title was a breath of fresh air; even at E3, we knew it was going to be something special.
As you've likely figured out, I'm talking about the action/shooter/stealth/strategy/RPG game from Arkane Studios and Besthesda: Dishonored.
Dishonored puts you into the mind of Corvo Attano, bodyguard, agent, and (more than a friend) to Empress Jessamine Kaldwin - leader of a small set of island countries. Within the first five minutes of the game, the Empress is murdered in front of your eyes, her daughter, the rightful heir, kidnapped, and you are imprisoned for the crimes.
What sets Dishonored apart from others isn't any one aspect of the game. The story is nice enough - though at times transparent and rushed - and it isn't the best RPG, the best stealth title, the best action game, the best fighting game, or the best first/third party shooter. In these respects, it isn't all that innovative.
What makes it fun, then, is how it can be any one of these genres, and how you can switch between them at will. One level, you might decide that no one deserves to die, so you sneak behind your targets, and choke them, hiding their bodies away from view. At other times, you might find that your target has done inappropriate things to more than a few women, and decide that the only suitable justice is to end things there and then.
The ability to choose your path extends into the literal playthrough, too. When you need to travel to another section of the city, you might take to the rooftops, scurrying over the guards below. You might take to the tunnels, or waterways. Later in the game, you might possess a guard, and walk past the other soldiers. Of course, you can also tell subtlety to sod off and go in with crossbows blazing.
Like many modern titles, the actions you take in Dishonored have repercussions. Should you decide to play darkly, the world around you changes in suit, with rats plaguing the streets and the people growing increasingly ill at ease. If you take a higher path, however, the atmosphere lightens, and the people will begin to revere this mysterious hero that lights a path to a new future.
The game isn't perfect, by any means. For the most part, it isn't very challenging - most of which call be chalked up to a pretty dense AI. There are also a couple of instances where it's clear the developers meant to add an extra quest or storyline to the game, and just ran out of time.
Despite its issues, however, Dishonored is simply one of the most fun titles I played all year long, and at the end of the day, that is the most important aspect of any game. It's also why we're happy to call it our 2012 Game of the Year.
After much trial and tribulation the NBR Staff came to the agreement that Dishonored would be our game of the year. While Dishonored is a wonderful title certainly worthy of the accolade, the game still fails to fully encapsulate the gaming experience that was 2012. Here's a few of our personal choices for games that truly resonated with us in 2012.
I voted for Mass Effect 3 as game of the year for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it's simply a great game. If you're a fan of science fiction based games then you probably know that Mass Effect 3 was one of the most eagerly awaited games of 2012. It was also probably one of the most publicly despised games of 2012 thanks in no small part to the fan outcry over the ending. I won't spoil the end for those readers who still haven't played the game, but Mass Effect 3 delivered a bittersweet conclusion to the Mass Effect trilogy.
The original Mass Effect game was released for the Xbox 360 back in 2007 and was one of the showcase titles for the new console. Mass Effect was received with critical acclaim and developed a massive (no pun intended) following because it felt like you were a character in a blockbuster sci-fi movie. Sure, the game's popularity might have had something to do with the powerful space guns, A-list voice acting, or the scantily clad blue-skinned alien women, but Mass Effect 3 delivered more than that. Mass Effect 3 delivered on a promise made in the first TV commercial for the original Mass Effect game: "Many decisions lie ahead; none of them easy." The developers of the Mass Effect games had six years to create characters that fans didn't just care about ... we actually loved these people. When Mass Effect 3 arrived and forced players to make decisions that jeopardized the characters they loved it's only natural that fans became emotional.
That emotion is part of what makes the Mass Effect trilogy so great, and what makes Mass Effect 3 so real. The truth is that life isn't easy. If you and your best friends ever found yourselves caught in the middle of a galactic war against impossible odds, you'd probably have to make some difficult -- even painful -- decisions. Mass Effect 3 delivered an entire universe where players were forced to make tough decisions involving the people they love ... and it was done with the best story interaction and combat mechanics of any game in the trilogy.
Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games are as grandiose as their title would indicate, but despite the enormity of Guild Wars 2 it still manages to provide a sense of community. While this expansive Online RPG can certainly be commended for its stellar live-action gameplay or sharp detailed landscapes, what truly sets this game apart are the people who play it.
Those that have delved into online gaming can understand what an oddity GW2 is. With anonymity and no real repercussions for one's actions, online games have become a breeding ground for some of the most reprehensible behavior that humankind has to offer. Luckily GW2 is a polar opposite in this respect with a collection of players that are eager to group-up and lend a helping hand.
The friendly atmosphere that players will find in GW2 is no accident. Arena Net the developer behind GW2 made sure that the game lent itself to friendly play. Every element of the game's design whether it's the universally shared experience, random group events (quests), or individualized loot drops are implemented to make sure that players are seen as assets and never a burden.
Perhaps just as important as Arena Net's intelligent design, has been the company's influence post launch. With millions of gamers under its gaze Arena Net has been more than vigilant reprimanding those who have broken the game's online agreement. Infractions such as racist comments or cheating have resulted in permanent bans for violators. While harsh, it is refreshing to see a company that actually values its online space and is willing to fight to protect it.
Some may be turned away by Arena Net's strict terms and policies, but they have helped foster one of the friendliest and most inviting communities in all of gaming.
"While gathering gear and leveling up is great fun; it is the people behind the monitors that will keep you playing Guild Wars 2."
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