Roundtable: Game of the Year Discussion

WARNING! This is a very long Roundtable article where each of the editors here at Analog Addiction write about what their personal Game of the Year is. 2012 has been an eventful year to say the least with the demise of companies like THQ. Disney buying Lucasfilm for a cool £4.05 billion, new Star Wars anyone? To say it’s been the best year for games it’s too early to say but it has given gamers across the world some truly memorable experiences. It also sums up the state of gaming when there are indie titles or PSN and XBLA games going toe to toe with AAA titles for the Game of the Year award. This is both good for the industry but also bad as it shows that the videogames are following a similar model to that of the movie industry with middle tier games being crowded out. This is a shame as this tier has brought some of this year’s surprise hits like Sleeping Dogs and Kingdoms of Amalur.

Jamie:

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Like I said I want to share some games that I REALLY felt showed great experiences in 2012, so here is a couple summaries of my feelings.

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Journey may be amazing and it may be the PSN game on everyone’s mind, but it isn’t my favourite of the year, that title goes to Unfinished Swan. Giant Sparrow has impressed everyone with their first video game release, to think this was once just a paint throwing simulator and now a fully fledged title that is in many GOTY contentions is incredible. Unfinished Swan has a very mature underlining message, but even though it is there for those to see, it never hampers on it so much to ruin the experience. And what an experience that is, opening up the game to a completely white room and then extending into some gorgeous and intense areas from there, hard to explain without spoiling, but not knowing is half the fun. Unfinished Swan gave me some of the more intense feelings this year and really was a pleasure to play, it might be short, but no game has made me want to replay it more than Unfinished Swan and for that, Giant Sparrow deserves all the commendation they receive.

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Homefront tried to provide a serious, mature narrative in the shooter genre, ultimately though it failed. Spec Ops: The Line by Yager Software on the other hand excelled, I will be the first one to say that the cover mechanics were very weak, but apart from that the mature narrative rung true. There are moments in the campaign that really stuck with me and I remember at the time, left my mouth agape, this was one game this year that really is always in the back of my mind to play again. Sure there are tonnes of shooters these days, but when one steps up and says we are going to provide a mature narrative that questions why you are pulling the trigger, then actually deliver something that is unique these days. Warfighter tried and failed, yet Spec Ops was sublime in my opinion and is easily one of my favourite shooters to this day. Oh and Nolan North did an absolutely fantastic job, that man can act.

sleeping dogs

Sleeping Dogs was such a fresh experience in the open world genre, the world felt unique and really felt like I was in Hong Kong. I know the game never generated great sales and that is a total shame, Sleeping Dogs is easily one of my favourite new IP’s. Maybe it was my love of True Crime that made me love Sleeping Dogs, but the entire narrative itself felt like something that could be on the silver screen. Wei Shen is a memorable protagonist and his personal journey throughout the game worked very well, it made me love the character and with such strong personal violent scenes throughout, it really made for some memorable moments. Sure it never felt quite as polished as a GTA or even Saints Row, but it gave a very viable third option that in my opinion deserves to have sold a lot more than it did.

Vlad:

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One thing you have to know about me is that I don’t particularly enjoy living in the city. There’s so much noise, so much pollution, and for me, living in a flat feels like living in a box. I sincerely feel trapped, and out of place. Sure, there are also a lot of benefits for living in the city, and besides that, I spend most of the time there because of school, and more important, because of all my friends, but thankfully, I am able to get out and go to the countryside whenever I want.

When I’m there, it feels like all my problems are gone. Simply taking a stroll through the forest, listening to the dogs barking in the distance, or the cows, or all other animals is a joy to behold. It’s a peaceful place, far from the world’s problems. The people are generally nicer, and the most important thing is that you feel like you are part of a community, whereas in the city it’s all “free for all”. That’s why in the countryside I feel like a “free” man. If heaven exists, then I would definitely associate it with a village and its surroundings.

This is one of the main reasons I absolutely love games like Skyrim, Gothic, Risen, and also Assassin’s Creed III. In it, gone are all those cities from the Middle East, Italy, or Constantinople. In this entry, you assume the role of Ratonhnhaké:ton, or Connor if you like, and are given a whole countryside (or, the frontier) to explore at your own pace. Sure, there is also New York and Boston to meddle in, but the most pleasant place to mess in is definitely the frontier. Simply jumping from one tree to another is something unique, and also relaxing (for me, at least). I LOVED the fact that Connor actually speaks the tribe’s language around his people, and not the usual English. This is yet another element which adds to the game’s authenticity. Also, seeing the wild animals battle each other without you having any involvement is really immersing, and not to talk about all the activities your people are taking part in, on the Homestead.

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For example, in one of my play throughs, I was simply walking through the village, when I heard Myriam talk to Norris about how his mine is prospering, both of them jumping with excitement as they were going to be rich. I was really astonished about this because even if I hadn’t been there, the scene would have still happened. You might not even see all there is to be seen because the world isn’t waiting for you. Everyone is minding their own business. Sure, the game revolves around Connor, but here, more so than in the other entries, the story is more about the people of that particular place you’re living in. It simply feels alive. I also love the changing of the seasons and the weather. It affects the lives of people just as it should, and of course, during winter you’re actually affected by the snow. All in all, it’s a game that takes great care of creating an immersive feeling about living in the wild, and I absolutely love it!

The animations are also top notch, the best I’ve seen in video games. The combat is fluid, responsive, and incredibly astonishing to watch, and so are the parkour elements. At first, I thought the naval missions were out of place, but then I found out it’s really easy to navigate the waters, and destroying another ship with a barrage of cannonballs never gets old. Hunting wild animals is also another great addition to the franchise, and I like the fact that you can sell all those items to craft many others, and overall, improve the condition of your house.

Sure, Assassin’s Creed III might have some technical issues, and some missions can get a little bit boring, but the sheer freedom the game gives you, the completely immersive experience that sucks you into its world is something truly special, and definitely needs to be experienced by everyone. Assassin’s Creed III is my game of the year, and overall, the Assassin’s Creed franchise is my favourite franchise ever. I applaud Ubisoft for creating such a masterpiece. Here’s to many more entries in the series!

Nathan:

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Assassin’s Creed 3, some people loved it, some people hated it, and others had a neutral opinion on it. My Game Of The Year for 2012 was Assassin’s Creed 3, but Vlad is already talking about it in this roundtable so I’m going to talk about another one of my favourite games of 2012. This game was an excellent game and was received well by critics, but not so well by consumers. It had to sell 5 million copies to make profit, instead it only managed about 1.2 million and force its developer into bankruptcy. This game, is Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning.

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I don’t get that excited for many games, but Reckoning had me counting down the days as soon as it hit January 1 this year. It’s so sad what happened to 38 Studios and Big Huge Games because Reckoning was such an amazing game. I loved everything about it; the art style, the original score, the lore R.A. Salvatore created, the exploration, the loot, absolutely everything.

The thing that really kept me coming back, though, was the combat. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun with combat in a game. There were just so many options for combat and the ability to reset all your skill points allowed you to play how you wanted, then just change it up if you wanted to try something else. I remember first playing as a stealthy assassin with magical abilities, then I decided I wanted to change things up, so I became a battlemage specialising in magic and physical abilities. I wish more games gave players this ability. Reckoning’s combat was just so simple to pick up and play, but once you mastered what skills worked well together it really gave you a sense of superiority of the creatures you were fighting.

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Reckoning is just a marvelous game that flew under the radar. It’s immersive setting, engaging combat, and everything in between made Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning one of my favourite games of 2012.

Rob Key:

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When Bungie announced they were departing from their beloved ‘Halo’ franchise to work on new things, many of Halo’s fans became hesitant, and with good reason. How can a game and its parenting company simply hand over such a franchise? A franchise that has transformed the way we play games? A franchise, which has raised the bar for every major developer? A franchise so popular that nearly everyone can recognize it without having ever played any of the games in the series? A franchise that was not only given to a new developer, but a developer who had never created a game before?

Even I’ll admit that when I first heard the next Halo game wouldn’t be made by Bungie, a shroud of doubt clouded me. Then, the game came out and 343 Industries did what many did not think was possible with such a humongous franchise; succeed.

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343 took the ideas and structure Bungie spent a decade creating and built upon them. They not only used the basic mechanics of Halo, but they blended them with their own creativity as a newly built team with the classic formula. Though the campaign was one of the shortest in the series, the length was accompanied Spartan Ops’ weekly mission updates to expand upon the campaign and play through eyes that didn’t belong to Master Chief.

You could argue that ‘Halo 4′ copied the loadout system from Call of Duty, but honestly, is that such a bad thing? Not only are we allowed to customize the armor of our Spartans to a higher extent than ever before, but now we can choose which weapons, armor abilities, specializations and other various aspects we want on our super soldier. The customization truly gives a different sense of freedom that we haven’t felt before in a Halo game.

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As a standard in any Halo game, the multiplayer itself is also an absolute blast to play whether you are fighting solo or back-to-back with friends. If you haven’t given ‘Halo 4′ a chance because it wasn’t made by Bungie, I can assure you that you’re missing out on something fantastic.

Hugh:

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I was torn between three games as to which should be my GOTY; Sleeping Dogs, The Walking Dead and Unfinished Swan. I first played Sleeping Dogs and immediately became immersed in a Hong Kong world, which was full of life and beautifully created by United Front Games. The story had twists, albeit predictable, but it was so well executed it made the game enjoyable, the characters were likeable to the point that it was easy to make an emotional attachment to them. The core gameplay mechanics were solid with the hand-to-hand combat really shining and was hugely enjoyable, who needs assault rifles when you can throw a guy onto a load of swordfish? It also looked good and as a fresh IP which especially this year was really refreshing, it didn’t sell well which was disappointing to hear but I hope it’s done enough critically as well as economically to merit getting a sequel.

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I then got around to playing Unfinished Swan which may be very short at two hours but my gosh it was an experience which I will never forget. There’s a certain section which made me feel scared despite playing in the middle of the day, despite having a pretty simple colour palette the game looked stunning. It had one core mechanic, the firing of paint to fill the screen with paint (that’s only in the beginning) it’s done so well and it feels the right length, not bloated like many games can be accused of. In my opinion it is such a feat achieved by this new company to give such an emotional experience in such a short period of time. If this is Giant Sparrows “Flower” – created by thatgamecompany – I cannot wait to see what they do next.

Despite all of that, Unfinished Swan was pipped at the post by The Walking Dead: The Game. Due to circumstances, I played the episodes back to back which was brilliant as it meant that I didn’t have to wait to find out what happened to Lee and Clementine or the rest of my group. It was an experience of emotional attachment, I wanted to make sure Clementine was safe, I wanted to protect her no matter what. No other game has made me want to save an NPC more so than Clementine, the emotional bond created from the beginning grows stronger. The gameplay of having to move the crosshair and press the right button added a sense of panic and urgency to the action and never felt jarring. It looked great and will definitely hold the test of time. The ending, was just so fitting for it. I needed a hug after finishing it, I think the writer needs one too! I cannot wait for the second season of this title, which I am almost definitely going to get the season pass for. Telltale Games thank you for creating such an amazing experience and congratulations on all of the accolades it’s receiving.

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Eric:

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If you had asked me in early October what my GOTY was, I would’ve told you Borderlands 2 without any hesitation or trepidation. However, there have been some significant factors at play since then. Not only was I affected by the Badass Rank glitch twice in Borderlands 2 which only just got fixed, but Halo 4 also came out. When the two factors are combined, my decision has moved into the Halo 4 camp and is incredibly comfortable.

The story is probably the strongest in any Halo title, which is saying something considering Halo Reach had a fantastic story as well. The quality of the writing and the way each of the characters is portrayed is absolutely phenomenal. The player gets so invested in the story and the individuals in it that when you hear Cortana make comments like, “Take a girl for a ride,” in that reluctantly accepting voice, or you watch the cinematic at the end of the seventh mission, or you sense the sadness in Dr. Tilson’s voice when she realizes she has to abandon her science and research for her own safety, you actually feel something. Many games strive to obtain that player-character connection, but few manage to succeed, especially this well.

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While I’m personally still trying to figure out if I’m a fan of the changes made to the multiplayer, the addition of Spartan Ops is incredibly welcome. I was never a huge supporter of the Firefight mode because to me, the Horde mode never had a place within the Halo universe. Spartan Ops, with a story and objectives, is a much better fit for the franchise and I think it offers a lot more to the players.

Sorry Borderlands 2. You put up a valiant fight, but that long-outstanding glitch combined with the highly emotional Halo 4 campaign was just too much for you to overcome.

George:

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My personal Game Of The Year for 2012 is Max Payne 3 by a pretty wide margine. We’ve had some great games this year, some great, great games. I had two games I was really looking forward to this year: Transformers Fall Of Cybertron and Assassin’s Creed III.

Transformers lived up to every expectation. It had my favourite characters. It had Jazz, it had Bumblebee, it had Starscream, it had Grimlock, it had Rumble, it had just about every Transformer (almost). Assassin’s Creed III dissapointed me. It’s not a bad game by any means, it still flys high above the heads of the competition and still beats its main competitors Dishonored and Hitman in my opinon. It had the fun love-it-or-hate-it gameplay and the deep storyline with the most interesting time period yet. Sadly, frustrating technical issues and some less than satisying mission design kept me from contesting it for game of the year. Transformers Fall Of Cybertron had won my place for GOTY. Then I played Max Payne 3 again.

transformers fall of cyber

I’d already played and loved MP3 before the big games flux at the end of 2012 so it took a back seat for a while. Whislt playing Max Payne 3, it suddenly hit me just how exquisite the narrative of the game was. Everything from Max commenting on a firefight to Max making light acceptance of his drug habit was just flawlessly delivered by James McCaffery. The narrative was just so strong that it just carries the game all by itself. I play Max Payne 3 for just how good a character Max with the brilliant shooting and the b-e-a-utiful graphics as welcome side orders.

The music in the game is a perfect fit as well. To the main theme to Healths “Tears”, the OST really created the “I’m too old and too fucked up for this sh*t” vibe that Max gives off.

A big part of GOTY for me is just how much I play a game. If it keeps me coming back continuously like Uncharted 2 did in 2009 then it’s something that should heavily considered as GOTY. Max Payne 3 I can just pick up at any time and in any mood and I can just have fun with it. Even when I want to shut my brain off and shoot something, Max Payne 3′s skillful shooting more than surfices.

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2012 has been a great year for gaming. We’ve seen so many brilliant games come out but for me, none of them left a lasting effect like Max Payne 3 did. Rockstar, you’ve done it again.

Michael:

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Whoa 2012 is already over…that was fast; seriously I still remember last year’s Black Friday line-up but funny thing is those games are 2011! Looking back over the year of 2012 I wouldn’t call it a great year in gaming (think 1998), heck I wouldn’t even call it a good year in gaming, it was one of those years where you played what you played and didn’t know what to expect. 2012 had the swan song of the Wii, the Vita released (and bomb for now but I’m hoping it picks up), the rise of the 3DS, PS3 and 360 just doing their own thing (from rumors to cool games), and finally the Wii U being released.

Halo 4, given away from Bungie to 343 Industries (well not really), was a game many were expecting to be….well many were not sure what to expect. The series was starting its first game with a new company and expectations were monumental, especially after some gameplay videos from E3. But, as true for all games, it is one you cannot judge until you put the disc in the CD and warm-up that console. Many of the basic Halo elements had stayed intact, keeping the game true to its older, longer fan-base but at the same time it introduced new abiltiies, gameplay, and helped integrate the newer audience as well into the series. From tons of bonus content like Spartan Ops, new multiplayer games, and abilities and customization loadouts, Halo 4 put everything everyone already loved from the series and added more.

halo 4 scope

We had to have seen this coming, Halo 4 not only blew my mind away but is the game I felt like I’ve been playing all year even though it has only been exactly one month since its release. A GoTY is something you know you will be playing in the future, a game you can replay a few times, while it still keeps fresh with different ways to play (single player, co-op, war games, etc.) and Halo 4 has all those things. I mean a great OST and killer graphics help to boot, but hey let’s just say no game or person kicks-ass like the Chief.

What do you want for 2013? I expect a few good games and a few stinkers (FFXIII: Lightning Returns) all in all I’m ready for the new era of gaming.

Frank:

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My personal Game of The Year is a game that has been talked about to great length already about its tear-jerking qualities, but it’s gameplay is still hardly talked about.TellTale’s The Walking Dead made leaps and bounds in advancing the bar for story quality and character personalities in videogames, if not art itself. Its storytelling legs have been shown and talked about incessantly already, so I’ll just leave the story on that note.

Walking Dead

What I do want to talk about is how well the gameplay format of a point-and-click adventure is amking its comeback as a storytelling machine. Where in most games that want to tell you a story, they either have someone shouting exposition while you run’n’gun your way through a chasm of creeps, or they present you with a cutscene that tells you to sit quietly while papa tells you how things really went. RPGs have been really close to getting the gameplay/story marriage nailed down, and classic point-and-click adventure games have always been a haven for interesting stories, when they weren’t confusing players with ludicrous inventory and item combination logic.

Then TellTale came along, put its hand on the shoulder of the videogame industry and whispered in its ear, “Move aside, kid. This is how its done.”

I haven’t played their earlier games, so I’ll just talk about The Walking Dead videogame they bestowed onto us. TellTale’s The Walking Dead managed to take the best parts of story centric videogames; puzzles, dialogue, well made characters, badass art design, and then finely crafted an engaging story with these elements. The puzzles in this game do require some thinking on your part; I can clearly remember a good one in the first episode involving a TV store. There’s nothing that doesn’t make the player feel like they have to bash their head with a tire iron in order to level themselves with the designer’s insanity. The mechanics of a point-and-click also allow for choices, actions, and dialogue to be played in the same way across the game. The central core mechanic, clicking things, stays solid throughout the entire experience, only breaking its monogamy during some fantastic action sequences closer to the end of the game. Even when it still used ‘clicking things’ as its sole mechanic early on, there were some really tense moments involving events that gave you a limited time to react, before the ghoul makes a good grab for your ankle and chomps down on Lee’s achilles tendon.

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TellTale’s the Walking Dead is a master craft and a fine work of art. It made us laugh, it made us cry. It made itself fun and easy to play while still providing some very intellectual and intense moments.TellTale’s The Walking Dead, you shall be my favorite for a long, long time.

Paco:

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2012 was a special year in gaming, especially for handheld and PC gamers. So many great titles came out and blew a lot of people’s minds. Some were new IPs, like Dishonored and Hotline Miami. Some were reboots like Spec Ops: The Line. However, through it all, we saw a surge of big name sequels come to the gamin frontlines that rivaled 2011′s line-up. However, it was one sequel that stood out among all of them for me. It was up there with my most anticipated releases, but due to the nature of its predeccessor, I unknowingly doomed it from the start. Oh my, but this game was something special. In a period of gaming where Japanese game are striving to regain lost territory, one game stole the show for me in 2012. That game is Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, the sequel to the masterpiece 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.

Its no secret I hold a special place in my heart for games developed in Japan. I always appreciate their way of telling stories, despite the tropes and clichés that come attached to them. However, when you find a game like VLR, you are treated to experience like no other; the closest thing that has come out of the West would be TellTales’ own mastpiece The Walking Dead. However, while TWD is a point and click title about the living and surviving in a post-apocalyptic zombie world, VLR is a point and click title about… well about being trapped in warehouse. Why is this significant? I cannot really say, but their is a sense of lingering mystery that usurps the need for a proper setting off the bat. It is probably not the best way to attract an audience, but the hook is set not by its setting, but by the mystery regarding the setting. Why are the characters trapped in this warehouse? Why are they forced to play this insane game of death? Many who played 999 might have a general idea why, but the pay off at the end – and throughout the game – it pays its players in dividends. The twists and the true ending are the stuff mindnumbing legend. Yes, I said true ending because the game itself sports over 20 endings that differ depending on the choices you make.

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Even the general gameplay is a vast improvement over its predecessor, using a 3d back drop to work difficult puzzles that will test even the brightest of players. These puzzles are not walks in the park, you will actually have to think about how you approach the task at hand. Reinforcing my opinion about Zero Escape is the stellar soundtrack that lends itself to each puzzle and narrative portion. Honestly, the track Blue Bird Lamentation may be one of the best musical pieces I have heard though a gaming medium in quite some time.

There are myriad of things that I want to about this game, but cannot because it is so sensitive to spoilers. I will say this though: if you own a Vita or 3DS, you do yourself a huge disservice not playing this gem of game. It caters to the story driven gamer that enjoys expericences like The Walking Dead, but also targets the game that loves puzzles ala Prof. Layton and Ace Attorney  The only true caveat I found to the game is that it begs you to play 999 prior, and the ending is a rather cruel cliffhanger. However, both those things actually lend itself to making the experience that much more meaningful because I will never forget the hours I stayed up at night playing my game of the year, Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward.

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So there you have it, 2012 is officially in the books. Come on 2013 what have you got for us. Thank you for, the reader, for reading the articles that are posted daily by us all here on Analog Addiction. It has been a terrific year for the site and for myself personally as a writer  with this opportunity. I look forward to seeing you all in 2013.

Hugh Simmonds is an editor for Analog Addiction, a lifelong Sunderland fan and therefore someone who’s heart is constantly in pieces thanks to those chaps in the red and white stripes of Sunderland. He can be followed on Twitter to see the impact of such suffering as well as being a Kings and Broncos fan and fantasy football nut.

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2 thoughts on “Roundtable: Game of the Year Discussion

  1. Good day I am so glad I found your site,
    I really found you by accident, while I was
    searching on Google for something else, Nonetheless I am here now
    and would just like to say many thanks for a marvelous post and a all round entertaining blog
    (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read it all at the moment but I have
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    Like this

  2. I want to apologize for some of the spelling and grammatical errors in my bit. I had woken up to hugh asking the team for their roundtables. I hadn’t done one, so I immediately wrote mine in more or less a half hour.

    Otherwise, great roundtables everyone!

    Like this

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