GameFocus 2012 Game of the Year Awards
Posted 4 months ago By kingquagmire - David Collins
When we sat down to put togeter our list of the best that 2012 had to offer, we decided to make a few changes. As you look through the categories presented below, you’ll find that there are some things missing. The Platformer of the Year and Best Visuals/Graphics have taken a hiatus this year, the former because there really wasn’t a whole lot that caught our eye, and the latter simply because we don’t find it to be a compelling category given the diversity of the available hardware. We also took the Sports category and merged it all together, and instead of awarding something separate for solo, team, and extreme sports, we wanted to look at all the games as a whole to see how we felt about the experiences they had to offer. I’m sure some of our picks are what you would expect. Others may come out of left field for you. But no matter how you see it, all of these games are well worth a look, and each stands as an exceptional title launch over the course of the last 12 months. Ok, enough blabbering from me. Let’s hand out some awards!!
Best RPG -- Mass Effect 3
To be completely honest, this hasn’t been the best year for Role Playing Games. We’ve had some great Action-RPGs in the form of Torchlight 2 and Diablo III. 38 Studios’ Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning wasn’t bad, in spite of how critically polarizing it was. Although regardless of what the critics said, the game couldn’t save Schilling’s studio from the sad fate that awaited it. Final Fantasy XIII-2 brought some interesting improvements to the series within a series, though it wasn’t enough to elevate it to anywhere near the same levels of greatness that made the franchise the 20 pound gorilla it once was. Mass Effect 3 didn’t come without its criticisms either. As the final entry in Shepard’s trilogy, the ending brought many fans to arms, expressing their distaste for the effect their decisions (or lack thereof) had on how it all played out. Even though much of the game was spent wrapping up story threads from the first two games, it still did an incredible job of bringing BioWare’s space epic to its conclusion. One of the caveats of the entire series is how deep of a narrative that BioWare crafted. Being able to take the truckload of loose ends and tie them all up in a neat little bow, while keeping us on track to save the universe from the Reaper invasion, is no small feat, and they did it with both the style and flair that made the franchise such a fan favorite over the years. Will there be another Mass Effect? Certainly. Do we want more? You bet!
Best Action/Adventure -- Dishonored
Picking our winner for Best Action/Adventure Game of the Year was probably the easiest of any of the categories we covered. Don’t get me wrong, there was some stiff competition for the award this year. Darksiders II was an early favorite, continuing Vigil’s tale of the Four Horsemen in an outstanding fashion, and bettering its predecessor in every way. The culmination of the battle between Desmond Miles and the Knights Templar in Assassin’s Creed III was not only one of the best games of the year, but easily the finest entry in the franchise to date. The new time period and new descendant protagonist with Connor under the hood made for a fantastic follow up to the now complete Ezio story. But it was Arkane Studios’ Dishonored that rose to the top. We actually went back and forth on how to categorize Dishonored. Does it fall into the FPS column, or the Action/Adventure column? In the end, it was the way the stealth-action gameplay combined with the wide-open mission structure that nudged over to Action/Adventure territory, and from there is was an easy call to give it the GotY nod. By taking the best parts of games like BioShock, Assassin’s Creed, Thief, and Hitman, then tossing it in an industrial, steampunky world rife with supernatural elements, Arkane created not just the best new AAA IP to release this year, but crafted a whole new franchise for (publisher) Bethesda.
Best Shooter (third and first person) -- Far Cry 3
Another year has gone by, and naturally, that means we’ve seen a bajillion shooters make their way through our rotation. Halo 4, Call of Duty Black Ops 2, and Medal of Honor: Warfighter brought us the expected nominal improvements to their respective franchises. The Spec Ops series returned to us, and was sadly overlooked by many (probably due to 2011’s horrid beta). We got more Nathan Drake, more Jackie Estacado, and even the Ghost Team reappeared. When it came down to actually picking just one as the best of the year, it was a big debate. After much back and forth, we managed to narrow the list down to two. Borderlands 2 gave us everything we loved about Borderlands by a factor of ten. More loot, a better story, a more cohesive set of missions, two of the year’s best new characters (Tiny Tina and Handsome Jack), more classes, more environments, and more Easter Eggs than we could shake a stick at. All that was made even better by being infused with Gearbox’s oft-times twisted and wacky humor. If there is an opportunity to poke fun at something, they took it and ran with it. On the other side of the coin, we have Far Cry 3. It too improved upon its predecessor in just about every way, as well as giving us another fantastic new character in the form of Vaas. He taught us what insanity REALLY is, and we simply couldn’t pull ourselves away. Ubisoft gave us loads of content too, with a ton of side missions, a free-roaming sandbox island to play in, a full on co-op story, and a multiplayer component. When it came down to it, it was the differences from the previous games that made our decision. For all the love we have for Borderlands 2 and the improvements it brought, it still felt like more of the first game. A Borderlands 1.5, if you will. Whereas Far Cry 3 was a vast improvement over Far Cry 2, It was much more technically sound, and offered a more streamlined experience that kept us engaged the entire time. Both are a must for any FPS fan, but Far Cry 3 gets the nod for Shooter of the Year.
Best Sports (team/extreme/solo) -- FIFA 13
From extreme offerings like the return of Tony Hawk and the SSX franchise, to solo runs with UFC Undisputed 3 and WWE 13, and of course all the team behemoths like Madden and NBA 2K, sports fans had plenty to get their game on with. This year we wanted to shift our focus a bit, and instead of looking at each of the sub-categories, we really wanted to look at what the experience of each offered, be it a solo or team effort. Let me tell you, it was a tough call. NBA 2K13 continued to reinforce its dominance on the court, and as each year passes, it makes that hill an even steeper climb for EA Sports should they ever jump back into contention. UFC Undisputed 3 not only marked itself as the best UFC title to date, making the entire experience - from the stand up to the ground game to the training and career progression - more accessible across the board, but also set a high bar for EA to meet (as they now have the licence, taking over for the troubled THQ). Speaking of, EA’s NHL franchise really strutted its stuff this year, especially with the lock-out leaving fans with a distinct lack of on-ice action. Ultimately though, it was another of EA Sports’ franchise that took the crown this year. Just when you think they couldn’t possibly improve the series any more, FIFA 13 shows up to once again give fans even more game changing improvements that made it the closest anyone can get to the real sport, short of heading out to the pitch themselves with a ball in tow. The AI is top notch, the real world, real-time stats and league info kick the immersion factor up to the max, and the new control mechanics makes a massive (positive) impact on the game. If you are a soccer fan, you probably already have this one. If you are looking to play the best sports game to release in 2012, then FIFA 13 is what you should be getting.
Best Driving -- Forza Horizon
When it came to channeling our inner pedal-to-the-metal speed demon, there really was only two choices for us this year: Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Forza Horizon. This was definitely the year of the arcade racer, and both games stepped up to the plate with their A game in tow. That didn’t come as too much of a surprise though. Most Wanted came to us courtesy of Criterion Games (of Burnout fame), while Horizon was a joint venture between Turn 10 and a new outfit, Playground Games, which just happens to be made up of folks from the now defunct Bizarre Creations (the PGR franchise) and Codemasters. Needless to say, there are a ton of racing pedigrees that helped bring these to games to life. Both games had a fun sandbox aspect to it, and they looked fantastic too, but it was Forza that took the photo finish. It had just the right blend of sim and arcade action, and it did the one thing that Most Wanted just couldn’t pull off: it kept us on the hook and in the driver’s seat. Most Wanted had us running from the cops so much that we lost track of our objectives. Its sandbox mode was a bit better than Forza’s, but it just wasn’t compelling enough to keep us in it. Forza was the reverse. A proper balance of core racing action kept us in the moment, while never losing sight of our goals. It made us buy in right away, and even when the time came to turn it off, we didn’t WANT to. Unfortunately, that’s where Most Wanted left us...er...wanting.
Best Fighter -- Street Fighter X Tekken
The fighting game genre didn’t quite see the same highs that 2011 had. Sure, we’ve had some good stuff come out, but this year didn’t have the same level of umph as 2011 did with such punch-tacular titles as Mortal Kombat, Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, and Super Street Fighter IV. This year we saw the arrival of Soul Calibur V, which while a decent fighter in its own right, it wasn’t all that engaging. You couldn’t help but feel like you were just simply going through the motions. We also returned to the Tekken franchise with Tekken Tag Tournament 2, a surprisingly enjoyable fighter that brought back the tone that the series had begun to lose in recent entries. The much ballyhooed PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale also hit store shelves, and even though the roster was a PlayStation fan’s wet dream, it ended up feeling very disconnected. All Stars actually seemed to play better on the Vita than it did on the PS3, as the console version came off as unpolished, and didn’t flow as well as a fighter should. Among all of these, there was one fighter that really came to the ring ready to rumble: Street Fighter X Tekken. With tight, flowing controls, loads on content, and a rock solid online component, this one easily knocked out the competition, and thereby took the award for Fighting Game of the Year.
Best Writing/Narrative -- TellTale’s The Walking Dead
All the flashy visuals and life-like characters in the world can only carry you so far before tedium sets in. Sure, eye-candy helps with the wow factor, but it’s the story that will keep you on the hook for the entire campaign. This year really stood out for several reasons. First, we saw the end of Mass Effect, a series that is famous for its outstanding narrative, and a huge backlash that soon followed, further shining the spotlight on BioWare’s storycrafters. We also were privy to multiple new characters who not only stood out for the voicework that brought them to life, but scriptwork behind them, and the finely crafted universe built around them. Borderlands 2 gave us Tiny Tina and Handsome Jack, both of which stood out as the most entertaining NPCs in all of Pandora. Better yet, Ubisoft introduced us Vaas, arguably the best baddie to grace our consoles in many years. In fact, it was he who really carried Far Cry 3, and propelled it into Best Writing/Narrative contention. However, for all the insane joy that Vaas brought us, main protagonist Jason Brody and the rest of the Jersey Shore crew annoyed the heck out of us, and that put a huge damper things. So where does that leave us?
Oh yeah, we also saw another huge step for storytelling this year: The Walking Dead. Yes, it is technically considered a video game, although many of us (myself included) see it as more of an interactive story. TellTale really surprised us this year. They took a genre long thought dead to all but niche fans and propelled it into the mainstream again. They also took a property that seemed to be far better suited for something more action-oriented such as the FPS and Action/Adventure genres and not only made it work in a Point and Click Adventure, but did it in such a fashion that it felt like a natural fit. Lastly, they embedded within the cell-shaded visuals one of the most finely crafted stories of the year. It was exciting, filled with tension, and emotionally touching. Allowing us to proceed down a choose-your-own adventure path, we faced many difficult choices, all of which impacted how the tale played out, and each adding its own measure of heart-wrenching depth. We did it though. We made those decisions. We played out convict protagonist Lee Everett the way we wanted him to be. And we did it all for Clementine. Few games will make you feel such a connection. Fortunately for us, The Walking Dead did just that, and because of that, we award our Best Writing/Narrative Game of the Year award to TellTale’s The Walking Dead. Now please, give us Season 2!!
Best Audio/Sound Design -- Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation
The Audio/Sound side of gaming is one of the most overlooked aspects of the medium. Most of the time, we take even great quality audio experiences for granted, relegating it as the expectation instead of recognizing it for the achievement it is. Don’t think so? Try taking a brand new game you have never played before and go through it with the sound off. Then fire it up again and play through with a Dolby set-up. The difference will be readily apparent. With that said, not many games come with award-worthy sound design, and for us, this year came down to only three: Thatgamecompany’s Journey (Composer: Austin Wintory), Ubisoft Montreal’s Assassin’s Creed III (Composer: Lorne Balfe), and Ubisoft Sofia’s Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation (Composer: Winifred Phillips). All three are exemplary in their accomplishments, complementing the narrative and setting the stage the visual artists placed in front of us. The compositions in these games connected us to the experience in ways worthy of an Grammy nomination (and in fact, one of them DID get such a nomination). We were incredibly torn, debating it back and forth,but ultimately it was Winifred Phillips’ work on Liberation that took our split decision. We did run into a small issue with the Vita’s cart-to-hardware transition, but the digital version proved just how engaging her work was, taking us on an emotional and action-packed journey from beginning to end. Aveline’s tale couldn’t have been told without it.
Stinker of the Year -- Spy Hunter
We always get our fair share of bad games throughout the year. It’s to be expected. While we walk into each new turn of the calendar expecting plenty of garbage to pad the space between our favorite titles as they sit on store shelves, few of them actually stand out as the worst of the worst. Note that I said few, not all. We do get that rare game that stands as a poster child for all the dreck. It was a close race with stuff like NBA Baller Beats on store shelves, but this year, that game is Spy Hunter. Some of you may disagree, and I wouldn’t necessarily fault you for it. Part of what made this game so bad was the phenomenal marketing that backed it up. It was almost sad seeing the highlight for that game was the social media marketing that went into it. Whoever ran the Twitter and Facebook pages for the remake did an absolutely fantastic job drumming up the hype. In fact, there are quite a few AAA publishers and developers out there who could have learned a thing or three from it. Again though, that just exasperated the issue, as the social marketing was the ONLY highlight. The game itself was terrible, featuring incredibly frustrating controls, a surprisingly lack of content, and an overall lack of polish. For something launched in 2012, it really was a bit shocking to see how cheap and half baked the game turned out to be. The clincher was how many folks picked this stinker up BECAUSE of how great the social media made it out to be...
Our coverage of the mobile gaming market is still in its infancy, so we still don’t have a category for Mobile Game of the Year. With that said, we did want to highlight some of the better offerings to hit our favorite mobile devices this year. We saw quite a few outstanding games that really show how far we’ve come with our mobile entertainment. Games like Final Fantasy Dimensions, Puzzle Craft, TellTale’s The Walking Dead, and Avengers Initiative all highlight the vast array of gaming goodness that can be achieved on our phones and tablets. However, there have been a few that really stand out as the best of the bunch, and all would be in contention for our Game of the Year...
Rayman Jungle Run took the runner genre to a new level by adding in the absolutely lovely visual style from the Rayman franchise, as well as all the charm the series is famous for. Rayman Origins is arguably the best platformer of this console cycle, and Jungle Run retains that same spirit and brings it to our phones and tablets. Console and PC gamers will recognize Bastion, which took many awards when it first launched last year on XBLA and PC. Seeing it come to iOS devices this year was a real treat, as now we can take our uniquely dynamic narrator wherever we want to go. Rovio also made a big splash this year with not one, but two new titles that are both must-have games for any mobile gamer. Bad Piggies is a spin-off from the Angry Birds franchise, taking the spotlight off the ticked off fowl and shining it brightly on the our favorite mean-spirited (future) plates of bacon. The gameplay is wholly different as well, taking a page from the Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts book, tasking players with building vehicular contraptions to get their stars. It required a whole new set of strategies and was a refreshing change from the tired Angry Birds formula. Then we got Star Wars Angry Birds a short while afterward, returning us to the aforementioned gameplay formula, but made it fun and interesting again by combining the best aspects of the previous games (melding the regular Angry Birds with the gravity mechanics of Angry Birds Space). Then, as a sort of cherry on top, they laid the Star Wars license over it, with each character having their own unique abilities. Angry Birds Star Wars is easily one of the most addictive experiences on any mobile device this year.
Wii/Wii U Highlights
This was a transition year for Nintendo. The Wii is in its twilight, so it didn’t really offer much in terms of stand out titles, The Wii U on the other hand, is simply too new, with it only being available for 6 weeks, to call any of the launch titles a Game of the Year for the platform. So, in lieu of handing out any awards, we wanted to highlight some of the better moments for Nintendo’s home consoles. To be honest, the Wii was pretty much forgotten in 2012. The notable releases were few and far between. Although games like The Last Story and the Kirby Anniversary compilation pack did give us a reason to dust off our consoles for a time, it was Xenoblade Chronicles that really captured our attention. Standing as the best game on the Wii in 2012, it also made for one of the best RPGs to ever grace the console. Of course, that was back in April, and by June all eyes were upon the Wii U. As we got to the launch, the biggest questions were what the best games would be, and if the console could live up to the hype. It had a bit of a rocky start, with a massive day one firmware update awaiting those who jumped on board on launch day. Once that was done though, gamers had plenty to enjoy. New Super Mario Bros U and ZombiU rose as the best of the launch line-up, with the former giving Mario fans new, cooperative ways to play, and the latter bringing the survival horror genre back from the dead. The centerpiece of the console, the gamepad, proved to be a great addition, provided it was used properly. The remote play feature, along with Wii TVii (which launched a month later) turned out to be really cool features both in theory and in practice. While games that used the gamepad properly, such as being able to talk with Alfred in Batman: Arkham City, showed that if taken advantage of correctly, there is a lot of unique potential on the Wii U that no other console can provide. 2013 will be a pivotal year for the young console.
Downloadable Game of the Year -- Journey
Downloadable games run the gauntlet of genres. No matter what your tastes, there is always something new heading your way, be it on home consoles or on PC/Mac. In years past we often found ourselves debating this category very heavily as typically there are loads of outstanding titles that make their way into the wild. This year we had little trouble putting our finger on the best the digital realm had to offer. Games like FEZ and The Walking Dead were huge accomplishments, but Thatgamecompany’s Journey transcended its video game classification across the board, instead being universally touted as an experience that defies the medium it resides in, and makes the best case for anyone wanting to demonstrate games as art. Critically acclaimed, Journey has garnered award after award, and deservedly so. Journey engaged us completely, and then challenged us to even formulate the right words to describe the journey (pun intended) it sent us on. If you own a PS3 and have not embarked on this emotionally driven experience, then you have done yourself an incredible disservice. To say you have missed out would be a gross understatement.
PC Game of the Year -- Torchlight 2
This year marked itself as the year we saw the return of the the biggest Action RPG franchise in PC history...and unfortunately that game did NOT get our Game of the Year award. Diablo III wasn’t a bad game, mind you. The anticipation for this long-in-the-making sequel was beyond palpable as we lead into the May launch. But sadly, once we started digging into it, we found our enjoyment was more rooted in the nostalgia factor rather than any actual changes to the franchise. In fact, some of the mechanics almost felt...dated. Little things, such as a pack mule or pet to help haul around our loot, are pretty much genre staples nowadays, yet were strangely absent here. At the same time, Blizzard streamlined the entire experience, so much so that it felt like it had lost a lot of the RPG part of the Action RPG genre it sits in. Then a few months later, we got Torchlight 2. Obviously inspired by the Diablo franchise (developer Runic Games was started by folks who worked on the first two Diablo games), Torchlight 2 essentially gave us everything we wanted from Diablo III. A huge land to explore, including an overworld (where in the previous game we were relegated to the caverns below the town of Torchlight), tons of baddies to battle, loads of loot to gather, a selection of pets who not only carry our goodies, but also battle by our side, and even six-player online co-op. Out of all the mouse and keyboard games we played this year, Torchlight 2 is the one that keeps bringing us back for more.
Vita Game of the Year -- Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation
2012 finally saw the release of the PS Vita, the successor to Sony’s aging PSP handheld. While unit sales didn’t quite reach the numbers many were anticipating, the selection of games has been solid. Mortal Kombat, Gravity Rush, Lumines: Electronic Symphony, Rayman Origins, and LittleBigPlanet Vita are all worth your hard earned cash. Atlus’ Persona 4 Golden has proven to be a huge hit, gathering a rabid base of loyal fans that continues to grow each day. Uncharted: Golden Abyss was not only one of the best games on the handheld, but did a fine job at showing off what sorts of things are possible with the new hardware. Nathan Drake’s appearance on the Vita pretty much had the Game of the Year award in the bag...until October came around and we got our hands on Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed III companion, Liberation. Aveline de Grandpré’s story turned out to be an engaging one, and the character herself was equal to, and in some respects even more enjoyable than Connor himself. Liberation showed that the Vita is a contender. It stands as a handheld that can take the same AAA experiences we enjoy on our home consoles with us wherever we go. Gorgeous visuals, an outstanding score, and gameplay that matches its console cousin almost verbatim, Liberation sets the bar. The Vita needs more games like this.
Nintendo 3DS Game of the Year -- Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
The 3DS had its one year birthday this year, so we had high hopes for the sophomore set of games. Unfortunately, it was a pretty hit-or-miss affair. The list of new games is not quite as populated as we would have liked to have seen, and of those only a handful stood out among the sparse crowd. As we discussed our favorites, we were fairly split. New Super Mario Bros 2 had a focus shift for the series, planting players eyes firmly on striking it rich. It was the California Gold Rush, in cart form. However, not all of us particularly cared for it. Resident Evil: Revelations was a fine entry in the franchise, and acted as almost a throwback to its roots. We didn’t know it then, but out of all the RE games launched this year, Revelations ended up being the best of the bunch. When it came time to discuss Game of the Year, neither one of these games made it out of the nominations. It was the return of an old favorite that took the award: Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. The combination of Square Enix and Disney was almost awe inspiring back in 2002 when the first game released to the masses. Taking the technical skill and story-telling from the famed Final Fantasy publisher and combining it with the rich characters from the Mouse House was nothing short of magic. As the seventh installment of the franchise overall, Kingdom Hearts 3D: DDD was the first in recent memory to usher back those magical feelings that made the original games such hits. Set as a sort of bridge between RE;coded and the upcoming Kingdom Hearts III, 3D was received well by critics, and could be one of the few system-selling titles outside of Nintendo’s first-party efforts. Of all the third party 3DS titles available, this one should be at the top of your list.
PS3 Game of the Year -- Journey
Given how much we raved over Journey with its win in the Best Downloadable category, it shouldn’t come as any real surprise to find it among the best the PS3 had to offer. This stands as testament to just how strong of an experience that Thatgamecompany put together. In this day and age where platform-exclusives don’t make a ton of financial sense, it’s an even a bigger indicator of how good Journey is when it was stacked up against every other title the PS3 had to offer, and handily beat them all. The accolades this game has received has even extended beyond the industry itself, as it is up for an award at the 2013 Grammys for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, if you have a PS3, this is one Journey you need to embark on.
Xbox 360 Game of the Year -- Darksiders II
Microsoft saw a lot of great titles on the 360 this year. From first party efforts like the latest in the Forza and Halo franchises, to third party entries like Dishonored and Far Cry 3, it was a great year to be a Xbox 360 gamer. This lead to some stiff competition for the Game of the Year nod. Racing titles don’t typically extend outside their categories, but Forza Horizon came out to be one of those rare racers that grabbed our attention so much that it made the nominee list. Dishonored and Far Cry 3 both have us STILL coming back for more, even after we put it to bed and played other games. But there was one title that really caught us by surprise with how impressive it was. We tracked it through its early builds and knew right from the get-go that developer Vigil Games was onto something special, but we had no idea just how well the different parts and pieces would come together in the final build until we sat through it. Darksiders II is arguably the best sequel we’ve seen for a new IP in quite some time. It made everything that Darksiders did right better, and fixed all of its flaws. One of our chief complaints about the first game was that it felt too long. It didn’t keep us engaged enough as we got to the tail end of the game, and our interested waned because of it. Darksiders II was an even longer experience, but the narrative and the pacing was improved so much that we were glued to our seats from beginning to end. The new loot system and expanded skill tree created a new layer of strategy for the action-puzzler, and sunk it even deeper into the Action RPG genre. Death himself, as a character, was far more interesting and compelling than his brother War, and his tale is one that is rife with internal conflict. When one considers the historical stereotypes of the horseman, it came as a bit of a surprise to see just how torn he is, and that here he wasn’t presented as the vicious life-ender we expected him to be. Given THQ’s financial troubles, this is the one franchise out of their entire stable we hope not only survives, but is given the same freedom that helped Vigil take the it to the levels it did with Darksiders II.
Publisher/Developer of the Year -- Ubisoft and TellTale Games
Awarding something to a publisher or developer can be a bit tricky. The perspective isn’t the same as it is with an individual game. In fact, we tend to scrutinize the organization even more so than we do a single game, so it can be tough for one to really stand out among their peers. Rocksteady did it a few years ago when they released their sophomore game (Batman: Arkham Asylum), and ended up with the best comic book to video game adaptation ever made. This year we were privy to quite a few exemplary efforts. Thatgamecompany, after wowing us with Flow and Flower in years past, once again captured our collective hearts with Journey, an effort that can’t be understated. Arkane Studios came out of nowhere with the biggest sleeper hit of the year in Dishonored. However, there were two organizations that really got the job done this year, and did so much to our pleasant surprise.
Our expectations from TellTale games were pretty much set as 2012 arrived. The team there had done a fine job bringing the Point and Click Adventure out of retirement, even establishing it wasn’t just for PC gamers anymore. Their pedigree was not the most consistent though, so when they announced a game based on The Walking Dead franchise was coming, we had more than our fair share of doubts. How can they pull it off as a P&C Adventure? Their best titles thus far were games like Sam & Max, so can they do something with a more serious tone and still see success? After Episode One launched in April, all our fears were quashed. They not only pulled off what we thought may be the impossible, but they did it so well that it became a smash hit across the board. TellTale really elevated their game this year. They made us believers, and we look forward to getting our hands on their next effort, be it TWD Season 2, or something else entirely.
This was also a real banner year for Ubisoft as well. The French publisher is no stranger to embracing strange concepts, and is always taking chances on new experiences. Not all these ventures pan out, so the company has to rely on their successes to offset those that don’t do so well. They came into 2012 high off the accolades of the return of Rayman in Rayman Origins, as well as the much loved final entry in Ezio’s trilogy in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. And while they did indeed see their fair share of garbage hit store shelves (three words: ESPN Sports Connection, or if you want another example, we can point fingers at the terrible Expendables 2 tie-in), their highlights far exceeded them. Ghost Recon Future Soldier was solid, (but flawed), Assassin’s Creed III was the pinnacle of the series, and the Vita companion Liberation ended up as the best game yet to hit Sony’s portable. Far Cry 3 brought that franchise back into the limelight, and stands as the best entry in the series to date. The much delayed I Am Alive finally saw its release, and had critics split, nevertheless, it stood as an example of what kinds of experiences the downloadable market can can provide. Just Dance 4 returned to get us up off the couch and into our dancing shoes, while Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth was among of the best Kinect games of the year. Their acquisition of RedLynx provided its first bits of fruit in the phenomenal downloadable sequel Trials Evolution. And lets not forget about ZombiU, touted by many (including most of us here on the GameFocus team) as the best launch title for the Wii U, and one of only two potential system sellers for Nintendo’s new platform. Ubisoft has seen many great years, but we don’t remember one in a long time that saw this many highlights. Things are only looking brighter too, as across the next two years we will see the next entries in the Splinter Cell and Rainbow Six franchises, a new Rayman title on the Wii U, the eye-poping Watch Dogs, and there’s no doubt we will see more Assassin’s Creed and more Just Dance. Ubisoft has earned all of its recognition this year, including our award for Publisher/Developer of the Year.
Game of the Year (Overall) -- Dishonored
And here it is folks, the biggest award of the bunch. Game. Of. The. Year. We see truck loads of games launch every year, the good, the bad, and the downright horrible. Few will make it into Game of the Year contention, and only one will take the cake. This year we had several games that placed as nominees. Darksiders II, Assassin’s Creed III, and Far Cry 3, all sit as the best that 2012 had to offer. It was Dishonored, however, that carried that special something, propelling it to the Game of the Year. All of the four nominees had wonderful stories, rock-solid gameplay, gorgeous visuals, and tons of content. And all of them should be in every gamer’s library. What set Dishonored apart from the rest came down to it’s engagement. It above all the others not only motivated us to come back to play through it again, but it beckoned us. It called to us, like the Siren to Odysseus. The various options for how the missions can be completed were each equally balanced, making not one of them a better option than the other. This created a sense of challenge that we found absolutely irresistible. The gameplay is a wonderful mix of first-person stealth-action, with an equal focus on on period appropriate gadgets and supernatural abilities in order to administer swift and brutal justice. Choices for the player is the key, and Dishonored had it in spades. No matter if you wanted to go in toe-to-toe, or stand back and let intricately staged traps do your dirty work, Dishonored provided an equal means for both. The voicework is outstanding - featuring an impressive cast with the likes of Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Madsen, Brad Dourif, Lena Headey, John Slattery, Susan Sarandon, and Carrie Fisher - and complemented the finely spun tale of corruption and conspiracy in turn of the century Dunwall. While fictionally set, the highly industrialized environments carried a steampunk vibe to it, further accentuating the already engrossing adventure of Corvo as he tries to clear his name and rescue his charge. Even more surprising was the fact that this came from Arkane Studios, who’s last full console effort was the utterly broken Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. Impressive? Sure. But more importantly, we were enthralled with Dishonored, from the time we first stepped off the ship on through each of the multiple endings. Dishonored is a complete experience throughout, and well worth every penny.
05/08/2013 :: DLC Talk: Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
03/24/2013 :: DLC Talk: Vergil's Downfall
02/14/2013 :: Hardware Talk: Razer Ouroboros Gaming Mouse
12/29/2012 :: GameFocus 2012 Game of the Year Awards
12/26/2012 :: Staff Picks: Best of 2012
12/19/2012 :: DLC Talk: Dunwall City Trials
12/08/2012 :: The 12 Days Of GameFocus Christmas
12/02/2012 :: The WB Wii U Launch Event In Toronto
11/07/2012 :: Vice City - 10 Years Later
Download us here!
Game Junkies podcast and audio interviews