During these last hours of the year I am trying to conclude what has awed me the most in the year 2011. Talking about releases of “heavy” games this year has been extremely overweight with such titles as Crysis 2, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Battlefield 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and the actual release of Minecraft. Among all the games in 2011, what did really differ from the crowd?
A game with a good story is always very welcome in my heart, but unfortunately this “ingredient” is the one that most creators over look when they work on their games. For me and many other games I know that this is quite sad since a good story can give a huge benefit to many games. A game that is not ultra slick, lightning fast or tech heavy can still be extremely enjoyable if there is a good story baked into the game. For more about stories in video games, see my article “Can games tell stories?”.
So, which game has given us a deep story, unexpected outcomes and engulfed our hearts and minds this year? My vote goes to Bastion! The main reason is the way the story is told; through a narrator. Throughout the game you, as the character the Kid [!], are accompanied by the voice of a narrator that tells the story as it unfolds at your feet. The story itself is a well versed “fairy tale” that is beautifully drawn before our eyes (and ears) with the best cartoon style graphics and a soundtrack made up of music from different parts of the world. When you start the game you know nothing about the game world, Caelondia, or its history, but the gray parts are slowly filled with colors and at the end you have learned the wonderful but sad story of Caelondia.
Graphics is always a hot potato when it comes to discussion among gamers. Personally I don’t strive to only play the games with the most super realistic graphics; mostly because after a while of playing a game you need something more than “just” graphics to keep you playing. If I want perfect graphics I better not play games… But using graphics in a good way and really enhancing the image that is being produced on the screen is of course a piece of art, if done correctly, so which game had the best visuals, graphics and realistic style in 2011? I have to say Crysis 2!
Even though my PC is not top notch anymore and I was forced to run the game with medium level resolution the visuals were nothing but superb. In my eyes this is the game that has come the closest to display “realistic graphics”, especially of a city based area, which is more difficult to depict compared to fantasy areas, due to its complex layout. Crysis 2 managed to display crisp clean graphics on the whole spectrum of the city of New York (as it would look if an alien race invaded it), from garbage on the street to majestic alien structures. The game also packs a lot of nice choreographed action, sweat dripping sneaking sequences and great sounds which add a lot to the overall experience.
If a game really engulfs you and absorbs you; and you keep playing hour after hour, then it is a sign of a good game. If you have been reading a few of my recent blog posts you might know which game I have in mind for this category. Dark Souls!
The best game of 2011 has to be the game I have played the most and also struggled with the most; “struggle” in a good way. Playing Dark Souls is a long, sweaty struggle where you never can let your guard down or even pause the game (there is no in-game pause function!). As pointed out before Dark Souls is a very fresh addition to the plethora of games released during the recent 10 years. During these years most games have insisted to hold the hand of the player; harder and harder over time, to such an extent that some games don’t even allow the player to “die” or fail anymore. Dark Souls demand a lot of the player but the reward is very sweet indeed; when you finally reach that new area or manage to destroy that heavy armored Black Knight you really appreciate the reward given to you: progress because of playing the game well.
Looking forward to a great gaming year of 2012!