In response to a few recent games that appear to be lacking in the criteria. This is a short list and thoughts on some stand out game mechanics that developers seem to be ignoring and need to build upon.
Top Ten PC Games of 2013
We’re over a week into 2014 and while all eyes are on the amazing selection of titles coming to PC, I still wanted to talk about my favorites from last year. While I didn’t get a chance to play every game, and many more reside sadly in my backlog occasionally whimpering, I found 2013 to be more than satisfactory for PC gaming. Many big franchises like Starcraft, BioShock, and Tomb Raider saw new entries, while we began to see the initial budding fruits of many studios’ crowd sourcing labors. Another explosion of indie games was welcomed into 2013, and I for one welcome our golden age where independent projects lay alongside AAA blockbusters on critics’ and gamers’ lists. I gladly voiced my opinions for our collective Top Ten Games of 2013, but still wanted a chance to highlight my personal picks for the PC. Here are my my favorite PC games of 2013.
I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from this subdued first person adventure game, but I was immediately drawn in with its curiously realistic setting and fantastic writing. It’s fascinating that the Fullbright Company is able to tell a compelling story using only the objects you find around a house in piecing together a family drama. The audio journal of the younger sister is a wonderful reward for finding the right piece of evidence and the story slowly unfolds with many dramatic turns as you make your way through the house.
Free to play is often seen as a red flag for gamers, and with good reason. Path of Exile trends more toward the popular legitimate free to play titles like Dota 2 by limiting in game purchases to mostly aesthetic items and effects. The gameplay is lifted directly from Diablo 2, a feat many Action-RPGs have accomplished with varying degrees of success. What sets PoE apart is its unique passive skill tree and gem-based skill system, allowing a huge degree of customization in how you want to build your character. If you were disappointed by Diablo 3 or just looking for another ARPG, PoE plays out like a love letter to the entire genre. That fact that it’s completely free is mind-boggling and awesome.
Read our review.
Yes it has its problems, but hear me out. Aside from the launch fiasco which obliterated any and all goodwill and hype Maxis and EA tried to produce, I still got a lot of enjoyment out of building up cities, sorting through pollution problems, and balancing the needs of my sims with my coffers. If you could find a region to play in, playing with others offered a unique social experience as you traded goods and worked cooperatively to build up your Great Works. With single player you could build multiple specialized cities to create a super region. Once I wrapped my head around each city as a character and the region as my overall army or base, I had a lot more fun switching between cities. Even then it was a forced direction that not everyone was on board with, and the smaller city sizes are still a bummer. SimCity was ultimately a disappointment but I still enjoyed my time with it.
Read our review.
By far the best game that no one played, Reus gave you control of four god-like elementals with the simple goal of getting a high score in a set amount of time. You achieve more points by shaping the planet with various biomes and seeding each plot of land with a mineral, vegetable, or animal. Dozens of land plots are unlocked as the tech tree grows more complex and synergistic. The monkey wrench of humanity is thrown in to demand more things of your gentle giants as the people evolve, grow, and wage war against each other. Managing their needs and keeping everyone happy becomes a tricky balance in this unique puzzle strategy game with an endearing and simplistic art style.
Read our review.
Spelunky was one of my favorite games of 2012, and I was thrilled to see the fancy new remake return to PC this year. Super tight controls, randomly and procedurally generated levels, a pitch-perfect difficulty curve with each area, and a ridiculous amount of items, enemies, traps, and secrets make it one of gaming’s very best Rogue-likes. The PC version also received a clever new game mode in the Daily Challenge – a randomized layout that’s the same for every player with its own competitive leaderboard. Once you die, that’s it, try another new level tomorrow! Maddening and addictive.
I was shocked to see the latest highly anticipated entry in the BioShock series discounted so heavily during holiday sales, but quick to take advantage of it. I enjoyed this narrative driven adventure through the flying city of Columbia, but much of the combat and themes did leave a Been There, Done That aftertaste in my mouth. Flying on and off skyrails infused an incredibly fun rush of roller coaster combat, but once inside a building it was just another kill all the guys with guns and plasmids – oops vigors. The story goes in some satisfyingly mind-bending directions and it’s a very neat tie in to the rest of the series. Whether this leads to many more stories in the multiverse or if Infinite puts a bow on the whole franchise remains to be seen.
Read our review.
I could never get into League of Legends or Dota 2, but I know where those fans are coming from with my love of Starcraft. There was a time when Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty first came out that I was dutifully watching my Day Dailies, searching for tournament live streams, and reading build orders, but by the time Heart of the Swarm released those competitive days had lapsed and I was content to play through the campaign and skirmish with friends. HotS brought just enough new units to the table to refresh many strategies without throwing the balance too far out of whack. Returning to SC2 is like putting on a pair of warm, comfortable slippers; maybe they don’t always thrill you but you’re happy they’re there.
Like many optimistic gamers I was going a bit Kickstarter crazy after I was drawn to the crowdfunding site with Double Fine Adventure. Shadowrun Returns was one of the first games to capitalize on the craze, though I didn’t back it as I was unfamiliar with the world and previous games. I can safely say that Shadowrun Returns is a glorious return to turn-based strategy RPGs, previously the bread and butter of computer role playing games and longtime PC gamers. The world of Shadowrun is dripping with cool, combining cyberpunk and urban fantasy to create a unique tapestry of genre fiction. The combat borrow heavily from successful turn-based games like XCOM to create a wonderfully tactical experience full of guns, spells, elementals, and mind-jacking. Even more exciting are the modding tools released with the game, allowing the passionate community to create all new adventures you can download and plug in for free.
Read our review.
If you put a bunch of game critics in a room and forced them to agree on a top ten list, you’ll end up with mass hysteria after much yelling, crying, and hugging of the knees while muttering in a corner. Somehow we managed to pull it off, and Rogue Legacy was one of the few games we all agreed on. A seemingly innocuous 2D Rogue-like, its strengths didn’t begin to show until you met your untimely yet frequent demise. With every death brought a new child forward, with its own class, traits, and set of abilities. The randomized traits ranged from funny jokes like Baldness and Irritable Bowel Syndrome to crazy big game-altering states. Nostalgia caused you to play the entire game in sepia tone while Vertigo sticks you to the ceiling. It’s insanely clever, and the art style reflects the humorous tone. Beneath it all Rogue Legacy remains a solid platforming-action game with a wealth of content (and a seemingly endless run of New Game Plus) that successfully solves the typical permadeath problem of making death not only less frustrating, but actually fun and exciting.
Read our review.
I hadn’t even heard of State of Decay until PAX 2013, and suddenly found myself glued to the concepts and progress by Undead Labs of a persistent zombie apocalypse simulation. It wasn’t enough just to survive from Point A to Point B, you had to keep a community of people alive as the world crumbled around you by gathering resources, setting up outposts, building medical tents and sleeping areas, and killing lots and lots of zombies. A large valley with multiple towns to explore and an overarching campaign filled with story missions and randomized content gave me dozens of hours of enjoyment, and subsequent replays were just as fun as I tried out different homesteads and strategies, and met all new random heroes and embarked on new missions and supply runs. I even found myself addicted to the first DLC released as Breakdown removed the campaign missions and just let me have fun with a brilliantly built-in New Game Plus mechanic. I never thought “another zombie game” would even be on my gaming radar, let alone become my favorite PC game of the year, but State of Decay presented the open world apocalyptic adventure I didn’t even know I was searching for.
Remember if you don’t see your favorite game here it’s because I personally hate you. Or you could let me know about it in the comments.