Feature, Reviews

Happy New Game+ 2013

At the start of last year, weekendwarrio.rs was only just launching, so our 2012 GOTY piece was more a burst of reviews rather than a round-up. This time around, however, we’ve got a full year to look back on. Read on to see us miss the point, forget some brilliant games, cover some equally brilliant games, and generally have a bit of a laugh as we pass out our various awards for 2013.

No, what I meant was These men write about video games for a website, but what happens next will shock you. OH, DO PLEASE FUCK OFF WITH THAT SHIT.

Better Luck Next Year
The Best Game from 2012 That I Still Haven’t So Much As Launched

This will only make sense to Steam aficionados.

Corey:
There were a handful of contenders for this, but the winner is Dishonored. It boggles the mind that I can be so genuinely excited at the prospect of a game – that I own – and still have not played it. This is what Steam sales do. This is what Bundles do. Don’t look at me like that – you’re the same as me. We all own more games than we could ever complete, because we will be forever adding to this list.

Jake:
Dishonoured. Definitely. They started talking about scope and multiple choices and “perfect, no kill” runs, and I got scared. Petrified, terrified that I wouldn’t experience the game properly, and boom. Decision paralysis.

 

2013 Goatee of the Year
For Excellence in the Field of Sculpted Facial Hair

Corey:
Hmmm… Unless I’m missing something obvious, 2013 was the year of Beards in Video Games. I can think of plenty of beards, but no goatees.

Corey out for a stroll, taking a selfie.

Jake:
We might have to give it to Deus Ex: Human Revolution – The Director’s Cut. This is because it is essentially a GOTY and because Jensen has a fantastic Goatee.

He didn’t ask for this.

He didn't ask for this, but if it isn't a real cybernetic enhancement the body has a way of shutting that whole thing down.

Corey:
I still haven’t finished that game because the boss battles are infuriating to play properly, and I refuse to cheese them because of poor design on the developer’s part. But still, I’ve got no other suggestions, so DE:HR-TDC wins by default.

The two greatest words in the english language: De-fault, De-fault, De-fault!

 

The Captain Planet Award for Recycling
aka The Best Game That Got New Life in 2013 Thanks to a Kick-Arse Expansion Pack

I don't know if you've heard, but he's a hero. He's going to take pollution down to zero.

Corey:
Remember Expansion Packs? If you’re under 20 years of age you may not, but they were all the rage in the 90s, but have largely been replaced these days by DLC. The problem with DLC is it is often over-priced bullshit, and an excuse to market and sell the same successful game all over again with the inevitable ‘Game of the Year Edition’, whether or not it earned any respectable GOTY nods (I’m looking at you Dead Island).

Expansion Packs were like really big, great value for money DLC that tended to ramp up the difficulty for all the veterans of the base game. Depending on the genre they could add new campaigns, new classes, new playable races, new items, new multiplayer modes. Not gold-plated guns, or ridiculous outfits that don’t fit in with the tone of the base game, but big ol’ chunks of New that you could actually get excited about.

Blizzard remembers Expansion Packs, but Heart of the Swarm was largely lacklustre.
All the plot, story and characterisation issues that I was happy to ignore for Wings of Liberty here slapped me in the face – especially when a big part of Heart of the Swarm’s story involved undoing everything you worked hard to do in the original campaign. The missions weren’t as many or varied as Wings of Liberty, the focus on Kerrigan’s arse was disappointing but unsurprising, and the science-fiction of the Starcraft universe gave way to ancient prophecies, ancient evils, and other fantasy tropes (Mass Effect is no better, which is why I call the Force, sorry, Biotic abilities ‘Space Magic’).

But there was another science-fiction game from a previous year with a 2013 Expansion Pack – XCOM with Enemy Within.

The biggest change in Enemy Within was the ability to upgrade your soldiers using genetic modification or cybernetic enhancement. It might not have been the most obvious direction to take the game, but it also works better than I expected it to. It gives you new options for customising your soldiers with expensive upgrades, making it all the more painful when they succumb to the alien menace, but on top of that it added interesting new enemy types requiring different tactics, and new scripted missions that throw a deadly spanner into your formerly pristine works.

Enemy Within didn’t change the base game much, it simply expanded it, fleshed the whole package out and in turn established itself as different enough to stand clear of the shadow of its classic 90s predecessor.

Jake:
I wholeheartedly agree. No contest. No consideration needed. Firaxis grabbed the base game and added a bunch of mechanics that tied into what made the original so compelling while also taking all of your tried and tested strategies from the original and shredding them.

The addition of new currencies, units and technologies meant that XCOM was the same beast but different in ways that made it worth playing through again. Upsettingly, still no break-away from the story-beats but you can ask anyone who’s played Enemy Within about the horrors of Newfoundland, and they’ll all give you the same 1000 yard stare. It’s not a break from Scripting, but it’s an acceptable compromise. Shared experience.

Firaxis also claim second place with Brave New World for Civilization V, which coincidentally also featured XCOM troops as an end game unit.

 

Generation P
aka Best Roguelike or Roguelikelike or Roguelikelikelike of 2013

Corey:
I played a lot of Roguesque titles this year. Some were good, some were bad, some were even first-person. Fuck the what?

It’s odd, because I thought my lack of interest in competitive multiplayer was because of the lack of a meaningful story and progression beyond skin and weapon unlocks, but Roguelikes generally share this lack of story (FTL: Faster Than Light being the most obvious exception from the past couple of years), and a bad run can mean literally no progression… So perhaps I just hate people. Yeah, that’s probably it.

Anyway, Teleglitch. A brutal, top-down, survival horror Roguelike with a crafting system that’s complex enough to be interesting, but implemented simply enough that you can build items as you race away from a horde of science experiments gone wrong. Graphically it’s reminiscent of grandaddy Quake, with a storyline seemingly inspired by great-grandaddy Doom.

It’s fast, frenetic, unforgiving, and criminally underappreciated.

Jake:
Rogue Legacy. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s bad, but all of the time this game /fucking hates you/ and so survival feels like a genuine achievement. Also, sometimes you get a bad generation of heroes to choose from and have to wrestle through a level as a tiny blind dwarf and it’s entertaining.

But also sad.

But mainly entertaining.

Also, DayZ Standalone just launched, and as a roguelike it’s entirely worth mentioning. I stole a mans shoes last night, with an unloaded pistol.

Corey:
I argue with it being any sort of Roguelike due to the fact that the map has been very carefully constructed and the only randomness comes from item, enemy and player spawns, much like any other big multiplayer title. I also think it’s too early to talk about it, but I’m certain I will throughout 2014.

 

Console Purchase of the Year
aka What’s a console?

Jake:
Well, I bought a cheap 360 to play GTA V – does that count?

Ye Olde Xb-Ox

Corey:
Is whiskey a console? If yes, I put forward Taketsuru. What? It’s not?
FINE! DONE! XBOX 360 WINS THE (CHEAP, SECOND-HAND, END-OF-ITS LIFECYCLE) CONSOLE WAR! Congratu-well-done, Microsoft. You may begin feeling validated.

 

Civil War
aka The Best Game That Jake Hates Because He Is Stupid And Smells Bad
aka That game about paperwork that Corey likes because he is a butthead.

Corey:
I can understand why Papers, Please wouldn’t appeal to everyone, it’s an oddity even in the indie game sphere, which is itself odd compared to the mainstream. You’re drafted into border security bureaucracy in a fictional Soviet-style state, keeping up with increasingly strict procedures in order to keep yourself and your family safe and healthy.

Essentially you’re doing paperwork, but impossibly it’s fun to play. You’ll gleefully stamp DENIED when you catch some fuck trying to sneak drugs into the motherland, and you’ll feel guilty about letting someone through without the proper papers because something in their story has made you care.

On the most basic level it’s amazing because it makes you care, it makes you feel things, simply through the meat and potatoes of playing the game, not through some heavily-scripted and pre-rendered cutscenes that tug ham-fistedly at your heart strings. I also found it enthralling and charming and utterly unique.

Jake:
I remember glumly telling Craig about my problem with Papers, Please: It was too much like work. I didn’t experience any of the story at all because I was too busy trying to stamp peoples passports and reconcile my workload with the increasingly stringent restrictions placed upon me by my taskmasters.

‘But don’t you realise Jake,’ Craig said, twinkle in his eye, ‘THAT WAS YOUR STORY ALL ALONG!’

No. my story was stupid, and as futile as my real life. I demand better.

 

Super Heroics Award
aka Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it’s a bright green woman with a giant purple dildo

Corey:
I’m going to stay out of this one because superheroes make me break out in hives. I’m biased against them because they make for the worst sorts of comics, and they also make up 80% of the comics in your average store.

Jake:
You are stupid because you overlooked the obvious. Saints Row 4 avoids the stigma attached to being a ‘superhero game’ whilst simultaneously letting you literally be a superhero – and one that would make the Comics Code people piss and cry blood.

Corey (looking at his backlog):
Ahh, yes, you’re right, in 2013 I did enjoy Saints RowThe Third.

 

Gingers Orally Terrorising Yeomen – The Weekend Warrio.rs GOTY

Corey:
I can’t talk about my Game Of The Year without also talking about the runner up, because the two have quite a bit in common. Both games took the FPS as a starting point, removed the guns and the violence and instead built something interesting, emotive and far more mature than the best shooty-bang-bang FPS of this or any other year. The two games I’m talking about are Gone Home and The Stanley Parable.

Gone Home was a deeply moving story of adolescence, self-discovery, young love, and the strains and complexities of family life. It was entirely set within a large, family home during a dark and stormy night, but despite the thunder and the faulty electricals, there was nothing waiting in the shadows to scare us, nothing except perhaps our own emotional vulnerability. I laughed and I cried. The former is rare enough in games where attempts at humour often fall flat, but the latter is like hen’s teeth.

Whilst Gone Home is the purer of the two experiences – being essentially an interactive story you can uncover at your own pace – The Stanley Parable is technically and thematically braver, does a more thorough job of subverting expectations, and is wholly unique to (and within) the realm of gaming. Gone Home was a beautifully touching and real love story, but you’ll find those in prose, poetry, film and music, whereas no other medium could do what The Stanley Parable did – it is inextricably defined by, and linked to, the very things that make gaming the utterly compelling pastime we all find it to be. It has decision making, or the lack thereof, absurd spaces built with impossible geometry, and The Stanley Parable gives us either commands to follow or rules to break, depending on our mood.

The Stanley Parable also teased us all with possibly the greatest demo ever – perfectly summarising what the full game would be like, without simply providing a slice of it out of its usual context. It’s the only instance I can think of where one should definitely play both the demo and the full game.

After Gone Home, The Stanley Parable, and the other recent exploration games Proteus and Dear Esther, I hope that mainstream gaming will realise there are more possibilities within first-person gaming than headshots.

Jake:
Spell-Tower. Spell-Tower. Spell-Tower. Spell-Tower. Spell-Tower. Spell-Tower.

I loved Spell-Tower, because it’s a really simple word game that I’ve been playing for two months pretty much non-stop. When me and my partner called it quits earlier this year I played Spell-Tower to avoid thinking about it. When work was grinding me down I played Spell-Tower during my lunchbreak to forget about it. On the commute I played Spell-Tower because it was fun to try and beat my score and when I laid in bed at night I often played Spell-Tower because it’s better than sleep.

But it’s actually not my GOTY. It’s a close second. My actual game of the year is Payday 2. Payday 2 is a pure multiplayer experience quite like Killing Floor, a game I’ve long held close to my heart. Payday 2 gets you and your 3 chosen buddies to rob with precision and it’s exciting and fun and it’ll make you swear and shout. It’s not perfect, but out of all of the games this year I think this and GTA V are going to be the ones that get the most playtime in the coming years. If Starbreeze play it right Payday 2 could keep it’s community for several years, and as an experience there isn’t much like it. It’s not the best game, it’s not the most polished game but in terms of what it offers it’s relatively unique.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9vKeKssqz4

Corey:
Well, if you’re going to bring mobile games into it I’ll have to mention the sublimely fun Ridiculous Fishing, which stole approximately two full days of my life before letting me off its hook and tossing me back in. It’s simple, pure fun, with gorgeous visuals and great audio design. I weep openly for anyone who hasn’t got it permanently installed on their smartphone of choice.

And with that we’re done… Are we done? Anybody else got some final words?

Nope? Alright.

IT’S OVER.

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