Something wonderful happened this year: I rediscovered videogames, which I had long since abandoned. Having moved from a desktop computer to a laptop several years ago I had given up on the idea that I’d be able to run any modern games which all seemed to require liquid-cooled video cards with BumpShading technology in order to accurately render 1024 different shades of very dark gray. My other alternative gaming platform, the PS2, had been abandoned by Sony and despite there being a gazillion games for it that I still hadn’t touched (many of which I own) I had lost interest. When I felt like playing videogames I was content to just diddle around with Diablo 2 for a bit. But all of that changed this year.
Diablo 3 – This is where it started. I tried out Diablo 3 thinking there was no way it would possibly run on my laptop. But it did. And boy howdy did I have a good time with it. Yet, when all was said and done, there was something kind of “off” about D3. All I really wanted was more of the same as D2, and I got that, but too much of it was exactly the same as D2 and the stuff that was new wasn’t that great. I haven’t touched it since I started up with other games (though that’s largely because, you know, other games). Here’s what I wrote about it.
Portal – Next I tried a venerable title that was FPS-ish without being an FPS, since, you know, I don’t like FPSes. Portal got a lot of attention back when it came out and it’s well-deserved. It’s a wonderful game with genuine humor and real care put into it. (It helped that it never got too hard or tricky, and in fact if it seemed to be, that was an indication that I was on the wrong track.) An absolute joy to play. I talked about it here.
Portal 2 – Naturally this led into the sequel, which was even more everything than the original was. Again, great writing, tricky but not overwhelming puzzles, spot-on humor (and pathos), and even some depth (both literal and figurative) added to the “Portalverse”. The best thing about Portal 2 was that since the Meme Squad was too busy running “The cake is a lie” into the ground, nearly all of this game was unspoiled for me.
Fallout 3 – It was now time to tackle the big one, the one I’d been hunting down all this time. I absolutely adore the original Fallout games so much that I’ve even played the kind of lousy PS2 game several times. When Fallout 3 was announced as an FPS I was heartbroken because, you know, I don’t like FPSes. But I had to try it. I had to see. And oh my god, I was blown away. I loved Fallout 3, even with its rock-stupid ending. I loved exploring Washington DC, talking with the residents there, and shooting many of them in the head. I do like FPSes, Sam I Am! I do! Well, as long as they have a pretty cool world and some depth to them and aren’t too uncomfortably like the real world, that is. This all started with Diablo 3, but I can safely say that it was Fallout 3 that propelled me back into gaming. I posted on it here and here.
Bioshock – Armed with my newfound knowledge, I next tackled this FPS, which also had received rave reviews. This one I had some problems with. I’d had no problems tracking Super Mutants through the destroyed Washington DC subway tunnels, but this world just strained credulity. It had too many parts that fit together awkwardly and made no sense, and despite a truly surprising and clever reveal 2/3 of the way through still didn’t get me to care about any of the people involved, including the protagonist I was playing. As far as I was concerned, letting everyone in this game drown at the bottom of the ocean was a plan I couldn’t see any problems with. I dissected it here.
Fallout: New Vegas – I was spending a lot of time in my office, playing games, and could see where this was headed, so in September I finally bought an Xbox 360. And I didn’t intend to jump right back into a Fallout game, but I got the machine on a Friday and wasn’t going to receive the games I ordered until Monday, so what could I do? I saw FNV on sale and grabbed it. It was actually a pretty perfect way to break in the Xbox, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I have to say I think Fallout 3 edged out over it for me. I wrote about it here.
Borderlands – Just after I got my Xbox Borderlands 2 was released and was getting a lot of attention. Whenever I booted up FNV I’d see everyone else playing it. I’d heard good things about the original game from Dan, and he was kind enough to lend me the first game, so I played that with the intention of burning through it quickly and getting to BL2 with everyone else. That plan didn’t work because I had a ball with Borderlands, and ended up savoring it. The game was like a mixture of everything I like: Diablo-style loot grabbing, Fallout-style setting, Portal-style humor and characters. I loved everything about Borderlands, especially the fact that once I finished it, there was more waiting for me. I wrote about it here.
Borderlands 2 – Everything that Borderlands was, BL2 was more of, and it also included a great bad guy in Handsome Jack. At first some of the (mostly cosmetic) changes kind of bugged me, but I eventually got used to them I even played multiplayer with pals Andrew and Brian! Comparing it to the other game I played this year that was actually released this year, Diablo 3, there’s no contest. Borderlands 2 is D3 with a less tired setting and more interesting plot. Also helps that it doesn’t take itself so seriously. If I was picking a Video Game of the Year, this would probably be it (yes, even over Fallout 3).
Lego Lord of the Rings – And then there was this. Don’t get me wrong: it’s fun and cute, but also frustrating and inexcusably buggy. We had a good time trying to get to 100% completion on it until we realized that it was impossible for us to do so. Hopefully an update will fix these issues but there’s no excuse for this to have been released so undercooked. If this was food and you gave it to Gordon Ramsay he’s yell, “THIS IS [bleep] RAW! YOU’RE GOING TO [bleep] KILL SOMEONE!” at you. In this post I talk about the frustrations, and that was before we found out just how bad the situation was.
Red Dead Redemption — I ordered this with the Xbox, since a lot of my friends play it, but I have barely gotten into it. I’m a little concerned because the brief time I spent playing I actually spent mostly watching, but it was the beginning of the game.
Beautiful Katamari — The other game I bought with the Xbox. It actually hasn’t seen as much play as I’d expect, but it’s always a good time.
Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition (PC) — An absolute must for me, as I really enjoyed the original games, warts and all. I’d have it finished by now except that it’s competing with a bunch of other games for my time, but so far it’s a joy.
Torchlight (PC) — Bought it aeons ago and never got very far into it, even though it’s everything I like in a game. I know there’s an Xbox version, but it feels like a PC game for me, so I’ll keep going with this one.
Fez — Wonderful and charming platformer that I’m worried is going to ultimately make me very frustrated and angry. I’ve been playing for a bit now and still am waiting for the moment when I finally “get” what’s going on and start being able to really tackle some of the puzzles in it. I got a little bit of that last night, but we’ll see. The presence of QR codes in the game has made me super-wary. Anyone know if it’s possible to finish the game with just, I dunno, the game?
Mass Effect — I’ve only just started this one and people tell me the first one is kind of rough and wobbly, but so far, so good. I don’t like that there’s no “jump” button. I don’t necessarily like platform puzzles but I’m a big fan of jumping in general.
Dan loaned me a bunch of games and I tried some out. The ones that we just not my thing were Viva Pinata, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, Fable 2, and Mirror’s Edge. I bought Scott Pilgrim Vs The World in the arcade and Becky and I tried it and weren’t rocked by it. Neither of us has the proper nostalgia buttons for it to push. Andrew sent me his old copy of Dragon Age: Origins and I tried twice for the game to give me something I cared about (Elf weddings? Nope! Dwarven politics? Nope!) I may try again at some point but I might just be done with fantasy for a while. A long while.