The best (and worst) of the year – James Day

Posted December 30, 2012 by James Day in Editorial
Citizen Game - Fez

It may come as a surprise, but we absolutely love games here at Citizen Game. Old games, bad games, big games, whatever. We love to play them and we love to talk about them. Right now everyone else is trying to sort out and definitively list the “best” games of the year, to compile them into Top Ten’s and Best Of’s. We don’t do that because we don’t really care which game was best this year. We only remember the games we love and the ones that have broken our hearts. So, to that end, Citizen Game will be presenting its Best Loved Games and biggest disappointment of 2012 in a series in the run up to Christmas, with staffers taking a moment to reflect on what made their favourite games of the year so special to them. We encourage you to do the same in the comments.


The first, last and only line of defence against the worst scum of the universe

Citizen Game - XCOMEUGOTY

Has there ever been a video game reboot as exceptional as XCOM: Enemy Unknown? I’m struggling to think of one.

Some of the game play concessions may have bothered many XCOM die-hards like myself (the lack of a true randomly generated Geoscape and limited number of pre-set maps are my bugbears) who may whine that the experience was ‘dumbed down’ for the modern audience. But Firaxis managed to stay true to the spirit of the series by keeping its fundamental principals intact, streamlining the game play for a punchier, glossier yet equally as addictive experience.

Those who were expecting a beat for beat copy of UFO: Enemy Unknown (or XCOM: UFO Defense if you live in North America) with an improved presentation were living in a fantasy world. As it stands, the new XCOM serves as a perfect counterpart to the original; while the new one is slick and easy-going, the original is complex and all-encompassing.


Don’t fear the reapers


I’ve never been as emotionally invested with the universe and the cast of characters of a video game series as much as Bioware’s Mass Effect saga. So even when Mass Effect 3, the finale to the Commander Shepard trilogy, landed with several cutting plot and structural problems it was still destined to be one of my picks of the year largely on the strengths of its send-offs for the series’ stunningly well-realised characters.

It’s dark horse co-operative multiplayer was also surprisingly addictive, ensnaring me for several dozen hours. Bioware continues to support it with free meaningful updates like new maps and character classes, too. It’s undoubtedly my multiplayer pick of the year.

And my last word on that original ending; while it was handled poorly I actually liked the three galaxy redefining choices at the conclusion. If you were one of those people whining that Bioware didn’t craft hundreds of different endings to take into account every choice you made throughout the trilogy, you’re a crazy person.


Honourable mentions


I’ve been struggling with a definitive third entry in my list, so here are a bunch of notable titles that I think deserve a shout out:

Kid Icarus Uprising – despite the janky land controls, this is Nintendo firing on all cylinders for the first time in a long time. Refreshing, jam-packed with content and astonishingly well-written, this is a must-have for 3DS.

Fez – forget the fact that its developer said some stupid things this year, Fez is a true achievement in gaming. Beautiful music and art, challenging puzzles and innovative perspective-based game play. The only aspect it lost me on was the cryptic decoding craziness.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy – take the beloved music from the Final Fantasy series and combine it with the rhythm-based game play of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan / Elite Beat Agents and you’re onto a winner. It’s a wonder that Square Enix didn’t do this sooner.


Biggest disappointment
Assassin’s Creed III

Citizen Game - Assassin’s Creed III a

In a year jam-packed with sequels, many of which failed to keep me interested for more than a few hours (Halo 4, Borderlands 2, New Super Mario Bros 2) this particular one managed to aggressively rub me the wrong way.

I was excited to move on from Ezio’s artificially inflated story, experience a new setting and witness the conclusion to Desmond’s far-out modern era arc. Astonishingly, Assassin’s Creed III managed to utterly deflate this interest within the opening handful of hours. Currently, I can’t even drum up the enthusiasm to simply grind out the main story missions and that’s a rarity for me.

It’s pretty fascinating how badly Ubisoft mucked this one up. It isn’t simply a case of returning to the Assassin’s Creed well too often (though that definitely hasn’t helped matters). With the exception of the new naval combat I genuinely can’t think of anything AC III does differently or better than its predecessors.

A meandering plot, sluggish pacing, an often astonishing lack of polish and a protagonist who seems happy to be the errand boy of every historical figure in revolutionary America… need I go on?


About the Author

James Day

James likes video games and writing. He currently works at Microsoft so his opinions are worth even less these days.