The Best (and Worst) of 2013 – James Day
Best loved games
Fire Emblem: Awakening
For me, this just narrowly edges out several other 3DS heavy-hitters due to the sheer number of hours of my life it’s sucked away (over 134 hours, if you’re wondering).
Some Fire Emblem purists are arguing that Awakening’s open-ended structure and the resulting ability to grind levels ruins the skill of the game. Yet what it loses in hardcore min-maxing appeal it more than makes up for in customisation. It grants you the freedom to experiment with the huge range of characters and classes, not to mention enabling other features new to the series like StreetPass battles and downloadable missions.
Add in the usual addictive core game play, beautiful presentation, loveable cast of characters and a heap of optional fan service, Awakening set the ball rolling for an incredible year of 3DS releases.
X and Y essentially delivered on everything critics and fans of Pokemon had been crying out for for years. Polygonal 3D graphics? Check. Surfacing the quasi-mystical EV stat training? Check. Making classic original generation monsters relevant again? Check. Sped up levelling to greatly reduce grinding? Check.
Shockingly, Nintendo even implemented robust online game play, something they’ve rarely done properly outside of the Mario Kart series.
Initially, there was some griping about the lack of post-game/post-Elite Four content but now that we’ve had time to understand the game properly it’s clear that there’s still plenty to do after becoming Pokemon champ, including revisiting the ever changing Battle Château.
This is Pokemon experience refined to the sharpest point. How Nintendo and Game Freak can make a better entry in this series is beyond me.
Saints Row IV
Saints Row IV might be more Crackdown than Grand Theft Auto now (not that I’m complaining) but it evokes the warm, fuzzy feelings intrinsic to a great sequel. It’s an outright love letter to Saints Row, sporting dozens of returning characters and actors, numerous flashbacks and call backs and, amazingly, meaningful character development.
The knowing, over-the-top humour that crystallised in Saints Row: The Third still resonates as our cast shrug and deadpan their way through the increasingly ridiculous alien invasion/Matrix parody/ post-apocalyptic story.
You’ll probably need to have played SR:TT to get the full intended effect, but, unless you really don’t like the series’ sense of humour, it’s more than worth it.
XCOM: Enemy Within
Considering last year’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown graced so many game of the year lists, I find it odd that very few people seem to be talking about its first proper expansion.
That’s a damn shame because Enemy Within is ace. Though I admit I love Firaxis’ XCOM so much that I’d have been happy with just a big stack of new maps, EW delivered that and so much more. New mission types, aliens, genetic and augmentations mods for your troops and a traitorous alien-loving paramilitary faction named EXALT to combat.
The only bummer is that the ending is exactly the same as before and there doesn’t seem to be any Enemy Within-related statistics surfaced at the final results screen.
While Bioshock Infinite isn’t a terrible game, it wasn’t the second coming of Bioshock that we were promised. In fact, with a flawed mind-bending plot, apparent lack of any meaningful message and game play that’s refused to move on from 2007, to me it feels more like a step back for the series. Again, it’s by no means a bad game but considering all of the hype, all of our hopes and its missed potential, it’s certainly my biggest disappointment on 2013.