My Games of 2013 – Darrell
I’ve been something of a negligent father this year in games: raucous little shits bouncing around me, screaming “Da” while The Last of Us stares with broken eyes from her half-destroyed blanket fort. It’s a seedy blanket hovel at best. I’ve been consumed by others things, though; I’ve hardly noticed the guttersnipes.
What little time I have had has been largely dominated by an MMORPG:
GUILD WARS 2
As someone who wasn’t particularly smitten with the first Guild Wars, this one was met with a great deal of skepticism. The genre devours time, and I didn’t want to find myself married to the grind of a dull taskmaster. So it was that I found myself delightfully surprised by Guild Wars 2. While it isn’t without its blemishes—namely some balancing issues, bugs, and end-game fumbles—ArenaNet succeeded in enhancing the fun, player-friendly aspects of the genre while doing away with or dampening the less welcome mainstays. I’ve never felt as if the game were seeking my throat, working against my progress like in other MMORPGs. The opposite, actually: Guild Wars 2 was there every step of the way, urging me onward to further glory.
I won’t go on to detail the many improvements found in the game. That’d be review material, and a lengthy review at that. I will say that I especially appreciated the encouraged exploration: Guild Wars 2 doesn’t stop at the usual reward of scenic environments. While those are more than welcome—and brimming with life besides—the game goes a step further by granting expeditionists treasure and level experience. Tangentially, I cannot say “expeditionists” without tempting “exhibitionists” to leap off my palate.
If I had to pluck another of its many laudable traits, I’d praise the gear acquisition system. Obtaining end-game gear is a breeze. You won’t find yourself jumping through hoops to be fully geared. Heck, you can jump right into structured PvP; all the armor you could ask for is on-hand and free. Skins are another story altogether, but they’re also entirely superficial.
Between the adventures of exploring, sprawling server versus server PvP, highly competitive structured PvP, dungeons, personal story, bi-weekly living world events, and overall accessibility of the content, I’d gladly seat Guild Wars 2 alongside genre giants like World of Warcraft, Ultima Online, and Everquest.
ATELIER AYESHA: THE ALCHEMIST OF DUSK
When it comes to annual games, there’s a well-deserved stigma attached. They often suffer from hastened development time. Fortunately, the Atelier series has managed to avoid that pitfall. Better still: Ayesha is the most polished, refined Atelier yet. The game mechanics and presentation are easily the strongest to date. There’s a vivid, multifarious evolution on display here, the sort you’d hope to expect from the latest entry in a series. But that alone doesn’t make the game memorable or praiseworthy. It shines most where it does not.
Those tenebrous hallways not often visited by the traditionally jaunty, merry-go-happy franchise. Atelier Ayesha is decidedly darker when contrasted with its ancestors. The atmosphere is more often grim, a reflection of a world in late decline. While the blithesome mood native to the series is still very much alive, it’s thriving under cloudy skies. The story, the characters, the environment, the soundtrack—oh, the soundtrack—they’re all cast a shade darker.
After playing Atelier Ayesha, one can truly look forward to its sequel, Atelier Escha & Logy, whose title alone suggests impending catastrophe.
BALDUR’S GATE ENHANCED EDITION
Yes, it released 16 years ago; yes, it’s long been widely acclaimed. The Enhanced Edition didn’t have to do much. Baldur’s Gate was already a monolith of role-playing games. And while what Beamdog did do could have been achieved in some part by mods, the result was a comprehensive version more 2013-friendly. Something you’d expect from a retail release, not an amalgam of mods. Online play, which previously lay somewhere between irritating and infuriating, now runs slick as a puddle of gibberling guts. That would have been enough for me; I’m a real glutton for coop. But Beamdog went a step further in integrating high-resolution support, ironing out old bugs, and introducing a massive chunk of game content from Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn (class kits, subraces, and classes).
As a pleasant bonus we get three new recruitable NPCs, most notably Neera the Wild Mage. She’s a darling, an entertaining lass through and through—suitably flighty and unpredictable.
“Casting wild magic is like playing a flute by ear. In magical terms, I can play a pretty mean tune, but when I miss a note the flute shoots fire at everyone.”
And if you fill her spellbook with Nahal’s Reckless Dweomer like I did, well, the endless chaos is a hoot. Maybe you’ll save the party.
Or destroy it. Like the time I summoned a Glabrezu in the depths of some catacombs.
Saints Row IV
Fire Emblem: Awakening