My Games of 2013 – Dean
My 2013 in gaming has been severely lacking on previous years, having experienced both sides of the money:time equation. The first half of the year having all the time but none of the money to get games, and in the latter half I had the money but the lack of time to play them. So, for the most part, my year has been spent playing through my backlog, meaning a lot of non-2013 games, or playing on my phone where games are cheap, and easy to fit into the day.
This is the only game I’ve played from 2013 in 2013, so it ends up here by default. It was an enjoyable game, and certainly very, very pretty. But I feel that, compared to its predecessors, it didn’t entirely live up to the expectations set by Rapture or Infinite’s initial announcement adverts, which became increasingly scaled back as time passed and the game became delayed from 2012 to early 2013. Probably one of the largest failings it has over the original Bioshock is a lack of sense of place. Rapture felt like it was on the seafloor, its walls dripping with water, watertight doors throughout, puddles along the floors, and the glass corridors allowing you to see across the seabed. But in Columbia, rarely, beyond some of the early moments, would you feel like you were floating high above the sky. The airborne environment was rarely used to full effect and many parts of the game would have worked on terra firma. For a game that’s only the third in the series, and the first not set in Rapture, it relies on nostalgia and references a few too many times, such as opening with a lighthouse, and the closing of the game in Rapture. I feel that had Infinite chosen to break further from the mechanics, themes and tropes from the original it might, in the long term, be more favourably looked upon; the comparisons with the highly well-done and polished Bioshock much harder to make. The highlight of the game, however, was the use of the game’s tears in reality, which lead to many modern songs played in a 1920s vibe. As you enter Columbia you’re welcomed by a floating barbershop quartet rendition of God Only Knows, and later, a bar’s jukebox plays a jazz cover of Tainted Love. There’s many of these little snippets throughout that were a nice touch to the game.
Simpsons Tapped Out
I’ve found myself playing quite a few mobile games of late. A combination of having a much better phone than previously, Amazon’s Free App of the Day, and a general improvement in the kind of games coming to Android devices lately, thanks to a combination of HIB, Ouya, and increasing market share. So I guess it was inevitable that one of my top games this year would be a mobile one. And in this case, I’ve picked out Tapped Out as my top mobile title. The premise of Tapped Out is simple. Homer gets distracted playing his myPad game, which leads to a meltdown of the plant, blowing up Springfield. It is now your task to rebuild the town. I’ve being playing it since March and have quite a neat little Springfield built up. It’s overall a rather simple game, you build stuff, set your characters on tasks and wait, then tap for cash, then repeat. But I find its IAP model is relatively decent, you can (and I have) get by without paying a penny, it’s regularly updated with themed events and new levels. When I started, there was a level cap of about 25 or so, and now they’re up to level 37, with the addition of the sea port and Krustyland to help build a bit of variety. The storylines in the game are somewhat fun, and the (increasingly regular) breaking of the fourth wall is tastefully done. Since it’s all on timers it’s quite easy to fit around my daily tasks, set everyone doing something for 8 hours and come collect the dosh on the bus back from work. The game is fun to compare with this year’s disastrous launch of EA’s other city-building game; SimCity. Despite being a mobile game, and certainly not the kind of flagship game you would expect SimCity to be, Tapped Out has likely been the much more popular game for EA, and it’s certainly been much more stable and updated fairly frequently
Far Cry 3
This would be my top game of the year. Beautiful scenery to explore, a fun range of weapons, the ability to take on bases how you feel, and a nice bit of psychedelic set pieces that you can only really fully make use of in a game. The story follows the descent of Jason Brody from rich city kid to tribal jungle killer. He meets a cast of interesting characters while trying to avenge one brother and find his other brother and friends. As you progress your city friends react to the change in Jason/the player as they get used to the killings of hundreds of soldiers across the island and the atrocities committed by and against him. It’s one of only a handful games I’ve seen that makes note of the massive amount of death the player leaves in their path, Uncharted 2 being my first and most memorable “How many have died by your hand and you call me a monster?”. It’s not perfect at this, mind, and would have been nice for a pacifist option, but then that’s not really the point of the game. You aren’t surrounded by predatory animals, psychopathic killers, and PMC and tribal soldiers to wind up with a character that’ll go around just knocking folks out. Compared to Far Cry 2, it improves in many ways. Bases are cleared out permanently instead of re-spawning soldiers moments later, it’s much easier to save the game instead of the safe house system, and Jason doesn’t have malaria (which is a plus in any game, really). While not as big a feature as it was in Far Cry 2, the fire system is still in place too which is always rather fun. The ability to set animals onto soldiers is a fun way to clear out bases, too. The only major complaint I have about the game is that the inventory system is pretty unwieldy and having to hunt down and skin specific animals to get your upgraded gear lead to some harsh pauses in the flow of the game, to the point where my second play-through I made sure to get most of the hunted animals and watchtowers out of the way before blasting through the story. The large amount of collectibles in the game are also easily ignored for the most part, leading to only a handful of perks and achievements. But it wouldn’t be a Ubisoft game without a ton of pointless collectible items.
I likely won’t change up too much in the coming year, with an ever growing backlog of brilliant games, and a new PC to play them on, in 2014 many of my top games will likely be from 2013 and earlier. Hopefully this time next year I’ll be writing about Watch_Dogs and Witcher 3, or some quirky indie title to have come from the sidelines.