By – TruePCGaming Staff
Today, some of the crew here at TPG takes a look back on the eventful year that was 2012. We gather here today on the cusp of the new year to recount some of of favorite experiences, and to warn others of the experiences that left us crying in our showers with the water running cold.
FTL: Faster Than Light captures the essence of what it feels like to be in command of a small vessel flying through hostile space. The top-down perspective and programmer pixel art doesn’t look like it would be immersive and engaging, but once you start playing you’ll be swept into the role of Starship Captain like no other game has managed to do before.
I didn’t want to list Firaxis’s modernization of the classic game because everyone else is going to list it as well, but the game deserves all the praise it gets. Firaxis did a brilliant job of keeping the spirit of the original X-Com: UFO Defense whilst streamlining it for a modern audience.
I can’t begin to tell you how much I love Cypher. It’s one of those games haunts me weeks after I’ve finished it, simply because it is so well written, packed with memorable moments and characters. It made this list in spite of a frustrating parser and translation issues, as well, which should speak volumes for the quality of the overall experience.
(Armaan is still speechless due to how much he loves this game, apparently)
The premise of Dangerous, essentially a single-player EVE, was captivating and the first couple hours were great, but a downright stupid story coupled with poor production values and a universe that was simply no fun to explore killed the experience.
I’m not sure if this was a 2012 release but I received it in 2012 with a Humble Bundle, which is why it’s here. Wizorb tried to capitalize on the trend of adding RPG elements to a random genre, and while this method has produced some fabulous games in the past, Wizorb turned out to be a tedious chore to play. It was slow, it was boring, and I gave up on it after an hour or so. The irony is that same Humble Bundle contained Shatter, which is also a brick-breaking game, and which is an absolute blast to play.
Alawar makes some top-notch hidden-object games, but I can never recommend any of them because they also have the most odious installers I have ever encountered. These installers try their best to put adware onto your system for no reason other than to line Alawar’s pockets with advertising revenue. You can opt out of the adware, but the process is overly complicated to the point that it’d just be simpler to save your hidden-object dollars for a company that actually respects you as a customer.
- Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams:
I know this one isn’t getting mentioned in too many game of the year lists, and I promise I’m not just trying to be a contrarian here. I really love the hell out of this game! It perfectly captures the magic of everything that made the greatest 16 bit platformers so amazing, paired with an incredible soundtrack, lovely visuals, and a perfectly calculated difficulty curve. I know a lot of people might roll their eyes at a cartoony platformer with a bunch of gems to collect, but there are very few games out there that do it as well as this one.
I don’t really know what I can say about this game that hasn’t already been said. Everyone has been comparing this one to the likes of Thief, System Shock, and Deus Ex. I can completely see why, because it’s great for all the same reasons as some of those all-time favorites. It’s exactly the kind of amazingly open ended first person game that people will still be playing through years from now.
It’s like Mike mentioned in his review – XCOM is one of those games that has a few glaringly obvious problems and issues that would be huge annoyances in other games, but everything else is so great that those faults seem comparatively minor. This was a stellar return for a beloved franchise that walked a fine line between capturing the charm of the old school XCOM games without completely alienating new players. NOTE: I do not intend for “alienating” to be a pun.
This outstanding 2D sidescrolling interpretation of a stealth action game had me absolutely glued to my PC. I’ve actually been sitting here for a few minutes trying to think of a way to perfectly explain why this game was such a great experience. It’s a formula I wouldn’t have expected to work so well, but now it seems like an absolute no brainer. I couldn’t recommend it more to anyone with even a passing interest in stealth games.
Honorable Mention: Torchlight II, Legend of Grimrock, Walking Dead, Resonance
I hate to go against the grain here, but as a regular guy I simply don’t really feel qualified to speculate on “the worst” PC games of 2012. Realistically, I’m sure the worst games were crappy shovelware titles about managing box factories or hunting foxes. The thing is, I generally don’t play those “obviously garbage” games. While I can think of a few games this year that didn’t quite live up to my expectations or were disappointments in one way or another (e.g. Max Payne 3, Diablo 3, the janky PC port of Darksiders 2), I don’t think it’s really fair to say that these are “bad” games, let alone some of the “worst” games of the year. I honestly can’t think of anything I’ve played this year that I would say is truly bad, but maybe this will change once Adam starts demanding that I review Swordfish Champion 7 or Best Buy’s PC Game Return Policy.
- Wargame: European Escalation:
This is one of the best strategy games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. There is a certain kind of force that keeps pulling back into playing Wargame: European Escalation. It’s the type of game where I sit back and watch my giant army crush everything in its path; but rather, the game where every match is a different one and that uncertainty is what keeps me playing. Each match calls for a different plan and different army. Even if the plan my team comes up with fails and I end up watching my army burn up in flames, I’ll always come back for that uncertainty, whether in tears or in renewed confidence.
- Sniper Elite V2:
So, I guess I’ll just sit back and pick off Nazis… but wait I have to move across town and assassinate some important German. While it’s really cool to see your bullets fly through skulls with the bullet cam, it gets repetitive. Of course, you can always turn it off, but then there’s only so much you can do. There’s not a lot of action going on because, well, you’re a sniper. As a simulator, it’s a pretty solid game, but I’m not sure what else to expect from a game like this.
- Drox Operative:
Half of what I love about STALKER meets half of what I love about Diablo in a game all its own. You can get lost in this for hours, or enjoy it for just a few minutes at a time. Leveling without stat smashing, and high action with actual diplomatic choices, this was an ideal game to close 2012 on.
- Borderlands 2:
Everything Borderlands was, but this time with proper PC support, delightful visual touches, and a despicable villain.
- Torchlight 2:
The traditional Action RPG perfected with features like offline LAN play, and innovations in skill trees while respecting player choice.
- Black Ops 2:
Iterating everywhere iteration was needed while still providing 60fps gameplay, a sympathetic but genuine villain, player choice, and abundantly feature rich multiplayer.
- Diablo 3:
“New Tristram” is not the most innovative setting, and unfortunately the primary innovations were in patently bad ideas. Who thought we needed more latency in single player? Undermining the action with lag, and removing the last vestiges of RPG with their gutted leveling system left us with a rendition more akin to Zynga than the Blizzard that once had me returning Ogden’s sign, or avenging Wirt’s leg.
Largely indistinguishable weapon variety for minute improvements that lasted until an enemy spawned at a higher level. An archaic save system which made it incompatible with an active life, and combat which often felt more like work than the game itself. Levels and XP used to such an extent that I am growing to resent them and wish game design would mature beyond it.
- Black Ops 2:
6th times the charm? Not likely, despite Black Ops 2′s improvements and ambitions, it still falls into the same gameplay traps as every Call of Duty on back to Modern Warfare. Is it among the worst? Not necessarily, but it is very difficult to overlook the same failings repeated by multiple developers and franchises over 6 releases, and it compounds the disappointment. Map packs could in theory save the day if some are released which reward weapons other than the SMGs, but doubtful due to console support and framerate issues of larger expanses with the improved visuals.
Remember what Bioshock did for storytelling in games? It created a believable Ayn Rand ideology-riddled underwater interpretation of Paradise Lost on drugs. Irrational Games crafted a world that would live in the minds of millions of gamers with their near-perfect anti-villain Andrew Ryan. Arkane Studios has not only emulated the dystopian morass of depression that was Rapture in their equally enthralling city of Dunwall, but they may have finally perfected the stealth genre that Thief attempted to conquer so many years ago.
Never before have I felt so empowered by a game, becoming a master assassin with the otherworldly powers to teleport behind unsuspecting victims trumps any satisfaction I ever received completing a kill in the Assassins Creed series. Everything from the believable characters, the enrapturing storyline, to the overall superior quality of all elements designed into this experience makes Dishonored one of the best games I have played in the past 5 years.
- Borderlands 2:
The original Borderlands left me with an itch that no other game could scratch. It was a provocative beast that was based in the tame origins of gear grind MMO’s, but stirred in a salacious world of slack-jawed cannibals and irrefutably poignant gutter humor. In the years that followed its release, no other title even attempted the emulate the psychotic shooter due to the unique staying power it presented.
Recognizing their faults to the point of self-referential jabs at the previous game, Gearbox took the series to the next level by introducing a veritable bevy of improvements in the sequel. Everything from visual presentation, loot distribution/progression, to the overall feel and design of the game has been enhanced to mind-numbing levels. In a gigantic nod to the PC crowd, Gearbox went out of their way to integrate PhsyX into the game in order to present some of the best particle effects in commercially released software to date. Simply put, when it comes to first person shooters in 2012, Borderlands takes the midget-packed cake.
The best stealth game of the last 10 years. Period. Exclamation point.
When I received Firaxis’ take on the classic strategy series that died a rather slow death over the years, I was skeptical, to say the least. As I said in my review, turn-based games had slipped from my view over the years, as other genres were redefining themselves in the modern age. Hence my absolute bewilderment as I quickly passed the 30 hour mark of gameplay; I was hooked on building my squadron of pew-pew laser welding badasses. There is simply too much to do for it to be covered in one play through. The many paths to take, mistakes to regret, and the insatiable need to get an “A” rating each month makes X-COM a game you will revisit time and time again.
- Shogun 2: Fall Of The Samurai:
If the sobering poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae had a Feudal Japanese equivalent, Fall Of The Samurai is of the same ilk. Although Shogun 2 was already an incredible title with hundreds of hours of gameplay, Fall Of The Samurai not only adds the same amount of content as in the original, it also takes what I previously thought to be a perfect RTS and make it perfect-er.
Turning the clock forward to the Americanization of Japan by the introduction of firearms, you can almost see Tom Cruise bull-rushing down the evergreen fields to his likely demise during certain battles. Not only satisfied by streamlining some already effortless processes, the game adds much-needed improvements in sea combat to the point where it could stand as its own title.
There are not many DLC titles I can wholeheartedly recommend as an essential addition to a game, but Fall Of The Samurai is nothing less than must-have.
In the beautifully dark and gritty retro movie masterpiece Drive, Ryan Gosling impeccably molded himself into an enigmatic killer with a penchant for silent justice. With a killer soundtrack and brutally honest murder scenes, it made stomachs turn and critics applaud. Viewers wanted to be in Gosling’s shoes, the silent and efficient protagonist forced into morally questionable crossroads. Hotline Miami violently interprets Drive and lets players live out their crimson-soaked fantasies of murder menageries while bobbing their head to cocaine-infused beats.
The unrelenting requirement to plan out and execute everyone in the room with lightning fast reflexes is a twitch game loving enthusiasts wet dream and a perfectionists worst nightmare. The unforgiving nature of the game evokes the maniacal memories of Super Meat Boy testing our inner masochist. Hotline Miami is everything Super Meat Boy embodied, except it has guns, and more meat.
Sine Mora, To The Moon, Black Mesa, Guild Wars 2
- Diablo 3:
Let me start off by saying I was moderately excited for Blizzards long-awaited, much heralded third installment into the dungeon crawling epic Diablo series. The buzz surrounding this game was palpable, and it was almost too easy to get sucked in. After spending countless hours gearing my Demon Hunter, I realized that I was simply not having fun. The endless server crashes, rubberbanding issues, Auction House foul-ups, unbalanced Inferno Mode, and Blizzards refusal to implement a PvP mode left a bad taste in my mouth. If there was ever an iconic example of how to simultaneously anger and alienate your player base in 2 short months, here it is.
Marvin’s Mittens is a peaceful platformer accompanied by tight controls and beautiful visuals. Based on past experiences of the development team growing up in Canada, Marvin’s Mittens sees the player collecting magical snowflakes, helping elves and sketching wild animals. Above all else, Marvin is on a journey to track down the individual who stole his mitten.
When you successfully combine the 1980s arcade racer Super Sprint with a pinch of of Mirco Machines you have the recipe for quite a wild ride. Bang Bang Racing is a top-down racer with tons of personality and addicting gameplay. However, if you are sensitive to motion sickness, it would be wise to try the demo first.
Even though I am personally horrible with puzzle games, A Virus Named TOM still found a place on my list. Oozing its Jeston’s-equse art style and amusing storyline, TOM quickly became a lesson in frustration all the while loving every minute of play time.
There are so few sports games on the PC these days. I certainly hope Beast Boxing Turbo does well enough for Goodhustle Studios so they can continue delivering on an already polished experience. Take note, Beast Boxing Turbo is downright hard. You will die a plethora of times, but enjoy each re-match.
Sometimes a game releases early in the year, and because of this, it is often forgotten. Dustforce will be forever burned into my memory as one of the best, and most difficult, PC gaming platformers I have ever played.
- Drip Drip:
The Dash/Time Management genre saw a return to glory with the adorable, yet frantic, Drip Drip. The country has been hit with a massive storm and it becomes your job to save buildings in major US cities from destruction. You will need to use every tool in your arsenal to fight the rising waters and bring peace to each town.
We are not shy with our opinions, and you shouldn’t be either. Voice your opinion below if you feel like we missed something, or if you disagree with our 2012 Compendium Of Awesomeness.