Thomas Faust, Steven Smith, David Queener and Armaan Khan punch their ballots for the 2013 PC GOTY. Please note the titles mentioned below are their own personal choices and do not speak for TPG as a whole.
Out of the few games I played last year that were actually released in 2013, two titles stand out for taking that whole notion of what video games are about and then thoroughly questioning it. The first one, Gone Home, shows just how important good writing is for just about every piece of art that relies on words. The game’s scenario feels authentic because of what is said, how it is said, and also what is left unsaid. It’s good to see a game taking its audience seriously without force-feeding them every tiny bit of story. However, from a design standpoint, Gone Home feels like Doom without the monsters. It’s very much “find the red keycard” all over again, while you’re being led along a very linear path. This is not an inherently bad thing, but it feels at odds with the rest of the game somehow.
Which leads me from the runner-up to my game of the year. Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons is a game about so many things. This is not meant as a cheap cop-out to avoid telling you what it actually is about. There are so many things going on under its exterior. Love, sorrow, trust, fear, desire, foolishness, rage… all of this in the context of an adventure game that is brave enough to deviate from the well-trodden path that these kinds of games usually go down.
But contrary to Gone Home, Brothers feels like a proper game. It has puzzles, uses some comfortably familiar fantasy tropes, and even the achievements don’t feel out of place here. It revels in its own gameyness, and that’s the reason it works so well. When most parts of the game already feel familiar, then the ones that don’t have so much more of an impact. There are a few scenes in Brothers that are so exceptionally well done that they carry the whole game, like the end of your first flight or that moment related to the controls near the very end, which manages to tug at your heartstrings like few others did in 2013. It’s very short, and I’m not sure I’ll ever play it again, but Brothers was definitely worth experiencing.
There were a lot of great games released in 2013. Fighting for the top spot on my list were some notable indie gems like Don’t Starve and Papers, Please. However there is one title that stands out, in part because it surprised me but mostly because I have played it more than any other game on my PC.
I’m giving my Best Game of the Year title to Shadow Warrior. I was prepared to be be disappointed in this reboot. Indeed there were several patches needed at release and the first few levels delivered the type of linear gameplay I didn’t want to see. The developers promised an Old School gaming feel but it played, at first, like every other modern shooter. As I progressed, the gameplay and level design began to change and by the halfway point I was really feeling the Old School influences. Extremely satisfying combat (especially sword combat), excellent graphics and a not too clichéd story makes Shadow Warrior an absolute blast to play.
I have no particular Game of the Year. Honestly I was rather let down by 2013 as a whole, and it felt like games had regressed not just in their art form, but in forgetting the lessons of the past. Coupled with a general lack of innovation even in technology, which typically can be taken for granted in an industry of screenshots and trailers, and it feels like 2013 almost didn’t happen for me.
So that being said, the Game of the Year for me is the original Doom. 20 years ago it released, and 20 years later through the community and Carmack’s decision to open up the source code, it still runs great on modern systems and regularly receives new high quality content with interesting additions and refinements. It is my #2 game personally, and it remains one of the most vibrant and alive games well beyond the lifespans of multiple platforms. Yeah, I know, it wasn’t released in 2013, but when you consider the sheer quantity of high quality content, we get at least two new Dooms a year, and that is a wonderful thing.
There are several contenders for my 2013 GOTY. Indie music/rhythm gems Bollywood Wannabe and Retro/Grade worked their way into my heart early on. The former provided unique and upbeat tracks along with a fun storyline that brought true joy to my heart. The latter offered a more traditional techno-music experience, but wrapped it in a clever premise that I found appealing. Hitman: Absolution also proved to be a winner, despite my constant moaning about how the gaming world focuses too much on violence. There’s just something about Hitman, though, that won me over right from the start.
I could go the completely opposite route and say Proteus was the best. That’s a game where, literally, all you do is walk around a mysterious island. There’s nothing to shoot, nor anything to interact with. You just wander around and watch the seasons change until the game ends. I loved it to bits but, as Omar’s review will attest to, it’s not an experience for everyone. Speaking of experiences that aren’t for everyone, I’m tempted to pick the grossly underrated Seduce Me, a fantastic game that nobody gave a fair shake to because they couldn’t see past its erotic trappings. Which is a shame, because Seduce Me is actually pretty good once you wrap your head around its mechanics.
Ultimately, however, my GOTY nod goes to Toki Tori 2+. It’s a puzzle-platformer, which is a genre I normally loathe, but some smart Metroidvania-esque level design, combined with vibrant, cheerful art, and puzzles that are actually solvable by a mere mortal such as myself make it a game that is well worth playing by anyone and everyone.