This year, rather than attempting to collate our favourite games into rank order, the IncGamers staff decided to each write an individual piece detailing some of the games we really loved. Fans of award ceremonies need not fear, though, as there’ll also be a communal piece in which we’re picking out some of the more peculiar gaming achievements of the year.
While I probably got less time to play as many games as Peter and Tim over the past twelve months, this year I managed to sink a lot more time into new titles. I don’t think it was an outstanding year when it came to games that would appeal to me, but there has been a few surprises.
While some of the new games have impressed, there are also a couple of classics I am throwing onto my list this year, mainly because I’ve spent so much time with them and I still think they should be played by PC gamers.
Torchlight 1 was a success for developer Runic Games, even though they knew that it was pretty much an experimental title to help them develop the Torchlight franchise. When they announced Torchlight 2 there was a mixed response. Some folk didn’t like the cartoony graphics, or they simply didn’t like the fact it was too colourful. Yes, it was the good old debate over whether an ARPG was gloomy enough.
After selling over 1 million copies of the original, making a sequel was a no-brainer and I’m glad they did. It was up against the might of Diablo 3 this year but its features differed so much from Blizzard’s ARPG that it was something neither Torchlight fans or Runic had to worry about.
What Runic created was a fast paced ARPG with itemisation that was actually interesting and worked. The other trump card they had up their collective sleeve was the fact that it was so open, with an in-game console that you could punch in commands to change the game, or – as some might say – cheat. This was a double-edged sword for the game as far as I was concerned; there would be no economy and you could cheat your way through the game if you had no will power.
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Putting that aside, if you played it as intended out of the box, then Torchlight 2 was the ARPG that would keep your finger clicking away on mobs for hours on end. Sure, the story was rather on the thin side, but it was hard to put down.
With more free DLC coming from Runic and also the GUTS game editor, Torchlight 2 is going to stay interesting for some time to come, and with any luck, spawn a vibrant modding community.
Without a doubt, Torchlight 2 will have me going back to it in the months ahead.
Oh, I nearly forgot: it was only $19.99!
Far Cry 3
I’ll readily admit that I only played some of the original Far Cry and didn’t even touch Far Cry 2 because the setting didn’t really appeal, so when Far Cry 3 came along I was pretty indifferent until the PC review copy landed on my desk.
When the game launched on my trusty PC I wasn’t too impressed with the characters (apart from Vaas, of course). The fact I was trying to save a bunch of spoiled brats who stupidly landed on a bunch of islands infested with pirates seemed far-fetched, too, so my relationship with the game had a rocky start.
But Far Cry 3 was visually impressive enough to keep me playing, and within 15-20 minutes I realised that Ubisoft had created something a little special. With its open-world gameplay and gun-toting action, this was one game I had to complete.
Just prior to its release I was also putting together a series of map editor videos for the site which added another dimension to the game for me. I hadn’t attempted any map making since Doom 2 and getting stuck into the easy to use editor was a lot of fun. Needless to say, anything I created won’t be uploaded but it’s a nice feature to have.
What Ubisoft managed create was a game world in which you felt vulnerable, and coupled with some decent AI, a great antagonist and lovely environments, Far Cry 3 turned out to be one of my favourite games of this year.
Far Cry 3 was also one of last big releases of 2012, and although it was hyped before launch, I feel it got somewhat overlooked on PC gamer’s shopping lists.
Natural Selection 2
After taking a year-long break from Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, I was desperate for something new in the online team play arena. When review code dropped for Natural Selection 2 I thought it may just help me get back online and start playing something that required organisation, skill, and that all-important team play element.
Taking on the role of either an alien or a marine, players are primarily tasked with destroying the enemy command centre over a selection of maps. It’s a simple premise at its core… until you add the strategic element of requiring a commander to instruct players to carry out objectives. One would think this was a recipe for disaster.
The commander plays a very different type of game than the normal player: he/she is presented with a top-down view of the map and guides the other players through the game to complete the team’s mission. If you have a commander who doesn’t communicate with other players, or someone who simply doesn’t have a clue what they are doing and how to spend resource points on upgrades, then the team is bound to fail.
What I love about the game is that it’s not simply a shooter about blasting everything in sight – the Aliens are tough critters, with the ability to climb walls adding an extra element to the shooter gameplay. Pouncing on a marine from an air duct is pretty satisfying, too, as they flounder around trying to get you in their sights.
The marines have all the technology and weaponry but they aren’t quite as resilient, making them easy targets for the wall-crawling aliens. They do have some tasty upgrades to weapons and equipment to make the job easier, but fighting aliens in enclosed spaces is still no easy task.
You can’t treat this game as a simple shooter: you need to learn fast and work as a team. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s engrossing and a lot of fun.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert
Okay, so it’s not new, but who cares?
Command & Conquer: Red Alert made it back onto the HD last month due to the fact that it’s now free to download, and it can be still played online. That’s right: using CnCNet, you can easily hook-up with other RA fans for some classic RTS action. Red Alert is probably my favourite RTS of all time and thanks to a dedicated fanbase it lives on.
A must-have game on any PC.
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
I mentioned Quake Wars earlier and it, too, was reinstalled this month. I was pleasantly surprised to see there’s still a reasonable amount of players fighting as the Strogg or GDF, but with a playerbase still intact, ET:QW has now joined Natural Selection 2 on my weekly online game playing list.
With Dirty Bomb coming from Splash Damage, I figured some practice at team coordination was needed and it’s just such a great game if you love team play. It’s the varied objectives that keep you playing map after map, no matter which side you’re playing.
Considering I paid £10 for it 2 years ago, it was a complete steal and it still ranks up there as one of my all-time favourite games. More please Splash Damage! Just make sure Dirty Bomb includes all the game mechanics and features we all know and love in Quake Wars.