I have created a text file every year since 2010 that lists every game I played that year and the order in which I enjoyed them. Now that my blog is operational and I started the #GamesOfTheYear tag in 2017 I felt it was time to look back at those text files and record them here for posterity.
I am going to attempt to not write too much about each game because otherwise it will take me weeks if not months to transcribe all of these text files. My goal is to write a simple one or two line description of the game and what I think I felt about it back when it was first played.
1. The Walking Dead
I did not play Telltale Games' The Walking Dead when it was first released because I was not a fan of episodic games. I did not like the idea of having to wait months (if not years) to be able to completely finish a story-driven game. When the final episode of season one was released in November of 2017 I gave in and could not have been more pleased with my decision. The Walking Dead is an absolutely amazing game that everyone should play.
The characters were well written and had true growth as the story progressed. The post-apocalyptic landscape weighed down the survivors and you could see them change with every gut-wrenching decision that had to be made. This is one of the few games where the decisions I made truly haunted me. They weren't all "choose X or Y and someone will die". Seemingly insignificant choices could slowly snowball and before you knew it you were headed down a path towards tragedy where your only outcome was to try and choose the lesser of two evils. By the end of the game I had crafted a story that was strictly my own. The writers and designers gave me the pieces but I put them together into something that was truly personal.
2. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
My favourite video game of all-time is X-COM: UFO Defense. I wrote fanfic for that game for fucks sake! So when a spiritual successor called XCOM: Enemy Unknown was announced I was over the moon and completely terrified at the same time. I was paranoid that the developers at Firaxis would try to update the game for "modern audiences" and take away what made the original so special to me. Luckily, Firaxis had an ace up their sleeve in the form of their lead designer, Jake Solomon, who was just as crazy an X-COM fan as I.
While they did modernize many aspects of the game (I still want action points but understand why they reduce it to just two actions per character) the core concepts were still there. Taking a small group of soldiers into combat with equipment and weaponry I built and making tough tactical decisions where mistakes would routinely cost my soldiers their lives. That is X-COM. I got just as attached to my soldiers this time around as I did almost 20 years ago when I played the original game.
After many "That's XCOM baby" moments (such as my highest ranked soldier panicking and killing my second highest ranked) I finally managed to beat XCOM on Classic Ironman difficulty which I still consider to be one of my greatest gaming achievements.
I will leave you with this anecdote as a sign of how much I loved this game. At PAX East 2013 I stumbled upon Greg Foertsch and Jake Solomon sitting on the steps behind the 2K Games booth. I proceeded to quietly shamble around the booth hoping to find a way to talk to them when another Firaxis employee, Pete Murray, noticed me and asked if I would like to be introduced to his colleagues. I somehow managed to say yes and not only got to have a conversation with some of my video game heroes but they also signed my PAX badge. I don't know what else I need to do to convince you how much I loved this game.
I am usually not a fan of stealth games because I typically do not have the patience that is required. But stealth-action games have been making a comeback recently (see Deus Ex: Human Revolution) and so I decided to give Dishonored a shot.
I was not prepared for the truly open world, non-linear gameplay that Dishonored provided. The amount of ways you could tackle every level was flabbergasting. I never felt trapped or forced into a certain solution to a problem. I would just wander around until something worth investigating caught my eye and then usually be shocked to see how I could leverage it to solve my problem. Also the game prodded you to play in a non-lethal manner which I usually dislike but this time it was just enough of a push to make me think beyond the default "murder and hide the body" solution.
The story was engaging (if not a little tropey) but it was the environments that really sucked you in. Each level felt like a real place that people inhabited and not some playground that was build just for the player. Exploring all the nooks and crannies would always reveal something interesting and potential useful to your current predicament. Even to this day I think that Dishonored has two of the greatest levels in video game history. The masquerade ball and brothel will be used for decades as perfect examples of how to make non-linear levels.
4. Halo 4
I am utterly shocked that Halo 4 is rated so high. I have absolutely no positive memories of this game as of 2018. Looking back at my Twitter it seems like past-Reid found the campaign rather meh and was not a fan of the enemies. Apparently the multiplayer was decent and I probably enjoyed playing the co-op with some of my University buddies but I still can't believe this is rated the fourth best game of 2012.
5. Pokémon White 2
For my Games of the Year 2011 article I wrote "I honestly don't remember playing Pokémon White" and I could write that exact same thing for this article except with a 2 appended to the end. Seriously, my mind is thoroughly blank when it comes to Pokémon Black 2 and White 2. Was I drunk or something when I made this list?
6. Counter Strike: Global Offensive
It is impossible to look back on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and not be bias. It has become one of the perennial eSport's and I may have watched more CS:GO than played all other games on this list combined. I honestly can't even remember what Counter Strike: Global Offensive was like back in 2012 because it has changed so much in the last six years. I even went back to CS:GO in 2015 when a couple of friends picked it up again. Those are the kinds of legs this game has.
7. Diablo III
In my mind Diablo III was a complete failure because of the real money auction house. It changed the core component of Diablo which was always looking for that next loot drop because it may be a sick new weapon or piece of armor that could make you so much stronger. In Diablo III they made it so 99% of the loot that was dropped was useless to you. You would sell all your loot for gold, buy the best gear you could afford from the auction house and then rinse and repeat. Sometimes you would get some enjoyment out of fighting the enemies but mostly you were in a boring grind for gold to buy yourself some new armor that someone else had found.
Blizzard eventually realized the boneheaded mistake they had made and killed the real money auction house and improved loot drops but by then I was long done with the game. There were too many other great games worth playing to come back to one that was so hostile to its players.
8. Far Cry 3
"Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?"
Every time I think of that quote I get shivers. Vaas Montenegro is one of the greatest villains ever in a video game and he elevated Far Cry 3. I was excepting a very rote story and while it was that in many ways, every time Vaas appeared on screen Michael Mando's amazing performance would just reach out and grab you.
You combine that with an open world that was packed to the brim with things to do and you had the recipe for a fun game. Random enemy outposts that you had to conduct surveillance on before going John Wick on their asses. Massive "Ubisoft towers" to locate and climb. Hunting animals to craft better weaponry and equipment. Fucking hang gliders that you could fly around in!
One mission I will never forget is where you had to burn down some marijuana crops and while you are doing so Make It Bun Dem by Skrillex and Damian Marley is playing on repeat in the background.
Not much to say about Fez. It is an interesting puzzle game with a unique mechanic that I just got bored playing after about an hour or so. I cannot say anything particularly negative about it other than it was just not that interesting to me at the time.
10. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is a fairly standard third-person action role-playing game. I was excited for it because it was designed by Ken Rolston (lead designer of Morrowind) and written by R. A. Salvatore (author of the Drizzt novels). However after playing it for a couple of hours the combat and the story just didn't grab me so I put the game down and just never picked it back up again.
11. Mass Effect 3
I could (and probably should) write a whole series of articles on Mass Effect 3. But let's try to keep this as brief as possible. Yes it was an amazing game. Probably better than Mass Effect 2 in almost every way. There was tons of fan service for the diehards who had played every game in the trilogy. Like The Walking Dead, you had to make really hard decisions that had far reaching consequences. Many props need to be given to Bioware for Mass Effect 3.
So why is it so low on my list? Because of the ending. Even six years later I still cannot begin to forgive it. The Mass Effect series was built on the idea that player choices meant something and it carried this through 99% of the trilogy. But then at the very end of Mass Effect 3, it throws all of those choices away and commits the cardinal sin for the ending to a story. It presents you with a deus ex machina decision. Did you want the red, green or blue ending? The entire universe is going to be altered by this change so absolutely nothing you did previously matters.
I loved Mass Effect 3, I truly did. But I do not think I will ever be able to overlook how it was ended.
12. Assassin's Creed III
Assassin's Creed III was just a boring game. The cities were bland and the architecture was not interesting to traverse. The forested areas were even worse. I don't understand who thought a game franchise that was based on parkouring across rooftops needed to go to sparsely populated wooded areas. The combat was uninteresting at best and frustrating at worst. The main character was monotonous and had almost no growth over the entire game.
And like Mass Effect 3 it had a absolutely horrible ending which is why it is the worst game I played in 2012.#GamesOfTheYear