It’s that time of year again. The rain gets colder, rum goes on sale in my local supermarket, and it suddenly becomes acceptable to be drunk in the middle of the day. The most magical time of the year (after Halloween, obviously). So before I set off to spend time with my family and celebrate the solstice by eating one of every animal, I thought I’d give you the gift of joy.
My joy. Here’s the 5 games I enjoyed most this year.
Despite suffering from a few problems and a fucking ludicrous lawsuit, the banner saga remains one of the best games of the year. Deep within the mess of its imperfect combat and occasionally nonsensical management sections there’s something almost unspeakable that hooks your attention, pulling you to delve a little deeper to find out just where this is all going. It’s the sense of scale most of all. Small battles in a big world that, despite your best efforts, remain deeply under the thumb of a dark force far more powerful and distant that you could guess.
And don’t forget: The gods are dead.
Before it came out, Shadow of Mordor was set to be a totally uninspiring game about stabbing faceless mooks in a fantasy world, and, in that respect, it’d be almost identical to every other game I reviewed this year. It almost was excepting one small detail; the Nemesis system. While perhaps stopping short of greatness, the tiny adjustment of giving the mooks faces changed the game for me, giving me some of the best organically developed gaming moments of the year. It might have been a reasonably simple system when you look under the hood, but the moments it produced for me and Murgoth Brighteyes are memories I’ll cherish forever.
Dragon Age is, definitely and absolutely, the second longest playtime I amassed this year, which, considering that it came out less than a month ago, either says something really good about the game and really bad about my social life. Probably both. Despite its small niggles and technical issues, it’s one of my favourite games because of just how much it gets right, and how much progress has been made in the series from Origins. Not perfect, but close enough that on a cold morning, looking out over the sandy plains of the western approach, you can make out perfection on the horizon.
Wait, no. That’s a dragon.
Maintaining Dark Soul’s level of quality can’t have been easy, but, thankfully, the sequel managed it. Dark souls 2 was my most played game this year, with a frankly embarrassing number of hours poured into walking through dark corridors, shield up and terrified. When it comes to feeling powerless and small in an atmospheric world, Dark Souls takes the prize, and, with the improvements and new, gloriously improved quality of the PC port, there’s no reason this isn’t the best Dark Souls yet.
Shovel Knight might not have had the biggest budget of the year, but Yacht Club’s tightly focused platformer was certainly the most fun to be had in a single game. All games have flaws and it’s a testament to the brilliance of the design that I can’t think of a single one for Shovel Knight. It’s as close to perfect as anything came this year, and that alone would be enough to guarantee it the top spot. It might not be funny, but pogo-shovelling my way through the campaign for this has been my favourite experience this year, and, complete with the excellent ending,I can’t pretend I enjoyed anything else more.