2011 is gone and 2012 is here. That means it's time to bicker over what is the Game of the Year.
At the start of November I was really struggling for a Game of the Year. There had been some really strong releases all through the year and I just couldn’t pick one from an impressive list consisting of Deadspace 2, Portal 2, Gears Of War 3, Batman Arkham City and Deus: EX: Human Revolution. I wasn’t even planning on buying, what turned out to be, my Game of the Year until 2012 because I expected my time to be sucked up by Modern Warfare 3. The disappointment from that experience pushed me into picking up Skyrim on release day and I’ve been stuck in that world almost exclusively, since.
In my 100+ hours, I’ve slain dragons, defeated demons, kitted myself out in a full set of dragon scale armour and I still feel like I haven’t touched the surface. I married a lovely young market trader and set up home with her in breezehome. I’ve got a drawer for each type of inventory item and wardrobes with a sneak kit, magic kit and warrior kit. I look at my life in Skyrim and wonder why it takes me so much effort to even bundle a pair of socks together in the real world.
The mechanics have been streamlined, the scenery is a stunning vista and the story is absolutely engrossing but the best thing about Skyrim is the absolute freedom to play the game how you want to. I have recently really tried to progress the main quests but more often than not I find that the mission I started on 3 hours earlier remains completely untouched but I'll have another enchanted super weapon from the random dungeon I decided to take a sneaky look in on the way to my main goal.
Skyrim is not just my game of the year, but I think, on completion, I’ll be calling it my game of this generation. - Steve
If you’d have asked me three weeks ago what my Game of the Year would be for 2011, without a doubt I would have answered The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. That was until I was blindsided by Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Yes, I know I’m about 4 months late to the party, but Deus Ex had me thinking long and hard about how I was going to answer this question.
Despite this last minute soul-searching, Skyrim is still going to walk away with my freshly-minted gold medal for 2011. Even with all the bugs, one of which has prevented me from completing a major aspect of the game (the thieves’ guild), no other game can claim 60 hours of my time and still offer up so much more for me to do. I haven’t completed the main quest, started the majority of the sidequests, or explored a good half of the map, yet I’ve still played Skyrim for two and a half days. I’ve also enjoyed every second of it.
Perhaps the biggest reason for me calling Skyrim my game of the year is not so much down to myself, but instead to my girlfriend. As we live together, my gaming becomes an inevitable backdrop to her internet browsing, reading or studying, but rarely does it enter her life in an active form. Skyrim blew that barrier away, with her actually encouraging me to play more so she could see what happened next, and heaven forbid, she even picked up the controller and began her own game.
It’s the sheer choices in Skyrim that allowed this to happen, and she was as happy riding her horse across the plains and mountain paths, fighting the occasional wolf or cave bear, as I was hunting down treasured family heirlooms and battling dragon priests. Skyrim is one of the greatest examples of a Role-Playing Game that actually allows you to choose your role and doesn’t punish you unjustly for any decisions or actions that you make. All I can say is thank god that a game with this much depth and accessibility doesn’t come along any sooner than once a year, otherwise the sun could well become a quickly fading memory. - Jack
Every year the phrase “The best year to be a gamer was this year” gets thrown out a lot. But in my opinion no other year deserves this title so much as this year. 2011 saw the most games that could be considered for Game of the Year, ranging from summer blockbuster-like FPS and epic RPGs that had you slaying dragons by shouting to action adventures that have heroes holding on to dear life in the back of cargo planes and puzzle games that make you think with portals and gels. I’ve had the chance to play a lot of these games, but one stands out in my mind the most that I can truly call my Game of the Year. That game is Dark Souls.
Other than Skyrim, Dark Souls is the only other RPG this year that I have put the most time and effort into. People might complain that the combat system is difficult, or that the level/dungeon design is too confusing or it’s too hard. But that’s the beauty of it. What other RPG forces you to be actively aware of your surroundings while both exploring and in battle? Dark Souls forces you to learn from your mistakes and to plan ahead before exploring the areas. Choosing what kind of armor to use, what weapons to bring, and the type of class you pick will all have an effect on how the game will be played. The level design feels open and complex, yet at the same time with a wrong turn it can get closed, narrow, and even claustrophobic. Add to that an enemy that is twice as big and stronger really adds to that tension of fighting for your life, knowing that if you die there, it’s a long trek back to the last checkpoint. As for the game being hard, with death comes knowledge, and it’s only as hard as you make it. If something keeps killing you at the same stop, you formulate a different course of action. Dark Souls has you think of all of this.
I have spent countless hours, dying, thinking, and planning while playing Dark Souls. It’s one of the few games that no matter what else I’m playing at the moment, it will make me stop and think “Maybe if I do this instead, I will finally get past the guard demon”. It’s a game that everyone needs to set a couple of hours aside for, because once you start playing you will not be able to stop. Your keep telling yourself: “Just a few more minutes. I finally figured out how to take this demon down...” - Mike V.
With several different blockbuster titles being released this year by Western developers, the Japanese industry can be viewed as being on the decline. Interestingly enough, Japanese developers have taken the bigger risks throughout the year with notable new intellectual properties being released such as Radiant Historia and Catherine. These new properties have helped to breathe some life into the industry as a whole. As a result, Japanese developers have proven that there is still a strong force overseas, especially seen in the best game to be released this year: Dark Souls.
Dark Souls, while not being a new IP, does what some Western developers are afraid to attempt. This game creates a challenge and does not baby the player in any way imaginable. In fact, you often find yourself musing at how the challenges of the game are stacked against you. By doing so, From Software breeds an important concept. The developer realizes that it is only by creating a challenging experience that true satisfaction can be achieved. In Dark Souls, the player rightfully earns every accomplishment. Most times, the player will deal with perceived unfairness on the developer’s end. However, as the old cliché goes, “No pain, no gain,” undoubtedly rings true. No other game quite made me fist pump the air repeatedly after a hard fought boss encounter. No other game had me screaming at the television and my pet as if they were somehow at fault. The game creates these memories. It creates an accomplishment. It makes the player feel as if something tangible was gained during the experience. I will always remember the environments traversed and the different routes taken. I will always remember that one fellow who helped me finally defeat the Four Kings for the first time. A game should ultimately be judged on the range of emotions it takes you through as you work towards the end. On an immersive experience level, it would be awfully difficult for future titles to trump what Dark Souls managed to do in 2011. Consequently, From Software deserves Game of the Year recognition despite the tough, yet not insurmountable, competition. - Wayne
I've reviewed some good games this year, from Minecraft to Skyrim, but the best game of the year for me would have to be Dark Souls for the PS3. The brutal difficulty level, seamless world and harsh, lonely environment made for one of the most challenging experiences of the year, and the heavily skill based combat was as satisfying as it was difficult. Dark Souls is one of those rare experiences that we don't see much of anymore, and it it was great to play a game that didn't hold your hand all the way through.
On top of the immersive and lengthy single player experience, the seamlessly integrated multiplayer one is in my opinion downright revolutionary. Rather than offering what is essentially two different games in one package as is standard with most modern games, Dark Souls integrates PVP and partying components into the core of the game without a hitch. Add to this a player driven hint system, and you have one of the most unique and awe inspiring offerings around.
Dark Souls comes out on top for me, and in comparison to other RPG's such as Skyrim, which I feel is severely overrated, I enjoyed every minute of Dark Souls, reveling in my victories, and learning from my many frequent defeats. - Joel
Despite my esteemed position as Review Editor and Voice Guy for www.Original-Gamer.com, I have not had a chance to play most of the titles being considered for Game of the Year. As I cannot in good conscience give a Game of the Year nod to a game that I have not played, my Game of the Year is Cave Story 3D for the Nintendo 3DS.
In addition to the well-executed gameplay and wonderful aesthetics, Cave Story 3D gave me the sensation of ‘not knowing’ that I had not experienced in quite some time. Except for a basic explanation of the controls, the game gives you absolutely nothing, and that is awesome. When you start the game, you see the protagonist standing inside a room, and that’s it. Nearly everything is left for the player to discover; I felt a greater sense of truly exploring within a game for the first time in awhile.
Platformers aren’t exactly known for their stories, but Cave Story 3D is able to use its limited tools to tell a story without even using pictures. It starts out simple enough and eventually opens up into the typical ‘save the world’ scenario. Sure, it isn’t Shakespeare, but it is more than enough to keep the player engaged.
All of that doesn’t matter if the game itself doesn’t stack up. Cave Story 3D’s gameplay is as well executed as the games it draws inspiration from. The highest compliment that I can give Cave Story 3D is that it truly feels like a game from the 8-bit days. Cave Story 3D was the best game I played more or less these past twelve months, and so it is my 2011 Game of the Year. - Eduardo
After playing through pretty much all the big and small hits this year, one game was the game that set the bar that other games had to beat when I played through it back in April. It was my favorite game in the first half of the year and it’s officially, my GOTY: Portal 2.
I could go on and on about how the story was pieced together so well that there wasn’t an instance that it didn’t feel out of place. Then you have the characters that were so likable, especially Cave Johnson who you only learned about via his recordings. Let’s not forget the actual gameplay that took such a simple premise of the first game to only amplify that by adding several new elements to the gameplay. Everything worked so perfectly and seamlessly that I was never perturbed by it, which can be fairly common when something new is added to a tried and true gameplay formula.
All those reasons could be said for other games I played this year, but Portal 2 did one thing the other games didn’t – it made me love a culture that I really disliked. After Portal 1 won the hearts of many gamers, the internet was ablaze with Portal. From the “Cake is a Lie” meme to the constant praise of the song “I’m Still Alive”, everywhere I went for gaming was full of Portal references, and I was sick of it. I played Portal 1 and never gave it a second thought after I put down the controller. All this geekdom glee didn’t rub-off on me, and frankly, it was aggravating the hell out of me. After playing Portal 2, it all clicked and my devotion to Portal began. While I’m not one to blast “Want You Gone“ or ask my girlfriend to make me a Companion Cube anytime soon. Still having the effect on me, to make me do a 180 on a franchise, shows how special Portal 2 is. - O.G.
What was your Game of the Year? Let us know in the comments.