As we celebrate our 10th Birthday here at Reticule Towers, we’re going to take a chance to look at our favourite games of the Reticule Years. There are few, if any, rules set for what we will write about. So hit the break, and see what we have chosen as Our Favourite Games of The Reticule Years.Chris
Our Favourite Games of The Reticule Years. Boy, I’ve set myself and the others a challenge here. To define, in some broad strokes, our favourite games of the past decade. Nigh on impossible. Right?
Maybe it is for some, but I’m choosing to rise to the challenge and will try to whittle what could be a massive list into something more succinct. I’m imposing a few personal rules for my stab at this. I will only list games that have been released since The Reticule started way back on the 5th November 2008, which means that I can’t talk about World of Goo, one of my favourite games of that particular year. It also means that I can’t talk about Half-Life 2, a masterpiece that came out in 2004. A game that inspired halflife2.net (now valvetime.net) where I found my beginning as a writer. I can’t even mention Command and Conquer: 3 which was my inspiration to branch out from halflife2.net by myself with cncnation.net
Having talked about three games already, and ones that I promised I wouldn’t dive into any detail on, thanks to my own self-imposed rules, here are another three which stand out from the last decade.
This wasn’t the first game that I delivered my Verdict on in the original incarnation of The Reticule. That dubious honour goes out to MotoGP 08. But The Path was one of the first Verdicts I wrote here, and looking back, you could make an argument that it was one of the first “walking simulators” of the ilk of Dear Esther, Firewatch or The Stanley Parable. People will argue about whether these can be considered games, and I said in my Verdict that “The Path poses many intriguing questions about the division between art and game.”
To this day, I would recommend people pick up and give The Path a chance. It was at the start of something.
I’m going to take a bit of a cheating move here and talk about The Witcher 2 and The Witcher 3. Two massive, sprawling RPGs that I have actually finished. I love to complete a good game, but we live in a gaming world where most RPGs require the investment of serious amounts of time. These days, it isn’t solely RPGs which require a massive commitment, most games will suck you in for a 40+ hour campaign.
It’s testament to the quality of the games from CD Projekt Red that I’ve spent the time in these two, soaking up the sights and sounds, and immersing myself in the story. There are of course other RPGs out there which I wish I had devoted more time to. Skyrim and Final Fantasy XV immediately spring to mind, but something about the low-fantasy setting of The Witcher games keeps me going more than some others.
I truly think The Witcher 3 is one of the finest games of all time, and I haven’t started on the expansions yet. It strikes me that I’ve barely touched upon this series in the ten years of the site, while Kevin and Michael both took the time to deliver Verdicts on The Witcher 2. I did write a little bit about The Witcher 2 back in 2012, but even then I didn’t finish the game until January 2017….from where I jumped straight into The Witcher 3.
These are two games that have been personal highlights of the last few years, and I feel a great disservice to them that I haven’t talked about them in the lengths they deserve. I’m just pleased that I have been able to bask in their glory.
Doom and Wolfenstein
Great singleplayer first-person shooters were a rare find for several years during the first decade of The Reticule. The Half-Life series had already fallen into an everlasting slumber before we burst onto the scene, while the last great singleplayer Call of Duty experience; Modern Warfare was a 2007 release. That’s not to say singleplayer shooters didn’t exist, Halo’s have come and gone while Battlefield still throws in a decent singleplayer mode when DICE can be bothered and Destiny has always been about the online experience, however well it does work when playing solo.
I daren’t tarnish Dishonored with the brush of being a shooter. Arkane’s magnum opus stands above being classed as a mere shooter. Ubisoft have worked wonders with the Far Cry series, but they are more open-world playpens.
It has come down to two towering giants of the 90s to bring the singleplayer first-person shooter back to prominence. Doom and the Wolfenstein games have been exquisite reminders that games don’t need to be sprawling 100-hour epics, they don’t need to be driven solely by the competitive online action. A well-structured, deftly plotted and action filled rollercoaster of a dozen hours or so is perfectly acceptable in this day and age.
Time is precious, iD Software and Machine Games know that, and delivered three excellent slices of computer entertainment with these games.
I’ve had the honour of writing for The Reticule now for seven whole years and in that time I’ve previewed, reviewed, interviewed for and hypothesised about more games than I can even remember. When I started out I didn’t have much experience writing but through all that time I feel I’ve really come to appreciate just what it is that makes a game not just good, but a stand out from the crowd, an exceptional release, a Red Mist review.
In my whole seven years of writing I’ve only ever given three games a Red Mist review, and what better way to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of The Reticule than taking a look at those games once more and seeing if they still stand up to my scrutiny.
The Witcher 2
I would go as far as to say this was my favourite game of the XBox 360 console era. I played it just after having read my first Witcher book, and having enjoyed reading it so much I was happy to see that the developers had made a great transition of the characters and feel of Sapkowski’s vision into video game form.
For its time The Witcher 2 was a game that didn’t conform to the norms. It made combat really hard, you had to pay attention to give yourself the upper hand with questing and conversations could make a big impact if you weren’t careful. On top of that there’s one decision fairly early on that essentially splits the game in half. Meaning you could make the opposite decision in your next playthrough and experience a completely different game. How cool is that?!
I still have The Witcher 2 installed although admittedly I have never played it on PC. I know the day will come though, because seven years later I still see this game as worthy of attention and for sure, still worthy of its original Red Mist review.
The revival of the CRPG has being gaining in strength over the past few years and a large part of that is owed to the releases of Obsidian Entertainment. Both Pillars of Eternity games have been among my favourite to be released recently and including Tyranny in the mix I have over 170 hours of playtime with these games. I was lucky enough to review Tyranny a couple of years ago and I enjoyed it just as much.
It gave you the aspect of gameplay that not many games choose to go down. Tyranny made it clear that you were a bad guy on the side of evil. You had power, minions and influence and you were to wield it as you see fit in the upcoming war to capture the final remaining lands of the enemy. Tyranny successfully told its story from this point and allowed you to make decisions that mattered. It wasn’t as long as some other CRPGs but it still delivered the same punch in terms of story, combat and decisions. Just writing this makes me install the game and play again. Two years later and I would still give this a Red Mist review for sure.
Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 was a good game with a terrible ending, I see that now. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
While I still believe that ME3 was as good as the second outing in almost every way, the pink tutu wearing elephant in the room ending is the only thing people will ever remember it for. They got it so catastrophically wrong that they managed to ruin the whole franchise. For starters, after all that time playing the game and making hundreds of conversation choices, why oh why would you then give the player a choice of endings? That’s like saying that every choice you made up until this point was utterly useless because we’re just going to let you choose any ending you want anyway! Secondly, at least try to make the three choice endings different in some way!
For the ending alone I would not still give this a Red Mist review. If I was to review it again knowing the disappointment that was ahead of me, I’m not quite sure what I would think. But the truth is I will probably never play it again…
When I first started writing for the Reticule, I knew exactly what I was going to do – I was going to review games, and I was going to enjoying doing it. Today I can’t think of anything worse – reviewing games on the internet only leads to trouble. Score a game too high and you’re obviously corrupt and accepting enormous bribes. Score a game too low and you’re obviously incapable of recognising a game’s true perfection and can’t be trusted to review anything more important than a blank sheet of A4 paper (75%, unless it’s landscape, in which case 79%). I hate the very idea of having to score a game – I’d quite happily abandon even the Reticule’s 1 to 5 system of recommendations given the chance and just score everything 1 Game out of 1 Game (unless it’s art).
Because of this, it’s pretty rare for me to produce anything that can be considered a review. Does that mean I don’t like writing about games? Not in the slightest. Thanks in a large part to Itch.io I play the sublime and often ridiculous. I play games about crowds on the London Underground, games about irritated geese and games where you climb staircases for no particular reason. But are they fun? I have absolutely no idea.
It’s not my job to tell you if you’ll enjoy a game. Millions of people play Call of Duty and Fortnite and they’re games I just don’t like playing. Does this make them bad games? Not at all. Does the fact that a game has a 90% in a box at the end of the review mean that you’ll enjoy it? Not even slightly. So no, I’m not going to tell you if you’ll enjoy something, because at the end of the day, people are weird – my mother in law still plays Candy Crush for goodness sake.
So forget the review scores and just play games. Play the short ones, play the long ones and play the ones that don’t make the slightest bit of sense, because at the end of the day, we’re all just moving little squares around on a screen and trying to have some fun.
Oh, my favourite game of the past decade? Dunno, probably Kerbal Space Program, but I don’t know if it’s any good or not.