Welcome one and all to the last part of this year’s run of Our Year in Games. You can find the earlier parts right over here. As ever, after the break you can read thoughts from the team about this past year in gaming, while getting ready for Our Game of the Year on Christmas Day. What tales do we have to share today, read on to find out.
A gaming year isn’t just about the games you play – at least, if you’re reading this blog (or writing for it), there’s a pretty good chance that you spend a great deal of time reading other publications (no really, we acknowledge they exist) and immersing yourself in the conversations surrounding games. I think it’s appropriate then, to share some of the pieces that stood out for me this year, one way or another. I’ve undoubtedly missed out some great writing – perhaps my selection isn’t terribly accademic either – but if you’ve got a little spare time over the impending holidays, there’s bound to be something worth your time here.
- Back in January, Simon Parkin explored the link between video games and arms manufacturers, raising some obvious but so easily forgotten consequences of our pursuit of authenticity in triple-A shooters
- Staying with the licensing theme, Christopher Dring’s account of the struggle to get Electronic Arts on board with the FIFA series is an amusing underdog story even if you’ve very little interest in the sport itself
- There was more mid-90s nostalgia as Ellie Gibson took a look at GamesMaster and revealed that Mr Motivator was in fact, a wanker
- Final Fantasy VI is easily among my list of favourite anythings. Edge’s making of interview with director Yoshinori Kitase reveals that this expansive title was in production for just a single year
- The Bureau: X-Com Declassified was in production for considerably longer, and would do well to be remembered after the same period. Polygon’s Chris Plante got a fantastic account out of the development hell it entered, though
- The Iwata Asks series remains the yardstick for ultimately promotional corporate introspection – Nintendo put out some fantastic games this year, and these talks remain insightful if sanitised
- Speaking of interviews that successful sold me on certain games, the newly translated Game Watch and Impress interviews with SEGA portmasters M2 deserve mentioning again. The minutae of knowledge displayed by the emulation team about 30 year old arcade kits is quite staggering
- Returning to the present day, Nathan Grayson interviewed Alex Preston, creator of the incredible looking Hyper Light Drifter about his health struggles and how they motivated development of one of this year’s biggest crowdfunding successes
- Something I watched rather than read: Ben Hanson got Peter Molyneux and (ex-)The Walking Dead story man Sean Vanaman in front of a camera for a chat at E3, and why not?
- Having played so few games when they were released, I’ve found myself completing them and experiencing the critical conversation well after it was finished – usually finding my exact thoughts already concisely written up. Leigh Alexander’s critique of Bioshock Infinite articulated a lot of what I felt about the game
Looking back over the year, and more specifically my Steam library there’s one title that I’ve put over 90 hours into…and rather unsurprisingly for me that game is XCOM.
The release of the Enemy Within expansion has added another dimension to what is without a doubt on of my favourite titles of all time. I mean, what’s not to love about giant stormy mechs with fistsofawesome. I think it’s the risk-reward element that makes this title work so much. It plugs directly into some primeval part of my brain and even pre expansion I’d still happily load up a new game, on classic obviously, and see how far I could get.
The other thing that makes this game so special is the way it handles loss, or rather the permanence of it. This is a game that absolutely must be played on ironman. If you know that at any point you could lose your most cherished squaddie (usually named Nick) it forces you to consider every action. It certainly focuses the mind and makes those inevitable losses all the more painful. It’s got to the point where I won’t actually do the first terror mission anymore- it usually pops up at the exact moment where you’re just starting to get confident, but just before you have the required tech to give you a good chance of finishing it without loss.
Those Chrysalids are fairly lethal…. and given one of the missions in Enemy Within, I don’t see this phobia going any time soon.
All I know is that I’ll still be playing XCOM well into 2014.
While Steph has taken the time to link to some wonderful bits of writing that have come from outside The Reticule Towers (yes, I do accept that there are other sites on the internet, not just our home) I want to share with you some stories that have made me smile here on the The Reticule.
- Following on from Jon’s words above, I really have to mention the joy and anguish that we have all witnessed over the past few weeks in his Enemy Within Reticule Diaries. From my very brief appearance to Steph’s heroic, but lonely death, these tales were great.
- Nick’s adventures with Kerbal Space Program have been a long source of reading pleasure on a Sunday during the many editions of Our Week in Games he has spent blowing up his Kerbal’s. I will note that his Idiots Guide was a piece of writing that gave me a hearty laugh.
- I was tempted to talk about Kevin’s adventures with the Deponia adventure series, but instead I will pick up on something entirely different. Back in April he asked the question: Have video games become too violent? in a thought provoking editorial. My take? Tone down on the gore and extreme deaths and focus on making a more enjoyable game.
- The non-Verdict from Steven on The Last of Us was an interesting take on a game which dominated the gaming world when it was released. I still want to play it, but if I do, I will keep Steven’s words in mind.
- Steph has only been back on the team for a few months, but I have to give a nod to her articles on Kickstarter games and other crowdfunded titles. There is a world of titles I just don’t get around to looking into and her work lets me keep somewhat in the loop with the cool kids.
- Out of my own work, I’ll just leave a link to my editor’s blog about our fifth birthday. What a ride it has been.