2013 in games (and a look ahead to 2014)

I didn’t actually play that many games last year. The reason for that is I spent much more of my own time MAKING them, or at least the parts of them that interested me, a state of affairs that I’m perfectly happy with.

Here are games I liked, in no specific order because saying something like Papers Please is “better” or “worse” than GTAV is meaningless.

Walking Dead – 400 Days: A bit light on the actual “game” part but the writing was FANTASTIC.

Ridiculous Fishing: Lives up to the title and is just huge fun. I love Vlambeer.

GTAV: Overblown, terribly written and plotted, took itself too seriously, uncomfortably sexist and misogynistic; but enormously fun to play in the moment, with the best open-world engine ever developed. That said I’m conflicted about putting it on a list like this because it was SO offensively sexist it made me, Mr “Not offended by anything”, squirm.

Papers Please: The game from this list that I most wish I’d come up with myself. The concept is brilliant, the mechanics serve it perfectly, and it makes you think about all kinds of things including your own capacity for causing misery in a mundane, self-serving way. It’s a perfect little snowglobe of a game.

Bioshock Infinite: Really for the story and production values. I actually thought the core gameplay¬†was nice but not very well-balanced and it didn’t evolve at all throughout the game. Infinite would make it into this list for the opening and closing sequences alone though, and the awesome anachronistic music and the reason for it.

Unity of Command: Incredibly good hex-based WW2 wargame. Handles the concept of supply lines better than I’ve ever seen them done before.

Kentucky Route Zero – Stunning to look at with its own unique visual identity and a very original story. Looking forward to more in 2014.

The Last of Us: Didn’t take enough risks with gameplay, so a bit disappointing in that way, but the story and characters were beautifully written and it’s one of the best-looking games of the year by a mile.

XCOM: Enemy Within: Really an excuse just to put Enemy Unknown back on the list for this year. The mechanics have really won me over since my initial “it’s not action points!!!1” reaction and it’s just a great, solid tactical turn-based game with a very strong metagame too.

Candy Box: An utterly brilliant piece of design. Surprising depth and quantity of content. A major reason I play games is “discovery” and Candy Box provided that in spades.


Some others worth mentioning:

“Meh, not bad” awards: Shadowrun Returns, Gone Home, Rogue Legacy, Stanley Parable

The much-talked-about games that did nothing for me awards: Brothers, Proteus, Monaco, Little Inferno, Far Cry Blood Dragon, NFS: Rivals

Games still on my backlog: Assassin’s Creed 4, Tomb Raider, Call of Juarez Gunslinger, The Swapper, Walking Dead s2e1, Saints Row 4, COD Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Assetto Corsa, Max Payne 3, Super Mario 3D World, Zelda ALBW, Wasteland 2 beta, Metro Last Light, Euro Truck Simulator 2 (yes, still)


What I’m looking forward to in 2014:

A significantly-upgraded Oculus Rift (higher res, positional sensor) with a killer app: Not sure what that app will be; my favourite thing on the Rift so far is a virtual cinema so it could be anything. It may be one of the space combat games like Star Citizen or Elite Dangerous.

Darkest Dungeon: Made by some local Vancouver indie developers including a friend I used to work with at Disney, I really believe this one will be something special. It has the unique hook of having to consider the mental state of your constantly-terrified party as you force them to confront the stresses of dungeoneering. There’ll be a Kickstarter soon.

Chaos Reborn: Julian Gollop’s return to one of his best games. Chaos on the Spectrum was an entertaining duel between wizards with some great mechanics, and Reborn looks like a great update.

Fallout 4: Come on, Bethesda. We all know it’s coming; just announce it already.

A 64-bit Unity editor with amazing garbage collection performance improvements and the new UI system: Hey, I can dream.


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