Time Magazine has announced its choices for the best video games of 2012, and the list is surprisingly eclectic. But while all of them are great, we feel that some are more deserving than others. Here are all ten, with our reviews and some personal thoughts on some from the Side Mission staff.
10. Torchlight 2
Dan: Does making a game cheap make it great? Time's reasoning seems both a little suspect and a bit dismissive of a game that, yes, is very much like Diablo, but does stand out in other respects. I enjoyed Torchlight because it didn't feel guilted or bribed into playing. I played it because I wanted to… and I enjoyed the hell out of it, derivative or not.
9. Halo 4
Denny: It’s a bit surprising that Time doesn’t mention the multiplayer aspect of the first-person shooter. I agree that the campaign returns to the greatness of the original Halo, but it’s the addicting multiplayer that keeps me from putting the game down.
Rocco: I grabbed the first Halo a few years after its release (Xbox launched during my college years; couldn't afford it then). Saw the gaudy reviews, eventually dove in.
I hadn't played a game that got feel as spot-on in years. The gunplay was just incredible, especially for the console space. I was hooked… on the game, the franchise, all of it.
Fast forward a decade or so and my anticipation for Halo 4 was high. Really high. And while I won't say 343 Industries surpassed those expectations, Halo 4 certainly lived up to them. Everything felt right, felt like Halo.
Which is great.
8. LittleBigPlanet Vita
7. The Last Story
6. Papo & Yo
5. Assassin's Creed III
Dan: The historical research in this game is superb, and the sandbox is a lot of fun to play in. Still, I'm not sure it's different enough from other games in the series in some respects to really make it Top Ten material, especially with the controls.
That said, the naval combat is superb and practically a game in itself, and there's just so much to do that it's easy to get lost for hours. Top Ten, maybe not, but great, absolutely
Dan: While Dishonored is superb, I have to disagree with the "sandbox" term. It's a linear level with dozens of solutions, and each level is exquisitely designed… but you can't go goofing around Dunwall for giggles. That said, you hardly miss it, and each level is so crammed with nooks and crannies that you'll spend hours just looting, forget actually beating the game
3. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Rocco: Firaxis has been a favorite developer of the DeMaro household for a while now; Civ V remains one of my favorites from the past five years.
So you can imagine my excitement when word came out that Firaxis would be re-making / spiffing up the legendary XCOM formula.
What the company eventually produced is impressive; I describe the genre-bender as Valkyria Chronicles meets Fire Emblem meets the Civ franchise… in other words, it's the best of several highly-addictive worlds. And while XCOM: Enemy Unknown isn't as replayable as the CIv games, it more than stands on its own as one of the best titles of 2012 and a faithful hat tip to what many consider the greatest PC game of all time.
It's my Game of the Year.
2. Xenoblade Chronicles
Rocco: I'm only 10-15 hours into Xenoblade Chronicles, which is to say I've barely scratched its surface. But in that time, I've realized why so many publications have heaped so much praise upon it since hitting the Japanese marketplace in June of 2010.
Carrying a score of 92 in the critical aggregate, Xenoblade might well represent the peak of JRPG evolution, as we know the sub-genre.
Virtually everything in the game is streamlined… from the save system to the way questing is handled to the in-game traveling options, Monolith Soft has learned from the mistakes of other JRPG's and has given us the byproduct of that knowledge.
The game is complex, but rarely obtuse; detailed, but never at the expense of your time or patience.
In short, Xenoblade is, at the same time, deep and accessible. Combine that elegant design foundation with a solid narrative and fun battle system and you've got a JRPG that seems downright Darwinian in its execution.
1. Guild Wars 2
Denny: While playing Guild Wars 2, I didn’t experience quite the same level of magic that the folks at Time did. However, the MMO does deliver some great dynamic events that make Tyria feel like a living world. In that sense, the game does stand out this year.