Even when your free time practically revolves around consuming games, there just aren't enough hours in a day or days in a year to make it through everything that comes out. Most of us, including myself, have to budget our time just as much as our money when it comes to picking what to play. As a result, 2013 has ended and I have yet to play some of the games I was most excited to see released.
I've already written about the top five games I played in 2013, but here's the other side of that story: The top five games from 2013 that I'm still excited to pick up in the coming year.
5. Fire Emblem: Awakening
This 3DS release was recently described by someone on Twitter as "chess where you can make the pieces kiss" and I'd be lying if I said I didn't find that interesting.
If you're unfamiliar, Fire Emblem is an RPG series built on a foundation of turn-based strategy, and embellished with almost endless combatants for your party -- characters whose marriages (and offspring) can all be artfully arranged by the player. Though I'm generally pretty indifferent to turn-based strategy gaming, the experience seems to lean heavily on these interpersonal relationships, with permanent character death to complicate matters. Suffice it to say that I'm eager to play it for myself.
There are few things I relish more than puzzles that offer more than one solution. The more valid solutions the better, in fact, and that's a bit of what Gunpoint promises. I've watched quite a few people playing this game, or read their back and forth with others about how they each solved a particular level. Some prefer a brute force approach, eliminating as many guards as possible to clear a direct path; others are more subtle, altering the wiring in a building to create a more complicated but conflict-free route to their objective.
There are so many factors to be altered in your favour (and against someone else's) that it seems like every solution will be subtly different, every strategy as individual as that player using it. What doesn't sound great about that?
3. The Last Of Us
I've heard a lot of mixed things about The Last Of Us. It's unquestionably beautiful, with a rich story and a very lush and believable world, and that's what I'm drawn to. The post-apocalyptic zombie-plagued setting used and abused by so many games almost seems fresh... Or at least refreshed, and that's appealing in itself. The problem comes with several notable AAA games including this one tried to position their male leads as father-figures to their female companions rather than the usual, rote love interest.
At least it's a more mature and more interesting approach, but it can also be incredibly thin ice in terms of making sure that companion character still has her own depth and agency. BioShock Infinite left a bad taste in my mouth on that front (among others) so I'm very curious to see for myself if The Last Of Us pulls it off.
2. Tomb Raider
Speaking of BioShock Infinite, I had to make a choice between it and Tomb Raider early in 2013, and while I stand by that choice I sincerely regret that I have yet to make the time for Lara Croft. There was so much concern before the game's release about how it would handle the heroine, especially with producers proudly stating that players would "want to protect" the previously badass Ms. Croft. All that concern was apparently unnecessary though, as writer Rhianna Pratchett delivered an origin story that helped turn one of the poster girls of grossly oversexualized game design into a person. A nuanced human being with strengths and weaknesses.
Er... Or so I'm told. I'm actually incredibly embarrassed that I haven't played Tomb Raider yet, but I hope to change that very soon.
1. State of Decay
I began dipping into this zombie-infested community survival game this past week, and it's already confirmed a lot of the feelings that drew me to it in the first place. State of Decay puts an emphasis on the social aspect of survival that few other games do, but that more zombie games in particular should. In this game your currency is your reputation within the community. You can't take more than you've contributed, and it'll take more than a few bags of chips smuggled out of a nearby hovel to get you the clout for a shotgun. There are also a slew of randomly generated characters waiting to join your team, each with unique and realistic traits. You may not be able to find someone with "fast runner" flatly spelled out in their profile, but you may be able to find people who enjoyed marathons before the world went to hell. Or, if you're as lucky as I was, you'll find a group of alcoholic reality tv fans, who will certainly be useful to the survivor community. You know, for suicide missions where I don't want to risk any of the good characters..
That's the other important detail about State of Decay: Death is permanent, and if you've spent too much time nurturing just one character at the expense of their fellow survivors it can absolutely cripple you when it happens. And it will probably happen. Unlike most of what you'll find in this genre, this is a zombie survival game that demands community involvement -- where five living slackers are more useful than one dead hero.
It may seem like I'll have my plate full with last year's games, but there's still plenty coming out this year to look forward to. If you're curious to find out exactly what should be on your wishlist for 2014, I really recommend checking out this preview post on Rock Paper Shotgun for scads of promising upcoming titles that both you and I will hopefully have the chance to play before 2015 rolls around. And of course, let me know what you'll be playing this year, what you enjoyed playing most last year, or any game you feel I've overlooked in the comments below!Tweet
Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Timesand has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan andwith pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.