Celebrating the most important games and events of the past twelve months.
2012 was a momentous year for games development and the PC platform in general. Thanks to the growing insignificance of the console platforms we got Japanese games en masse in a way that never occurred before, Binary Domain and Half Minute Hero are just two names in an increasing barrage of games, while at the same time the increase in player choice also extended to payment mechanisms as well with free-to-play experiences like Hawken, Tribes: Ascend, Super Monday Night Combat being pushed to the forefront.
This year has seen a lot of change, so we decided to mark it ourselves with a nice wrap-up feature detailing what we consider were the most important games and events over the past 12 months, as well as what we’re afraid/hopeful of what might happen next year. 2013 has a lot to live up to…
Best New Universe: Dishonored
We’ll be honest, Dishonored had us on side as soon as we realised the game’s elaborate set of supernatural powers allowed us to possess the NPC targets we were meant to be assassinating, but the more time we spent with the stealth-’em-up, the more we realised it wasn’t the set of empowering we had at our disposal which made the game so fun. Oh no, it was actually the game world itself.
Dunwall was a city where political injustice was king, with cool bipedal mechs, expiramental force fields and consistently bizarre and corrupt aristocrats providing the perfect motivation for player brutality. Thanks to books, audio diaries, hidden trinkets, sidequests and some particularly memorable characters, Dishonored’s world was a place we relished being a part of for every second of the campaign.
Most Important Game of the Year: The Walking Dead
Lots of people complain that Telltale Games ironically enough don’t make games, they make ‘interactive experiences’, but wanky definitions aside, there’s doubt that The Walking Dead was the biggest success of 2012. The complete story-arc across the five episodes easily proved the best plot of the year, but it was the level to which the story made you care about the characters involved, not just the protagonist Lee and his childhood sidekick Clem, that made events so genuinely heart-wrenching.
Telltale were in a very dark place after the astoundingly bad Jurassic Park: The Game was released, but The Walking Dead reminded the world how great their work can be when they’re free to work on a universe they understand. The game’s structure was also key, allowing maximum player investment with moral decisions that not only changed the plot, but also which survivors came with along the way. As long as you don’t mind a little gore and some point-and-click action, we strongly urge you to play this genuine ‘interactive’ masterpiece right away!
The Game We Always Came Back To: iRacing
Now this entry will probably surprise a lot of you but the game that become our obsession in 2012 wasn’t Team Fortress 2, Borderlands 2, Left for Dead, FTL or anything like that. It actually involved the rather sedate experience of mastering the momentum of the world’s most interesting racing cars around some of the best tracks on the planet.
iRacing is an acquired taste. If you don’t like motor racing you’ll get nothing out of it, but if you do your eyes will be opened to a world full of competitive possibilities. The subscription-only online-racing game doesn’t have support for AI, and you need to purchase extra track and car content on a piece-by-piece basis, but don’t let that put you off.
This service offers the best online racing you’ll ever have, with a wide variety of open-wheel, production and stock cars available for competition, dedicated servers and a dynamic safety rating so that drivers get punished for bad behaviour on the tarmac. If you have a solid group of friends or find a racing league worth a damn, iRacing soon becomes a fantastic online home and best of all it’s getting better all the time with content updates every 12 weeks. Yes iRacing is an obsession, but it’s a bloody entertaining one!
Our Darkest Fear for 2013: BioWare Sliding Into Mediocrity
This time last year BioWare were riding high. Star Wars: The Old Republic was just about to go live, Mass Effect 3 was just over the horizon and gamers the world over were salivating with anticipation over what games ‘The Two Doctors’ Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk would put their collective creative weight behind next. 12 months on the doctors are gone, The Old Republic still struggles to find an audience and Mass Effect seems sullied due to fan disappointment associated with its ending.
There’s no mistaking that the opinion of BioWare has fallen somewhat. Dragon Age III: Inquisition is their next game, and it’s arguable whether the stakes have ever been higher for the acclaimed storymakers. We hope 2013 is the year they surprise everyone.
Biggest Disappointment: Prey 2 Going MIA
The more we look back on the fact that Bethesda were funding a sequel to Prey, the more it makes sense that the sequel’s development hit difficulties. Prey 2 wasn’t shown much in public, but the press had seen it plenty of times before rumours emerged that the game had been cancelled early in 2012.
What actually happened was that the developer, Human Head Studios, for whatever reason downed tools as early as January and as far as we’re aware still aren’t working on the game. Bethesda has since come back saying that Prey 2 will resurface in 2013, but the publisher
has been very quiet on any further details including who in fact is working on the sequel.
The saddest thing about this whole scenario is that the gameplay footage shown to us looked absolutely brilliant with the atmosphere and environment design channelling an interstellar Bladerunner with the human bounty hunter protagonist getting heavily involved in the murky world of space politics. As massive sci-fi nuts that seemed like a premise we could believe in, but unfortunately the likelihood is this game will never see the light of day, at least not in its original form.
Best Mod: DayZ
The ARMA series has always seemed a strange impenetrable series to us, probably because we aren’t a fan of military shooters at the best of times, let alone those that cast themselves as true-to-life sims. That’s exactly why Day Z was such a revelation.
The brainchild of Dean Hall and other developers from the series’ creators Bohemia Interactive, Day Z emulated the survival horror experience as well as any shooter we’ve played before. The zombies were shambling morons and the axe swinging sound wasn’t exactly pitch perfect (probably because it resembled a gun being fired in early builds), but the nugget of a great idea was here. People screwing each other over on servers with 39 other players for a better chance at surviving the zombie apocalypse, even if that means just a few extra bandages and some provisions. And yes the tension caused when watching other combatants in the world or narrowly avoiding a horde did make our bowels loosen on more than one occasion.
Biggest Winner of 2012: Gamers
This winner of this category may sound like the biggest cop out ever, but give us a moment to explain ourselves before you cast judgement. In 2012, the games industry became a much more viable, varied and exciting place due to a new emerging trend which meant that publishers no longer held all the bargaining chips when it came to greenlighting new projects – we’re talking of course about crowd-funding.
It used to be the case that developers needed to come up with an idea, concept it, produce a prototype and then pitch big publishers in order to get their game made, but that old model is now in serious danger of being undermined thanks to the existence of funding portals like KickStarter and Desura. Double Fine brought mainstream attention to the service with their untitled adventure game attracting $3,335,265 worth of investment from 87,142 regular gamers like you and me. From there a ton of previously believed ‘ viable niches’ like adventure games, puzzlers and space-sims got funding to push their pitches to production.
Finally it seems the power is shifting from publishers to gamers themselves and the extra opportunities associated with that transition are immensely exciting. Hell we might even see that unofficial game sequel to Days of Thunder that we’ve always wanted – in adventure game form! Now if you excuse us, we have a trailer, pledge benefit programme and proposal to write…
Our Brightest Hope for 2013: THQ Bouncing Back in Style
When you think about it, THQ are probably more important to the PC than probably any other platform. They own Relic Entertainment, widely regarded as the best RTS developer on the planet and they’re the only publisher which works with 4A Games, a studio formed by developers who worked on Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl. We doubt Metro 2033’s undiluted down goodness would have been left as it was by any other publisher. For those reasons we’re hoping Toy Head-Quarters makes a big comeback next year. They have the slate for it, with Metro Last Light, Company of Heroes II and the Obsidian-developed South Park: The Stick of Truth all set for release in 2013. 2012 wasn’t great for the publisher with their stock narrowly avoiding being delisted on the NASDAQ exchange and Darksiders II not performing well at retail despite widespread critical acclaim. However, if they can weather the financial storm, we suspect 2013 will be their most successful year yet. We live in hope.
And of course lets not forget this year saw PCGZine put out its final issue, six years after issue 1 was launched. It’s been an emotional year folks, but onwards and upwards to 2013!
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