GOTY 2011

May 17, 2012

Someone pointed out the other day I forgot to publish this back in January. oops

My choice for GOTY 2011 came down to 3 games that run the full spectrum of narrative, the luxurious open world of Skyrim, the player choice of Human Revolution and the rollercoaster ride of Portal 2.

I’ve heard that Bethesda games are usually pretty buggy but Skyrim’s been pretty solid for me. Sure there’s a creepy horse salesman who randomly spawns a new clone who then runs through town and stands (or in one case melds with the road) next to all his other clones. Maybe it’s the fact that I started playing a few weeks after everyone else, maybe it’s the fact I’ve not made it far enough into the story to have seen a dragon yet, backwards flying or otherwise. While the world of Skyrim is amazing, for me the letdown is the lack of consequences for your actions. It’s interesting to contrast the Bethesda style with the Bioware style. In a Bioware game, your playstyle is largely irrelevant to the story but there’s pretty big scope to shape the world to the way you want it. In Skyrim I feel the world reacting to my actions but I’m limited in the scope of those actions. When a random stranger asks my necromancer lizardman to kill another necromancer that’s necromancing his family, I assume I can get away with raising his Auntie from the dead and stealing anything not nailed down, only to have him tell me off. Sure he lets me get away with it but he notices and doesn’t like it. But when I turn up in Riften, supposedly the wretchedest hive of scum and villainy in Skyrim, I only get the option to shakedown the townsfolk and join the thieves guild when what I want to do is take out the trash. I wish there was more branching in the quests or hell even some cosmetic changes to the world based on my actions.

Human Revolution was almost perfect but my personal experience was damaged by a game breaking bug. Whenever the game took me out of the action and made me watch a pre-rendered cutscene, I got a hard crash. I ended up having to reboot my computer, open up youtube, find the appropriate spot in a walkthrough and watch watch what happened, often just Denton walking down a corridor, before I could restart the game, skip the cutscene and start playing again. That was if the game would make it past the unskippable opening ads (a tip to AMD, having to reboot for the third time because the game crashed while I was being forced to watch your logo spin past probably has the opposite effect for what you’re going for). The whole process damaged immersion somewhat. Bugs aside, Human Revolution felt like a worthy successor to Deus Ex. It was modernised and simplified (and collector’s editioned and DLCd) but the combination of the strong art direction and the spot on level design won me over.

Portal 2 was the game I played the least of the contenders but I’m still going to call it my GOTY. Although I talk about my preference for the Civilisations and the Mount & Blades of the world that let you tell your own story, a well written comedy game is still rare enough to pull me in. It helps that Portal 2 was a well paced FPP (first person puzzler?) and even though there were a couple of places where I got stuck from poor telegraphing, it was fun while the ride lasted. Wheatley was a great counterpoint to GLADOS and JK Simmons Cave Johnson added some great backstory to Aperture Science without spoiling too much of the mystery. I thought the ARG that led up to the launch was fun. Sure it only knocked a few hours off the launch date, meaning it arrived the day after a long weekend here in oz, but it did a terrific job of building anticipation.

Before I finish, I have to give an honourable mention to Terraria. What seemed at first like a 2D Minecraft ripoff, quickly surpassed Minecraft in the sheer amount of stuff to do. While I really enjoyed it, some problems with progression balancing made me feel I was stuck having to do stuff I didn’t want to do so I could continue doing what I wanted and I ultimately lost interest.

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