I'm back from my two or
so weeks of vacation. It has been great being able to let loose on
fantasy and forget about the realities of a working life for the end
of 2011. Best of all, it gave me some time to think about what games
I could and should play. Between Christmas gifts and my own
craziness, I've played a few games and got some good times, as well
as bad times, with some games that definitely needed my attention.
I finished Skyrim about
two weeks ago and started Saints Row The Third. Saints Row 3 is,
without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable games I've played all of
2011. Maybe one of the best PC games I've ever played that isn't
called Skyrim. It's a game with only one goal in mind, as far as I
can see, when the developers at Volition made the game; to have fun.
It's over the top, silly, frantic, and completely removed from
reality. This is a game made for gamers with gamers in mind. When
Saints Row 1 came out, it was a GTA clone. When Saints Row 2 came
out, it was continuing the GTA clone ideals. Saints Row 3, on the
other hand, is something Rockstar needs to be worried about. When
GTA4 went serious, Saints Row 3 went towards the silliness that GTA
used to exemplify. This is what makes it so much better than
anything I could have expected.
I also played some
Batman Arkham City thanks to a friend gifting it on Steam for the
holidays. I didn't get nearly as much time with Batman as I did with
SR3. It's not that I didn't want to play it as much as I couldn't
play a PC game that signed me into Live when Velveta wanted to watch
Netflix on the 360. It was a battle of which system (360 or PC)
would win the Live log in battle. That wasn't fair for anyone, so
Batman got a little less attention than it deserved. I mean Batman
is the best example I've seen ever of what a comic based game should
be. While you have the action of a game, you have the definite plot
of a small volume total comic experience. You have the comic looking
art style with a plot that goes beyond what a game normally delivers
when it's not a flat-out RPG.
I also played some of
Might and Magic: Heroes VI (HoMM6). I would say, as a fan of HoMM3,
that this game is amazing. I hated HoMM4 and never tried HoMM5.
HoMM6 was a perfect looking continuation of the franchise. It
captured the feel and style of HoMM3 without any of the silly
changes of HoMM4 and without the poor attempt to utilize 3D as seen
in HoMM5. Well, it would be perfect if not for Ubisoft not
understanding the difference between protecting their games from
piracy and treating their paying customers like thieves. Well, their
attempt at DRM is nothing short as asinine. To full play the game,
you need to log in to Uplay (Ubisoft servers) and then to Conflux
(HoMM6 sever on Uplay), even for an offline game. Velveta and I play
hotseat on HoMM games, so online is not needed. Well, when Conflux
went down all of New Years day, this meant we were locked out of the
full experience for an entire day. This is after buying the game the
day before and playing a good five to six hours. By losing Conflux
access, we lost our saved games and our custom made heroes. So, we
started a new game offline on January 1st. Well, when Conflux
returned, we now couldn't access these offline saves unless we
played offline, without the special abilities and features only
found in this offline game when we play online...despite being
returned, for the most part. However, Uplay kept logging us out
which meant our offline game would quit mid-battle if the network
had a minor error. This meant online, but offline, games were still
not a good option. By this point, the game just doesn't look good
anymore. We have two games going, and no interest in playing a
crippled game (one without full HoMM6 features) nor a game which
cannot live long enough to ensure a chance to save before the game
quits on us.
I now just want my money
back for this sham of a product. Ubisoft claims 24/7 support for
their servers on their Uplay FAQ on the Ubisoft website. On their
Facebook pages, on January 1st, their staff said the server would
take time to be restored since the server people were on holiday.
This is a fraudulent statement. Either the staff was present, or the
24/7 claim is a lie. Either way, if I cannot enjoy a full game I
paid for, in an offline fashion, when I want to, then this is not a
game I want. What happens in a few years when HoMM6 is no longer
supported by Ubisoft? The game will not be a full game anymore. May
not seem like an issue to Ubisoft, but I still love and play HoMM3,
so this is a definite possibility. Without telling the truth on
their server situation (24/7 support), I simply want my money back
and want to make a stand against buying anymore Ubisoft PC crap.
So, in the theme of this
being the farewell week, for me, for 2011, I will start the
situation with my first "...of 2011 Award" style claim.
"The Worst Experience of
2011" award goes to Ubisoft and Might and Magic: Heroes VI. This is
something that could have been a great game if not being produced by
a company that wants to make their customers feel like criminals. I
want my money back and I want to see Ubisoft never come near my PC
Continuing with the
theme of 2011 in review, I present another of my pseudo-awards.
Gaming Realization of 2011 goes to Nintendo and Zelda. Despite being
the 25th anniversary year for Zelda, the franchise looked pretty sad
this last year. Yes, a few Zelda titles came along, but did they
mean anything compared to the Zelda games of years past? I really
don't think so.
The first touch of
Zelda for 2011 was the remake of Ocarina of Time on the 3DS. Yes, it
was a faithful remake. Yes, it was fun. However...yes, it was the
same damned game that has been seen on the N64, Gamecube (as a free
item with pre-order of Wind Waker), and Wii (on Virtual Console).
True, the 3D was pretty impressive. Ocarina on the 3DS had the best
pop-out of visuals I've seen on the 3DS, but is that what one should
be thinking about a Zelda title? "Ocarina had amazing pop-out" is
not the same as something like "Zelda was unbelievably amazing!"
The year continued
with a free release on the 3DS (and maybe on the DSi?) of Four
Swords. Quite frankly, trying to play this game again was hard. It's
a GBA title, which meant it lacked many important features one would
want in the DS and 3DS, such as utilizing all of the buttons. Some
games can be revisited over the years, but the original Four Swords
is not one of these games. It was just slow and awkward to see this
game that was always more focused on multiplayer than on Zelda ideas
on a modern platform.
The year ended
with Skyward Sword on the Wii. I would have been excited about this
title, but it just had too much going against it when release rolled
around. First off, it required the Wii Motion Plus controller. I
don't have one, nor do I want to spend extra money on my Wii when
the system itself just normally is collecting dust. I only use my
Wii as a Netflix streaming device and nothing more. The last time I
used the Wii for a game was when Mario Galaxy was new, and buying
anything to add to the system beyond software seems wrong on too
Secondly, for the
first time I can think of, Zelda was not one of the must have titles
released in a holiday season. Can you really justify Zelda when you
have Skyrim, Batman, Saints Row The Third, Old Republic, and dozens
of other truly A+ titles coming along at the same time. If you only
owned a Wii, then Skyward Sword was the best option for a new game.
Of course, if you only owned a Wii, then you're probably not much of
a gamer at this point when the consoles have all seen some major
price cuts and a half decade of life.
The third thing
that turned me off from Skyward Sword is that it has another round
of a half-assed attempt at skipping an over world map system. Like
with Spirit Tracks, Phantom Hourglass, and Wind Waker, Skyward Sword
takes out a fun to explore world and gives you levels found within a
slow to navigate map screen. Yes, you are flying on your bird, but
that is just never going to compare to exploring the world like you
did in the original Zelda, Link to the Past, Ocarina, or Twilight
Princess. On a portable system, I can understand the attempt to
streamline, but I just don't see why this system of slow and tedious
travel must exist on Nintendo's flagship console.
Lastly, I didn't
give much consideration to Skyward Sword because the game
journalists didn't seem to feel differently than I did. I mean the
coverage I could find outside of Nintendo owned publications was far
more limited for Skyward Sword than I think I've ever seen for a
Zelda game and far less than nearly any other game released this
year. It almost felt like Zelda was the game that time forgot this
year. In fact, it might seem harsh, but I almost am feeling like
Zelda is now a franchise that is ready to retire. After 25 years,
can you keep doing the same general concept, but tweaking it in ways
that are not always for the best, and still keep a top-tier
franchise at the top? Maybe you can, but I'm not feeling it anymore
probably give the game a chance if it didn't cost me more than a
360, PS3, or PC game (add in the Wii Motion Plus cost and it's a bit
much to swallow). I can see trying the game if I find a price break.
I can see trying the game in the summer when solid releases are not
a guarantee. Until then, I've had, since Skyward Sword came along,
Skyrim, Rocksmith, Saints Row The Third, Batman Arkham City, and I
still have Deus Ex and a few other higher respected titles to enjoy.
So, I have to say
while it may have been the anniversary year for Zelda, I feel that
Zelda was not invited to the party. It felt like celebrating the
birthday of someone who turned 76. Yes, it's an old and respectable
age, but it's not a milestone worth recognizing anymore.
More of my 2011 in
review follows...but first, I just have to say that right when I
felt pretty disappointed with Super Mario 3D Land, I had one hell of
a great surprise. Last night I was at the final level. The final
Bowser castle. The castle after what looked like the original final
castle. The end of the game. I just didn't feel like playing the
final castle since I last put the game down, a few weeks ago. Last
night, I decided it was time to end this.
After playing what
had to be the first level with any real challenge in it, the end
credits rolled. It was done...until Luigi showed his face. Ends up
the game had a whole new set of levels. As many as the game seemed
to already have, but entirely new (or mostly new...some levels are
less new than others) and with a lot more challenge than the
original easy eight worlds had.
I guess you could
say that this was my favorite surprise from a game from 2011.
On a more style
sounding a little more like a proclamation; The Largest Non-News of
2011 goes to Nintendo again. Nintendo, despite not being much of my
life in 2011 is sure picking up a lot of my pseudo-awards.
I could have given
this to the "failure" of the 3DS. However, being the start of a
console life cycle, one has to expect some missteps. I mean name a
console with a good launch that is post-16-bit era. Name one.
Couldn't? That's because they have all had weak launches. I should
know, since I have been there from the start for all but two (PS3
and original XBox).
I could have given
this to Sony and their Vita. The thing just doesn't look right to
me. However, we will not really know until it really launches.
No. Nintendo gets
this dubious honor for the Wii-U. If I have ever had a strong
opinion about a console when it was announced, and I have, they
usually soften with time and I join the hype machine in glorious
adoration. Not the Wii-U. This thing has made me less excited each
time I've read more information.
First, there are
the specs under the hood of this thing. If you remove an iPad-like
controller, you have a very weak console. Yes, Nintendo showed with
the Wii that they don't care about technology and being on the
cutting edge. However, at the end of the current generation, which
console has held up the least? The Wii. Yes, a good amount of that
comes from too few solid must have games. However, it is also a
console that just looks and feels old before its time due to having
such limited technology.
On the other hand,
you have the Wii-U controller. I'm not talking about the mostly
unknown multiplayer controllers. I'm talking about the tablet main
controller. It looks like a neat idea, but it also looks like it
will become both impractical (too few buttons) and uncomfortable
(large and square) in a hurry. Even if it isn't so bad to use,
there's the simple fact that controllers break. I've yet to have a
console in which all of my controllers have been good from launch
through the end of the consoles lifespan (and in my house, the
lifespan is never ending...just ask my NES, Lynx, SNES, 3DO, or even
my Odyssey 2, which is actually older than I am). This means I would
expect the tablet of the Wii-U to break. However, the tablet
controller cannot be replaced. It is not something you can pick up
more of than what came in the box with the Wii-U.
Most of all with
the tablet, Nintendo has tried to hype this thing by saying how (as
always done with individual screens on consoles) you can do
something like play a football game and not let the other players
see your playbook. That could be neat...except if you are player 2.
I mean it is like Nintendo is wanting to cause tension in
multiplayer games just through the fact that player 1 will get a
In the end, after
seeing the N-64, Gamecube, and Wii turn into dust collectors before
their time in my home, and seeing that many similar ideas are at
play with the Wii-U, I will simply say I am not joining this party.
I've been burned on all consoles from Nintendo since the N-64 reared
its damned head. I say enough! I am out. If Nintendo wants to sell
me a handheld, then I am happy to follow their commands to open my
wallet. If they want me to buy something to connect to my TV, then
they need to do some major work to restore my confidence in them.
Even if the Wii-U is considered a success right out of the gate, I
am still refusing to buy a Nintendo console until year 2 has come
around. The Wii looked promising to start and the lack of technology
as well as a lack of games sure made my purchase look bad.
I say the Wii-U is
non-news simply because of one fact; is it a surprise anymore, or
even remotely like news, when Nintendo announces another wacky
console idea that doesn't bring technology to the table and doesn't
seem like it fits into the grand scheme of the console world? It
isn't news to me anymore.
On this final day of me
thinking about 2011, I realize something important. Besides the 3DS
and the Ocarina of Time remake on the 3DS, I cannot remember
anything I was playing from 2011 before Bastion came along in the
second half of the year. I mean I did play Fallout 3 and New Vegas,
but those were anything but games from 2011. I'm sure I must have
played something else in the first half of the year, but I simply
cannot remember it at all. Either it's a sign I'm getting out of
touch with reality, or it's a sign that 2011 started with not much
to be proud of. Considering usual first half of a year games, I'm
guessing it's the second option.
So, in order, I
give my three best games of 2011.
amazing. It is without a doubt my number 3 game for 2011. It had
everything a full retail game should have, but came with a cheap
price and a download only format. I cannot ask for anything more
from such an inexpensive package than quality and quantity without a
large economical impact on my bank account.
As for why the
game was amazing...there is nothing you cannot enjoy about this
game. The visual style was amazing. It looked like some of the best
artwork you could find in a game. It was bright, vibrant, detailed,
yet simplistic and able to tell more of a story through pure visuals
than many retail games tell with the entire package. To go with
these visuals, you have some of the best audio work I've heard ever
in a game. Between one of the more solid original soundtracks I've
ever heard, the narration was amazing to set the mood. Hearing the
stranger explain every action was wonderful. You didn't just have a
short quip or two about the game as it progressed, but even minor
details such as your weapon choices and your playing style were
discussed by a great voice that really set the tone of this game and
its bleak setting. It all tied together to help form the basis for
an amazing plot that went far deeper than one would expect.
To round it all
out, you had smooth game play mechanics that were great to play and
made me actually miss when games could both look good and play good.
When I finished the game, the very first thing I did was start
another game (new game + is a bonus) and go through the entire
experience a second time to hear any new thoughts from the stranger.
I easily got more than 25 hours from this game, which worked out to
almost 2 hours per dollar paid. Great game, and great value.
Number 2 for 2011,
and barely not number 1 (any other year this would not have been a
hard to call number 2, but rather a solid number 1) was Saints Row
The Third. I could go on about the game in so many ways, but I think
it can all be explained in one easy thought; this is a game made by
people who obviously understand what can make a game fun to play.
Yes, the plot, visuals, options, audio, and all of that are top
notch. However, when it comes down to it, more than anything, SR3
was just fun.
I should say,
beyond all, that the PC version is the way to go if you have the
option. The 360 version looks a bit limited in terms of hardware
technology. I don't know how the PS3 versions is, but my aging PC
had no problem putting on a better experience than I'd expect from
I think the only
downside of SR3 is that it is shorter than I wanted. However, that's
not much of a complaint when I got about 40 hours out of the game. I
mean if you play for 40 hours and want more, then that's only a
complaint until you realize that it is actually a selling point. SR3
is fun, looks good, controls wonderfully with a 360 gamepad on a PC,
and offers so many different diversions and events. Any other year
and SR3 would be the game of the year without a doubt. I'm just sad
with myself that I almost skipped the game due to SR1 being a cheap
GTA clone, and SR2 being so bad that it was shovelware at best.
My Game of the
Year for 2011 should be no surprise...Skyrim. I've already discussed
Skyrim excessively in my posts from November and December, so I'll
just say the PC version is amazing. Yes, I wish Bethesda didn't
release an entirely broken PS3 version and glitchy versions for the
360 and PC. However, if you are lucky enough to avoid all or most
technical issues, Skyrim is the best damned game I think I have ever
played in my entire life. Like with SR3, I want more.
Why Skyrim beats
our SR3 is pretty hard to explain. In the end, I think it comes down
to how I spent 140 hours in Skyrim and want more. No game has ever
done this for me before. Oblivion had me feeling finished after ~80
hours (and without finishing all quest lines). Skyrim saw me finish
every normal quest I could find, and most side quests. I literally
made my own quests at the end in order to not see the game end. It
was only when I really couldn't find another thing to do that I
finally had to call it quits. If $60 can score you 140 hours and you
want more, then I think that will win in my books nearly every time.
No matter how I
look at it, I can tell you that any DLC that comes along for
Bastion, Saints Row The Third, or Skyrim and adds content (not just
clothes, weapons, or other filled material) will be purchased by
myself...no matter if it seems overpriced or if it's a bargain. When
these games give so much, I think more is all I care about. Well, I
care about playing more, but I also have to say for the first time I
can think of, I actually want to give three developers more of my
money. These games were so good that I want to support their
When it is all
said and done, just for my top three games I have to say 2011 was
one of the best years for gaming I've ever experienced. Throw in
starting the year with Fallout 3, New Vegas, and playing some
Rocksmith, Batman Arkham City, Super Mario 3D Land, and opening my
eyes to some of the simple joys of the Kinect (Velveta got one from
me for Christmas) and it will be hard to top 2011.
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