2009 Silicon Sasquatch Game of the Year Awards: #4-2
We're proud to present you with our first-ever Game of the Year awards! Our list of the top ten games of 2009 was derived after hours of debate between all the blog's contributors. It wasn't an easy process, but we are confident that the list we arrived at is the most comprehensive and fair one we could produce.
Today we'll cover numbers 4, 3 and 2, and on Thursday we'll finally unveil our unanimous choice for the best game of 2009.
#4. Dragon Age: Origins
November -- Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Dragon Age: Origins is an achievement in storytelling, characterization and scene-setting. You could invest hundreds of hours in the war-torn land of Ferelden and it's still doubtful you'll see everything by the time the credits roll.
The game's staggering depth hides beneath a simple facade crafted by a lackluster advertising campaign. To most, Dragon Age looks just like another fantasy role playing game with gushing blood and exaggerated breasts. But with a bit of patience on the player's part, it doesn't take long to realize the tacky image splashed across magazine pages and Internet banner ads is merely a trick employed by BioWare to appeal to a wider audience, an audience that has never played “one of them Final Quest 7 RPG things” (an actual quote from a gamer friend of mine). Veterans of the genre as well as past BioWare titles (specifically Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights; Dragon Age pays great homage to both) will delight in the overwhelming number of activities to engage in, but I have to wonder if BioWare's new intellectual property will be appreciated by that elusive wider audience.
Dragon Age is one of the best games of 2009 because its entire package, from the most complicated twist to the tiniest minutiae, is enthralling. Every aspect works in concert to make the player feel fulfilled by his or her decisions; be it the characters with their perfectly voiced lines of dialogue or the rich, well-crafted history of Ferelden, the presentation is amazing.
And yes, the good vs. evil world of Elves and Dwarves is just another realization of the Tolkien fantasy formula – and Dragon Age does border on cliché at times – but the overall project is an example of how to effectively use the videogame medium to provide complex and individualized experiences for the user. As much as games are becoming more and more cinematic, movies are incapable of Dragon Age's level of diversity. My ending will not be the same as yours, or your friend's, or anyone's. Tiny aspects, such as helping an Elf with his lovesick heart, matter just as much as bigger ones, like saving the imprisoned foreigner accused of murder. Each action can splinter into multiple different outcomes. When I ask friends about their Dragon Age experiences, they continue to inform me of fairly large events that I never saw, and I played the game for more than 50 hours!
BioWare built its reputation on top-tier role-playing games, and Dragon Age: Origins – its latest in-house franchise -- lifts the developer to dizzying new heights. -- Aaron Thayer
#3. The Beatles: Rock Band
September -- Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii
For me, Rock Band is like the music appreciation course I never took in college. Since the platform debuted two years ago, I've played countless songs by hundreds of artists that I would have never thought to pay any attention to in the first place. And thanks to the series' sleek visuals, strong design principles and reverence for the music it provides, Rock Band has always been held in high regard.
So when we say that The Beatles: Rock Band easily surpasses any other music game in its quality of presentation and dedication to its source material, that's no small feat. After all, this is the first time The Beatles' music has ever been licensed for a digital platform -- a miracle in itself, considering how mired iTunes' talks have been.
No doubt recognizing the weight of having such an important license on its hands, Harmonix pulled out all the stops in The Beatles: Rock Band. A stunning series of hand-drawn and computer-animated cutscenes pepper the duration of the experience, including an unforgettable conclusion. Who'd have imagined one of the best endings in a game this year would be in a music game?
Featuring a soundtrack by one of the best acts in musical history and tried-and-true mechanics that your little brother and grandmother can both pick up on, The Beatles: Rock Band is perhaps the easiest game of 2009 to recommend to anybody. And even if you don't count yourself among the legions of Beatles fans, you're guaranteed to at least develop an appreciation for the immeasurable contribution the Fab Four made to modern music. -- Nick Cummings
#2. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
October -- PlayStation 3
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves might have earned a spot on our list just for being the most visually stunning game of the year. It also deserves high praise for being one of the most improved sequels of this console generation. Or we could have recognized it for its excellent competitive and cooperative online components that rival the biggest games on the market.
Those are all major reasons for why we chose Uncharted 2 as the second-best game of the 2009, but it wouldn't have cemented itself so near the top of our list without its ineffable charm. Spend just a few minutes with treasure hunter Nathan Drake and his ragtag ensemble and you'll realize just how likable videogame characters can be.
Uncharted 2 is the videogame equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster that does everything right: huge explosions, breathtaking scenery, expert pacing, a haunting score and a motley crew of antiheroes that you're all but guaranteed to love. It all adds up to a memorable, exhilarating adventure that's without a doubt one of the best experiences to be had in gaming. -- Nick Cummings