2013 Game of the Year Awards: Doug's Honorable Mentions
Welcome to our post-Game of the Year honorable mentions week at Silicon Sasquatch. Unfortunately, not all of my favorite games could make the Top 10 list; however, here are a few of the other games which I spent a lot of time with, loved and tried to push into the Top 10 to no avail. Alas, you’re left with my list. What made the cut? Click through to find out!
First and foremost, PlayStation Plus remains an absolute steal. For the price of one major release, I’ve received (and played quite a bit of) the following games this year: Sleeping Dogs, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Saint’s Row the Third, and Jet Set Radio. That's not to mention my backlog of PS+ games that I think look interesting, including The Cave, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Hitman: Absolution, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Hotline Miami, Dragon’s Dogma, Binary Domain and Dyad.
That’s a lot of value for $50. And that’s not even the all-inclusive list of games given to Plus members.
I know that it’s a service and not a game. I know that it’s now becoming semi-mandatory on PlayStation 4 as a requirement for online play. And the service's future raises doubts: What of the back-catalog for PS4's immediate future? But Sony gave away the best launch title, Resogun, for free to subscribers. The Instant Game Collection has become too big of a hook for Sony to not keep it going, and seeing as my PlayStation 3 will stay in use for a while, I look forward to chipping away at that backlog for a long time.
Grand Theft Auto V
September | Rockstar North | PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
This game deserves a mention. It was one of the biggest, most-anticipated launches of the year and, despite its hit status, it’s only on one of our lists. Perhaps as surprisingly, I was the sole staff member who nominated this blockbuster for our Top 10.
Grand Theft Auto V is as Grand Theft Auto as ever: a sprawling city filled with interactive minigames, shops spread among several districts and safe houses dotted where needed. It’s an echo of what's come before, but with a much shinier coat of paint. And, for the most part, the story’s writing and pacing is as good as any recent Rockstar game.
So why did it miss the Top 10?
Despite the big new gameplay hooks -- three protagonists with multi-protagonist missions and heists -- it all starts to feel samey. There are three different main characters, yes, but not enough separates Franklin, Michael and Trevor from one another to matter. And while it’s fun to switch over to Trevor and see where he next wakes up in a drunken stupor, the delivery feels like an overall lost opportunity.
GTA’s trademark skewering of American culture may finally have gone to the well one too many times. The sophomoric humor falls flat. The heists are especially fun, but there are still too many drive-action-drive missions that don’t feel unique or new. Los Santos is a spit-shined, sun-baked La La Land version of Grand Theft Auto; at its best the game's still better than many of its peers, but that’s not quite good enough to crack our list this year, or any year.
Civilization V: Brave New World
July | Firaxis Games | OS X, Windows
Once upon a time, there was a simple, regular version Civilization V, and it was good! But it wasn’t enough. In 2011 the first expansion pack, Civilization V: Gods and Kings, was released. Gods and Kings came to my computer via a Steam sale earlier this summer. It was fun to adapt to the expansion's new additions because by that time I had a great handle on the basics of Civilization.
Later in the summer I finally picked up this year’s expansion pack, Brave New World. The second expansion adds a few new gameplay twists: trade routes, which add to the economy; culture and influence can now impact other civilizations and leads to the culture victory; and international diplomacy matters sooner thanks to the League of Nations beginning earlier in the game.
In a certain way these are just simple additions added on-top of the existing structure. However, Brave New World makes the game feel much more alive. In previous iterations, things could get a bit boring unless you were in a war. Now, there’s much more to manage. Even better, this allow you to specialize your nation: You can take over the world by trade, build up artistic and cultural might or maintain political control and ally with city-states. These new systems make holistic sense, and there’s enough diversity among the newer civilizations to allow for very different styles of play.
Civilization V: Brave New World doesn’t make the list because it's an expansion to the main game. Even so I think this is a unique experience that builds off of the vanilla framework as well as the Gods and Kings variations.
I have a lot of other games on my plate, but I know it would simply take a fresh Brave New World campaign to fall right back into the habit.