So we finally did it. After scheduling conflicts, a botched Mayan apocalypse, and what can only be described as the worst water polo accident of 2012, we finally have our Game of the Year list. We at LevelSave have done our best to bring you our list with as much transparency and balance among the team as we could. Several team members (see: almost all) live in separate parts of the country(s) and so coming together to argue about videogames is not as simple as one might think.
So what we did was have every member send in their personal top 5, ordered from best to least best. Then through complicated mathematical jargon a list of the highest ranked and/or most mentioned were put into a list. The list of contenders are as follows-
The Walking Dead
Mass Effect 3
NBA 2K 13
After the list was made a podcast was queued up in order to hash out the winners. In the end the podcast consisted of Barry, Taryn, Austin, and Myself. We trimmed down the list, ranked them in order, and nearly jumped through the internet to strangle one another. You can listen to the entire debate below, which I would suggest since I put quite some time into editing.
Whether you listened to it or not, it is time for the winners.
5. FEZ– Fez has been called a masterpiece. It seamlessly combined beautiful 2D and 3D art with a wonderfully mastered soundtrack, tight controls, and challenging puzzles. It featured fun gameplay and a story that sunk its hooks into the entirety of the internet for a solid week. Not an easy feat for sure. Be wary of those hooks though, because if they snag you, then Fez is sure to keep you restrained in front of your TV for hours on end.
4. Borderlands 2– Bigger, Badder, Gunnier. Borderlands 2 took everything that made the original Borderlands fantastic and made it better. Best of all it roped in the original Vault Hunters and story in a way that, not only made sense, but was also very enjoyable. If that was not enough there were all new characters that collectively jam pack so much funny that the game should have been rated AlO, “Asses laughed Off.” Oh and guns, there were many, many, more guns.
3. The Walking Dead– Gamers around the world were witness to a revolutionary change in storytelling with The Walking Dead. In the first episode, for example, you are given a choice and either one person dies or another person dies. There is no “right or wrong” decision, just equally bad options. The entire game revolves around the choices you make and no single choice is going to have a good outcome. That would not matter if the characters were not also so wonderfully written. These are not just avatars you are interacting with, they are people and you are changing their lives forever. For better or, more likely, for worse.
2. Mass Effect 3– Mass Effect 3 is the culmination of the story kickstarted in the two previous titles. Commander Shepard struggles desperately to eliminate the Reaper threat and guarantee survival for all intelligent life in the galaxy. All of your decisions up to this point have been carried forward and can have heavy impacts on the entire game. And if the original ending was not enough for you, the developers cared so much about fan outcry that they created an extended cut ending with new content and an epilogue. The unparalleled single player experience is coupled with an engaging cooperative multiplayer game, which several members of the LevelSave team are hooked on, which makes this one of the best games of 2012.
1. Journey– Journey has been compared to, not without good reason, to an excellent movie. The obvious reason is the playtime, around two hours, but the more substantial is Journey‘s ability to evoke emotion with so little. There are no lines of dialogue, no character building moments, and very minimal “conflict, resolution.” There is only you and the mountain, get there. The story that is told along the way is not really about the history of the world, but more about you and how you interact with that world. The feelings of joy, sorrow, loss, discovery, and elation are woven so tightly throughout the entire game that it is hard to distinguish where your character ends and you begin. There is nothing else like Journey and you owe it to yourself to live through it.
So that does it for the congealed LevelSave Game of the Year clot. However, everybody has that one game they feel should either be mentioned or even should have been the winner. So below is everyone’s personal vendettas. These are not necessarily a staff member’s Game of the Year, it could just be an honorable mention, it is also just as likely that it has already been on the top five. This is more of a free form section instated to ensure that every team member had a voice and their personal favorite was represented.
Adam: Gravity Rush– “While the PS Vita is still looking for a larger audience, one game that can please all who buy it is Gravity Rush. Floating through a city and feeling like a superhero is no doubt one of the most unique experiences I had playing games this year. The game’s story will keep you interested and plenty of challenge levels will keep you coming back. Gravity Rush should not be missed by anyone picking up a PS Vita.”
Chris: Xcom: Enemy Unknown– “Xcom was not my favorite game of 2012, that belongs to The Walking Dead, but it certainly was the most surprising. I enjoy a good Strategy game from time to time but I am very, very, bad at them. Especially when you move down to small squad sizes going up against impossible odds. But unlike most strategy games, Xcom was not an impenetrable wall of class rock, paper, scissors. So by the time I had finished the tutorial I felt vaguely confident in my ability to control a situation. Xcom is designed so that anybody can pick it up and get a subtle grasp but also built so deep that I refuse to play if I am even remotely tired, or drunk. In a generation filled with “follow” icons, Xcom was surprising in its ability to teach you by kicking your teeth in but keep you hooked with the occasional triumphant victory.”
James: Mass Effect 3– (James opted to use an excerpt from one of his more recent “Into the Fray” articles, you should check them out) “To clarify I have played through each one of the Mass Effect games multiple times, the original I have 5 complete games, 5 for the second and 3 for the trilogy’s finale. Each time I have been able to craft a story different enough to be sold as its unique game and franchise. I think it’s that very fact that further expands upon the monumental accomplishment achieved by the development and writing teams that made this possible. For me Mass Effect 3 should be celebrated in the way that Peter Jackson’s epic conclusion of the Lord of the Rings series was at the Oscars. Even if you found another game that was slightly more entertaining or one that had tighter controls as a gamer and a fan of the advancement of games you have to admit that no one accomplished what the men and women at Bioware. ”
Taryn: Xcom: Enemy Unknown– “I’m disappointed that it worked out with Xcom not making the top 5. Xcom is a solid turn based strategy game that mixes in resource management. It’s a testament to the hard work of Firaxis that it plays so well on a console. With a lot of depth for hardcore players, it is one to check out from 2012.”
Austin: Halo 4– “Halo 4 is 343 Industrie’s first foray into the Halo universe after Bungie passed the torch. It has, by far, the best graphics of any Xbox 360 game to date and a story that will have you yearning for the next game. While multiplayer isn’t perfect, the addition of Spartan Ops and all the new gameplay modes will have you soaring through the ranks.”
Barry: “Spec Ops: The Line– Spec Ops :The Line is 3rd person shooter that takes place in Dubai after it’s been devastated by an apocalyptic sand storm. You play as Captain Martin Walker, part of the Delta Force squad sent in to make contact with anyone left living. Don’t be fooled though, this is not a “Yo, dude bro, bro dude” shooter in anyway. The story and characters are so much more than that. “
“Without spoiling it, what happens after your team enters Dubai, you would never expect. Such catastrophic decisions were made, that left me slack jawed and speechless following these moments. I all at once pitied, hated and still rooted for Captain Walker. That’s the whole point of this game. When you’re cut off from the world the “line” between right and wrong can become blurred. “
“The way Spec Ops plays with your head and emotions, all the while being combined with rock solid gameplay makes it one of my favorite gaming experiences this year.”
Well folks that about wraps it up. 2012 was a fantastic year full of games that shook the very foundation of what we call a “game.” As the medium evolves from its infancy into the mature art form of the future, we can all hope to see more earth shattering experiences. Looking forward into 2013 and the release of new consoles, one can only imagine the provocative forays into the unknown we will witness. It is a whole new world out there and we have only just begun to explore it.