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2011 has been a very well-paced year for gamers. We started out with a couple of hits in
January and ended with a major release less than a week before Christmas. My
favorites this year include horror, comedy, epic RPG’s, downloadable arcade
games, and even a DLC pack from a 2010 game that was so good it deserves just
as much honor as the full games. Developers are making great games at a faster
rate than anyone can play them all, but here are ten that I thoroughly enjoyed.
10: Magicka - This goofy little indie game doesn’t take itself seriously, and pokes much fun at fantasy clichés. Right from the start I was laughing out loud at the voicework, and the writing kept me snickering for hours. The basic premise of combining elements that are mapped to hotkeys makes Magicka control and play differently than other action RPG’s of its ilk. And talk about support from the developer, nearly a year after it came out, they’ve released their bazillionth DLC pack, The Stars Are Left, a parody of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories.
9: Bastion - The slick narrative and use of voice work gave this indie a distinct sense of style. The visual design and gameplay are very familiar, but Bastion is a case of something we’ve seen before done really really well. At heart it’s an action RPG, but due to its thought-provoking story, this is among the best of the downloadable games of the year.
8: Alice: Madness Returns - Look, I’m as manly as the next guy, but that doesn’t mean I’m not constantly on the lookout for games where the main character wears lots of pretty dresses! I enjoyed the first game in this series and was very happy to see the sequel show up, even if it took ten years. It lets gamers be girly, but also brutally murder things with a butcher knife.
7: Dead Space 2 - This sequel took everything cool about the first game, then upped the pace. The slow survival horror turned into Action/Horror as players encountered waves of deadly enemies but got a better interface to help mow down these Space Zombies. My only complaint is that the Zero gravity wall-walking feature was replaced with a jetpack. But still, I’m happy for any chance to stomp on some more Unitarians.
6: Portal 2 -
Many of the games on this list are here because they’re funny. The Portal games are set in a weird world of crazy computers,
and even crazier humans. While the
level design and gameplay mechanics are brilliant too, I’m putting Portal
2 among my favorites for making me laugh so
5: Batman Arkham City: But it’s not all about fun and games. Batman Arkham City reminds us that there’s nothing funny about The Joker’s twisted schemes! It let me patrol the rooftops of Gotham City as the goddamned Batman, just like Arkham Asylum, but this time around I also got to play at Catwoman in what is the best video game interpretation of Catwoman so far. Plus Arkham City gave me the option of swapping my gritty modern Batman for some of the other incarnations of the character with DLC skin packs. It’s nice hearing Kevin Conroy’s voice come out of the Paul Dini Animated Series interpretation of the character again.
4: Old World Blues - This was the third and best of the DLC packs that came out for Fallout: New Vegas. While New Vegas is a great game on its own, Old World Blues put the Player in the middle of a cheesy sci-fi film right out of a 50’s matinee. Kidnapped by brains in jars, and forced to do battle with Rob-scorpions, it had Fallout fans living through every sci-fi cliché in the book, all with a knowing wink. Anyone who likes humor in their games has to grab this DLC pack (And of course a copy of New Vegas too).
3: Deus Ex: Human Revolution - I like my shooters to have a good story (That’s why Call of Battle 3: Field of Duty isn’t on this list). I was in on Deus Ex way back in the beginning. I loved the first game in the series, and had more tolerance for the second game than most people did, but the long gap between Deus Ex Invisible War, and Human Revolution was hard for me This was one game I wanted BAD and it didn’t disappoint.
2: Star Wars The Old Republic - It’s only just come out, but I’ve had enough time with it to declare this one of the best games of the year. I’ve been a fan of this franchise since the first Knights of the Old Republic game, and I hardly noticed that SW:TOR is even an online game. The story-based single player missions are just as good as Bioware’s other games. Each of the classes gets their own origin story, much like Dragon Age Origins, but full of authentic Star Warsiness. And yes, it’s nice to share the fun with other people online.
1: Skryim - I used to be a video game critic, but then I took an arrow to the knee