Thursday, January 02, 2014

2013 Wrap-up and Plans for '14

Looking over my blog posts from 2013, I saw that it was April before I posted a list of the games I played and finished in 2012. Part of the reason it took so long was procrastination, but another part was that I did finish a number of games that year and it took awhile to get all my thoughts straight on them. 2013's list is somewhat smaller - by a lot! You see, I got a new best friend on January 18, 2013 and the days of long gaming nights were severely curtailed by puppy-hood. And I wouldn't have traded it for anything in the world!

As Nagano grew up, we settled into a routine of late evening gaming while he napped on the sofa. (Doggy play right before bed isn't very conducive to sleep.) Staying up til midnight or later every night probably isn't the best thing for getting enough sleep, but I feel energized by a good game session so it's worth it.

My main gaming activities this year have been my retro PS2 collection play through and some Steam gaming toward the end of the year, along with a healthy amount of Animal Crossing on the 3DS.

I think that my completion of the PS2 Batman Begins game was the best part of my 2013 gaming. I'm not usually a gamer who finishes games - I lose interest in them either because they get too repetitious, too hard, or take too long (game fatigue for me sets in around 8+ hours). However, I stuck with this one because it kept presenting fresh challenges, but never any that were soul-crushingly difficult. I also enjoyed that the story matched the movie - a rarity for a movie tie-in game, and that the character modeling was surprisingly good. I really felt like I had uncovered a lost gem from a generation of past consoles. Considering this was also the year that new systems were released, I felt it particularly fitting.

As my Steam game library is now over 600 (!), I spent a fair amount of time playing games there. I've started to setup categories for games (Currently Playing, Ok but not great, Played, Casual, etc) and will hopefully have all of them sorted at some point. It will take a long, long time. My "finished" list here is limited to fairly short games - 2 to 5 hours each. I got through Gone Home, The Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 1, and, just last night, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (ok, technically that was 2014, but only the last 45 minutes).

Gone Home is currently the hot GOTY topic/controversy because a lot of people think it isn't a game. To me, it felt like a weird concept Half-Life 2 mod which wasn't worth the full $20 that it was priced at (but it's been available lots of times for considerably less). However, finding out about this family in bits and pieces, putting together people's lives from things you find around this huge empty house at night, in the middle of a raging thunderstorm, and having it all come together in an orderly fashion that builds tension...WOW! Call it a game or not, it was a great experience!

The first episode of "season two" of TWD left me a little at odds with myself. On the one hand, Telltale Games has improved the overall look of the game, and we are indeed playing Clementine, but I don't know if that, playing her, is a good thing. I felt more attached to the game when I was playing Lee because I felt that it was me protecting Clem and as a parent myself, I could relate to that. Now, I still feel like I'm protecting her, even though I'm supposed to be her. It makes my choices feel less like something she might do if I wasn't looking out for her. I also think they tried too hard to make the episode "intense" by having Clem do something that I don't think even most adults could do. Just seemed too over the top and was more a case of having to do something that was expected of the franchise.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was the kind of game that just makes you feel great to be a gamer. It puts you in control of two characters at once - something very few games have ever done. You have to guide the brothers on a mission to find a cure for their gravely ill father, their only living parent. For this reason alone, the fairly short play time is justified - there is urgency in returning to your father's healer. The lands you cross on this trek are like something out of the finest fantasy art books! Best of all, the actual playing of the game (the "platforming" for lack of a better term) doesn't get in the way of this quest. Most puzzles are fairly simple and revolve around using both brothers at the same time for some tasks. The result is a storybook kind of progression, a gradual continuation of their tale with the option from time to time for "side-quests" of minimal complexity.  I will admit, I was not prepared for the ending. When you look at the screen and say to yourself, "No, not that. Don't make me do that! Please!" you realize just how powerful a game can be when  it's created by true artists.

And, eyes wiped and nose blown, time to look ahead to 2014.

While there are two new consoles out there (ok, 3 if you count the Wii U), I'm not in any hurry for the PS4 or Xbox One. Frankly, I think there will be a backlash against these consoles in the spring when people who rushed to buy them find that there are few new games for them. A Wii U for me is a consideration if it falls to about $200 for a 32gb model and Mario Kart Wii U looks too good to pass up. We'll see.

Toward the end of 2013, I picked up a used PS Vita for a very reasonable price and am starting to play around with it. It's sort of part tablet, part PSP, and is probably the only system I own that I won't buy games for - in physical form anyway. That's because I also got a cheap subscription to Playstation Plus which gives me a number of "free" games, more than I'll probably ever play on it. Currently, I have one physical game for it (Tearaway) and the rest will be download, I'm guessing. The screen on this thing is fantastic!

As for my 2014 plans, I'm going to try keeping a running journal of daily play so that I can review it this time in 2015 to get a better idea of what I liked best (and least) during the year. When I try to think back more than about 2 months, everything starts to get fuzzy. Until I looked at my 2012 review blog, I thought I had played The Walking Dead Season One this year!

I also want to make a goal for myself to catch up on the big titles of this year (and the last year, and before that, etc). So, in no particular order, these are the games I want to play some of in 2014 and why:

The Last of Us (2013 GOTY for so many people.)
Dishonored (2012's GOTY - I'm a little behind.)
Bioshock Infinite (Another GOTY for this year.)
Amnesia: The Dark Decent (A landmark horror game I should have already played.)
Borderlands 2 (The first one sort of lost my interest. Hope for this one.)
Max Payne 3 (A serious action/FPS game.)
Far Cry 3 (I really want to play the open world part of this game)
Portal 2 (Can you believe I haven't ever played this?? Shame on me!)
Saints Row 3 & 4 (The GTA alternative. Never got beyond a little of the first one.)
Spec Ops: The Line (Not a long game from what I hear and very dramatic.)
The Stanley Parable (What is this game? Must find out.)
The Wolf Among Us Episode 1 (To keep me busy while waiting for TWD:S2E2.)
XCom: Enemy Unknown/Within (I've played the demo and really want the full experience.)
Diablo III (I really should give this one a try since I bought the PC Collector's Edition!)
Assassin's Creed IV (It's a pirate's life for me!)
Fallout: New Vegas (I had been playing Fallout 3, but got sidetracked. Might as well try this now.)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (It would be a shame to wait any longer to play this.)
Mario & Luigi's Dream Team (Last year's big Mario game.)
Gran Turismo 5/Forza Motorsport 4 (Need to try a serious racing game.)
Tearaway (Best use of all the features of the PS Vita and a lot of critical praise.)
Device 6 (This is here so I finally open up my iPad Mini and use it.)
Heavy Rain (At some point I'll be getting Beyond: Two Souls. Should play this first.)
Infamous (Old PS3 game, but want to play it with the third one coming to PS4 later this year.)
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (My token Wii game and I haven't played it yet.)

So, that's my Dream List. It's not supposed to be the only games I play, but they are ones that I feel I should at least try to play before I'm looking back on another year. Let's see how I do by January 2015!

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