The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Must-play games of 2011

So I guess I’ve put this off long enough. Here’s the official, authoritative list of games you absolutely must play or else you’ll get sent to internet Hell. If you disagree with any of my choices, well, that’s fine; there’s plenty of room for disagreement… in Hell!

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)

Skyward Sword is not just one of the best games of 2011 — it’s one of the best games at all. It’s finally 3D Zelda done right. It has a hell of a learning curve and a really sinister game-annihilating bug, but it’s worth it. The dungeons are fantastic, the world is beautiful, the dialogue is great, and Groose won’t bring you down. The only negative thing about this game — aside from the aforementioned soul-shattering bug — is that there are three "silent realm" areas that are 100% not fun at all, but that you can’t skip. But there’s a lot to love when you’re not doing that!

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (PC)

The original Witcher was a really, really thorough Neverwinter Nights mod. Witcher 2 ain’t like that at all. Instead, it’s more like a melee-centric Mass Effect 2 mod. The game is a direct sequel to the original Witcher, and follows Geralt on his continuing adventures to hack drowners to pieces and then get laid. The graphics are top-notch, the world is interesting, and the cutscenes are interactive enough that they don’t get too horrid. Plus this game contains the word "lesbomancy." What more do you need?

Jamestown (PC)

So it’s a top-down shooter, right? Nothing unusual about that. What if I told you it’s set on Mars? Still nothing? Okay. How about this: seventeenth-century colonial Spanish Mars? Ah, now we’re getting somewhere! Jamestown has a prodigiously awesome story about searching for the remnants of the Roanoke colony on Mars, which is all the funnier because a shmup is the very very last kind of game that needs a story. And its over-the-top story is backed by brilliant SNES-with-a-bigger-palette graphics and perfect shmup gameplay. There are four ships to choose from (eight with the "Gunpowder, Treason and Plot" DLC, which I bought on the strength of the name alone), five difficulty levels, unlockable extras, and local co-op! Damn, this game delivers.

Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)

The name, she is not so good. Never mind that, though, because that pooper of a name is wrapped around a truly excellent game. This is a "new school" 3D Mario game, which is to say that, like Mario Galaxy, it focuses on actual platforming rather than on 3D scavenger hunt adventure 64 mechanics. The game looks and sounds perfect — just like a Mario game should — and makes brilliant use of the 3DS’s 3D screen by giving you tons of really, really long drops that look a surprising amount scarier in 3D than you’d think. If there’s a flaw here to pick out, I’d say it’s that the game is too aggressive about making sure anybody can beat it; die in the same location three times, and on your next attempt there will be a block next to your spawn point containing a leaf that makes you invincible for the rest of the level. Yowza.

Portal 2 (PC, X360, PS3)

I’m "that guy" — you know, the guy who wasn’t totally in love with Portal 2. Now, don’t get me wrong — it’s a great game — but I think it points to a fundamental weakness in the Portal concept, which is: the original Portal, in three hours, managed to exhaust absolutely everything fun there is to do with the portal gun. Now, to their credit, Valve is bright enough to realise this, and Portal 2 relegates the portal gun almost to a support role, where the portal gun is the thing you use to move around the level, but you actually solve the puzzle by using laser-redirect cubes or magic bouncing pudding. Still and all, the environments are great, and the characterisation is great, and the gameplay is sufficiently good to hold it all together.

Warhammer 40000: Dawn of War 2: Retribution (PC)

I was worried about Retribution at first. It’s a significant departure from the Dawn of War 2 series, in that it moves back toward the RTS standard of resource-gathering and squad-recruiting, the absence of which was, in my opinion, a large part of why the original Dawn of War 2 was so great. But it turns out it works just fine — the implementation is sufficiently clever that your army will gradually grow as you play the map, without at any time becoming grind city USA of the future. There are six different campaigns, sort of; they’re basically all the same levels with small variations here and there, but the units and the storyline are entirely different. As an added bonus, Retribution is finally divorced from the wretched Games For Windows Live service! Hooray!


Hey now, wasn’t VVVVVV in last year’s roundup? Why yes it was. Oh, and I did screenshots last year? And got it out on time? Tsk. Can’t be arsed to fix it now. The difference between last year’s VVVVVV and this year’s model is not quantity of V’s, but quantity of D’s (hey-o! Was that joke lame enough? I’ll Leno this shit up if you’re not careful) — it’s the exact same game, but with the backgrounds and dialogues tastefully three-deed by Nicalis. If you liked VVVVVV, you should buy this one too, and then maybe I won’t be the only goof who’s bought it four times. If you didn’t like VVVVVV, well, there’s still room available in internet Hell. So don’t push me.

Star Wars: The Old Republic (PC)

I played World of Warcraft for six years, you know? So I wasn’t going to get this one. Figured, hey, I’ve done the MMO scene. But that’s the brilliance of SWTOR: in its heart of hearts, it’s a single-player game with some optional group content. Remember in WOW, how stuff would start out being normal solo quests, and then there’d be an elite quest, and a dungeon, and if you want to finish the storyline before you know it you need forty people for Molten goddamn Core? SWTOR doesn’t do that. The "storyline" quests are all steadfastly single-player — at no point do you need a group to finish what you’re doing. Group quests exist, but they’re optional "extras." And would you believe you can play any dungeon in the game with just two people? Because, hey: you can. This is truly an MMORPG designed with grown-ups who have jobs in mind.

So that’s that! Those are all the games that an internet committee appointed by me and consisting entirely of me commands you to play. I may be able to fit the whole internet in my mouth at once, but that doesn’t mean there are no gems I’ve overlooked — feel free to clog my commentpaths with suggestions of your own!

January 18th, 2012 Posted by | Games | no comments

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