So please: continue and enjoy reading about my personal top games for 2013. 🙂
Tomb Raider – for being a surprise after many letdowns
Lets be honest: the Tomb Raider series had undergone a steady decline with every sequel released. I really wasn’t hoping for much when i bought this title on steam end of the year, but i was pleasantly surprised about what Crystal Dynamics has made out of the old Eidos franchise. Tomb Raider is a reboot in the best sense, getting rid of old “overweight” (in the literal sense) to make room for new features.
The story and motivation around Lara’s beginnings may not always be completely believable or emotionally touching, but the whole acting and storytelling got a whole lot better compared to all the lackluster prequels. Combat and controls felt really tight and the whole game play mechanics were fair and motivating enough to finish this title within a few days – something that only few newer titles get me to do. If you like action adventures and maybe even never played the TR-series before, this might be just the right title for you to pick up and start enjoying the franchise (again).
Warframe – for having the coolest development team around
Warframe was a surprise to me for various reasons. The setting of the game (“Ninjas in Space”) is something that takes some getting used to. The game play may look repetitive at first, but the underlying mechanics and lore within the game are deeper than you would think at first glance. The game also features solid cooperative game-mechanics and a unique graphics style, both of which original and distinctive features that came out well-crafted for the title being still being in beta phase. All this is wrapped up in a very fair F2P-business model that keeps you playing and achieving almost anything in the game with absolutely no money involved.
While all of these features are nothing special by themselves, Warframe has impressed me because of its small beginnings and a very down-to-earth development team behind the game. “Digital Extremes” does an remarkable job interacting with the community: huge patches are rolled out every month, bringing loads of new free content. All new features and mechanics are discussed with the community in full detail and presented in regular live-streams. Developers keep in touch with their audience, openly answering questions and providing the content that people really want. Warframe sets the bar on how games should be developed, and i sure hope that this game is still doing well in 2014.
Risk of Rain – for setting the bar on rogue-likes a little higher
Risk of Rain was really catching me off-guard. Mid of 2013 i looked at a few previews and videos and prematurely judged the game by its cover – which mainly consists of a rather simple pixel look and a dull color-palette. But oh boy was i proven wrong when i played this game for the first time. The controls and mechanics are tight as can be, the pixel-look is spot-on and well-animated to boot. And the soundtrack is nothing short than a masterpiece in game music, being my favorite soundtrack of 2013. The music helps you transport your mindset into the believable “alien world” scenario almost instantly, providing variety with every level and ranging from depressive melodies to driving metal-inspired beats.
All those things stripped away, Risk of Rain is rather tough to beat but motivating throughout the whole game, which is due to tons of unlockable items, a partially procedurally-generated level-setup and many different characters to choose from, each of which has his own distinctive style of play. And if you don’t feel like surviving alone, just grab some friends to play a quick 10-30 min. session, adding further countless hours of replay-value. This is a great game if you like platforming spiced up with a real challenge and some fresh ideas on top.
Brothers: a Tale of two Sons – for showing us how to tell stories in games
When it comes to conveying emotion in games, there are still huge chasms to overcome. Many games focus on simple mechanics of problem-solving, enjoyment, rewards, maybe some anger and frustration. But games really have a long way in terms of emotional variety. Few titles even dare to venture further, remaining mostly one-dimensional in their storytelling and character depth, which is part of the reason why games are still considered as a thing for small children instead of a matured medium like movies and books.
“Brothers” however manages to yank you out of your emotional comfort-zone with such ease that it makes you wonder what other games do oh-so wrong by not achieving the same level of immersion. And the most amazing part about this is that this game pulls your strings with an absolutely reduced set of game play mechanics and features. The story is a mere framework, there is no great voice acting and the graphics and sound assets are nothing compared to modern AAA-productions. “Brothers” shows us that good game design has nothing to do with high production values or tons of features that just look nice on paper. This game focuses on telling a story and it does the job so well that you cannot help to think about this game even days after playing it. If you have even the slightest faible for adventure games, don’t miss this one out!
These games i haven’t played quite as much, but i still want to mention them for their outstanding traits and features:
- Guacamelee! – for being both funny, original and fresh in its approach at brawling and platforming
- Dust – An Elysian Tail – for having an outstanding presentation considering the fact it has been coded and designed by one guy!
- Beatbuddy – for giving music games a few new impulses after so many uninspired re-iterations of “Guitar Hero” and “Sing Star”