My Favorite Games: A Decade Long Retrospective Pt. 5

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It’s been some time since the last iteration of this blog series, however here I am bringing you the next post in succession- as well as more on both my Pokemon and Borderlands 2 retrospectives in the near future. For those of you who either do not remember or have yet to read this particular series of blogs, I’ve been focusing on my favorite games of the last decade from roughly 2005 to the present year. There are plenty more excellent titles than the ones I will be and have been listing, however those that do get selected are oftentimes the games I’ve mastered and sunk a ridiculous amount of time into completing to one hundred percent. This particular post may be the penultimate one as I will be focusing on the years 2013 and 2014. Feel free to comment as you please.

2013: Dead Space 3, Crysis 3, Tomb Raider, Bioshock Infinite, Injustice Gods Among Us, Metro Last Light, The Last of Us, Outlast, Grand Theft Auto V, The Wolf Among Us, Killzone Shadow Fall.

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I have a strange history with many games that are the third in a series- particularly Dead Space 3 and Assassin’s Creed 3 in recent years. The main thing these two titles have in common is that they’ve been polarizing in the mixed reviews they’ve received and yet despite it all I’ve awarded both of them a whopping 9.75 upon release and completed them to 100% and poured numerous hours into the experiences. Whatever you may think of Dead Space 3 in particular and it’s faults- too many human enemies, not enough horror, too much action, etc etc, I’ve still undoubtedly enjoyed the evolution of Isaac Clarke’s journey. Am I disappointed that we haven’t seen a new Dead Space game in years and likely won’t outside of a potential reboot? Yes, yes I am. Am I glad they aren’t continuing to ruin the series by milking it? Without a doubt.

Crysis 3 is the culmination of one of the most beautiful yet confusing series I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. Crysis continually offers excellent gameplay and has some really innovative ideas. 2013 was jokingly the year of the bow and Crysis 3 is one of the largest proponents of that whole deal- Tomb Raider being the other major player there. Crysis 2 is one of my favorite games of all time and features the best story in the series and yet Crysis 3 manages to step things up in every single way whereas action and adventure are concerned. You truly take things to a global scale even if the story gets completely muddled in the process. There’s some weird thing I also seem to have with the second game in a trilogy being my favorite (hell, it even extends to film a la Empire Strikes Back)- look no further than other notorious mentions such as FEAR 2: Project Origin. Crysis 3 will always look beautiful in terms of graphics and run smoother than many games can manage now.

I was super skeptical and yet super stoked when the Tomb Raider reboot was announced and eventually released. The end result is a game and a series that I have renewed my love affair with and so long as the quality holds up as it has in both 2013 and the sequel, I’m going to remember for a long time. I’ve been playing the Tomb Raider games since their inception and have loved the series even at its lower points, however it’s very easy to see that this new direction has pushed the series to its limits and in an interesting new direction. It was great to see the survival and even horror aspects of 2013’s adventure and then to see the survival and action hero aspects of the sequel. I’m looking forward to more of the gritty world traveling and bloody, up close violence in whatever sequel may come next.

Bioshock Infinite is an interesting species, that’s for sure. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the memories created by the series as a whole and yet the first and third entries take the cake mainly for the emotions that they’ve elicited. It’s weird to admit a game that eventually turns into a shooter mostly devoid of physical attachment can make me feel so strongly and yet that’s exactly what Bioshock Infinite managed to do when it truly melded the stories in the series together with Burial at Sea and showcased the descent of Rapture and Elizabeth’s part in larger things. Betrayal, blood, and baths- three things you should really watch out for if you’re Booker DeWitt or Elizabeth apparently. And twists, twists, twists. Good times…

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Ever since anybody would listen, I’ve been harping on the merits of first Injustice: Gods Among Us and now Injustice 2. They are rich and plentiful and the sequel has truly proven that if the base formula is correct you can still refine things and create something three times better. I thought the first superhero fighter was one of Netherrealm’s best titles yet, topping even Mortal Kombat and then Mortal Kombat X in terms of story and depth. And now I’ve been wowed even more so by the complexity and yet simple substance that Injustice 2 has to offer. Nothing will beat my jaw hitting the floor when Superman slammed a fist through the Joker’s black heart within the opening moments of the first game however.

Metro 2033 is a very interesting experience packaged in a game that does some things right while battling against both bugs and flaws. I thoroughly enjoyed the game but appreciate the sequel a lot more for fixing most of the problems relevant to the first one’s woes. Last Light doesn’t change too much up so much as it makes the experience both more accessible and more enjoyable. And for that I can only appreciate the efforts of both 4A and Deep Silver in their partnership together. I truly hope I get to see more of Artyom’s journey and get to make more tough decisions in such a memorable post-apocalyptic Russia snowscape. It’s one of the best series based off of actual novels aside from the epic saga that is The Witcher.

The Last of Us is probably the game that speaks to me the most on this particular list and I don’t really think I need to go into too much detail as to why that exactly is. I feel like I’ve shared an experience with so many people who’ve played the game and I will continue to share that journey with all of the people who are surely going to play The Last of Us Pt. II when it finally releases. In truth, it’s about tense action, emotional gravity, and a world that’s both vibrant and morally grey. It’s about the journey more so than the destination and that has never been more apparent to me in a game before this, except perhaps something along the lines of Shadow of the Colossus. And if we’re comparing the two then that should go to show how much affection I feel for Joel and Ellie and their trials and tribulations in particular.

Outlast recently got a bloodier, more graphically impressive sequel but that won’t stop me from appreciating the torturous adventure that was the first and more indie centric game. Something about not being able to defend yourself is apparently attractive to us masochistic horror and survival fans who continue to play games like Amnesia and Outlast. The settings, the characters, the trials and trying times that those characters get put through- you could grind it all up and the experience would still be blood curdling and rich. Outlast might not be the most graphically impressive horror game I’ve seen and yet it elicits reactions that many others have failed to do. In a year where a sequel to one of the most classic horror titles of all time was released (Resident Evil 6), I chose to play Outlast instead because it was thoroughly more enjoyable and a better experience.

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Truly, hail to the king. I’m continually impressed day by day that Rockstar and by extension GTAV is still kicking as hard as it does. It’s been several years since the next generation versions of the game released, much less the last generation version’s initial release. And here they are still releasing a plethora of online content to keep the game going and the following growing. As much as I enjoyed previous GTA games I will never be able to dispute the fact that the legacy has so far been defined entirely by the fifth entry at least since its release. Innovation was the name of the game and Rockstar made that work to the tune of three controllable characters and atypical and asymmetrical online multiplayer. GTAV is like a monument to gaming gods and I’m not surprised that we aren’t going to see another sequel for probably five more years considering they’ve made one game last for almost five already.

The Wolf Among Us has lowkey been one of my favorite Telltale Games episodic releases since I recognized some of the most intriguing and interesting characters from the Fables comic series in it. The fact that it remains one of the more popular Telltale series and yet has yet to spawn the sequel it deserves is a little disappointing and disheartening but doesn’t in any way diminish the experience. Yes, as with the other episodes it has its moments for both good and bad reasons and yet the narrative is one of the best and the action sequences are both unique and thoroughly entertaining. Where else can you rip off the monstrous foe of Beowulf’s arm or throw your adversary into a literal wishing well after all?

Killzone Shadow Fall is a game I couldn’t resist playing and one I couldn’t help but spout love for. I’ve reviewed the game just as much as I’ve thoroughly spoiled it in a blog series designed specifically for that reason alone. It’s still the most recent release in Guerrilla Games Killzone series (also of Horizon Zero Dawn fame) and I truly hope we see Shadow Fall 2 or a true Killzone 4 by the end of the decade. The level of polish and the graphical depth in combination with an original ‘Cold War’ story just blows my mind. I wish the multiplayer had truly held up but then that’s always the problem associated with series such as this that aren’t Battlefield or Halo or Call of Duty essentially. And yet the game still shines even a few years later.

2014: Dark Souls 2, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Destiny, Wasteland 2, Alien Isolation, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Dragon Age Inquisition, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

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This was basically the first year my workload really started to step up and I found myself less and less able to be as active in gaming or communities such as the GIO one I often find myself in. As a result I was a bit pickier about the experiences I allowed myself the time to get thoroughly invested in. To nobody’s great surprise and certainly not to my own, Dark Souls 2 wrenched me in and I haven’t been particularly disappointed since. I played and enjoyed the first game so I figured the second couldn’t do much worse- newsflash: it turned out to be a tougher and yet somehow more enjoyable experience than even I could’ve imagined. So kudos to From Software for equal parts good times and rage inducing boss battles.

In the wake of news and updates for The New Colossus, it seems only fair to mention The New Order. Before ID brought back retro rampages with Doom they tested the waters a bit with another attempt at a popular reboot or sequel of sorts and it took off to massive amounts of success. The New Order remains one of the best initial offerings on the current generation of hardware and is one of the most interesting and entertaining stories I’ve experienced in video gaming to date. There’s plenty of exploration, action, and even a dab of romance if that’s your thing I suppose. And all of this is packaged in not only a game that revolves around bashing in mecha-Nazi faces but surviving the established New World Order of an occult worshiping Nazi regime in a post-WWII atmosphere. Who could’ve guessed?

Destiny was a mixed bag at best when it released so perhaps it’s fairer to place this particular entry under 2015 since that’s roughly when The Taken King expansion released and largely revitalized the game and fixed the majority of its launch issues. However, I’ll leave this here because from the start I was excited about the project as much as I am skeptical now about Destiny 2 and all things that I want to be amazing and knock your socks off great. I can afford to be skeptical because I am in love with the project and want to see its full potential realized like the first game’s largely wasn’t despite the end result still being intriguing, satisfying, and enjoyable overall. There’s so much potential for Bungie’s new universe and I want to see the series realize ever gamer’s fondest dreams and science fiction nerd’s greatest odyssey- even if that is unrealistic in terms of expectations.

Wasteland has been an iconic series for sometime and the fact that a second and third entry have seen the light of day largely thanks to Kickstarted fundraisers is spectacular for anyone who enjoys classic titles like Fallout. I could probably best compare the game itself to something along the lines of The Walking Dead (comic) in a post apocalyptic wasteland that doesn’t at least prominently feature zombies. The choices and dynamics and isometric style of the game is what makes it a winner in my heart and the overall attention to detail and the experience as a whole makes it largely replayable as well as enjoyable.

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Alien Isolation is without a doubt the best Alien game we’re likely to play in our lifetime short of a much appreciated sequel to Isolation, or at least a game also created by The Creative Assembly and set in the same narrative universe. It was a refreshing blend of modern and retro as well as a refreshing horror experience that is still necessary and needed even today. It reminds me in many ways of Resident Evil 7 and as such I feel like the new direction of Resident Evil was definitely inspired by the dynamics and gameplay of Isolation. In the wake of watching Alien Covenant I can definitely say that Isolation kept my love and admiration for the slightly butchered legacy of the series alive and I’m glad it’s still out there, screaming silently in the far reaches of space.

Assassin’s Creed Unity is probably the biggest offender of any sort on this list and possibly the most controversial pick I could’ve even chosen. However, as with Assassin’s Creed 3 and Dead Space 3, I’ll stand by it. For much the same reason as Destiny, Unity is still one of the most interesting games I’ve played and despite it still having some issues and quality concerns at times I’ve enjoyed the experience thoroughly since its release. Admittedly, it’s one of those games where I enjoy the experience when it actually wishes to present itself as playable and thoroughly enjoyable, however the narrative and the world itself largely got me back into the increasingly annoying Assassin’s Creed series. Yes, I feel the franchise fatigue even now and as such have resolved not to deal too much with Origins despite its promise of being new and bold and blah blah blah. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Assassin’s Creed series and yet I’m still largely over it at times. Ubisoft could take the elements that make the series popular and put them into plenty of other titles.

I’m still playing Dragon Age Inquisition as we speak. Not literally right now of course but I continually start new adventures and sink at least fifty hours into developing this new storyline or redoing my entire Dragon Age World State or playing through Dragon Age 1 and 2 with a new build. Possibly more so than even Mass Effect or Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age is potentially my favorite BioWare series of all time. I know they’ve got their hands full working on other projects and yet so much more than Andromeda I was hoping to see the continuation of the Dragon Age world and what larger threat could loom on the horizon.

My last item on the list is one of the most interesting games dealing with one of the most beloved mythos of all time in literature and film and gaming. Lords of the Rings and by extension Middle-earth, is no joking matter. Doing right by a series and an established fanbase is no simple task and yet Shadow of Mordor and now Shadow of War either look like they will continue to do so or already have done so. It’s a bloody and interesting and unique tale crafted between events that already canonically exist and events that we have yet to experience. And for better or worse I utterly enjoy it all.

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