2010: The Games We’re Glad to Have Played

The end-of-year “Best of” awards are a widespread tradition amongst gaming sites, a nice way to close the year out by looking back. We have toyed occasionally with the idea of doing our own awards, but the sheer scope of RPGs released during each year has to give one pause. How do you go about settling on one title to call the best RPG of 2010? Certainly no one can claim to have played them all, and there’s always the nagging suspicion that something has been forgotten. So instead of a straight up and down awards, this year we’re taking a short look back the games we’re glad we played in 2010. Not all of them were released last year, and many of them would never have appeared in an awards feature, but in the end, the important thing about playing video games is simply that you enjoyed them.

A big part of this feature is that not all of the games we’re talking about were released in 2010. After all, gamers don’t always have time to catch every big name that comes out during the course of the year. As our resident newsie and media man John “Karlinn” Boske can attest to, sometimes the best games are the ones you waited for.

Alpha Protocol: Bringing a new twist to snapping necks.
Alpha Protocol: Bringing a new twist to snapping necks.

“2010 was a busy year for gaming, with a lot of good titles spread out over the year. Most of the big ones were sequels that refined existing formulas: Mass Effect 2, STALKER: Call of Pripyat, Fallout New Vegas. In each case they provided different ways to take a preceding universe and build new, more refined adventures within them. BioWare, in particular, have a lot to live up to with Mass Effect, and ME2 proved they have what it takes.

As for new properties, while I only gave it a 6/10, I’m still glad I played Alpha Protocol. The gameplay was flawed, but it offered a refreshing twist on character interaction and branching plots, and it’s still very replayable. And while it was released back in 2008, I did only start Valkyria Chronicles at the end of the year, which proved to be extremely charming and fun to play.”

One of the big things about awards features is that they always cause a great deal of controversy. Every big name series has a shot at the coveted “Best of 2010” title, which tends to lead to a lot of recrimination and backbiting in the comment section. As Jordan “J_Sensei” Jackson points out, personal taste can make all the difference when it comes to enjoying a game.

As FFXIII taught us, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing with an afro.
As FFXIII taught us, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing with an afro.

“2010 was a good year for me. There were a lot of games I enjoyed across all genres, but some RPGs in particular stood out. For starters, I truly enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII. I know not everyone liked it, particularly for its linearity, but I think it flowed much better that way. I was worried that not being able to control allies in battle would be a problem, but the battle system is what really sold me on the game. I think it was innovative, and I’m really looking forward to the sequel.

Another standout game for me was Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. As a Kingdom Hearts fan, I felt that this game had more plot than probably any game in the series. The three intertwined stories mechanic meant going to the same places, but on the whole, it was jam packed with little plot details that fleshed out a lot of the overarching narrative.

One final game that is worthy of mention was 3D Dot Game Heroes. It doesn’t show off the graphical prowess of some of the bigger titles on the PS3, but its quirky, fun battle system made it a blast to play. It was clearly an homage to Zelda, but it never felt like a rip-off. The whole time, the game felt genuine, and some of the mechanics really improved on the formula.”

Gamers tend to have wildly different habits when it comes to how we play games, and RPGs are no exception. Some of us hop from game to game, finishing them a little at a time, while others prefer to sit down and really suck the marrow out of a title before moving on. As Cortney “Alethea” Stone found out this year, sometimes it’s the mileage that really counts.

As is so often the case in Fallout, what this outfit really needs to set it off is a tasteful hat.
As is so often the case in Fallout, what this outfit really needs to set it off is a tasteful hat.

“I didn’t have as much time for gaming in 2010 due to some major life changes, but I still found time every now and then. For me, two games really stood out in 2010; one is pretty much the RPG of the year, and the other wasn’t even a 2010 title.

The first big game of 2010 was Mass Effect 2. I loved Mass Effect and I was so excited about the sequel. I’d seen the preview trailer at E3 2008, I’d shaken Casey Hudson’s hand and held back a girlish giggle, and I participated in Bioware’s online pre-launch party/Twitter extravaganza. I was ready for this game, and it didn’t disappoint, aside from the fact that the developers made some of my decisions in Mass Effect null and void for the sake of easy programming and story development. Overall, I had very few complaints about the game in my review. ME2 was a vast improvement over ME. It was darker, more mature, and more disturbing with intense situations and questionable ethics. The game also had some great humor. After being subjected to a handful of games with painfully unfunny anime-style slapstick and awkward humor, I was delighted to play a game that was genuinely funny.

The other big game of 2010 was Fallout 3, even though it came out in 2008. I’d received it as a Christmas present after I’d fallen for the first two games in the series. After playing the Mass Effect games, I figured I could handle another shooter. I played Fallout 3 off and on throughout the year. As of this week, I’ve logged over 80 hours in the game and I’m not quite finished because I keep getting sidetracked by all the bombed-out ruins just begging to be explored. I’m a history geek and I love vintage and retro things, so Fallout 3 really hit the spot for me in many ways with its retro-futuristic post-apocalyptic setting. I actually spent most of the game blasting enemies with a combat shotgun while wearing a lovely 1950s-style dress, tortoiseshell glasses, and a wide-brimmed hat. I was a vision of vintage beauty in VATS. Of course, there’s just something about being able to put on Lincoln’s stovepipe hat and liberate the Lincoln Memorial from slavers so that a colony of freed slaves can move in and lovingly restore the monument.

The fact that my top two games are M-rated shooter RPGs probably says something about how my tastes are evolving as a gamer. I haven’t abandoned traditional RPGs at all, but shooter RPGs were my new crush in 2010 and I feel as if my gaming tastes have expanded, not shifted. Furthermore, I savored the games from start to finish. I hadn’t felt that way about a game in quite a while. I was intensely involved and hanging on through the entire mental and emotional roller-coaster of gameplay and story. You know that feeling. It’s the way I felt about every other much-loved game in my past, and it was so wonderful to feel that way again.”

Meanwhile, our erstwhile editor and reviewer Derek “Roku” Cavin continued his tradition of attempting to play everything he could get his hands on.

In all seriousness, images like this would have been a much better advertisement for Record of Agarest War than the boobie-bearing mousepad.
In all seriousness, images like this would have been a much better advertisement for Record of Agarest War than the boobie-bearing mousepad.

“Most of the noteworthy 2010 games (and games that I simply got around in 2010) that I played either have a review or will have one when I have time to finish them, but here’s a quick rundown anyway. The Mass Effect series is one that I’m pretty sure the rest of the staff is talking about as well, but I at least want to throw in a quick word and say that’s it’s one that I’d love to go back and play more of when I’m not juggling other projects. I can say that about a fair number of games, but the Mass Effect series is almost always on top. Let’s hope for a Hanar ally next time around. Fallout: New Vegas had some bugs at release, and I personally don’t like the setting as much as Fallout 3‘s, but it’s still an awesome game very much able to stand on its own merits. With the tweaks, improvements, huge number of quests, hardcore mode, and better ending, I actually like it slightly more overall. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game managed to capture a very retro style while still pulling off good graphics and catchy music all while paying a homage to a number of other games and backing it up with solid gameplay. There aren’t many manga/movie games that can claim that.

A few other notable console games include Sakura Wars for proving that the PS2 isn’t quite dead as well as the fact that it’s an interesting genre hybrid, Atelier Rorona for also being a fairly unique and enjoyable RPG, and Record of Agarest War which, despite a tasteless marketing campaign that resulted in us not touching it for most of the year, turned out to be a pretty tame and enjoyable TRPG with a number of complementary subsystems.

On the portable side, Valkyria Chronicles 2 is great for strategy on the go, though I still haven’t totally let go of Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable is also demanding a fair deal of my attention, which is impressive considering it’s the 4th(?) time I’ve played through a version of Persona 3. On the DS side, Dragon Quest IX eats the most time, though I don’t like it quite as much as Dragon Quest VIII, and I’d really like the ability to play it with friends on the other side of the country. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey deserves special mention as well, though I fully admit that I haven’t gotten very far in it due to everything else I’m working on.

Neither Nier nor Fragile have the greatest gameplay, (at least in the few hours I’ve spent with them so far) but they deserve a special note for their awesome soundtrack and setting respectively. Costume Quest fares better overall, but what really makes it stand out in my mind is the nostalgia that it manages to capture. Along those lines, DeathSpank series stands out the most due to its comedy and Borderlands GOTY due to its multiplayer.

There was definitely a lot of good this year, even just among the games I played. I’m always afraid that I’m forgetting something when making a list like this, but I don’t want to go on too long either.”

And there we have it, ladies and gentlemen, a look back at some of the games that we enjoyed during the year. As for myself, I’m glad to have finally gotten a chance to play the updated version of Pokemon Gold and Silver that fans have been asking for since the dawn of time. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey also earns a special place on my list, as I had been waiting for the next mainline entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series for quite some time, and it certainly did not disappoint. Overall, though, I’d have to agree with Cortney and say that Fallout 3 is the one game that I’m happiest to have played during 2010. It came as something of a shock to me – having played a little bit of the earlier Fallout games, I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy Fallout 3 very much, but it quickly won me over through sheer variety, character building and depth of setting. Though I haven’t had a chance to try Fallout: New Vegas yet, I expect that this revived Fallout series will quickly become one of my favorites.

So how about you, our faithful readers? In the last twelve months, what games have you played that you can look back on and say, “Yeah, that was worth it”? What games surprised you, and which games are you most looking forward to?

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