A New Year’s message from Lucius Merriweather, Esq.
As you probably know by now, both Sir Gaulian and I have a considerable backlog of games to play through (see The Mantelpiece), so most of my 2011 was actually spent playing through games from 2010 and earlier. As such, I almost finished the year without playing any games released in 2011 whatsoever, although an 11th hour Christmas gift of a Nintendo 3DS ensured that I did at least partake of some of the gaming glories that 2011 had to offer (look forward to more on my experiences with the 3DS in a later post).
This means I can’t really speak with any authority about the ‘best’ games of 2011, seeing as I didn’t actually play any of them, so instead here’s a list of my top ten games I WOULD have played, had I the time. (And let’s face it, seeing as I can barely find the time to play one game a month, I’m unlikely to play any of these in 2012 either… but hey ho, one can but dream.)
10 – Shadows of the Damned
Sir Gaulian is a particular fan of this one, so I won’t go on about it suffice to say that you should read Gaulie’s fawning praise of the game here and here. A game made by Suda 51 AND Shinji Mikami? Sign me up please.
9 – Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I never played Elder Scrolls IV, but I finally got round to playing Fallout 3 at the beginning of 2011 and loved every minute of it, so I’m pretty keen to experience more of what Bethesda have to offer. Sadly though, considering the sheer number of game hours that Skyrim requires, I very much doubt I’ll ever get round to playing through it – I mean, I’ve still got to play through Mass Effect 1 and 2, and those games aren’t exactly short. Still, if I ever win the lottery and resign myself to a life of leisure, I’ll give this a go to while away the hours of languor.
8 – Dead Space 2
I loved the original Dead Space, and I’m happily playing through Dead Space: Extraction at the moment, so I can’t wait to finally play Dead Space 2. It seems to tick exactly the right boxes for a sequel – all the niggly annoying bits from the previous game have been expunged, and everything else has been made bigger and better, but importantly it seems to have retained the crap-your-pants scariness of the original. And seeing as my good friend and co-podcaster Ian actually has a copy of this game he can lend me, there’s a somewhat better than even chance I might actually get round to playing this one before the year’s out.
7 – Star Fox 64 3D
Star Fox? In 3D? But, like, actual 3D where it looks like you’re going into the screen? And with improved graphics? Ambassador, you are spoiling us! I remember how completely blown away I was by the original Star Fox on the SNES, so I’m hoping that this new 3D version will boggle my mind all over again.
6 – L.A. Noire
I really can’t wait to play this one – even my non-game-playing friends have commented on the uncanny realism of the motion capture, and the interrogation sequences look really superb. It’s a shame that the makers Team Bondi imploded earlier this year, making the prospect of a sequel unlikely. Still, it’s set an impressive milestone for video game technology, and it will be really interesting to see how this motion capture technique is developed in other games.
5 – From Dust
Ooooh, this one looks good. It’s been described as a “spiritual heir to Populous“, but it reminded me more of one of my most fondly remembered GameCube games, Doshin the Giant (although, er, without the giant). The graphics are nothing short of sublime and it’s received fantastic reviews, so I’m sure I’ll be spending my hard-warned Microsoft Points on this one soon.
4 – Bastion
I first heard of this game through the blog Grinding Down, and the idea of a narrator commenting on your every move really intrigued me. It’s one of those “why has no-one thought of this before?” ideas, so I’m really intrigued to giving this a go. Plus it’s yet another game on this list with very stylised, beautiful artwork – it seems 2011 was the year for fancy looking painting-style graphics.
3 – Batman: Arkham City
I almost, ALMOST bought this on day one – something I haven’t done for about ten years. I completely fell in love with Arkham Asylum, and so I was far more excited than any grown man should be about the prospect of a second slice of Batman gaminess, leading me to hover agonisingly over the ‘pre-order’ button on Amazon for what felt like hours. In the end though, the guilt of having all those unplayed games on The Mantelpiece stopped me from ordering it, and I resolved to wait until it came down in price and I’d thinned down the backlog a bit. Happily though, Ian caved in and bought it in the first week, so now I can just borrow it from him for free. Result!
2 – El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
I love completely batshit Japanese games, so I was eager to learn of El Shaddai, which is an utterly bonkers action game based around the Book of Enoch (an ancient Jewish script). It sounds a bit like the wonderful Bayonetta on paper (in particular the quasi-religious imagery) and looks absolutely amazing, but it seems to have completely split reviewers, receiving an ecstatic 9/10 from Eurogamer but a lacklustre 5/10 from IGN. I have to say though, I think the IGN reviewer completely missed the point – I watched the IGN video review and was surprised to hear this American chap drone on about the fact the game “changes too much”, whereas the Eurogamer reviewer seems to more closely reflect my point of view in praising El Shaddai‘s diversity: “…about a third of the way through the game, it begins to reinvent itself dramatically with every new chapter. It gets better and better.” All said and done, El Shaddai looks right up my street, and it will definitely be the first game I buy from this list… just as soon as I’ve finished playing through my backlog that is.
1 – The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
I actually got this for Christmas, but I’ve yet to play it as I’ve been working my way through Ocarina of Time and Ghost Recon on the 3DS. I can’t wait to get stuck into it though – I’m a massive Zelda fan, and the reviews for Skyward Sword have been off the scale. A fitting swansong for the Wii I think. Having said that, I seem to do most of my gaming on the Wii at the moment: thanks to Dead Space: Extraction, Umbrella Chronicles, Darkside Chronicles, MadWorld and Sin and Punishment 2, my Xbox 360 hasn’t been turned on for months…
Two games from 2011 that I actually DID get to play in 2011 (just) are The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars, both of which are superb so I thought I’d better mention them here too. I was particularly impressed with Ghost Recon, simply because I didn’t really know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised to discover it was designed by Julian Gollop of UFO: Enemy Unknown fame. Look out for my thoughts on both games over the coming weeks.
So, you’ve heard our thoughts on the best games of 2011 – do you agree? Let us know what you think in the comments section…