A Paladin’s Top Honorable Games of 2013…

KingIsaacLinksr Light GamesHere it is. My list of the top favorite games of 2013. There is only one main requirement I have for this list: I played the game this year. Something to note is a change from last year’s list of 2012. This is no longer a “top 10” list in the strictest sense. It is my favorite games this year without numerical restrictions. there is no minimum or maximum number of potential games that can be on this list. It’s entirely up to me how many go on this list. The fact that the list happens to have only 10 games is a complete coincidence. Games included on this list made me laugh, cry, think and challenge myself. These are the games that had some really awesome experiences that I believe others should have as well. The list goes from least to most favorite games of the year that I had the pleasure of playing.

So without further ado, here it is! A Paladin Without A Crusade proudly presents my top favorite and honorable games of 2013…

The Walking Dead

by Telltale Games

header_292x136 (19)Had you told me last year that a point-and-click game would have made my top favorite games of this year, I would have called you crazy and/or silly. The point and click genre is not my favorite genre and for the most part I tend to ignore games in it. I find it too slow paced, purposely frustrating and lackluster for the most part. But the Walking Dead may go a long way to changing my mind about this genre. It has a great narrative, enjoyable characters and a well built game. You are not a passive observer, you can say and act in ways that changes the outcome of the survivors. It makes sure you stay involved even in the “cutscenes” by giving you a time limit in the conversations. You cannot simply stand there and expect the NPCs to wait for a response from you. You have to keep thinking about what feels right to you. Telltale has clearly found its stride with The Walking Dead and I hope they continue to push and innovate this genre to a new level that has been sorely needed for a long time.

The Witcher: Enhanced Edition

by CD Projekt RED

header_292x136 (18)Yeah, this is an old game but I had just recently gotten a chance to play it through. The Witcher series is an in-depth 3rd person RPG where you control Geralt of Rivia, a legendary monster slayer. Throughout the game, you are tasked to bring back stolen witcher secrets and must fight through a web of political intrigue woven by a variety of different forces in the world. The game hasn’t aged as well as it could have. The graphics aren’t holding up well, the crafting and exploration is solid if a bit creaky at times and there are some quirky behaviors to be seen in the game. The combat system isn’t the greatest either and tends to learn towards spamming spells, popping potions and hoping the enemies die before you do. However, the Witcher has a lot of promise that I can only hope it lives up to in its sequels. It has a great fantasy atmosphere with plenty to see and do. There are choices to be made, monsters to be fought and supernatural forces at work in the world. The Witcher earns a place on the list because I had quite a bit of fun with this RPG and I see a lot of potential here. I also liked how well fleshed out the world was through conversations with people and plenty of books to read. I’m looking forward to playing more of the Witcher series in 2014.

Thomas Was Alone

By Mike Bithell

header_292x136 (16)Ever since Braid came out, there has been an explosion of Indie 2D platformers of varying degrees of difficulty, gameplay mechanic quirks and styles. So to find something that’s actually good and interesting is a difficult feat in it of itself in this highly oversaturated genre. Thomas Was Alone is one game that you should definitely look at. You wouldn’t think it would be possible to make unique characters out of varying shapes of squares and rectangles but Mike Bithell pulls it off. Thomas Was Alone is a fairly difficult platformer that follows the adventures of these blocks in a mysterious world. It’s narrated to excellent effect to give you a sense of what these blocks are going through. One criticism I have is that the difficulty bounces all over the place. Otherwise, this is a well done game, if short, with a good soundtrack and great narration is one of my favorite games this year.

SMITE

by Hi-Rez Studios

EGMnow_SmiteSMITE is a late-comer to my year in gaming and isn’t officially released yet. But I’ve been recently sucked into the BETA of the game and I find it incredibly enjoyable. After a very long time of being outside the competitive gaming scene, it seems I have picked Smite to be the battleground I fight in. However, I make this recommendation hesitantly as I still remember what happened the last time I recommended a game by Hi-Rez. Tribes: Ascend had a great BETA period and everything looked to be great. But after release, the execution was sorely lacking and I eventually quit the online shooter. Hi-Rez, by all accounts, seems to have learned from it’s previous mistakes and is making this a game that both pro and casual gamers can enjoy. I can only hope they will make this truly unique MOBA-style 3rd person game into something really wonderful in 2014. It’s all about gods fighting it out in various different arenas. Gods can range from the Mayan, Greek, Norse, Chinese and many other religions. I find the combat engaging and deep, the various modes challenging in their own ways and the overall game to be a lot of fun. Grab some friends and get into the arena of gods because there be Krakens here.

I knew I’d be getting back into the competitive scene sooner or later, I just wasn’t sure what form it would be in. I knew it was probably going to be a MOBA-styled game this year but I hadn’t found any to be what I was looking for. But when I was told I should check out SMITE, it became clear that I would probably enjoy this one more than DOTA or LoL. I’ve got a lot to learn with SMITE but I’m already starting to get comfortable with it. I’m looking forward to a successful launch in March of 2014. For those wondering, Ares and Vulcan are my current favorite gods.

Pinball FX2

By Zen Studios

header_292x136 (17)The first pinball game I can recall playing was 3D Pinball, Space Cadet that came bundled with Windows XP. My brothers and I would often compete for the high score and, unsurprisingly, my second brother would often have the highest score. That drove me nuts like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve played a few other pinball games at local arcades but it wasn’t until recently that I appreciated the depth and challenge pinball games presented. Recently, I discovered Zen Studio’s Pinball FX2 and was instantly hooked. I’m not usually into score-attack games but it seems I’ll make an exception for this one. I’ve been dominate this year on my friend’s leaderboards for Pinball FX2 and I encourage anyone to challenge my scores on the various tables. I need the challenge :P. FX2 features a large collection of original tables that vary from Marvel Comics to Star Wars to Ms. Splosion Man. There’s a table here for everyone. The game starts you out with a free full version of Sorcerer’s Lair which gives you a good idea if you’ll like the game or not. If so, then you can buy more pinball tables at very reasonable prices. The physics are very nicely done and there is such a huge amount of creativity and atmosphere to these tables that I suspect I’ll be playing Pinball FX2 well into 2014. The Star Wars tables are, in my opinion, the best licensed games for the Star Wars franchise I’ve ever seen. Zen took the IP seriously and treated it well. I can’t wait to see what other tables they come out with next. (Star Trek tables! C’mon, you know you want to!)

Skyward Collapse

by Arcen Games

header_292x136 (15)A game that really tries to do something unique, Skyward Collapse didn’t get nearly the amount of attention it deserved. Skyward Collapse has been said to be like playing Chess against yourself and you’re a total jerk. You are a creator, a god who has the power to affect the land in a variety of ways. You must balance two different factions against each other and prevent one from becoming too powerful. But you have a major problem. The various factions in the game have free will. Which leads to chaos, hilarity and much hair pulling as your plans are laid to waste by these silly NPCs doing whatever the heck they want. It’s a deep game that can take some time to figure out. This is a game I didn’t have nearly enough time to play this year. The flaws that hurt this game is that it’s a bit obtuse with the information it’s presenting and the multiplayer component feels too limited. Otherwise, this is a game you should really give a chance. If for no other reason because it tries to do something unique in a genre that has largely been dead of innovation. Free will…why did they have to get free will?! (My favorite line of gaming advertising ever :P)

Mark of the Ninja

By Klei Entertainment

header_292x136 (14)A highly polished 2D stealth game that simply did everything right. The story is a bit odd, especially towards the end, but is very compelling. You play as a Ninja and you must absolutely be stealthy in this game or you’ll be quickly killed by the guards. It’s a game that gives you plenty of tools to be completely undetected and the stealth mechanics are well fleshed out. Add on plenty of optional objectives, score challenges, hidden collectibles, a great visual style and you just have a great game right here. I find it hard to point to any single thing that I didn’t like about Mark of the Ninja. Well, besides the story line being a little bit bonkers towards the end. Other than that, if you’ve been looking for a really good stealth action game that requires you to play as a ninja in order to succeed, Mark of the Ninja is the game you’ve been looking for. The DLC I hear is also excellent and puts some finishing touches on this awesome game. I’m hoping to get another chance at playing it now that it’s on Linux to have some more fun with being a stealthy ninja.

Papers, Please

By 3909

header_292x136 (13)This is an odd game that I think was made just for me. Your job is to be an immigration inspector on the border of the fictional town of Arstotzka. You must process as many people through the border as possible while making sure their papers are in order. Among those immigrants and visitors from other countries are spies, smugglers and terrorists. But the game is not so cut and dry. You have to make decisions that will affect not only your family’s lives but people’s lives as well. It’s a dreary job that doesn’t pay well and mistakes are monetarily punished. It’s a brillaint game though it isn’t for everyone. One minor mistake can cost you and for the perfectionists out there, this might not be your game. It’ll drive you nuts because you missed the fact that the passport said it was a female when it was really a male. Or you accidentally let a criminal in the border because you forgot to check his face against the list. Or the guy was slightly heavier than his papers said he was. It requires a high attention to detail and/or really good memorization of all the rules you have to follow. I had more fun with this game than I really should have been able to. I really can’t tell you why that is either. Papers, Please definitely deserves this spot for being weird, fun and enjoyable.

Dust: An Elysian Tail

By Humble Hearts LLC

header_292x136 (12)Dust was the game that revived my love of gaming again this year. It would have been my game of the year had it not been beaten out by another game. It came out during a time when I had lost a lot of faith and enjoyment in the gaming scene in general. But Dust: An Elysian Tail came to remind me of why I’m in this scene and why I love gaming so much. It’s a labor of love made mostly by a single person with some of the best handwritten graphics I’ve seen on a 2D plane in a long time. This 2D Metroidvania RPG has incredibly solid fighting mechanics, a great story and a diverse cast of characters. Oh the characters this game has. From the fun Fidget to the mythical Blade of Ahrah, this game has plenty of them. Playing this game was cathartic and allowed me to resurrect myself from my dark mood of the time. To play as the warrior Dust and explore the land of Falana was revitalizing. Add on the amazing soundtrack done by Hyperduck Soundworks and it’s really hard to fault this one man show. I only have a few minor complaints and those pertain to the over-reliance of constantly having to potion yourself to keep alive and the economy in this game isn’t quite as good as I’d like. The crafting system also felt largely pointless when items of superior quality could be bought or easily found off of dead critters. The combat also gets old towards the end. Still, no game is without flaws and if those are the only flaws this game has, then it’s really hard to complain. Dust: An Elysian Tail is a beautiful gem of a game and I can only hope to revisit this world sometime in the future.

Game of the Year: Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons

By Starbreeze Studios AB and 505 Games

header_292x136 (11)

I didn’t expect to award game of the year to a game like this. Brothers came out of nowhere but was so intriguing I just had to play it. I would describe it as a one person co-op game. You control two brothers at the same time with your two sticks on the controller. Together, the brothers must find a special kind of water that will cure their sick father. They will have to solve puzzles, get around obstacles and face all sorts of fantasy creatures. Brothers is a touching tale and one that hit very close to home for me. But due to its short length, it’s a difficult game to talk about in any great detail. This is a game you must experience for yourself. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry and it even hit me hard in the soul. Harder than I thought any game ever could after this year.

How they implement the controls in the game gives you a feeling of intimacy and involvement with the game’s story. It’s a great example where the story and game don’t feel like separate entities, but a melding of the two. Sure, it’s not the prettiest, longest or most puzzling game of all time. But how the game involves you in this story is unlike anything I’ve seen before. There’s one part of the story that would normally be handled in a cutscene but the game has you participate in it. It didn’t require quick-time-events or giant cut scenes and it kept the non-interactive parts to a minimum. It’s a really well done story and I have to applaud it for doing what it did right. With the recent rise of almost non-interactive games coming out this year, Brothers is a breath of fresh air. I hope it’s the beginning of a new evolution in gaming where we participate in the story and not simply watch it. If that’s not worthy of celebration, I don’t know what is. So, I present to you 2013’s Game of the Year. Congratulations: Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons.

Thanks for reading the Top Honorable Games of 2013! The final wrap-up and deep introspection of the past year is coming soon after Christmas. Until then, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Thanks again for all of your guy’s support. It means a lot to me. 🙂

-KingIsaacLinksr

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