Life, The Universe, And Gaming — A 2011 To Remember [Column]
Yeah, okay, so we’re not entirely on break.
Well, everyone else is. I just felt like I had one more in me, before I took to enjoying my holiday as well. And so, here I am on the night of Christmas (kind of), doing my final column for the year, something I’ve been planning for weeks and, being the illustrious gamer that I am, have left for the last minute, once again.
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So, 2011 is almost over. The number of days left in the year are now in the single digits. For me, it feels like it’s still a year ago, as though I’ve warped forward through time at a pace that was faster than usual. It’s outright blitzed by.
I’ll just come right out and say that 2011 was probably one of the best years of my life. Undoubtedly the most eventful so far.
For gaming, it’s been quite an amazing one, as well. In all respects. And the purpose of today’s column is simply to make mention of a few things I found cool, or noteworthy, about the year that is now taking its final breaths. Preparing itself for its mortality. Wait…
I should probably start by saying that a year ago, this column never existed. ¹
I wasn’t a writer for eGamer. Simply a guy who had a love for gaming and a way with words. A really awesome guy, though. Just saying.
It all started with a review on Fable III. Funny story about that: after a game of Dota with Dean on Sentinel and myself on Scourge (opposing teams, for the n00bs) where I destroyed their team, Dean visited my clan’s channel and complimented me, and we got to talking about eGamer. I saw the opportunity and jumped on it like a Dovahkiin to blue butterfly wings, asking if he’d like my assistance with a weekly opinion column, or something. I proposed a test-feature as the aforementioned review, and after it was well-received, I published my first column. Funny story about that first column: The entire first half of that piece was modified by Dean to remove what I had originally intended to be an Alcoholics Anonymous support group type of style, to introduce myself. Kind of like an interview, for those who don’t know what support groups are like.
A few months later, I was brought on as a full-on writer for the site, and began my daily news quota, and I’ve been going strong (Editor of Columns, you?) since then. Smiley here.
I should probably also point reference to the fact that this year was the first in which I actually managed — upon my ninth time of trying — to make it to rAge. Thank you again, Dean. You are a stallion amongst pack mules…
So, what are the Cavie-approved mentionables (it’s totally a word) for 2011? Let’s do this with pictures. Everyone loves pictures! *
The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings — Teaching Us What RPGs Are All About
Prior to its release, I had never taken any interest in The Witcher series after playing the demo for the first game and being left entirely underwhelmed, but when I was told that I might have to review The Witcher 2, I started researching it, and what I discovered seemed intriguing.
After the initial plan for the review fell through, I found the lack of The Witcher 2 in my life to be a void that needed filling, so I set out to acquire the game, and it was one of the best decisions I made this year.
For one, the standard retail edition of the game came packed with more things than you would find in most Collector’s Editions. That was already a win, on the part of the game. Then I actually installed it and gave it a go. It was amazing.
The game’s graphics were unrivalled, on a PC. It was the first, and remains the only game to actually cripple my current gaming PC, on its highest settings — something easily fixed by turning off that sexy ‘Ubersampling’ setting — and looked good even when scaled down a bit. It also felt very natural and smooth with a controller, for some reason, which is something I enjoyed since the game happened to place the camera over the main character’s shoulder, lending to that feeling for playing with analogues.
And then there was the story…
We gave it best story for a reason. It was intriguing, mature, politically charged (like A Game Of Thrones on crack) and the best part is that there were sixteen different endings to the game. What’s more, depending on your choices in the first chapter of the game, the second chapter plays out in entirely different locations with entirely different characters. True choice? Yes please. And there was no silly morality scale dictating your actions. It was your character, all throughout, not some idealised, perfect statistical creation.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings remains a marvel amongst not just RPGs as we know them, but all games as entertainment value, escapism, and even art. It was also difficult as fuck.
FemShep — The Year The World Chose A Ginger
I have an admission to make. Actually, a few: 1. I love redheads. 2. I love strong female characters. 3. I love the Mass Effect series. 4. I’m a BioWare fanboy. 5. I like numbering stuff.
With all of that out of the way, my second noteworthy piece for the year — hey I didn’t say all of them were serious, nor admirable — was that of the “Pick your Femshep” competition that BioWare decided to carry out, in order to come up with a suitable design for the female version of Commander Shepard that you will play in the upcoming Mass Effect 3, due for release in March 2012.
The fanboys came out in droves for this competition, held in stages to decide not just the face for Femshep, but her hair colour as well. Why they needed to do this, nobody really knows. After all, there’s been a Femshep through two games already, and there was certainly no “Pick your Male Shep” competition. It definitely felt like a glorified beauty pageant, undermining the very core tenets of the Mass Effect series, something that was never about the promotion of visually pleasing physical features. ²
Hell, the coolest squad mates in the second game were a guy with a missile-shaped hole in his face, and a duck. But I digress.
At the end of it all, gamers went with the ginger and showed that humanity’s saviour might well be the stereotypically “soulless” soldier, ostracised for her mutated follicular pigment. Also: female.
My Favourite DC Comics Villain Returned To Gaming
Yes, I love The Riddler.
Why? Well, yes he’s no Joker. But he is equally an “Agent of Chaos” much like the purple-suited maniac with the green hair and scarred face. How so? Well, The Riddler attempts to prove that he is smarter than Batman, by setting puzzles and challenges for the so-called “world’s greatest detective” to solve, in order to save some people, somewhere. But while our beloved Dark Knight wracks his brains trying to solve these Riddler puzzles, the green-suited Edward Nigma is probably kicking back and relaxing on a beach somewhere, sipping on a martini while playing with his cane and hat. Note to self: buy a Riddler cane and hat.
So it’s already pretty clear who’s the smarter person here, yes?
Well, The Riddler made his triumphant return in Batman: Arkham City this year, providing the Dark Knight with no less than 400 unique Riddler Challenges to get through, in order to finally face and attempt to defeat him. Allow me to explain why this gave me joy like nothing else, apart from my love for The Riddler: the story for Arkham City could be done in five hours, easily. The side missions, when they do happen, take another five hours or so in total. The rest of your forty hours spent playing the game, will involve solving Riddler Challenge after Riddler Challenge after mind-boggling, mentally-taxing Riddler Challenge.
A game that challenges my thinking and actually gets my brain juices flowing? I’ll have more of that, thank you!
My Favourite Marvel Comics Villain Returned To Gaming
Okay he’s not quite villainous, but as an anti-hero mercenary type, the “Merc with a mouth” totally counts, and he hasn’t been around since his last appearance in gaming, with Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 and a brief cameo in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. But this time, it was a right and proper appearance.
Marvel Vs Capcom 3 brought not only my favourite villain in Deadpool, but also many other favourite characters of mine (look below) and allowed me to play them in teams, together. And I do so love Deadpool. He and (look below) are pretty much the entire reason I bought the game, immediately after trying it out at rAge.
He is undoubtedly the funniest character in the Marvel universe, bar none. No, not even Spider-Man can compete with the hilarity that is Deadpool.
I forever live with the hope for a Deadpool live-action movie, some day. Until then, I’m more than delighted to keep picking him in my MvC3 teams.
The Best HD Remake I Could Ask For, Was Announced
The half-demon, half-mortal from the Devil May Cry series who is not so much the embodiment of cool, but a certain kind of parody, of it. He dresses in a red overcoat sometimes with nothing underneath, has a comically huge sword, dual pistols named Ebony and Ivory, and boasts the craziest, most over-the-top set of combo moves in the games in which he features. A cutscene from any of the games is always memorable if Dante’s in it.
Sadly, I missed out on most of the DMC series that featured the man who was named after the famous Italian poet Dante Alighieri of Divine Comedy fame. I had no PlayStation 2 and was unable to procure one, in order to play those games.
Then the announcement of the HD remake collection came, and it was such a happy moment for me, this year. Granted, the collection isn’t out yet, but that’s okay because we know it’s coming. So that’s good enough for me.
Also, as with Deadpool, I enjoyed playing Dante far too much, in MvC3. He’s easily the coolest character in the game, and just fucking overpowered if you know how to use his combos. And they’re just as over-the-top in that game, as well. Yay for crossovers! On that note…
Crossover Games Are A Possibility After All
What you see above is Commander Shepard and a squad mate or two, with the design and art style of the Battlefield 3 images that you’re more used to.
Okay, so that would never happen, sure.
But let’s have a look at say, Blizzard Dota. How many times while playing regular Dota, have you played Abbadon and wished he was really Arthas? I know I’ve lost count. But with Blizzard Dota, we get to actually play as not only the treacherous heir to the throne of Lordaeron, but many other stars of Blizzard games as well. I’ll have that!
There are crossovers in other games, as well. Such things as the Raiden skin in Assassin’s Creed, or Ezio in the next Soul Calibur game. Need I mention a certain Greek mythology ending sadist in Mortal Kombat? That’s Kratos, by the way. There’s even an Isaac Clark style armour set for Dragon Age 2.
Crossovers, though not always very much more than a simple skin or custom character, are becoming a feature in some games, and those that do it well, really do shine. Mortal Kombat on the PS3 is a testament to that fact.
So here’s to more crossovers in future. I’d sure as hell love to fight a dragon in the next Mass Effect, or meet a certain talking tree in a Skyrim DLC pack. Okay, those were bad examples, but you get my point. Moving on, then…
Still Awaiting The Third Coming Of Gaming’s Messiah
It’s true, he’s nowhere to be seen.
Still, something in me feels as though the coming year will be one where he finally rises up and retakes his place as the outright god of our gaming generation.
And I feel good for the one Free man, after playing Portal 2 in particular, this year. It was indeed my personal game of the year, and for once, everyone else agreed. Never has a game made me feel so happy during such an otherwise unhappy time, personally.
And then the buzz about Half-Life 3 kicked in, a few weeks ago.
It seems like the announcement is coming, and I for one will count that day as the real apocalypse. The day when the luminary Gordon Freeman returns to our gaming screens. I’m calling it right now: the internet will implode.
The Theme Of Gaming In 2011
Walking towards the camera in an ominous and menacing fashion.
It’s true. Pretty much every game to release this year, at least the really big titles, featured a character in the game, walking towards the camera in a disturbingly serious fashion, as though it would split with the cover of the game and into reality, and proceed to fuck you in the eye sockets till your pupils bled with awesome.
Done for dramatic effect or not, clearly every triple-A developer got sent the same memo about this style of cover-art.
Let’s see if you can name every game in that picture. Comments section, go!
You know, just taking a look at the many games that released this year, you can’t help but wonder whether 2011 could be counted as one of those truly great years for gaming. Sure there was a lot of sequel stuff, and not much in the way of new IPs. But really, were you not entertained this year? And constantly, at that?
The year started off with games like Dead Space 2 and Crysis 2, moving on to Bulletstorm, Dragon Age 2 (fuck you all, I loved it), Marvel Vs Capcom 3, Portal 2, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, and I could go on naming really great games to have released this year, for a good few more lines.
Sequel-filled though it was, I would count 2011 as a year of gaming that’s right up there with 1998 and 2007 as one of those really great years, indeed the most active year for gaming so far. Was there even a dry spell, this year?
Is this then an ode to 2011? Sure, why not. I certainly have reason to be thankful for the year I’ve had.
Here’s to more years like this, then.
Spoiler alert for 2012: There’s a good few new things coming soon, so keep an eye out and look forward to some really great features and things you really don’t want to miss, here on eGamer. Also, go and pre-order Mass Effect 3 right now. You know you want to.
Have a happy New Year, gamers.
I’ll see you all in 2012.
May it be the gaming year to end all gaming years. ³
¹ : It must have been a great time.
² : Miranda aside, of course, but even then, her physically pleasing figure was explained through her backstory, effectively excusing her and her alone.
³ : inb4 Mayan prophecies and the apocalypse and such.
* : Since it’s the so-called festive season and such, I’ve decided to add all of the pictures into a Gallery which you all may peruse and download from, as necessary. Most of these pictures are wallpaper-sized, anyway, so have at it. You’re welcome.