eGamer Awards 2012: Best Story
This year was certainly a highlight for story quality in gaming, and we’ve had plenty of narratives that were both memorable and worthy of making a statement. After considering all games this year that were driven by story, we’ve handpicked the ones that we feel are representative of the entire year’s quality. Read on to find out which game presented the best story in gaming in 2012.
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This is always an interesting award to hand out. Many people believe that best story is all about the story itself, in terms of how good, interesting or deep it is. However, there is a lot more to it than that. Stories need to be paced well, they need to have solid settings and accuracy, they need characters and events that drive the plot forward and they need to be told well so that you can become engrossed in them and understand and relate to them. One of the largest factors that make up a good story, which is incidentally also the most challenging, is the ability to keep people hooked until the end. Not many games, books or even movies manage to successfully pull this off all the time, and the mark of a great story is ultimately its ability to capture an audience and keep them compelled until the very end.
Borderlands 2 was a sure surprise in storytelling this year, as it quite easily outclassed its predecessor as well as stood as a high point this year with regards to narrative in general. And really, who could forget Handsome Jack, one of the most compelling and unique villains in recent history, despite spending most of his screen-time on radio chatter? But he wasn’t the only star, as Borderlands 2 featured a wide range of whackos all brilliantly written, voiced and characterised. While the story itself for many gamers most likely would have been a backdrop to their addictive hours spent with the game, this sequel managed to make the plot so good that it could easily become the central or driving force of the game if you had let it, and some of us on the team can attest to that. That deserves admiration.
Finally returning the narrative focus to Master Chief, it’s been a long time coming since he was a genuinely compelling part of the game. The focus on him added depth and a welcome sense of emotion to the plot, and Cortana’s struggle was felt by many of us playing, despite the fact that she was an AI construct. The interactions between these two characters was a sure highlight of the game. In many ways, Halo 4 was deeply compelling and asserted its place as a more humane story. Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects to it was that it was just the beginning of a new tale that has already proven itself to be one worth investing in. It was a thrilling adventure, and a highlight of this year.
The Walking Dead
There have been many great stories this year, but none were more human than The Walking Dead. Delivering a compelling, emotional and shocking narrative complete with fantastic voice acting and characterisation, we knew we were onto something special from the very first episode already, and the game admirably reached greater heights with each new chapter. By the end of this game, you’d most likely have been an emotional-wreck. In addition to being just downright captivating, The Walking Dead was also highly memorable. One of the most notable qualities it had was its episodic nature, because it was simply torture to have to wait for each new chapter, but you knew very well that if you had them all, Armageddon itself wouldn’t stop you from playing The Walking Dead until it was complete.
Game of Thrones
Many would scoff at Game of Thrones’s appearance here, and to them we can only say that we know exactly why we nominated this title. You probably don’t even know what it’s about. But this game was in every way a Game of Thrones title, and while it started off slow, it definitely came at you hard in later parts of the game, and often left you gaping in shock. It was a mature tale full of politics, betrayal and violence, and watchers of the HBO series or readers of the books would have been right at home with the content. But really, what impressed us the most was that this game’s story downright eclipsed nearly anything that the first book of the series threw at you. Perhaps the only issue was that you needed to read the books in order to get the most enjoyment out of this tale, and that may have counted against it a fair bit. But for a liscensed game to deliver quality like this, is definitely special.
Catherine is a memorable plot, because it had the capacity to crawl under your skin on a personal level. The game could have very easily lost its core story in favour of over-sexualisation, but we never really felt that way at all, and what we had was a compelling and mature experience that sought after a moving story, touching upon pretty hectic themes without making a mess of things. That sounds far more complicated than it sounds, and Catherine deserves an enormous amount of credit for how it managed to stay on course and remain constantly interesting. Its wide variety of endings did an extra bit of work to make the story more varied, and impressively all of these endings brought a different theme or feeling to light. Catherine was just a game that was always more than it appeared to be.
Spec Ops: The Line
Spec Ops: The Line is an important game, and that all comes down to its incredible narrative. Dissecting the modern war shooter genre down to its core, Spec Ops exposed it for its glorification of conventional war-themed associations such as patriotic pride and heroism, or dare we say “American heroism” for those who need the clear picture. Spec Ops: The Line started out like any other shooter, but its strong characterisation and focus on narrative soon pushed through, and all went to hell as the game progressed on, delivering one of the most riveting stories of this year. We’d definitely say that more stories like this are needed, and the game’s multiple endings served to give you a lot to ponder on, as you wondered yourself what would be the most fitting conclusion to a story as brutal as this one.
It wasn’t Game of Thrones, because we felt that the game’s shying away from 18-rated content affected the immersion to be had in the narrative a little, and furthermore stumbles in character interactions, animations and graphics did hurt the game’s overall narrative quality.
Borderlands 2, Halo 4 and Catherine didn’t win either, and that comes down to the fact that our other two nominees were just better, and there isn’t really a more clear reason than that.
The closest competitor was Spec Ops: The Line, but in the end it lost out because it didn’t raise the bar for storytelling quite like our winner did. And that, is the absolute truth.
The Walking Dead at the end actually seemed like the easy choice, and that is just a testament to its masterful display of narrative quality. It really pushes video game narrative forward and asks some seriously challenging questions of the industry as a whole. If anyone ever doubted video gaming’s ability to push a compelling story, The Walking Dead is definitely the game that we would use to shut them up. This is undoubtedly one of the best story experiences that you can find in gaming right now, and it’s just brilliantly written, shocking, emotional and captivating like few other games ever manage to be. Shakespeare once said that “brevity is the soul of wit”, and that concept really shines through with The Walking Dead, as it never strays from the point, always maintains focus on its core themes and never loses sight of the simple human concept that makes it so damn compelling. Play it, and you’ll understand. All of this makes The Walking Dead an easy choice for the best story award of 2012.