eGamer Awards 2013: Best Story
The 2013 eGamer Awards have kicked off, and this time we’re starting things off with one of my personal favourite awards: Best Story. While we’ve frequently expressed our disappointment in 2013 overall, we were definitely treated to a handful of fantastic narratives that did not disappoint, and now is our time to pay tribute to them and celebrate the titles that stood out. Let’s get going with choosing our best story for the year, of course starting with the rundown to explain what it is we’re looking for.
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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.
The Last Of Us
It should come as no surprise that The Last Of Us is on this list. Perhaps one of the most impressive things about Naughty Dog’s latest adventure is how it took the zombie apocalypse concept, which is something that we’re all sick to death of come the end of a generation overstuffed with it, and presented something fresh and compelling with it. Keep in mind that it also came after Telltale took the world by storm with its The Walking Dead adventure series. Naughty Dog had a lot to live up to, but with fantastic pacing, two amazing lead characters, stellar writing and gripping storytelling during its latter portion, The Last Of Us was a shining example of great narrative in gaming. In many ways it was a very human story, and the core focus on its protagonists is what kept it believable and engaging without it ever trying to be too much or drift away from what ultimately mattered. If Naughty Dog ever lacked in narrative before, The Last Of Us more than made up for it with an incredible story that was hard to fault. The characters mattered, the little moments they shared mattered, and the struggles they endured mattered. By the end of it, The Last Of Us proved to be both special and memorable.
Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V for Rockstar was a return to their best form, with awesome writing, great humour and plenty of wit. It may have dabbled frequently into the stereotypical or sexist side of things, but we definitely appreciated the light-hearted, comical and colourful tone to the game compared to its dull and gritty predecessor. Its three protagonists each presented completely fresh takes on the world and kept the story both engrossing and entertaining. It was surely hard to dislike any of the characters, regardless of what they did, and the spirit of the series definitely shined through in Grand Theft Auto V. And of course, the radio stations and banter was as fun as ever. The game also had a very interesting story to tell with its elaborate set up and interactions with the main trio, and we definitely want to pay credit to the game for being able to entertain us with dialogue alone even when nothing much is happening on-screen, as well as keep us invested in the personal stories of its characters.
Batman: Arkham Origins
Batman: Arkham Origins may have ended up deeply trapped in the shadow of its predecessors, but it certainly didn’t disappoint with its story. With voice actors who had a tremendous amount to live up to, and a universe and narrative that had high standards already set by Arkham City, Batman: Arkham Origins rose to meet its challenges with amazing talent in Roger Craig Smith (Batman) and Troy Baker (Joker), who absolutely killed their roles, and a story that engaged fans. Prequels are usually unsurprising and forgettable, but Batman: Arkham Origins did a great job of presenting a fresh take on the world after Rocksteady, as well as nailed some amazing sections with the Joker in stunning fashion. With great writing and dialogue and fantastic characterisation, Arkham Origins was definitely a title worthy of recognition come the end of the year, and we feel that, with its narrative, it delivered despite facing huge pressure. We’re sure many would love to see Smith and Baker return in the future.
BioShock Infinite surely deserves great recognition for crafting one of the most intriguing worlds we’ve seen in a long time. With an incredible setting, one that absolutely had creative significance by being an opposite to its predecessor, and wonderfully unique characterisation, BioShock Infinite was a stand-out name this year as far as narrative went. Its protagonists Booker and Elizabeth presented a compelling dynamic, and the game was littered with memorable moments. The obvious credit would naturally go to the game’s ending. While its subject matter might be extremely out of sight for many, we feel that the game presented its content fantastically well, and inspired plenty of thought. It certainly, as a whole, went a lot deeper than your ordinary video game, and offered plenty of depth and intrigue for its lengthy duration. With its narrative, BioShock Infinite was original, powerful and memorable, and certainly ready to match the ridiculously high standards set by the original BioShock.
It wasn’t Batman: Arkham Origins, despite its great use of the source material. The reason was because at times it felt like we’d seen that story a number of times in other adaptions, and even though the game tried to put out a number of twists and turns, someone who isn’t a stranger would find it hard not to see its moves coming. Furthermore, it felt to us that the game’s use of C and D-list villains hurt the assassin premise and contributed to its hyped roster of villains not making much of an impact as the game became somewhat over-reliant on the Joker for the third time in the series.
Grand Theft Auto V did not take this award either, partially due to disappointment with its ending and partially because the story itself wasn’t attention grabbing so much as its greatly written characters and fantastic sense of wit and humour. It was certainly an entertaining plot throughout its entire duration, but there were superior narratives.
The biggest debate of course came in with BioShock Infinite and The Last Of Us, and in the end, after much debate, a few unresolved issues and childhood traumas being uncovered, BioShock Infinite dropped in second place. The core reasons boiled down to it opening up a lot of themes and ideas it left unexplored, lacking effective build-up (for example with Comstock) and providing a little bit of information overload in the end, and not exploring the relationship between Booker and Elizabeth deeply enough. Make no mistake, BioShock Infinite was an excellent narrative with no major flaws, and this was as close as it comes, but in the end our winner pulled through as it was more favourably viewed by our team.
The Last Of Us fought a difficult battle to take this award. While it arguably played it safer and BioShock Infinite dared to go bold with its story and ambition, there is next to nothing to fault The Last Of Us’ narrative for, and it was an incredible one at that. It was excellently paced and brilliantly written, it drifted away from the tired zombie formula after its first act, and it was a character-focused journey that knew exactly what it wanted to be at all times and what the real heart of its story was. It was Joel and Ellie’s story, and that was how it remained, constantly gripping and intriguing, with an ending that felt perfectly fitting for the narrative while simultaneously being a tough pill to swallow. It admirably presented something compelling and powerful using a formula that has been done to death and is currently dominated by The Walking Dead, and its success was significantly attributed to the strength of its two lead characters, who were presented exceptionally well and explored wonderfully. It was a complete story, it was a powerful one and it was a memorable one. Its scale may not have been as large as that of BioShock Infinite, but its writing was undoubtedly of the highest quality, as was its narrative, and ultimately there were not many ways that it could have been any better than it was.
By slim margins, but deserving ones, The Last Of Us is our pick for the Best Story of 2013.