The Top Ten Games of 2013

First, because there were too many games to cover here, here’s a supercut I put together of some of the best games of 2013.

I feel that everyone putting together a best of 2013 list that truly cares about gaming only does so after slamming a recently emptied bottle of whiskey down on their desk and sighing deeply.

2013 was one of the most packed years in gaming history. From every available outlet poured titles that are without comparison, even when weighed against the entirety of gaming history. Sure, there was the usual flood of crap and frustration, but it seemed that bi-weekly we were getting one of those games that you just had to play. Of course, that’s because we were.

Even if you don’t take into account the launch of two next-gen systems and all the other major industry occurrences and just focus on the quality of the games themselves, you’d be hard-pressed to name to many other years ahead of 2013.

A lot of hard decisions had to be made when putting together this list, but I feel that this is as comfortable with the honors as I’m ever going to be. Just note that if you don’t see your favorite game, it’s either because I didn’t play it, painfully had to cut it, or just didn’t like it. The curious can ask in the comments below.

Without further ado, here are the best games of 2013.

10. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

ACIV

Let me get “Assassin’s Creed IV’s” biggest problem out of the way first. It’s still an “Assassin’s Creed” game. Therefore, it carries all of the faults of that series, including a far too simplified combat system, some seriously uneven mission quality and obligatory futuristic plot elements that are getting more and more superfluous.

But, sweet Jesus, this game is just pure fun. A lot of that fun derives from the perfect implementation of its pirate elements. “AC:IV” is the absolute greatest pirate game ever made. It gives you nearly everything you could ever want from the romanticized pirate experience many of us are familiar with, and does it with sheer glee. It certainly doesn’t hurt that this is also one of the best written and best acted games I’ve played in some time.

Were this game developed from the ground up as an entirely new series called “Black Flag,” it may be even higher on this list. As it is, though, there are few games more entertaining than “AC:IV” regardless of your feelings towards the series up until this point, or any specific video gaming turn-ons and peeves you may have.

9. Outlast

Outlast

The age of the true survival horror game seems to be coming to a close as a growing number of developers pussy out and implement more and more action elements into the genre in order to make it more appealing to a larger crowd.

That’s a true shame, as a game like “Outlast” shows the tremendous amount of life left in the traditional horror style. This is quite simply one of the most terrifying games ever released, and at no point does it give a damn if you are enjoying yourself while playing it or whether or not you feel safe. It’s an uncompromising realization of the potential gaming has in terms of conveying pure horror, and you’ll love every minute you hate playing it.

I’m so very thankful the new generation of YouTube players have spread the gossip of “Outlast” and all its terrible wonders and helped let the people know that for all the waves of shitty action games with occasional jump scares that dare label themselves horror, there are still some games that do it right.

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A New “Assassin’s Creed” or: When 3 and 4 Don’t Add Up

So before my mind spins out of control, let me make sure everyone is on the same page.

As previously rumored, there will be an “Assassin’s Creed IV”. It is officially called “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag,” and it sees you taking control of renowned pirate Captain Edward Kenway, who will be your assassin this evening.

In it, you’ll wield up to four guns, captain your own ship (complete with upgrades), spend almost half of the game at sea, lead daring attacks on enemy ships, survive storms, engage in multiplayer, meet historical pirate figures, somehow “play as yourself” in the new modern day segments, harpoon whales (which PETA is already having issues with), and fulfill your land lover duties in cities ranging from pirate havens to Havana, Cuba and 50 overall various locations.

One would assume you’ll also assassinate a templar or two, unless this series has decided that it’s now yo ho ho, a bottle of rum, and the pirates life for it.

Now how is all of this, and more, known in roughly just 24 hours’ time? Because Ubisoft told us of course. They released the details, concept art, and even a trailer, which, in typical “Assassin’s Creed” fashion, is jaw dropping.

Oh, and there is one other thing. It’s coming out this year. As in the 2013 calendar year.

Ubisoft is insisting though that this is not a quick cash in attempt, and instead a true continuation of the series. You may have gathered this by that spiffy IV in the title, which sources tell me usually numerically follows the III seen in the previous “Assasin’s Creed” game, thus confirming Ubi’s claims,but the real evidence comes from the fact that Ubisoft has reported this game has been in development since 2011.

Let’s go back to those numbers for a second shall we? “Assassin’s Creed III” came out in 2012, and “Assassin’s Creed IV” has been in development since 2011, also known as the same year  “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations” came out.

That’s three “Assassin’s Creed” games in 3 years, not counting mobile ports, two of which are claiming to be full fledged sequels, all of which were logically at some point in the works at the same time, which even if they were being handled by different staff and teams, is a hell of a lot of different manpower spread thin over a short period of time on one franchise.

Something smells rotten here, and it’s not a case of scurvy.

I wouldn’t normally be upset at this much “Assassin’s Creed” but, “Assassin’s Creed III” is only a handful of months old, and the promotional blitzkrieg of advertisements that preceded it, as well as the amazing sales figures that it resulted in is still very fresh. I also remember buying into the hype, and buying the game as well.

What I especially can’t forget though is the distinct impression that I was playing half of a game. “Assassin’s Creed III” was filled with incomplete ideas and half assed execution to spare, chocking the life out of the things that made it genuinely impressive and creatively exciting. I remember the distinct feeling that I was playing a game that peaked early in the concept stages, and slacked off for the rest of its development time. For the life of me though, I couldn’t understand how it happened.

It’s all a little clearer now though, and a hell of a lot more disturbing. “Assassin’s Creed III” didn’t feel like the game it should have been, and now we’re already gearing up for “Assassin’s Creed IV.” So what was “Assassin’s Creed III” then?

Was it a preview of what was to come as the surprisingly expansive naval aspects suggested?

Was it an enhanced spin off masquerading as a full-fledged sequel for higher sales figures?

And what does that make “Assassin’s Creed IV”? Is it an apology? The true sequel all along? Or was it in fact originally the spinoff now taking the mantle as a sequel because it got the true development attention during all this time?

I hate to have to ask these questions, but when you’re dealing with such questionable practices what else could there be?

I’m left with nothing but questions as to why Ubisoft is releasing “Assassin’s Creed” installments like they are Madden titles. How can they release a clearly half finished “Assassin’s Creed III” and then expect everyone to keep a straight face while having to swallow a game that is at best an apology or the “real sequel”, and at worst a cash in attempt to milk both the massive user bases of the current gen consoles as well as attack the eager wallets of the soon to be early adopters of the next generation as well when this game hits PS4?

Like I said, none of this would matter had “Assassin’s Creed III” felt like everything it could be, and a game that got the full attention it deserved. It didn’t in either case.

So while, everything shown so far about “Assassin’s Creed IV” shows a great looking game, and is one that is certainly exciting based on early impressions alone, considering those were my exact feelings about “Assassin’s Creed III” , which only left me feeling half full, should I prepare to drop another $60 on “Assassin’s Creed IV” to chance filling that void?

Nah. At this rate I’ll just wait for “Assassin’s Creed V”, no doubt under way now and scheduled for 2014.

When and Where the new “Assassin’s Creed” Should Take Place

Not surprisingly considering the truckload of money the series continues to make, Ubisoft has announced there will be a new “Assassin’s Creed” for 2014. What is surprising is that it will be developed by new design teams, feature a new hero, and take place in a different time period.

That last one is particularly interesting considering the amount of miles that the publisher got out of the renaissance era Italy setting of “Assassin’s Creed II,” and the big news that was the third taking place in the new (and rarely seen in gaming) era of the American revolution. The question now is, where (or more appropriately, when) will gamers get to free run and eliminate their targets next?

I’ve got a few time periods on my wishlist, but just for fun’s sake, I’m ignoring the progressive chronological order of the series so far, and just picking some of the best time periods available for the franchise

Victorian Era London 1837-1901

Could London be calling for “Assassin’s Creed?”

There could be worse options for sure, as the Victorian Era is both one of the most stylized periods consistently featured in pop culture (and a big inspiration for steampunk worlds), and a genuinely interesting historical time that featured a melding of two different time eras, resulting in unique architecture, technology, and people. Not to mention the series preference to include historical figures could have you interacting with everyone from Charles Dickens to Jack the Ripper.

In many ways this would be a logical, and welcome, next step for the franchise.

Feudal Japan 1185-1603 (Roughly)

It would definitely violate the chronological story progression up until this point, but may be worth it.

The feudal Japan era is one of the most romanticized yet brutal periods in world history, and has the added benefit of not quite being overplayed yet in the world of video games. Featuring two of the most prolific and exciting warrior types of all time (samurais and ninjas), as well as the potential of siding with several warring clans “Yojimbo” style, depending on the exact time period, feudal Japan could feature a nice mix of styles and weaponry as well as provide plenty of opportunities for memorable moments.

American Industrial Revolution 1760-1840

If Ubisoft is looking for a new time period, but not a new setting entirely, this might be the best way to go.

The big draw of the industrial revolution is all of the new technology that could be incorporated into the series, but the time period itself was also noteworthy for the effects it had on society and social mentalities of the people. Ubisoft could  incorporate the prolific plight of the average working man in this new, exciting, yet often challenging time and create a story both unique to gaming, and genuinely noteworthy if they play it right.

Chinese Ming Dynasty 1368-1644

“Assassin’s Creed III” surprised nearly everyone by taking place in the rarely seen American revolution. “Assassin’s Creed IV” could do the same by visiting Ming Dynasty China.

This time period had everything you could want for a dramatic tale. Unique weaponry, feuding clans, government corruption, plight, rebellion, rising industry, incredible works of art and design, empires, and much, much more. There is a lot to explore during this time, much of which hasn’t been thoroughly examined by a video game. For sheer potential, this would be my personal favorite way for the series to go, though a dark horse candidate to be sure.

World War I 1914-1918

The only real question is, how far does the series want to go?

Though part of the games do take place in the future, the majority of “Assassin’s Creed” takes place in the pretty distant past. Without fundamentally changing the gameplay to a serious degree, World War I is about as far as you could go, considering the major influence of technology on just about everything past this point. Since some of the best parts of “Assassin’s Creed III” was your involvement in large scale battles, doing the same during the chaotic, often confused battles of WWI would be incredibly intense and provide some of the most uniquely hectic moments seen yet in gaming, all set on a world stage.

Considering the options it presents, “Assassin’s Creed” needs to reach this era at some point, but it’s a matter of when.

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