Sunday, February 16, 2020

Mbp's games of the decade

Inspired by a video from Bombchu on Youtube I decided to review the games I have enjoyed from the last decade and pick my favourite game from every year. Nerd that I am this involved a lot of data crunching and heavy use of Excel but here are the main ground rules:

1. My sources of games are Wikipedia's "20xx in video games" pages . These pages give an unbiased and fairly comprehensive list for every year in a fairly standard format. I did spot a few omissions but none that would change my ranking. Example page for 2010 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_in_video_games

2. Windows games only and games are listed in the year that they were released. I believe Wikipedia uses the US release date. 

3. I only consider games that I have played myself for a substantial time, long enough for me to form my own opinion. 

4. I consider DLC and expansions to be the part of the original game.  I take them into account when ranking the main game. 

4. Please note that I am a fairly patient gamer so I played many of these games several years after their initial release. Nevertheless I count them by year of release. This also means that more recent years are under represented with 2018 and 2019 games being particularly sparse. I expect to play many more games from these recent years in the future so my ranking for these recent years is very likely to  change. 

5. This list is of course entirely subjective. It represents my experience and my evaluation of the of the games in question. Ranking is based on much I enjoyed the game and the lasting impression it made on me. 

And now the rankings: 

2010: 21 games under consideration. 
3rd Place: World of Tanks
2nd Place: Napoleon Total War
1st Place: Mass Effect 2

I didn't play Mass Effect 2 until after ME 3 was released and then I marathoned all three games in the series with  the DLC. Mass Effect is one of the greatest gaming series I have ever played and ME 2 is probably the best episode. It had to take the crown here. Napoleon is one of my favourite Total War games. It is the one where they got guns and canons right. I only played World of Tanks for a few weeks so I never got any good at it but I still loved the game. To this day I still enjoy video replays of experts playing.
Honourable Mentions: Civ V, Darksiders, Just Cause 2

2011: A whopping 40 games under consideration. This was obviously a busy year for me. 
3rd Place: Magicka
2nd Place: Portal 2
1st Place: The Witcher 2

I had previously tried Witcher 1 without a lot of success but Witcher 2 got me hooked on the series and deserves top spot. I enjoyed Portal 2 as a solo game but when I discovered I could play split screen co-op with my daughter the game took on a whole new lease of life. Magicka was just mayhem, a game in which the control scheme was deliberately designed to create mistakes.  
Honourable Mentions: Minecraft, Skyrim, Mount and Blade, Deus Ex, Human Revolution. 

2012: 29 games considered
3rd Place: Mass Effect 3
2nd Place: FTL: Faster than Light
1st Place: Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition

There are very few games I have played as intensely as I played Dark Souls. The game utterly consumed me for about a month to the point where I had to stop playing. I have since tried some of the other games in the series but none has gotten its hooks into me like Dark Souls 1 and I am not sure I want them to.  FTL is the best spaceship simulator I have every played. Despite its simplistic appearance it is a game that tells a million stories. Most of them involve crew members dying in a fire but after every ignominious defeat you are tempted to hit replay and jump right back in.  I really enjoyed Mass Effect 3 despite the controversial ending and as mentioned above the Mass Effect Trilogy is superb. 
Honourable Mentions: XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Far Cry 3, Warlock Master of the Arcane, Borderlands 2, Dishonored. 

2013: 26 games considered
3rd place: Tomb Raider
2nd Place: Total War Rome 2
1st Place: Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock infinite is a some what controversial game but it worked for me. Taken together with its Burial at Sea Expansions it is a fitting end to the superb Bioshock Saga. The game world is stunningly beautiful and dripping in imagination, and the ending left me speechless. Total War Rome 2 was a buggy mess on release but Creative Assembly stood by the game and several major patches later it became one of my all time favourite Total War games. Tomb Raider reboot in 2013 looked good and played great. 
Honorable Mentions: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, Metro Last Light, The Bureau, XCom Declassified, Brothers: a Tale of Two Sons. 

2014: 18 games considered
3rd Place: Alien Isolation
2nd Place: Divinity Original Sin
1st Place: Dragon Age Inquisition

There were some cracking games this year and any of the top 3 could easily have been my game of the year.  Inquisition just pips the other two for its enormous scope and terrific story telling. Divinity Original Sin is a fantastic take on turn based combat and Alien Isolation is one of the most tense games I have ever played. 
Honourable Mentions: Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor, Warlock 2, Wolfenstein: The New Order

2015: 19 games considered
3rd place: Just Cause 3
2nd Place: Homeworld Remastered Collection
1st Place: Witcher 3

Witcher 3 is a gaming phenomenon and taken with its expansions a worthy contender for greatest video game every made. It had to take top spot this year. I am cheating a bit with Homeworld remastered because the game was originally released in 1999 but it is still one of my all time favourite games and the remastered package gives it tarted up graphics and includes the sequel. Just Cause 3 is just about the most destructive fun you can have in any video game. It made me a big hit with my nephews when then drove around blowing stuff up and generally causing mayhem. 
Honourable Mentions: Broforce, Wolfenstein Old Blood. 

2016: 24 games under consideration
3rd Place: Titanfall 2
2nd Place: Doom 2016
1st Place: Total War Warhammer

I have to give it to Total Warhammer because it rekindled my love of Total War and brought the franchise in a fantastic new direction. I managed to spend over 300 hours playing the game before I got even more stuck into its sequel. Doom 2016 was a monumental achievement. An old school shooter re imagined for modern times. The controls are slick as hell and the gameplay is impeccably balanced.  I only briefly dabbled in the multi player of Titanfall 2 but the single player campaign was good enough to warrant third place on this list. 
Honourable Mentions: Battlefield 1, Grim Dawn, Steamworld Heist

2017: 14 games under consideration
3rd Place: Divinity Original Sin 2
2nd Place: Prey
1st Place: Total War Warhammer 2

Apologies for putting another Total Warhammer in first place but I have over a thousand hours in the game and I love it to bits. Easily my favourite strategy game ever. Prey is a terrific first person game that is a true spiritual successor to the incredible System Shock games. Divinity Original Sin 2 took everything that made the first game great and doubled it. 
Honourable Mentions: Destiny 2, Mages of Mystralia, Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice

2018: Only 6 games under consideration
3rd Place: Frostpunk
2nd Place: Subnautica
1st Place: Battletech

The low number of games played it partly because I am a patient gamer and partly because I spend so much time playing Total Warhammer 2. Nevertheless Battletech is a worthy contender for my game of the year. It is a great turn based combat game with the big stompy robots of the Battletech universe. Unfortunately the game doesn't do itself any favours with a fairly rough first impression but once you get into it it is terrific. I have to admit I haven't played nearly enough of either Subnautica or Frostpunk but both have really intrigued me from what I have played so far. 
Honourable Mentions: None

2019: 6 games considered
3rd Place: Gears 5
2nd Place: Halo Reach
1st Place: Slay the Spire

I haven't played enough 2019 games yet to give a definitive ranking but I really loved Slay the Spire. It is a collectable card game with all the bells and whistles and best of all it is single player so no money sink multiplayer mode. Halo Reach is cheating I guess because it is a remastered version of the 2010 Xbox game. Nevertheless I love Halo (I actually bought an Xbox 360 just to play Halo) and this PC remaster was one of my favourite games of the year despite having previously played the Xbox version. I did a full play through of the Gears of War series in January and the most recent Gears 5 definitely really brihgs the series up to date.  I still probably prefer Gears 3 but that is only available on Xbox at present so cant get into these lists. 
Honourable Mentions: None so far but I am sure that I will be playing a lot more 2018 and 2019 games in the future so this may well change. 

And the Grand Prize winner for my game of the decade: 
This is a very tough call with some very strong contenders. In fact all of my top contenders are actually game series rather than individual games because I believe that a series done well is far more than the sum of its parts. The Mass Effect trilogy is certainly a contender as is the Bioshock series. Witcher 3 is one of the greatest games ever made and single handedly elevates the series into the highest rank.  However based on sheer hours played and on the fact that the games inspired me to read almost the entire Black Library just to get more of the lore I have to give my game of the decade prize to: 

Total War Warhammer (1 and 2)







Sunday, February 02, 2020

Gaming is now a post scarcity environment

It has been on the cards for some time but Xbox game pass was the tipping point for me. We are now most definitely in a post scarcity environment when it comes to gaming. I have a huge backlog of unplayed games on Steam, Humble bundle, GoG, Origin and other services. I have new games coming in all the time via Humble Choice and Xbox Game pass not to mention Epic and other give aways.

 am struggling to come to terms with this abundance and I find it increasingly difficult to decide what game to play next and how long to play a given game for.

One approach that has been useful for me is "gaming projects" where I immerse myself in a particular game or game family for a few weeks. I did a complete play through of the Halo games last year (I bought a second hand Xbox 360 for the purpose). Since Christmas I have done the same with Gears of war (playing older games on my Xbox and newer ones on PC game pass). I didn't love all the games in the series equally but playing them sequentially gives motivation and interesting new perspectives.

I still want to play a wide variety of other games outside of these projects though. How else am I going to discover new projects. This is an issue I haven't fully come to terms with yet. I want to get more comfortable playing games for a short period and then abandoning them. Even if the game is a classic, even if the game is highly reviewed, even if I am actually enjoying the game I just don't have time to fully play every great game out there. Therefore I want to sample a wide variety of great games and then select one or two to invest more serious time in.

(Originally published as a comment on Tobolds blog  http://tobolds.blogspot.com/2020/02/my-gaming-plans-for-2020.html)

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Am I a gaming butterfly or a bird?

A recent  post on Tobold's Blog got me thinking about the number of games I play and whether I like to flit between games or spend a lot of time in one game. The truth is I get far more satisfaction from investing a lot of time in one game than from flitting between games and never the less I still do flit.

Sometimes flitting is an inevitable consequence of a game not appealing to me as much as I thought it would. If I move on from a game because I am no longer enjoying it then I don't feel particularly bad about it. Sometimes however I just get distracted by something else and temporarily take a break from a game I fully intend to come back to. Unfortunately these days there is such an overwhelming choice of games to play (often at very little cost)  that such temporary breaks almost inevitably become permanent. This ever growing list of  unfinished titles that I intend to get back to some day is a source of frustration for me.

To illustrate the above with examples here are the games I have played (a little or a lot) over thee last couple of months:

1. Total War Warhammer 2: I have been playing this game intensively since its release two years ago and have derived tremendous satisfaction from it. It has slipped into the background now and will probably remain there until the third instalment comes out in a year or so but I still fire it up occasionally.

2. The Outer Worlds: I expected to like this game a lot and to be honest I did like a lot of things about it but after playing through the first planet  for a few days I found myself getting bored by it. I don't feel any need to go back to it.

3. Battletech: This replaced Total Warhammer as my immersive strategy game and I played it intensively for about a  month before taking a break. Even though I have completed hundreds of missions and developed some mastery of the game I didn't actually finish the  main campaign but I got enough enjoyment out of this game to feel satisfied by it even if I don't go back.

4. Halo Reach: I played this before on console and I am long time Halo fan. When it was finally released on PC I had to go back in and finish the campaign all over again on the PC. You can bet I will be replaying the other Halo titles as well when they come to PC.

5. Gears of War 4: Played single player campaign to completion. Enjoyable but forgettable.

6. Gears of War 5: Played single player campaign to completion over a few days. I enjoyed this even more than 4 but again it is ultimately forgettable.

7. Metro Exodus: I really enjoyed the previous Metro games so I was happy to load this up from my Xbox game pass subscription. Unfortunately I got distracted almost immediately so this is still sitting accusingly on my desktop.  I will probably go back to this. 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Now Playing

I am finally taking a break from Total War after almost a 2 year period of total immersion in the Warhammer series. I will certainly return for Total War Warhammer 3 but for now I am enjoying other games. 

Harebrained scheme's excellent Battlemech has kept me entertained for the last few weeks. This turn based strategy with big stompy robots is fantastic but now that I have a stable of fully trained pilots and well equipped mechs much of the original challenge of the game has diminished. There are lots of ways to increase the difficulty but I am happy to play out the main campaign and move on. 

Halo Master Chief collection has finally come to PC. I celebrated by replaying Reach, the only episode released so far. Still brilliant even though I played it as recently as last year on Xbox 360 during my Halo binge

Gears of War: Pretty brainless and unoriginal third person cover shooter but a lot of fun none the less. 

The Outer Worlds. This game is the reason I subscribed to Microsoft Game pass for PC but is didn't hold my attention for as long as I expected. I may  go back to it but for now my attention is elsewhere. 

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Xbox Game Pass

I am playing The Outer Planets thanks to the Xbox game pass (pc) €1 trial month. This is a great deal from Microsoft and a lot of gamers are signing up to it but I wouldn't be surprised if I and many others stay subbed after the trial period ends. Even though others like EA Origin Access have tried to push gaming as a service with a monthly sub for some years now I feel like this could just be beginning of a seismic shift in the way most people get games. I wouldn't be surprised if in five years time the majority of my games come this way.

Twenty years ago I bought games in physical boxes that I proudly kept on display. I still have a bunch of them on the shelf in my office. Having a physical copy gives a real sense of ownership  and occasionally  I go back and play some old time favourites. But ... even when I do go back to play an older game I am more likely to play a Steam, GoG or Origin version than to physically insert a disk. It is just much more convenient so I have picked up digital copies of most of my favourites over the years.

I have never really felt the same sense of ownership for any of the hundreds of games in my Steam and other digital libraries as for the physical disks. Its a license to play certain games whenever I want. I don't own anything. The "whenever I want" bit is important though. The first Steam game I bought was Half Life 2 about 15 years ago. I could play it today if I wanted to using the same Steam account. I really like that.

Will a monthly gaming subscription offer similar permanency? Will I still be able to play The Outer Planets in fifteen years time if I stay subscribed. It remains to be seen but I wouldn't put money on it. Netflix shattered that illusion in the video streaming world when series started dropping off the list even when people were still watching them.

At present there are only about four games on Xbox Pass PC that interest me. That is probably enough to keep me subbed for a few months and after that we will see. There is a convenience though to monthly subscriptions and the world has already moved that way in video and music. Why should games not go likewise?