Recap: Little Gaming Gems from 2013

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!1!!!1!! 😀

With the advent of the next-gen consoles, it is easy to get distracted by all the hype for upcoming games on the horizon for 2014.  That’s why I’d like to take this time to relish some of the little gaming gems from this past year, lest we forget that 2013 actually provided some decent titles for our gaming pleasure. It seems that many of these end-of-the-year recaps just list all of the most popular AAA titles from the past year, so for this list I’m going to try to stick to the somewhat less popular games that I felt still delivered a quality experience. Of course there are also many games that probably should be on this list as well, but I am only going to mention a few of the games I played this year that happened to stand out in my mind.

I also plan to make a post updating everyone on what games you can look forward to seeing on my YouTube channel in 2014, so stay tuned!

Without further ado, here are some of the games from 2013 that I feel deserve an honorable mention:

FAR CRY 3: BLOOD DRAGONFarcry 3 Blood Dragon Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be stuck in the world of a corny 80’s action film, equipped with explosions, sweaty men, and laser-shooting dragons? Well, turns out there’s a game for that. With the release of their hilarious game trailer so close to April Fool’s Day, many suspected that Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was just a well produced prank. However, this stand-alone expansion truly lived up to its expectations, especially considering its predecessor was a hard act to follow.  In FC3: Blood Dragon, players take on the role of Rex Power Colt, a middle-finger-flipping cybernetic super soldier armed with witty one-liners and 80’s machismo. Set in the dystopian ‘future’ of 2007, Rex must fight cyber soldiers and blood dragons in an attempt to defeat Colonel Sloan, the leader of the cyborg army who plans to revert the world to a prehistoric, cyborg infused state (it makes more sense when you play it…kinda).  Their use of the FC3 engine provided refreshingly familiar game mechanics in a nostalgically retro 80’s setting. My favorite part was the crude yet lighthearted satire that was woven throughout the game; even the tutorial phase offered a dose of sarcastic wit:

Basically, if you enjoyed playing Far Cry 3 and have at least some affinity for the top-notch quality of 80’s action films, then FC3: Blood Dragon is a must play. Even the soundtrack will excite anyone retro at heart. It’s pure goofy, witty, satirical fun; a refreshing change when so many games seem to take themselves too seriously. And did I mention there’s cyber dragons? There’s cyber dragons. CYBER BLOOD DRAGONS…with laserbeam eyeballs. Enough said.
Remember kiddies, be kind, rewind, and go play FC3:Blood Dragon!

THE STANLEY PARABLE (HD REMIX)The stanley parable - begin again 2 Even though this is a remake of an older version of the game, I am still counting The Stanley Parable in this recap, since it offered a new experience for many people who stumbled upon this unique title.  I actually wanted to do a review for this game, but I wasn’t sure where to start. You see, The Stanley Parable is one of those games that needs to be played to be understood, since any description of it will make it sound a bit bland and directionless. But then again, that’s the point.  Players take on the role of Stanley, an office worker who was simply going about his mundane life until one day he arrived at work, with no co-workers to be found.  Stanley makes his way through the office building, with his actions recounted by a quirky narrator in the same fashion as Thomas Was Alone (but different voice actor).  It is a game of choices, decisions, and thought provoking outcomes, encouraging the player to look inward at their own existence. This game is meta, in the most self-referential sense of the term, providing an aesthetic experience that reflective minds should not pass up.

BIOSHOCK INFINITE: BURIAL AT SEABI Burial at Sea Elizabeth 2 I know I said I didn’t want to mention AAA titles, but I must at least mention the awesomeness that is Bioshock Infinite for the sake of lauding its DLC. If you’d like to see my review of the game, check out the video here. Now that we got that out of the way, I’d like to give some praise to its (albeit short) story DLC, Burial at Sea.  So far, they have only released Part 1 of this dlc, and there really isn’t much that I can say about it that won’t contain spoilers. But I will say this: if you liked Bioshock Infinite, and are at least familiar with Rapture, then you should play Burial at Sea. I admit that I found the gameplay to be less than stellar; although it was interesting seeing Rapture as a living, thriving city, I felt that the integration of some of the Infinite mechanics did not fit right into the world of Rapture. It’s justified by the fact that this game takes place in an alternate universe, allowing for the convergence of such elements, but unfortunately it made the DLC’s mechanics seem a bit forced (skyhooks in an underwater city?). But since this is just an add-on and not a full game, I’m willing to excuse any qualms I might have had with the gameplay. And really, the gameplay isn’t that bad. Anyone familiar with Bioshock Infinite can make their way through this DLC pretty easily (of course, who would be playing this DLC without having played Infinite?). I completed it in about 2 hours, including the time I took to slowly eavesdrop on all the philosophically inclined conversations throughout Rapture.  Part One’s most redeeming quality is its twist ending that will surely please any Infinite fan.  Bioshock has once again packed a narrative punch with this brief add-on, and it’s because of this story-driven experience that I look forward to seeing what Part 2 has to offer.

THE WOLF AMONG US – Ep. 1: “FAITH”Snow White Based off of the graphic novel series Fables, The Wolf Among Us is one of the latest installments from Telltale Games, the creators of the (good) Walking Dead game. In this episodic game, The Wolf Among Us puts players in the role of Bigby Wolf, the local sheriff of Fabletown who is tasked with investigating the murder of one of their own. The title is set to have five episodes total, but only episode one was released earlier this year. If you are a fan of the Fables series, or if you enjoy Telltale’s signature interactive-graphic-novel style, then this game is definitely worth trying out. Click here for my written review of The Wolf Among Us – Episode 1: “Faith”

BROTHERS: A TALE OF TWO SONSBrothers Wallpaper 2 I couldn’t finish this list without mentioning Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. This quaint indie puzzle-platformer takes you on a journey of two brothers who must trek across treacherous lands in search of a cure for their ailing father. Along the way, they encounter an array of landscapes and mythical creatures. To navigate these worlds, players control both brothers simultaneously, and must coordinate the brothers movements in order to solve a host of unique environmental puzzles. This game doesn’t need explicit dialogue to evoke a slew of emotions with its indirect narrative approach. Just a heads up…there’s some pretty sad moments throughout, so keep a tissue handy. If you’re in the market for an emotionally stimulating narrative with simple yet satisfying puzzles, then I recommend Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Check out my review here!

TL;DR – These games are good, and you should play them. And cheers to more awesome gaming in 2014!

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