Game of the Year 2013

2013 is almost over, and have there been some excellent games for us Mac gamers. In fact, given that a lot of games that were released for Mac this year were originally released last year for other platforms, we’ve got it especially good.

Here my thoughts on the best games of the year, in a new format shamelessly ripped from The Scientific Gamer.

Best big budget game

XCOM: Enemy Unknown almost took the accolade, but what should have been something to play over and over became a little dull after a while (though the expansion certainly improved things).

Metro: Last Light was a reasonably good game wrapped in a mediocre port, and Max Payne 3 still resides on my “blatant cash grabs” list.

But BioShock: Infinite got so very many things right. In the months since its release, it remains a memorable experience, if a somewhat flawed one, nothing if not a spectacle, and something that really pushed Mac OS X’s graphical capabilities to the limit, even taking advantage of OpenGL features only available in Mavericks.

Best small budget game

I’d be doing the gaming community a huge disservice if I didn’t also give a shout out to Hotline Miami, which was a fun but terrifyingly stressful experience. I’ve unfortunately only just started playing Rogue Legacy which might have a claim to this title too, but it remains to be seen if it has legs.

I’m a bit hesitant to give this to SteamWorld Dig, because it was released recently and thus is probably a little too fresh in my mind, but it’s probably provided me with the most consistent, enjoyable experience of anything I’ve played on the Mac this year. It’s as close to perfect in its aims as possible, with simple enjoyable mechanics, and the best pacing of any game ever.

Best DLC

Actually this is a real tough one. Hat-tips are certainly due in the direction of BioShock Infinite: Burial At Sea Episode 1, XCOM: Enemy Within, and Civilization V: Brave New World each of which were significant in their own way. Indeed, looking at that list, I’m tempted to proclaim that it was a better year for DLC than for games.

My personal favourite was Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep, which brought everything that made Borderlands 2 great, dialled it up to 11, and dressed it in a fantasy costume. It did this so well in fact, that it turned the gun-toting sci-fi shooter into a really good fantasy RPG, and all this in the millionth or so DLC they released for the game, proving that Gearbox is nothing if not full of ideas.

Best old game

Actually, this is a category that we’re getting spoiled by lately. Jagged Alliance 2, System Shock 2, and many, many more all got Mac releases at Gog.com, the digital distribution service that’s really gaining Steam (sorry). Many, many of these games are considered classics of the last two decades of PC gaming, many of those still hold up today, and scant few were ever available on Mac OS. Gog has been drip-feeding re-releases to Windows gamers for a few  years now, but we’re getting to binge on them with big batches of Mac releases.

So much so that I didn’t have much of a chance to play my take on the best (re)release this year, that of Fallout 2. What I can tell you is that everything I said about Fallout 1 still holds true for its sequel, albeit with an absolutely awful opening sequence, but some mechanical improvements beyond that. A great game, made all the more sweeter by Gog giving it away.

Best game that no-one played

Bionic Dues was an original, truly interesting blend of different ideas, with the most prolific developer in existence finally finding a stride and producing a game that was conceptually simple and interesting. For once, Arcen’s trademark ability to ship terrible artwork didn’t have much of an impact on its popularity, but the godawful name and theme song probably didn’t help it in terms of sales. I’m still hoping that they follow up on the idea in some way.

Expeditions: Conquistador didn’t really break any new ground in ideas, but it gave us a fresh, unfamiliar setting, piled on some good mechanics and presentation, some excellent writing, and plenty to do. But no-one played the bloody thing.

Best game concept

Don’t Starve wowed us with a great concept, but the repetitive start and emphasis on optimization over experimentation ultimately sent me into the arms of other games.

Papers, Please presented a insultingly simple game mechanic of matching what people say to their documentation, but subverted things with dystopian atmosphere, a sense of impending dread, and a terrifying metagame.

Best game I should have reviewed

Rogue Legacy was high up on my watch list this year, then the Mac release came and went with barely a whisper, to the extent that I’ve only just started to sink my teeth into it. Spec Ops: The Line just flat out refuses to run correctly, and as much as I wanted to review it, I’ve been unable to do so.

I should have reviewed DOTA 2, but just don’t have the stomach for it. By all accounts, it’s marvellous, if you like that sort of thing.

But Mark of the Ninja. I must shamefully confess that I got about half-way through and kept getting killed in the same place, and the pressure to review other games has prevented me from going back to it. What I have played has been brilliant, and the Mac version seems to run extremely well.

Best game that I thought I’d keep replaying but didn’t

FTL is forever on my radar, but I can’t find the time for it since finally getting to the final boss (on easy mind, and even then I  lost). Maybe when it gets an iPad release…

So XCOM. I played through the entire thing roughly three times and got completely burnt out on it. But I’ve still to finish working my way through the expansion, which may mean it gets more hours out of me next year.

Best game that I actually ended up replaying

With so many games coming out for OS X now, it’s hard to find time to actually go back and re-play games, rather than reviewing new ones. I’ve returned to Borderlands 2 frequently, though mostly because there’s new DLC all the time to keep things fresh. I still haven’t managed to get to new game plus plus though.

That said, there’s one game that I found myself going back to when I could this year:

Yeah, I endlessly criticise the way it’s gone, the hateful enforced DRM, the reliance on the (soon to be removed) auction house, but that hasn’t stopped me from launching it once in a while for some mindless clicking.

I haven’t played it all that much though, Nightmare is the furthest I’ve got and I’ve barely dabbled with the different classes on offer, and even so, I’ve not found time to return to it for a few months now (though I have something else to occupy my time lately). It could be that the forthcoming expansion gives me a good reason to return next year.

Best surprise for Mac gaming

Feral Interactive shocked everyone by bringing some of their games to Steam, and looks like there’s the possibility they’ll be bringing more Ubisoft games over, what with them doing the port of Rayman Origins. This can only be a good thing, as Ubisoft do actually produce decent games now and then, and their support for OS X has been complete garbage until now.

Best disappointment for Mac gaming

Where to start? The Banner Saga: Factions was a personal one for me, it started out with so much promise, but ultimately became less interesting than typical christmas family board games. I gave up on it after 10 weeks, and have no real interest in the single-player version as a result.

On the hardware side, we finally got a new Mac Pro, but it’s one that’s utterly unsuited to gaming right now.

But I want to highlight Torchlight 2, a game that still hasn’t received its promised Mac release, over a year after the Windows release, and to the point that everyone has decided it wasn’t that great anyway. This is becoming something of a sad trend now, Vessel notably never got its Mac release on Steam, and both PlanetSide 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic having promised Mac versions that have so far failed to materialise.

Best genre to exploit

Last year was all about MOBAs, this year sees every games publisher on the planet clamber aboard the collectible card game genre train. CCGs are just so hot right now. There have been some good ones, like Card Hunter, and some reportedly good ones, like Hearthstone. There have been still others like Scrolls, which are good but not particularly compelling in the long-term. Next year will see yet more of these, but don’t hold your breath for a Mac version of Magic: The Gathering, which still has not received a Mac release, despite appearing on every other platform under the sun.

Best bungled game launch

You might think it would be SimCity (you’d be right), but we don’t talk about that here, so instead I’ll leave you with Max Payne 3. Other unfortunate contenders are the Mac version of Van Helsing (which was prone to having the Mac version constantly crash, with no fix as of yet).

Best game that really should have a Mac version

It’s a safe bet that we’ll see a Mac version of Batman: Arkham Origins around this time next year, and that there’s zero chance we’ll get to play The Last of Us on Apple hardware; but there’s one game that the developers should really just invest the time to make a Mac version of.

I’m talking, of course, about Path of Exile.

The pretender to the action RPG throne since vacated by Diablo, the free-to-play wonder from down under has been holding strong for a long time, yet has no official Mac client, despite the unofficial one working reasonably well, and more worryingly, despite a significant number of gamers with Macs wanting to play it. Are you listening, Grinding Gear Games? No, clearly not.

Best year for Mac gaming

2012 still gets my vote.

 

Image courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/drflint/

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