There are two obvious absences from this list. I haven’t played Skyrim yet. Oblivion did eventually get its claws into me in a big way, and there’s every chance Skyrim will do the same when I get around to it. Also, The Witcher 2 almost certainly deserves a spot on this list. I’m playing it now, and I’m really liking it. It feels messy and complicated in a way that the Bioware RPGs never are. I am playing the console version, which came out in 2012, so perhaps I’ll be able to sneak it onto next year’s list.
Without further adieu, here’s the rest of the 2011 list:
5) Sword & Sworcery
Another late addition. I only just finished it last month. The world it conjures feels ancient and primal. It’s corny, but when I solved the full moon puzzle, and then went outside and was able to look up at this gorgeous full moon, the game made me feel more connected to the world at large in a fulfilling way.
4) Iron Brigade, née Trenched
I am a firm believer that co-op makes everything better. And the co-op in Iron Brigade takes what is already an interesting, well-balanced tower defence game and opens it up to a surprising variety of builds and strategies. And the post-release support, both with Martian Bear, and the infinite survival levels, kept me coming back.
3) Portal 2
Telling jokes in games is hard, and yet Portal 2 manages it again and again. From the “Press Spacebar to Talk” joke at the beginning, to the moon at the end. It’s not perfect. The puzzles, at least in the single-player, are just not as good as the original, and the game is maybe a third too long. The co-op ups the difficulty and makes for a surprisingly contentious, yet entertaining, experience.
My favourite puzzle game, perhaps ever, and my favourite competitive game of 2011. It is deviously difficult, but I found it incredibly rewarding to brainstorm and map out solutions. And then to take it further and get into the score-chasing, trying to iterate to come up with faster, more efficient solutions than my friends. It helps that I’m really damn good at it, too.
Bastion reminds me why I love games. It tells a simple story in a unique and affecting way. Combat has a great flow to it, with plenty of room for personal expression. It hits all the buttons – it’s action-packed, evocative, poignant – and it knows how not to overstay its welcome. It’s easy to fixate on the amazing ending, but there are so many other remarkable moments along the way too.