Happy New Year everyone! Another year of gaming has come and gone and I want to take the opportunity to reflect upon the past year. Unlike some years, 2008 was actually full of gaming for me and with that gaming came the usual fun but it also tought me many lessons. What I’m going to do now is go through each of the gaming genres and possibly platforms to give you guys a quick rundown of what I enjoyed most, hated most, never got to see, and learned while playing games in 2008.
Overall, I was pretty disappointed with what we saw from this pocket of gaming. The only game really worth mentioning is Sins of a Solar Empire. SoaSE received a lot of praise for being so different from most games and doing so without the backing of a huge publisher. I just couldn’t get into it and sadly this meant that the only other RTS games in 2008 worth checking out were… well, Red Alert 3, and that didn’t pan out at all like I was hoping. I expected RA3 to be huge for me but it ended up slipping away into the shadows after I wasn’t impressed by the demo. Overall, the genre hid itself in 2008 but from the looks of it we may see it resurface as king in 2009 with the release of StarCraft 2.
FPS / other Shooters
The FPS/shooter genre was about to take the same dive as the RTS games on the PC before November when Left 4 Dead released. Until this point we had no shooters on the PC release that were even worth except for Call of Duty World at War, but the jury is still out on CoD5 for me on whether or not it’ll be considered a personal hit. L4D introduced an entirely new style of play for FPS games with multiplayer storytelling and cooperative play rising to new levels. But again, until November all we had to go on were the amazing releases of 2007 (CoD4 and TF2) which are still trumping the success of 2008′s releases. 2009 may bring with it a few interesting announcement and possibly a release, but I don’t expect much given the direction that some of these publishers are taking their titles. I’m holding out hope that Battlefield 3 revives it for me.
Err… what RPG’s? For me, this genre tanked worse than RTS games. This is, of course, my personal opinion [Duh, my blog] so I’ll probably receive some nasty emails or flames but… what do we have to work with here? Fallout 3, Fable 2, a couple ports to PC from consoles, and a few “enhanced editions” of games that didn’t do so well? I don’t find Fallout 3 very interesting at all from a RPG perspective and Fable 2 was once again not what I expected from the Fable series. I’ll go ahead and brush the rest away for being 2007 or failed titles and conclude that this genre needs some serious help on PC and higher standards for consoles. I want to see the true RPG style return to PC in the coming years with 2009 – hopefully – bringing an announcement.
Since there are only a couple games in this genre for 2008, I’ll go down the list of the ones I played – the ones worth mentioning - (just so happens I played them all) and give you my quick thoughts.
Pirates of the Burning Sea – Over instancing your world is bad folks. This little engine that almost could really had my hopes high. I was ready for a Pirate mmo; especially one that allowed me to command my own ship on the seas. At heart, it tried. It had a lot of neat ideas and the world was its oyster. In the end, the direction that FLS went was the wrong one but I hope it opened the doors for future Pirate’ish MMORPGs to release and learn from the unfortunate mistakes made here. I’m still adamant that when a Pirate MMO releases which allows players to command a ship together and truly sail a real virtual world while offering the plethora of possibilities of Nation combat and other PvP/PvE will be a success.
Age of Conan – Everyone learned a lesson here: graphics do not make the game. Releasing a game without the content to support a poorly designed game on top of having some of the worst performance ever seen in the genre is the recipe for disaster. I also learned that I do not want developers being innovative for the sake of being innovative. Hungry Hungry Hippos [Google it] combat is no substitution for what works. I walked away burned by AoC but I learned a lot about trusting my gut instinct. I also learned that more people read my blog that I thought. The emails, comments, in-game /tells in various games, and other communicae telling me how people wish they listened to me about AoC reinforce that I really need to listen to my gut when it comes to games and especially when writing about them.
Warhammer Online – It’s been a rollercoaster, that’s for sure. The game had a pretty rocky launch because it was released a couple months before it should have been. What Mythic needed to do was release the game in the state it’s in with 1.1 and not what it was at launch. The result has been losing a pretty good chunk of players in the first few months. However, the game is in an amazing place right now. Aside from a few bugs and design issues that need to be ironed out, this is by far the best MMORPG for the player who enjoys large-scale team based PvP (RvR). It lacks the PvE polish and it has a few issues with incentives and player-driven content but it’s getting there and when it does finally get there it will blow people away. For the past month I took a small break from the game and only played it on and off while I tried out other games. My reason for doing so was “I don’t think I’ll miss the game if I stop playing”. Turns out, when I stopped playing for a while all I could do was think about how “I really want to play WAR”. That’s a really good sign.
World of Warcraft – Ohhh boy. Yep, I resubbed to WoW a couple weeks after WotLK launched. I wanted to see what had changed because I was being told by so many friends that the game had changed significantly. True, it had changed a lot. The game is no longer about 40-man raids and only a battleground rank grind. Instead, it’s about 10-man and 25-man raids where the 25-man raids will always have a significant advantage over the 10-man. Instead of just a battleground rank grind it’s about a point grind for arenas and battlegrounds. It’s all about getting to that quota each week instead of enjoying what you’re actually doing. The treadmill is moving faster than ever in World of Warcraft and although the game’s polish is truly second to none, it fails to be about the fun. The “game” ends at the max level abruptly. The leveling process deserves so much praise but that’s the end of the game. At 80 the meta game begins where points take over for fun. 11.5 million people are not playing a “game”. So no, it has not changed at heart – it’s just added a new layer of blinding polish. I have not canceled yet but I’m moving in that direction. [More on this later this week.]
Consoles ‘n stuff
These games belong in some of the other categories, but I’ve decided to make mention of them here in a console section. I’m not a huge console fan but I do occasionally pick up a game and find it enjoyable.
Xbox 360 – Saints Row 2, Gears of War 2, Lego Batman and Indiana Jones, Star Wars Force Unleashed, and probably more deserve mention. I’ve enjoyed all of these games and for this reason feel that Xbox 360 had the best year for me.
Playstation 3 – A couple good games were released here but I can honestly say I have not played many of them yet. I’m currently enjoying Little Big Planet and plan to put Resistance 2 in later this week to being playing what I hope will be a fantastic game.
Wii – Heh, I continue to wonder about this little console. I like Nintendo’s titles but it feels like an eternity between releases of quality games. I like(d) Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart but I want more! I’m tired of the “party games” and the “mini-games” and the other shovel/crapware. Let’s get some more Zeldas and Marios!
Alright! I’m sure I missed some stuff but that’s what I get for writing this straight through on memory. Looking back at all these games that I’ve enjoyed enough to mention here, I can honestly say that 2008 was a pretty good year. It had its ups and downs, especially during that summer slump, and it had its flops, let-downs, and nasty surprises but the good overcame the bad by a slim margin.
I hope that 2009 brings with it a few announcements to really shake things up. I want to see the MMORPG titles in development and slated for release truly surprise (yes, I’m looking at you Darkfall). I want to see more quality PC games like StarCraft 2 make their 2009 release dates and really revive some of these othe genres that have been stagnant for far too long. I really hope that in 2009 developers will see the path that gaming is going and not try to take shortcuts that will lead to better profits but worse games.
Keen and Graev’s Gaming Blog will celebrate 2 years of writing early this year and I hope that you will all join us for yet another fantastic year of gaming and community. Remember, the only thing that matters is that you are having fun.