The games of 2008

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.

  • Nice summary! Give King’s Bounty a shot, it is a very well done remake of the almost forgotten predecessor of the highly succesful Heroes of Might and Magic (HOMM) series:

    I am playing Far Cry, Company of Heroes and Medieval II at the moment… and I think that the older Medieval 1 had some advantages over the newer Medieval 2. I am forced to start in 1080 all the time, in M1 I could start in three different medieval periods. 🙁

    Regarding WOTLK: Yeah, it is definitely the best WoW ever. But after I hit 80 and realized that I could do all heroics with my current quest and T5/badge gear from TBC, I got bored so quickly.

    I am no longer in the mood to do dailies for rep with a faction. WHY? I can clear Naxx without T7 gear, and grinding for pvp gear to fight on even level in a very unbalanced pvp arena? WoW was never made for arena combat, and the balancing issues can never be solved due WoW being based so much on the level and equipment progress driven EverQuest-system.

    The problem is there are no real competitors for WoW. There is almost no alternative. Guild Wars 2… I wonder if ArenaNet can surprise me positively.

    OK, back to reading fantasy and scifi literature and playing some old games on my brand new system in Ultra max detail + … and I wish you both a happy new year. 🙂

  • Yeah I agree, a pretty good list. Have you played Mount and Blade yet? it delivers on the Age of Conan promise of mounted combat, but its really a sandbox world which is a little bit of a turnoff. But it also has a very very active modding community.

    I actually just quit WAR because it wasn’t holding my attention. I’m currently playing rogue galaxy for ps2 (which if you haven’t played is awesome), front mission 4 for PS2, and Mass Effect for PC.

    As far as MMOs go though… I think Darkfall is a little too hardcore for most people and so will only grab its own little niche. But I see jumpgate evolution being big if they keep all their promises. That was why I never got into eve, I don’t just want to sit there while my ship automatically strafes another for combat… I want to do the combat! Stargate worlds may be out later this year, although we haven’t heard too much about it recently. SWToR is prolly not this year, same with STO… oh well. I guess single player games will have to hold me off until then..

    Oh… final fantasy XIII maybe… (PLEASE GOD!)

  • Happy New Year.

    I must agree that the pve leveling in WoW had it’s moments, but the gear grind at level 80 can diaf. I have fought my way to Duelist titles, via the arenas, a couple of times already; I am done with it.

    I do have my hopes up for Darkfall. The concepts seem to be what many are looking for in an mmorpg; open sandbox, full loot, no instancing, and no level/gear grinding. However, I am very skeptical about the game play. Odds are that it will suck, but I am really hoping that this game will be a diamond in the rough.

  • Good roundup. I feel exactly the same as you about WoW. I did the WotLK trial and it felt exactly the same at heart as ever. Levelling was fun, but I could tell what was going to give way at the end, just from players’ attitudes and what they said. Grouping in that game is no fun. Everyone trying to powerlevel. 🙁

    Best game I’ve played recently is TF2 – lot of fun.

  • Persona 4 is the best RPG of the year.

    I don’t think there will be anything even announced to “shake up” the MMO market until at least 2010.

  • I just canceled WAR for the second time, after giving it another go when 1.1 hit. My problem is one I haven’t heard much – I find all the classes incredibly boring to play.

    They’ve truly done some wonderful things with the world design, the scenario design, the new world RvR incentives, and designing the abilities they’ve got in the game with PvP in mind (minus the overabundance of long-duration KDs/disables).

    However, I simply don’t find any of the class’ mechanics to be exciting or interesting or challenging. Healers, unless you’re a masochist and want to play a Grace WP (and this requires having both a pocket tank for guard and a pocket AM/RP for direct heals), are all nothing but whack-a-mole healspam turrets – or Salv WPs, which don’t even involve whacking moles, you just cast the same AoE heal over and over again.

    Resource management is simplistic for most classes. There are very few abilities with any sort of tradeoffs or weaknesses to them. Target swapping isn’t necessary since there are not real protective spells. Lockdown and interrupt spells are generally proactive rather than reactive.

    It’s certainly possible that I simply missed something, but in all my research of the various classes, I never found one that I was really excited at the prospect of trying to learn and master.

    I wish WAR the best of luck, I think it’s doing some amazing things for the mindset of PvP MMOs, I just wish I felt like there was something in it for me.

    Happy new year, too!

  • Happy New Years,

    I really think Darkfall can deliver this year(if it releases). The beta previews (here are giving me more and more confidence in it. Not only will it have the constant excitement from the threat of pkers it should have a awesome guild war system where the cities you are fighting for actually matter to the players (no need for any pvp ranks or gear incentives). The full loot system is pretty hardcore but gear will definetly be less of a factor because it will be easier to aquire than in games like wow.
    *All my comments are made from reading forums/interviews/beta preview nothing is certain.

  • Awww, don’t be so hard on AoC 🙂 I take my hat off to Funcom for at least trying to push the boat out a little and try some new stuff. I actually enjoyed the combo system too! Maybe I’m just a Conan fanboy but they really managed capture the feel of the world and lore.

    I agree that it needs a heck of a lot of work though but I plan on checking out after the next expansion. I think it has a lot more potential than WAR.

  • I don’t think people should bury AoC so quick as I see it has more potential than WAR which has been my greatest disappointment for 2008 and I agree with what Sisyphean stated.I tried AoC a few weeks ago and was greatly surprised with the game stability,performance and immersiveness and lore.

    As for 2009 I’m not really in anticpation for the upcoming MMOs planned to be released.My anticipation will be around 2011-2012 for games such as World of Darkness(crossing my fingers) and 38 studios Code name”Copernicus”.

  • i liked AOC to and the only reason i stopped was because i couldn’t get past 77 there was no quest left and my server was to low pop to group grind it sucked im much the same feelings as gordon and valdur but im unsure of which has more potential between WAR and AOC but if both had a massive player base and succeeded i would be hands down AOC it was just way more fun for me even with its problems

  • I liked AoC as well. Server stability and the utter lack of quests around early 30s and beyond is what really got me…. Also… if I had to do it over again I totally wouldve gone with a caster rather than a barbarian. Though i loved it at first, it slowly became hard to even solo one guy at a time.

  • AoC had its moments, I loved to combo system and combat was real fun imo, though there where some phat imbalance back when it released (ToS and PoM anyone ? ><)
    I quit AoC due to technical issues, high pings, CTDs etc. Things that are prob resolved by now but I’ve left the game behind and am enjoying WAR instead.

    About WAR, I realize that Mythic still has a lot of work to do before this game is really GOOD, but I’m loving it right now anyway. It took me a good while to find the class I wanted to play, I even took a short break for playing WotLK but all of a sudden I fell in love with a Marauder, and I’m truly enjoying the class. I even found myself a fun alt char I didn’t try before 😛

    WotLK was fun for a couple of weeks, as mentioned here they really made the leveling process in WoW good, enjoyed it a lot. As with Keen I had some friends who went on and on about how much great things where added/changed in WotLK. At first I thought “meh, add more bling to a hamsterwheel its still a hamsterwheel”, but after a while I succumbed (when I took the break from WAR due to not finding a class I liked) and resubbed. Well in the end I found out I was right, it’s still the same grinding hamsterwheel of doom for gear, and I don’t miss it one bit. =)

    2008 was a good gaming year for me, cos WAR was released, 2009 will be a better year because its the year when WAR will become great!

    Ohh and btw, if you find Darkfall interesting I urge you to take a look at Mortal Online too. Dunno much about any of the games but they seem similar in concept and MO looks stunning. (

    Happy New Year folks! =)

  • […] Keen and Graev are rather harsh towards AoC in their 2008 summary but, to be honest, I don’t think they ever liked the game. I haven’t played AoC in a few months but I still feel an affinity towards it and I honestly believe it will develop and evolve into a great game, much like EQ2 did. All AoC really needs is a good does of content, bug fixes, class balance, and new armour models (please, I want the variety!!!) – sounds like a lot but it’s all possible and doesn’t require huge reworks to the original game. It’s core gameplay is great and I have to commend Funcom for pushing the boat out and trying new things with their combat system. I have every intention of picking this game up again after their first expansion this year. Mantooth: old man, big sword Comment (RSS)  |  Trackback […]

  • About the lack of RPG games in 2008: you are mostly right Keen, though the second expansion for NWN2, Storm of Zehir, is really good! As can be expected from a D&D game ofcourse, Atari and Obsidian seems a good marriage! 🙂

  • Interesting that nobody is talking about Aion when it comes to 2009 releases. Nobody believes they’ll take out enough grind in the western version, eh?

    I’ll believe Darkfall actually works when I see it. Right now I’m back on WoW with a new reroll guild and having fun… we will see if I actually hit endgame (which I never have before in that game) and continue to enjoy it.

  • I think the AOC comments were justified – the idea of having EVERYTHING instanced in a game is simply offensive to an old school MMORPGer…it was a stupid decision…and it’s all instanced so they can get away with beautiful graphics. That cannot be reversed.

  • Fallout 3 was interesting. It is a good game in its own right and I spent many hours playing it. Still occasional feeling like playing some more because there are bits I have yet to try. There are a lot a fun side quests stories. And for the most part there are at least two or three ways to finish each quest.

    But it was not a great game. The main quest just did not have the “epic” feel from previous Fallout games or even Elder Scroll games.

    I have yet to give Fable 2 a try yet.

    As for the MMORPGs, I have similar feelings about the same ones. Though I have yet decided to give WoW another shot yet.

  • AoC: I still appreciate some of the innovation in Age of Conan, especially the combat, even though after many iterations they ended up with something that was initially fun but didn’t scale or balance well.

    I think AoC’s dev team just ran out of steam and the whole game deflated as a result. It’s nowhere close to a complete game and even those us with a bit of patience after launch got fed up.

    WAR: I dunno, I don’t see the bright and rosy future you do for WAR because Mythic doesn’t seem to be making the right changes. I will agree that it’s the best MMO PvP experience and that goes a long way with people, but just isn’t enough alone to keep me playing, so as long as they emphasize that without nailing it 100% (and right now, I’d say they’ve nailed it about 35% compared to the 5% of other MMOs).

    In other words, comparatively WAR is the best of its breed, but potentially I think it’s far from what it should be.

    WoW: I’m just burned out on it. Maybe after Blizzard’s third or fourth expansion I’ll return. It’s kinda like the pop-music of MMORPGs though, like listening to top 40 radio, I just can’t do it as much as I used to.

    PotBS: They should have stuck with being a niche sailing and ship-to-ship combat game, that part rocked. The rest was just tedious and felt like attaching a grind to the core.

    LotRO: I’m throwing in Lord of the Rings Online here because I’ve started playing and the Mines of Moria expansion is doing really well. Funny enough, I passed up on LOTRO after a quick look at beta, because among other things it seemed to be lacking content. So far, it looks like they’ve spent the past year and a half really well.

    I dunno if I’d recommend it to anyone that’s left though, because that would sort of be like me returning to WoW, it’s the total content that counts, not necessarily just the new content.

  • Its WAR for my pvp fix and LOTRO for my pve fix. WoW just too boring after 3 years of playing and the expansion didnt bring anything new at all , only more of the same.

    keen, im curious hows your lv80 endgame WOW experience now , did you feel it is the old grind wheel all over again (rep/gear/whatnot grind) ?