This year, 2011, has come and gone and with it brought some of the most amazing games, so many that it may actually be the best year for games of this generation. It was certainly hard enough to narrow that list of countless AAA games to just five, but below is my personal choices for this year, ordered by my overall enjoyment of them(hint: you won’t be surprised by my number one choice).
Again, this is a personal list based on my opinion and if it is omitting a game you personally felt should be on the list than is either because I hadn’t played said game or my opinion differs from yours. Each person on the site has their own top 5 list, which may represent your own taste and experience of 2011. Now that that’s said on to the list.
Number Five: Forza Motorsports 4
Despite my roots being in RPG I am always a sucker for a good racer, as you may have noticed with Need for Speed Hot Pursuit making the number 1 spot on last years list. Turn 10 Studios did not disappoint with their latest Xbox exclusive racing sim. I am not really huge on the whole racing sim genre but Forza 4 offered a less steep barrier to entry for some who would enjoy the more arcade-y racers, but allots great depth to those looking for a more realistic racing experience. It features some classic true-to-life tracks, an massive roster of licensed cars, beautiful graphics and purely fun gameplay,which Need for Speed: The Run just couldn’t capture. I’ve spent many hours just playing the multiplayer and have many more hours yet to be spent finishing the single-player races and it has yet to feel dull or repetitive. Definitely the best in the genre, this year.
Number Four: Orcs Must Die!
I remember a time before Plants vs. Zombies when it was the wild west of tower defence games, there were plenty of great ones and some no great titles, but after the immensly popular PvZ released it seemed like you couldn’t find quality tower defence anywhere, despite games like Assassin’s Creed Revelation attempting to shoehorn the genre into that setting, there were just no fresh and interesting ideas.
Then came Dungeon Defenders and Orcs Must Die! both at pretty much the same time. Both are great games, while Dungeon Defenders did something unique and had a bit more depth, Orcs Must Die! went back to the roots of the genre in a way that allowed for far more addictive gameplay, which I was sorely missing. Above most AAA games to come out this year I found this to be the one game I could not stop playing. Placing “traps” to take out Orcs felt far more rewarding in the close-quarter, third-person perspective and there is also plenty of humour to be enjoyed in the game as well, with the protagonist being a quirky protector of the magical rifts that holds out evil from entering the human world.
Getting skulls from doing well in a level allowed you to upgrade your traps to take out the hordes of mindless Orcs even quickers and it created a very rewarding and additive element, that kept me hooked long after Dungeon Defenders charm wore ff.
Number 3: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
I have always considered myself a Zelda fan, and until recently, I considered A Link to the Past to be the best Zelda game to have ever existed. I loved Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker, but they felt like they were missing elements that made A Link to the Past resonate with me. Skyward Sword managed to capture those elements and expqnd upon them.
It’s hard for me to say this is the best Zelda game because throughout the entire game I was often frustrated by the way the motion controls were implemented and I realized that if not for these controls (which were only frustrating from my lack co-ordination) it would most definitely be the best Zelda game ever. Since there was no back up play method I would have to say this game is only on par with aLttP and does not surpass it, but it came oh-so-close.
The beautiful graphics, clever puzzles, lack of unnecessary exploration, and more meaningful side-quests make this an absolutely fun experience, if only you have the patience and coordination to enjoy the motion controls.
Number 2: Dragon Age II
I am well aware that I am in the vast minority of gamers when saying that this is the second best RPG of the year, perhaps that’s due to The Witcher 2’s steep difficulty curve or perhaps its because I just love the Dragon Age universe with such heart. Either way, of all the games I played this year Dragon Age II was the only one I went through a second time right after beating it.
Ignoring the repetitive environments and the somewhat bland story Dragon Age II has the most enjoyable characters, with dialogue that makes you actually care about their various plights. I also found the combat to be a massive improvement over Origins and if not for that I would have been more reluctant to take the 30 hour plunge into the story. I went through first as a rogue and the second time as a mage, and I found both experiences to be so different that it did make both playthroughs equally enjoyable. It’s rare that I will jump into a game a second time with no New Game+ feature, but BioWare knows how to get me hooked.
Number One: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
As I mentioned above this will come as no surprise that I picked Skyrim as my Game of the Year. I would likely need an entire post just to say what is so great about this sequel, but instead I will just give you a quick run down.
As far as open-world RPGs go, the Elder Scrolls series is second to none, and the 100+ hours I sunk into Oblivion would agree. Skyrim took everything from Oblivion and gave it life, then expanded on what you could do 10-fold. The environments are beautiful and probably the most beautiful of any game to come out this year. The world feels far more realistic with NPCs having far more meaningful conversation than just speaking platitudes to one another in a loop. I always got the impression that things were happening in Skyrim and I was missing out on the action at any time, while I was out fulfilling my destiny as the Dragonborn, killing people as part of the Dark Brotherhood.
The archaic RPG elements of dice rolling and stat sheets seem all but completely removed from the experience to make it far more streamlined and user-friendly. It feels like an action game that allows you to level up, while also feeling like playing the life of some character in a fantasy movie that is happening around you.
The main story is relevant but not really necessary to enjoy the game, you could probably spend hundreds of hours just completing side quests without even considering the main plot, except maybe when a Dragon stumbles across your path to remind you that you are Dovakiin(Dragonborn).
Skyrim is more than a game, its an experience.