2013 Calvin Awards: Best Videogame
February 18, 2013
Anyway, it is not as if our group is displeased with the first Halo outing by 343 Studios. To the contrary, we relish the streamlined nature of the series. We would be hard pressed to name an area that Bungie would have significantly improved. The reason is that Halo 4 is a near perfect game. Online play in particular has been cleverly improved via a couple of small but seminal changes. Team killing is all but impossible now, thereby negating the aggravation of those pathetic little griefer trolls whose presence is a blight in multiplayer. Also, matchmaking has been virtually perfecting, preventing long delays in finding opponents. Frankly, every aspect of the game is much improved, something I had not believed possible when Bungie stepped aside to launch a new project. Take a bow, 343 Studios.
Our third selection this year may be the most controversial. I am well aware of the fact that a lot of people despise Mass Effect 3. No, the issue is not the gameplay nor the unexpectedly good multiplayer. Instead, the denouement of the final game in this franchise has alienated, well, pretty much everyone. I would be hard pressed to find supporters of the oddly anticlimactic, fatalistic finale. That aspect of Mass Effect 3 in no way diminishes the rest of the game. There are moments where a hundred hours of gameplay spread out over three games determines that outcome of a cut scene. Characters survive or die depending on choices from the original game as well as its successor. This sort of innovative character building is unprecedented. The originality of not knowing until afterward whether you as a player had chosen the correct decisions is quite possibly the greatest idea I have ever seen in videogame storytelling. Mass Effect 3 is a worthy conclusion to a magnificent trilogy, even if the ending is one that would confuse even Stanley Kubrick.
A new property and the latest release from our favorite franchise are the titles that round out the top five. Dishonored hearkens back to the days of Lord British/Ultima in that it is an ethical RPG. The difference is that Dishonored is also a first person action game. Its unique skill tree and decision making process allows the player to determine whether they want to go the Batman route by never killing an enemy. Alternately, they can go the Joker route and kill everyone in sight in the bloodiest manner possible. The entire game can be beaten without murdering a single opponent, which is certainly a refreshing choice in this day and age.
The latest Final Fantasy game is our fifth choice. Final Fantasy XIII-2 contains so much time travel that it feels like the lost title from the Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross series. An obfuscating plot involves Lightning, who has become some sort of goddess-selected empress of the time arc. Or something like that. Look, I cannot explain all the logic of Japanese sci-fi/fantasy. What is important is that an NPC from the first game, Serah, and a new character named Noel are forced to restore the proper timeline to stop some badass named Caius from…doing something evil. I don’t know the details but the game ends with the bad guy winning, which is definitely a first for the franchise. A third Final Fantasy XIII game will be released by the end of the year, which means that A) Squaresoft does not respect numbers and/or naming conventions and B) that game will finish in the top ten as well. We love Final Fantasy games, okay? To wit, I just downloaded Final Fantasy IV for my iPad last week. I should vote for that next year, too.
A couple of less heralded sequels finish in sixth and seventh place. Assassin’s Creed III has a brilliant premise that led to a phenomenal trailer. The setting is the American Revolution. Colonial America is ready for lots of awesome action sequences that allow dudes re-living history to use modern warfare tactics to wipe the floor with those lousy Brits, a couple of whom voted for this game, which I find self-flagellating. Far Cry 3 (Furthest Cry?) is our seventh selection. This particular Far Cry game has pirates. Need we say more about why we love it?
The rest of our top ten features the latest Forza game and a couple of new properties. Forza Horizon is, well, Forza with new cars. This makes BOP’s Max Braden very happy. Somehow, he persuades a few others to vote with him each year. He’s like the Weinstein Brothers of the Best Videogame category. Ninth place goes to Journey, which has nothing to do with the band nor the 1980s Atari game involving the band. Instead, it is like a videogame adaptation of the obscure Gus Van Sant/Matt Damon movie. If you have a PS3, try this game. It is bizarre in a really good way. Our final selection is episodic videogame adaptation of The Walking Dead. Somehow, the game feels like Myst with a body count, and that really works for our staff.
Narrowly missing the top ten but still highly recommended are Angry Birds: Star Wars, Letterpress, X-COM: Enemy Unknown, Kingdom Rush, Diablo 3, The Simpsons: Tapped Out and Happy Street. You will notice that we prefer console games to apps overall. Still, we as a group are starting to spend more time with apps. We may see a changing of the guard over the next couple of years.
View other awards
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music
||Mass Effect 3
||Final Fantasy XIII-2
||Assassin's Creed III
||Far Cry 3
||The Walking Dead