Monday, January 02, 2006

2005: Games In Review

I enjoy doing an end-of-the-year awards post, but the idea of one person writing about the best games of the year is just goofy, because there's no way that one person could play everything or even a large piece of everything. So instead of doing that, I'm just going to write about the games I enjoyed most in 2005.

Here's the theme for 2005: most of what I think were the best, most enjoyable games were made by independent or small developers. Almost all of the high-profile PC games I played this year were disappointments.

Instead of repeating what I'd already written about these games earlier in the year, I'm going to provide links to the earlier columns, in case you'd like to find out more.

First, the PC games.
#5--Civilization IV
This will be PC Game of the Year for many people. It both respects the franchise and extends it, and post-release support has been remarkable, both for its depth and because these guys know what to patch. That seems simple, but it's not, at least for most developers. The game is also tremendously accessible, with a level of automation that can be adjusted to make it playable even for Civ novices.

#4--Mount and Blade
Three words: combat on horseback. This game isn't even finished and it was one of the most enjoyable games of the year. I wrote about this in May and it's only gotten better since then.

Here's a link to the site:

Now is Mount & Blade a better game than Civ IV? I don't think anyone could argue that. But did I have more fun playing Mount & Blade? Yes.

Simply put, a masterpieces. Conceptually breathtaking and artistically brilliant, the game is a stunning achievement. One of the best moments of my gaming year was finding out that Steam was going to distribute Darwinia, thus giving it a much-deserved second chance to find an audience.

Game site:

Darwinia was more brilliant conceptually, but Fate was an incredible amount of fun to play. Seemingly almost directly ripping off the play mechanics of Diablo, the game still managed to feel fresh and it was totally addictive.

Game site:

#1--Space Rangers 2
Look, I'll just say this flat out: even though this is supposed to be a "games I most enjoyed" column, this is the PC Game of the Year. And it's not close. It's one of the top fifteen PC games I've played in twenty years. It has an absolutely wacky variety of gameplay elements that, incredibly, fit together almost perfectly. Say goodbye to 50+ hours of your life.

Sheer freaking genius--that's the only way to describe Space Rangers 2. And any gaming magazine that didn't review this game (or reviewed it and didn't give it a 90% score or better) should be placed on the pyre of stupid and burned.

Game site:

On the console side, there is only one game--the game that I consider more fun than any game I've ever played.

"Ever" stretches back to about 1977, when I first remember going to an arcade, in case you're wondering.

It is, of course, Guitar Hero.

Here's a link to the game site:

If you've been reading the column for even a month, you know all about Guitar Hero. If you don't, here are links to two columns:

At least twenty people have e-mailed me at this point and said that they bought PS2's just to play this game, and not one person has regretted it. This is also the only game I've ever written about where the e-mail I've received has been 100% positive. Over a hundred e-mails.

Guitar Hero is everything good about games. I can't say anything better than that.

And, like Space Rangers 2 being the PC Game of the Year, Guitar Hero is the Game of the Year. Period. It is off the freaking charts.

Actually, it's the Game of the Ever.

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