Friday, January 19, 2007

Favorite Games of 2006: PC

Yesterday's introduction still holds true today, so if you missed the console post, just scroll down a bit and you'll see it.

Honorable Mention: Mystery Case Files: Prime Suspects

This was a simple game--look on screens and find certain objects--but it was entirely addictive. Well presented and clever, I played this fairly obsessively until I finished the game, then went back and played Mystery Case Files: Huntsville as well.

5th Place: Steam Brigade

I wrote in April that Steam Brigade was "Yellow Submarine meeting Dr. Seuss." It's a 2-D, side-scrolling RTS, and it drew comparisons to games like Armor Alley and Rescue Raiders. Absolutely stunning artwork (the best I saw all year) and a charming story made Steam Brigade a living comic book, and it was a true pleasure to play. The developers are named Pedestrian Entertainment, and they have a very bright future. The game's website is here, and a demo is available.

4th Place: Paraworld

Paraworld was the gaming tragedy of the year. Highly polished, a terrific interface, bright and colorful graphics, and dinosaurs. It was a wonderful package--and it went nowhere. The game just never got traction, thanks to terrible promotion and a weak publishing deal in the U.S. Even worse, the poor sales are probably what led to thirteen members of the team leaving--details of which are here.

The game, though, was terrific. The Army Controller, which created a control space to see thumbnail representations of all your active units--as well as allowing you to control them via the thumbnail--was an outstanding innovation, and the visual detail in the game world was some of the most interesting that I've ever seen.

And the dinosaurs were glorious. Absolutely glorious. Fantastically modeled, beautifully animated, and overwhelmingly cool.

A "booster pack" for the game has been completed and will hopefully still get released. It's a disaster for us all that these guys have split up, though--their creativity and attention to detail could be seen on every screen.

Third Place: Galactic Civilizations II

Everyone has written about this game at such length that I really don't need to say much. The game design was outstanding, the A.I. was razor sharp, and it had a sense of humor that had me laughing out loud more than once. It was also complex while remaining accessible, which is a rare quality.

Second Place: Oblivion

Everyone's also written about this game at length. It was the single most beautiful RPG ever created--shockingly beautiful--and everywhere you looked, there was something new to explore. I played over sixty hours and barely scratched the main plot, because I just wanted to wander around the world. Even better, there are huge numbers of mods available now that will customize the game to your preferences.

The Elder Scrolls series has a sense of permanence, a sense of real, in its history that is only rivaled by the Ultima series. High, high praise.

First Place: Dwarf Fortress

My favorite PC game of 2006--was an alpha.

With A.I. and game depth that big software companies can only dream about, the two-man wonder known as Dwarf Fortress was pure lightning. Tarn and Zach Adams created a world--two worlds, actually, with both a fortress mode and adventure mode--that was among the deepest ever made. With an amazing depth to both the physical environment and individual characters, it was one of the most rewarding games I've ever played. It was also one of the most demanding, and that made it even more fun.

Actually, I shouldn't be using the past tense, because I'm still playing, and will be for years. It's a game that rewards thinking to a degree far beyond anything I've ever played before. It's ingenious and complex and sometimes maddening.

Tarn Adams reminds me, very much, of Will Wright. Like Wright, he's working in a different dimension than the rest of us.

I've written about Dwarf Fortress at length, and there's much more information here, as well as a link to the game's website here.

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