Announcing the 2012 Game of the Year Awards from First Hour!
These aren't your normal awards, we cover everything from older game of the year to worst first hour. We also don't sum up votes on categories or anything either, we simply present each writer's thoughts on their pick, so if you don't like something, you know exactly who to blame! Of course, we do all this just for fun (spare time!) and buy all of our own games (real money!), so most of us don't even touch some of the big releases of the year. Woe to the unpaid game critic!
We're doing something a bit different this year, since we had so many writers submit their picks, we're spreading the goods across multiple days. The schedule is below, so let's get started!
FIRST HOUR OF THE YEAR
ZombiU game starts out strong and doesn't let up. Within the first hour, I knew it was the survival horror game I had been looking for. And by that, I mean it was a game that I had a hard time playing because it was exhausting to be so tense for hours at a time. It was the game that enabled my revelation that, you know what? Perhaps a zombie apocalypse wouldn't be as cool as I had imagined.
If heaven exists, I can only hope it's populated entirely by cheery cartoon characters with impeccable rhythm. Sixty minutes with melodic mandrill golf instructors and miniature high-five monkey wristwatches were enough to convince me that Rhythm Heaven Fever would be a divine experience to the end.
I had no idea what to expect from Valkyria Chronicles going in. A Japanese-made turn-based action strategy game based on a loose interpretation of World War II drawn with anime graphics? This should probably be terrible, but everything clicked immediately. While everyone else was playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown this year, I was battling my way through Europa stopping the persecution of Darcsens and rolling around in my Edelweiss tank.
WORST HOUR OF THE YEAR
"Moms are tough", but the first hour of Final Fantasy XIII is just terrible. As the kickoff to the 25 hour tutorial that follows, we spend the first 60 minutes learning how to tap the X button and meet a slew of characters we will soon hate. I spent 30 more hours playing this game waiting for the game to finally trust that I could play it myself, and when it finally did, I was too sick of it to go on. I should have stopped after the first hour, that is the whole point of this site, but being a Final Fantasy game I felt I should give it a bit more time. My mistake.
This one's a tad unfair...my first romp in A Valley Without Wind was pre-launch, on a then-empty but persistent multiplayer server, in a game that's not easy to understand at first glance. As a result, I spent most of the hour exploring areas that previous players had already conquered, empty hallways full of makeshift platforms stapled to the sky, with no idea what I was supposed to do. Greg and I eventually figured out the jist of the game and shot some robot skeleton dudes, but the bit of fun we had didn't quite overtake the hazy intro I had to the game.
Do not play Bit.Trip Runner unless you hate yourself and want to be as frustrated and full of anger as possible. The concept is great, but the execution is simply horrible.
FALSE HOUR OF THE YEAR
What first looked to be a promising revisit to the demon-wracked world of Sanctuary turned out to be a journey of disappointments in Diablo III. Where to begin?
Leading up to its release, Diablo III's storyline was reported to be largely based on Richard Knaak's famous Sin War trilogy of novels, which, in addition to other works of Diablo fiction, I decided to read in anticipation of the game. Because of this, I probably had more stake in the story than most fans; one may even argue I had unreasonable expectations for it. But, there it is. Diablo III's plot was not only an absolute disappointment, but took the tale in such a silly direction that I doubt I could ever take any future instalment seriously--assuming a lapse in judgement results in my purchasing it in the first place. This was an early realization, and despite it, I knew I could still very much enjoy Diablo III should the game play hold up. Alas, it did not.
A player's first foray through the campaign of Diablo III, with all characters, is a fun and fairly challenging experience, and it isn't long before you begin to appreciate the new direction the combat system has taken since the game's predecessors. However, with each subsequent play through, and thus each subsequent increase in difficultly, it becomes an exercise in frustration to fight even the weakest of enemy hordes. Players are reduced to running in circles waiting for potions or healing spells to cool down while dodging multitudes of projectiles, spells, and curses from their pursuers.
The problem stems from a character's overdependance of equipment for stat boosts, as leveling up no longer significantly increases the potency of skills or the stats of characters. Just find better equipment, you say? Easier said than done. The drop rates for even half-decent equipment in Diablo III are so low I have a better chance of winning the lottery and using the money to buy decent gear in the Real Money Auction House, which may have been Blizzard's intention from the beginning seeing as they get a cut of every transaction. I digress. It's possible that I just plain suck at the game, but even so, the problems are evident; difficultly increases are astronomical and unforgiving.
Whether the game has problems or I just grew out of it, it's no question that Diablo III was a great disappointment for me, especially after such a promising first hour.
Things started well enough for the last game to bear the Hudson Bee. Lost in Shadow's backdrop focus birthed some novel puzzle layouts and inherent style. But the following dozen hours of clumsy combat, tedious backtracking, and premise underdevelopment overwhelmed the initial goodwill to solidify a thoroughly sub-par puzzle platforming experience.
MOST HOURS OF THE YEAR
I didn't make it to triple digits with any one game this generation (Super Smash Bros. Brawl excluded). Tales of Graces f came very close, clocking in at over ninety hours. Looking back now, I'm surprised it lasted so long. Every time I sat down to play, some cringe-inducing character or slogging sidequest made me reconsider the game's worth. It's purely the addicting progression mechanics and unmatched combat system that managed to string me along for four days' worth of play time. It just goes to show that a strong mechanical core can redeem a game from weak narrative and quest bloat.
I may have actually put just a few more hours into Mass Effect 3, but since I played more than half of Borderlands 2 with at least one friend, I have to give it props. It's very difficult for me to actually find time to play multiplayer, let alone in lengthy sessions that make it worth it for a game like Borderlands 2, but we made it work, and it was awesome. This is a surprisingly long game with a TON of content. Great mission variety and the sheer number of zones make every session of Borderlands 2 very unique. Steam says I played for 56 hours since its release in September.
I got Dark Souls for Valentines day and put probably 200 hours into it. It was very addictive. It's not nearly has "hard" as everyone seems to believe but it's definitely an unforgiving experience. Overall I very much enjoyed it.
Xenoblade Chronicles, unsurprisingly, gets this title from me having put over 200 hours into it.