Cylonathalf's Top 15 Games Played in 2013
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When I first did this I selected 15 games because it made sense based on the number of games eligible for the list (selection criterion below) and due to the overall quality I perceived in them at the time.

Links to past years
2011
2012

Selection Criterion
d10-1 I am not requiring that the game was released in 2013, instead I'm limiting consideration to those titles that I played for the first time last year.
d10-2 I'm only including games I played to completion (in some sense or other).

Since time can dull perceptions, I based eligibility strongly on the rating I assigned to the game the last time I played it. As in previous years, I'll be listing the games in reverse order of my ranking.
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1. Video Game: Ninja Senki [Average Rating:6.25 Unranked]
Video Game: Ninja Senki
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#15 Platform PC


First up we have Ninja Senki.

Comment wrote:
Available for free at www.ninjasenki.com, this platform game doesn't disappoint. It's a competent run 'n shoot game with double-jump appropriate stage design. The graphics and music are fairly good, though anyone familiar with game maker will recognize some of the sound resources used. It's definitely one of the more polished gm games I've played.

I would now like to quote a segment of the readme file, because it's brilliant:

2. This game is too hard!

- Remember that you are playing as a ninja.
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2. Video Game: Avernum 5 [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:3390]
Video Game: Avernum 5
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#14 Platform PC


Next up we have Avernum 5. This game feels fairly representative of how I spent my year, probably due to the length of these games.

Comment wrote:
I'd say it's roughly equal in quality to Avernum 4. Then again, the warrior skills are a good inclusion so probably a slight improvement overall.

I can't help but feel that they could be a little faster paced (i.e. a bit less grindy), and that combat is a bit too samey throughout the game. Still, cRPGs with that turn based (pre Ultima 7) Ultima feel are a bit rare so it definitely scratches an itch.
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3. Video Game: Castlevania: Dracula X [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:3792]
Video Game: Castlevania: Dracula X
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#13 Platform SNES


Castlevania III it isn't, but it's definitely worth playing if you haven't done so.

Comment wrote:
A fine Castlevania game. Although a bit inconsistent. Some of the level design is quite good, but some of it is noticeably mundane. Overall the controls are exactly what you expect a C. game to be like, however, Richter has a (generally pointless) wonky backflip at his disposal. The game also introduced the Item Crash and does away with the need to power up your subweapon and whip (none of which is a good thing).

The graphics are a nice update (if a bit simple) and they kept the more obnoxious capabilities of the SNES out of the picture. Some people really like the music from this game, but I've never cared for any of the 16bit renditions of the music from this series.

Overall not as good as CIII, but still fairly good.
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4. Video Game: Avadon: The Black Fortress [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:3269]
Video Game: Avadon: The Black Fortress
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#12 Platform PC


While not perfect I quite like the direction the Avadon series has taken.

Comment wrote:
I enjoyed the majority of this game a great deal. The ending sequence of events feels a bit out of place, but still offers up a good change of pace. Character creation and development is a bit limited compared to other Spiderweb games, but Jeff Vogel made a big improvement in the leveling system by making it more transparent. In principle you could plan all 30 (level cap) levels of choices for each character at the outset of the game, and have a fair idea of what those choices would mean in terms of combat ability.

I had heard that the game was easier than many of the older titles from the developer, but I don't really agree with that (unless you take into account the fact that many of the hardest combats are purely optional). It's true that many good abilities are available at low levels, and that health (though not mana, i.e. vitality) regenerates outside of combat. However, human enemies tend to have the same range of abilities, and health has always been ludicrously easy to restore. Bad choices in skill leveling are punished severely (if you don't take advantage of the respec npc), and end game consumables are doled out infrequently.

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5. Video Game: Donkey Kong Country Returns [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:401]
Video Game: Donkey Kong Country Returns
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#11 Platform Wii


I probably should have played this one sooner than I did.

Comment wrote:
A big departure from the original DKC titles, though that's to be expected since it was developed by a different company. I could say a lot of good things about this game, but in the 2.5 years the game has been out people have already done that. Instead I'll just mention the handful of things that really annoyed me:

1) Too much health.
1b) Why do we have to unlock Mirror Mode? Why isn't this available from the start?
2) A Jet pack ... seriously? Well then surely it must be required at points to have it ... oh ... it's not? In other words you have a limited flight ability that's not taken into the level design AT ALL. WTF?
2b) Game retains the Diddy character but doesn't let you play as him in single player. Nice Job.

Of course, Mirror Mode fixes both of these gripes

3) Motion controls, I dub thee Waggle Kong. Terrible Idea. Absolutely wretched.

4) Too many autoscrollers. Some of them were quite good (thankfully), but there are too many of them. Plus some of them are a bit cheap.

On the plus side, no swimming stages whatsoever.
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6. Video Game: Realms of Arkania: Star Trail [Average Rating:7.52 Overall Rank:1988]
Video Game: Realms of Arkania: Star Trail
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#10 Platform PC


Hey look, another RPG! But seriously, this is a nice game if you like mid 90s cRPGs.

Comment wrote:
In short, this game is dramatic improvement over the first RoA title -- in just about every way.

An incomplete list of improvements:

New Engine-
-Art and Music are more advanced
-Turning in first person mode is done as an actual 3D turn rather than an instant 90 degree turn
-This time around more of the skills are useful, and more of the stats have at least a token effect during the game.
-There is no longer a restriction to 5 save slots, and save files can be given a text description
-The XP penalty for saving (anywhere) has been removed
-Characters will now randomly come down with a wide range of ailments
-The game is based (essentially) on a 3rd level starting party

Combat-
-Archers and Mages can now aim ``at angles''
-Aggressive/Careful/Normal stance can be set as a character option and no longer has to be selected each time you attack
-The general difficulty level is up

Environments-
-Dungeons (more so) and Towns (a bit less) can actually be distinguished visually
-Dungeons are generally much better in design and are larger.
-Traveling on the world map is now done by making directional choices at junctions (in the middle of nowhere) allowing for exploration, contrasting with RoA1's ``select your destination'' method.
-Fewer towns and cities
-There's less walking door to door and searching every house in town for plot NPCs
-There's more varied responses when you do barge into people's homes
-The truly unimportant towns have been reduced to a decision on the world map ``Do you want to stop at the inn, or continue on?''
-You will no longer find bucketloads of free herbs while wondering the countryside, as a result the need to actually purchase equipment and items is more significant.
-You still can't move while looking at a town's minimap, but they did add free in town `teleportation' by double clicking on the minimap.
-Teleportation (the actual spell version, used in dugeons) is less broken now. You have to have actually been to a place before you can teleport there.

An incomplete list of annoyances:

Stop taking away my stuff angry. I understand that it adds certain desirable qualities to the game. Good *stuff* is hard to find in this game, surely there were better ways to add difficulty

Walk Stepwise - Off/On (the game's attempt at first person movement that's not restricted to the grid) is buggy as hell.

Your party being forcibly separated for extended periods of time was annoying in the first game. It's even worse when it happens in this one.

Finding unmarked places on the map without any in game direction can be a bit painful at times. Identifying towns is a pain as well (they are no longer named on the map screen due to the new travel mechanisms, and the resolution on the scan provided by GOG.com is too low to make out some of the names clearly).

The Deutsch to English translation is even worse. Prem flounder nose indeed.

On page 49 of the manual, on line 1, what is word number 9? For the record the answer is pumpkin. GOG.com is kind enough to supply a cheat sheet for these, which is a good thing, since the scan of the manual that they provide is incomplete. That said, they also provide such a list for RoA1 that I never had to use. If they cracked the copyright protection out of the first game why not do the same for the second?

Your character's boots will wear out and need to be replaced. I'm fine with that, but why is the penalty for not wearing footwear so insignificant when you're trekking through the wilds?

There needed to be a few more dungeons, my (freshly rolled) level 3 starting party finished the game at around level 6. They took a lot of fluff out when they made this game, but they didn't really add in substance to replace it. The game is just shorter than RoA1.
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7. Video Game: Serious Sam III [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:2461]
Video Game: Serious Sam III
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#9 Platform PC


I really need to replay this next year on new hardware.

Comment wrote:
This game manages to be quite good despite a number of shortcomings. I could do without the instant melee kills (although, to play without them would make the game unnecessarily difficult and probably lead to ammo shortages), and having enemies that are immune to bullets is seriously uncool.

Two of the more "fun" weapons are only found if you discover secret areas, but those weapons are so overpowered that I'm okay with that. That said, the deliberate delay in giving the double barreled shotgun and the minigun to the player seems out of place.

It could have been better, but given the state of the "modern FPS singleplayer campaign" I'm quite satisfied with this.
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8. Video Game: Rocket Knight Adventures [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:1849]
Video Game: Rocket Knight Adventures
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#8 Platform Genesis


The game brings to mind the overall design used in Battletoads except of course that this isn't as good. On the other hand it's a little bit of a generic reaction to every other 16 bit platform game.

Comment wrote:
Brilliant. If you haven't played this game, you should rectify that immediately. Easily one of the best action games for the Genesis.

That said, the game's primary mechanism feels a bit underutilized. Also the version released outside of Japan revised the difficulty levels. In one of those rare, and frankly odd, moves Konami ramped up the challenge significantly. Hard mode was relabeled Easy ... for example.

As for the Hard mode on the World version, well, consider yourself warned.
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9. Video Game: Left 4 Dead 2 [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:142]
Video Game: Left 4 Dead 2
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#7 Platform PC


One of few games to really make me wish I had access to decent internet this year.

Comment wrote:
Probably the most fun I've had with either a Valve title or video game zombies.
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10. Video Game: Serious Sam: The Second Encounter [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:1169]
Video Game: Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
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#6 Platform PC


While the newer spiderweb title outshone the older games this year, it was this older installment of Serious Sam that really clicked for me.

Comment wrote:
Overall the Second Encounter is a better game than TFE. Croteam actually developed stages for this one rather than putting Sam into a sequence of rectangular rooms. They also included more destructible elements to the stages, and many of the outdoor stages are no longer predominately flat-floored. Comparing a`HD' versions the game is a great deal more visually appealing though I have to give a slight edge in musical selection to the first game.

The Second Encounter doesn't have quite so many difficulty spikes as TFE, largely due to the improved weapon selection. It's hard to argue against a game that gives you a chainsaw, a flame thrower, and a sniper rifle early in the game -- and then proceeds to keep them relevant throughout most of playing experience. (Though I strongly disapprove of the choice to make the sniper rifle more effective when using the zoom feature, it does add a functional mechanism to engage the player. How does looking through a scope increase the damage of a projectile?)

This may be the only time I've ever approved of the decision to take away weapons/gear from the player at key plot points. It encourages you expend useful ammunition rather than horde it, and it controls the players options. Rather than feeling like a punitive measure the decision adds something.

Bosses - while none of the bosses in TSE are as good as Ugh Zan III they are a welcome break from constantly circle strafing with a mini-gun.

Platforming - I'm constantly shocked that people seem to think it's a good idea to incorporate platforming sections in any FPS. Fortunately none of it is too cumbersome and here it mainly seems to be used to prevent the player from backtracking constantly.

A few environmental effects were added such as slick floors and strong gusts of wind. Mostly they are good additions, but there's at least one room that is turned into a randomized uncontrollable shooting gallery as a result. I still don't understand what they were thinking there.

Power-ups. I don't know how I feel about them. The speed boost seems like a good addition. The `serious damage' and invincibility just seem like lazy design choices.
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11. Video Game: Lyle in Cube Sector [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Video Game: Lyle in Cube Sector
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#5 Platform PC


Another freebie independent game. Overall it's a very satisfying experience.

Comment wrote:
A great freeware metroidvania. Just make sure to enable ZX mode as the default control scheme may permanently injure your left hand.

In many ways this feels like Metroid, but with less pew pew and more picking up and throwing of blocks. The bosses are only `ok' though. The main platforming gimmick is that a held cube can be thrown downward while in mid-air to effect a double jump.
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12. Video Game: Legend of Grimrock [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:565]
Video Game: Legend of Grimrock
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#4 Platform PC


Mmmm delicious delicious dungeoneering. This was really a year for playing games from smaller developers for me.

Comment wrote:
On the whole I enjoyed the game a great deal though it leaves me feeling a bit mixed up. When the game is good it's great, when it's not it's pretty bad. If you like tile based dungeon games you need to play this, but be warned that there are two or three nasty dexterity puzzles (the least of which is required to complete the game).

As a related note, the game forces rendering to happen before it will allow input so reducing your quality settings may help with the aforementioned dexterity puzzles.

The ambience, dungeon layout, and puzzles are quite good. The combat and rpg/skill system are fairly weak (although the combat is exactly what you expect for the genre). The ending (let's say the last 3 levels) is, while not terrible, pretty bad.
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13. Video Game: System Shock 2 [Average Rating:8.52 Overall Rank:27]
Video Game: System Shock 2
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#3 Platform PC


There's very little I can say about this game that hasn't already been said. Play it if you haven't.

Comment wrote:
In terms of design, writing, and overall experience this is one of the finest first person games I've ever played. At times the game pushes the "unpleasant surprise around every corner" button a bit too hard, but removing that from the game would greatly reduce the tension and genuine fear that makes long stretches of the game compelling.

It is unfortunate that the game was made in 1999, as the graphics (poor even by 99 standards) can sometimes break immersion. A somewhat lesser issue is the awkward feeling physics in the game to which you can at least grow accustomed.

Recommended to anyone looking for a first person RPG-Shooter hybrid.
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14. Video Game: Deus Ex: Human Revolution [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:150]
Video Game: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
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#2 Platform PC


I think this was the first game I played in 2013, and it definitely belongs here.

Comment wrote:
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm quite fond of the "shooter with stealth elements." The game has all of the things that you would expect seeing as it as a first person shooter derived from Metal Gear Solid. I'm going to assume that the reader is familiar with such games, and so I'll limit myself to discussing a few game specifics:

1) Inventory management sucks. When will game developers realize this? Making me spend rare stat points to increase inventory limit sucks. Bad Eidos! Bad!

2) Out of place mini-game is out of place. Why did we need this? Give me a combination of "you need to find the passcode" and infinitely stackable lockpicks. Not only do you have to play this shitty mini-game 90% of the time you want to open a door, but if you want to be able to open anything of any interest you'll need to stick upgrade points into it. Sure you get experience for it, but nowhere near enough to ever make up for all the Praxis points you'll waste on hacking abilities over the course of the game.

3) A mini-map without a map in it. Classy.

4) Boss fights. As you would expect the game serves you a series of encounters with supervillians that you need to deal with. Unfortunately only half of them are interesting, and all of them suffer from "die repeatedly until you figure out what the pattern/gimmick is, but then the boss will be extremely easy."

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15. Video Game: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:429]
Video Game: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
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#1 Platform PC


Here it is folks, the best new to me game of the year for 2013. It's begging for a replay, possibly with a few mods, but that will have to wait it's turn in the queue. The number of replays I'd like to do next year could seriously shorten my list for games played in 2014!

Comment wrote:
I'd probably rate this game slightly higher if it weren't so bug-ridden, had more hotkeys, or had fewer cheap insta-kills.

That said, this is one of the most enjoyable open world designs I've seen, though the sidequests ("jobs") tend to be a bit repetitive. If you dawdle too much it may annoy you that certain encounters are prone to respawn ad nauseum ... but then that's pretty much true in every game like this. Indeed, the alternative seems to be to leave empty environments which I've never liked.

As a first person shooter it's excellent, though the quest waypoints on the mini-map are generally far too ... accurate? I guess what I'm trying to get at is that the openness of most of the game is undermined by the linearity introduced when the player beelines to objectives. It would be interesting to see this game with NPCs that gave general descriptive directions rather than just pinpointing things on your map.

While I enjoyed many of the strides toward realism in the game mechanics, I don't particularly agree with the high rate at which even lightly used firearms jam up in this game. You could certainly explain away such failures with the apocalyptic setting, but it turns the "durability" of your weapons into a bit of a joke.
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16. Video Game: Outside the Scope of VGG [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
Video Game: Outside the Scope of VGG
Seth
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This year, honorable mention goes to:

Dr. Mario Online Rx
Which technically would have made the list were it not a remake of an older game with which I was very familiar. Similarly the freeware AGDI remake of

King's Quest III: To Heir is Human
is, in substance, the same game as the original. Although the latter is a significant improvement over the old Sierra version.
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