Hi everyone! Megan Highwind here to start off our review of 2012. So as to not have to go through every single title of the year we have narrowed it down to our favorite, least favorite or most disappointing and biggest surprise or sleeper hit of the year. Now, I am going to start off my part of this segment by saying that 2012 was a VERY slow year of gaming for me. There were titles toward the beginning of the year that I looked forward to and titles toward the end (which I am not actually going to be able to play until Christmas) which has therefore limited my year of gaming. However, I think the titles that I have chosen fit well into these categories so without further ado here are my personal best, most disappointing and surprising games of 2012!
Best – Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3, as most of the readers probably know, was the final entry into the Mass Effect saga that started on the Xbox in 2007 and ended on the PS3 and Xbox this year. While I must say that I did not get to play the first Mass Effect since I myself only own a PS3, I really enjoyed Mass Effect 2 and 3. I think one thing that Mass Effect 3 did a good job of portraying was a sense of urgency throughout. The world was finally being attacked from all sides and Shepard was put in charge of bringing together different groups that still hated each other even when things were looking bleakest. It starts with an attack on Earth and quickly grows into an assault of every planet in the relay system. Shepard’s decisions not only in this title, but in the past two titles, affect what is going to happen and who is going to have Shepard’s back in the final fight. Not only that, but collecting things like War Assets to increase the player’s Galactic Readiness rating is crucial. This is an important aspect to the gameplay when the enemies could easily wipe out Shepard’s entire fighting force if not well enough prepared. Basically, Shepard has to take charge and make everyone see that fighting with him, or her, is the only way to go.
The gameplay is more of the run and gun style that Mass Effect 2 had. The small differences are that Shepard is now able to jump over things easier (thankfully. I cannot tell you how much this bothered me in ME2) and do more rolling and diving and things of this nature. Another thing added to the gameplay is the multiplayer aspect. Bioware did a good job of taking the team aspect of the single player and bringing it in so that it is just as important in the multiplayer levels. Bringing in levels from the single player campaign, the multiplayer is a rewarding experience that allows players to buy bigger, better, and cooler weapons, characters, and powers throughout. The graphics and the soundtrack are on par if not slightly better than the last two titles, but without much difference to mention. The only real downsides I found with this title were the occasional frame rate issue that has affected past titles and the lack of side quests that delve into the characters lives like those of Mass Effect 2. I will say something about the ending of this title. A lot of people were upset that the ending did not give enough about what happened to Shepard and everyone else and that the scale was not good enough for going through three previous titles and putting so much time, effort, and emotion into these games. I would have to agree. The ending was disappointing. I wanted to not only see some big explosions but I wanted to know how they were going to rebuild the relays or what Shepard’s crew was going to do after everything was over, or something. Even when they patched in the new endings, I found myself wanting more. However, even though Mass Effect 3 may not be a perfect title, and the ending did not satisfy as much as I would have liked, it did a lot of things right and that is why it is my favorite title of 2012 and a fitting way to end an amazing trilogy.
Most Disappointing – Final Fantasy XIII-2
So, I will start this off by saying that I actually did enjoy Final Fantasy XIII-2. I gave it a 12/15, but since I did not play a whole lot, if I had to pick a game that disappointed me most it would be this one. I think it was improvement on XIII in pretty much every way. The graphics were slightly better, which makes sense since the game came out a few years after its predecessor, and the music was fantastic. The gameplay was also much better. The inclusion of the third character being a monster that Serah and Noel had to capture in order to use in their party was an interesting choice and gave the game an interesting spin since the monster had different abilites and strengths. I also found myself quite enveloped by the story by the end of the game. However, while I did enjoy the storyline to an extent and I thought the developers tried to make it as compelling as possible, I was never 100% drawn into the world and the characters like I was with say a Mass Effect game or an Uncharted title. In my original review, I stated that the story never left me feeling like I was ready for it to be over before the end of the game came around. While this is true, I still never felt the emotional connection that I have with other titles from this year and years past. I always just wanted that one big push that made me care fully about what happened to this world and its characters. Another thing that drove me crazy was one particular anomaly. The ridiculously frustrating and annoying clock puzzle that was added easily took me out of the story and made me want to turn off the game and maybe come back later. It was insanely difficult to figure out what moves to make to solve this puzzle and it easily ate up an hour trying to get through all of them in one area. Basically, while I did enjoy the overall feel that Final Fantasy XIII-2 had to it, I do wish that the storyline could have grabbed me a bit more and that the clock puzzle would have never been invented.
Surprisingly Fun/Sleeper Hit – The Simpsons: Tapped Out
So to start, this is a mobile title. I know that we have not done a lot of reviews or news about mobile titles in the past but this was one that I have been addicted to since it came out earlier this year and has become my sleeper hit of 2012. Tapped Out takes all of the characters that have become well-known from The Simpsons tv show and made them into a collect coins, build things, and repeat game. However, there are things about this particular title that have made it more interesting to me than previous ones that have used the same concept. First off, anyone who likes the Simpsons will probably like this game. It starts off with Homer eating donuts in the nuclear plant while playing on his Ipad and ends up that the whole of Springfield is destroyed and it is up to Homer and the other players that come along the way to rebuild the town. Basically, when the player builds a building it will give them coins, and sometimes a new character, and with those coins other buildings can be constructed which bring back more characters. The idea is to eventually rebuild all of Springfield and bring back everyone that has been lost. Now, this may sound like it gets old fairly quick, but it has not gotten there for me yet. There are random times where the player gets a scene that looks like it could be from the show and these are entertaining little tidbits that break things up a bit. Since it is Christmas time, the game was just updated so that there is snow everywhere and if the player collects specific Christmas coins by having the characters do Christmas themed things, the player can put lights on their houses, and even build Christmas specific buildings. Now, I am not saying that is the greatest game to come out this year. It is actually far from it. There really is not much storyline besides trying to rebuild Springfield and having characters do the same certain tasks everyday, but this is a fun free game that is worth playing while having free time at work or being on the go. There are just enough little variations sprinkled throughout that game is not exactly the same for too long to get boring.
Plus, who doesn’t love Homer Simpson?
— Megan Highwind has left the party.