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FEATURE: PLAYDEVIL'S GAME OF THE YEAR 2013 AWARDS
2013 has been and gone, but it's always good to look back and reward success. What were the PlayDevil staff's favourite 5 games of last year?

Posted by PlayDevil.com Staff on Jan 7, 2014 14:21 (106 days ago)

 

 
So, it’s that festive time of the year again; all the games are out, we’ve got 2 new consoles, a heap of new games, and plenty to talk about. Here at "PlayDevil.com" it’s been a busy year, with another trip to Gamescom and Joe replacing Mark on the staff.
 
But, as usual, we’re back with our Game Of The Year awards, both with our site awards and personal top 5 lists from the 3 amigos. So, sit back, crack open an eggnog and read away on our top picks for 2013!
 

 
5. DmC (Joe)
 
The Devil May Cry reboot was met with much trepidation thanks to a few design choices that didn't sit well with the internet at large. For those willing to look past Ninja Theory's curious take on our favourite hack'n'slasher, they found a fresh and standout entry in the venerated series. DmC was true to its roots where it mattered, but didn't mind upsetting the apple cart in the process - in fact the new Dante revelled in it. It's the first Devil May Cry to truly be as punk-rock as its protagonist, and I loved it for it. The fact that it's a beautifully crafted, wonderful brawler with an outstanding level of depth and nuance to it didn't hurt, either.
 
5. Splinter Cell: Blacklist (Alex)
 
While Last of Us touted stealth and combat 'gameplay', Splinter Cell: Blacklist snuck out and bettered every one of its game mechanics.

Sam Fisher may not be blessed by the same fantastic motion capture as Joel, and the story's 'terrorists are attacking' plot may lack the emotional punch of Naughty Dog's masterpiece, but in terms of feeling empowered by the skills given to you, Splinter Cell wins hands down.

Blacklist success comes from delivering on what you have wanted stealth games to be, really be, since you first heard of the concept. It lets you assess the situation to create your own path to the goal thanks to the open areas it places you in and the broad array of tool it offers you to get the job done.

That and the punishing fail states of previous Splinter Cell's have been all but completely removed.

Already cheap in stores, this is one big budget game you may have unwittingly missed this year.  I recommend going and rectifying that. 

5. Space Hulk (Ian)
 
Space Hulk is one of my favourite board games, but I never get to play it; now I can, with my PC doing all the lengthy setup and controlling the enemy for me. The original game was buggy, but with a constant stream of updates and new content based on the original 80’s game, Full Control have really shown enthusiasm and willingness to get the product right. It’s a faithful and excellent adaption of a classic.
 

 
4. Fire Emblem: Awakening (Joe)
 
Another die and that's it game, Fire Emblem dances between hardcore and fun seemingly at will. Don't be mistaken by the playful script and the loveable characters, this game is tough, and will test even veteran SRPG fans. It's permadeath and brutal roots make sure that the odds are never in your favour with FE:A, but it didn't stop this game from being one of the most addictive and invigorating titles of the year. I had great fun with Awakening, and found the bitesize-battle formula perfect for my daily commute. It also heralded a new age for Nintendo, boasting a large amount of quality DLC in the months following its release. If it's a sign of things to come, I'm excited.
 
4. Rogue Legacy (Alex)
 
While still a PC/Mac exclusive, Rogue Legacy is perhaps the perfect embodiment of old school console gaming. Mixing castle exploration, in the style of Castlevania, with the difficulty and constant restructuring of a Roguelike, creates a 16bit experience to be enjoyed at your desk.

Tight platforming and combat in an ever-changing castle are made all the more entertaining thanks to Rogue Legacy's narrative premise. After every death, the hero's heir continues on the family's cause. This allows for constantly changing character classes as the title of hero is passed from one generation to the next. Add to this a selection of addition abilities and handicaps depending on the new character's personality, and you have an experience that always feels fresh.

If you are not a PC gamer, or simply missed this, I recommend getting it now or keeping a close eye out for its upcoming PSN release.  

4. Shadowrun Returns (Ian)
 
Shadowrun returns is fairly light on content, being short for an RPG and missing modern features such as any speech, but the gameplay and feel was spot on. I never played the original SNES game, but I loved this game so much I’ve gone back to the old game, and picked up the 5th edition pen-and-paper game and started playing that in my roleplaying club. Talk about establishing an excellent universe and Shadowrun Returns is right up there.
 

 
3. Rogue Legacy (Joe)
 
I get very nervous when I'm constantly reminded just how much I have to lose, or just how far I'll have to retread should I fail. On the flipside, I love a good challenge and a victory hard won, so the roguelike genre and I have strange relationship. Rogue Legacy, however, I loved wholeheartedly. Tasked to tackle a castle that changes upon your death and playing as strangely flawed heroes had me going for hours, with each run lasting slightly longer than the last. Rogue Legacy is truly a product of its time, with several of the best ideas to come from mobile gaming - such as its just one more run level up system - sitting comfortably amidst the old school, undeniably Castlevania-inspired design. A wonderful game that I hope more people will play in 2014 when it comes to the Playstation family.
 
3. Dragon's Crown (Alex)
 
Vanillaware delivered me an unexpected treat this year. By creating a beat'em-up similar in style to Golden Ax, with a hint of RPG levelling, and the company's trademark beautifully drawn 2D sprites; Dragon's Crown hit all my buttons.

Initial impressions of the game, or indeed looking for any information about it online, may lead you to the wrong conclusion about what the game is because, while it is filled with busty maidens and stacked Amazonians, the real focus here is the level grinding, loot, and frantic combat. Think Diablo crossed with Final Fight.

As a full retail product, Dragon's Crown was always destined to struggle thanks to its Japanese sensibilities, but this remains a game that a lot more people than realise it would enjoy, if they gave it a chance.  

3. Rogue Legacy (Ian)
 
Rogue Legacy is really bloody annoying. It’s a roguelike, but with RPG mechanics that keep you coming back and grinding over and over again. It’s like Dark Souls crossed with the 2D Castlevania games, with a beautiful cartoon-like 2D artstyle. There’s a whole load of depth to the game, and I spent a huge chunk of time with it not actually getting anywhere, but having a great time anyway. Every dungeon is randomly generated every time you play too, so no experience is like another. I personally had a magnificent time with the game and everyone should try this if it even tickles one of the many genres it crosses. 
 

 
2. Tomb Raider (Joe)
 
As an exercise in fun - pure, unadulterated fun - I'm not sure it got better this year than the reboot of Tomb Raider. I loved every second I spent as the fresh-faced Lara, from the harrowing opening moments where every enemy was a threat to the bombastic finale where they were fleeing from me. Tomb Raider never lost its way, with excellent pacing that put a new and exciting weapon or gadget in yours hands at all the right intervals, whilst filling out the rest of its adventure with secret tombs to explore, expansive battlefields to tackle and Hollywood inspired, explosion filled scripted events that left the player breathless. Somehow Lara Croft's latest amalgamated all of gaming's best habits whilst classily sidestepping the worst. 
 
2. Tomb Raider (Alex)
 
While it may have been the year of the narrative, if there had been a second theme, then reboots would have unquestioningly taken the prize. And of all 2013's reimagings, Lara Croft's was certainly the most impressive.

Having ducked out of the tomb raiding game some years ago (around Tomb Raider 2), I had felt no need to revisit Lara's exploits. Review scores slipped and every attempt to reinvent her had, by varying degrees, failed. Yet somehow, from its first unveiling, the simply named 'Tomb Raider' had impressed.

While the Rhianna Pratchett penned story may have fallen flat at times, and talk from the developers about this being a Lara you would want 'to protect' may have undermined Lara's role as a powerful female lead, the mix of combat and world traversal made the young archaeologist's fight for survival a thrilling experience.

Add to this the fact it looked beautiful, and Tomb Raider was a game that everyone should have tried. If you haven’t yet pick it up cheap in the sales, or hold out for the 'Definitive Edition' that is coming to PS4 and Xbox One at the end of January. 

2. Papers, Please (Ian)
 
Papers, Please somehow managed to a) make working as a passport control officer and b) working for a fictional communist Eastern Bloc country fun. With a lovely art style, a fun sense of humour and a good chance to get up to whatever mischief you wanted, this was an open-ended game I kept coming back to for short bursts, despite the mental fortitude required to succeed long term. Each playthrough felt different enough to keep me coming back, whilst a few firm favourites like Jorji were a joy to deal with every time. Given the budget price, there’s no excuse not to try this one out.
 

 
Staff reviewers Joe are Alex are very close in awarding the same games but will they have the same number ONE? Or will Ian do something spectacular in awarding a totally unknown game? Find out on our second page.

 

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