My top 5 games of 2012

Until these last couple of weeks, I have never really done many 'list' or 'top game' posts. That being said, I have actually enjoyed making these and looking back at my 'year in gaming', so to speak. It put me in a very reflective state (including the realization that this blog is over 3 years old now. I missed its birthday completely - but I got things started on 11/8/2009).

There are a lot of titles from this year I have not yet had a chance to play or play as extensively as I would have liked, and like my reviews these are simply a matter of preference. Halo 4 and Black Ops II are examples of games I will likely wind up playing next year. Guild Wars 2 has been awesome, but I have not had enough time with it to feel comfortable putting it in my top five.

I could not pick out a favorite single title from this year, so I will just leave it to a list with no order of preference to it. I picked only games released in 2012 and not ones that were excellent, but released previously and not played by me until 2012 (Skyrim for example).

Diablo III - I'm just going in alphabetical order here, but Diablo III was the most fun I had with any new title this year on my PC (just edging out Orcs Must Die! 2). I know there are complaints, and they are legitimate: it is short, it can be repetitive and the always online authentication is a pain.

While all of that is true, Diablo III was still a lot of fun. It was entertaining enough that my son and I both played through it and I even went at the next level of difficulty for a time. Piling up loot is still a blast and while there is certainly repetition to the combat, it was fast and enjoyable. The graphics were also very impressive, with almost painted backgrounds.

On top of that, I thought Blizzard did an excellent job throughout the year adding content and value to Diablo III. They could have shipped it and ignored it, but they addressed bugs, listened to customer feedback and continued to add features to the game to improve the longevity. Did it meet the overwhelming expectations it faced? Probably not, but I enjoyed it all the same and that is why I scored it an 8 out of 10 in my review this year.

Kid Icarus: Uprising - This might seem funny to those who follow this blog, because I have not yet posted my review of the game. Well, I think at this point, it is safe to say I enjoyed it and it will be getting a very good score. I got my 3DS for Christmas last year and out of the gates I was enamored with Mario Kart. Well, Kid Icarus completely took that favorite spot over with its combination of great music, excellent use of 3D visuals and entertaining gameplay.

There is a lot of 'extra' stuff to do as well, with online multiplayer, equipment development and level replayability with adjustable difficulty. I found myself coming back to Kid Icarus time and time again (despite the voice acting, which was amusing if a bit cheesy most of the time) throughout the year. This is a review I have been working on - but do not have ready to go just yet.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning - It is a shame that the developing studio has been shut down, because I think they were on to something here. This action-RPG title was not for everyone, but it was definitely for me. Proof is in the stats I posted in my review, where I logged over 100 hours of time playing this game.

Was it perfect? No. I ran into some bugs, and the art design is not for everyone (though I really enjoyed it personally). The story was a bit weak as well, but the combat was handled incredibly well and there was just a ton to do. This is one of those titles that has gone under-appreciated I think, but it is doubtful it will ever develop into anything more than a cautionary tale for startup game studios. I picked this up for my Xbox and scored it an 8.5 out of 10 in my review.

Madden 13 - A sports title? Really? The games on my list are ones that have also had more than their share of detractors, and I know Madden 13 will not be any different. That being said? It is the only game on this list I am still actively taking the time to play and is the one I have easily sunk the most hours into since its release.

The graphics are excellent overall (though the product on the field easily surpasses the sideline/fan segments of the game). The presentation has a few hiccups but is the best it has been in years, especially in the audio department. The Infinity Engine is in its infancy and definitely has its quirks, but it brought something new to the table. The online experience has room to grow as well, as the amount of data the game demands and serves does sometimes cause the experience to lag or disconnect if you are lacking in ideal ISP options.

I have never been one who subscribes to the notion that sports games are yearly roster updates and nothing more. Certainly some are more innovative than others from year to year, but when I get hooked on one, I play it a ton and tend to pick up on the more subtle differences. Madden was a huge part of my college and high school years, and the ability to play online franchise modes that are fully featured with my old out-of-town/state college buddies has earned this title a ton of time in my PlayStation 3 despite its shortcomings and scored it an 8 out of 10 in my review.

Mass Effect 3 - Probably the most controversial title on this list for fans of the series. It took me some time to warm up to the first Mass Effect, but once I really got into it this became one of my favorite series this console generation. The blend of action and RPG elements like leveling were good, but the storyline and your ability to influence it and other characters is what really pulled me in and had me replaying these titles several times.

The third entry in Commander Shepard's story was probably the most controversial. Some of it you could see before the game even released. The community was not behind the idea of online multiplayer, though that feature turned out to be a pleasant surprise to most. Bioware has done an excellent job of supplementing that feature with continued content and tweaks, giving Mass Effect 3 additional time in my system well after I was finished with Shepard's story.

The problem for most people comes at the conclusion of said story. The original ending was underwhelming, I will admit. I did not view it with nearly as much hostility as many gamers, however - many of whom I have considerable respect for their opinions. I just do not necessarily agree on this point. The end of the trip did not invalidate the entire journey for me. Then Bioware released a new, director's cut ending that helped to flesh out some of the unanswered details from the original ending.

This additional context did help appease many fans, though many more still felt as though Mass Effect 3 ruined a perfectly good series for me. Not for me however - there were a lot of things Bioware got right both with the series and this third leg of it and I fully plan to play through it again in 2013 while scoring the collector's edition an 8.75 out of 10.

Dishonorable mention:

Two games really stood out to me as disappointments in 2012.

Legends of Pegasus - This 4x strategy title promised a lot of things, but in the end delivered mostly bugs with a fairly unsatisfying experience. Many of the bugs were fixed in later weeks and months, but it was in what I consider an unplayable state upon release. There were a lot of good ideas, but even as the game became more stable, it still lacked execution of those ideas scoring a 4.25 out of 10 in my review.

I really enjoy Game of Thrones - whether it is the show or the books, which is why I held out such hope for the game. I have a review for it written, but not posted yet - but here is my spoiler: I am only scoring it 5.75 out of 10. The story is excellent and there are some good ideas, but the visuals stink and the controls are sloppy. A great tale nested in a poor game.

What were your favorite games of the year - or for that matter biggest disappointments? I would love to know!
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