5) The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav (PC)
Playing this wonderful adventure game from Daedelic is like getting in a time machine and playing King's Quest again. There is just the right mix of humor, danger, and melancholy in this wonderfully told story about a lowly bird catcher meeting a fairy trying to stop a great evil that could manifest itself in swarms of crows and bring an endless winter... it all sounds crazy, but it comes together in fantastic fashion. The puzzles are the right combination of intuitive and confounding (what's wrong with having to try some crazy combinations once in a while?) to delight and satisfy when solved, and I'll not soon forget my adventures in and around Anderghast.
4) Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition (iPad)
It's a remake, but what a remake. The whole control scheme for iPad is a revelation, and I hope it means a whole pile of re-releases using the old Infinity Engine on iOS. It is an absolute joy to be playing, wherever I travel, something that used to require a gigantic computer and CD swapping every 5 minutes. The ability to zoom in and out on the beautiful, hand drawn maps is a joy. And the difficulty - getting slaughtered by the first bear I encountered reminded me not just of days when games killing you this quickly was normal, but days of playing fresh, level 1 characters around the D&D table and fearing the slightest scratch. The only way this could be improved would be with Baldur's Gate 2, my favorite game of all time.
3) Star Wars: The Old Republic (PC)
I never thought a game made by BioWare and published by EA could potentially be UNDERrated (in fact I think most are wildly OVERrated) but this might just be it. The game is not without problems as I stated in my, er, lengthy review. But the min/maxing mechanics here are certainly interesting enough to keep me trying different combinations and builds, the stories are simply terrific, and now it's FREE. I'm not sure what else can be done to get people to try it, and now I'm just trying to complete as many of the class plots as I can for fear this game might not be long for the world. Maybe I'm worrying about nothing since Lord of the Rings Online seems to have proven that the free to play model can work in the West.
2) Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Speaking of not long for the world, 38 Studios sure did go out with a bang and not a whimper. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was simply glorious. The combat is visceral and wildly entertaining, the amount of stuff to do seemingly endless, and I still enjoy firing this one up and killing things just for the sheer joy of it. If Bethesda games had this type of engaging gameplay and combat I might not ever play anything else, except for...
1) Torchlight II (PC)
... My love for you will never die. Until Torchlight III.
Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
An achievement no matter what you think of the ending.
The Walking Dead (Xbox 360, PC)
The best piece of interactive fiction I've played since Heavy Rain.
Analogue: A Hate Story (PC)
The cleverest piece of interactive fiction I've played since 999 (haven't played Virtue's Last Reward).
Diablo 3 (PC)
Pretty much ended up representing everything I hate about streamlined, always-on, modern game development. Never mind the fact that I couldn't even play the darn thing the first week or so due to the always-on requirement and some kind of weird routing issues (no problems with anything except you guys, Blizzard), or the fact that disconnects often resulted in lost progress – the game itself just wasn't that interesting to play once I got past all that compared to alternatives that came out this year in the genre. And I'm not just talking about Torchlight 2. Like Dragon Age 2 last year, if this is the direction big budget RPG development is going, count me right out.
Cognition: Episode 1 (PC)
Such great promise, so many game-crashing, progress-losing bugs. The fact that it is very compelling when functional actually exacerbates the situation.
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