Screen-Shaped Awards: 2012

The first annual Screen-Shaped Eyes Awards are here at long last! We’re here to present our random assortment of awards to deserving games of this year, now that the hangover has faded. Stumbling from the towers of cider and bourbon bottles, we present our choices for the year’s best games:

“One More Turn…OH SHIT 4AM” award for excellence in the field of turn-based strategy goes to XCOM!

XCOM

Chris:

I have a hard time believing how many times this has happened to me- thinking ‘just one more mission, one more replay so that none of my guys die…’ and I glance at my watch. It tells me something funny, and I glance out my window. Sure enough, it’s dawn break or something. XCOM is simply one of the best turn-based games published in the last few years.

Scott:

It’s a strangely heart-warming tale. A reboot done well, it was the culmination of the hopes and dreams of the franchise’s fans. Remaking a much-loved older game is difficult enough, but to modernise the formula and still end up a critical darling is nothing more than a miracle. It’s so good, I own two copies. Praise indeed.

The Moby Dick Trophy for most whale-centric game goes to Dishonored!

Dishonored

Chris:

I don’t feel that Dishonored fits the category for ‘best shooter’, because it’s not wholly a shooter. The aim is, in fact, to avoid shooting people except for your targets. It’s truly an excellent game, one that deserves all of the praise given to it so far. All in all, I spent most of my time sneaking and using the Heart on stuff. Hell, watching the world go by.

Scott:

I’m going to disagree. Dishonored, for me, was a perfect fit for best shooter. For too long, the term “shooter” has meant a mindless point-and-click, with multitudes of armed ethnic people providing nothing more than moving targets. Dishonored is where the genre should be going. It takes planning and careful thought and emphasises that killing isn’t an end in itself. It’s the sort of critical self-reflection we never see in our AAA releases. Perhaps it’s time we did.

The Repetitive Index Finger Strain Award for best real-time strategy game of the year goes to Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion!

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Chris:

While technically a stand-alone expansion to the original series, it provides a series of innovations that make it noteworthy. The massive starship battles that almost remind one of Age of Sail naval battles, the sprawling maps and fresh takes on the existing factions in the universe made it stand head and shoulders above the competition this year.

The Horseshoes and Hand Grenades award for the game that was almost good goes to Syndicate.

horseshoes-and-handgrenades

Chris:

It could have been the best, but it wasn’t. The action was stylized, smooth, slick…over too soon. The story started off great, then imploded. Diablo III get an honorable mention in this category, as while a perfectly adequate game, it’s not up to par with what is expected from Blizzard, or its predecessor. Almost only counts with two things, people…

Scott:

Know what, Chris? I disagree completely. Diablo III wasn’t an honourable mention. It won the damn whole award. It took the world’s easiest formula to follow (click, loot, click) and made a huge number of mistakes. Always online DRM? Sure, why not. The auction house system that devalues every piece of loot you find by offering much better items for a pittance? Can’t see how that’d go wrong. Now, of course, we’re told the promised PvP mode won’t be released too. Well bloody done, Blizzard. Syndicate was shit too.

The Sword and Board award for best RPG goes to Mass Effect 3.

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Chris:

In spite of the ending and Bioware’s chronic mistreatment of its consumers, ME3 was simply a great game, backed by surprisingly robust multiplayer. While I objected (and continue to object) to the multiplayer being tied to the single player aspect at all, the fact of the matter is that it’s surprisingly well done. Likewise, the single player was excellent, minus the original endings. While the Extended Cut DLC dealt with some of the complaints, it remains a total narrative mess. However, the rest of the game is grade-A gold.

Scott:

I might be the only person I know who thinks that the endings for Mass Effect 3 weren’t that bad. Sure, the whole ternary choice for the endings wasn’t as well done as it could have been, but it’s the content, not the form that intrigues me. When I played Mass Effect 3, my Shepard understood that not every battle could be won and that compromises had to be made. It was never a battle she’d out and out win. Which perhaps shows why Mass Effect 3 was the best RPG of this last year: the endings made sense in the context of my Shepard and clearly didn’t for others. That’s an impressive feat in a mostly linear story.

The Belt-Fed, Gas-Cooled award for best shooter goes to Spec Ops: The Line.

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Chris:

Without a doubt, one of the best games of the year. Incredibly subversive and haunting, this is definitely one of the games that everyone should play, and is probably the best game to be studied academically to come out this year. I believe that The Line is the game that should be pointed to when it comes to games as capable of tackling serious subjects this year.

The Chewable Vitamin award for best bite-sized gaming goes to MechWarrior Online.

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Chris:

If you have ten minutes to kill, it’s not a bad go to get a round or two of MechWarrior Online in. The gameplay is solid, the rounds quick, and there’s enough variety in what’s available that it’s just perfect for a half hour here or there.

Scott:

Also see: FTL, Dungeons of Dredmor, Super Hexagon and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare.

The Right In The Childhood award for best re-release goes to Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition.

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Chris:

While there’s been a lot of re-releases for various consoles this year, only one was substantially improved. BG:EE got off to a troubled start, but it’s a respectful remastering of one of the true classics of the RPG genre.

The Clearest Thing Since Sliced Bread award for most awesome and garbled dialogue goes to Max Payne 3.

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Chris:

For being ultra-noir with such classics as ‘This place had more smoke and mirrors than a strip-club locker room’, Max Payne 3 gets props. While an excellent game of its own virtues, the multiplayer felt tacked-on more like a tick in the box than something deliberately designed. Still, this game is well above average and the single player is an absolute blast.

The Muttonchop Participation award for most adventurous game attempted goes to The Secret World.

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Chris:

For trying to offer a World of Warcraft killer, The Secret World gets the award. The skill tree system, setting, and community all deserve a nod for excellence, but the absolutely murderous learning curve and fiendish, occasionally obtuse puzzles left me frustrated at times. For those who enjoy problem solving and a challenge, this is the game for you.

Scott:

Agreed. The Secret World tried to make us think about the quests put in front of us with complex puzzles requiring real-life knowledge to succeed. Marred by sub-standard combat and an archaic payment scheme (box fee and monthly fee together is no longer the accepted method to extract cash), it tried a lot harder than most other MMOs.

The Platinum Keyboard for best game of the year goes to Dishonored.

dishonored1

Chris:

It contravened expectations for stealth games and shooters, presenting us with a dark world where everyone was…well, real. Everyone was human, with their flaws and virtues, from the religious secret policeman who loves his dog even though he tortures innocents to the guard on patrol who murdered a man for a pair of boots out of desperation, from the evil Lord Regent to the weeper teeming with disease. The entire world teemed with atmosphere, little choices, big ones. It was worth sneaking and exploring every nook and cranny of the world to find out all of the stories, all of the history of Dunwall.

Scott:

It’s an astounding piece of design. A world that seeps character and a combat system that encourages not only careful planning, but on-the-fly revision of those plans. Characters with deep secrets that are entirely optional to find, but colour every interaction are the norm. Arkane Studios deserve every piece of praise that comes their way. Excellent, excellent, excellent game.

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