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My name is Ken. I have a deep passion for art and storytelling, video games in particular. You can follow me on Twitter here:

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Ubisoft's been the centre of attention the past couple of weeks, mostly because of their general incompetence and terrible business practices. In light of the recent Watch Dogs debacle, in which Ubisoft made a build of their own game and then hid it, it's no surprise that consumers and gamers in general are lashing out out against them, accusing them of being a greedy corporate hacks and general slimebags, and then idiots as they trip over themselves with terribly transparent PR.

Ubisoft is pretty much the laughing stock of the industry at the moment, when this really shouldn't be the case. Watch Dogs was meant to be the spearhead of the generation, and though it's not the best game ever, it's not the game they showed us. Needless to say, a lot of people were upset at its mediocrity and general jankiness, which must be absolutely embarrassing after such a long delay. Yes, it's easy to hold a self-righteous attitude and look down on them, but in truth, they've already won.

From Gaf threads to belligerent comments on YouTube, most of the reactions I've seen thus far are mocking Ubisoft, when they should really be considered the envy of the industry. We've reached such a point where you don't even need to make a good game anymore, only the illusion of one. The game we were shown at E3 2012 was just that: an illusion for most players. 

So what I'm trying to get at here in all this nonsensical rambling is that I'm experiencing a bit of cognitive dissonance here. On the one hand, the Watch Dogs we were shown was a technological marvel. On the other, the Watch Dogs we got was painfully average. At this point, you're likely to do one of three things: accept that you made a bad purchase and move on, lash out at Ubisoft because you failed to be a responsible and informed consumer, or desperately defend the game, lest your ego take any damage.

So how can you be an informed consumer? I'll tell you. You can't. Not before release, anyway. Everything you're seeing and being told about the game is marketing material, whether it's a CG that is in no way representative of the final product (a la Dead Island) or even a gameplay demo full of outright lies (a la Aliens: Colonial Marines). If you buy the game before the actual real product is out, you are gambling your sixty dollars on something that can easily be a terrible game. If you want to wager your hard-earned money on a crapshoot, do it in Vegas; at least then you'll have a funny story to tell.

In all seriousness, please think very carefully before you pre-order. Not only do you risk wasting a lot of money, you're hurting the industry and the medium as a whole by encouraging bad business practices. Watch Dogs has been met with mixed reception and very ugly controversy. None of that matters, because Ubisoft has already won. If you pre-ordered and got burned, they already took your money, and all the bitching in the world won't change that. They won't face repercussions, they haven't learned their lesson, and now that Watch Dogs has become their biggest launch title ever, they have every reason to pull the wool over our eyes again.

You might think the corporate higher ups at Ubisoft are all idiots, but they deserve to be lauded for being able to not only profit, but break day-one records for a game that was marketed as something entirely different. They didn't have to make your dream game, they only needed to tell you that they were. If you pre-ordered Watch Dogs based on what they showed you, you're a part of the reason they didn't need to make a good game. When a game's profit is practically guaranteed months before release based on hype alone, what incentive do they have to make a good game?

The bottom line is this: think before you buy. If the game comes out and it's everything you wanted and more, great! Go out and buy it. They'll have enough copies. If they don't, you can buy it digitally, where there is no stock. If it's a real stinker, then you dodged a bullet. Comparing the risk of losing a lot of money versus simply waiting, when you get the game at the same time, is there any real reason to buy a ticket for the hype train?

Oh never mind guys. You can get a different coat. I'd buy that for sixty dollars!

Why am I always the chosen one? In so many games, the entire world revolves me, the grandest and most perfect of all heroes sent from on high, pre-ordained by the gods to fulfil the ancient prophecy and save the forces of good from the ancient evil. As fun as all of that can be, the formula gets boring after while. Why do I have to be the chosen one all the time? Can't I be anyone else?

You're probably familiar with the trope, as it's not one exclusive to RPGs or even video games as a whole. You are the chosen one, chosen by fate to carry out your destiny, which is just another way of saying "you're gonna win". I almost feel bad for the antagonists who try to oppose me, especially when I have fate on my side. So why does being the protagonist have to come with this sense of empowerment, even when facing insurmountable odds?

Of course, some games handle this trope better than others. Let's compare the three most recent entries into The Elder Scrolls, starting with the latest. In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you are the Dragonborn, the hero sung about in legends who has been foretold to defeat the evil dragon Alduin. The story here is as straightforward as it gets. You are the hero and/or heroine born with the ability to defeat the big bad, and upon discovering your gift, you head to the mountains to train with some old monks who will help you hone your abilities. After finding a few magical MacGuffins, you eventually defeat the great evil, just as fate foretold. If any of that sounds like a spoiler... it shouldn't. The story in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is as cookie-cutter as it gets, with the general gist of the plot's straightforward direction being stated more or less outright from the get-go.

In that game's predecessor, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you play the Hero of Kvatch, a mysterious nobody who receives a get out of jail free card from the gods as part of an orchestrated plot to save the world of Nirn from the invading forces of Mehrunes Dagon. Pretty standard stuff. Aside from being chosen by the gods to save the land, you're nobody special. You don't have any powers or anything unique outside of being given the chance to start your journey in the first place. What's really interesting however, is that you aren't necessarily the "chosen one". Rather, Martin Septim seems to fit the trope more closely than the actual protagonist. Instead of playing as the most important character, around whom the whole world revolves, you are instead tasked with finding said character, and helping them fulfil their destiny. Compare this to the more recent Loren The Amazon Princess, a turn-based RPG in which you are not the main heroine, but instead her aide.

Finally, we get to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, in which you play the Nerevarine, who may or may not be the chosen one of legend. As the player character, it is your duty to unite the land, put an end to the blight, and smite a false god. All pretty good stuff, but what's most interesting is one of the requirements for being the, or rather a Nerevarine. During one of the game's main quests, you are infected with Corpus, the disease ravaging the Dunmer people. After drinking a potion that may or may not cure you, you keep only the positive effects of the curse, with the negative ones being annulled. Whether you're cured because of the potion, or because you are indeed the proper incarnation of a god, remains uncertain. Are you truly the chosen one? Or are you just what the people of Morrowind want you to be?

In the case of the Nerevarine, where you may simply be filling the role the Dunmer want you to fill, the player character isn't necessarily a true-blue chosen one, just the right guy in the right place at the right time, telling the people what they want to hear. Expanding upon that idea, the Chosen Undead in Dark Souls is probably my favourite example of the this trope, as it turns the traditional idea of "the chosen one" completely on its head. At first glance, it's your pretty standard affair. After being freed from prison, you set out to fulfil an ancient prophecy which states that, after escaping the Undead Asylum, you'll go on to ring the two Bells of Awakening, gather the four Lord's Souls, and ultimately overtake Lord Gywn as kindling for the First Flame, to keep the Dark at bay.

At least, that's what most players are duped into thinking the first time around. In truth, you're not the chosen one, but rather, one of many applications. Your liberator, Oscar of Astora, only freed you because the denizens of Lordran want to throw as many people at the prophecy as possible, hoping somebody will fulfil it in a desperate attempt to stave off the end of an age. After ringing the two Bells of Awakening, the player will find Frampt, who fills the player's head full of grand ideals about being "the chosen one", destined to put an end to the curse of the undead. Now, if you sequence break hard enough and do some digging, you'll instead meet Kaathe, who gives you an alternate proposal. Upon close examination, it should become apparent that the entire prophecy is a farce fabricated by a failing hierarchy to manipulate you, the player, as a pawn in a losing game. Instead of using tired tropes as a crutch, Dark Souls decides to instead subvert it, turning it on its head, and giving players one of the most intriguing stories in an RPG to date.

I won't dismiss every game that borrows the concept of the chosen one, however. The first example that springs to mind of this being used well is Brütal Legend, in which the player character Eddie Riggs is a warrior destined to travel to the Age of Metal and liberate humanity from their demonic overlords. Considering this game's tongue-in-cheek homage, this doesn't feel offensive in the slightest, especially when the main character doesn't really get the credit for his actions. Like the Hero of Kvatch, Eddie's job is to get someone else where they need to be.

In a world-changing story, your protagonist doesn't have to anything special in order to be important. Commander Shepard in Mass Effect is the hero because they're willing to take the antagonistic body seriously. Because they're good at what they do, they're given the chance to continue their quest. As silly as the plot is, you're given a second chance in Mass Effect 2 because of what you did, not who are. Compared to the Hero of Kvatch, whom the gods choose to save to start their quest seemingly at random, Shepard is a far more compelling character, which is saying a lot, because Shepard is really pretty boring.

Honestly, your character doesn't have to be important at all. The protagonist doesn't need some special power that no one else has in order to be interesting, it's more inspiring to hear the story of an average Joe rising up and being recognised for their actions. If you're not going to change the world however, I should be able to go about my life as a (relatively) normal person. The motto for The Elder Scrolls is life "another life in another world", but that's never the case. You have to live a pre-determined life of valour and excitement. If a game let's you ignore the main plot, than you should be supported in doing so. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered there was no real questline for the the Bard's College in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, even though you could rise to fame and glory several times over.

Sometimes, it's more fun to experience a more personal plot with a down-to-earth, grounded character, instead of the extra special centre of attention power fantasy we get all too often. I'd rather be an anti-hero like Geralt of Rivia or even a sidekick to the real hero, as is the case in Loren the Amazon Princess, where you don't even play as Loren the Amazon Princess. And you know what? I'm lazy. Let someone else save the world. If I can ignore the plot, let me pursue other meaningful activities, such as mercantile and pacifism. Part of the reason video games are so much fun is that I can be anybody I wanna be. If that's the case, why am I stuck playing hero all the damn time?

Let's not beat around the bush here: Steam is great. It's a fantastic platform full of great features. Though I'm primarily a PC gamer, I do occasionally like to play on consoles as well. When I do though, I find a myriad of annoyances in comparison. Whenever I go over to my PlayStation 3, I find that, aside from the ridiculous level of difficulty presented in simply trying to navigate the store and find my own games, my biggest complaint is just how bare-bones it all feels. Though its features aren't always perfect, Steam is at least making an effort to move forward and make their platform better, which is a lot more than I can say about my five or six years owning a PS3. As a disclaimer, let me mention now that I've never owned a Microsoft console, so most of the comparisons I make here are from PlayStation 3.

1: Trading Cards, Badges, and the Community Market

After achievements were introduced, everyone followed suit. So why hasn't this caught on? Personally, I feel that trading cards and badges are a lot more fun to collect than achievements most of the time, since you can't make any money off of them. For the uninitiated, trading cards on Steam are doled out randomly as you play games, with the additional chance of getting a booster pack every week. The best part about this is, if you don't care about them, you can only really benefit from having them. Don't want trading cards? Sell them on the market. You won't get huge piles of cash from it, but considering the vast amount of titles you can buy on Steam for just a couple of dollars, selling a digital trading card for ten cents doesn't seem so bad.

Of course, if you trade or buy more trading cards, you can unlock badges, which grants you Steam profile backgrounds, emoticons for chat, and showcases, which allow you to customise your profile page on Steam by showing off your favourite games, rarest achievements, or just your favourite mod for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Of course, the things you get for competing sets can just be bought on the Community Market. Want a nifty new background? It'll probably cost you about four to ten cents, and most of that goes to another player, not Valve. It's a nice little feature to be sure, whether you in it because you're a completionist who likes to collect everything, or just a regular gamer who wants a little extra cash to put towards getting that game that's been marked down to two bucks.

2: Using Your Own Avatars and Skins

Want a new avatar on PSN? That'll set you back fifty cents. Want a new avatar on Steam? Upload it! It's just that simple. It seems like a really cheap cash grab on the part of Sony and Microsoft to charge for tiny images that I want next to my username, when almost every other online service ever just lets me upload whatever I want. When you have to charge money for such a simple, no one wins. Sure, you do pay money to customise your 3D avatar on 360 and Xbone, but that's a little bit cooler than a flat image, I suppose. Of course, Sony does this with Home, but that sucks.

Meanwhile, if I want to change up the look of my PS3's menus, I need to buy a theme for about two bucks. On Steam, it's completely free. You just download and go. If you want a background on Steam, you can unlock those as you play if you're patient enough, or just buy them for a few cents. Of course, I realise there is a method for downloading free static themes for your PS3 online, but that requires you to use the PS3's web browser, so fuck that.

3: User Tags and Reviews

Too often, I've wondered as I browse through the labyrinthine annals of the PlayStation Store: is this game just a steaming pile of shit? From there, I either leave the store or head to the Internet to find some helpful reviews. On Steam, this isn't an issue. Any user who owns a game can review it, and those reviews end up on the bottom of the page for possible consumers to read. The negative aspect of this is that you'll get a few joke reviews, but it's still better than nothing. Being able to scroll down and find a quick community consensus is a neat feature, why don't more platforms take advantage of this?

Then you have user tags. Again, this is another system prone to abuse, and that abuse goes both ways. As funny as it is to see *Call of Duty: Advanced Wafare* in the "Kawaii" and "Point & Click* categories, it's really annoying to see a first-person shooter when all I want is to play a kawaii point and click game. That being said, it can be very useful, and I'd say the positives outweigh the stupidity of some users. Being able to look at a glance and see tags like "GFWL" and "Uplay", or just "Roguelike" and "MOBA" can serve as a very useful indicator as to what to expect when buying the game. Again, not perfect, but much better than the nothing you get on console.

4: A Store You Can Actually Navigate

Maybe the Xbox Live Marketplace is better, but from personal experience, I can attest that going to the PlayStation Store is a joke. If I want to search for a game, I need to enter one letter at a time using this really weird series of columns, even though the PS3 has a keyboard feature. This makes finding games that I want a very difficult thing to do. For example, I was recently looking for Shin Megami Tensei title. When I typed "Shin " (You can't type any more than that), I was given all of the Persona games, a couple of Shin Megami Tensei Games, and Shin Chan. However, one of the Persona games didn't show up, because it was listed as Persona 2, whereas the other games were listed as "Shin Megami Tensei: Persona".

Look at that. What is that even? On Steam, I can type in the word "Resident", and in about a second, I'm given a quick list of several Resident Evil games, and their respective costs. Is it really so hard to include a search bar?

5: A More Easily Accessible Library

As a PC gamer, this is my biggest grievance against the PS3. Where the hell are my games? My PS3 doesn't have enough room to hold my entire library, and because I can't seem to swap out the hard drive, it never will. The problem here isn't memory, though. The problem is accessibility. I can't find my games. If I want to re-download games on the PlayStation Store, I have to go through a list of everything I've downloaded there, or search for it which, as the above image indicates, is a pain in the ass.

Now look at that. All of your games are listed in one place. One click brings me to all of my games, downloaded or not. Compared to the alternative I get on console, which just dumps whatever I have downloaded into one column, this is absolute perfection. Hell, I can even add non-Steam games! Even if it's not on Steam, it's still on Steam.

6: Tracking Time Spent on a Game

So everyone can see how much of your life you've wasted.

Dark Souls is a game renowned for its innovative-and perhaps, controversial-multiplayer elements. Whether you think it's seamless or intrusive, it certainly shouldn't be ignored. The overwhelming odds and constant threat of danger are offset by the ability to lend a helping hand to other players in need by leaving messages and offering to help against a boss. One-on-one, that giant golem might seem like an implacable threat, but with one or two companions fighting by your side, victory is more tangible than it ever was. When you're bashing your head against the wall trying to beat a boss, it's comforting to know there's a community of stalwart players ready to fight by your side. The idea that human beings can overcome any obstacle when they're working together isn't an uncommon theme in literature and media. Mass Effect for example, presents the player with a conflict that becomes increasingly dire as the trilogy progresses. Through sound, dialogue, and other narrative elements, those games immerse players into a seemingly hopeless that can only be overcome by setting aside differences and working together.

In the Souls series, it's taken one step farther. Players aren't shown and told how hopeless and dire the situation is; they feel and discover it for themselves. This hands-off approach to storytelling and game design makes a scary first impression on new players. Those who persevere however, will find themselves part of what I consider to be the best, most diverse communities in the video game medium.

The "Dark Souls community" isn't just great because of how supportive everyone is. The playerbase is full of all kinds of players who will both help and hinder you on your quest to do that thing that guy told you to do twenty hours ago. Whilst there are plenty of white knights willing to come to your aid, there's always going to be a few rouges lurking around the corner, waiting to take advantage of you. Believe it or not, Dark Souls does have morality system. Morality is a bit of a hot topic in video games, with most employing binary meters that tell you directly how good or evil you are. The land of Lordran however, is a dark and dangerous place. Much like in the real world, being a total scumbag tends to be much more profitable than white knighting. That being said, there's no actual morality mechanic outside of sinning, which is actually pretty straightforward. If you hurt NPCs, they deal with you. If you invade another player's game and murder them, you can be indicted. Sinning carries the risk of brining down the wrath of the Darkmoon covenant. So why do these things? Well, whilst most games have morality "points", Dark Souls has only currency. Much like in our world, these things are valuable, and sometimes, people will do dirty things to acquire them.

When you invade a player's world, you are essentially breaking into their home, murdering them, and robbing them. Maybe you just need souls, and you're not afraid to take it from someone who might be weaker than you. Maybe you just want a challenge, an honourable duel to the death. Either way, it remains a possibility that you are making someone's day worse for your own personal benefit. This frontier risk-reward system plays well to the games' dangerous atmosphere, where "good" and "evil" players contribute to create a dangerous environment that can actually reward griefers and murderers.

Let's take a look at some of the other covenants. On one side, you have noble do-gooders like the Way of the White, Warrior of Sunlight, and Princess's Guard. These covenants exist so straight-edge players are able to more easily assist up-and-comers. Through these factions, veterans can assist those who are in need of help. Of course, jolly cooperation is incentivised as well. Joining in on boss raids can earn you a fair share of souls and other valuables. On the seedier side of Lordran, you'll find the sinister Gravelord Servants and Dickwraiths. 

These groups will actively antagonise players in order to gain their humanity, an uncommon and valuable resource coveted by many. Then of course, there are those who simply want to watch the world burn. By invading your world, infesting it with phantoms, and killing you, they get the thrill of overpowering an actual human being in a playing field that isn't always so level. PvP can be unfair at times, but even I will admit it does match the game's tone.

Then there's a the Forest Hunter covenant, a band of brigands that protect the Darkroot Garden from any intruder who enters its boundaries. This area of the game serves as an excellent example of the flexible and unseen morality system in Dark Souls, and how the community can come together to make the most of certain situations. For the uninitiated who enter the forest, they'll likely be torn to be pieces by what are essentially high-level highwayman preying on the unprepared traveller. When I first went into that forest, I was made a victim. It was the purest example of " you came to the wrong neighbourhood motherfucker." After being cut down, I decided to investigate. After making my way past the sentries, I joined the covenant to see what all the hoopla was about. As it turns out, joining sides with these bandits could be quite profitable. However, you aren't always going to get unwary scrubs. There are those who come prepared into the Darkroot Garden, and they don't come alone.

Whilst the Forest Hunter clan can attack an unwitting passers-by, that doesn't mean they lack the means to fight back. Whatever its original intended purpose, Darkroot Garden is more-or-less a PvP warzone. Crossing back over to the other side (and returning to my usual covenant, Warrior of Sunlight), I found plenty of comrades willing to fight by my side before entering the garden. I can't really say what the original developer intent was for the Darkroot Garden, but the community has taken this area protected by bandits-real players-and teamed up to fight back. There's plenty of hostility and treachery in the Dark Souls community, but that only leaves more opportunities for camaraderie and teamwork.

There are plenty of role-playing games out there that tote robust alignment systems and difficult moral decisions as the forefront of the experience. Dark Souls tackles morality in a different way. Instead of giving you specific routes, and outright telling you what's right and what's wrong, the game's approach to a moral system is simply how you interact with other people. Whether you're doing it just for kicks, or you want the material rewards invasion can bring, you have to hurt other players-actual people, to be "evil". Likewise, being a "good" guy constitutes helping real people along, making their experience a little easier, a little better. By giving you the opportunity to do real good and real harm to other actual people, Dark Souls creates a deeper, more realistic, and more mature approach to morality that other games can only hope to imitate with artificially contrived systems.

Let me give you one more anecdote. In most of the PvP matches I've played, it's customary to bow before fighting. Those who do are generally considered honourable people, even if they are here to kill you. Of course, there are those who will attack you mid-gesture, because you're wide open for an attack. This has happened to me before, and the result is me being punished for my idealistic nature, and someone else profiting from being dishonourable. Sounds a bit like our world, doesn't it?

I wanted to start off by saying this year was a good one for gaming, but in all fairness, we had a shit ton of really shitty games. From Aliens: Colonial Marines to Ride to Hell: Retribution, we've had some bad ones. 2013 was a year that gave us gems like The Wonderful 101, but it also gave us shit piles like Final Fantasy: All the Bravest. Taking that into account, I guess I can't really call it a "very good year", so I'll just settle for "interesting". 2013 was an interesting year for gaming. Of the many games that came out last year, here's a list of the top ten that I played. Please note that I said "that I played", not "the objective list of the best games that ever came out period.", so try not to get too upset if I commit the unthinkable atrocity of not playing the game you liked.

10: Proteus

Why it's on the list: Well, it's pretty. I know that sounds shallow, but Proteus does a single thing, and it does it reasonably well. It's an escape, a chance to relax and unwind after a long day. There's very little interaction, merely exploration and serenity. Does that make it a "game", or should it be forever labelled as "not a game"? It doesn't really matter. Proteus is enjoyable for what it is, so I'm not going to damn it for what it isn't. It isn't deep, complex, or complicated, but not every game has to be. In an industry dominated by "Follow the Leader Syndrome", it's nice to see a game that just wants to do its own thing, which is to be an enjoyable little experience, for however long you play it. 

Why it's not number one: I feel that this game fills a niche that I've been looking for, small as it may be. Sometimes, I come home from a long day at work, and just want to unwind. I don't want always want to blast things to bits, and I certainly don't want to be teabagged by some twelve-year-old screaming in my ear. Sometimes I just want to escape to a beautiful, serene environment, and forget my worries. Proteus does this... but not much else. This isn't so much a criticism as it is a justification for its place on the list. It's not a game I'm likely to which I'm likely to keep returning, but at the same time, it isn't necessarily as memorable as Journey, which remains one of my best gaming experiences, even though I've only played it once. Proteus doesn't really have that many real issues about which I can complain, so I'll just say that I enjoy it for its simplicity, even if it's not all that memorable.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Non-Game of the Year

9: Dead Space 3

Why it's on the list: Despite forgoing its action horror roots, Dead Space 3 still managed to be an entertaining ride, not unlike how I enjoyed Resident Evil 5, despite being an inferior imitation of its predecessor. Despite throwing atmosphere aside, the game's core gameplay-that is, dismembering Necromorphs-is as strong as ever. The true saving grace of the game however, is its robust crafting system. Collecting resources, upgrades, and weapon parts was what kept me going through a second and third playthrough. I played this game for many hours, and I'd say most of that time was spent at the weapon bench, experimenting with the various permutations. Want an assault rifle with an underslung rocket launcher that slows down time? You can do that. How about a flame-thrower with a blade attachment that coats enemies in acid? Yeah, that's possible. 

The depth of the crafting system and the sheer visceral joy of using those crafted weapons to tear enemies apart is extremely satisfying, and is what ultimately saves it from being the mediocre experience it otherwise would be. It should also be mentioned of course, that cooperative play is a blast, with a unique twist on the co-op specific missions. Seriously, I get to dismember alien monsters with a a quadruple-barrelled shotgun that shoots fire. What's not to love?

Why it's not number one: Well, a lot actually. The story's a mess, with the character's actions ranging from impractical to the outright idiotic. Whilst the crafting system is the best part of the game, it's also held back by the somewhat egregious use of microtransactions. Every time you stop at a bench, you're reminded that you can always pay more money to cheat. Don't want to cheat? You have to wait for actual time to pass. I can't think of any examples of waiting used as a good game mechanic, but if there are, this certainly isn't one of them. 

I'm not sure if it's fair to judge a game based on its DLC offerings, but it should probably also be said that the downloadable content for this game was pretty terrible, even by the standards of a Dead Space title. Every weapon and costume you could buy was just a re-skin of existing models, and the Awakened add-on (if you can actually say that it added anything) shat all over the story with an even more confusing plot full of idiotic characters. It adds no new content except story, which was bad. It may not effect its placing on this list, but it certainly tarnishes my memory of the game.

Oh, but I did get a spear gun for eating a Slim Jim that one time. That was kind of a win-win, I guess.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Best Crafting System That Rewards You For Eating Junk Food

8: Volgarr the Viking

Why it's on the list: Volgarr the Viking is an excellent homage to old-school arcade games that walks the thin line between retro throwback and sensible game design. It can be frustratingly difficult, but that's also because you're a scrub and you should just be better at video games. Every misstep you make, as unfair as it may seem, is your fault. Because of this, the game creates a duality of frustration and satisfaction. Every time you fail, you're compelled to go again, because you know exactly what you did wrong, and what you can do to be better. At the same time, finally succeeding is extremely gratifying, not because it took so long, but instead because you did it, with nothing but raw skill.

Why it's not number one: Of course, it isn't a perfect retro homage. Whilst it does capture the look and feel of a classic arcade game, it would have done well to leave some of the more undesirable aspects of that era behind. At times, completing levels feels more like rote memorisation level design than mastery of mechanics. The player is also forced to play the whole game in one go, like you had to do in arcade games. However, this isn't an arcade game. It's another 2D platformer in my Steam library. After triumphing over a long, difficult level, it's nice to just take a break. Sadly, coming back to the game resets your progress, and the player is punished with a worse ending if you want to skip ahead, discouraging replayibility.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Best Viking Simulator of 2013

7: Grand Theft Auto V

Why it's on the list: With a large open world, an incredible attention to detail, and a metric ass-ton of content, there are plenty of reasons for this game to take a spot on this list. For the most part, the moment-to-moment events in the story were a lot of fun, and the staggering amount of detail etched into San Andreas is outstanding, rivalling a lot of single player games such as Metal Gear Solid. It's a game that definitely takes into account what the average player thinks of doing. If you shoot up one character's house with a rocket launcher, the other will text you and kindly ask you to stop. The amount of thought that went into the little things is what earns this game a spot on my list. In addition, the intricacies of the AI deserve a mention as well. I don't think I've had this much fun simply evading the law in any game as much as I did in this one. For the single playthrough that I did, it managed to justify most of my time spent with it.

Why it's not number one: Grand Theft Auto V is a game with a lot of problems. Despite an amazing attention to detail, I'd describe the overall experience as having a "frail grasp on the big picture". Despite what feels like an overwhelming amount of content, I constantly felt underwhelmed. There's a lot to do, but I never really felt interested in doing those things. The combat lacks challenge and depth, and the weapons lack impact. Shooting enemies in the face over and over again is really boring, and it really shouldn't to be. 

Despite having a plethora of missions with branching paths, I only ever did one playthrough, and only replayed a couple of missions. Whilst the moment-to-moment action can be a lot of fun, they're only fun once. Driving a crop duster into a cargo plane shouldn't get old after the first time, but the wow factor is completely lost, and with weak core mechanics, the game has very little replayibility for me.

Then of course, there's the story. It manages to build up a semi-interesting mystery at the start, but despite a fairly good set-up, the story simply doesn't go anywhere. After a string of set-pieces, the plot just fizzles out. The best way to describe the plot of Grand Theft Auto V-and indeed, the entire game-is a lack of focus. With three main characters, none of them get the time to be fleshed out. Unlike previous titles in the franchise, there was very little theming, nothing to tie it all together. The story eventually leads up to one of three disappointing endings. The first two are actually offensive in how anticlimactic they are. Ending 'C' is still anticlimactic, but less so. All of the elements of a good ending are there, but it simply fails to deliver, mostly because the storytelling wasn't very good throughout, and the combat is just so unsatisfying The story gives us several main characters with multiple antagonists (one introduced early on and forgotten, another alluded to late in the third act), but not a single interesting character.

The online mode showed promise, but it too drove me away, especially after seeing how Rockstar prioritises making a quick buck off of microtransations than actually making a good game. The gameplay of Grand Theft Auto V falls into two extremes: easy and boring, and too difficult and frustrating. The single player gives the player too much too soon, with too little effort, which led me to boredom. The multiplayer on the other hand, is far too slow paced and counter productive, which frustrated me to a point where I just got tired of all the repetition and poor design decisions, like cutting the payout for every mission in half, forever. Much like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto V is a game that simply failed to live up to its ridiculous hype train. Is it a good game? Yes, I'd say so. However, it's certainly not "one of the greatest games ever made".

If you want to read more about my thoughts on Grand Theft Auto V, you can read my full review of it here. For a detailed deconstruction of how the online mode is unbalanced, you can read more about that here.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Best Retirement Simulator of 2013

6: Sang Froid: Tales of Werewolves

Why it's on the list: Most PC gamers are no strangers to strategy games. As much as I love a good strategy title, sometimes I want to get right into the action. In this, Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves delivers, offering the best blend of action and strategy I've played since Brütal Legend. During the day, players prepare for the night's onslaught by purchasing items, setting traps, and preparing a plan of action. Oh, and I don't use the word "onslaught" lightly. The wolves will attack you relentlessly, and if you lose a single building, it's game over. You'll need to carefully plan ahead and act fast to survive and scrape together a living in this game. It takes the critical thinking of a strategy game and combines it with the frantic action of a brawler. Combine this with the clever "fear" mechanic-wherein you can keep attacks at bay for a short time-and you've got an intense nail-biter of a game. Refer to the above image. It might not look like much, but when you consider that I've got about a second left before that wolf attacks me, and likely a little more than a couple to fully reload my rifle, which only holds one bullet, it should be obvious that this game is anything but laid back. Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves combines two genres well enough that I can overlook some of its rougher edges, and enjoy one hell of an intense action strategy experience.

Why it's not number one: Like I said, the game's pretty rough around the edges. It's certainly not the best looking game, with a somewhat barren and uninteresting landscape. In addition, it's combat is fairly rudimentary, and difficult to enjoy on its own. Bashing wolves with your axe is clunky and not nearly as satisfying as it should be. Though the strategy aspect of the game is top-notch, the action side of things isn't quite as polished.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Most Accurate Representation of Canadian Life

5: Saints Row IV

Why it's on the list: I don't think the Saints Row franchise will ever recapture the perfect blend of over-the-top shenanigans, impactful storytelling, and an deep open world full of things to do like Saints Row 2 did. That said, Saints Row IV is some of the most fun I've had with the series in a while. In fact, it's some of the most fun I've had in a while, period. At this point, the game has all but completely shaken off its roots as a Grand Theft Auto clone, and now more closely resembles games like Crackdown and Prototype. This game takes a familiar setting and turns it on its head by giving the player super powers, with the ability to fly and spring at super speed, to name a couple. Much like Prototype and InFamous, the actual open world itself isn't very interesting; there isn't much to see from point 'A' to point 'B', most of the fun lies in simply jumping, sprinting, and flying through the environment. The world isn't so much fun to explore as it is to mess around in. Combine that with a zany plot full of laughs and a really deep customisation system, and you're left with a hell of a fun time.

The main reason however, is because you get RoboCop's gun.

Why it's not number one: Saints Row IV is a fun time, but not much else. Like other open world games such as Assassin's Creed, the gameplay is actually quite decent, but most of the entertainment lies in going everywhere and unlocking everything. Of course, there's also the baffling omission of mission replay, which can be very frustrating, considering how much I enjoyed doing those missions. I shouldn't have to re-do the whole campaign just to re-play one set-piece. Aside from that, I don't really have that many issues with the game, it just didn't consistently amaze me like the other games on this list did.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Most Patriotic Game

4: Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Why it's on the list: Coming in at number four, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is the second game on this list to start off with a Predator reference. If there's one trend of which we haven't seen enough, it's the neo-eighties subgenre, and I don't think any game this year has perfectly embodied that decade like this one. Of course, action movie allusions aren't everything. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon takes the familiar setting and mechanics of its base game, and completely reworks it into something unrecognisable and totally righteous. Like the previous entry on this list, the game is chock full of humour, which prevents the game from getting dull. The open world itself isn't much, but there's plenty to do to keep yourself busy. For such a low price, this game is another great case for why the expandalone model should continue. Simply put, it's most excellent!

The main reason however, is because you get RoboCop's gun.

Why it's not number one: Honestly, there aren't that many problems with this title, unless you just don't like the premise, in which case you are not tubular. The game is just short enough so it doesn't overstay its welcome, but the fresh take on the mechanics and environment are so far removed from the base game that it still feels like a worthwhile experience, even if you haven't played it. Would it be a cop-out to simply say it's great, but not as great as the next three games on this list? Yeah, probably.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Most Eighties References in a Video Game Ever

3: Divekick

Why it's on the list: Whereas Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon managed to be a faithful homage to its source material, Divekick does more than simply pay homage to fighting games. In addition to its slew of FGC references, it actually manages to pull off being a damn good fighting game in its own right. Its sheer simplicity makes it a breath of fresh air compared to the overcomplicated series of systems certain games in the genre have become. What started as a joke ended up becoming a simple, yet hype fighting game that's impossible to criticise. If you don't like Divekick, it's probably because you're a scrub who should be better at video games. You scrub.

Bonus points for being the first of many games to feature Zubaz.

Why it's not number one: It's not as good as the next two games on this list.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Most Salt in a Video Game

2: Metal Gear Rising: Revengance

Why it's on the list: You throw a giant robot and slice it in half... in the first ten minutes. If you've ever played a Platinum game before, you know why this is on here. The game just feels incredible, especially since its running at sixty frames per second. The sound assets, animation quality, and visual feedback all come together to create what is known as a "Platinum visual sex game". Whilst other games have a weak core covered by lots of content, Metal Gear Rising: Revengance nails its core gameplay mechanics with tight controls and challenging, rewarding gameplay. Its story is halfway decent too, straddling the line between serious and insane. However, what most impressed me about this spin-off's story is how it managed to move the universe forward in a more coherent and interesting way than its mainline predecessor. Despite it's flaws (of which there are several), it just goes a long way to show that Platinum can take anything and make a great game out of it.

Also, it easily has the single best soundtrack of the year, no contest.

Why it's not number one: Considering its fairly rocky development cycle, it should come as no surprise that this game has its fair share of flaws. The camera can be infuriatingly antagonistic on higher difficulties, the game is extremely short, and lacking in overall content, and the environments are dull and lifeless. And if you think beautiful environments and high performance are mutually exclusive, I implore you to play Devil May Cry 4. It's obvious that this game was rushed, and whilst that isn't based Platinum's fault, a difference of perspective doesn't change the game itself.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Awards: Best Character Action Game, Best Soundtrack, Best Gameplay, Sexiest Display of Cyborg Ass, Best Boss Fight, Nanomachines, Son

1: The Last of Us

Why it's number one: I'll be honest. I could have rustled everyone's jimmies by putting a game like Gone Home just for the sake of going against the grain, but regardless of the accolades showered upon The Last of Us, it's number one on my list simply because it's the best game I played in 2013. After the subpar Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, this is a return to form for Naughty Dog, sending the PS3 off in style with a game to rival its other masterpiece, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Sometimes, mainstream praise is spot on. The Last of Us is a game that nails nearly every aspect of design (with the notable exception of its somewhat lacklustre AI), from graphics and art direction to gameplay and story. It's soundtrack fits every scenario perfectly, the game looks gorgeous, and despite having an unoriginal plot at first glance, it actually manages to get away with more than one surprising twist that turns the genre on its head with one of the best endings I've seen, ever.

Unlike Naughty Dog's previous title, the pacing here is spot-on. It's quiet and reflective when it needs to be, then tense and explosive when the time comes. It's quality is unrelenting, and in my opinion, it is what every triple 'A' title should aspire to become. If you want more justification than that for why its my best game of 2013, you can read my full review here.

Meaningless Arbitrary Superlative Award: Best Beard of 2013

About My List....

If you're wondering why X game isn't on this top ten list, it's probably because I haven't played it and/or it's a shitty bad game. It's probably both. No, I didn't play Beyond: Two Souls. David Cage is a terrible writer, and I will not support his works. I did play BioShock Infinite; it's not on this list because, whilst many of the games on this list had some major flaws, they had a few noteworthy accomplishments as well. BioShock Infinite has the former in spades, and not so much the latter. The truth is, it was just far too mediocre a game for me to consider it amongst the top ten best games I played in 2013. Besides, one Troy Baker escort mission is enough.

Well, there you have it. The factually objective, unbiased, definitive list of the best ten games from 2013. What were your favourite games? Think I missed anything? Feel free to post your picks in the comments section below!

This is the first boss.

You can strip dudes in public with your sword.

You can jump on missiles, just like Solid Snake.

You can be a master of disguise.

You can cut anything you want. Don't like a certain Ferris wheel? Cut it down.

You get a talking robot dog sidekick.

You can slice cyborgs in half and rip out their spines for nourishment.


And there's plenty of tactical espionage action, too!

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