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Eleven games that rocked my world in 2012

Hamza wanted us to share our top ten games of 2012, which is a rather splendid idea as no single list is representative of everyone who works here. Unfortunately, this conflicted with my new year's resolution to not do what I'm told (until after January). In the spirit of the new year and the generally festive season, I'm willing to compromise, however.

So, not quite the requested list, and ten games plus one, which is obviously better than ten games plus nothing. Eleven is better than ten, right?

2012 was a great year for games, at least the ones I had the pleasure of playing. I was still enjoying some of the larger titles of the previous year (The Old Republic, Skyrim) in January, but by February I got my hands on a game I'd been salivating at the prospect of playing for quite some time: Crusader Kings II.

I was doubly excited to try my hand at ruling a vast medieval dynasty as it was going to be my first review at Destructoid. As fate would have it, it also managed to be my favourite title of the year, and undoubtedly the one I've played the most. I completely lost myself in the sociopathic world of old school political intrigue and Machiavellian plotting, and I've yet to find my way out of it.

Perhaps above anything else, I love games that give me the opportunity to craft my own narrative that I can share with people, and CK2 offered that in spades. Every game feels like the beginning of an epic retelling of the fortunes and failures of a, more often than not, completely loony medieval dynasty. It's vast in scope, but relies on paying attention to characters and relationships rather than inflation and land management.

While it might not have kept me playing for nearly as many hours, Telltale's phenomenal The Walking Dead really helped to define the whole period, spread across much of the year as it was. I admit a great deal of scepticism before I actually played it, as the studio's previous offering (Jurassic Park) had done nothing for me, but I ate my words after the first episode.

What it lacked in challenging puzzles it more than made up for in characters and writing. Looking back, I actually struggled more with that than any other adventure game this year, as the emotional challenge was just as effective as any more tangible obstacles. After five reviews I thought I'd be sick of going on about how great it is, but I'd happily talk your ear off about this weighty decision or that heroic sacrifice. It's only my superhuman willpower that allows to refrain.

It may mark the point where many people ultimately soured on the series, but Mass Effect 3 ending BioWare's space opera wonderfully, for me. The forty or so hour experience was the ending that I was hoping for, and the last ten minutes might have been slightly odd and rushed, but everything that came before it was a delight to play.

I connected more with my Shep in 3 than I had in the other two games together, and though it may have overlooked some of my favourite characters from the series, the speedy -- but often satisfying -- farewells and new faces were fine by me. Admittedly, on its own I may not have loved it as much as I do with the weight of the previous titles behind it, but as the end to the trilogy I found it highly engrossing and ultimately one of the most entertaining gaming experiences of the year.

I confess that by this time last year I was getting sick of open world guns and cars playgrounds. I appreciated them, still, but couldn't really get excited by them. Then Sleeping Dogs came along in August and I changed my mind. It combined some of the best ideas from franchises like GTA, True Crime and even Yakuza, slapped on a hell of a lot of polish, set it in stunning Tokyo and I was completely and utterly sold.

It deftly walked the line between being a serious thriller and a wacky action movie. One moment Wei is having nightmares and twitching due to guilt and confused loyalties, the next he's beating a man to death with a fish while dressed up like Bruce Lee -- somehow it just worked. My biggest problem with it was that I wasn't ready for it to end.

Legend of Grimrock makes me thankful for my map making skills, learned during an era when graph paper was as important to my gaming habits as a mouse. While there were quite a few dungeon-laden games knocking about this year, like the awesome Torchlight 2, playing Grimrock is like jumping in the Tardis.

The slow and steady pace, punctuated by occasional horrors jumping out from a side tunnel or some tricky (or deadly) puzzles, put me right back in my parent's pretending to use the computer for "homework", a lie made all the more believable by the graph paper.

XCOM! Sometimes I just like shouting that. I keep forgetting that we really got another XCOM game and that it was absolutely bloody marvellous. It managed to kick my arse and allowed me to send Colonel Sanders (he was a remarkably talented sniper) into battle against aliens, along with a whole heap of people I work with.

The occasional bits of story and chatty chums back at base were a wee bit crap, but inoffensive enough to not mar an otherwise awesome tactical outing. It may not have been quite as ball bustingly tough as its fore-bearers -- though the Classic Iron Man mode would put anyone through their paces -- but the challenge rarely dipped below extremely satisfying.

One of my absolute favourite games of all time -- even the future, probably -- is Star Trek: Bridge Commander. It's a title I replay often and continue to enjoy even after all these years. It's not that good, by which I mean it is definitely good but not replay countless times kind of good. Regardless I think it's groovy as hell. The awesomeness is laid out right there in the title. You command the bridge, Data is your sidekick for several missions, it's Star Trek. I'm reinstalling it tonight.

There's a point to this, though only tangentially -- I really just wanted to bring it up because it's brilliant. Ah yes, the point. Even with the absence of a classic brand like Star Trek, FTL: Faster Than Light managed to boil down the essence of what makes a lot of these space faring sci-fi shows great and what I found so compelling about Bridge Commander. It also goes to a lot more interesting places, namely the world of management sims and roguelikes. The combination works remarkably well, and damn did it kick the absolute shit out of me, but it never for a second stopped being fun as hell.

In the busy realm of multiplayer I was faced with a hell of a lot of disappointments, and it wasn't until the second half of the year that anything tickled my fancy. The Secret World initally grabbed me, but I quickly threw it away and got sick of the emptiness and lack of multiplayer oppurtunities. Guild Wars 2 was definitely the cure.

Great PvP, interesting progression, Shotgun-wielding Charr. I'm still playing it now, despite my short attention span. It kept players together, even when they weren't grouped, always moving from one area with "not-quite-quests" to another, jumping from event to event, and while it didn't eliminate all of the genre's problems, it did manage to hide them behind some fetching curtains. It's unfortunate, then, that I have to split my MMO time up, because I still need a frequent fix of PlanetSide 2.

Three giant battlefields and a war that keeps on going -- it's great stress relief. I wasn't really interested in an MMOFPS until I took it for a spin, and now I'm absolutely hooked. While the constant war is a hoot, it's pretty limited right now. Immensely fun, but just focussed on shooting people and moving to bases.

The long-term plan is pretty damn interesting, though, with resource harvesting and physical harvesters that need to be protected, NPC factions and a seamless ocean between the continents. I'm more than content right now, and I've got my hands full invading industrial complexes and military bases or, more often than not, hiding behind a Sunderer, but it's nice to know there's actually a plan rather than just hoping.

2012 was blessed with not one but two medieval multiplayer duel-fests, pretty much at the same time, to boot. While War of the Roses was great, it was Chivalry: Medieval Warfare that ended up making a more lasting impression on me.

The surprisingly robust melee system and excellent collision detection were admirable, and chopping people up might not be friendly, but it's rather fun. It's got a moat full of emergent gameplay, fantastic maps in striking settings, and a vast array of cruel looking medieval weaponry. I've got a ridiculous number of bloody war stories which I continue to bore people with, and most of them end with someone burning to death or getting thrown off a battlement. The best kind.

Eleven really should have been on my list for our nominations a while back, but I had unfortunately yet to play it at that point. Far Cry 3. has been taking up a not insignificant amount of my time of late. Burning down tropical rainforests and stabbing tigers likely makes me a villain, although a greatly amused one.

The frequent nods to the adventures of Lewis Carroll's Alice, and the subversion of exploitative pulpy and Victorian literature made it surprisingly more nuanced than its predecessors, but it manages to avoid getting stuck in pretension and still offered up a crazy and explosive romp.

Actually, that makes it eleven plus one, even though that "one" is from 2002. Well, that's just good value.
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About Fraser Brownone of us since 2:44 PM on 07.16.2010

Fraser Brown is that bearded, bespectacled Scotsman that covers PC gaming who is not Alasdair Duncan.

Got a splinter stuck in his hand nineteen years ago and just left it in there. True story.

He lives with this thorny burden in Edinburgh, Scotland, drinking a lot of whisky and playing a lot of video games to soothe the pain.

He has sexual feelings for strategy games, adventure games, and has been known to dabble in the murky world of MMOs.