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When I left off, I was being attacked by a Dark Brotherhood assassin. Luckily, I had decent gear, so I managed to best him. Still, it’s impolite to interrupt someone who is sleeping! I loot the corpse, he had some pretty good armor, though I’m not sure if I’m going to use it or sell it, but either way, I grab it.

I did some reading on this encounter, and apparently it’s the start of the Tribunal questline. Apparently at any point when you sleep in a bed, there’s a high chance this dude will attack you – even the first time you ever sleep in a bed! Luckily I geared up before I slept, but I can totally imagine a scenario where you don’t. It makes a certain sense that once you finish the main game you would install the Tribunal expansion and would want it to kick off right away, but nowadays you almost always will have the Game of the Year edition, so this seems kinda broken.

Anyway, he told me to go out and see the world, so I decide to join the Fighters’ Guild. Seems as good a place to start as any. I walk to the fighters guild, and talk to the leader, asking to join. She lets me in without asking any questions. I now have access to everything in chests in the fighters’ guild hall. This seems like a bad policy. Any stranger can walk in and say “can I have what’s in that chest?” and she’ll say “no, that’s for members only” and then he’ll say “can i be a member?” and she’ll say, sure, help yourself to whatever’s in that chest. I remember the first time I ever played, I joined every guild, just so i could loot them to my heart’s content without repercussions.

My first quest, as is tradition in Elder Scrolls, is to kill some rats. I head back across town to find my contact. She’s a dark elf, and rats are eating her pillows. SHE IS OBSESSED WITH PILLOWS. This is just one of multiple quests about how pillow obsessed she is. The first rat is in her bedroom, the rest are upstairs, which you have to go outside and around to get to.

The first rat is easy, but when I get to the upstairs storeroom, it is really dark. REALLY dark. My screen was basically solid black. I’m not sure if it was this dark in the original game, or if this is the result of a lighting mod I’m running. I could hear rats charging at me, though, so I just swung my ax wildly in front of my and hoped the rats would run right into it without me needing to see or aim. This turned out to be a workable strategy. I stumble around up here for a bit, but eventually find the door to the outside world. Now I just have to talk to the lady downstairs and quest is complete.

Morrowind - Dark

This is an actual, unmodified screenshot. It was FUCKING DARK.

I walk up to her and click on her, which is the talk button. Unfortunately it is also the “steal” button and she becomes very cross with me and starts to throw fisticuffs. This is bad. Time to load a previous save!

Morrowind does not have autosaves. When I load my most recent save, I am back in Caius Cosades’ house, him half-naked and smiling at me, a naked dark brotherhood assassin passed out on the floor. “This isn’t what it looks like,” he says to me.

Morrowind - Awkward

Have you met my friend Pete? He had a bit too much to drink…

I rejoin the fighters’ guild, re-talk to pillowpants, re-kill the bedroom rat, and head upstairs to flail my axe at the dark rats.

This time, attacking the darkness turned out to be a less good strategy than before. I get eaten by rats. Load save. “I swear, man, this really isn’t what it looks like!”

Because I clearly can’t be trusted to learn my lesson and manually save at reasonable intervals, I take a break, head online and install an autosave mod.

I do everything a third time, and this time, when I get to the door outside the darkness where the rats are I think “maybe I should go buy a torch or something.” I don’t. I do, however, manually save, just in case.

This time, however, I manage to kill the rats. I manage to talk to the lady without pickpocketing her. I manage to talk to my contact at the fighters’ guild and finish the quest. This quest, which is supposed to be really easy turned out to be really easy. However, looking at how much trouble I had with this introductory quest, I can’t help but wonder what will be in store for me the rest of the game.

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GOT.5Y 2013

Game of the Year lists tend to come out late December/early January and tend to contain almost entirely games that were released November-ish. Now, to be fair, a lot of good games come out just in time for the holidays, but I do think there is a bit of short memory span in play as well.

So with that in mind, to help keep my memory fresh when it comes time to determine GOTY 2013, here are some of my favorites of the year so far. Also, its the time of year when the Steam Summer Sale comes around, so if any of these pop up on sale, you may want to snap them up.

A couple ground rules before we get going. One, a game must have come out in the first half of 2013 – there are plenty of great games that came out late 2012 that I enjoyed a great deal in the first half of 2013, but they won’t be on this list. Two, I have to have played them – I’m sure there are great game I’ve missed, but if I haven’t played them, I can’t very well rate them, now can I? And third, this list is my favorite games – not necessarily the best or most important. For example, my GotY for 2012 would probably be Mass Effect 3, even though The Walking Dead was arguably better, and Spec Ops the Line was way more important. I’m also splitting it into two distinct categories: Big, blockbuster, high-budget, AAA games, usually costing 60 bucks; and smaller XBLA or downloadable, maybe indie games, usually much smaller in scope, usually 20 bucks or less. The “downloadable” or “arcade” terms don’t mean what they used to, but there’s definitely big games and smaller games, and it can be tough to compare the two straight up, thus two lists.

Arcade/Downloadable/Indie Titles

2) Surgeon Simulator 2013

Surgeon Simulator, for the uninitiated, is a game where you have to perform several intense surgeries, starting with an open heart transplant and getting more difficult from there, but the twist is that you control each of your fingers manually, leading to clumsy misuse of all your tools. The result is hilarious. Succeed or fail, it is all good fun, which is good, because you will fail A LOT.

In fact, one of the only things placing it at number 2 rather than number 1 is that you have to complete surgeries to unlock the later ones, and I have yet to beat the first one, so that’s all I have available.

1) Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

Far Cry 3 was a pretty good game, but like many AAA shooters, took itself very seriously. Blood Dragon, on the other hand, throws itself fully into the realm of over the top ridiculous. The result is a game that cares about one thing – the player having a good time.

Don’t get me wrong, I like serious games, but sometimes all you want is stupid escapism, and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon does it better than most.

Big AAA Titles

5) Gears of War: Judgment

I love me some Gears of War, and while this is probably the worst Gears so far, its still pretty fun. They’ve traded in the campaign’s long, epic levels for a connected series of bite-sized challenges. While I typically enjoy the bigger, story-based levels, it was a nice change of pace to have mini score attack levels, plus it got Horde Mode into campaign.

I hope that this remains something of an ancillary title, and isn’t indicative of the future of the franchise, but it is a fun distraction nonetheless.

4) Resident Evil: Revelations

The first Resident Evil game I played was 5. I had tried to get into the older ones, but the controls are janky, and if you go in the wrong room, you get eaten immediately. So when I heard that this game was something of a return to form for the franchise, I was a bit nervous. However, it turns out “return to form” means “lets all forget Resident Evil 6 happened, come back baby we love you”. It combines the totally playable controls of 5 with more atmospheric horror style gameplay of the earlier titles.

This game is a port of a 3DS game though, and at times it shows. There’s not a ton of variety in environments or enemies. Still, the game is fun to play, and got me into the Resident Evil back catalog again, so the game easily earns a place on this list.

3) Last of Us

Disclaimer: I didn’t actually play Last of Us, as I don’t own a PS3. Instead, I watched a 6 hour playthrough on youtube with all the cutscenes and enough gameplay to merge it into a coherent story.

It’s easily the best story of the year. It takes well-rounded, well fleshed out characters and puts them in tough situations that they need to work through. The game takes place over a year, and you see the relationships evolve. And it wraps the whole thing up in an ending that is both heartbreaking and completely satisfying at the same time.

It looked like I might not have loved the gameplay, though. There seems to be a lot of sneaking, and there are 1-hit kill enemies which tend to irritate me. The game portion could easily be frustrating to the point of it completely detracting from the story (see Bioshock Infinite). So without having played it (and I’m not going to spend 300+ dollars to do so), 3rd is as high on this list as I can put it.

2) Remember Me

This game hasn’t gotten the hype and promotion of some of the other games on this list, but it’s pretty amazing.

The game is set in a world where technology exists to store your memories digitally outside your brain. With this technology has come the ability to remove painful memories, or add other people’s memories. You play as a memory hunter who is trying to take down the corporation behind it all, and you can steal people’s memories for clues on what to do next or for access codes, you can overload their memory units to disable them, and you can even “remix” their memories so they believe they should be doing what you want them to do. It’s pretty cool.

The surprising thing is that a game this ambitious from a first time developer actually works as well as it does. The world and story are great, the memory gameplay is amazing, the art direction is fantastic (the whole game is done in a white/black/orange motif that just works). There’s a lot of ledge climbing and navigation that is reminiscent of the last generation of Tomb Raider games that I liked a lot. Combat is its kryptonite though, as the entire combo system it’s built on can be replaced entirely by button mashing x. As the difficulty curve grows later in the game, if you don’t adapt to use the longer, more complicated combos, you’ll just wind up hitting x for a loooong time. So combat fell a bit flat, but otherwise, the game was amazing.

1) Tomb Raider

How could my GOT.5Y be anything but the game that got me 100,000 gamerscore?

Honestly, I was nervous leading up to this game’s release. I absolutely LOVED the previous three Tomb Raider games, especially Legend and was none too keen on a reboot changing things. Then somebody on the game said something along the lines of “Lara gets her strength after somebody tries to rape her” which obviously didn’t sit well with me.

Having played the game, I can safely say my fears were misplaced, it is fantastic. For starters, it’s the first Tomb Raider game where the gun controls aren’t total shit. As a result, the combat/platforming ratio has been skewed toward combat, which you would think would bother me, but didn’t, because combat is actually really fun.

The story is something of an origin story for Lara, though not necessarily how you would expect. She’s not just a college student who gets stranded on an island and magically learns all her abilities because bad shit happens to her. She starts the game as an archaeologist with plenty of camping experience, but not a lot of field work, and she certainly hasn’t been hunted by crazy islanders. She has all the abilities she would need from the start, but what she doesn’t have, what you can see grow, is her confidence in those abilities. And the confidence does not come as a result of something terrible happening to her, but grows organically from herself. It’s maybe a subtle difference, but it works incredibly well. (Also, nobody ever actually tries to rape her, which is nice.)

The game starts off pretty linear, but it gradually opens up bit by bit, and by the end, Lara is ledge hanging and jumping around just like you remember.

Sure, the “twist” at the end everyone saw coming a mile away. And Lara goes from being incredibly nervous about her first kill to slaughtering 10s of dudes at a time a little too quickly for the narrative, but these are relatively small nitpicks in an otherwise pretty flawless game. Even the multiplayer is fun, and I NEVER enjoy multiplayer outside of a LAN.

 

What are your thoughts? Agree with my list? Am I crazy for leaving something out? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Tagra Reviews Games

Tagra Reviews Games

Did you know that my friend Tagra plays games, and writes about them, too? Now you do! Read her stuff.

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http://tagracat.wordpress.com/

My friend Tagra is smart, does stuff, and has opinions. You should read them.

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Back In Balmora Again

Aww yeah.

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Teach a man to build a fire, and warm him for a night; set a man on fire, and warm him for the rest of his life. Or something.

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Broken Toys‘ Scott Jennings looks back at the year in gaming and identifies the bright spots: http://www.brokentoys.org/2011/12/29/my-utterly-predictable-top-ten-games-of-2011-list/

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