Gamer Living’s Top Picks and 2012 Game of the Year

With 2012 firmly behind us, we at Gamer Living decided to throw in our votes for the 2012 Game of the Year.  Whether it’s the story that grips your heart and tugs you along for a long epic journey, the dazzlingly realistic visuals, mind-boggling gameplay, we all have different ideas of what makes a game The Best.  Read more to see if any of our staff agreed on which game should take home the Game of the Year award.

Rachel McBurney – Top Pick: Mass Effect 3

The best game in 2012 would have to be Mass Effect 3! While the original ending left much to be desired, it was still a sensational, emotionally charged game that brought a final close to the much beloved series. The fact that you could rekindle an old romance (well, I did) that had been ripped away from you in the second Mass Effect (and many other story elements of this nature) really brought things full circle and made all three games tie in nicely to whichever character you made. The gameplay was still fresh (even three installments later), and they didn’t add any unnecessary mechanics to the game to try to make it stand out from the others. They knew a formula that worked and based their entire world around it; this is why they deserve the credit.

Runner Up: Unfinished Swan

Jack Moulder – Top Pick: Assassin’s Creed III

As a history graduate, and a little bit of a conspiracy theorist (my surname’s Moulder, it kind of comes with the territory), the Assassin’s Creed series has always held a strong appeal for me. Although Assassin’s Creed III wasn’t quite the departure from the previous games that some people expected, and even though Dishonored presented a better-realised assassin/stealth experience, no other game this year engrossed me quite so much. From the fantastic plot twist about five hours into the game (which I only spotted a couple of seconds before it happened, yet yelled at the TV about for a good while longer afterward), to running through the wilderness for hours as Connor, to the fantastic naval battles, Assassin’s Creed III drew me in and wouldn’t let go. For me, Assassin’s Creed III is 2012’s Game of the Year.

Runner Up: Far Cry 3

Cassandra Marshall – Top Pick: X-Com: Enemy Unknown

X-Com was a story of good versus evil; it was incredibly refreshing to defend Earth without the moral of the story turning out to be ‘man is the real monster’. X-Com’s gameplay was unforgiving, brutal, and incredibly rewarding. I got attached to every member of my squad and mourned their deaths, and I cheered at the death of every alien. X-Com: Enemy Unknown isn’t just a game – it’s a story machine, where you and your chums can share the unique tales of bravado and success from your squad. X-Com: Enemy Unknown is my choice for Game of the Year 2012, and I can’t wait to see where the franchise goes from here.

Dominic Marzolino – Top Pick: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

For me, this is a no-brainer. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was the biggest title for 2012. I already said this game raised the bar for how RPGs should be done, and I’m sticking to my guns. Skyriwho? Reckoning showed us that an RPG can be compelling, immersive, and most of all, fun to play. Polished, fluid combat made getting into a brawl something to look forward to, not just a stat-based numbers game as you moved from plot trigger to plot trigger. Flashy skills enabled the player to feel like a badass even at lower levels while facing off against enemies who gave a real sense of accomplishment when vanquished. KoA used an art palette closer to that of World of Warcraft than Dark Souls, making visuals a matter of preference that even non-fans of the style will admit is an impressive showing. Crafting elements abounded, literally, making gaming sessions drift from pursuit of a quest to finding that one more component…and when adding in an estimated 200 hours for a “speed run” just on the quests, the game has an overwhelming number of things to do. With the meltdown of 38 Studios (as “closing” doesn’t even begin to describe and the fallout from which isn’t close to over) the fate of Amalur is TBD, though I’m guessing via the actions of an opportunistic, er, enterprising publisher will snap up the IP and we’ll see more of Amalur at some point. I hope so, as this game represented, in my eyes, a natural evolution of the RPG genre other devs should take note of.

Runner Up: Mass Effect 3

Ron Mandelman – Top Pick: XCOM: Enemy Unknown

XCOM: Enemy Unknown has to take it for me. The gameplay was simplified and streamlined from the original, but not dumbed down. The aesthetics were creepy, and you always got a chill down your spine when you run across another squad of aliens more than willing to rip you limb from limb or shoot acid at you. It all came together in such a perfect package that, even if you’re not a fan of tactical turn-based games, it still has more than enough to suck you in. Yet the best part about it was the difficulty. There are a lot of games out there where you know you’ll beat it eventually – all it takes is a little bit of time. XCOM laughs at your puny attempts to defeat it, and every battle and every decision is not only important, but thrilling when you see it succeed.

Runner-up: The Walking Dead

Blair Hicks – Top Pick: Happy Wars

While I could sit here all day and praise the sci-fi epic Mass Effect 3, thanks to its intricate, choice-based storyline and brilliantly designed characters, my vote for Game of the Year would have to go to Xbox Live’s first free-to-play title: Happy Wars.  Offering intense 30-player online battles on huge maps, Happy Wars proved that free-to-play doesn’t have to mean pay-to-win with its fair use of powerful (but not overly so) premium items and in-match power-ups.  Factor in a very balanced trio of job classes, customizable characters, upgradable weapons, and wonderfully conceived maps all wrapped in addictive strategy-meets-hack-n-slash gameplay, and it’s hard not to see why I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing – and why it’s my Game of the Year.

Runner up: Mass Effect 3

Victoria Liu-Anderson – Top Pick: Skylanders: Giants

While many people tend to lean towards the AAA games with their extremely realistic-looking graphics, epic storylines, my vote for Game of the Year would be Skylanders: Giants.  This cross-platform action-adventure is true to its name, offering a vast world for players to explore with all new characters, upgraded graphics, and a story that calls to the hero within. Toys for Bob and Activision already had a cashcow with the prequel, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures, and nothing could’ve stopped them from using the same formula with a new story. Instead, the developers tried to improve the game, adding different special effects, difficulty settings, and also allow fans to bring over existing toys/characters from Spyro’s Adventures to the sequel.  The gameplay is child-friendly and will appeal to players both young and old, instead of just catering to one type of gamer.  Taking all that into consideration, is it any wonder that I’d pick Skylanders: Giants for Game of the Year?

Runner up: Guild Wars 2

Will Anderson – Top Pick: Guild Wars 2

ArenaNet’s return to Tyria is nothing short of spectacular!  With hours upon hours of content available, gorgeous graphics, and a fantastic storyline, this MMO is most certainly one that beats out everything else for 2012.  For $59.99, it’s definitely worth every penny as you can rack up literally hundreds of hours in the single-player questing, crafting, and exploration before you even touch the multi-player portion of the game.  Whenever I have free time available, this is my go-to game.

Runner Up: Max Payne 3

Final Result – XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Mass Effect 3 certainly deserves credit as a top contender for our 2012 Game of the Year, but XCOM: Enemy Unknown takes the most top honors, and it’s definitely well deserved!  Every time you play it, you never know what the outcome will be.  There aren’t many games out there that give you as much of a sense of satisfaction after finally beating it.  To the wizards at 2K, we salute you!

About This Post

January 22, 2013 - 8:00 am

Game of the Year, Gaming