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Daniel’s Top 10 of 2012

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2012 was understandably a slow year following up a great 2011, but the last couple of months saw some huge releases that made up for the rest. Listing a top 10 was quite a difficult feat, especially considering that I haven’t been able to get around to some of the big titles that hit stores right before the holidays. Fortunately, the Wii saw a couple of 2012 releases to games that were launched earlier outside of North America, and this resulted in what was ultimately a satisfying 2012. On to my list!

#10 – Call of Duty: Black Ops II

It’s a slow year for me to add Call of Duty to a Top 10 list, but upon much consideration, I think it’s worthy of the shout-out. The single-player campaign saw a few much-needed changes that allowed for some exhilarating set pieces. The multiplayer is more of the same, with the addition of league play and a video editing system. In other words, there’s a lot to like for the millions of Call of Duty fans.

#9 – Final Fantasy XIII-2

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Okay, I know, the “XIII” universe of Final Fantasy isn’t much liked (and indeed, I wasn’t the biggest fan either), but I decided to give XIII-2 a shot and was pleasantly surprised. For the most part. Having a monster instead of a third character wasn’t really a great idea, the story is really slow at times, and the ending infuriated me. Not to mention the “huge reward” for collecting all 160 fragments is a ten second clip. But a lot of the linearity of XIII has been erased with an intriguing time travel system, allowing for great discoveries and a variety of endings. The combat is still fun, and the final boss is a thrill. It won’t reassure longtime fans that the franchise is back on the right path, but it’s still a good game.

#8 – The Last Story

While much of the world experienced this game in 2011, those of us in North America had to wait a bit longer for The Last Story. But the promise that it’s combat system would revolutionize the JRPG genre was mostly fulfilled. Some framerate issues aside, frantic skirmishes and huge boss battles made for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. This is a huge relief, particularly because the predictable story didn’t go nearly as far in paving a new future for the genre.

#7 – Darksiders 2

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Darksiders 2 was one of my most hyped games of the year. This was partly because I love The Legend of Zelda series that Darksiders borrows so heavily from, and partly because I thought the original Darksiders truly lived up to the series from which it derived. For some reason, Vigil Games decided to strip it of almost all the puzzles that complemented the original game’s action, and the experience itself was full of bugs. That doesn’t quite diminish what the developers accomplished though, which was another game with large dungeons and exciting boss battles. It’s a worthy follow-up to its predecessor.

#6 – Assassin’s Creed III

Admittedly, I was disappointed with Assassin’s Creed III overall. I hoped it would be as much a step forward for the franchise as Assassin’s Creed II was. However, it basically ended up being just more of the same, with naval warfare being the only salient inclusion. That said, between naval warfare and fast-paced parkour, this newest game in Ubisoft’s annual money-maker is still undoubtedly one of 2012’s best games. And the many fans who have gobbled up each new entry should find much to their liking.

#5 – Torchlight II

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Torchlight II has effectively toppled Diablo’s hold on the crown of dungeon crawling tactical RPGs. With the disappointment surrounding Diablo III, it’s easy to see why. If the price of $20 isn’t awesome enough, level randomization allows for replay value that Diablo can’t match, you don’t have to be online to play (though playing online is an unmitigated delight), character skill customization is off the charts, and custom content means you’ll likely still be logging into Torchlight II well after you buy it.

#4 – Dishonored

Dishonored is one of those rare games that you can play multiple times, with each play-through feeling as fresh as the first. Utilizing stealth, meticulous exploration, a variety of skills, and your arsenal of weapons, there are many ways to complete each level. I’ll even bestow one of the greatest compliments that I’m capable of: some portions of the game remind me of the original Deus Ex. Yes, it should’ve been longer, and a few of the abilities are dreadfully overpowered, but Dishonored is one of those rare First-Person Adventures that really needs to be played.

#3 – Halo 4

I am one of the few gamers from whom it is rare to hear a compliment regarding the Halo franchise. So it’s a serious testament to the game’s quality that it rises so high in my list. I mean, I’m still no fan of the campaign, and that goes double for Halo 4 and its extreme sexualization of Cortana. But the changes that were made to the multiplayer in Reach have been smoothed out wonderfully, and with a superb Spartan Ops mode replacing Firefight, Halo 4 is the online multiplayer gem of 2012.

#2 – Xenoblade Chronicles

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Xenoblade is another Wii game that, like The Last Story, didn’t see a release in North America until 2012. North American Wii owners should be thanking the high heavens that Nintendo changed its mind about its release. The combat is different for a JRPG (more similar to that of an MMO) and delivers some of the greatest boss battles of the year. The game is massive, taking 50 or more hours to beat depending on how many side quests you tackle, with a sprawling overworld to explore perfectly complemented by one of the greatest soundtracks of all time. Xenoblade is truly epic in scope and a can’t-miss game for Wii owners who haven’t yet given up on the system.

#1 – Journey

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The argument against Journey is entirely understandable. But I’ve always been enthralled with games that attempt to stick out from the crowd, and like a monolith jutting from the earth, that’s exactly what Journey does. The music is wonderful, the art design is vibrant, and the palpable atmosphere evoked from me stirring memories of Shadow of the Colossus. Playing through the levels online with another person allowed for emotional moments capped off by a highly poignant and richly symbolic ending. Journey epitomizes the “video games as art” movement and is an experience that should, at the very least, be tried by everyone.

First introduced to gaming with Wolfenstein 3D, Daniel has never looked back. He still returns to the old classics while enjoying the current generation, and beats every game he can get his hands on. In addition, he loves to read and write and is an avid follower of sports and martial arts.
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