BioWare heralded a new king to the throne of RPGs. They did KotOR, Mass Effect, and while both series have their flaws, they simply have phenomenal writing, a movie-like feel, and enough content to be frustratingly tired in the morning. Dragon Age: Origins does not break any of these streaks: the script ebbs and flows like the blood gushing out of a Darkspawn's head. Simply one of the bloodiest, darkest role-playing games designed - it only lacks some features that the great Baldur's Gate offered (and that is the pinnacle of RPGs).
One thing we often forget is just that: RPG stands for something, yes, the role-playing bit does equate to thought-provoking decisions that may toll the bell of death for characters within the game. You are supposed to be in the story! Not hacking away obliviously at demons within gates, not that I am naming anyone, here.
Dragon Age has all the blood, strategy, and traditional role-play you'll need for a while to come.
Borderlands took risks, and we can't pants them for that. A cell-shaded FPS/RPG/Whatever was great in concept, but it's tough to beat the time-tested formula developed by BioWare. If nothing else, Borderlands stands out as a vibrant, engrossing shooter with just enough of an RPG element to make it replayable.
The thought of being flogged by millions of fanboys may be intimidating, but I can't bear the thought of being flogged by developers. Sorry boys, this one goes to not Modern Warfare 2, not ODST, but to Killzone 2. The sequels of many shooters this year were uninspired and only backpedaled in progress: Modern Warfare 2 focuses on the same gameplay, although geared quite a bit to "casual" gamers, it has an absurd storyline, evoking nothing but memories from my over-ambitious 'novels' I wrote when I was 10, and has worse multiplayer than Modern Warfare. Don't get me started on servers, either. Let's not take this away from Killzone 2, though. Killzone 2's gameplay is awe-inspiring. Every map is painstakingly detailed, going so far as to allow players to fire through those tiny cracks in makeshift defenses. Killzone 2 has the best multiplayer out of all of the FPS games this year, and let's face it folks, that's what counts. Longevity is there thanks to the never-ending action-packed bloodmatch that is multiplayer.
Runner-up: Shattered Horizons
Futuremark has finally proven themselves as not only a spectacular benchmarking company, but as a unique and creative game studio. Shattered Horizons is the first FPS of its kind to be based within the realm of real physics in space. No one can hear you scream, there are no oxygen-craving explosives, just you, your gun, and the enemies. And some nice shiny graphics.
It was one of the highest acclaimed superhero movies in recent history, and now it's with gamers everywhere. Batman's pretty lame as far as superheroes go. That's why this achievement is amazing; it is tough to make Batman a fun character in games, yet the devs pulled it off. Here's a quote from our original review: "Eventually, the team at Eidos decided to resurrect the long dead Batman and give him a new role. Eidos has spent the last couple of years working on what is claimed to be the "Best Comic Game of All Time."" This one goes to Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Runner-up: Assassin's Creed 2
GN Sr. Reviewer CyberGrim called it, here's what he said: "Assassin's Creed 2, in my eyes at least, is definite Game of the Year material. I haven't found a game so far this year that matches it in terms of gameplay and story." Assassin's Creed's general concept is hard not to enjoy. You're in a seemingly open world, but not just any world, one that we know through the history books. You can relive a past that every gamer has dreamt of through AC2, at least check out the sights.
It's almost not even worth giving this award away. The only two mentionable RTS games this year were Demigod and League of Legends, I guess Heroes of Newerth falls in the mix. All three titles are based on DotA. Seriously, how much freaking DotA can you get? I had enough of it in StarCraft, WarCraft, and Demigod - and here comes two more. The award should be renamed to "Best DotA Replica," but it's too late now. I don't feel like changing the graphic, anyway. League of Legends utilizes a refreshing change in graphics, yet maintains the original flow of DotA. As far as an RTS goes, the game has captivated thousands of gamers worldwide for its large array of balanced heroes. Not to mention, it has a larger audience than usual, given the fact that LoL is currently free. Having a good number of players in Strategy games is dire. No one wants to sit in a lobby waiting for 30 minutes to an hour just to play a 5-minute rush-match, and League of Legends makes that rare. Besides, LoL is just an awesome acronym.
Runner-up: Not enough competing games to give away two awards this time 'round.
The indie scene was profoundly audacious this year. Small packs of adept designers and developers put up their best effort, even when sent through a gauntlet of big-name releases and controversy. Developers like Runic Games, FrozenByte, Dejobaan Games, and numerous others slaved vigorously over the most affordable, most original chefs-d'oeuvre of 2k9.
When companies like Activision sell just about every other game for $90, hike up prices on PC games by $10, and then defecate on their customers, it's tough to beat a $20 pick-up-and-play from a dedicated group that not only listens to their audience, but depends on their audience. Trine pulled ahead as the pièce de résistance (OK, I'll stop) when surrounded by a minefield of equally professional games. Intricately woven scenery and carefully planned platform-placement makes for one of the best casual platformers on the modern market. Trine has classic characters that are spun out in an innovative way: players can use the Wizard to 'draw' boxes upon which to stand, for example. FrozenByte, you deserve this.
Trine and Torchlight were neck-and-neck for indie GotY slot, but Trine had that extra oomph to snag the trophy. Torchlight's roots are in Diablo, which has roots in other similarly stunning games. Dungeon Crawling can't be escaped. The archetypal hero trekking beneath some small trading town, established solely on the wealth of the dungeon beneath, is held close to all RPG-fans' hearts. It's mindless, but also mind-blowing. Torchlight took a classic and reworked the design just enough to be entirely worth at least one play-through.
Likely to no one's surprise, this one goes to Dragon Age. Developers deserted Q4, typically when huge names are dropped, and left it between Modern Warfare 2 - a sequel, and Dragon Age - the first RPG of its kind in several years. For shame, competition, for shame!
Keep an eye out for our Fail of the Year awards in the near future!
Speaking of Fail of the Year, this award ceremony is in memory of our late friend Duke Nukem. Balls of steel, buddy. Balls. Of. Steel.
~Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke