If one thing has surprised me this year, it has been the amount of ‘sleeper’ hits that have been released. This is perhaps best demonstrated by Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, a point and click adventure game based in the universe of the popular comic and television series. Rarely does a licensed title illicit favourable reviews, and yet TWD has claimed many GOTY crowns, including the New Game Plus crown.
Yet despite this, I can’t help but feel that the praise is misplaced this time around.
Before we cover why it’s not worth GOTY, let’s go into the areas that it excels. Firstly, the universe the game takes place in is bleak and desolate, and Telltale really do a fantastic job of making you feel the desperation of the survivors as they deal with the imploding world around them. Similarly, the game handles character development very well, with the interactions inside the group changing dramatically based on the decisions you made. If The Walking Dead succeeds at anything, it is bringing the player into the zombie apocalypse first hand, while asking them to question how far they are willing to go to survive.
However, it is the game elements themselves that detract from the experience. No matter what, you cannot shake the fact you are playing a point and click game, with all the familiar tropes that are associated with the genre: Pixel hunting, obvious story moment setups and decisions that are, at times, clearly dichotomous. While the pixel hunting tapers off towards the later chapters, the obvious setups continue right throughout the game.
Perhaps it was my inability to suspend my disbelief, but I could not get past the fact that I was playing a modern revision of Monkey Island. Tim Schafer is a brilliantly funny man, and a great talent, but he is not a good game developer, mainly because point and click requires very little true ‘development.’ Similarly, despite The Walking Dead trying its hardest, it does not escape the confines of its genre.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it was the continual pressure from the crew that made me play the game, not my own volition. Simply put, that speaks of a game that didn’t capture me enough to be considered my GOTY.
With all that being said, let’s discuss the game that I’ve spent the most time this year playing, to the detriment to every other facet of my life: Dota 2.
Collective groan aside, there are many reasons why one would hit the lanes and surrender to Valve’s latest offering. Firstly, it’s highly competitive, and being based on 5 man teams, it requires a high degree of coordination and teamwork to truly succeed. Then there’s the range of heroes and items, which offers a variety of play-styles for players to experiment with and learn, making for hours of gameplay to learn even the basics. However, probably the most gratifying yet sadistic aspect of the game is the ‘pub stomp,’ where playing a public match against poor quality opposition allows a steam roll of the other team by a huge margin. Words cannot express how satisfying a 23/2/15 can be, and you probably have no idea what that means anyway.
That also brings us to the dark side of Dota 2. The community is the worst that isolation and Asperger’s Syndrome has to offer, and many a game will be ruined by a ‘troll’ who will march into death in order to ruin the experience for the people on their team. Unlike the big shooters of the current day, a deliberate ‘feeder,’ or bad player, will directly affect the experience for everyone else, and a disconnect is only punished by relegation into a low-priority matchmaking pool.
It doesn’t end there. The learning curve is steep, particularly for MOBA newbies, and the DOTA droogies will launch into you at a moment’s notice should you have the audacity to be new to the game, or make a single bad move. This is usually insurmountable for most who try it, and makes even COD kids seem like compassionate human beings.
With all that said, Dota 2 would be my GOTY without a doubt, bar one fact: the game is still in beta. There is no tutorial, not all the heroes have made the jump from the original game just yet, and the game is prone to crashing. A lot. Even still, I have forgone many hours of other games in favour of just one more pub, but one must call a spade a spade.
Therefore, my GOTY defaults to Max Payne 3. Good. Finished. Back to soloing mid. Bye.
Come back on Thursdays for more thoughts and views from the NG+ cast and crew.
[Image credits: Valve, Video Games Blogger]