- Before anyone blows a gasket, this is my personal top five for the year. I didn't come close to playing enough games for this to be a definitive list. These five games are the ones that shaped the year for me.
- Champions Online - I've had an interesting relationship with Champions this year. I went from it being totally off my radar, to blasting it because of a misinterpreted developer quote, to falling madly in love with the game, to bearly playing it at all. I like CO a lot more than I ever liked City of Heroes. I like the solo content, I like how grouping works, and I like the feel of the game. But it also has a lot of rough edges that Cryptic have been furiously filing off. Even four months later, CO is a better game than when it launched. Eventually it will mature into an awesome superhero universe. But for now, it's a place I'll only be vacationing in once and a while.
- Free Realms - Much like with Champions, the excitement curve for Free Realms had a decidedly steep rise and fall. Its a game that does so much right, mostly by remembering that it's a game first and foremost. Instant travel, fun mini-games, and a great mixture of activities mean that you don't have to spend any time bored if you don't want to. Tired of fighting? Teleport to mine and prospect for ore. Or try cooking. Or card duelling. And you don't have to spend ten minutes running across the virtual world to get there. I think SOE has blazed new ground for accessibility here, even more than Blizzard has.
- Pangya: Fantasy Golf - Pangya was a good game online (as Albatross 18 when I played it) marred by an insidious cash shop. As a single player game, I think it was great. Over 150 hours on the title and counting, I more than got my money's worth out of it. I just hope it sold well enough for them to import a sequel.
- Phantasy Star Portable - I've had a life long love for the Phantasy Star series and this installment did not let me down. In fact, I think it might be the best addition since Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast. It's still the same basic game. But by focusing on the single player aspect, you don't feel punished for not subscribing to the online version. I imagine that I'll keep leveling and hunting for loot until PSP2 finally comes to the US. After playing around with the Japanese demo for the sequel, I can't wait.
- Torchlight - There has not been a better Diablo-style game since Diablo II. Instead of adding and adding systems in the hope of differenciating themselves, Runic Games has stripped it down to its basic essences. Torchlight is a pure dungeon delver, where the joy of blowing up enemies and looting their corpses is its own reward. It's nice that a developer remembers that complexity is not the only route to a gratifying experience. Sometimes, it's just better to make a game fun from the roots up.
© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.