So it’s about time to put 2008 to bed, and I thought I’d take a few moments to sum up my year in gaming terms.
From an MMO point of view, its been a year of disappointments: Pirates of the Burning Seas didn’t sit at all well with me after a brief fling of romantic night-time sea battles. Age of Conan was amazing for 20 levels then fell flat on its face. Warhammer Online was awesome in beta but didn’t hold me in launch for reasons I’m still stirring around in my head. It feels like every day I find a new reason for why Warhammer and I didn’t click, and each new reason nullifies the last one. Anyway that’s recent enough news not to dwell on.
Oddly, where I had the most fun in MMOs is with older titles. EQ2 (via a free ‘welcome back’ month) and particularly LOTRO filled the gaps between Age of Conan and Warhammer. It was the first time I really got traction in LOTRO and started doing a lot of Fellowship PUGs that actually didn’t suck. In retrospect, I almost wish Warhammer hadn’t come out and that I’d stuck with LOTRO.
After I fizzled on Warhammer, I went back to WoW and did my usual “This is great!” two-week stint before getting bored with it for the umpteenth time. Not to disparage WOW; I just played it (and loved it) for so long during its alpha, beta and early launch years that it feels old hat now. Currently I’m dabbling in EQ2 again, but not very seriously.
2008 was the year that Free2Play MMOs got good, though, and I’m looking forward to exploring Wizard 101, Mabinogi, Dream of Mirror Online, Florensia and a few others in 2009.
But my really amazing gaming experiences in 2008 have been single player games. Early in the year I played through Jeanne d’Arc on the PSP, and that was a great strategy-RPG (one of my favorite genres) that made the PSP worth owning. After that I spent a lot of time playing Etrian Odyssey II on the Nintendo DS. I was so hooked on that one that I’d slip out to my car at lunchtime to play a bit. Classic turn-based first-person dungeon crawling; brought back memories of Wizardry and Dungeon Master.
But the two games that truly left me breathless this year were Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune for the PS3, and Fable 2 for the XBox 360. Uncharted perfectly captured the Saturday matinee vibe that the devs were going for. I was swept along in the story, gleefully exploring these old ruins and uncovering the mystery.
Fable 2, however, gets my personal Game of The Year. Molyneaux finally pulled it off; I really cared about the characters and felt like my actions had a very real impact on the world. The ending left me staring slack-jawed at the screen for long moments, contemplating what I’d just done and wondering whether I’d done the right thing (and this after I panicked and undid my initial choice). After the game “ended” (and really, you can keep playing and playing) I immediately rolled a new character and started all over again, just to see what would happen if I played things differently: I can’t remember the last time I did something like that. So yeah, Fable 2 was awesome.
Going into 2009, I’m really hot on Valkyria Chronicles right now, and I’ve been enjoying Izuna 2, a rogue-like on the Nintendo DS. I’m tepid at best on MMOs. As mentioned, I’ve been dabbling in EQ2 lately. I’ve logged into Warhammer exactly twice since I re-activated the account about 10 days ago. I still want to play LOTRO more, and the only reason I don’t is because I’m paying for War and EQ2 and feel like I “should” be playing one of those if I’m playing an MMO (and instead, I end up going back to single-player games…yes, I’m a freak).
I’m semi-interested in Chronicles of Spellborn, but beyond that 2009 doesn’t have anything I’m all that jazzed about in the world of “AAA” MMOs (not sure Chronicles is in that category). I’m not a super-hero fan so Champions Online and DC Universe don’t have me excited. I doubt SW:TOR will ship this year and even if it did, I’m not much of a Star Wars fan, either. I am rather interested in Bioware’s Dragon Age game, and hope I live long enough to see Blizzard release Diablo 3.
I don’t know, maybe 2009 will be a year of single-player gaming for me??