and now for the thrilling conclusion…
Another vastly underrated game, Hellgate: London was a first-person RPG that mixed sci-fi and horror fantasy elements, and was made by some of the same people that created the original Diablo. The result was something that felt very much like some kind of futuristic first-person version of Diablo. It had everything that made Diablo so great, great action, great monsters, a ton of loot, and even a good co-op system.
Oddly enough, it seems that the Hellgate: London that you see for sale nowadays is almost a completely different game. The original developers went bankrupt and the rights ended up going to some Korean company that re-worked it and re-marketed it as some kind of free-to-play online-only game. So you’d need to track down a disc of the original version to play it, but that’s not too hard. It’s well worth it if you’re into this kind of game.
Dead Space was easily the best action horror game to hit the scene since Resident Evil. It was probably the first new horror series to succeed in a such a way since then too. Oh there had been plenty of others, but none that got two whole major sequels. Dead Space was a dream come true for me, combining sci-fi with horror and having creatures that looked like they stepped right out of John Carpenter’s The Thing.
The Dead Space series seemed to be a huge hit and EA had been talking about doing even more sequels and even some spin-off games, one of which was rumored to be a space-flight-sim, but then Dead Space 3 sold a “mere” 2.5 million copies and EA said “oh, nevermind”, dropped all plans for any more titles, and then took the development team, Visceral Games, and said “ok, we’re just going to have you make budget action games that no one wants until we fire you all!”. Thanks again EA.
All the kids today are crazy about Dragon Age, and I still like the series and all, but things have never been as great as Origins was. This was a fantasy RPG that was so dark that it kind of felt like a horror game. It was so bleak and dark, the monsters were delightfully grotesque and challenging, and it seemed like every damn person you dealt with was lying to your face and had sinister ulterior motives. Man, it was great.
Hm, I wonder how much longer it’ll be before EA kills BioWare?
Nier was a surprise sleeper hit in much the same way Drakengard was. On the surface it looked like a decent, but not particularly memorable action-RPG. I wasn’t even going to bother playing it, except my wife took a liking to it for some reason and bought it for me right when it came out. I had no idea that it was from the same creator as Drakengard and that it was actually even a spin-off sequel whose world was the way it was directly due to the events of the final battle of Drakengard.
Also much like Drakengard, it wasn’t particularly impressive in terms of gameplay, but it made up for it with the pure power of story and atmosphere. It’s got one of the most complex and twisted stories I’ve ever seen in a game. Amazing soundtrack too.
I have to admit, I kind of avoided Dark Souls when it first came out. I kept hearing about how overly difficult and frustrating it was that it just didn’t sound worth all that trouble. It wasn’t until a few years later that I finally gave it a shot when it was at a really reduced price during a big sale. Little did I know what I would be beginning. Yes there was intense difficulty and frustration, and yet…I couldn’t seem to put it down. No matter how mad I got and how close I came to smashing that controller, I didn’t want to stop. It was all just so well-designed and brutal and dark that I felt myself oddly compelled not just to press on and succeed, but when it was all over I wanted even more! Such is the beautiful curse of Dark Souls, I suppose.
Arkane Studios has always done really good games, but Dishonored was where it felt like they had really become masters of their craft. It’s the bastard lovechild of System Shock and Thief and few games have made thieving and assassinating so very satisfying. There’s just something so hilarious and liberating about doing crazy things like coming upon a couple being mugged in an alley, stabbing the mugger, getting thanks and a reward from the couple, then stabbing them too and taking the rest of their money. I don’t know, stealth games just bring out the hidden psychopath within me!
Speaking of stealth games…I guess this is maybe cheating a little, but dammit, this collection did come out in 2013 and I actually hadn’t played the majority of the games on it. It made for one hell of a year, playing through 8 Metal Gear titles so I could be all caught up to play Phantom Pain when it came out. Previously I’d only ever played the NES version of Metal Gear, Metal Gear Solid, and gave up when I got to Metal Gear Solid 2 back in the day and was probably too drugged up at the time to be able to follow the ridiculously convoluted plot.
Playing them all back to back and with a clear mind was one hell of an experience though. What an absolutely insane and beautifully complex story, and they even had the seriously good gameplay to back them up too. RIP Metal Gear!
Binding of Isaac infected me a lot like Dark Souls did. I had heard all about the original version, but didn’t want to deal with the alleged severe difficulty. After Dark Souls gave me a taste of “gitting gud” I decided to give this a try though. The revamped and expanded Rebirth version was out by the time I got to it, and was also available on Vita so I could play it on the go (by which I actually mean in bed), which seemed to suit the gameplay rather well.
Let me tell you, it had been quite some time since a game had so utterly consumed me. Once you figure out the obtuse mechanics and get into the rhythm of things, it’s almost impossible to put down. The twin stick shooting action and retro NES Zelda theme combined with gross-out horror and religious themes, just came together to form this amazingly addictive monstrosity that never seemed to stop squirting out surprise after surprise. I couldn’t tell you how many hours I dumped into it, but I had to have beaten it over 100 times. There’s just so many damn items, characters, and extra gameplay content to unlock and with such a large variety of abilities and monster types, every session was wildly different. It took a long, loooong time for me to finally get tired of it, by which point I’d done almost everything there was to do in the game.
Later the game would get enhanced even more with the Afterbirth and Afterbirth+ expansions, but due to supposed technical limitations of the Vita the creators never brought them to Vita. What was I to do then? Buy the game and expansions all over again on PS4 and transfer my save over? Ehhhh…I’d rather be able to play it on a portable again. What’s this though? Afterbirth+ is out now on Switch? Uh oh…that’s a tale for another time though…
And then there was Bloodborne. From Software took all the dark visual and musical themes and monstrous enemies of Dark Souls and turned it all up a few notches, resulting in a Souls-like game that was more horror than ever before. It also had combat mechanics that rewarded aggressive play and much more limited options in terms of ranged combat, so you really had to get in there and get skilled at it. It was the ultimate Dark Souls experience that wasn’t even actually Dark Souls. A true masterpiece of a game, and I still can’t get that boss battle music out of my head!
The newest incarnation of Doom actually followed a kind of similar formula to Bloodborne. It wasn’t Bloodborne level of difficulty (though it was still quite challenging for a modern FPS), but it did reward you for taking on a more aggressive and brutal playstyle. You needed to keep moving and killing as much as possible to keep your health and ammo up, as they would both be quickly drained under the crushing weight of the demon hordes.
This game just completely nailed the feel of the classic Doom games and wrapped it up in a package of amazing high-end modern graphics, design, and gameplay. It was a truly impressive vision of hell and a more than worthy addition to the Doom legacy. If only they would have given Quake the same treatment.
And finally we’ve reached the final year of this thing. Unsurprisingly, the honor goes to Resident Evil 7. I don’t want try to sound elitist on you here, but if you haven’t experienced this game in VR, you almost haven’t really experienced it. I’ve tried it in both modes and I can say without exaggeration that Capcom’s addition of high quality VR added an unbelievable level of immersion. The horror atmosphere really did go back to something closer to the original game this time, in fact, it surpassed the original by a pretty huge amount.
It was the only time a game really made me feel scared, and I don’t just mean jump scare startled like every other horror game does, I mean filled with unease and dread as I’m forced to live through things like walking down a dusty old staircase into a broken down old basement in the dark as strange, disgusting sounds can be heard in the distance, knowing that I had to be approaching something terrible, but unable to do anything about it.
I only wish that I could somehow go back and have it be the first time all over again, because like with most horror games, once you’ve played it and know what all the surprises are, it kind of loses something that you can never get back.
Well, that finally concludes that. If this turns anyone on to some great new games that they missed out on, that’s great, but if not…