My Top Five Games: New School

Instead of doing a top ten list of all my favourite video games, I’ve decided it’s more fair to rank my favourite older and newer games separately, five each. I’ve already covered the old school greats, so now it’s time to run down my top five games from the modern era.

5: Dungeon Siege III

Fighting as Anjali in Dungeon Siege 3Entry #24601 in the “things Tyler loves that everyone else hates” category is Dungeon Siege III.

It is a very big departure from the previous games in terms of game mechanics. Part of me misses the old model. But looked at on its own merits, it’s still quite a strong RPG.

Choosing a class (or character in this case) is more generic than just playing and evolving naturally, but the “class” designs are among the best I’ve seen. Lucas is just your standard warrior dude, but the others are more unique:  Reinhardt is a steampunk techno mage; Katarina is a gun-toting, curse-flinging gypsy witch; and Anjali is a divine warrior-priestess who can shapeshift into a fire elemental.

Anjali in particular is one of my all-time favourite characters/classes in any RPG. Just so much fun.

And while it was a departure in terms of gameplay, it’s a true sequel to the original Dungeon Siege in terms of story, something DS2 definitely wasn’t. In fact it improves upon the already strong lore of the original, deepening and expanding it, and it evolves into a complex, powerful story with an incredible ending.

Add some gorgeous graphics and a lovely soundtrack and you have one of the most underrated games ever.

4: Portal 2

A screenshot from Portal 2Much has already been said about the Portal games by myself and others, so I don’t see a lot of need to repeat it. If you’ve played them, you know how special they are. If you haven’t, go do that right now. I’ll wait.

Both games were good, but I think Portal 2 is the more memorable one. The first Portal was entirely too short. Portal 2 had all the same wit and creativity, and while it’s still a relatively short game, it’s not quite the “blink and you’ll miss it” affair the first was.

3: Mass Effect 3

And again another of my unpopular opinions.

While I seem to be the only one that feels this way, I found Mass Effect 3 to be the strongest entry in the trilogy by a significant margin. I’ve always been a fan of epic, apocalyptic stories, and ME3 certainly delivers on that front. In the previous games, the Reapers were a distant threat, but in ME3 their full fury is unleashed, and as the game unfolds, you get to see them tear the galaxy apart in excruciating detail.

It’s a dark, intense story, and I admire that it pulls no punches. The heroes fail many times throughout the story, and the losses are deeply felt. Not many games have the guts for that.

Keelah se'lai, Tali'ZorahLike ME2, it’s also a very big game with lots of side missions and secondary content, but unlike ME2, none of it feels irrelevant or chore-like. Everything connects to the main story. Everything feels important, and exciting.

Even the most minor side-quests can be memorable. For me one of the most gut-wrenching moments of the game is a brief side mission where you assist in the evacuation of the Elcor homeworld. It’s just the most basic kind of collection quest, but the ambassador’s reaction at the end is so powerful.

And then there’s the excellence that is the Rannoch arc, and the sheer joy of drunk Tali, and all the little conversations between the crew members between missions, and Traynor… It’s just an excellent experience all around.

2: StarCraft II

StarCraft II’s sheer scale can make it a difficult game to rate. It has had two expansions the size of standalone games plus a fair bit of DLC. Looked at as a total package, StarCraft II is now massive in scale.

And it has had its stumbles along the way. Wings of Liberty was mostly a good game but did suffer from Blizzard’s failed experiment with non-linear storytelling, and I think we can all agree Heart of the Swarm was something of a disappointment.

Hierarch Artanis and Executor Selendis rally the Golden Armada in StarCraft II: Legacy of the VoidBut when you look at the big picture, it’s clear StarCraft II’s successes easily outweigh its failures. Despite its hiccups, Wings of the Liberty still wound up being a pretty strong story, and Legacy of the Void was one of the greatest sci-fi epics I’ve seen in gaming. Hell, even Heart of the Swarm gave us Abathur and the Primal Zerg, so it was hardly a total loss.

Similarly, I’m not without complaints about its gameplay, but overall SC2 still deserves to go down as one of the great RTS games of all time. The campaigns have featured some of the most creative level design in gaming history, the co-op mode added in Legacy of the Void is infinitely replayable and incredibly fun, and its competitive play remains one of the greatest tests of skill in the gaming world.

1: The Secret World

I’ve already spent no shortage of time raving about how amazing TSW is, so I shouldn’t repeat myself too much.

A lot of my love for this game boils down to the fact that story will always be the most important part of gaming for me, and TSW has some of the best writing in video game history. Its dialogue is second to none, its characters are unforgettable, its world-building is spectacularly deep and incredibly original, and its ambiance is like nothing else.

But it’s no slouch in the gameplay department, either. I love how you can build your own “class.” I love that it’s challenging, but not cheap. I love how the enemies are powerful and intelligent rather than just HP sponges to be mowed down. I love that its progression is fair to all playstyles and offers incredible freedom to the player. I love how many awesome cosmetics there are to collect.

The Blue Mountain quarry in The Secret WorldAs with the first list’s winner, Warcraft III, The Secret World is probably as close to a perfect video game as we’re ever going to see.

Honourable mentions:

Despite some initial stumbles (and a few lingering problems), Diablo III has evolved into a really excellent game, as the hundreds of hours I’ve sunk into it can attest. It was sort of a dead heat between Diablo and Dungeon Siege for the fifth spot in this list.

Something that has been interesting about recent years in the gaming industry has been the growing push for video games as art, and it’s produced a number of titles that are truly amazing experiences despite being light on gameplay. The Park, Oxenfree, and Remember Me all come to mind as examples of this.

Obviously World of Warcraft is conspicuous in its absence from the list, but despite the countless hours I’ve spent with it, it has far too many flaws to be considered a truly great game. SW:TOR is another title that has given me some great times but has too much wrong with it to earn a spot among my all-time favourites.

It does seem a bit strange that I’ve spent the majority of my gaming time over the past ten years playing MMOs, and yet only one of them made my top five (albeit with top honours). I’m not sure what, if anything, should be read from that.

Games I Want to See

After years of not playing games and then only playing World of Warcraft, I am now a full member of the gaming community again. I’ve played many games both well-known and obscure in recent months, and there are many more coming down the pipe I’m excited about, but as a true North American, I am never satisfied. There are many other games I would love to play — if only they existed.

Portal 3:

A screenshot from Portal 2We all want it. Who knows if we’ll ever get it, but if it finally does get announced, it will trigger a tidal wave of nerdgasms the likes of which we have rarely seen.

But what could Portal 3 be about? Chell has finally escaped Aperture Labs. Supposedly, the co-op campaign in Portal 2 hints that there may be other potential test subjects locked up down there, but honestly, Chell is Portal — which is odd when you consider she has no personality whatsoever.

Personally, I’ve always wanted to see a Portal game set in the wider world. The idea of running around a city with a portal gun is just too much fun. Leaving Aperture would be a risk, and there would probably have to be a section of the game where Chell returns there (you’d need to involve GLaDOS somehow), but I want to feel the sun on my face as I sling portals.

Mass Effect: Lost Chapters:

The wreck of the Normandy in Mass Effecf 2I’m not as big a Mass Effect fan as some, but I’ll agree with the majority that the game did have some very interesting secondary characters. I think an anthology game devoted to telling their stories of their lives pre-Shepard would be very interesting — maybe more interesting than the main ME games.

Potential stories include:

Call of the Sea: A tortured Thane Krios sets out to hunt down his wife’s murderers, while struggling with his guilt over failing to protect her.

Crisis of Faith: A young Mordin Solus attempts to restore the Krogan genophage while struggling with Krogan who seek to stop him, allies who wish him to annihilate the Krogan altogether, and his own internal ethical crisis.

Good Cop: New to C-Sec, Garrus Vakarian investigates a series of brutal crimes, but the farther along he gets, the more the system fights him, and the more disillusioned he becomes.


Diablo III: Wrath of Angels:

Imperius, Archangel of Valor, in Diablo 3We all know Diablo III is going to get at least one expansion pack sooner or later, and with all the loose ends left by the ending of the main game, there’s no shortage of plots to pursue.

I hope they get around to completing all of them, but something in particular I was disappointed we didn’t see more of in Diablo III was angels as villains. The material leading up to the game certainly seemed to be building up Imperius and Malthael, in particular, as potential bad guys.

Following the events of Diablo III, Imperius now has more cause to hate humanity than ever, so I could definitely see him going rogue and trying to exterminate mankind. I think it would be a very interesting break from tradition to have a Diablo game focused on battling the forces of Heaven instead of the forces of Hell.

It’s not enough for a whole expansion, but I’d also love to see some more character-driven quests about the followers and the player classes. I want to see Kormac confront the leaders of his order, and I want to see that mage-slayer finally catch up to Li-Ming.

Warcraft IV: Army of the Light:

Warcraft art featuring several races working together as they would in the Army of the LightI’ve previously discussed the Army of the Light and the fact that I don’t see how it could work in a game like WoW. But I do think it would work perfectly for another strategy game. There’s not the same level of game mechanics reliant on war between the factions.

Furthermore, it seems to me that the Burning Legion is really the chief villain of the Warcraft strategy games. Every one of the RTS Warcraft games involved the Legion somehow, whereas only one WoW expansion has given them a central role. I view WoW’s central villain as the Old Gods — a type of villain much more suited to an MMO’s smaller scale of story-telling than are the massive armies of the Legion.

The first few campaigns could deal with uniting the peoples of Azeroth to form the Army, while casting down those individuals who are an obstacle to peace (I’m looking at you, Sylvanas), and the latter half of the game would focus on taking the battle to the Legion and ending their threat once and for all.

It’s unlikely, but I can dream.

Warcraft HD:

A screenshot of the Orc campaign from Warcraft 2: Tides of DarknessI honestly can’t believe Blizzard hasn’t already done this. Step one: Remake the early Warcraft strategy games with the Starcraft II engine. Step two: Collect money.

It’s just that simple.

The only real question would be whether to precisely preserve the original storylines or alter them to include the latest retcons. I could see a strong argument for either, honestly.

Dungeon Siege III: Seed of Creation:

I don’t care what the haters say; Dungeon Siege III was a great game. At this point, it’s pretty clear they won’t be doing any expansion or continuation for it, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting one.

There are any number of awesome things a DSIII expansion could focus on, but I would love a game where you can play as the game’s villain, Jeyne Kassynder. Jeyne was a really deep and fascinating character, and one of the game’s greatest strengths.

An expansion could depict Jeyne trying to atone for her past crimes by helping the Tenth Legion rebuild Ehb, while she also searches for the lost power of Creation to fulfill her mother’s mission and resurrect the Creator Gods.

Yes, this would mean ignoring most if not all of the player choices surrounding Jeyne’s fate at the end of the first game, but I don’t care. Jeyne’s just too awesome.

A man can dream…

Honestly, all of these games are pretty unlikely to ever be made, and even less likely to be made how I want them, but speculation is fun. I can dream.

What about you? What are some games you’d love to see made down the line?