2013. With the new console cycle finally here, we saw this year's gaming headlines dominated with excitement and speculation for all they would bring to the table. But, history will not judge this prodigal year in gaming on next-gen's booms and busts. History will remember all the fantastic titles last-gen brought to the table, reminding all of us that there's still life in those old dogs yet. From alien invasions to pirate persuasions, here are my favorite games from 2013.
5. DUST 514
Let's not mince words: I am terrible at military shooters. And yet, they have held a dirty little place in my gamer heart since Counter Strike 1.6. This year, that dirty little place has been reserved for DUST 514. In a genre stereotyped for always doing more of the same, DUST breaks the mold. Literally set in the EVE: Online universe, all battles take place in real-time, allowing players logged into both games to communicate and coordinate. While the game still lacks the robust map packs and game modes of other notable shooters from this year, CCP has proven that it can win the long game and we can expect to see enhancements and expansions regularly. Also, did I mention it is free to play?
From mind controlling mollusks with Owlwok slaves to Samurai Bears with a penchant for poetry; it would be a shame to leave space before mentioning this tiny star with humble kickstarter roots. StarDrive is the latest 4x strategy game where your goal is to build the largest galactic space empire while managing relations with an all star cast of 8 fickle races. With beautiful art and indepth diplomacy option and research trees, it is hard to not fall in love with StarDrive's challenging complexity.
3. XCOM: Enemy Within
In 2012, there were few games I played as often as XCOM: EU, but no matter how many hours I sunk into alien destruction, Enemy Within blindsided me by being less a minor addition and more like an entirely new game. No experience this year can match the hilarious baddassery of storming your new mech warrior through the front lines and rocket punching aliens through walls, Pacific Rim style. Gene mod trees, never before seen aliens, and an unknown foe named EXALT; Enemy Within adds so many new levels of strategy and story, it feels more like playing a sequel than a simple expansion. For those who have yet to try their hand at saving humanity with a home grown squad of unlucky science experiments, Enemy Within is the end to all your excuses.
Out of the murky waters of a laissez-fare utopia rose Columbia, a floating city in the sky and the perfect setting for the latest game in the Bioshock franchise. For me, Bioshock Infinite was the perfect marriage of brilliant story-telling, edge of your seat shooting and customizable magic wielding. It all adds up to an experience I won't soon forget and offered some of the most memorable hours spent gaming this year. I fell in love with Elizabeth, feared the Songbird, and hated Comstock and all that he created. Instantly immersed in a complex story set in a beautiful world with many faces, Bioshock Infinite evoked every one of my emotions and I found myself missing a dear friend as the credits began to roll.
New to the Assassin's Creed game line-up, I approached Black Flag with a healthy dose of skepticism over a sea faring gimmick like ship sailing. Boy, could I not have been more wrong. Set in the golden-age of piracy, I immediately donned my worst pirate speak as I set out to terrorize the open ocean and maximize my trade routes supplied by the ill-gotten gains of my illegal sea faring ways. Packed with varied game play across a new world globe, this is one sandbox adventure just waiting for you to get lost in. Steal ships, take over fortresses and explore underwater wrecks for buried treasure. And if all that starts getting old, simply hop back over to the storyline for more adventure in a stream of stealth and assassination missions. Set your Facebook language to pirate and flex your cannon blasting fingers. You'd be a nothing short of a scallywag for giving this 2013 gem a miss.
With all of the hours spent playing my favorites from this past year, 2014 has been set a high bar. With some shiny new toys to meet it, I can't help but be excited for all that is yet to come. Until then, you can find me sailing the open ocean, somewhere south of the West Indies. I just hope you don't plan on keeping your ship when you do.