2010 was a pretty good year (Yes, I write letters and burn my CDs.) It was my first 12 month span as a full-time games journalist and I was able to meet some great people and attend some amazing events like GDC, San Diego Comic Con and PAX East. I am nothing but thankful for my time here at The Escapist and I'm looking forward to more in 2011.
Sentimentality aside, I also played a crapload of games in 2010, probably more than in any year of my life because, hey, it was my job. Some of the games that made my favorites list were games that I reviewed for work, but the ones that I played the most I found just like you did. I got a recommendation from a friend, or read a review from someone I trusted, went to the store (or digital marketplace) and bought it. Then, if it was good, I played it to hell. Like Susan Arendt said, these are the five games of 2010 that I would tell people to play because they are just amazingly well-made.
Playing the multiplayer beta this spring with my fellow Escapists was fun and all, but I was honestly more excited for the singleplayer campaign. Jim Raynor did not disappoint. I enjoyed the branching storylines and I found the voice-acting in the cinematics to be entertaining, especially the Southern drawl of Tychus Findlay. Some people didn't like the script, but I was swept up in the space opera feel and the cheesiness seemed somehow appropriate.
Then there's the gameplay, which perfectly nailed the classic RTS feel for which its predecessor was known. Juggling the sometimes competing responsibilities of mining resources and collecting vespene gas all while trying to fend off the pesky Zerg, Protoss and sometimes even fellow humans held all of the strategy and tactics that I could have wanted. The missions of the campaign are all well-designed and disparate enough to challenge different parts of the brain.
The huge multiplayer community and the addictive achievement system allows almost endless replay. And thanks to the excellent matchmaking system, my Protoss ass doesn't get cremated every time I search for an opponent online. For a complete strategy game that is sure to have years of value, you can't get much better than StarCraft II.
Basketball is my one non-dorky pastime and having recently gotten back into watching the NBA with the rise of my old team, the Boston Celtics, I was impressed with how well NBA 2K11 translated the game of professional basketball. It also shows a healthy appreciation for the history of the sport by paying homage to the legacy of its greatest player. The Jordan Challenges lovingly recreate ten of his Airness's best performances and you as the player must match Jordan's statline to complete the challenge.
The coolest part is that these historical games get everything right, from the (mostly) correct rosters, to the arena interiors and a newly recorded audio commentary specific to that game's place in history. There are just so many different ways to experience basketball in 2K11 like the deep My Player career mode, league and online multiplayer, and slam dunk contests and 3v3 pickup games with your favorite NBA star or rapper.
Even if you hated that ballhog Jordan like I did, anyone who loves basketball, or sports games in general, will get something out of NBA 2K11. Here's hoping that more sports games go the historical route in 2011. How cool would it be to play a game from the 70s, complete with audio clips from the original announcers and in-game footage?
Mount & Blade: Warband
This gem from TaleWorlds Entertainment is a medieval war simulator that lets you lead a troop of hardened soldiers as you increase your standing in the realm of Calradia. You start out as a lordling from one of the six factions, each with their own character and specialties in battles, and travel from village to town recruiting your army. Warband is played in two major views: a world map that shows terrain and location of other bands (or their tracks if you have the skill) and a first/third person view for entering towns or battles.