The Year That Was: September 2013

Platforms: PC

If we had to give a theme to September it would be "heritage” and, as in real life, heritage can be a blessing or a curse. You can stand on the shoulders of your ancestors to achieve great things or be constantly reminded how you’re similar but not quite as good as that distant tuberculosis-curing, fighter-pilot relative.

The console port of Diablo 3 certainly got a taste of this double-edged sword. Following a PC release which received criticism for an always online requirement and “cheat-to-win” (allegedly!) auction house, it managed to do away with some bothersome features and achieve a more arcade feel which harkened back to the classics of ARPGs like Gauntlet (ask your parents). On rare occassion, games with an origin in the PC market are actually improved by their port to console and Diablo 3 fits the bill. As our review put it, “It feels right. It feels good. And that is how games are meant to feel.” With a greater emphasis on team-play with your mates at home, it finally hit that sweet spot fans were looking for… but a little too late for most.
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Diablo 3 had a turbulent PC release but recaptured some glory from its console port.

Lost Planet 3 and GTA V take up opposite ends of the spectrum. The former franchise seemed to be on a downwards trajectory from a promising start, never distinguishing itself enough from peers like Dead Space to hit the big time. The transition to new developers Spark failed to ignite (sorry) any new avenues or features for the game to explore, instead turning in a lacklustre series of “set-pieces utilising a god-awful mix of timing blocks, quicktime events (and) tedious shooting galleries”.

GTA V on the other hand… what more could we add to our own Steve McCullough’s review? The most recent installment has almost certainly taken more column inches than the major news stories of 2013, let alone other AAA games. It grossed over $1bn - billion - in just three days. As a series Grand Theft Auto stands alone in its capacity for reinvention and trend-setting. It’s true there have been flaws - GTA Online cough cough - but as seminal moments in gaming history go, Rockstar North are taking up more than their fair share of the trophies. Taking in the best parts of its cousin games like Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne, anything not approaching perfection just wasn’t going to cut the mustard.
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Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears a Crown.

The hallmark of any franchise worth its heritage is the humble (or sometimes not so humble) Collector’s Edition, with our top-ten rundown recapping the best of the best. It’s a testament to the quality of these editions nowadays that Bethesda’s TES Skyrim collection didn’t make the list. Did anyone ever buy the $1m USD Saints Row IV Super Dangerous Wad Wad Edition, complete with its own space walk? Probably most of us will be settling for GAME’s Christmas dinner in a tin instead.

Last but not least, we reported on Valve’s attempts to expand their empire through developing a Steam-OS for their (now imminent) Steam Box and a number of gamer-friendly features like game sharing between Steam friends. I could swear Microsoft announced something similar for the Xbone… how did that go down again?image
Will 2014 usher in a sea-change in PC gaming?

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