A look back at 2013.

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Happy belated New Years everyone!  2013 was a great year for gaming, even if it wasn’t so great for your privacy rights. This goes double for PC gaming (well, not so much the privacy issues if you know what you’re doing).   We saw the tired notions that PC gaming was a dying platform die itself, mostly due to the help of digital marketplaces like Steam and GOG pushing a huge library of games out onto modern systems with little hassle.  If there is anything to take away from 2013 it’s that even the oldest games can have another day in the light, as games going back to the DOS era have found themselves in millions of user’s digital collections.
But what were some of the best and worst of the year?  Let’s take a look!

Console Ports

One of the huge breakthroughs in PC gaming in the past two years has been the outpour of support from publishers and developers who usually only make games for filthy plebes on consoles.  This is thanks in part to two developments.  One was the decision from Microsoft to allow the Xbox 360 controller to work seamlessly with Windows operating systems and enjoy full driver support. The other, more recent, change was the hardware makeup of the next generation of consoles that have come out in 2013.   Quite frankly both the PS4 and Xbox One are both essentially mid-high range gaming PCs in most of the important ways, and this has made it easy for developers to port games across all platforms.

A lot came out in 2013, but the best of the bunch included Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and Metal Gear Rising from Konami.  Both of these games were earlier releases on consoles, but they are both from series that traditionally don’t release on the PC.  The one genre that never made it big on PCs was fighting games which also changed in 2013.  The Mortal Kombat reboot, King of Fighters XIII, and the self referential Divekick also made its splash on the PC in digital markets.
Rereleases

If 2013 could be called the year of anything it should be the year of the rerelease.  There are quite honestly too many great games to touch on that have seen a new light through Good Old Games and Steam, but best among them is an HD release of Age of Empires II.  Age of Empires II was a classic RTS that took the basic research and micromanagement system of Command and Conquer, Warcraft, and StarCraft and turned the dial to 11.  Set in a historical medieval setting, you’ll learn the true meaning of YOLO when an army of monks sing the now cringe worthy phrase as they convert your whole empire to their side.

Indie

2013 continued to demonstrate that we live in the golden age of independent gaming.  With Kickstarter revolutionizing the way developers raise capital to create high quality games, games like Paper, Please can dare to challenge our minds politically and Slinder: The Arrival can challenge our hearts frighteningly. Gunpoint has become a runaway stealth action/puzzle hit, and Fez brought even more old school pixel fun to the table.  The underground hit Zeno Clash also got a sequel and shouldn’t be missed if you didn’t pick up a copy.

MMOs


Massively Multiplayer Online games are still going strong, but World of Warcraft’s reign saw the beginning of the end in 2013.  Sure, it barely managed to hold on to its crown as the year ended, but there’s no questioning that it’ll soon lose its place as the number one MMO in the world.  What came out to challenge the juggernaut last year?  Among all of the contenders is Age of Wushu, a martial arts themed MMO from China.  When you think of video games you usually think in terms of the UK, USA, Japan, and Korea when dealing with MMOs, but China hasn’t made a big splash in gaming until now.  Age of Wushu can be consider the first big Chinese hit internationally and it boasts a population that will likely eclipse World of Warcraft’s soon.

Final Fantasy XIV was a huge flop, but Square Enix took a huge risk in investing millions rebuilding the game from the ground up and A Realm Reborn has been a huge success commercially and critically.  It’s widely considered to be one of the best “hotbar” style MMOs yet, and it earns that title in spades.  FFXIV wasn’t the only game to get a major revamp, Eve Online Rubicon has hit us with a lot of new content and features which seek to expand the Eve galaxy and eventually fully connect it to the first person shooter Dust 514 and maybe even Valkyrie, a dog fighting component to Eve announced last year.

What you absolutely can’t miss out on.

If you spent 2013 hiding underneath a rock, no one blames you.  After all, you thought the world was going to end the year before, and surely we would have found a way to blow ourselves up by now.  If you did just decided to come out of the bunker, you owe it to yourself to try out Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, the campy stand alone expansion to Far Cry 3 that evokes everything awesome about the 80’s.  Might and Magic Heroes VI pushed the turned based strategy series further along and is worth having in your collection, as is the long awaited Shadowrun Returns.   Shadowrun Returns is the sequel to the Shadowrun games on the SNES and Genesis and is also a turned based strategy game that plays much closer to the pen and paper series.  Metro Last Light and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs will make you crap your pants, and March of the Eagles is such an addicting strategy game that it’ll make you forget to get up and clean yourself off as your plot your march across Napoleonic Europe.

 

And the stuff you wish you had missed.

2013 was also the year of some Hindenburg size disasters.  SimCity was among the top of them, an always online reboot of the massive SimCity franchise it was non functional on release and found to be greatly inferior to any other SimCity release entirely because of the always online mechanics.  Before SimCity many were worried that we were inevitably heading towards an always online future but the horrendous SimCity launch pretty much killed any momentum an always online feature set had if it wasn’t married the kind of game on display like an MMO.

The rub came in from the fact that SimCity and a whole spate of newly minted games that were primarily single player experiences required an internet connection for no other reason than to attempt to block piracy, often with a small set of throwaway benefits like item sharing, or in SimCity’s case city resource sharing, feel completely tacked on and often gives no real benefit to the player.  In the end hackers discovered that the game’s internal mechanics were woefully inadequate and didn’t really use any kind of collective server power that EA claimed it did, so it really didn’t need to be online and the design decisions made around it needing to be hampered the game’s quality.   The aftermath of the EA disaster and a culmination of other issues with Star Wars the Old Republic and other EA holdings caused its CEO to resign and the titan is now restructuring and rebuilding their business and their image.

Aliens: Colonial Marines was another huge bomb, angering consumers as the footage from trade shows looked a million times better than the end product we got.  It ended up being a broken and bland first person shooter with no heart or terror, and this may have been because Gearbox took Sega’s money and dumped it all into their other flagship title Borderlands 2Mechwarrior Online, the much awaited return of the Mechwarrior franchise, has become a free to play boondoggle as the game has seriously become a pay to win mess with very little new features or content coming out besides new things to buy in the cash shop.  Last is Ashes Cricket 2013 has become one of the first games to ever be cancelled after the game was released, making it somewhat of a collector’s item overnight, with the game being barely functional upon release.

When it’s all said and done…

2013 was a great year of PC gaming despite the high profile disasters.  If you participated in any of the many deals on digital marketplaces you likely racked up a list of hundreds of games spanning the entire history of PC gaming from new to old and all of it is quality entertainment.  Genres that rarely see the light of day on PCs had major releases, and it looks like the future of PC gaming is bright indeed with the coming Steam Box and Steam OS.  Join us soon with a look forward into what 2014 might hold for us, the exciting new world of virtual reality, and a list of releases to watch out for!

Follow Zachary Freeman:

Zachary Freeman is the former owner and co-founder of an IT firm that specialized in custom hardware and software solutions. With over a decade of experience building custom PCs and years spend behind a keyboard and mouse fighting off the Horde, Kilrathi, the Empire, and the likes of Shodan and the Zerg, I've taken my knowledge to the web so I can share my tales and expertise. .

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