What I played – 2009

I can’t do a top 10 list for 2009 that’s anything other than completely subjective. I don’t have time to play a huge variety of games, so I can’t compare what I do play to recent releases. I rarely pay full price for games any more, so I’m off the new-release train, and that prevents me from making any sort of objective game-quality comparisons.

With that disclaimer, I’ll mention some of the games that got a lot of play time, or were memorable for one reason or another.

First, my Gametap subscription is worthwhile for the Codemasters racing games alone. Colin McRae Rally, Dirt, and Grid are all great fun. They’re not ultra-realistic, so I can play them sans driving wheel and I don’t have to spend a lot of time tweaking the cars to have fun driving them. I’ve heard Dirt 2 get a lot of praise this year, and I’m not surprised. Codemasters makes racing fun.

Second, I haven’t heard any mention Team Fortress 2 in their yearly wrap-up, but Valve hasn’t rested on the laurels of their original release. The class updates and new maps are a lot of fun, and I’m still spending a lot of time enjoying TF2. It’s probably my most-played game of the past six months.

I did buy myself Dragon Age for Christmas, although I did so with a bit of hesitation. Baldur’s Gate, BG2, and Icewind Dale are all games I played but never finished, and I was concerned I would have similar issues with Dragon Age. Thankfully, DA has more in common with Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire, both of which I loved, and I’m really enjoying Dragon Age so far. In fact, I was having so much fun playing Dragon Age, I stayed up too late and forgot to buy Mass Effect for $4.95 when it was offered on the Steam holiday sale.

I played quite a bit of S.T.A.L.K.E.R through Gametap earlier in the year, so that was a definite buy on Steam for $1.99. When it’s time for a break from Dragon Age, I’m looking forward to jumping back in to Stalker, especially with the STALKER Complete high-definition graphics mod that really updates the look of the game.

I loved the Torchlight demo and bought it during the Steam sale for $9.99, only to see it drop to $4.99 shortly thereafter. I’m not concerned; in fact, I’m happy to give Runic a few extra bucks for another game I’m looking forward to playing after exhausting Dragon Age.

The Hunter, which was going to be my Overlooked Game of the Year, wasn’t completely overlooked, getting mentioned on the Gamers With Jobs 2009 review podcast. I bought a three-month license for The Hunter back in May, and it was a great value and very cool gaming experience. Even if you don’t hunt (I don’t hunt, I’m a vegetarian, for chrissakes), the game totally delivers an exciting simulation of finding, tracking, and shooting game. The Gamers With Jobs thread about the game has some tips if you’re curious about playing.

The Hunter can feel slow at first, but once you figure out your PDA (which pinpoints the direction of your calls and helps you track game) and you get on the trail of a target, and then spot the target, and then try to creep closer or, better, call the animal in to you for a clear shot, it’s an adrenaline rush of the highest gaming order.

You can play the game for free, with limited weapons and hunting only mule deer, but it’s totally worth paying $15 for a three-month license to also hunt whitetail deer, elk, turkey, and coyote.

Dwarf Fortress also got a lot of play this year. Graphically simple but otherwise wonderfully complex. It’s not a new game (the last release was in 2008), but it was new to me, and it got a lot of play this year. GWJ has two threads about it that are worth reading if you’re curious.

Those were the games I played the most (other than LoTRO and Eve Online, in which my interest faded away this year). And, like every year, Civilization always gets a good amount of play, so I’ve got to give it an honorable mention. Civ is consistently one of the best games of every year.

I missed a lot of quality new titles, but I don’t mind too much. I have lots of good gaming to look forward to in 2010 as more games drop in price and start to hit my “Buy” threshhold. 2010 looks like it’s going to be a great year for gaming.

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The Year I Fell Out of Love

I’ve never done reviews or predictions here. I’m not nearly timely enough in my posting to pull it off. That doesn’t mean I don’t mentally review the past gaming year, though, and this New Year’s brought the revelation that 2009 was the year I fell out of love with MMO’s.

I’ve gone through multiple stages of MMO burnout in the past, only to return with a vengeance to a new game/new world, but I suspect that’s no longer true. 2009 found me subscribing and unsubscribing twice to LoTRO and Eve (the closest current examples of the MMO design I prefer), and I don’t think I’ll ever play WoW again. I’m playing a lot of single player games and Team Fortress 2, and I don’t think I’m simply burned out in need of an MMO break any more. I might be done with MMO’s, unless something really interesting appears on the horizon.

MMO bloggers seem to be looking forward to Blizzard’s next WoW expansion, Bioware’s The Old Republic, and Star Trek Online in 2010. I have almost zero interest in any of them (TOR being an exception because of how much I’ve enjoyed Dragon Age, and I hold a shred of hope that Bioware will surprise me with TOR the way DA surprised me). I really don’t expect to buy or play Star Trek Online, and I can’t imagine ever returning to Azeroth. I had three good years in Azeroth, but I think I’ve exhausted that theme park. And honestly, I expect The Old Republic to be a similar theme park, albeit newer and shinier.

I don’t have the same sense of anticipation about new MMO’s that I once had. Maybe WAR broke me; I had so much hope for a DAoC-style game, and Mythic just abandoned so much of what I enjoyed about DAoC in WAR. It felt like it had been influenced far too much by WoW, and I have a fear the same will happen with The Old Republic. I’m still bitter about WAR, so much so that I can’t even bring myself to play the free trial to see what’s new.

The only game I can see myself perhaps trying again in the future is LoTRO. The new skirmish system in the Siege of Mirkwood expansion sounds interesting, and if they make the Book quests solo-able, that might be enough for me to give it another shot. I do enjoy my house, the crafting, and the huge world of Middle Earth, and there’s a lot I haven’t seen there yet; I’m not nearly as burned out there as I am with WoW. I suspect I’m going to have a long stretch of MMO-free gaming ahead of me before that happens, though. I just don’t feel the love any longer.