Most Anticipated of 2012: Garnett's Picks

By Shack Staff, Dec 28, 2011 9:00am PST

There's a lot to be excited for in 2012, and the Shacknews staff each have five games on their radar. The editorial team at Shacknews outlines their most anticipated games of 2012 individually. Next up we've got editorial director Garnett Lee and his list of top 2012 titles.

Sound Shapes

I'm a certifiable house head. Actually, make that all electronica. Within a couple minutes of playing around with Sound Shapes, I knew I'd found just the tool to let me unleash the inner producer I've been pretty sure has been trying to get out. The music creation tool in Sound Shapes is no "game" in the sense of being limited to fit a play mechanic. It packs a full library of sounds from which to assemble complex compositions. It just happens to do them with a friendly interface that takes advantage of the Vita to make it incredibly easy to quickly put together rhythm, percussion, and melody.

There's also a game, and it's equally fun to play. A platformer of sorts, levels are created from what would be the digital sheet music so to speak of the track being played. Obstacles must be passed in order to advance --these being the "shapes" to go with the "sound." The two together not only lend the game its title, they describe its two simple components that work together so well to get my creativity going.

Xenoblade Chronicles

I won't lie; prior to Operation Rainfall (the grassroots effort to get the game released in North America) I doubt I'd have even recognized the title Xenoblade Chronicles. The game released in Japan in the summer of 2010 to very favorable reviews, but with Japanese role playing games thought to be on the decline, received little international attention.

Word of mouth for the game grew, though, as import game fans played it. Videos showed a game that hit the highpoints of the genre that seemed to be mostly missed this generation. It boasts an expansive game world to explore and uses a hybrid combat system that has characters attack with a basic programmed set of attacks that can be interrupted to use powerful arts. That alone would have gotten me going, but when I saw how many people were modding their Wiis to run the European version when it came out this year, my interest was piqued. I was about ready to go down that route too, but with Nintendo of America finally relenting, I'll wait a couple months and hopefully help send a little message to them that niche titles have a place in their catalog as well.

Journey

Developer thatgamecompany is known for its games fl0w and flower, which are often cited as examples in the whole "are games art?" debate. Journey is sure to be the next addition to that conversation. Its evocative abstract art style works hand-in-hand with its story concept of a pilgrim making their way across the lands.

Screenshots don't do justice to the sense of a vast horizon, beckoning me to take the next step on that pilgrimage. Not can videos convey the uncanny sense of weightlessness floating on air currents carried by my character's magic scarf. But it's the anonymous multiplayer that inspires me the most. It's a social experiment; one I hope changes perceptions about what playing online can be like. By making it impersonal, the game leaves players to come to their own social contracts for playing together, all without speaking to each other. It fascinates me, and I can't wait to see how the agreed upon methods of in-game communication evolve.

BioShock Infinite

I loved BioShock as much for its vision of a broken utopia as the fun combination of ability-boosting plasmids and shooting. BioShock Infinite holds the promise of going a step further by letting me not just see the end results, but to be there, caught up in the moment as a society collapses. Couple that with unstable time rifts that can immediately superimpose any era--past, present, or perhaps future--on the situation, and some interesting possibilities for examining social engineering open up.

And Infinite promises plenty of action as well. Those time rifts are also part of the combat system. They offer options to support my tactics at the moment such as opening up new routes to flank enemies or calling in heavy cover to take shelter behind. Whizzing around the cloud city riding the skyrails with a hook looks intense as well. I admittedly am a little wary of how well it will work, but the designers have reassured me that if there's one thing they know they have to get right; it's keeping that fun, and not a frustrating experience of always falling to my death. I'm always on board for fun first.

Mass Effect 3

Much as I've spoken out about how it appears to be dead set to be an action game first, Mass Effect 3 holds me firmly in its grasp. I got on board with the first game and, more than any series I can think of before it, I want to see it through to the conclusion. While true that it plays in the manner of a third person shooter, that familiar gunplay challenges the traditional definition of a role playing game.

I'd argue that in some ways, Mass Effect provides me better role playing than other games that might be more readily classified as such based solely on their combat systems. I've come through the journey with my Shepard, and she (yes, she) is one tough son of a bitch. I can't wait to face the reapers down with her, and (hopefully) the familiar team at my side. Great sci-fi has always been about the characters; BioWare stands on the brink of perfecting conversation control as a relationship building mechanism able to pull that off in a game.

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