Dota 2 I was keenly anticipating Dota 2 this time last year, and I still am. Yes, though you and I may have played hundreds of hours of Dota in the semi-public beta, it's not finished and out yet so on the list it goes. Valve still has 15 heroes to bring over from the original Warcraft III mod DotA Allstars, not to mention a tutorial to finish, general polish to apply, and other jazz. At the pace it's improving and expanding, a 2013 release looks likely. As Dota 2 is already the best video game, having it complete and open to everyone will be jolly exciting. The pro scene, which is pretty great fun to follow, can only benefit too. Oh, what is Dota 2? It's a multiplayer, team-based, objective-oriented, competitive, tactical action-RPG with 129 items, 94 characters, and 1 map, with each round lasting roughly 30 minutes to an hour. It's beautifully intricate, hugely rewarding, and so punishingly uninviting that I hesitate to recommend it to anyone. It is the best video game, though.
Doting on Dota
BOOM video 10764 Sportsfriends I'm not boasting, right, but I am pretty great at shoving. I really am not boasting, honest, but I've been remembered and recognised months later by strangers for how well I shove people, a reputation mostly earned for playing the amazing first-person shover Johann Sebastian Joust. Joust is one of my absolute favourite games but has been one of those fabled 'indie event games' like Nidhogg, which most people only ever get to play a few times each year. It's finally getting a proper release next year in the Kickstarted collection Sportsfriends, which also includes crackers BaraBariBall, Super Pole Riders and Hokra. These are all wonderful. This is exciting.
Gone Home I am some kind of monster, yet I cried when I first played an early version of Gone Home. Not tears of joy cheated out of me with sappy soaring orchestral strings and a melodramatic death, as video games so often attempt, no--tears of joy cried at a beautiful point in its story. That's uncommon. Environmental storytelling is one of video game narratives' greatest tools, and Gone Home runs wild with it. The gang at Fullbright Company, who worked together at 2K on BioShock 2's fine DLC Minerva's Den, have crafted a sprawling family home where each room has purpose, and each item is placed in a practical and meaningful way. As we rummage in drawers, read diaries, scan VHS collections, and observe the careful placement of everyday objects, we come to know the family and uncover their mysteries. The story is beautifully written, told and acted, and offers a slice of life far more terrifying than any alien invasion or undersea uprising: teenagehood. Tears rating: 7/10.
Proteus Booze is all that can really revive flagging interest at the end of any day-long conference, so They say, but Proteus is more special than any amount of gin. Last year, Proteus creator Ed Key closed out an indie games conference in London that, lovely as it was, took place in a flipping freezing hall and its attendees had all woken up far too early. Rather than talk about his struggles and successes in developing the first-person explore 'em up, lead a rallying call for indie games, or rag on Big Video Games, he simply ran Proteus projected onto a screen and left a controller at the front. People wandered aimlessly across bright landscapes, pausing to tease singing flowers, watch stars bubble, and chase frogs, and we all watched, rapt. Proteus is a lucid dream where we it never occurs to us to fly into space or hold hands with Tilda Swinton, because a stroll in the countryside is just so beautiful. My friend and I rested our heads together as the craving for mother's ruin drained out of us. Special stuff, that game.
Dragon Age 3 As the only game on this list I haven't already played of enough to know I adore, Dragon Age 3 is a bit of a shot in the dark. Basically, I would quite like to make a lady person, dress her up in pretty clothes then kill hundreds of men, monsters, or animals, and Dragon Age 3 seems like my best shot at this in 2013. I'm not very good at being excited about games in advance based on the tiny details publishers decide to release, see. I'm jolly excited about all these games I've played because, you know, I know they're jolly exciting, but no marketing campaign has yet captured my imagination for 2013. Sure, Dragon Age is a pleasant series and I honestly enjoyed 2 more than the original so it'll be nice to see how this all pans out. Chiefly, though, ladykills.
Not pictured in concept art: a lady just killing loads of stuff