I recently had a chance to reflect a little bit on my favorite "surprise" games this gen thanks to Sterling Smiths post "Biggest good surprises of this gen" thread.
Sterling touched upon something that can make an underrated game so special. It's because those game are special - they are surprises. The best games for me only include 2 elements: Anticipation and Rewards. Those are pretty broad terms, but I feel they are universal. Especially when the driving force behind the anticipation is curiosity. What's behind those mountains in Skyrim? What squad is around the corner in Battlefield 3? What will happen when I choose to go with Roche or Iorveth?
But anticipation can come earlier, when you know very little about a game, it has mixed reviews but you say "you know what, f*ck it, I'm taking a chance with my wallet and time on this game". When you are rewarded for that risk, it seems greater to me. I know the next Zelda/Mass Effect/Elder Scrolls game will be well made and fun, but that takes some of the surprise out of it.
What it made me realize is that I am sad. I am a sad, lonely gamer. My favorite characters and games this gen will very likely not be getting any more love. I took a chance on these games as I am sure many of you did. All of them I bought used, found out I loved them, went straight back to the store, returned it and bought it brand spanking new so that I could hope to see more from the developer.
Thats enough jibber jabber though, here are my favorite games this gen that won't be returning.
Alice: Madness Returns
The most beautiful art direction in a game this gen. Sure the gameplay was repetitive but you know what? I don't care. Video games are repetitive by nature. Alice had a terribly dark and creepy story, it had good platforming, fun weapons, gorgeous style and some of the mini-games were a blast. This was by no means a 10/10 game, but the elements that Spicy Horse and American McGee really nailed, made me attach to this game unlike others before it this gen.
Now, there may just be an Alice 3, at the end of the game you do see something that hints at a possibility of another game, but McGee and Spicy Horse are also heavily focused on mobile development right now. Needless to say, the future looks bleak for Alice. Pun intended.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
I thought this would be a terrible escort game, but Trip stays out of the way of Monkey for the most part. I never had a single co-op problem with this game. I liked the combat, I really enjoyed the traversal in the game and the combat wasn't great, but it was serviceable.
The story in this game is based off of Journey to the West, an ancient Chinese novel. It is incredible how well they adapted the old story into a modern one. Instead of a magic ring on Monkey's head it is a tech based one. Trip is a modern day sorcerer of technology. The characters are where most of the similarities end however and Enslaved becomes a story of how two opposites forced to work together become an inseparable duo.
An escaped prisoner, who ends up being "imprisoned" by a headband almost immediately following his escape, becomes a guardian for Trip through watching a series of terrible, hearbreaking moments. The transition from "He is forced to help", to "He wants to help" is written expertly for a video game and creates a very strong bond between not just Monkey and the Trip, but the player to Trip.
The video below is a massive ass spoiler but one of my favorite moments in any game. What makes this so sad is that earlier in the game you revealed this information to Trip angrily, and at that moment as the player, I agreed with Monkey. She was too idealistic and hoped for too much in a destitute world.
Your relationship evolves though and you begin to want to hope with Trip. The sad part comes when what you said to hurt Trip, turns out to be true.
Again, totally not seeing any sort of sequel to this game.
One day, I might write an individual post on why this game's dialogue and acting were the best this gen, but another time...
Darksiders and Darksiders II were 2 of my absolute favorite gens. I am thankful I got to play a sequel to the first but I would have downright loved to play as many installments in this franchise as possible.
Legend of Zelda style puzzles and dungeons, God of War style combat and additional loot elements? AWESOME. Super fun Prince of Persia style traversal? AWESOME. I could go on and on about this game. Unlike Alice and Enslaved lacking in the gameplay but having excellent art/story, this game has incredible gameplay, almost nirvana like, and the art is downright incredible. The story is cool on a sort of cliche level, but who cares, the premise is what's cool about this.
I know that Vigil didn't get a bid most likely because they were furthest away from a new title release date, but it doesn't make this hurt any less. Out of all the games THQ had, I thought Vigil and Darksiders would have gotten picked up immediately.
I was horribly wrong however. There will not be another Darksiders game.
I took a risk on each one of these games, and the rewards were great. I felt like I was in on some kind of secret. It's a damn shame that it really was a secret and the sales weren't there to continue developing further iterations. This is why I am a sad, lonely gamer, because I won't see Alice, Monkey or Trip or Death or War again. I won't even get to meet Strife and Fury.
But that's ok, I am sure there will be new secrets next gen as well. :)
What are some of your favorite games that won't see sequels?