This post kicks off Nitrobeard's official Game of the Year 2010 weeklong event! Starting today, we'll have editors posting their picks, hits, misses, and best memories of a year gone by. Mark Bradshaw started a bit early this year, but God bless him for being on top of things, right? Instead of starting with my Top 10 Games of 2010 (which you'll see this Thursday), I thought I'd start off the week with 3 games that didn't quite make the cut, but deserve recognition regardless. Any other year, these games would be on countless lists, but with 2010 being the monster it was, they sadly got pushed by the wayside. These three games are definitely worth your hard-earned coinage, so without further ado...
The only reason this didn't make my Top 10 list, is because it's not officially released. Sure, some could argue that once a game is available to play (and spend money on), it's considered 'released', but with the grand idea of Minecraft, it blurs the line a bit. For those not in the know, Minecraft is the very definition of a sandbox games: You are given a randomly generated world to explore, and the only rules you must follow are 1) create items to fend of nighttime attacks and 2) do it with style. Create forts out of rock and wood, scout dangerous caves with nothing but torches and a keen sense of direction, and run like hell when those terrifying creepers howl at you during the blackness of night. The beauty of Minecraft is definitely in its lo-fi approach. You're not given a huge backstory, there's not an epic world to save, and there's not anybody there to guide your hand with hours of tutorials. It's a stellar realization when you consider that the base gameplay and design document have the same thing in mind: discovery. You discover your own fun, all the while discovering the random area in which you're spawned. There's really no limit on what can be accomplished within the confines of this world, and that can't be said about too many videogames anymore. It has the same appeal as an old school RPG, and I was constantly reminded of the great times I had growing up with Ultima, or The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall. It is the ultimate 'watercooler moment' experience, and the best $15 you can spend this year.
If there's one game that has needed a clone for God knows how long, it's Zelda. There's just something incredibly fulfilling with that perfect blend of adventure, action, and progression, and for decades, only Nintendo has had that formula under lock and key. Darksiders, however, has successfully changed that. You are War, the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and you are sent to Earth during its final days. You're accompanied by your trusty horse, Ruin, and do the bidding of the Charred Council. The Zelda formula is here to the letter: You have your horse, you have your 'sidekick' (The Watcher), you power up your health after successful boss encounters, you progress through multi-tiered dungeons, and even end up wielding a 'Master Sword' (the Armageddon Blade). Calling it a straight Zelda clone would be a bit unfair, though, as Darksiders implements its own brand of aesthetic to the mix. Joe Madureira has a great world here, and with the sequel in the works, I'm glad to see that this is a franchise that will be around for quite some time. High replay value, silky smooth combat, and pitch-perfect voice acting all come together to make Darksiders a sleeper hit, one you definitely shouldn't pass up. Hell, it's even on Steam now! What are you waiting for?
Blizzard has balls of steel. With being on top of the MMO genre, one would think the most viable strategy is to play it safe, not shake the foundation, and coast on by, riding on your laurels until your next game announcement. With Cataclysm, though, Blizzard didn't take the easy way out: They changed the very core of WoW, in the most drastic move I've seen since launch. Character classes are now very specific once again, cookie cutter builds are now frowned upon, and players have to end up learning their class if they want to be successful. While soloing is still a great option to play, Cataclysm has introduced huge incentives for teamwork, parties, and guild activity: You're never just playing for yourself, you're changing the world around you. It's very much a new game, not only in the regard that the entire game world has changed, but there's a new excitement for old-time players. Old starter zones are now destroyed, new quest chains have added tons of lore to the already expansive list of events, and professions have become less of a side project for characters, and can now be a crucial part to the leveling process. It's such a different game, and in my opinion, it's the best it has ever been. The core mechanics of 'do this, find this, kill this, profit' are still present, but the focus has shifted: You can play the game the way you want to play it, and you'll be constantly rewarded for it. This is the best that World of Warcraft has ever been, and in many respects, this could essentially be WoW 1.5. If you're new to the series, it's the best time to jump in and get started, and if you're an old-timer like myself, then you're probably playing right now instead of reading this article. Either way, Cataclysm should be on every gamer's wishlist, if only to see what the fuss is about. A perfect case study for big-budget game design. Instead of 'If it ain't broke, why fix it?' , Blizzard realized that to stay on top, it had to do something drastic. Life needs a little chaos sometimes, don't you agree?