Winner – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
2011 was a massive year for gaming. It was the year that saw Modern Warfare 3 make more money in its first weekend than James Cameron’s Avatar, it was the year that a virtually unknown game called Rift stepped up and bit a chunk out of the mighty World of Warcraft and it was the year that the world went Skyrim mad.
Skyrim is the fifth instalment of the Elder Scrolls series, Bethesda Studios’ groundbreaking sandbox rpg franchise. The point of Elder Scrolls games is to drop the player off in a massive fantasy setting and leave them to explore at their own pace. The level of detail applied to games is legendary (Patrick Stewart is on record as saying that the character notes he received for his part in the previous Elder Scrolls game were some of the most detailed he has ever been given) and at 300+ hours of gameplay Skyrim is no exception.
To call Skyrim “big” is something of an understatement, Skyrim is HUGE. You can quite happily clock up 20-30 hours of play without ever leaving the first city and after weeks of trekking through the eye-wateringly beautiful mountains you’ll still have barely scratched the surface. Couple that vast scope with a combat system that manages the difficult feat of being equally exciting on both PC and console, graphics that will take your breath away and some of the best quest writing in years and it’s easy to place the game of the year crown on Skyrim’s head.
It was very nearly not that simple of course. For some time it very much looked like we’d be looking at a head to head battle between Skyrim and the third instalment of Bioware’s Mass Effect series as both games squared up for a November 11th release. Had both releases gone ahead we would have been looking at one of the biggest clashes since Mario vs Sonic and given the pedigree of the Mass Effect franchise it’s a hell of a tough one to call. Perhaps fortunately it’s a call we’ll never have to make as Bioware decided to abandon the Christmas market and moved their release date into early 2012. There have been plenty of great games but with Commander Shepard out of the way there really isn’t anything in Skyrim’s league.
Runner Up – Game Dev Story
There have been a number of fantastic PC and console games released in 2011 but given the meteoric rise of mobile gaming this year it seemed right to grant the runner up prize to something that fits in your pocket. Of the games on offer I think I’m going to have to give the prize to Kariosoft’s charming Game Dev Story.
Game Dev Story sees you take over the running of a video game company in the early 90s and gives you a set number of years to turn your little venture into a multinational programming empire. You get to decide what kind of games your company will produce (I became a pioneer of the Action/Golf genre) what staff you will hire to do the job and how your games will be marketed. It’s full of sly references to the evolution of gaming and if you like old fashioned sim games then it’s an absolute must.
Come back tomorrow for another BTB award!