Culdcept's unique blending of Monopoly and card collecting finally tapped these shores in February. Though the series has never enjoyed much recognition outside of Japan, take one trip around the board and you'll see why Culdcept Saga remains one of the most addictive and fun strategy games available for any platform.
Where most games enjoy a small measure of support post release and then are quickly forgotten, Criterion continues to surprise us with its apparent boundless wellspring of energy and dedication to Paradise City. Free or not, the studio has demonstrated what it takes to keep a game relevant all year long, and it's a passion that other studios would do well to follow.
Condiments, while fine on their own, sometimes work better when mixed. A similar reaction can be seen with genres, and while such combinations can often spell a recipe for disaster, occasionally, as is the case with Lock's Quest, what we're left with is a flavor explosion. This nondescript strategy game kept me glued to the DS screens with its gameplay flavors of Rampart, tower defense and old fashioned role-playing. Deeee-licious.
Last year I called out Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar as one of 2007's most remarkable releases. This year Stardock continued to impress, releasing an expansion that not only builds upon the series' foundation, but completes the experience altogether. Numerous upgrades, from graphics and AI to a technology tree that still makes my head swim, all make Twilight of the Arnor the absolute standard in turn-based strategy. With all it offers, I honestly question if I'll need another strategy game ever again.
Codemasters knows racing. The studio also knows how to make a driving game both realistic and exciting without making the whole experience feel like work. GRiD kicks the crud from off of DIRT's mud-encrusted heels and takes the series to new heights and venues, from sun drenched speedways to demolition derbies. This is racing at is finest, and you won't find a more fun and rewarding time behind the wheel this year.
- Dark Sector: The glaive was one of the most fun and satisfying weapons in any game released this year, and made tearing through the game's numerous bad guys an absolute joy. Unfortunately, like so many of Dark Sector's enemies, the whole thing loses its head at the end thanks to one of the most mind-numbingly frustrating boss fights ever. Protip: Don't make the targeting reticle and the boss the same color. Please.
- Mega Man 9: The sheer fan service and dedication put towards releasing this game is ridiculous, especially when you consider that he developers had to actively work to dumb down their tools in order to make the experience look and play just as it would have if released some twenty year prior. An astounding development effort, and fun to boot.
- Tomb Raider: Underworld: Kudos to Crystal Dynamics for making Lara Croft fun to play with again. Now, give me Gex.
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl: It's a mantra you've read or heard before, but it still rings true. The Wii's pitifully inept online play hamstrings what could have -- and should have -- been a great experience. Here's the scenario, I'm older, and as such most of my gaming pals don't live on my block anymore. It's no longer convenient to have everyone in the same living room when the urge to play arises, and Nintendo goes out of its way to ensure that marquee titles like Brawl remain ignored on the shelf.
- Turok: How does this franchise continue to flop? It's got big guns AND dinosaurs?! Yet, this latest re-imagining of the Dinosaur Hunter proves once and for all that Turok has no bite.
- Lips: Microsoft's attempt to combat Sony's SingStar juggernaut is admirable, but ultimately ends up singing off key. Still, I love those wireless mics.
New Year's Resolution
To set aside more time to play games online with co-workers, so I don't have to simply nod along when they break out into discussions about headshots and zombies.