Two 96s and a controversial 94.
Phil: Do we tackle Dragon Age II now, or should we try to bury it two-thirds of the way through the spread where people might not notice?
Pip: Well, the other option is to entirely delegate it to They’re Back where not only is it celebrated, but its 94 has been transformed into a 96. Hopefully that will absorb so much flak we can say what we like here. It’s basically an immunity potion in article form!
Phil: In that case, reader, I invite you to direct your anger at Chris. Also, though, I do like Dragon Age II. Yes, it is bad that 75% of it is set in either Kirkwall’s only warehouse or a cave, but it does offer some of the best friendships in any BioWare game, which is really saying something. The structure means your relationships evolve over the course of years, and that means you really get to know your companions in a way that makes their actions meaningful. All that said, though, it is not the best, most important game of the years 2008 to 2012.
I could, however, see an argument for Dragon Age: Origins.
It sits in a very interesting space – still clearly influenced by Infinity Engine games like Baldur’s Gate or Icewind Dale, but also carving out its own path as a modern 3D RPG. I think, quietly, it was pretty influential. It opened up the genre to a new audience, something
The Witcher 2 successfully capitalised on just a few years later.
Andy: I thought Dragon Age II was utter rubbish. Sorry.
Phil: That is not an unreasonable position to take.
Samuel: Andy is not correct, but
Dragon Age II is not the best game on this list, as much as I love hanging with Varric in the Hanged Man.
Skyrim is now part of the furniture, we’ve talked about it so many times. But it’d get my vote here. Deus Ex was probably a bit overscored. I revisited it a few years ago, and it is a pared down version of what the original game was going for. Mankind Divided is a better version of that.
Minecraft is probably the most important game on here – but I’ve never played it because I haven’t been 12 for 18 years. Dragon Age: Origins felt like the last great meat-and-potatoes classic RPG, and it’s close to the top for me. I wish BioWare would make another game like it. I think what this era represents was the rebirth of PC gaming – and these are some of the games that gave it life again.
Andy: Minecraft is probably the most important game here, at least in terms of cultural impact. But is it as good as Portal 2? Is it heck. Portal 2 is as close as I’ve seen to a perfectly formed game. Every aspect – puzzles, pacing, story, music, voice acting – is of a quality rarely seen in games. I love how it slowly increases the complexity of the puzzles by introducing new elements, like that wonderful, bouncy goo. I love seeing the Aperture facility change over the years, from the ugly patterned carpets of the ’70s to the gleaming white of the present day. I love J.K. Simmons, like, just in general. And the story, despite being largely played for laughs, has a touch of darkness, too. It didn’t spawn many imitators, mainly because it’s just so damn hard to copy something this clever, but for me it has to be one of the ten best games ever made.
Pip: I think I’m in the same boat as Andy here. Minecraft has the clout when it comes to cultural impact, but I have no personal fondness for it. My recent return to check out an update also involved so much Microsoft Store nonsense that I might even be starting to actively sour towards the game. But when it comes to Portal 2 my eyes light up and I start looking at nearby folk to assess them for their puzzle-solving co-op potential. Portal 2 is just such a beautifully executed thing. I will say that Andy seems to have lucked out in saying it didn’t spawn many imitators, though. As someone who has had to pick through more than a handful of “it’s like the Portal games but…” projects I can honestly say that Valve did something spectacular to make Portal 2 so good.
Tom: Wandering down the mountain from the intro dungeon in Skyrim still feels like magic to me. At the time the consensus seemed to be that big singleplayer RPGs don’t really sell, and wow did Skyrim prove that wrong. Skyrim paved the way for big-budget RPGs like The Witcher 3
and gave the genre a boost at a vital time. It really is outstanding in its own right.
In terms of variety and atmosphere Skyrim has one of the best open world maps. Each area is distinct, but not too outlandish. It feels huge, thanks to those towering mountains, but it’s small enough for you to retain a sense of where you are. Sure, the story is generic and the dragons are a bit rubbish, but there are so many sidequests to stumble into.
Skyrim gives me a sense of adventure that few games manage, and the modding scene is just incredible.
Andy: I adore Skyrim’s
world, but the quest design and writing is pretty bad in places. Whenever I return to it, it’s to go for a wander and experience that incredible setting, not to replay quests. I agree about the sense of adventure, though. Bumping into weirdos while travelling between cities and getting tangled up in their lives is a great feeling. I just wish the quests themselves involved more than just going to a place, killing a guy, and bringing something back, or diving into dungeons made from the same limited selection of building blocks. That’s why, in my head, I never think of Skyrim as a great RPG. It’s more like an okay RPG that happens to be set in a really evocative, varied world.
Pip: Is this a good time to bring up
League of Legends?
Phil: For a minute there I thought we’d get through a spread without you going off-list. This one seems to be a clear choice between Skyrim and Portal 2. I agree that Skyrim’s open world is amazing – it’s a rich space, packed full of stuff to find and do, even outside of the slightly rubbish main story. Portal 2 probably isn’t as notable, but I really love
Pip: I’m one list feature away from going door to door asking people if they’ve heard the good word about MOBAs to which we didn’t give 90+. I’ve cottoned on to your trick though. I just have to keep talking long enough to get the final word and then I get to pick the winning game.
Portal 2 Portal 2 Portal 2 Portal 2 blah blah blah opinions about things. Hot takes, cold takes, Portal 2.
THIS ONE SEEMS TO BE A CLEAR CHOICE BETWEEN SKYRIM AND PORTAL2
ABOVE: The era when Creative Assembly put TotalWar at the end of the name.TOP RI GHT : Dragon Age:Origins is an odd mix of old and new.AB OVE RI GHT : The return of DeusEx was cause for much celebration from the PCG team of old.
BOTT OM: Spelunky is still one of the best platformers around.