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Games of the Year 2013

Brian Tomlinson's Awards
5) Knights of Pen and Paper +1 (PC, Android, iOS)
Capturing the spirit of everything that encompasses Dungeons and Dragons style Pen and Paper RPGs, this charming indie release really caught my attention earlier this year by introducing an addictive and interesting system for playing the game. You assume the roles of both the participants and the Dungeon Master, allowing you to choose your own adventure and challenges along the way. This gimmick had me so thoroughly invested that before I realized it, I had already sunk an embarrassing number of hours into all its little oddities. The game is a walking trope of everything I love about Pen and Paper RPGs, and makes no attempt to hide it — not that I would want it to.

4) Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)
I love strategy RPGs. I love Fire Emblem. That said, Awakening was not what I originally expected when I opened the box. When I booted up the game, I was approached with the foreign concept of creating my own personal avatar — unbeknownst to me at the time, he would be integrated into the story beautifully. However interesting that was, what sells me on Fire Emblem is not the story, but the gameplay and character management. There is a sick part of me that takes pleasure in grinding in games to get loot, acquire better gear, level up — you name it. The characters are relatively interesting (even though a majority of them are playable anime stereotypes), and a select few resonated with me. The real beauty of Awakening is the brutal combat, character advancement, and gearing up for the next encounter. In that facet, this entry is easily the best to date.

3) Shadowrun Returns (PC, Android, iOS)
Combing assets of my previous two entries, it came as absolutely no surprise that when Shadowrun Returns was released, it was an instant buy for me. I was mildly disappointed that I picked it up for Android originally, which almost put me off of the game permanently, but I stuck it out and do not regret a minute of it. Despite its flaws (and there are some glaring ones), there are positives to this game that cannot be overlooked. Shadowrun has a great soundtrack, deep combat, top-notch character progression, and a world that was truly interesting — all of which allowed me to continue on, forgetting its pitfalls. What really cemented this entry was picking it up for PC. The modding community took the editor that comes with Shadowrun and immediately went to work. There are countless additions, improvements, and entire stories that players can experience past what is introduced right out of the box. This, in and of itself, is the reason to get this game.

2) Tales of Xillia (PS3)
I can't say enough good things about Tales of Xillia, so I'll try to keep it short. This game is a beautifully crafted addition to the powerhouse Tales franchise. The combat is some of the best I've seen in any Tales game, which is not to mention the addition of all of its new systems at a level of complexity not found in any other entries to date. Simply put, I am addicted to leveling up shops with items found on monsters and I am hooked on using the Lilium Orb to advance my characters in ways I personally see fit. This tickles my grind-loving bone so heavily that I can spend countless amounts of hours just doing the same things over and over again. No time ever really feels wasted, because you're always advancing in some way. While the story is what you'd expect from a Tales game: "Group of heroes save the world," this franchise has almost always been about the characters getting there. They are interesting, relateable, and fun to play throughout Xillia. I can easily look back on this one and place it with my other favorite Tales Games.

1) Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PC)
Shocker, I know. This being my favorite game of 2013 shouldn't really come as a surprise to anyone, as I'm sure a lot of other people feel the same. Its Rocky-style comeback is unprecedented and a remarkable example of what a dedicated team can do for its fan base. One can go on forever about how bad/terrible/omgwtf its first attempt was, but more than anything else, it needs to be stated how much of a massive success A Realm Reborn is. Its beautiful world, fantastic character advancement, excellent gameplay, and support from the development team secure A Realm Reborn's stay in today's gaming world. It makes me shudder when I think of what else I could've been doing with my time instead of playing A Realm Reborn when I look back and realize how much time I've spent playing it. Its awe-inspiring scenery and its engrossing areas seamlessly blend with some of the best music in any Final Fantasy game to date, and those are by themselves reasons to keep an eye on this game. And if Square-Enix's previous MMO entry (Final Fantasy XI) is any indication of longevity and support, then A Realm Reborn will most certainly be hailed for years to come as one of the best — if not THE best.

Best Non-RPG
The Last of Us (PS3)
I find myself sitting here trying to come up with some kind of downfall; something about this game that isn't incredible, and then it hits me — there is absolutely nothing wrong with this game. This game instantly cemented itself in my all-time favorites, and for good reason. It has a fantastic score, the character development is some of the best I've participated in, the atmosphere is tense and nerve-wracking, and it includes some of the most emotionally challenging scenes that I've ever borne witness to. I have no shame in confessing that I had to choke back tears multiple times throughout The Last of Us, and that in and of itself is a feat that no game easily accomplishes.

Best Game I Didn't Play Until This Year
TIE! 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors; Virtue's Last Reward (DS, 3DS)
Holy mother of plot-twist. These games are right up my alley in regards to story: mind-melding in nature, forcing me to wrack my brain too many times to recall. I cannot give enough praise to its well thought out dialogue, intriguing characters, and the air of mystery surrounding the entirety of the game. They are absolutely fantastic, and I'm still reeling from the finale of both entries.

Overall Awards
Traditional RPG Action RPG Graphic Adventure Strategy RPG Indie RPG MMORPG Port or Re-Release Downloadable Content (DLC) Best Combat Best Visuals Best Sound Best Story Best Non-RPG
And the winner is...
Best RPG of 2013
Editors' Picks
Andrew Barker Neal Chandran Derek Heemsbergen Abraham Ashton Liu John McCarroll Stephen Meyerink Kyle E. Miller Zackery Parkerson Mike Salbato Robert Steinman Brian Tomlinson John Tucker Dave Yeager
Reader's Choice
Reader's Choice Best RPG of 2013






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