You were almost certainly one of the almost-infinite hordes who gathered around the universes' internet connections to discover whether or not RPS were going to devour chocolate today. If so, after the endeavor was over, you may have been left wondering why certain games didn't make the cut.
Here's where. Why did we ignore Supreme Commander? Why wasn't a game about slapping quite enough? Do we actually hate RPGs? Answers to these questions, and more, beneath the cut.
Probably the most obvious heavyweight PC contender to not show its face, at least of the games we've expressed an admiration for. In fact, it was actually on one of the earlier drafts of the Advent Calender. It's just when it came to write it, we realised that while we like Supreme Commander a lot and admire it enormously, we don't love it. Hell - I even quite like the setting, especially the brain-in-jars Cybrans. Problem is that your relationship with Supreme Commander is virtually sadomasochistic, with it as a harsh-iron skinned mistress and you being the pitiful politician being kicked around the concrete floor, while wearing Diapers, probably.
SUPREME COMMANDER: FORGED ALLIANCE
Same as above, really. Though if we had to choose, this is the incarnation we prefer.
UNREAL TOURNAMENT 3
Another game that was on the list, but booted out in favour of - oooh - The Burning Crusade, I think. It's another case of a game we like a lot, but don't love - at least, don't love as much as Team Fortress 2 or Quake Wars: Enemy Territory.
ROSE & CAMIELLA
The third list-member who was given the boot when doing in the organising, in favour of last-minute dark horse and POST APOCALYPTIC HEX-BASED GAME OF CHAMPIONS Armageddon Empires. It was pretty much my call entirely, as I was the man who completed Rose & Camiella, because I'm best at slapping people. That said, the Gran who turns up at the games' close and punches with a CLOSED FIST is one of the year's finest end of game bosses.
No, really. Despite RPS' general ambivalent stance towards the game, we honestly did consider it. As I said before, while it's been an ace year for games generally, for certain genres, it was subnormal. The traditional Western RPG is one of them - and the Witcher is the unchallenged high-point for the genre, and worthy of a mention in any end of year round up. Certainly more that - say - Hellgate. But, ultimately, we just didn't love it, so it didn't really have a chance. C'est la vie.
NEVERWINTER NIGHTS 2: MASK OF THE BETRAYER
Not includuded because - obviously - we hate the Western RPG.
ULTIMA ONLINE: KINGDOM REBORN
Alec found it pretty funny, but that doesn't really justify a place. Unless you're Sumotori, Obv.
NEVERWINTER NIGHTS 2: MASK OF THE BETRAYER
Okay, seriously, it just didn't make a cut. Expansion packs have a hard time of it, even when they thematically stand on their own so well. In fact, thinking about it, perhaps that was Mask of the Betrayer's larger problem for me - it didn't really feel like a high-level D&D adventure. The middle of the original NWN2 campaign, where you're ruling your castle... that's high level D&D. This was just another fantasy romp. Brilliantly written, brilliantly concieved but not quite genius, hence not quite loved by us. Good work and really well worth playing. While Witcher was the best stand alone game of the year, Walker and I both lean towards MotB for the highlight of the western RPG this year.
GUITAR HERO III
Because it's no Frets on Fire.
FRETS ON FIRE
Because as much as we played it this year, it's still not really this year's game, debuting last one. And it may just not have made the cut.
GUITAR HERO III
Actually, let's have a few extra words on this one. Despite it being the first appearance of this much-loved game on the PC, it's got a history, and a history everyone on RPS is well aware of. GHIII, while really neat, is a step towards Guitar Hero III just becoming a hermitted game. The real GH heads prefer it over Rock Band, because - as far as I can make out - it's more difficult. Which it is - the songs are all longer, with none of the pure-pop bursts in the earliest incarnations, and there's an increase in fingering difficulty on all the levels. This is great for the fraction of the players who are experts at the game - the problem is, following that route is a auto-catalyzing sequence leading towards ultimate irrelevance. Look at the traditional fighting game - back around SF2, it was completely mainstream. Now, a game as honed towards What The Hardcore Fans Want as Virtua Fighter 5 has managed to shed any audience who aren't part of that hardcore audience. If you believe in playing games rather than marrying them, this is a regrettable direction.
MEDIEVAL II KINGDOMS
Really, really good. Probably my favourite add-on pack of the year. We probably should have included it, but were distracted by shiny lights and yelping noises.
While incredibly lovely, just didn't quite make the cut. Still, really worth playing.
Despite having the sizeable Z-axis update, it turned out we didn't actually play enough Dwarf Fortress to work its way into the list. Having started a good six or seven fortresses to play around with it, I've certainly got the flavour of it, however. It remains a major game about miners.
LORD OF THE RINGS ONLINE
Good fun, but that's about it. I probably played most out of the RPS guys, but it just felt a little too safe, in terms of desperately not wanting to mess up the Lord of the Rings licence. The accepted wisdom was - and, for some, remains - that Licensed MMOs don't work. It's nonsense, of course, but Turbine desperately didn't want to add to that particular myth, and you can tell. They didn't, but they didn't really push it anywhere either. One of my most persistent memories of the game was having it demoed at a Codemasters events, where the Turbine-member spent most of his time saying "We have the standard control system and the standard skill points and...". Well, lots of use of the word "standard". That may get decent sales and a fun game, but it certainly does make us write rapturous notes to your genius in end of year rounds ups.
CIV 4: BEYOND THE SWORD
I didn't get around to playing it. For shame, for shame.
GALACTIC CIVILIZATION II: DARK AVATAR
See Civ 4: Beyond the Sword.