Some of this year’s games were great, but they are unlikely to pick up any awards

Let’s forget about the Walking Deads, Halo 4s and Dishonoreds just for a moment and revisit some of their supposed inferiors in the business. The video game awards season can be a cruel time for a lot of games, which despite giving their players innumerable hours of fun, simply wouldn’t be showered with “game of the year” awards by the dozen. It’s only fair that we do our bit for them, and give them some special mentions, if nothing else.

Ambitious in scope, grand in size and exceptional in combat, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning gave us an RPG-fix the likes of which had not been seen before. Its core, standout feature was the immensely over-the-top combat which was well accompanied by near-endless hours of (even if a bit mundane) questing. Surely it deserves (at the least) an “on the brink of greatness” award for its efforts. Next up, we have a shooter that was more than just about the gunplay. In what was possibly the best comic book game all year, Digital Extremes and 2K Games’ The Darkness II excelled at immersing its player in a story that was dark, and at times, deeply moving. Its characters were superbly written and well-defined, its story unravelled like an interactive graphic novel, and you, the player got to do all sorts of violent things to your enemies, all the while staying hidden in the darkness for optimum effect. Violent, mature and heartfelt, The Darkness II gets a nod for being the best story-driven action game of the year. But let’s not forget another game whose dark, unconventional narrative sent its players to the brink and back. Once again, 2K Games and Yager Development gave us Spec Ops: The Line, a game that made players regret their actions for the entire duration of its single player campaign. It was, without doubt, the best game about war all year.

For the “most underrated multiplayer” prize, we need to look no further than Mass Effect 3. It’s bad enough that the game itself is likely to be overlooked for any major awards because of the all-round hate and bad press it got over the course of the year, it’s even more of a shame that the wave-based multiplayer has been all but forgotten. If not for the addictive, strategic gameplay, let’s praise it for the immense amount of free content given to its players by developers Bioware. For the “student becomes the master” award, we need only to take a trip to the universe of Torchlight, or more specifically, the second game in the series, aptly titled Torchlight II. The “master” in this equation, of course, is Blizzard’s fantastic-when-it-works ARPG, Diablo III. Torchlight II featured more loot, offline play and multiplayer LAN. Its best feature, of course, was the option to play the game when the player wanted to — something Blizzard’s game simply did not offer despite costing four times as much.

Wonderbook: Book of Spells deserves a mention as well — it made terrific use of both the Harry Potter franchise while leveraging the augmented reality technology that Sony seems to be backing with a vengeance. Fortunately, the combination was perfect, and we got a reasonably priced product that was the perfect coming together of both worlds.

There is no need for a special mention in this last category because there was just one amazing tactical shooter all year: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier. The game’s squad command system was fantastic, while the game featured some incredible set pieces and great customisable guns and gear. Its hardcore tactical action was not topped by any other game in 2012, and it’s a real shame that GRFS will not be winning too many awards this year.