The Best Things We Played This Year: A List – Part Four

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proteus 2012

Here’s (probably) our last post about our favourite games of 2012. Unless you want to write one. Seriously, go on. What did you play this year? Click the ‘contribute and contact’ button up there on the right.

It’s a common criticism of games that they’re not very good at evoking real emotion. Or perhaps emotions other than frustration or anger. But one game this year has done more, for me at least, than any other in getting feelings like awe and wonder out of me.

I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to call Proteus my game of the year, since it’s technically still in beta for just a month or so more. I’m going to anyway though, because you’re not my real mum and can’t tell me what to do. Also because apparently the finished game isn’t going to be that different from it’s current state.

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While Proteus may not be the game that I’ve played the most this year (that honour probably goes to XCOM), it is the game that I’ve told people about the most – because it’s interesting and new and wonderful.

It’s a hard game to nail down, really. The best description of it that I can come up with is a first person exploration game, with dynamic music elements. Think of maybe Journey, but with lo-fi graphics and added sounds.

Perhaps at first, you might feel a little bewildered. Waking up just off shore of an island, you’ll find yourself walking up the beach wondering what exactly you’re supposed to be doing. But then – “What’s that sound?”… “Ooh, a frog! Come here, froggy!” And Proteus has you.

That’s because it’s a game that isn’t at all afraid to let players discover everything for themselves. The only instructions provided are WASD for control and screenshot button, a button that you’ll feel compelled to use a lot. There are signposts for progression, but you might not recognise them as such at first – rather, the curiosity that the game naturally encourages will gently push you towards discovering them. It’s a refreshing change from the likes of Far Cry 3 or Skyrim – the former with its constant pop-ups insisting that you follow the main quest and the latter waypointing you all the way through the game.

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This sense of curiosity and the compulsion to explore is heightened by that use of music and sound. Each ‘season’ has it’s own musical tone and background beat, while each individual item makes it’s own sound – a sound that changes based on the player’s proximity to it. The combination of sound and visuals working in harmony create a sense of wonder that would be impossible to achieve with either working in isolation. I know there’s something special about these rocks because they make a beautiful resonant ‘Thungggg!’ when I pass them just so.

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Rather than make a game about something that we’ll never experience – being a space marine or a gangster or whatever, Ed Key and David Kanaga have captured the essence of something that we can all experience in the real world. It’s not often that you’ll see a developer adding a line in the patch-notes about movement speed being increased when going downhill because it more closely capture the feeling of running down a hill for the pure joy of it.

So Proteus. My game of the year that’s actually out next year.

Proteus will be released at the beginning of 2013, but if you like the sound of it I strongly encourage getting the beta for $7.50, which includes all future updates.

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