Yes, it's that time of year again. The Winter Solstice is upon us and it's time for a misty-eyed look back at another year of gaming goodness. Well, if one thing's clear it's that 2005 was the year of the MMOG.
Not only did I find my MMOGing feet, but gamers were greeted with a plethora of online gaming goodness to keep them all happy.
My year really started when I had to buy a new PC in order to be able to play City of Heroes. My little laptop finally gave up the ghost and nothing was going to keep me from that heroic metropolis! Said PC was ordered and arrived and I have to say it was money well spent.
I know you're all bored by my enthusiasm when it comes to CoH, but its brilliance cannot be overstated. And it also gave me a chance to work through my super hero complex.
Heroes surpassed all in terms of character generation and the community is still one of the best around.
Spring was a busy time of year for online gamers, as World of Warcraft came crashing onto the scene. And in the week that announces WoW has 5 million subscribers worldwide, it's clear to see that it's becoming the stuff of legend.
I have to say I got as far as the character generation and was hugely disappointed. Not one of the characters was appealing. All the races looked ugly, even the ones that weren't supposed to. There isn't much room for personalising your character, which just didn't pass muster after the luxury of CoH. What's the point of a MMOG where you think your character looks crap from the outset?
However, the world looks fantastic and I am sorely tempted, just so that I can explore. And Blizzard must be doing something right because every blighter seems to be playing it. Is it a sign that online gaming has arrived in the mainstream? I suspect there are just more gamers hooked up to broadband – in my experience (limited as it is) I've only met the usual suspects playing MMOGs.
But if that wasn't enough MMOG goodness, NCsoft also delivered Guild Wars this year. It's not on on par with WoW or CoH, but still deserves a mention, if not least because there's no subscription fee. NCsoft are leading the way in accessible online gaming. And this year also saw one of my biggest disappointments when NCsoft announced they won't be developing for 360 – gah!
And this autumn, NCsoft pulled another gem out of the bag, in the shape of City of Villains – a glorified expansion of CoH. Better graphics, even better character gen and more depth of gameplay. It's generally better and injected me with a new enthusiasm for NCsoft's finest MMOG after a summer away.
As for offline gaming – 2005 served up some tasty morsels for those of us who don't feel the need for communal gaming. The eventual launch of the PSP and Nintendo DS (in the UK and Europe) was a relief and cause of much celebration.
The PSP's titles were mainly ports of console titles, but the stand out innovation of the DS lead to some moments of true gaming magic. Most notably, Nintendogs will go down as the game that saved the DS from a fate worse than Dreamcast. This title single-handedly increased sales of the Nintendo DS by 400-700% across Europe. And maybe for the first time ever a game's console is on Christmas lists of women the world over!
DS has also seen Mario Kart and Animal Crossing come to the small screen – definitely not to be sniffed at.
I personally enjoyed Otogi 2 and Killer 7 this year. Two titles that were a long time coming and have been appearing as my most wanted for many, many months. Both were a joy to behold and gave me many hours of gaming pleasure and cursing, shouting and pad hurling – but they're always the best ones.
It seems strange to include Xbox 360 in an annual roundup when it's been on the scene barely a month. But include it we must because Microsoft is ringing out the old year with some gusto and will definitely be ringing in the New Year with some fervour.
I for one will be finishing Kameo over Christmas and waiting with baited breath for what goodies those lovely, cuddly developers are going to throw our way in 2006.
And speaking of 2006 – the end of the year is also the time when we look at the ‘could have playeds'. This is namely the games we were supposed to be playing already, but were cruelly denied by the powers that be.
My biggest disappointment has to be Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess – fie the ones who caused the delay of this one. And when it arrives it had better have enough magic to stand up beside any 360 title (although that wouldn't be hard judging by the current raft of sports sims and driving games – yawn).
My second biggest disappointment (if it weren't for my unflinching optimism, I'd been in the depths of despair dear play chums) was Shadow of the Colossus. This follow-up from the Ico team was just a rumour on gaming forums a few years ago and low it is now a reality, but not in Europe. Oh fie and thrice fie!!
We were also denied a happy Christmas spent snuggling up with Lara Croft. Now, call me naÃ¯ve, but I'm looking forward to this one and nothing's going to deter my faith that they must get it right this time. Please, please bring back the Tomb Raider series to its former glory.
Last and not least is my disappointment at two vital omissions from the 360 launch list. DOA4 and Elderscrolls IV: Oblivion were both promised to us, but cruelly snatched from our grasp at the last minute. Two of the few games to give us anything other than driving and ball tossing simulations and we were denied. What is an Xbox launch without DOA and a proper RPG?
Oh well, if nothing else, at least the fact that these titles are waiting in the wings bodes well for 2006.
Happy Yuletide and see you all on the other side!
Most played: Kameo
Most wanted: DOA4