My Game of the Year: Dark Souls 2
Dark Souls 2 is about an undead being who is cursed to roam a dying world, while sanity slowly slips away. The beauty in Dark Souls 2 is the freedom given to the player. Your character is placed in a world, and it’s up to you to do what you want and decide which paths to take.
Levels are meticulously designed to guide the player, but subtle enough not to rob them of the sense of achievement gained from exploring. There is little to no hand-holding after the tutorial. Dark Souls 2 gives you the tools, but it’s up to you to figure out everything else. From Software even applies this approach to the story. Players can chose to mindlessly conquer bosses (and other players) or get heavily invested in the lore.
Of course, Dark Souls is synonymous with difficult gameplay, and is infamous for its seemingly impossible encounters. Dark Souls 2 punishes players for being reckless. After all, players lose all their unused experience and currency with every death, which is all the more reason to feel satisfied after finally beating a challenging boss.
No one ever said being free was going to be easy. The combination of the tight gameplay, fascinating story and outstanding game design is the reason Dark Souls 2 receives my Game of the Year award.