While the overall Game of the Year debates are the main draw this week, we're also handing out some other awards. Like these, for the best PC games of 2009.
Since no PC game was in with a shot at the big prize, I felt like honouring the best of them in here. And when I say PC games, I mean it: only PC exclusives are in the running. So no Left 4 Dead 2, Borderlands and Dragon Age, no Batman: Arkham Asylum, DiRT 2 or Modern Warfare 2.
I loved them all, but these aren't the "Best PC Game That Also Turned Up On Xbox 360 And PS3 In 2009" awards. They're the "Best PC Games Of 2009" awards, which I feel is the least this oft-overlooked and under-appreciated market deserves.
Leaving aside pretentious notions of "games as art", Machinarium was the most endearing game I played all year, regardless of the platform. It requires almost nothing from you in terms of hardware, running as it does on Flash, but there's more atmosphere in this little indie adventure game than you'll find in any $US10 million blockbuster.
Dissenters will say it's simply a Diablo clone, and they're 100% correct. It is. But it's a clone with so much love for (and insight into how to improve) the source material that it's more than capable of being remembered in its own right. Developers Runic also deserve credit for having the prescience to actually give Diablo fans what they wanted - another Diablo - something Blizzard seem years away from doing.
The best part, though? The colours. Those vibrant, delicious colours.
Empire: Total War
Surprising, small-time hits are all well and good, but my favourite PC game of 2009 is anything but. Empire: Total War is a behemoth of a game, one of the last remaining series on the platform able to both provide a true "PC gaming" experience (menus! so many menus!) and bring with it the kind of big-budget production values we expect from the latest hardware.
Empire represents a near-perfect blend of real-time battles and turn-based strategic management. It's not without its problems - poor performance and siege pathfinding chief among them - but the way it makes controlling a vast empire so intuitive and accessible easily overcomes these shortcomings.
It's a testament to the game's pull that, nearly a year on from release, I'm still playing it. Every chance I get.
I'm aware I've left some reasonably big titles off this list, like Relic's excellent Dawn of War II, which I feel didn't quite make the cut compared to these three. So let us know below, what do you guys think was the best PC game of 2009? Know I will not accept "Team Fortress 2", even though the game's bevy of updates tempted me...