If 2012 deserves to be remembered for anything - apart from the imminent Mayan apocalypse of course - it's as the year when people finally stopped bleating about the PC being a dying games platform. The past twelve months saw an astonishing run of top quality games for PC, as indie studios turned out fresh ideas by the dozen while mainstream developers fell back in love with the idea of pushing the flexible hardware a PC offers to the absolute limit. Here's our round up of the top PC titles that helped define the year.
What's perhaps most noticeable is that some of 2012's biggest releases were PC exclusive, not just PC versions of hit console games. Blizzard's Diablo 3, for example, was arguably one of the most important games of the year, yet talk of a console version is still shrouded in rumour. Arriving a mere 12 years after the release of Diablo 2, it's fair to say that fans were absolutely desperate to get their hands on Blizzard's fast-paced tactical action RPG. Always a series driven by frantic combat and furious loot-grabbing, Diablo 3 streamlined many of the processes involved without making the gameplay itself shallow. Whether playing online with friends, or hacking your way through the horde alone, it's still one of the year's most frighteningly addictive games. If you get it for Christmas, be careful - you may emerge from your first session to discover you've missed New Year's Eve.
But then this was a year for great RPG revivals on the PC. Fans of NCSoft's massive online role-player Guild Wars didn't have to wait quite as long as the Diablo faithful - a mere seven years separates Guild Wars 2 from its 2005 original - but the wait was still more than worth it. A rare MMO that requires no monthly subscription, Guild Wars 2 innovated in other areas as well, not least the fresh approach to quest design which allowed more fluid storylines to emerge based on player actions rather than strictly define dungeon encounters. With 400,000 players filling out its rich fantasy world, it's an excellent choice for anyone looking to try out an online RPG.
Or, of course, you could turn to the top dog of the genre. World of Warcraft continued to dominate in 2012, with the release of the latest expansion, Mists of Pandaria. This not only introduces a whole new land to explore, it adds a deeper pet battling system, a new character class and a new playable race - the Pandaren, a monastic order of martial arts mammals that look suspiciously like a certain popular animated movie character. Don't mention that though. The fans get very upset.
The best games of 2012 weren't only exclusive to PC, of course, but many of them were clearly designed with the platform in mind. Dishonored, the astonishing and compelling stealth adventure from the co-creator of Deus Ex, was a hit on consoles but a more perfect fit for PC. A game of painstaking plotting and careful progression, its dark and deliberate pace feels right at home on a keyboard and mouse, as you take control of supernatural assassin Corvus and set about unravelling a conspiracy in a steampunk world filled with detail and story.
Similarly indebted to the PC was the superb strategy game XCOM: Enemy Unknown, in which you manage a global agency tasked with investigating and repelling alien invasions. A remake of the 1991 classic, it retained the methodical turn-based structure but brought it bang up to date with nailbiting extra-terrestrial encounters and a satisfying web of upgrades and abilities with which to arm your brave, loyal and very often horribly doomed soldiers.
In certain cases, this shift back towards more PC-flavoured gameplay was especially useful. Far Cry 3 was great on consoles, but it pushed their fixed hardware to the limit. On PC, the tropical island setting is in full bloom, stretching into the distance in extraordinary beautiful detail even as you're prowling its open world, stealth-killing murderous bandits and trying not to be mauled by leopards.
An excellent year for PC players then, and a trend that will only continue in 2013. It might be a good idea to put some of those Christmas spends towards that new graphics card you've been promising yourself...