The quality of CD Projekt RED's recreation of Andrzej Sapkowski's fantasy world is nothing short of astounding. From the majestic Flotsam forests to the believable architecture of Vergen and the elven city of Loc Muinne, The Witcher 2 is a triumph of fantasy environments, rendered with utmost care and expertise, and emphasized by the impressive technical capabilities of the RED Engine. Character designs are also very well-realized, often giving insight into their personality; furthermore, both monster and equipment designs are detailed and instill a sense of cohesiveness and culture to the title. Sure, there are a few animation-related blemishes here and there, but they don't detract from the fact that CD Projekt's sequel was at the top of the graphics pedestal this year.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Runner-up)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim doesn't have nearly the graphic fidelity of The Witcher 2, but sacrifices have to be made for an open-world game capable of running on consoles as well as the PC platform. That said, the studio had its priorities straight in picking which battles to fight, as the strongest points of Skyrim are its wide-open, snow-covered vistas, as well as the strong art design that features believable Nordic themes throughout. Add to that some very attractive particle/weather effects, as well as some of the best water effects we've ever seen in a video game to date, and Skyrim does more than enough to ensure that the TES series impresses us yet again.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Winner)
There's no soundtrack quite as memorable or beloved as the original Deus Ex's, with its distinctly 80s-inspired score providing both catchiness and ambiance. Luckily for fans, Human Revolution managed to capture many of the familiar melodies and put them in a brand new context, seamlessly blending electronic and traditional instrumentation for music that arguably surpasses even the original game's. Human Revolution's near-future sound effects were also expertly chosen, bringing life to both the dismal urban environments and its technology. Solid and consistent voice-acting round out the package for one of the most satisfying aural experiences we had this year.
While it ultimately fell short when pitted against Deus Ex: Human Revolution's cyberpunk soundtrack, Bastion's amazing sound design should not be overlooked. Supergiant's action RPG treats players to a varied soundtrack that covers all manner of genres, as well as some of the best and well-implemented voice acting we've heard in quite awhile. Yes, folks, Bastion's focus on a single narrator makes it notable not just for the quality of its execution, but for its originality as well.
Fallout: New Vegas – Old World Blues (Winner)
Fallout: New Vegas was treated to four story-based add-ons that truly demonstrated what the post-release content model is capable of, with varied and memorable experiences that feel indespensible to the full game. Without question, Old World Blues was the best of the set. It has an irreverent tone based on the Science! films that have always inspired Fallout in smaller ways, as well as ten hours of new content, including new enemies, weapons and locations to explore. Though complaints can be leveled against the recycled nature of a few of its dungeons, and the humour may not be for everyone, there's no denying that Old World Blues provided both quality gameplay and a huge amount of value, earning it top honors as 2011's best DLC.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution - The Missing Link (Runner-up)
Human Revolution ended up being one of Eidos' most successful games this year, so it goes without saying that they were quick to release a DLC add-on for it shortly after launch. The Missing Link filled a chapter of the game's story previously only touched, and provided a surprisingly dense and character-driven story. Though the new locations were better-designed than ever before, and the hints of a wider plot kept fans talking about what's next for the Deus Ex series, the relatively short length-to-price ratio and lack of new features left The Missing Link just shy of excellence.