By KnifeySpoony 2 Comments
This is quite belated now, but 2015 has been busy so far for me and I wanted to make sure I knew what I wanted to write in this post.
The highlight of last year was my first time visiting the east coast. I planned my trip to coincide with PAX East in Boston and headed south to NYC afterwards. After living my entire life in California and hearing all sorts of stereotypes of what the east coast is like, I was expecting to come away with a soured experience. Happily that wasn't the case at all! Everyone I met was friendly and the areas themselves were splendid. It helps that the trip encompassed a great PAX event with a bunch of friendly folks too, as well as the surprise of seeing Jeff Green shouting with his shirt off.
In terms of games 2014 was weird. I found myself getting excited for many things, but by the time they came along, my enthusiasm had dissipated. That's fairly typical for me each year in gaming, but usually it is isolated to one or two cases a year, and also through no fault of the games themselves, just the timing of their releases. With 2014, it seemed like that happened to every single big release I was excited for. I went into the year convinced I was getting a PS4, specifically for Destiny, and after I heard impressions of the last beta, that went out the window. Then I debated getting an Xbox One for the Master Chief Collection, and we all know how that turned out. Far Cry 4 was my saving grace of the year. While everything bad was going on, there would still be Far Cry 4. I loved 3, and everything about 4 seemed great. As it turns out, it is pretty great! However when I heard it's pretty much the same game again I remembered I still have 3 installed, uncompleted, and didn't feel that urge to jump into 4 just quite yet. As a result of all of this, I agreed with Jeff frequently while listening to the GOTY deliberation podcasts, specifically that this year overall was kind of bad. There were definitely great games, every year there are, but the general mood was clouded by constant release struggles of big name publishers and developers. This was exacerbated by the fact many games were pushed to 2015, forcing the attention back on the big release we did have, which were plagued with technical problems.
My "favorite games of X" lists have become more about reflecting on fond gaming memories of the year. Less about game quality, though that is a big part of it still, but remembering shared experiences with friends and noting just how fun those can be. So, my list looks quite strange as that was more of a focus this year, and I also ended up not playing many new games. Thanks for indulging in my lengthy intro, now onto the list!
(Mostly) Honorable Mentions
I love this game. Or more, I love the concept of this game. It's wacky in the greatest of ways, and the theme song is a delight. I told as many people as I could about it, because I wanted it to get it's deserved exposure. Then I ended up not playing more than a couple of hours. I don't care! Everyone should take a look at this gem.
This came as a delightful surprise. I picked it up around the summer steam sale (or maybe humble?), anyway having read Neuromancer for the first time in 2013 I was ready to delve into a cyberpunk adventure. I enjoyed the writing in the game more than I expected to, but the gameplay didn't really do a lot for me. I never did finish it, I got about halfway and didn't feel compelled to finish it. I know the expansion is supposedly better, and I'm very excited by the announcement of Hong Kong being the setting for the next one, so I'm still open to this series.
I love and hate you.
This was a gift on my birthday in December so I haven't beaten it yet, but it's been pretty enjoyable! I'm excited to see the tougher levels towards the end because it's been quite easy so far. I didn't grow up playing many platformers so I'm still awful, but I'm warming up to the genre quite a bit (foreshadowing!).
Bless Jason and Dan for promoting this. It's stupid fun. A great party game, or break game between something else with friends. Really, it's the ability to import your own heads and bodies that makes it truly special.
I almost didn't include this. I didn't want to include this. But I played about 100 hours of it on PC and so that has to be worthy of a mention right? This game is bollocks. It's my first futbol game since FIFA 08, so I was quite excited after getting into the World Cup in a big way. I wanted to play soccer again. So many of those hours were out of shear desire to satisfy my reignited passion for the sport. Pro clubs, the mode where you control 1 player out of the 11 on the field is an amazing idea. I've had great times playing that with a full team. Ultimate team is the best and worst thing ever. To this day I still check the web app and look at player prices to build new teams. But! The game is crap. Defense can feel impossible at times, chipped balls are ridiculous, and the goalies are absolute garbage. Hilarious, because I think EA was touting their goalie AI tech this year. Maybe things will change, but I think I'll be taking another lengthy break. So, reluctantly, here's your (dis)honorable mention you turd of a game.
MY FAVORITE GAMES OF 2014!
This is some of the best, easiest, and quick fun you can have with a group of people. Especially drinking. Hearing car noises from your drunken friend as you watch them boost straight into spikes and end with a simple "pop" is genuinely great. It's worth a shot, as it's a free browser game. I've always been a fan of games with a low barrier to entry, and this is one of the best in recent memory.
Joust is one of my favorite arcade games and between California Extreme and the opening of Brewcade in San Francisco, I've had a healthy serving of Ostrich combat. One day I hope to live in a house with a Joust cabinet and Ms. Pac-man cocktail machine. Oh by the way Ms. Pac-man should be on here too.
The game I was most excited to play in 2014 that I actually played in 2014. I tried it at PAX Prime 2013 and loved what I saw. The art is fantastic yet again, and they added combat that was more interesting to me than Bastion. It has extremely clever ideas. Adding story elements based on the skill combinations you use is genius. I think it has one of the most clever health systems in a modern game, instead of losing your life immediately and starting over, losing a power until the next checkpoint. The only problem I had with it was that the story itself didn't grab me. I don't know why, I thought it was an interesting premise, but maybe it was the writing or something which just didn't click. So it ended, and I was kind of left thinking "okay". Honestly puzzled by that.
7. Dark Souls
This was on my list last year as well, but I believe I was only around 15 hours into it and had hardly made any progress at all. Now with 40+ hours I can say I understand the genius of these games. The series has been talked to death so the only thing I'll add is I found a few times that after drinking I actually progressed more and defeated a couple bosses I was stuck on. It's probably that my fear inhibition was deafened with inebriation, but it was a funny antidote. I have 2, so I'm looking forward to seeing what changes there are.
I can say this now that the game came out, but I focus tested this game in 2013 and thought it was surprisingly fun then. The general idea to take a 2d puzzle defense franchise and make a third person multiplayer shooter sounded creatively bankrupt and not at all what anyone asked for. But it's a rare case where what we didn't even want was quite good! There's plenty of clever ideas that make playing it feel quite new and refreshing for the genre. There's tons of unlockable class variants, weapons, and cosmetic items, which I'm a sucker for admittedly. However it also has plenty of modes, and the class balancing is pretty darn good for how uniquely different each of them are. I especially liked that the classes aren't mirrored on each faction. For example a sunflower, the healer for the plants, does not play like the scientist, the healer for the zombies. The one big complaint is that there isn't any group/party matchmaking functionality, so you have to invite friends while you're already in a game. Also microphones are on by default so you have to mute everyone which is counterproductive for a multiplayer game. Still, pleasant surprise!
5. Crossy Road
I don't play many mobile games, but when Crossy Road was first brought up on the Bombcast I had to check it out for myself. It's endless frogger with voxels and a ton of unlockable characters, which add little changes to how the game looks. That's all I ever want out of a mobile game as it turns out! It's beautiful, Crossy Road is beautiful. I'm curious which character readers like to use? I'm a fan of the mallard, Crazy ol' Ben, flea, rusty robot and The Dark Lord. Still don't have the penguin which I really want. Also what is your highest score? Mine is currently 350. You don't have it? Just go download it, it's free and get back to me.
If you aren't familiar with this game, just take a moment to listen to the main theme. Hopefully that gives you a sense of how awesome this game is. Remember how I said I was warming up to the platforming genre? This game is a huge reason why. I've always been bad at platformers, but Shovel Knight is so well balanced that every accomplishment I had felt genuine. The game made me feel good about myself when I beat it, and that's a rare thing these days, specifically that sense of overcoming challenge. The art, the characters, the music, the levels, it's all so well made. Kudos to Yacht Club Games for putting together a kickstarter project that came through and delivered wonderfully. Keep in mind this is coming from someone who didn't play Mega Man or Castlevania, Duck Tales or even Super Mario World growing up. Do yourself a favor and at least check and see if it piques your interest.
After going to California Extreme for the second time I can say definitively that this is one of the best games ever made. I went with a fellow Giant Bomb user and within the first hour of walking in the first day, we found the machine and couldn't stop playing it. I think we went for 2 hours straight before deciding to get lunch or something, but we went back and back over the weekend. It's a delightful game, they really need to bring HD remix to PC.
Another game making it's second appearance on one of these lists. This time I went from 15 hours in 2013 to 67 total in 2014. Obviously the game is well known on the site thanks to Patrick's Spelunkin' with Scoops series, so there's not much to say here. It's a glorious game with so much depth you could spend just one run, or hours playing and you'll leave satisfied. Unless you land on spikes on your first jump, maybe not then. Anyway, I believe all of the hours spent on Spelunky is why I had such a rewarding experience playing Shovel Knight and have warmed up to the genre so much. So, thank you Spelunky for being such a great game that it expanded my interest in a genre.
I have been playing this game regularly for about 3 1/2 years now, and 2014 was probably the best year of the bunch. I finally made it to gold in ranked and have a gold border, which is super important for many reasons, and was rewarded the victorious skin. There were times earlier this year when I wasn't really enjoying the game much, but I had an unthinkable winning streak (~22-1) over the course of two weeks to bring me from silver 3 to gold 3. Plus, my friend group I play with is still going strong and they're the biggest reason why this game keeps ending up at the top of my list. It has lead to more fond gaming moments than any other by far, it's going to be very strange when it's not a part of my life anymore. But that won't be soon and who thinks that far ahead anyway?
Thank you so much to those who took the time to read through this, I mean it. I'm hoping to do some more blog posts, which isn't the first time I've said that, but hey I'm doing more writing in general so I think it's genuine this time.