After the first day of awards went so well, we figured we might as well do it all over again! So here is the second day of our awards with four more categories. Remember to watch the video component if you want to see us revisit another game in Quick Look form along with some various hijinks. And if you want to know more about how we came to these infallible conclusions, the podcast contains our full deliberations.
Not everyone comes to games to experience a compelling story. “I will avenge [insert emotional tie] by mysteriously gaining new abilities and by the by save the world. Oh, also I was fated to do this since [insert flashback].” The rarity of a well-done, original narrative integrated into complementary gameplay speaks to how difficult it is. Though only in its first episode, The Fall manages to weave a tightly told tale into gameplay and visuals that support and propel you through a science fiction adventure that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
The premise for the game is that you have suffered an incapacitating fall (out of the sky, I should note) and ARID, your combat suit’s artificial intelligence, has taken over all functions for your now unconscious pilot. ARID. has one primary function: seek medical assistance and protect her pilot.
With the actual human pilot asleep at the wheel, many of the combat suit’s systems are offline and locked out. Fortunately, ARID is able to use a loophole that allows certain systems to come online if her pilot finds himself in imminent danger. This ruthless logic plays out in stellar fashion as ARID. makes her way through the derelict robot repurposing facility she and her pilot have crash landed on. The encounters with other A.I. are smartly written, and you’ll quickly realize that not everything in abandoned-robot-decomissioning land is functioning as intended. In fact, your A.I. is rather shocked and dismayed to discover other points of view standing in her way. It’s these battles of logic ARID. finds herself engaged in that really make this one memorable and the best story this year.
Runners-up: Broken Age: Act 1, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
There's a pumping, grinding march to Luftrausers' soundtrack that just can't be beat. Finnish musician Jukio "KOZILEK" Kallio has assembled a militaristic theme that absolutely pushes Vlambeer's shooter to new heights. It also takes that main theme and contorts it a number of different ways, essentially giving you a different remix that depends entirely on which different parts you use to assemble your rauser. If you're the sort of person who sets the plane parts to random, this means you're essentially getting a different take on the theme each time you play. It's the sort of theme that makes you want to get up and stomp around, go for a run, clean up the apartment, get things done. Or maybe you just want to blow up a million planes and boats while nodding your head. Either way.
Here, take a listen:
Runners-up: Shovel Knight, Transistor
Most Disappointing Game
It probably says something about 2014 that this ended up being one of the more contentious categories. As a category that ends up speaking to the gulf between expectations and delivery, no gulf was wider than Watch_Dogs.
Watch_Dogs started setting up expectations early, with E3 trailers and a certain coyness on Ubisoft's part about which platforms, exactly, the game would appear on. Of course, the eventual list ended up included a pair of platforms that hadn't even been announced yet, and minds raced. The trailers got picked apart as people tried to figure out what, exactly, the new platforms would be capable of. Watch_Dogs ended up becoming a symbol for all things new, a new piece of intellectual property that, hopefully, would help usher in a new era.
Flash forward past a delay into 2014 and, well, when Watch_Dogs was finally released, players found a new game that called upon too many different facets of the Ubisoft open-world template. With action that often felt clunky, mission design that got pretty repetitive, and a hacking motif that sounded a lot cooler before the game was released, Watch_Dogs was a real disappointment.
At least it worked?
Runners-Up: Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Destiny
Best Short-Time Game
With most of our staff in San Francisco and New York, several of us are usually on the lookout for something to play during our public transportation commute. This year, nothing grabbed more of us than the deceivingly simple Threes. Its core is adequately explained by the short tutorial - two 3 tiles merge together to make a 6, two 6 tiles merge together to make a 12, etc. Once you’ve spent some time with the game, however, its depth becomes apparent. Terms like number highways, checkerboarding, and the corner strategy aren’t taught by the tutorial, but they’re concepts that high-level players should learn if they want to up their position on the leaderboards.
Because of its surprising amount of strategy, Threes can easily turn into hours-long bouts of “after this turn, I’m going to bed. No, this one…” That said, it’s also perfect as a quick time-killer during a morning commute. Threes can certainly hook you for extended sessions, but nothing from 2014 is better if you just have a little time to kill.
Runners-up: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Hitman Go