10 Games I didn't play in 2015

With 2015 coming to a close I started the annual tradition of formulating a top ten list to give credit to my favourite video game releases of the year, but having read through a variety of GOTY articles over the past few days it's apparent that the games that I could spend an evening trying to write about are already getting there props from much more capable writers across the web and on this very site. And while I do still have a top ten list that you can look at should you be curious, I thought it be better to take some time and reflect on the games that I missed this year. Be it because they completely passed me by, or because I simply didn't have the time to play them. The latter of which is becoming more and more of an unfortunate reality. In any case, the games that appear below rank on this list simply because I'm really bummed that I didn't get to play them this year. They might not have even appeared on my GOTY list regardless but I still would like to experience them. I doubt I'll get to all of them by the end of next year however I would certainly like to try. Without further adieu, here is the top 10 games I didn't play in 2015.

Honourable Mentions:

Darkest Dungeon:

This game would probably be at the top of my list if not for technically being unfinished. Despite sounding likes there's plenty of there to play, I committed myself to waiting until the game was feature complete until I would finally sit down and try it. Unfortunately that meant waiting until 2016.

Assassin's Creed Syndicate:

My stubbornness prevented me from playing this game until I saw Unity and Rogue to completion. That was probably a mistake, because I didn't care for the first few hours of Unity and I have little desire to play a boat-themed Assassin's Creed again. I'll get to Syndicate some day.

Evolve:

Look, I know Evolve's dlc practices were less than savoury and that the game wasn't exactly overflowing with content, but I really loved what was there. I've been dying to get back to Evolve ever since I lay it down. I love their creature and character designs, and once the last hunter of the recent season pass is released I'll probably dive back in and play around with the new content next year.

10.Her Story

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Admittedly I have played Her Story. For about two minutes. Between watching the first few minutes of the quick look and playing a very brief amount of the game, I know that this game is something that I need to play. Not just because I enjoy the act of note-taking, or that I have a soft spot for crime fiction, but because the game oozes mystery. I have managed to avoid any and all spoilers regarding the way the game plays out, and should it be discussed on the Giant Bomb GOTY podcasts I will most certainly avoid those sections, simply because I need to see whatever is in this game for myself. Whether or not the game lives up to its mystique is another thing, but it definitely has me intrigued enough to regret not playing it before the year end.

9. Batman: Arkham Knight

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Arkham Knight appears on this list not for a lack of trying. I was among the many unfortunate PC players to suffer several issues with the that version at launch. I played roughly an hour or two of the game before giving up and settling on waiting for a patch, knowing not that it would take as long as it did to receive one. By the time the game was patched (though apparently not as much as it should be) the little time I did have to play games was being spent elsewhere. Funnily enough that may have worked in Arkham Knight's favour. Of the two or so hours I played of the game I felt a lot of fatigue towards the Arkham games, in no small part due to my recent time with Arkham Origins. Having had time to not think about Batman I'm actually quite eager to give it a decent try. It helps that Scarecrow is my favourite villain from the Batman comics.

8. Stasis

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Being the avid fan of horror that I am, I've had my eye on Stasis for a little while now. I'm not big into point & click adventure games but after loving The Fall (which you should totally play) I was completely willing to give it a shot. Unfortunately when it came time to choose which horror game I was going to dedicate my time to, Stasis was put up against SOMA. Given that SOMA appears on my top 10 and Stasis is found here...you can tell which one won that fight. Nevertheless, I would still very much like to play Stasis. Even if it has to wait until next Halloween.

7. Wolfenstein: The Old Blood

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Wolfenstein: The New Order landed in 7th place on my GOTY list of 2014, so I felt this was an appropriate place to put The Old Blood. Ever since the announcement trailer for Wolfenstein: The Old Blood I have been very interested in giving it a try. I would have liked to see more of the WW2 setting in the New Order and The Old Blood looked to give me just that. Unfortunately it arrived at a poor time, for when I finally had a moment to sit down and dig into a game The Witcher 3 had came in the post. Since then it's sat on my Steam wishlist and I've been waiting for a chance to give it a shot. For whatever reason that didn't come in 2015.

6. Tales from the Borderlands

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It's a real shame I didn't get around to playing this game because earlier in the year I was in a very Borderlands-y mood. I had picked up The Handsome Collection and spent countless hours with it, to the point that I was so obsessed with Borderlands that I themed an art project around the art direction featured in the series. At the time I had heard some good things about Tales from the Borderlands but I didn't want to dive in until the whole game was ready to play. Since The Wolf Among Us and the second season of Telltale's The Walking Dead took absolutely forever to wrap up, I haven't had much desire to play games episodically. Meaning that by the time Tales from the Borderlands had concluded its first season my fervour for Borderlands had passed. I'll still play it eventually but it may take the announcement of the second season or another Borderlands sequel to spark my interest.

5. Cradle

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I don't know a great deal about Cradle other than what I remember reading from Austin's review and that some people who worked on the S.T.A.L.K.E.R series are responsible for making the game. Having enjoyed games like Gone Home in the past, I would have loved to jump into Cradle and see what it's all about. The screenshots give a window into what looks like a wonderfully unique aesthetic and as I am aspiring to work as an artist in this industry, I feel like I owe it to myself to see that art style on display. Unfortunately when it first hit Steam I was busy saving as much money as I could for moving out of my parents house. Missing that brief moment in which I had time to play the game meant that I never got around to grabbing it. It'll likely be another game that I buy before the Steam sale comes to an end.

4. Sunless Sea

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Between Darkest Dungeon, Sunless Sea and another game that I shan't spoil (you know the one) it's been a good year for fans of Lovecraft. It's not like games haven't ripped from the Lovecraftian visual library before, but I appreciate that more games are trying to convey the mentally damaging effects of Lovecraft's monsters as opposed to just making them enemy mobs. I've been a fan ever since I watched The Evil Dead films a few years back. Sunless Sea in particular has also been described as a "roguelike", giving me even more reason to want to play it. Though as it would turn out, whereas SOMA won out against Stasis, the time I could have spent playing Sunless Sea was instead spent playing The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth. Nevertheless, I do intend on playing Sunless Sea sooner rather than later.

3. Transformers: Devastation

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After High Moon Studios was moved off the Transformers Cybertron games and onto making ports for Call of Duty (thanks, Activision) I thought that was it for good Transformers games. Which was particularly disappointing after how much I enjoyed their Fall of Cybertron game. Last years Rise of the Dark Spark while not terrible, didn't exactly instil confidence in me. Yet, out of seemingly nowhere, I find out that Platinum is making a Transformers G1 game. Normally this would have been an instant purchase for me but Platinum's recent attempt at a Legend of Korra game made me weary. As it would turn out it sounds like the game is a lot of fun, if a little on the short side. With the game now on sale I think this will definitely be something I pick and play before my winter holiday is over. Though I was personally always more of an Armada guy, I did grow to appreciate the older cartoons over time and Platinum's rendition of the G1 art style might be the best one to date.

2. Just Cause 3

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Despite numerous attempts, I could never get Just Cause 2. I simply never really found it enjoyable to play. Navigating the world felt like a chore, and looking all over enemy bases to find the one item pick-up you missed was a pain. So you can imagine I wasn't terribly excited for the release of Just Cause 3. Then the quick look came around and Vinny did that he always does in open world games and I was way more interested. Still, I wasn't ready to bite and spend a bunch of money on a game that I still might not enjoy. Though it just so happened that a friend of mine had been playing it and I got the opportunity to try it. Needless to say, it's on this list because now I really want to play it. I can't put my finger on why it I'm drawn to it much more than it's predecessor but if I had to guess it's something to do with the wingsuit.

1. Undertale

Yep, this game. The game that's taken a certain part of the internet by storm and now they won't shut up about it. And yet I still know nothing about Undertale. I haven't seen any footage, nor have I read any reviews. I'm not even going to look for a image to accompany this part. But according to hearsay, it's either one of the best games of all time, or completely rubbish. It's rare for me to hear talk about games when I'm out in public or in class, and even then it's reserved for the bigger more mainstream titles like Fallout or Battlefront. So it says something when I overheard a conversation regarding Undertale not long before finishing for winter. I imagine on some level it's to do with the circles I'm in but it surprised me just how many people were talking about Undertale. To the point where I now need to play the game. I need to know what it is and why it's stuck with so many people. Will I like it? Who can say. One thing's for sure; it'll be the next game I play.

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I played DA: Inquisition. Here's some thoughts.

The Inquisitor's Inquisition into Inquisition
The Inquisitor's Inquisition into Inquisition

Dragon Age: Inquisition was one of the games I unfortunately didn't find the time to play before I named my favourite games of 2014. Having watched the credits roll (and witnessed the after-credits scene), I can safely say it would have been on that list.

At first glance, the game is stunning to look at. The character models are a considerable upgrade since Bioware's last outing, and the art design in general is superb. An aspiring artist myself, I was left in awe at some of the environments that have been crafted in this game. There's a good variety to them as well. Travelling between the vast deserts of the Hissing Wastes, the gigantic forests of the Emerald Graves, and the snowy mountains of the Empirse du Lion really gave me the sense that the world of Dragon Age is a large one. Although the segmented nature of these environments perhaps worked against that feeling, it didn't entirely detract from the sheer sense of scale that Inquisition evokes. And as an aside, I really liked the inclusion of the tarot card-style used in much of the art direction. It gave the game a unique identity, compared to other video games in the fantasy genre.

But rather than ramble on more about the aesthetic, I'll talk about what is easily the best component of Dragon Age: Inquisition: the characters. For many reasons, the characters in this game got me to care about Dragon Age in a way none of the previous installments have. For one, the variety in the cast you meet over the course in the game is very impressive. Though you might not love the entire cast, it's hard to deny that each of them bring something unique to the table. My personal group included Cassandra, Dorian, and Varric. It was great how, despite the group of characters you went with, they'd all have lines of dialogue written as little tidbits of interaction with each other as you were exploring the various areas. I enjoyed the little bets Dorian and Varric would share, and Cassandra's embarrassment whenever Varric or Dorian would bring up her more feminine side. And the effort to appeal to different types of players was also admirable. More than any other game, this one allowed you to share a meaningful romance subplot regardless of your sexual preference. And I must admit, though I chose to go with Cassandra in the end, Dorian's sassy charm tempted me a few times. Given the wealth of relationship options, I can see myself playing a new, female character later down the line. Which is more than I can say for any other Bioware game I've played. I appreciate that they choose not to have a default "Shepard". Though I feel that worked for Mass Effect, I find that this game specifically really benefited from allowing you to craft your own main character, without it feeling like you were straying from the intended choice. That said, if there is to be another game, I would hope I could resume the role of my Inquisitor. But I have to wonder if Bioware will stick to the formula of introducing a new character with each iteration.

My Party before the real Party:

InquisitorCassandraVarricDorian
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In terms of the overall narrative, it was okay. Enough to push the story forward, but not much more. The villain, while initially menacing, quickly lost that impact with their lack of presence in much of the main act. The majority of the other characters were really what carried the game. Though I must give props to Bioware for their handling of the Dragon Age Keep. As someone with little experience in the previous games, I felt that the Keep brought me up to speed on the main story and helped me shape the world in a way that felt unique before I even started Inquisition. Despite having already completed the Mass Effect series, I think the next game in that franchise would really benefit from having a similar website attached to it. And while Jeff had some negative things to say about the post credits scene in the GOTY podcasts, I didn't mind it. It felt like a way of allowing space for a sequel (or dlc?) without taking away what you had worked for in the main game.

All that said, Inquisition was not a game without faults. There are many, in fact. The side missions were mostly made up of fetch quests. The pacing was all over the place, at times giving the player little to do and at other times overwhelming the player with options. The final fight against the villain was a little anticlimactic. The combat grew to be mundane after the progression saturated. The animations both in cutscenes and in gameplay left something to be desired. The game just felt full of filler. It's a shame, too, because the gorgeous environments deserved better reasons to be explored. If not for my completionist nature, I would have skipped over much of what the game offers.

I could go on, rattling off more things that hindered my enjoyment, and yet, I really like DA: Inquisition. I was hesitant when initially starting, because I typically don't enjoy starting a series in the middle, but I think Inquisition did a terrific job of bringing in newcomers. If you were ever on the fence about trying out the Dragon Age series, this is the game you should play.

Not many games in 2014 left me with a melancholic feeling like this one did, as I said goodbye to the characters I had grown attached to over the 90-ish hours of play. That might seem like a strange way to judge a game, but as someone who cares deeply for story and characterization in video games, mentioning that I will miss interacting with those characters is some of the best praise I can give. And with that, I bid DA: Inquisition adieu. Thanks for reading.

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Let's do this GOTY thing!

Another year, Another GOTY List

And what a curious year it has been! 2014 won't stand out in my mind as the "greatest year of gaming", but it's definitely not been devoid of strong releases. We've been through some rough patches, for sure, but there's also been a lot of surprise and excitement. I've got to hand it to the indie devs this year, as they fill out more and more of my top 10 lists with their games. And now, standing at the verge of 2015, I could not be more excited for what the next year holds. There looks to be some killer games on the horizon, and I'm ever optimistic. But before that, let's knock out this GOTY as I recount my top 10 favourite games of this year.

10. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Let's start this list with a game I had no intention of buying way up to the release. I mean, c'mon, the Call of Duty series was starting to feel tired four games ago, right? And Ghosts demonstrated not only a lack of innovation, but also a drop in quality, right? How could this game be any different?

Oh, Kevin Spacey is the villain? And everyone is jumping around in supercharged moon shoes? And the game looks really pretty? Huh.

Aaaand I was dragged back in. Yeah, it's a Call of Duty game. But it's a damn good one.

I can't recall where I heard it, but I feel the comparisons to the original Modern Warfare are apt. This game feels like the biggest step forward for the series since Call of Duty 4, in that it pushes the FPS genre in a direction I hope others will follow. Simply maneuvering around in the exosuit, pulling of dumb tricks like smashing into enemies from above, was the most fun I have had in a multiplayer shooter in a long time. It just felt fresh, like nothing I'd ever tried before.

As for the campaign, I had a lot of fun with it. It's very linear, and quite short, but the presentation is excellent. As bizarre as it was to see digital Kevin Spacy giving me orders, he does a good job of not phoning it in. This feels like a Kevin Spacey performance, and the devs make good use of him. And did I mention how pretty the game looks? Between the smooth framerate, impressive set pieces, and cutscenes that look so good it almost looks real, it's a visual delight.

It's not all perfect, though. This time round the survival mode feels half-baked and entirely uninteresting. The multiplayer could really benefit from dedicated servers. And the game can't quite escape feeling like a Call of Duty game, for better or worse. But despite it's faults, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare gets my seal of approval and the tenth spot in my GOTY list.

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9. The Walking Dead: Season Two

The first season of Telltale's The Walking Dead was my favourite game of 2012. So naturally the odds were going to be stacked against the second season. Did it live up to the original? Maybe not entirely, but I won't hold that against it. It was a bumpy road for season two, but a road definitely worth taking.

Though I enjoyed the first two episodes, I wasn't entirely on board with The Walking Dead: Season Two until episode 3. I guess until that point I just didn't know if I was happy with Clementine being the main character. Whether or not she could stand by herself, without Lee. But episode 3 illustrated not only the strength of Clementines character, but also the supporting cast. I won't give away any spoilers, but there's some excellent twists and turns throughout the season. Unfortunately, despite episode 3 being great, I felt episode 4 dropped the ball. Almost akin to episode 4 of the original season, it felt like a bridging episode between the much more impactful events of 3 and 5.

Speaking of, the finale to this game left me in tears. Something the original never quite managed to achieve. It's truly bittersweet, and a great sendoff to the characters Telltale's The Walking Dead has created. I'm not sure I'll be able to return to this series if it comes back, but know that it is not because I was disappointed with this season, but because I feel the finale poetically ended the game in a way I don't want to see continued upon. At any rate, The Walking Dead Season Two is absolutely worth playing for anyone who enjoyed the original, it it's my 9th favourite game of this year.

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8. Far Cry 4

Despite it holding a high position in my favourite games of 2012, I don't remember Far Cry 3 with the fondest of memories. The PS3 version was mired with bugs and a shoddy framerate. While there was a lot to like about the way the game played, it was far too long and there wasn't enough variety in the environment. The story had a host of interesting and enigmatic characters, but did little with them. Enter Far Cry 4, a game that is very similar to its predecessor, but a game I found to be much more satisfying.

The basic design of Far Cry 4 is very reminiscent of Far Cry 3. You're still hunting animals, conquering outposts, climbing radio towers, and getting high of drugs whilst burning crop fields. I can understand where that might put some people off, but experiencing that type of gameplay on a consistent framerate felt refreshing. I'm sure it looked even better at 60 fps, but I was satisfied with a solid 30 on the PS4.

It's not all the same, though. The environment of Kyrat provides a much more interesting and varied landscape to explore, and most of the time it's stunning to look at. The differences in verticality, though not as extreme as I initially thought they would be, give a sense of vastness that Far Cry 3 lacked. Aside from game world, the wilderness has also seem a revamp, further ensuring that you are never safe. Be it an eagle dive-bombing you, a demon fish taking bites out of you, or a rhino charging you, Kyrat is not messing around. If there is one complaint I have about the sandbox element of Far Cry 4, it's that much of the side content feels like a collect-a-thon. I only wish Ubisoft would design more dynamic missions that encouraged exploration, as opposed to ensuring I cover every inch of the map simply because you stuck a propaganda poster there.

Speaking to the story, I found it to be a mixed bag. On the one hand, I thought the new villain was excellently portrayed by Troy Baker, even if you don't see much of him. The backstory behind the main story is also very interesting, and a strong attempt at blurring the lines between what is right and wrong, good and evil. The two faction leaders you end up working for support this idea, even if it is a little hamfisted in its execution. The main part of the story I take issue with is the main character, who adds very little to the story and comes off as boring the vast majority of the time. And the game isn't devoid of enigmatic characters who do nothing for the story - similar to Far Cry 3.

Even still, I had a lot of fun with Far Cry 4. I might not recommend to those who have played Far Cry 3 already, but for those who haven't, you are missing out.

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7. Wolfenstein: The New Order

Where did this game come from?

I guess I should have been more excited for this game, considering the people behind The Darkness were working on this. But still, what a nice surprise! What most struck me was the presentation and the story. It has a very distinct tone to this narrative, which could be jarring at times, but also came off as charming. The way it would transition between certain scenes, or the way the characters interacted, felt different compared to the other "blockbuster" video games out there. They also managed to make B.J. Blascowitz more than simply a generic, gruff solider.

In terms of the gameplay it was good, simple fun. I enjoyed that both stealth and action were viable routes you could take, though it was a little inconsistent in where you could and couldn't be stealthy. There's also nothing quite like running and gunning whilst double-weidling two automatic shotguns that fire shrapnel rounds. And there was some nice variety in the locations you visit, the likes of a giant Nazi facility, prison camps, and the freaking moon, to name a few.

I'm eager to see where the series goes on from here. Whether or not it's headed up by the MachineGames guys might decide my excitement, but nevertheless, a great entry into a series I've never quite gotten into.

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6. Transistor

I have yet to finish Bastion. I'm not entirely sure why, as I can recognize that it is well made. I guess it just never hooked me. I did not have that problem with Transistor.

Transistor might be the best example of a game this year in which the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. No single element of Transistor blew me away, except maybe the soundtrack, but everything seemed to work in tandem to each other. The "vision" of the game was felt in the visuals, the sound design, the gameplay mechanics, the story, even the voice acting. Everything helps support this desolate, yet beautiful world SuperGiant Games have created.

It's not especially long or complex in it's gameplay, but I don't necessarily count that as negative. Transistor tells a story in all the time it needs, and no more. And if you're a completionist, the NG+ mode offers variations on enemies and powers to keep things interesting. Speaking of the powers, I really liked the way the narrative would open up as you used different powers. It gave incentive to use combos that might be out of your comfort zone, or you simply weren't aware of. It was an interesting way of tying the narrative to the mechanics, something I'd love to see more of.

Also, the music. Wow, the music. It's fantastic stuff, and I have found myself listening to the Transistor soundtrack well after I finished the game. Even if you never try the game, do yourself a favour and listen to the soundtrack.

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5. This War of Mine

After I'd watch the fantastic trailer, and seen this game in a few other GOTY lists, I knew I would have to play This War of Mine before I made my top 10 list. And I'm glad I did.

This War of Mine tackles the survival genre, a genre that has quickly became over saturated in the past few years, in a way that manages to both be engaging and atmospheric. This is a game that I didn't necessarily have "fun" with, but I wasn't meant to. This War of Mine is meant to be stressful, frustrating, sometimes scary and always depressing. More than any other survival game I have played, it made me feel worried about losing.

When I play Telltale's The Walking Dead, it may be equally as good at setting a tone, but never do I feel like my choices will prevent me from having a satisfying conclusion to the narrative. When I play Don't Starve, I may die, but that death doesn't mean much and I'm always rewarding regardless. When I play DayZ, well, I don't, because the interface and systems in that game are clunky and hard to understand.

This War of Mine provides an experience where I mourn the loss of the characters not because they have complex backstories or dramatic deaths, but because it signified a failure on my end. Where I am driven to stealing and murdering because it's all I can do to survive. Where simply having a small surplus of supplies for a few days is one of the most satisfying feelings. Where, at the end, I can easily say it was one of the most memorable times I have had with a game this year.

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4. Alien: Isolation

If you had told me that an Alien game would be in my top 5 games of this year, after I had named Aliens: Colonial Marines the worst game of 2013, I would have laughed in your face. And yet here we are. As if the universe was apologizing for the time and money I spent on Alien: Colonial Marines, we have been granted the best Alien game to date, and easily one of my favourite horror games.

If I could summarize all that makes Alien Isolation such a good game in a single phrase, it would be: attention to detail. Be it the lovingly crafted environments, the spectacular use of lighting and sound design - both very reminiscent of the original film, or even the look of the monster itself, Alien feels like a game set in the Alien universe. And when you are travelling through the many corridors, motion tracker in hand, you yourself feel like you are in that universe.

And holy crap, this game can be scary at times. After a quiet, atmosphere-building start, you eventually trigger what can only be called a hunt. Then, for a good portion of the rest the game, the Alien will forever be on your tail. When I caught onto the fact that the Alien is often stalking the areas you are in, and if you were to make a lot of noise it would appear, I became paranoid at every little noise I would hear coming from vents and walls. Perhaps the greatest triumph of the game is how intimidating it makes the creature. Compared to the broken bullet sponges that were the Aliens in Colonial Marines, this creature is gigantic and practically unstoppable. It truly feels like an Alien out of Ridley Scott's film.

Coupled with some really creepy-looking androids and the occasional human interaction, the game just has enough variety to sustain the many hours you will be playing it. My only concern is that they try to sequelize this concept, which I don't think would work very well at all. But as a single experience, Alien Isolation was a delight and is easily my favourite horror game of 2014.

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3. The Wolf Among Us

If you caught any of my talk over in the discussion threads, you could probably tell this game was going to appear in my top 10 list as soon as the first episode released. Not only did The Wolf Among Us introduce me to my now favourite comic series, it is a fantastic interpretation of the series in video-game form and easily my favourite game Telltale has ever put out.

Even from the beginning, Episode 1 introduces you to the wonderfully bizarre premise of the Fables universe in a way that is understandable to newcomers and is great fanservice for those who have read the comics. The aesthetic is reminiscent of Telltale's other works, but there's so much more colour on offer here. The neo-noir atmosphere can be felt right down to the game's fantastic intro. I won't delve into spoilers, but from episode 1 and onward, you'll experience a great detective tale of mystery and deception, with a host of interesting characters.

Speaking of the characters, Telltale has done a great job of both surfacing characters that the comic fans with recognize, but also in creating new characters that fit right into that world. The voice acting is also superb, with small-time actor Adam Harrington providing a very believable performance as the main character, Bigby Wolf. The performance also changes with how you play the character, which is where the element of choice comes in. Rather than having drastic influence over the conclusion of the story, you instead have control over the character of Bigby Wolf. Whether or not you want to play good cop, bad cop, or somewhere inbetween. This gave all the episodes a nice level of replayablity, which made the long wait between episodes a little more bearable.

More than any other game on this list, I'm eager to see where this series goes. There's so many stories that could be told within the Fables universe, and I'd love to see more of them in video game form. Until then, I think I'll just replay The Wolf Among Us again.

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2. Dark Souls II

For a while I toyed with whether or not I considered Dark Souls II to be disappointing. I have a tremendous amount of love for the original, it being one of my all time favourite games. And when I compare it to Dark Souls II, I probably favour the former just a little bit more. But when I think back to the time I had with the game, I can't hold that against it. It might not be the best game in the Souls series, but Dark Souls II is still an incredible game well worth it's place in my GOTY list.

First and foremost, the game is very similar to the original Dark Souls. The key differences will probably only be recognizable to those are familiar with the series. Some of those differences are for the better, others are not. The likes of being able to respec your character, or making other classes more viable in both PvE and PvP, or a more robust multiplayer, are all welcome changes to the Souls series that make playing the game much more enjoyable. That said, the narrative that is hidden behind item descriptions and character dialogue is a little too obscure and open to interpretation. The original Dark Souls allowed room for you to create your own theories about its world, but there was always enough context for you to be sure about those theories. With Dark Souls 2, it feels like there are gaps in the narrative that can't be filled in by the player, which is frustrating as someone who really likes those games for their story. Dark Souls II is also weaker in the boss department, in a situation where quantity does not equal a higher quality. Many of the bosses feel a little too similar, and as many people have pointed out, you will spend the game fighting a lot of human enemies wielding large weapons. The world design also falls a little short of the original. Both aesthetically, and in the way there is an over-reliance on fast travel.

I'm sure this is sounding pretty negative by now, but let me be clear, this is a Souls game. Meaning nothing compares to the amount of fun I had simply experimenting with the different weapons and powers, conquering that difficult boss after the umpteenth try, reading the various item descriptions as I tried to piece together the story, and then giving up and watching lore videos on Youtube. This remains one of my favourite series of games, and even if Dark Souls II is little weaker than the game that preceded it, I would take a Souls game over most other games I played this year.

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1. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

If you had told me at the beginning of the year that the remake to The Binding of Isaac would be my favourite game of 2014, I would have believed you in a heartbeat. After spending 180 hours in the original, The Binding of Isaac was easily one of my favourite games of all time. Now, after playing the remake, I can safely say that Rebirth is better than the original in every single way.

I hesitate to even call it a remake, because that robs it of some credit. Between the 100+ new items, the new endings, the new bosses, the new challenges, the new characters, and even the seed mechanic, this feels like a new game. And it can't overstated how much the 60 fps benefits the game. I recently returned to the original, and I almost couldn't play it, it felt that bad. That said, the game isn't devoid of issues, unfortunately. With the secret character, in my opinion, being poorly designed. And there's still a handful of bugs that need to be ironed out. Aside from that, though, the game is a lot of fun. It's punishing, but that only makes it all the more satisfying when you can get a good combination of items that help you win the game. And in that regard, it's impressive how many items work off each other, creating a whole lot of crazy synergies for you to play around with.

I won't go on much longer about the game, as I've talked about the game to death in the discussion thread, but I'll say I had a blast with The Binding of Isaac, even more than I did with the original. If you were put off by Rebirth being a remake, you shouldn't be. This is a game well worth your time.

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Honorable Mentions

There's a handful of games that I played this year that didn't appear on this list, that I did enjoy, but were just slightly edged out by the competition. I still think they're worth mentioning, though, so here they are.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax - Fun fighting game with a cool, if also fanservice-y, story mode.

Blazblue Chrono Phantasma - Another fun fighting game with a lot of content and an interesting cast of characters.

Trials Fusion - My first Trials game. Equally as satisfying as it is frustrating.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor - Worth mentioning for the nemesis system alone.

inFamous: Second Son - A very pretty inFamous game with a decent story and fun powers. Just a little too short.

Games I missed but will totally play later

There's also a handful of games I didn't get to this year, but I still intend on playing. Here they are.

The Fall - The quick look sold me on this game. I just need to play it!

Jazzpunk - Sounds really good, just not bought it yet.

Dragon Age: Inquisition - A friend is getting me it for Christmas, so I'll play it soon. Patrick's article made me want to play it.

LittleBigPlanet 3 - I'm a sucker for the LittleBigPlanet games. I look forward to trying out the create mode.

The Evil Within - I like horror games, so I should play this.

Lords of the Fallen - I like Souls games, so I should play this.

Closing Remarks

And that about does it for my GOTY list. It's been a good year, full of cool games. I'd also like to take the chance to express my thanks both to the site and its community. The site has provided a wealth of great content this year, and both Jason and Dan have been excellent additions to the staff. Community-wise I feel like I'm actually starting to fit in amongst the rest of you. Partaking in the chat whenever a live stream is on, or bumping into some familiar users whilst surfing the boards has been a lot of fun. I hope to stick with the site in the years to come, and maybe even make some good friends while I'm here. Until then, I hope everyone has a great Christmas, and I'll see you around in 2015. Thanks for reading.

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Let's do this GOTY thing!

Another year, Another GOTY List

And what a curious year it has been! 2014 won't stand out in my mind as the "greatest year of gaming", but it's definitely not been devoid of strong releases. We've been through some rough patches, for sure, but there's also been a lot of surprise and excitement. I've got to hand it to the indie devs this year, as they fill out more and more of my top 10 lists with their games. And now, standing at the verge of 2015, I could not be more excited for what the next year holds. There looks to be some killer games on the horizon, and I'm ever optimistic. But before that, let's knock out this GOTY as I recount my top 10 favourite games of this year.

10. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Let's start this list with a game I had no intention of buying way up to the release. I mean, c'mon, the Call of Duty series was starting to feel tired four games ago, right? And Ghosts demonstrated not only a lack of innovation, but also a drop in quality, right? How could this game be any different?

Oh, Kevin Spacey is the villain? And everyone is jumping around in supercharged moon shoes? And the game looks really pretty? Huh.

Aaaand I was dragged back in. Yeah, it's a Call of Duty game. But it's a damn good one.

I can't recall where I heard it, but I feel the comparisons to the original Modern Warfare are apt. This game feels like the biggest step forward for the series since Call of Duty 4, in that it pushes the FPS genre in a direction I hope others will follow. Simply maneuvering around in the exosuit, pulling of dumb tricks like smashing into enemies from above, was the most fun I have had in a multiplayer shooter in a long time. It just felt fresh, like nothing I'd ever tried before.

As for the campaign, I had a lot of fun with it. It's very linear, and quite short, but the presentation is excellent. As bizarre as it was to see digital Kevin Spacy giving me orders, he does a good job of not phoning it in. This feels like a Kevin Spacey performance, and the devs make good use of him. And did I mention how pretty the game looks? Between the smooth framerate, impressive set pieces, and cutscenes that look so good it almost looks real, it's a visual delight.

It's not all perfect, though. This time round the survival mode feels half-baked and entirely uninteresting. The multiplayer could really benefit from dedicated servers. And the game can't quite escape feeling like a Call of Duty game, for better or worse. But despite it's faults, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare gets my seal of approval and the tenth spot in my GOTY list.

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9. The Walking Dead: Season Two

The first season of Telltale's The Walking Dead was my favourite game of 2012. So naturally the odds were going to be stacked against the second season. Did it live up to the original? Maybe not entirely, but I won't hold that against it. It was a bumpy road for season two, but a road definitely worth taking.

Though I enjoyed the first two episodes, I wasn't entirely on board with The Walking Dead: Season Two until episode 3. I guess until that point I just didn't know if I was happy with Clementine being the main character. Whether or not she could stand by herself, without Lee. But episode 3 illustrated not only the strength of Clementines character, but also the supporting cast. I won't give away any spoilers, but there's some excellent twists and turns throughout the season. Unfortunately, despite episode 3 being great, I felt episode 4 dropped the ball. Almost akin to episode 4 of the original season, it felt like a bridging episode between the much more impactful events of 3 and 5.

Speaking of, the finale to this game left me in tears. Something the original never quite managed to achieve. It's truly bittersweet, and a great sendoff to the characters Telltale's The Walking Dead has created. I'm not sure I'll be able to return to this series if it comes back, but know that it is not because I was disappointed with this season, but because I feel the finale poetically ended the game in a way I don't want to see continued upon. At any rate, The Walking Dead Season Two is absolutely worth playing for anyone who enjoyed the original, it it's my 9th favourite game of this year.

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8. Far Cry 4

Despite it holding a high position in my favourite games of 2012, I don't remember Far Cry 3 with the fondest of memories. The PS3 version was mired with bugs and a shoddy framerate. While there was a lot to like about the way the game played, it was far too long and there wasn't enough variety in the environment. The story had a host of interesting and enigmatic characters, but did little with them. Enter Far Cry 4, a game that is very similar to its predecessor, but a game I found to be much more satisfying.

The basic design of Far Cry 4 is very reminiscent of Far Cry 3. You're still hunting animals, conquering outposts, climbing radio towers, and getting high of drugs whilst burning crop fields. I can understand where that might put some people off, but experiencing that type of gameplay on a consistent framerate felt refreshing. I'm sure it looked even better at 60 fps, but I was satisfied with a solid 30 on the PS4.

It's not all the same, though. The environment of Kyrat provides a much more interesting and varied landscape to explore, and most of the time it's stunning to look at. The differences in verticality, though not as extreme as I initially thought they would be, give a sense of vastness that Far Cry 3 lacked. Aside from game world, the wilderness has also seem a revamp, further ensuring that you are never safe. Be it an eagle dive-bombing you, a demon fish taking bites out of you, or a rhino charging you, Kyrat is not messing around. If there is one complaint I have about the sandbox element of Far Cry 4, it's that much of the side content feels like a collect-a-thon. I only wish Ubisoft would design more dynamic missions that encouraged exploration, as opposed to ensuring I cover every inch of the map simply because you stuck a propaganda poster there.

Speaking to the story, I found it to be a mixed bag. On the one hand, I thought the new villain was excellently portrayed by Troy Baker, even if you don't see much of him. The backstory behind the main story is also very interesting, and a strong attempt at blurring the lines between what is right and wrong, good and evil. The two faction leaders you end up working for support this idea, even if it is a little hamfisted in its execution. The main part of the story I take issue with is the main character, who adds very little to the story and comes off as boring the vast majority of the time. And the game isn't devoid of enigmatic characters who do nothing for the story - similar to Far Cry 3.

Even still, I had a lot of fun with Far Cry 4. I might not recommend to those who have played Far Cry 3 already, but for those who haven't, you are missing out.

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7. Wolfenstein: The New Order

Where did this game come from?

I guess I should have been more excited for this game, considering the people behind The Darkness were working on this. But still, what a nice surprise! What most struck me was the presentation and the story. It has a very distinct tone to this narrative, which could be jarring at times, but also came off as charming. The way it would transition between certain scenes, or the way the characters interacted, felt different compared to the other "blockbuster" video games out there. They also managed to make B.J. Blascowitz more than simply a generic, gruff solider.

In terms of the gameplay it was good, simple fun. I enjoyed that both stealth and action were viable routes you could take, though it was a little inconsistent in where you could and couldn't be stealthy. There's also nothing quite like running and gunning whilst double-weidling two automatic shotguns that fire shrapnel rounds. And there was some nice variety in the locations you visit, the likes of a giant Nazi facility, prison camps, and the freaking moon, to name a few.

I'm eager to see where the series goes on from here. Whether or not it's headed up by the MachineGames guys might decide my excitement, but nevertheless, a great entry into a series I've never quite gotten into.

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6. Transistor

I have yet to finish Bastion. I'm not entirely sure why, as I can recognize that it is well made. I guess it just never hooked me. I did not have that problem with Transistor.

Transistor might be the best example of a game this year in which the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. No single element of Transistor blew me away, except maybe the soundtrack, but everything seemed to work in tandem to each other. The "vision" of the game was felt in the visuals, the sound design, the gameplay mechanics, the story, even the voice acting. Everything helps support this desolate, yet beautiful world SuperGiant Games have created.

It's not especially long or complex in it's gameplay, but I don't necessarily count that as negative. Transistor tells a story in all the time it needs, and no more. And if you're a completionist, the NG+ mode offers variations on enemies and powers to keep things interesting. Speaking of the powers, I really liked the way the narrative would open up as you used different powers. It gave incentive to use combos that might be out of your comfort zone, or you simply weren't aware of. It was an interesting way of tying the narrative to the mechanics, something I'd love to see more of.

Also, the music. Wow, the music. It's fantastic stuff, and I have found myself listening to the Transistor soundtrack well after I finished the game. Even if you never try the game, do yourself a favour and listen to the soundtrack.

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5. This War of Mine

After I'd watch the fantastic trailer, and seen this game in a few other GOTY lists, I knew I would have to play This War of Mine before I made my top 10 list. And I'm glad I did.

This War of Mine tackles the survival genre, a genre that has quickly became over saturated in the past few years, in a way that manages to both be engaging and atmospheric. This is a game that I didn't necessarily have "fun" with, but I wasn't meant to. This War of Mine is meant to be stressful, frustrating, sometimes scary and always depressing. More than any other survival game I have played, it made me feel worried about losing.

When I play Telltale's The Walking Dead, it may be equally as good at setting a tone, but never do I feel like my choices will prevent me from having a satisfying conclusion to the narrative. When I play Don't Starve, I may die, but that death doesn't mean much and I'm always rewarding regardless. When I play DayZ, well, I don't, because the interface and systems in that game are clunky and hard to understand.

This War of Mine provides an experience where I mourn the loss of the characters not because they have complex backstories or dramatic deaths, but because it signified a failure on my end. Where I am driven to stealing and murdering because it's all I can do to survive. Where simply having a small surplus of supplies for a few days is one of the most satisfying feelings. Where, at the end, I can easily say it was one of the most memorable times I have had with a game this year.

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4. Alien: Isolation

If you had told me that an Alien game would be in my top 5 games of this year, after I had named Aliens: Colonial Marines the worst game of 2013, I would have laughed in your face. And yet here we are. As if the universe was apologizing for the time and money I spent on Alien: Colonial Marines, we have been granted the best Alien game to date, and easily one of my favourite horror games.

If I could summarize all that makes Alien Isolation such a good game in a single phrase, it would be: attention to detail. Be it the lovingly crafted environments, the spectacular use of lighting and sound design - both very reminiscent of the original film, or even the look of the monster itself, Alien feels like a game set in the Alien universe. And when you are travelling through the many corridors, motion tracker in hand, you yourself feel like you are in that universe.

And holy crap, this game can be scary at times. After a quiet, atmosphere-building start, you eventually trigger what can only be called a hunt. Then, for a good portion of the rest the game, the Alien will forever be on your tail. When I caught onto the fact that the Alien is often stalking the areas you are in, and if you were to make a lot of noise it would appear, I became paranoid at every little noise I would hear coming from vents and walls. Perhaps the greatest triumph of the game is how intimidating it makes the creature. Compared to the broken bullet sponges that were the Aliens in Colonial Marines, this creature is gigantic and practically unstoppable. It truly feels like an Alien out of Ridley Scott's film.

Coupled with some really creepy-looking androids and the occasional human interaction, the game just has enough variety to sustain the many hours you will be playing it. My only concern is that they try to sequelize this concept, which I don't think would work very well at all. But as a single experience, Alien Isolation was a delight and is easily my favourite horror game of 2014.

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3. The Wolf Among Us

If you caught any of my talk over in the discussion threads, you could probably tell this game was going to appear in my top 10 list as soon as the first episode released. Not only did The Wolf Among Us introduce me to my now favourite comic series, it is a fantastic interpretation of the series in video-game form and easily my favourite game Telltale has ever put out.

Even from the beginning, Episode 1 introduces you to the wonderfully bizarre premise of the Fables universe in a way that is understandable to newcomers and is great fanservice for those who have read the comics. The aesthetic is reminiscent of Telltale's other works, but there's so much more colour on offer here. The neo-noir atmosphere can be felt right down to the game's fantastic intro. I won't delve into spoilers, but from episode 1 and onward, you'll experience a great detective tale of mystery and deception, with a host of interesting characters.

Speaking of the characters, Telltale has done a great job of both surfacing characters that the comic fans with recognize, but also in creating new characters that fit right into that world. The voice acting is also superb, with small-time actor Adam Harrington providing a very believable performance as the main character, Bigby Wolf. The performance also changes with how you play the character, which is where the element of choice comes in. Rather than having drastic influence over the conclusion of the story, you instead have control over the character of Bigby Wolf. Whether or not you want to play good cop, bad cop, or somewhere inbetween. This gave all the episodes a nice level of replayablity, which made the long wait between episodes a little more bearable.

More than any other game on this list, I'm eager to see where this series goes. There's so many stories that could be told within the Fables universe, and I'd love to see more of them in video game form. Until then, I think I'll just replay The Wolf Among Us again.

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2. Dark Souls II

For a while I toyed with whether or not I considered Dark Souls II to be disappointing. I have a tremendous amount of love for the original, it being one of my all time favourite games. And when I compare it to Dark Souls II, I probably favour the former just a little bit more. But when I think back to the time I had with the game, I can't hold that against it. It might not be the best game in the Souls series, but Dark Souls II is still an incredible game well worth it's place in my GOTY list.

First and foremost, the game is very similar to the original Dark Souls. The key differences will probably only be recognizable to those are familiar with the series. Some of those differences are for the better, others are not. The likes of being able to respec your character, or making other classes more viable in both PvE and PvP, or a more robust multiplayer, are all welcome changes to the Souls series that make playing the game much more enjoyable. That said, the narrative that is hidden behind item descriptions and character dialogue is a little too obscure and open to interpretation. The original Dark Souls allowed room for you to create your own theories about its world, but there was always enough context for you to be sure about those theories. With Dark Souls 2, it feels like there are gaps in the narrative that can't be filled in by the player, which is frustrating as someone who really likes those games for their story. Dark Souls II is also weaker in the boss department, in a situation where quantity does not equal a higher quality. Many of the bosses feel a little too similar, and as many people have pointed out, you will spend the game fighting a lot of human enemies wielding large weapons. The world design also falls a little short of the original. Both aesthetically, and in the way there is an over-reliance on fast travel.

I'm sure this is sounding pretty negative by now, but let me be clear, this is a Souls game. Meaning nothing compares to the amount of fun I had simply experimenting with the different weapons and powers, conquering that difficult boss after the umpteenth try, reading the various item descriptions as I tried to piece together the story, and then giving up and watching lore videos on Youtube. This remains one of my favourite series of games, and even if Dark Souls II is little weaker than the game that preceded it, I would take a Souls game over most other games I played this year.

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1. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

If you had told me at the beginning of the year that the remake to The Binding of Isaac would be my favourite game of 2014, I would have believed you in a heartbeat. After spending 180 hours in the original, The Binding of Isaac was easily one of my favourite games of all time. Now, after playing the remake, I can safely say that Rebirth is better than the original in every single way.

I hesitate to even call it a remake, because that robs it of some credit. Between the 100+ new items, the new endings, the new bosses, the new challenges, the new characters, and even the seed mechanic, this feels like a new game. And it can't overstated how much the 60 fps benefits the game. I recently returned to the original, and I almost couldn't play it, it felt that bad. That said, the game isn't devoid of issues, unfortunately. With the secret character, in my opinion, being poorly designed. And there's still a handful of bugs that need to be ironed out. Aside from that, though, the game is a lot of fun. It's punishing, but that only makes it all the more satisfying when you can get a good combination of items that help you win the game. And in that regard, it's impressive how many items work off each other, creating a whole lot of crazy synergies for you to play around with.

I won't go on much longer about the game, as I've talked about the game to death in the discussion thread, but I'll say I had a blast with The Binding of Isaac, even more than I did with the original. If you were put off by Rebirth being a remake, you shouldn't be. This is a game well worth your time.

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Closing Remarks

And that about does it for my GOTY list. It's been a good year, full of cool games. I'd also like to take the chance to express my thanks both to the site and its community. The site has provided a wealth of great content this year, and both Jason and Dan have been excellent additions to the staff. Community-wise I feel like I'm actually starting to fit in amongst the rest of you. Partaking in the chat whenever a live stream is on, or bumping into some familiar users whilst surfing the boards has been a lot of fun. I hope to stick with the site in the years to come, and maybe even make some good friends while I'm here. Until then, I hope everyone has a great Christmas, and I'll see you around in 2015. Thanks for reading.

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Fighting the Game

I was inspired to write this blog after my experiences with the "Score Attack" mode in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. In Score Attack, you face various groups of 10 enemies that, on the highest difficulty, are the biggest challenge of the game outside of online play.

After my thirtieth defeat, of which I have been keeping count, to the first battle of the first row of Score Attack enemies for Yu Narukami's character, I have thrown in the towel. Of those 30 losses, I have won about 5 rounds. The first and only character I had faced was Junpei Iori, who had all of three effective moves. One involved him locking me into a combo that leads into a super move and takes away about a 3rd of my health. Another move is an attack where he dives across the screen and is seemingly able to cut through any of my blocks. The worst offender is his buff move, that renders him more powerful and gives him regenerating health. It also lasts for the remainder of the match.

For someone capable at fighting games, I imagine this fight isn't very taxing. His moves are probably easily countered, and Narukami is bound to have a few combos that would do significant damage to Junpei's health bar. Unfortunately I am not good at fighting games. This can be evidenced by the afternoon I wasted trying to complete all parts of Yu Narukami's challenge mode, in preparation for score attack, where I got stuck on the 20th challenge and in the hours that I spent trying to finish it I have yet to be successful.

My lack of experience with fighting games probably has something to do with it. My first fighting game was BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, and over the course of playing it I quickly picked up the bad habit of button mashing. Despite my attempts to use a little more finesse, I still can't break out of the nervous spamming of certain buttons when in the moment. Which means most complex moves are out of the window and I am instead forced to rely on throws and easy to perform super moves. Some games offer an "easy" mode for those who are not adept at fighting games. The BlazBlue series has a very nice "stylish" mode which allows me the illusion of being good at the game. In Persona 4 Arena Ultimax's case, it offers the "auto-combo". Unfortunately the auto-combo has proven to be pretty ineffective in Score Attack.

If you're wondering why I put myself through this hell, it's because the completion of all Score Attack paths with most characters (on the hardest difficulty, no less) unlocks that character as a navigator. For those that don't know, Navigators are characters you can select to narrate the battles you fight. Navigators were pretty throw-away in Persona 4 Arena, providing some voiced lines during battles, but they have attempted to give them more meaning by turning them into social links in the new Golden Arena mode. This mode allows you to fight an endless stream of enemies to level up both your character and your social links. Anyone familiar with the Persona game will know why that's neat. It was the mode that I was most looking forward to in the lead up to this game. You could argue that it's still not that important, but at the very least I was hoping to sink a lot of time into said mode and level up each character/social link as part of spending more time with the game outside of the story. All that said, you can get them another way. Oh yes, you can pay $24 to unlock all the navigators.

To me, paying that sort of money for a feature that is part of one of the bigger things they have been promoting in this game is kind of shitty. And to add salt to the wound, if you had paid for the navigators in the original Persona 4 Arena (which could also be obtained through score attack), you would automatically unlock them in this game for free. I was suckered into buying them in the first game but of course, because I imported the sequel and not the original game, that doesn't work. My own fault, I suppose.

And so, I'm faced with a few options. Do I bang my head against score attack, on the off chance that I learn how to play this game or get lucky? Or do I bite the bullet and pay for the dlc? Or do I simply stop caring about a relatively minimal feature in a relatively feature-packed game? In any case, I'm taking a break from Score Attack. My controller nor my blood pressure can take much more.

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I played some games. Here's some thoughts. (Part Deux)

Alright, I played a bunch of games over the summer and I figured if I don't at least talk about some of them before the fall rush, I'll never talk about them. So without further adieu, here's part two of my not-so consistent blog where I talk about the games I play

(Like last time, if you have any tips or criticisms towards the set-up of the blog I am all ears)

Wolfenstein: The New Order

I'm guessing this game will appear in quite a few people's "Biggest Surprise" category this year. I was definitely not expecting what I got with Wolfenstein: The New Order. And what a nice surprise. For a game that I wasn't very enthusiastic about all the way up to release, it's perhaps my favourite FPS to come out this year so far. While it does seem like we're slowly moving away from the FPS games of yesteryear that would funnel you down tight corridors, I do feel there's a right way to give a sense of freedom in a FPS and Wolfenstein is one of the games that achieves that for the most part. It gives you a bunch of toys to play with, and various approaches to most situations. I had a bunch of fun just experimenting with everything available to me. Though it is a little disappointing that you can't go fully stealth (as that was my preference), but I can forgive that because it was in service to the story. Yeah, the story, in a Wolfenstein game. And I think it's a pretty good story, too. The characters were all pretty interesting, and I really like what they did with the character of B.J. Blazkowicz. It did seem to jump from different moods a little abruptly, but I did enjoy all the stylish quirks they used in the cutscenes. The presentation all around was pretty impressive. The menus were slick and the 60 FPS on the console (PS4) looked real nice. Overall, I had a great time with Wolfestein, and it's probably going to get a mention in my game of the year stuff come December.

Favourite Part:

Mass Effect 3

I had already played through Mass Effect 3 back when it released in 2012, but I had never gotten around to play any of the dlc released after launch, including the Extended Cut. So after dipping my feet back into Mass Effect 3 years later, with all the dlc, my feelings on the game are equally as different as they are the same. I think as a whole package, Mass Effect 3 really benefits from some of the dlc. Leviathan is probably the most interesting dlc they have done, and Citadel is possibly the funniest Mass Effect has ever been. The Extended Cut fixes some of the smaller issues I had with the original ending, but for the most part it's the same ending. Overall, this is the best Mass Effect 3 has ever been. Still, even when Mass Effect 3 first released, I had a lot of fun with it despite its flaws. And for as much as I enjoyed the dlc, I still feel the same about the game today. I think it's a pretty good game with some poor design choices scattered throughout.

Favourite Part:

Speaking to the dlc specifically, my favourite part was all the banter in the Citadel dlc. Despite the strange context, it was really nice seeing all the characters unwind for a little while. It felt good to get a one-on-one with most of the characters I'd come to care about throughout the series. And Shepard himself proved to be pretty funny, which I did not expect. The twist in Citadel is something I think all fans of Mass Effect should see.

The Wolf Among Us

I had technically finished this game prior to my last blog, but I felt I had to sit on my feelings a little before forming a final opinion. And that opinion is that I really loved The Wolf Among Us. I recall being very impressed with the first episode and mentioning at the end of 2013 that this game could be a contender for my game of the year if it kept up the quality. And for the most part, I think it did. There was occasional dips in the excitement and I can see why certain twists might have left people disappointed, but having read some of the Fables comic before episode 2 was released, I think it really helped my enjoyment of the game. I love the art direction of both the game and the comics, so seeing characters I recognized in the comic appear in the game was very cool. The music, consistent with the first episode, was superb. Combined with the aesthetic, it done a great job of establishing that iconic, neo-noir atmosphere with a twist. I also had a blast trying to piece together the mystery from episode to episode. But ultimately, the main reason I really liked The Wolf Among Us (and its comic counterpart) was the absurd premise and how well they execute on it. Growing up on your standard superhero comics, it was a breath of fresh air to play a game that was based on a more unique series of comics.

Favourite Part:

Bigby Wolf. As much as I liked the character of Lee in the Walking Dead, I always found the "asshole" option to that character to be rather redundant. It didn't really change who that character was. But with Bigby Wolf, I felt in control. I could be the cop with a heart of gold, the brutal detective who believes the ends justify the means, or a sarcastic prick that was somewhere in between. This, and the long waits between episodes, lead me to playing through the first few episodes several of times just to see how different Bigby could be. And I came out impressed with how much I could affect that character. He's definitely going to be in the running for one of my favourite characters this year.

I Played Some Other Games, too

I don't have as much to say about the following games, but I thought I might as well give them a brief mention.

The Walking Dead: Season 2 - Not as good as the first season, but still a worthy sequel.

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark - Not terrible, but quite disappointing compared to previous games in the series.

Dark Souls 2: DLC (1 & 2) - Enjoyed the first two dlc additions. Hoping the last one is equally as impressive.

Trials Fusion - My first foray into Trials games. I loved the first half, but the second half is super difficult!

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I played some games. Here's some thoughts. (14/07/14)

I've been wanting to do a blog about the games I play for some time now, but I could never find the time or the energy to do so. Eventually I settled on a bare-bones format where I'll simply throw out the thoughts currently spinning in my head and won't worry too much about visual aids or critical analysis. Which will hopefully mean this won't be the only one of these blogs. If you'd like to give tips on how to organize this sorta thing, I'm open to suggestions. Anyway, onto the games.

Fallout 3

The first time I played through Fallout 3 was on the PS3, where I had difficulty initially enjoying the game, but I eventually grew to appreciate it. The sense of scope and the atmosphere of the world are both excellent, and they helped me overlook many of the little problems I had as I played through the game. But those problems still existed. That was, until I played through a modded PC version of the game recently.

I have to give credit to the makers of the Fallout Wanderer's Edition mod, as the amount of changes it allows you to make to the core game of Fallout 3 is very impressive. Not only did the game play better, but it also changed how I played the game. I had to be more careful of the items I bought and the ammo I used, because I was a lot more fragile towards bullets. I found myself exploring the world more thoroughly as I looked for items to help my survivability. This lead to me finding more quests that I had never seen before, and becoming more invested in the wasteland of Fallout 3. By the end of the main quest (which I have to agree, has a dumb ending) I felt like I'd actually accomplished something in the game, as opposed to the constant fast-travelling, speed run-esque playthrough I had done on the console. I also tried out some of the dlc, as I didn't previously. I haven't beat them all, only Operation Anchorage, Mothership Zeta and Broken Steel. They've all had there ups and downs, and none of them have seemed essential to the experience. That being said I'm still keen to do the other dlc before I move on. At the very least I'd like an opportunity to test out the alien weapons I accrued.

Favourite Part:

Coming across a "battle" between two lunatics dressed as superheroes/villains. Amongst all the absurdity of this quest I just happened upon by wandering the wastes, the best part was that I was somehow able to sweet-talk the villain out of being evil because I had chosen the "Lady Killer" perk much earlier on. Oh, and I got her armour too.

Infamous: Second Son

So I recently took the dive and bought a PS4. Opinions on the console aside, I finished Infamous: Second Son the other day. (I haven't finished Paper Trail or Cole's Legacy, so please don't spoil those) Overall, I really liked it. The visuals, the sound, the powers, and even the movement are all a joy to experience. The soundtrack is easily one of my favourites of this year. There's no one track that is my favourite, but whenever the music would kick in, I loved every bit of it. For a showpiece for the capabilities of the PS4, it's quite impressive. The rain effects and the particles in particular are very cool. I'll have to try the photo mode when I next get a chance. But ignoring all that, the way you control the character and how the powers factor into your movement is really, really fun. One of my big problems with the previous inFamous games was the way you got around the city. You spent too much time fighting against the finicky wall-climbing system, which is still present, but it doesn't matter because you have all these powers that make the way you traverse the city much smoother and much more enjoyable. If the Batman Arkham games are the staple for good, flowing combat then I think inFamous Second Son is a great example of how you can turn getting from point A to B into an engaging experience as opposed to a chore.

As for the story, I think it's alright. None of the characters were very memorable, and I feel it suffers a little from the reduced scope compared to inFamous 2. I miss the looming danger "The Beast" brought in that game. It's not bad, but I felt it's been done better in the previous games. That being said, I don't feel like they left the series on a bad note. I'd be happy for Sucker Punch to leave it there and move onto to something else. I've had my fill of inFamous for while.

Favourite Part:

As stated above, I really enjoyed using the powers to move around the city. Be it running in neon, jumping out of exhausts with smoke, and so on, it just felt good. You can bet the first thing I did after getting the neon power was unlocking the ability that let my use the run continuously.

Battlefield 4

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was my first and is my favourite Battlefield game. Maybe it's just me, but I find that the sense of character and style that the single player mode of a mutliplayer shooter strives for has a pretty strong effect on how I view it's multiplayer. The bombastic nature of the single player of Bad Company 2 helped me enjoy the multiplayer because I felt like I was playing out a bombastic action scene, with the characterization and aesthetic seeping through into the multiplayer. So when Battlefield 3 came around and I hated the single player, I also didn't have very nice things to say about the multiplayer. Admittedly there were changes in the multiplayer that I didn't like, and the PS3 version wasn't very good, but I still feel like the negative reaction I had towards the single player affected my enjoyment of the rest of the game.

Anyway, to my point, I'm actually enjoying the single player of Battlefield 4. Perhaps it's my lowered expectations, as it's still one of those heavily scripted, modern military stories, but I'm finding myself liking it a fair bit. And what do you know, I'm also really enjoying the multiplayer. Okay, so that might be because the PS4 allows for 64 players and a nice framerate, but I'm calling conspiracy. In short, it hits the explosive highs I remember from Bad Company 2, and most of the weapons feel good to shoot.

Favourite Part:

At one point during my time with the multiplayer, I bailed out of a helicopter that had just crash landed on top of a roof, only for that same helicopter to swing round and knock my flying of the roof. I then landed on a lower-down glass rooftop, somehow surviving, only to have someone below me shootout the glass and make me fall. I still managed to survive and shoot that guy. It all happened in the space of 20 seconds and it was amazing.

And that'll do for this blog. I could write about Black Flag and Wolf Among Us, but the former I finished a long while ago (I liked it) and the latter I'll save until I playthrough the game again. If you made it this far, or just skimmed through some of the blog, thanks for your time. Hopefully you'll see another one of these once I'm done with some other video-games.

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My take on GiantBomb's GOTY, and the many awards therein.

It's that time of year where everyone and their grandmother writes a top 10 list, so I figured I'd jump on that bandwagon. I'm not nearly as original as some other folks here, so I'll just be taking the easy route of using a slightly modified version of GiantBomb's 2013 GOTY awards. Before I start, I think it's worth mentioning that I would have given several categories to The Wolf Among Us, but instead opted to wait until that is fully released before considering it a finished product. I really loved the music, art and premise of that first episode. Anyway, without further ado, here is my take on GiantBomb's GOTY awards.

2013’s Old Game of the Year

Metal Gear Solid 3 (HD)

No Caption Provided

Before this year, the only Metal Gear Solid game I had played was the fourth entry. After playing the other installments, I'm so glad I got to experience Metal Gear Solid 3. The setting was a nice contrast after playing the first two games. Seeing younger versions of several characters was really neat. The boss fights were great, I particularly loved this one. And, for all the cheesy humour and hammy storytelling in the Metal Gear Solid series, I found the ending to be really powerful and decently written. It is definitely my favourite game from the series, and my favourite old game of the year.

Worthy Mentions: Persona 4, Darksiders

Best Surprise

PAYDAY 2

"Surprise, I shot you, cop!".

I had a decent time with Payday: The Heist, but I never found it to be very memorable. It always felt like a Left 4 Dead 2 re-skin. When PAYDAY 2 swung around, I didn't really intend on picking it up, that is until a friend told me that I really should. I was really impressed after playing the game. The guns felt powerful, the heists felt like real heists, the music was fantastic, and the customization (while a little unbalanced) was really addictive. Not only that, but the game has seen good support form the devs over the past few months, with new content coming in fairly regularly. It's one of my favourite FPS's of the year, and my best surprise.

Worthy Mentions: Lego Marvel Super Heroes, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Most Disappointing

God of War: Ascension

Well-rendered Kratos is equally disappointed.
Well-rendered Kratos is equally disappointed.

Firstly, I should say that I don't think God of War: Ascension is a bad game. It's visually stunning, and I liked the new elemental gameplay mechanic. But this was the first God of War that I really struggled to finish. With it being a prequel, there was no feeling of urgency to the story. And compared to God of War 3, the scale of the battles was pretty underwhelming for the most part. I know we were given a multiplayer mode instead (which admittedly I haven't tried), but I also really miss the challenge mode. The previous God of War games always had a level-based mode to try after beating the game, which was always made for a fun challenge. I was sad to see that gone. While the next game (we know there will be on) might hook me again, I can't say I'm all that enthusiastic about another God of War game. It wins my most disappointing game of the year.

Worthy Mentions: Persona 4 Arena, Dead Space 3

Best Looking

Bioshock Infinite

What a pretty claw contraption of death, that is.
What a pretty claw contraption of death, that is.

I don't feel I'm being hyperbolic when I say Bioshock Infinite is a visual masterpiece. Say what you want about the rest of the game, but it's hard to deny the style that oozes out of Infinite. Be it the way the water moves in the beginning, or walking around Columbia witnessing the variety of contraptions at work, or watching the blood and gore of the incredibly violent combat, or being chased by the SongBird as structure collapse around you. There was very rarely a moment where I wasn't blown away by how Bioshock Infinite looked. It wins best looking game in my book.

Worthy Mentions:

The Last of Us, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Best Music

PAYDAY 2

Dallas appreciates my music tastes.
Dallas appreciates my music tastes.

If there's one thing PAYDAY 2 nails, it's the music. Countless times I find myself sitting listening to the soundtrack when I'm working on other things. But what I find most impressive, is how it works in the game. You get a very subtle music track going on in the background when you start a heist, which helps get you in the mood to be stealthy. When someone messes up, and you suddenly become a most wanted criminal, the music adjusts itself to match the tone. And then it goes even further, growing into an explosive climax as the police raids begin. It really gets your adrenaline pumping, and when it all comes together, you feel completely absorbed in the moment. It's great, and it's the best music of 2013.

Worthy Mentions:

GTA V, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Best Story

The Last of Us

No words, only emotions.
No words, only emotions.

There's not much I can say that hasn't already been said. Great characters, great writing, great atmosphere, great conclusion, great story. Best story.

Worthy Mentions: Gone Home, Bioshock Infinite

Best Moment/Sequence

The Last of Us - Winter

You would trust Nolan North, wouldn't you?
You would trust Nolan North, wouldn't you?

*spoilers ahead*

My favourite part of The Last of Us, the winter segment left me in an emotional wreck. I was so attached to the characters by that point that I was constantly worried something was going to happen to them. I found how it starts, places you in the role of Ellie, and leaving whether or not Joel survived ambiguous, to be an expertly jerk move. The new character, David, was also fantastic. Nolan North really hit it out of the park in voicing a believable character, without resorting to his Nathan Drake voice. He was masterfully creepy. Overall, great sequence. The most memorable of the year.

Worthy Mentions: Bioshock Infinite - Intro, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance - Metal Gear Ray

Best use of a Licensed Song

GTA V: The C90s - Shine a Light (Michael's Acid Trip)

JIMMY!?
JIMMY!?

JIIIIIIIIIMMMMMMMMMMY

Worthy Mentions: Rayman Legends - Eye of the Tiger, Saints Row IV: Aerosmith - I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing

Worst Game

Aliens: Colonial Marines

Critical Miss - (Cory Rydell & Grey Carter)
Critical Miss - (Cory Rydell & Grey Carter)

I was lucky this year in that I didn't play many bad games. Which means I can give this whole category to the garbage that was Aliens: Colonial Marines. In short, Fuck. This. Game.

Worthy Mentions: Aliens: Colonial Marines, Aliens: Colonial Marines

Best Debut

The Last of Us

You knew this was coming.
You knew this was coming.

The PS3 couldn't have asked for a better send-off. The game is masterful in it's storytelling, and despite the complaints, I really thought the gameplay added to the tense, despair-filled atmosphere. The multiplayer is surprisingly fun, too. Personally I hope we don't see a sequel to The Last of Us. I think the ambiguous nature of the ending is perfect, and I don't want to see anymore of the characters after that. Regardless, here's to my favourite debut of the year.

Worthy Mentions: State of Decay, Gone Home

Best Sequel

Rayman Legends

Even the monsters look pretty. Relatively.
Even the monsters look pretty. Relatively.

Before Rayman Legends, I wasn't a big fan of Rayman. I even tried Origins, but it simply didn't click with me. When I heard the glowing praise of Legends, I decided I'd check it out on my newly acquired Vita. Playing it, it just felt...right. My problems with Origins were gone, and I was playing a much better game. Even on the small screen, it looks phenomenal. And there's a lot of game here, the Origin levels are even all here. While on the surface the differences between Origins and Legends might look minimal, they made all the difference for me, and that is why Rayman Legends nabs best sequel of the year.

Worthy Mentions: Bioshock Infinite, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Games of 2013 that I should play in 2014

Metro: Last Light

I know it's not going to look as pretty on my system, but still, damn.
I know it's not going to look as pretty on my system, but still, damn.

I started playing Metro: 2033 not long ago, and while I'm having some good fun getting immersed in the atmosphere, the shooting is quite lackluster. After hearing that Last Light makes improvements in that regard, I'm very eager to get started on it. The game looks great, too, which helps.

Worthy Mentions: Papers, Please , Gunpoint

Most anticipated games of 2014

The Wolf Among Us

Next year when I have an award for best menu, I know what's winning it.
Next year when I have an award for best menu, I know what's winning it.

I really, really wanted to give The Wolf Among Us some of these awards. The first episode of that game is easily one of the best things I've played all year. But I don't know if the rest will be as impressive, so I'll hold off another year. Still, in terms of how excited I am to play a game next year, my excitement for The Wolf Among Us is through the roof. I cannot wait.

Worthy Mentions: Dark Souls 2, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

That'll do for this blog, but if you made it this far and you just want to see another top 10 list, well you're in luck because I am in the process of writing another blog that goes into more detail about those 10 games. It's going to be a stretch whether or not I finish it before the end of the year, so in case I don't, I hope everyone has a great New Year's and here's to another 365 days of GiantBomb and video-games.

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Me Vs Steam: Week Ten-ish?

I'm a terrible person.

If you remember back a couple of months, you might have saw my previous blogs in which I had committed myself to completing all the games on my steam list. The first week went fairly well, I managed to play some games and it was looking like I could do this. Then college happened. Along with some other distractions, I've been losing the battle since. But I don't intend on giving up.

I've tweaked the rules a little to make it easier for myself. Previously, I intended to completing every game on my list. But that's just not going to happen. The quantity is not what I fear, it's the quality of the experience. There's certain games on my list that I simply don't want to play to completion. So, instead, I'll be going by a new rule in which I want to play all the games on my steam list. "Play" will not be a set completion rate or amount of time, but rather just however much I want to play of a game. If it's enjoyable, I'll most likely play to completion anyway.

I also intend on doing this slightly differently in that I don't want to do a blog on purely Steam games every week. I think instead I would rather just do a "Games I've played (date here)" blog whenever I've played enough games to warrant talking about them, and devote a section of that to the "me vs steam" thing. So I may do something like that later today, once I've finished a particular game I'm playing. If you've read this far, then enjoy this .gif as I have nothing of real game discussion to offer right now.

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Me Vs Steam: Week One

No steps forward, Three steps back..

I'm sure some of you probably anticipated this. Alas, I couldn't resist the temptation of purchasing steam games. This week I bought 3 new ones. Spelunky, Rogue Legacy and Symphony. All of which will be added to the list. Nothing to subtract I'm afraid, as the only other game I've been playing this week was a little bit of Payday: The Heist. The rest of my time has been sunk into Rogue Legacy, Spelunky and Symphony, with some PS3 gaming as well. I don't think I've played enough Spelunky to comment on it, but I can give my thoughts so far on both Symphony and Rogue Legacy.

I love the aesthetic of this game. All the little particle effects when firing your weapon, destroying an enemy or simply watching the music play are wonderful. That being said, with only a few hours in I'm beginning to get a little tired of doing the same thing again and again. There's the occasional new enemy type but they don't make a drastic change to the formula. I'll see what I think of the other bosses, weapons and difficulties before giving my final opinion on the game.
I love the aesthetic of this game. All the little particle effects when firing your weapon, destroying an enemy or simply watching the music play are wonderful. That being said, with only a few hours in I'm beginning to get a little tired of doing the same thing again and again. There's the occasional new enemy type but they don't make a drastic change to the formula. I'll see what I think of the other bosses, weapons and difficulties before giving my final opinion on the game.

Yo, this game is ADDICTING. It's mechanics of giving you short bursts of success, slowly progressing further and further with each try is a masterful way of rewarding the player but also hindering him/her from completing the game too quickly. I kinda wish there was more differentiation between the weapons and armour, but I still haven't seen any of the late-game tier stuff so I could be pleasantly surprised. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to playing more.
Yo, this game is ADDICTING. It's mechanics of giving you short bursts of success, slowly progressing further and further with each try is a masterful way of rewarding the player but also hindering him/her from completing the game too quickly. I kinda wish there was more differentiation between the weapons and armour, but I still haven't seen any of the late-game tier stuff so I could be pleasantly surprised. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to playing more.

And here's the "proof" of the time I've sunk into the aforementioned games.

No Caption Provided

Not a great week in terms of progress, but I won't let that stop me. I've already lined up a few games to play this week, mainly the first Half Life game and Cave Story+. So, until next week, keep on playing those steam games fellow GiantBomb fans~

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