G's Official Games of the Year 2014 Edition
Lists are hard to write. I don't believe any game is objectively better than any other game, but here is a list of games anyways.
Lists are hard to write. I don't believe any game is objectively better than any other game, but here is a list of games anyways.
The best game of 2013 is the best game of 2014.
Samurai Gunn is a pure multiplayer experience, masterfully designed and balanced to a shimmering, razor sharp edge. Like the blossom of the cherry blossom tree it arrives and vanishes within a moment of violent, fleeting, raw perfection.
The survival mode is pretty good too.
Expectation is the mother of disappointment.
Surprise is the father of exaltation.
I am the son of ahhhh fuck it I lost my flow.
This is a really good game. No one expected that. Yes, we knew skilled peeps were making this game but really come on, it's Wolfenstein. Wolfenstein is a German word that means "really simple shooting game you enjoy and forget about quickly".
This game is such a wild grab bag of shit you both see and never see in videogames. From ultra violent Nazis to slow walks and long talks, explorable hub areas to cliche sewer levels, time lapses to alternate time lines, and one-liners to dialogue-free character reaction shots, Wolfenstein is an undeniably fresh romp.
Imagine this pitch and how quickly it was approved:
"Alright so let's say you start the game in 1946 - WWII rages on and our boy BJ is continuing to fight the good fight - then, *bam* you get knocked out. You wake up and guess what? Nazis won the war.
Ok then you go through a whole bunch of levels killing Nazis until *you go to the moon and fight Space Nazis*, and THEN *after that* you return to the WWII castle were the game started. BANG. WOLFENSTEIN."
Time to approval: 1.1 seconds.
Also, the directing of this game is outstanding, very easily reaching that Naughty Dog / Rockstar level so many others fail to accomplish. What that means is there are actually shots of characters that rely on facial expression and timing rather than words. Nuts huh?
Technically a late 2013 game, but cut me some slack here. Promise, this is the last 2013 game on this list. I've never played through an entire campaign of XCOM, but I have put hundreds of hours into the game and now its expansion. While I still find the late and end game largely unsatisfying the bulk of gameplay here is exactly what I'm looking for, pretty much all the time. Tragically this expansion only exacerbates the original design problems - you are just too powerful for the last 20% of the game for it to be any tactical fun at all - but if, like me, you are more interested in replaying the early parts or artificially slowing yourself down, Enemy Within is a steal of a tactical deal.
The original XCOM was an excellent game outside its technical flaws and lack of variety, and while Enemy Within still has that godawful keyboard and mouse unsupport, it does pack in a huge amount of variety, all of which I had good fun with. Special mention goes out to EXALT, both for being a great acronym and for introducing some more challenging and dynamic gameplay. I hope Firaxis realizes how superior those missions are and leans heavily on that style for the eventual next XCOM: XCOM 2.
For some people this is a glorified, expensive demo. At least, that's what the knowledgeable clerk told me at the Best Buy.
I am not those people. (Who *are* these people?)
I played the living hell out of this game and continue to play it today. Obviously everyone is dying of excitement waiting for THE PHANTOM PAIN but this here is a special gem. The small map size, tight controls, wealth of mechanical possibilities and brilliant enemies make for what is a legitimate sandbox experience in a world where that word is thrown around like salt over your shoulder and instead means world where you collect tons and tons of shit. Not just that but any 3D game that attempts Stealth sans Radar deserves a gold medal.
The opening cutscene of this game is all by itself the fifth best game of the year, everything else is just cherries on top of cherries.
Kojima and crew made a tremendous amount of bold cuts and changes to the MGS formula for Ground Zeroes and I loved every one of them.
Here's to you.
Resolution Gun is an excellent arcade video game, the son of a thousand fathers and mothers of the old tradition of flying left to right and blasting enemies to pieces. Resogun is the game that all its ancestors dreamt of, when simple destruction of pixels could exist on a scale incomprehensible in size.. in this case, some tens of thousands of particles flying about. Resogun is a kid playing with lego. Building ships and exploding ships. The simplicity of the cube world and seeing its disintegration is damn magical. The speed of movement and frenetic action in the game is chaotic and creates constant I Cant Believe I Am Not Dead Right Now moments. Like Samurai Gunn, Resogun has a) gun in the name and b) lives by the ancient rule that many standout games have lived by: One shot. One kill.
This is the remastered PS4 version! Not a 2013 game!
Too much has been said about this game already.
Me? I thought it was pretty good.
Spent a lot of time gazing at the world wondering how it was ever put together.
Some of the story moments reek of bad TV writing cliff hanger mentality but the atmosphere and main characters are *RIGHTEOUS*. Extremely impressive and depressive experience. This is one of those games, like BioShock, that inspires people to say "why can't developers just spend 100 million dollars on a place where you just walk around jeez".
I just want to shake SuperGiant.
This game is much better than it appears to be at first/lingering glance.
While I appreciate the developer's relatively novel approach to difficulty customization, it is in the end that very system along with the decision to hard lock the bonus levels (you can only play them at specific junctures in the linear story and need two playthroughs to experience them all) that ultimately undermines this game and stabs it in its lovely, sleek, sexy back.
So don't be fooled. Underneath a guise of mediocrity lies an astonishing battle system. The game may not be well designed for repeated play but the system certainly is. Tragic, truly.
The story is pretty good too.
I didn't really like the music (funny enough, it being so core to the story and character) but I loved the idea of the music and character. The world is fascinating, minimal, and beautifully put together. The prose that runs the story is Ok.
Did you know there is another Lord of the Rings game called Shadows of Mordor? Note the plural there.
This game. By now you've probably already heard that it's about as Lord of the Rings as I am marry fucking poppins, but really by the time you're reading this from whatever far flung future humanity has dragged itself into any semblance of THE LORD OF THE RINGS as it existed in my youth is probably well past disintegrated, considering the current state of the franchise. From the moment Peter Jackson touched this thing it has been devolving into a fun action romp completely divorced from Sir Tolkein's writings. Not that Jackson had anything to do with this game.
But do you remember that scene in the first Lord of the Rings aka The Fellowship of the Ring when Aragorn fights the Main Evil Uruk at the end? He stabs him in the heart then quickly rips his sword out and decapitates him?
This game is that scene, over and over again. Some 30 hours worth of that scene based on my game time.
Like many other games on this list, I didn't actually finish Shadow of Mordor. But unlike many other games on this list (and this year in general) it was only because I was *partly* bored. The truth is feel I did finish the game, there just happened to be this other game inside it too.
What on (middle)earth do I mean?
The now famous NEMESIS SYSTEM makes the entire fleet of Story Quests seem utterly archaic and pointless. How dare the writers of this game deign to tell me who the final boss is? Was the writing team and the systems team not working together? Was the Nemesis System implemented late into development? It's really bizarre. The game's story works against its revolutionary system *really hard* in some places. Probably they didn't believe they could sell a game in this market without some kind of cliche canned bad guy story but man oh man never has a typical video game story just completely fallen apart. It'd be like turning on MineCraft and the game going "FINAL BOSS: CONSTRUCT THIS SIMPLE HOUSE BASED ON OUR TEMPLATE". No one would do it. The entire game is about building your own shit, so who cares to build someone else's? How could that compare to your own history of construction? In this case, how could some typical bad guy story compare to your own history... of destruction!?
SHADOW OF MORDOR: EXECUTION EDITION
The only mechanical failing of this game outside a crushing design flaw wherein narrative and systems work against each other is the lack of a Hard Mode. No, I'm not boasting. I'm not even that good at this game. I still die. But it's not hard enough. The nemesis system lives off of your failure. If you breeze through this game nearly the entire magic is lost on you. I played this game in a style I've become all to familiar with these days. It's called MAKE YOUR OWN FUN. How did I do that? Well, I never bought upgrades for my character except those the story required of me. It was the only way I could keep the tension level high enough.
Thing is, if you've pumped as many hours as I have into WB's trio of Batman Games (Asylum, Arkham, Origins) you are probably a master of this style of combat. Yeah, it's still awesome. Yeah it still flows like a silk river. But without Batman's atmosphere, puzzle solving and greater variety of tricks and tools it quickly becomes one note. It was the nemesis system which kept me playing for more than a few hours, so if you're wondering how big an affect this simple AI system had on me, the answer was huge.
The last thing I will say about this game is that executions are amazing. Hit two buttons at once when your meter is charged and Bang! Off with their head / straight through their heart. Never stops being satisfying. Lord of the Rings is lucky in having these evil orcs for us to do terrible things to without any guilt. This goes a really long way actually. Nazis and Orcs. There's a reason they are so popular.
In my largely positive review of BS I slammed this game for having interesting ideas which are ultimately veneers that affect nothing: the "Outer Game" which was sold to me as a sort of Caravan Trip, really is nothing more than backdrop for you to make dialog decisions. All of your stats and resources are just distractions and flavor. At the time this was very disappointing to me.
Since then however I've realized I very much do love the heart of this game, which is the combat. Today I'd be more likely to play Factions (the free multiplayer version of this game) but the one I'd recommend to a friend is The Banner Saga.
Too much has been said about its art style already so I'll make it quick: it's among the best. The best being the best looking games ever. Yep. This game hangs out with them.
Effectively an interactive history game for elementary school children, Valiant Hearts is an emotional 2D puzzle game with a hell of a depressing kernel. In the darkness of the great war, all men are reduced to causalities. Who they fought for doesn't matter. Who they fought against doesn't matter. War itself is the villain. Our dog buddy is in a lot of ways a stand in for humanity. Ultimately neutral, he is German trained and American saved. The questions this little pup raises about good and evil are simple but strong. We know Germans are the bad guys here but the dog's relationship to his trainer humanizes them in a surprising way.
As bad as the "boss fight" is in this game it's a one off tone change that doesn't rear its ugly head again.
Absolutely check this game out.
Blessings and Curses.
This is what the age of Open World games has wrought. What seems like a thousand years ago, a little game called Grand Theft Auto III came out, and with its rise to infamy came the popularization of its approach to open worldness. We have been paying for that popularity ever since. We have seen good open world games and terrible open world games and as of this date (January 15, 2015, 12:30 PM Mountain Time) many, many gamers are just exhausted of the formula. Linearity is nearly back in vogue.
Dragon Age is in my ways the culmination of this rolling stone snow ball open world effect. What was once a very linear series with a few off shoot paths is now a series a open world maps, each more gigantic than the other, each crammed with goodies to find and things to do.
THINGS TO DO
That could be a synonym for open world game. Dragon Age leans hard into the open world as well. Unlike Assassin's Creed or Shadow of Mordor or even Grand Theft Auto, Dragon Age really ties the side quests to the main quests in both an interesting (narrative / mechancical) and terrible way (mechanical). Basically, main quests are locked out. They require you to have certain Power Ranks to start, for example, a Power of 8. Power then comes from completing quests. Did you find those 10 pieces of meat? 1 Power. This system makes great sense within the world since the game is very much about an organization's rise to power through both influence and action. But maybe it made too much sense. Maybe BioWare fucked up a little tying it so tightly together? I can't say. Why? Because I'm 80 hours in and 10% into the story and getting *a wee bit* tired of the game honestly.
As much fun as I had in my 80 hours the truth is I had to architect much of that myself, namely by turning off the auto behaviours and forcing myself to micromanage everything, a long with turning the game up and down between Nightmare and Normal depending on how bored I was. The combat is just too much rinse / repeat for me and switching characters in and out isn't doing it on a mechanical front though it does change the flavour of the proceedings. Making potions magically refillable and axing healing magic might be the source of all of this boredom. Buying potions is important because it means you don't have unlimited supply, and you must balance your MP use. In this game you can just leave the battle, sleep, and get all your potions back. This is not the same as resting and getting your MP back mind you. MP must be divided between offensive and defensive, Potions are just for heatlh. It takes a lot of the pressure out of the game. In fact, a big sign to me that this was a bad design decision is that any time you are in a long dungeon the developers leave Resupply chests left right and centre. This makes the entire game feel really low stakes. Add to that the lack of injuries (see DA:O) and getting KO'd in combat just doesn't matter.
So yeah. All in all, a very problematic game with some very fun elements. This year, that ranks!
If only it were easier to find a game I could punch this game way up higher.
What style this game has. Cel-shading is a catch all word that has been used to describe everything from Wind Waker to Borderlands. Really its most characteristic effect is the "Heavy Lines" you see in many of these games, but even that is a huge range being oversimplified. Ponchos takes this and other cel-shading characteristics and combines it with super cartoonish proportions and a dusty, musty tone that's neither dark nor childish but square in the middle.
The character classes are where the game both shines and pisses people off. Balance in this game does not mean equal. This is where you're gonna love it or hate it - and the underdog really is on top. Classes are not meant to go 1 on 1 in the traditionally sense. Teams do matter to an extent. For the Phantom (that classic red poncho guy) to take out the Soldier (a giant confederate) takes a hell of a lot of luck/skill/time. The matchup is, by design, not in his favor. You may hate this. You may not. The game *does* give you Match Up Ratio points. Which is to say playing as a class that is top-of-the-pops versus everyone else on the field may actually *substract* points from your score, because the Ratio is so high in your favor. For example if you win 3:1 odds you're gonna lose a bunch of points. If you win with 1:3 odds you are gonna get hell of points.
This type of imbalance is normally saved for single player games but the satisfaction you gain from winning against the odds is a great argument for this being a more prevalent design in multiplayer games. Obviously it exists in something like Dota but this is a much, much smaller scale. Evolve isn't super far from what happens in Ponchos, but its asymmetry is a huge distinction.
I absolutely recommend Ponchos but there is the regional danger. Where I live the game just isn't that popular. And that sucks. You can play co-op versus but it's a little weird and honestly the game just wasn't meant to played locally, which is a bummer. The camera & levels just don't work great for it.
From the levels to the characters, their guns and abilities, all of Secret Ponchos is a love letter to Westerns, a genre which unfortunately receives very little mail these days.
Everything about this sounds just completely wrong. When it was first described to me it sounded like a nightmare handcrafted by marketers and PR people to rip the hearts right out of Hitman fans.
A *Hitman* game, for *mobile devices* that emulates a *board game*.
How is it not a wild piece of garbage? No one will ever truly now. I like to imagine the lead designer of the game woke up in a fever dream one night. He had been playing Blood Money in his sleep. Only this wasn't the 'ol Blood Money we know and love. It was turn based. With counters. Raising violently from his bed he scribbled some notes on a napkin, then died. Assassinated by his own idea about an assassin, somewhat ironically. The police turned over the notes to his team, and they built this game in his honor.
BUT NONE OF THAT REALLY HAPPENED.
Either way, well fucking done. I mean, get the hell out. GET OUT. What you realize playing this game is what the original Metal Gear Solid tried to obscure from the player: Stealth = Puzzle. And oh baby what a sweet puzzle it is.
While the game's "missions" start easy enough with a bit of the classic tap here then tap there then tap again and try to tap with as few taps as possible, it quickly descends into the *exact same maddening* hell/paradise of trial and error attempts that Hitman is known for bathing itself in.
Seriously, fuck this game. It has no right to be this good.
Music is a powerful force. When I think of 1001 Spikes I think of two things: 1) the amazing cutscenes 2) the music.
You may or may not have heard of RushJet1, a sort of modern Manami Matsumae (see: Man, Mega) - I had not until this game, but now not only have I heard of him, I *hear* him constantly. Ok sorry that sucked :S Anyways music is grreat
This game is one of those "Hard Games". The hook is that you have 1001 lives. When they run out, you die. Sounds like a lot of lives right? Well it's not. I died 50 times on one level alone. And that was barely halfway through the game. You do the math. Well I did anyways. And I never beat this game. Which is a bummer.
There's really amazing couch co-op potential here. It can make the game even harder in alot of ways, but, hey, that's the point of co-op right?
I have a hard time describing this game because I'm still not sure it has stabilized.
Huge props to the developer for throwing nearly the whole out the window time and time again and rebuilding, changing, enhancing, redeveloping everything - from abilities to enemies to weapons to leveling up to navigation - nothing in this game has stayed still for more than a month. Is it still a beta? I don't know anymore. Words like Beta don't seem to mean much to Warframe. This is a good thing. Every successive update has been a positive, every addition makes you go "Cool".
The great tragedy of this game for me is that it is ultimately still F2P. And I just don't like it enough to A) keep grinding out progress or B) spend 10-15 bucks a month to progress further. I'm sorry to the developer for feeling this way. If I could I would pay you 59.99 for a big chunk of game, but I won't pay that to buy your currency. Whether the fault is in me, or the game, or in our stars, it sucks. Because I really love Warframe. I played it for about 40-50 hours, spend some money on aesthetics and then got very tired with it. I still turn it on now and again and have an awesome time being a space ninja, wall running and gunning and dicing up fools.
I do recommend Warframe, but the caveats are worth considering.
Use your keyboard!
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