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I'm cheating this year, GOTY is going to be a little late so I can play more games.

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GOTY 2014

There's been a lot of complaining about this year, and I'm no exception. I won't lie and say that I didn't find it disappointing, and I think there are faults in almost every game on this list. Some are pretty significant. However I'm not here to talk about those faults. Now is not the time for complaining. In years like this the games that managed to make you happy are even more special, because there weren't a lot of them. So as flawed as they might be, I'm still incredibly grateful for all of them.

This year I did something a little different. Normally I order the games and then write about them, this time I had a lot of trouble picking the order, so I wrote the text first and then picked the order based on what I wrote. I think it worked out pretty well, but because of this I'm a little less attached to the order, and I might shuffle some of these around at some point, especially after I play the few games I missed which are: Bayonetta 2, Divinity Original Sin, Wasteland 2, Drakengard 3, Civilization: Beyond Earth, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and The Talos Principle. Most of those I missed because of time. Every game this year was looong.

List items

  • Let me tell you the story about how I got a D in geology. Luftrausers has claws, and those claws dig very deep. The visuals, music, and gameplay are so intense that it’s difficult not to get absorbed into the game. Fuck everything else I have to do, there’s a battleship over there, it needs to be blown up, and I have exactly the right cannon for the job. I tell myself I’ll stop after the next run, but secretly I know it’s a lie. I don’t want to stop until I’ve had a good run, but really… why would I stop if I’m doing well? Oh was there a midterm I was supposed to do? Whoops. I wish I could tell you I kicked this habit when I realized it was destroying me, I wish I could tell you the music wasn’t playing in another window as I write this, but I’ve told enough lies for Luftrausers.

  • For 2 weeks, I would wake up and play Dragon Age. Then I would go to work and think about Dragon Age while I was there. When I got home I would stay up a little too late playing Dragon Age. I devoted many many hours to this game, and during that time I made a lot of my favorite gaming memories this year; memories like the discovery of Skyhold, getting to know Blackwall, Cole, and Dorian, and exploring a world that remembered me from all those years ago. This is the first game in a long time that recaptured a hint of the magic I felt playing the first game, and I’ve chased that magic across multiple franchises. There are a lot of things that can be said about Dragon Age: Inquisition, but at the end of the day, I feel better about Bioware after playing it, and it’s comforting to know they can still make a game that inspires the sort of fervor inside me that Inquisition did.

  • I’ve never really liked poetry very much, and I could count the exceptions to this rule on my fingers and toes. I love stories, especially written ones, but finding the story in a poem kind of feels like untangling a knot to me. Whatever meaning the poem is supposed to have nearly always eludes me. About the only nice thing I have to say about poems is that the words are often very pretty. Anyways there was this poem I read in high school that I can’t remember the name of, honestly I can’t recite a single word from that poem. So why the hell do I still remember reading it 9 years later? Transistor has a knot too, I can’t say what it is about that knot that gives it so much weight, but I think I’ll remember untangling it 9 years from now.

  • The last generation of consoles held games back for too long. So long, that in the absence of evolution, iteration became worthy of praise. I forgot what it was like to see something new, and Mordor reminded me. The nemesis system is an idea that evolves open world games rather than iterates upon them, and it has me excited for the ideas to come. Mordor may borrow liberally from other games, but it’s does what it imitates better than most of the originals, and it may not tell the best story, but it gives you the tools to create your own. If we have more games like this one, then I think we’re in for a pretty damn good generation.

  • The first person shooter genre does basically nothing for me. Even when I do manage to enjoy them, the gameplay is never the reason why. That’s because I’ve never been allowed to duel wield automatic shotguns before. After that, they didn’t even need to give me other options in combat for me to enjoy myself, but they did! And those are awesome too! There was so much freedom in the combat that every encounter became something to look forward to. It’s easy to imagine that this is the kind of game where the story is something you’d have to tolerate while you’re waiting for the next gameplay section, but between the parallel timelines, the surprisingly detailed alternate history, and the endearing characters Wolfenstein tells an ambitious story that’s every bit as enjoyable as the gameplay. You often don’t get both of those things in the same package. I wish more games were like this, and that’s one of the best compliments I can give.

  • Bravely Default reminded me why I used to love JRPGs. The whimsical story and characters flirt with cliché so blatantly that it’s almost charming. The exceptional turn-based combat is just the kind of system I’ve missed in the last decade as more and more series elected to adopt a flashier pseudo real time substitute. When that’s paired with the expansive (and sometimes beautifully broken) customization, you’re in for a real gameplay treat. The presentation is no slouch either, with some delightful environments, and rad music. All of these elements work together to form something that scratched a whole lot of itches that needed scratching. Whatever criticisms I might have for Bravely Default, I have to acknowledge that it managed to kindle something I thought couldn’t be kindled anymore. A developer I used to love did something that made me excited again, however briefly, and despite their very best efforts, they cannot take that away from me.

  • My memories of old 2d platformers are from when I was too little to really appreciate them. For the most part I grew up on 3d stuff, and emulated jprgs (Shh). In fact I only played my first Mega Man game 3 weeks before Shovel Knight. So considering I had no nostalgia for this type of game, and very little frame of reference, it sure means something when I say Shovel Knight made me feel like a kid again. Accomplishing that is pretty special, and no other game on this list can make that claim.

  • Comedy is very difficult to pull off. Most games don’t even try to be funny, when they do, I often wish they hadn’t. So it’s no small praise to say that South Park made me laugh. A lot. It’s the kind of game you want to tell people about, and whether that person has played it or not, the two of you can share a laugh about how insane it is. There’s more to this game than the laughs too, I really respect the puzzle like nature of the combat, the length really proves you don’t need dozens of hours to make a good game in this genre, and most RPG’s could learn a thing or two from the dungeons. It’s commendable that this licensed South Park game managed to be a decent experience, and it’s easily one of the funniest games there will be for years.

  • There’s nothing quite like Always Sometimes Monsters, and over the lazy weekend I spent playing this game it managed to endear itself to me far beyond my expectations. Always Sometimes Monsters is offbeat, silly, amateurish, and undeniably charming for it. Even when this game missteps, it’s hard to hold that against it, because it’s got more heart than a lot of these games put together.

  • I have a borderline insane interest in time travel, and any game that realizes this through its mechanics is okay in my book. Super Time Force does this in a really cool way, creating a nice blend that’s four fifths puzzle game, and one fifth platform shooter. The stupid ass story kept a grin on my face throughout, and I have a great deal of respect for how fast and loose they play with the concepts of time travel. Weird fascinations aside, Super Time Force is a novel game that’s definitely worth playing.