By Justin258 13 Comments
Is the sixth of January really that late? I think I posted a GOTY thing last year or the year before way into January. Shouldn't Game of the Year stuff be done when the year is over anyway?
Justifying my procrastination aside, I'm not even doing a list this year. Well, there is a list, but it doesn't make up the majority of what I want to post about this year. It's just some stuff I wrote about some stuff that I really liked playing in 2014, whether it came out in 2014 or not. I tried to keep it in 2014 but I didn't play a ton of 2014 releases, mostly due to not having a job between when I finished college and when I got lucky and stumbled across something decent.
Anyway, here goes! Stuff I played in 2014. Let's kick it off with something that turned a decade old in 2014!
The “My Opinion Of This Used To Be Lower” Award Goes To… Halo 2!
I’m a Halo fan. I like all of the games to varying degrees. Halo 2 used to be one of those lower degrees, along with ODST. Earlier this year, I got the itch to play some Halo, so I played through all of the first game’s Anniversary edition – and then I played through all of the other first person Halo games (Wars and Spartan Assault aren’t included – I own Wars but never got into RTS’s and Spartan Assault looks like a subpar game).
Halo 2 still has some flaws. The first three levels are pretty stunning and actually quite excellent. The rest of the game never quite measures up to the first three levels – it doesn’t keep up that pace, it doesn’t keep up the interesting gameplay design, and some parts of it drag. But you know what Halo 2 does do well? Worldbuilding. Halo 1 introduces you to a single Halo ring in the middle of space and pits you against the Covenant and the Flood, and there isn’t really a singular antagonist. Guilty Spark kind of is, but he’s really just “the guy between you and destroying the actual bad thing”. Halo 2 not only gives the Covenant a face, but it also expands on their social hierarchy, gives you some a bit of insight into their government, and in general shows you a lot about them – and then upsets all of that to kick off a schism that separates the Elites from the Covenant. Keep in mind, this is only half of the game. About four hours, give or take an hour, are spent with the Arbiter and the Covenant side of things, and in that time we see so much about that side of the conflict, how it works, what its goals are. It’s not that these things are complicated, but they are shown to the audience very, very well, and not told to us with a lot of exposition. Master Chief’s side of this story is good, too, but it’s the Arbiter bits that I think make the Halo 2 campaign more memorable, and it’s mostly because of the Arbiter’s story. It helps that the Arbiter’s story in this game is actually a full-on story arc and not just a middle chapter with no real solid ground gained. Master Chief’s conclusion comes at the end of Halo 3, all of The Arbiter’s character arc is done here.
For the record, the rest of the Halo games are still pretty good, and I still think Halo 3 ODST is the least of them.
The “Game That You People Said Was Good For Some Reason” Award Goes To… Bravely Default!
OK, about that title, some people really like this game and that’s fine. I really, really wanted to like this game, but I can’t. It’s got a pretty bland and predictable story, and the only part that could be considered unpredictable requires you to essentially run through a Cliffnotes version of the game four times in a row. I knew about that before buying the game and said I’d be OK with it in the interest of good mechanics and… well, the mechanics here aren’t necessarily bad but they sure as hell ain’t no (insert Atlus’s entire 3DS output here). The “braving and defaulting” idea is great in theory but it mostly just means I’m braving four times for 250 damage each, rather than attacking once for 1000 damage, or something along those lines. Technically I’m going four turns in a row, but practically I never saw a reason to, and boss battles were never particularly hard. I just found the whole thing so blandly designed. Except for the art and visuals. Give credit where credit's due, this game looks absolutely fantastic. I would probably purchase a PC release just to play this game in a much higher resolution on a bigger screen. The game isn't overall bad, just disappointingly bland.
Consider the two Digital Devil Saga games runners-up, but those games have those SMT mechanics and those mechanics and the gameplay design using them are still pretty damn good.
The “Maybe Bravely Default Is Good But I Didn’t Think Much Of It Because I Was Comparing It To Giants” Award Goes To… Final Fantasy VI and Persona 4 Golden, Tied
If you’re reading this, chances are you know what Persona 4 is. I finished Golden earlier this year, after watching the entire ER and playing P3FES last year, and like seemingly everyone else I thought P4 was pretty great. At this point, it can easily be considered one of those JRPG greats that everyone who ever tries JRPGs needs to give some time to, right behind Chrono Trigger and FFVI. Some people think the dungeons in Persona 4 are boring, and that’s fine, but I’d be happy if they made an entire Persona game focused on dungeons. Wouldn’t that be great? They could even make it a tile-based throwback in the vein of Etrian Odyssey or something. Persona 4 Golden’s turn-based combat feels on-par with SMT Nocturne’s to me, in terms of balance and strategy. Bump P4 up to hard like I did and I wouldn’t blame you for saying that you think P4G’s boss fights are actually better than Nocturne’s, and that’s one hell of a feat. It does get a little too grindy at times and never make me go back to find a fucking key in your random dungeon, but P4’s combat remains satisfying and challenging throughout on Hard.
The “I Should Have Played More Of This” Award Goes To… Legend of Grimrock 2!
No, really, I should have. This game came out right around the time I got a full time job and my life started picking back up – not a good time to dive into a slow-paced very long atmospheric dungeon crawler. But what I’ve played shows that it’s a damn, damn, goddamn good one of those and you need to play it if you have even a passing interest in puzzles or RPG’s or good things. I also need to play it and I’ll get to it as soon as I finish messing with…
The “Game I Definitely Should Have Bought Instead Of Titanfall” Award Goes To… Dark Souls II
I’m still playing this game, I’m getting close to 20 hours in and I’m really enjoying it. Dark Souls I is the kind of game that I should love. Dark, oppressive, lonely atmosphere? Exploration? Remarkable difficulty? Not a particularly traditional story? Sounds a lot like Nocturne! I love Nocturne! And sounds a fair bit like Super Metroid, too! I love Super Metroid! But I never did. I could talk about why at length, but it basically boils down to me getting invaded. I don’t want any part of that, and the idea of another human being popping into my lonely game to stab me in the back sounds like the antithesis of why I care to play such games in the first place. I wound up buying Dark Souls II and putting the .exe behind a firewall so I'd never have to deal with the online stuff. Why didn't I think of that before?
Dark Souls II is pretty great. Personally, I think I've settled on using Vengarl's armor and a fully upgraded Greatsword for the rest of the game. I'd like to use the Smelter Demon's sword but a) not everything is weak to fire and b) the stuff to upgrade it is rare, so the regular-ass, notched, worn, old, Greatsword +10 is what I'm using. I also want to be fast, so I'm not using heavy armor at all. Instead, I've got 40 points in Vitality at the moment and a ring that raises my equip load, so I've still got a medium roll. As soon as I got enough strength to wield the Greatsword, I actually went naked for a few hours so I could keep a faster roll until I got my Vitality up enough to equip some real armor.
A side note - I thought you guys said this game was hard. I just got the King's Ring and I've only had trouble with The Pursuer and The Smelter Demon so far. I have finished off most other bosses in one, two, maybe three tries. I'm not trying to go "hey, I'm a badass!", but if there's one complaint I have about Dark Souls II, it's that a lot of bosses feel the same. Many of them feel like The Pursuer again. If I'm not dodging things the same way I dodged The Pursuer's attacks, I'm fighting bosses whose attacks take so long to wind up that I can go make a sandwich before I have to react. The eight and a half hours I played of Dark Souls 1 was way harder than anything I've come across here. Some regular enemies have given me trouble but not tons. It's not easy, certainly, but it's not brutally punishing either. Just be patient and pay attention to when you should hit.
The “Best Video Game Released in 2014” Award Goes To...
If you’ve seen me post anything about Shovel Knight, it’s probably been associated with the phrase “best game released this year”. And it is. It’s so great. My first console was actually the SNES so I played the successors of the games that Shovel Knight was based on, so maybe my view is a little bit different? In any case, Shovel Knight pushed all the right nostalgia buttons without feeling like it was pandering to me with references and ideas from those older games. Instead, it took some things that worked, refined them greatly, and put them in a game that is designed and plays beautifully. It’s a must-play in my book. I just don't have any complaints about it whatsoever, and I don't really want to bore you with things you've heard about Shovel Knight elsewhere.
The “2nd Best Video Game Released in 2014” Award Goes To...
Basically a runner-up category because Wolfenstein The New Order stuck out to me almost as much as Shovel Knight this year. FPS games with good stories have become fairly common, which is surprising when considering how meatheaded the genre is often assumed to be. Wolfenstein The New Order takes the original FPS meathead and turns him into a human. He’s still a walking death machine, but he’s a walking death machine who seems like an OK guy, and sometimes you really could see him having a BBQ one sunny Saturday afternoon, with a few kids running around and a cold beer in his hand. This is completely at odds with practically every other war hero in every other video game, ever. And the game does this while still being silly and gory (though, frankly, I found the gory parts mild in comparison to some other shooters, but then I played Brutal Doom around this time).
It gets the gameplay right, too. It's more than just competent, it's a downright blast to just play Wolfenstein: The New Order.
My only real complaint with Wolfenstein is the moon level. You don't have much ammo with your regular weapons, so you're forced to use energy weapons. This would be fine if you didn't have to keep running back to the damn chargers on the wall - none of the weapons really hold all that much ammo, so you're chained to recharging it during a battle instead of the fun running and gunning you've been doing since the beginning of the game.
The “Best Mod I Messed With in 2014” Award Goes To… Brutal Doom
I can't find a picture that is a) representative of Brutal Doom and b) something that won't get me banned, so here's someone painting a room red instead. You pretty much do this anyway.
Have you ever played a game where you can almost literally paint the walls red with blood? Would you like to make a place look like the lawnmower scene from Dead Alive/Brain Dead/whatever the fuck it’s called? Then have I got the mod for you!
I am not often bothered by gore in video games. It’s so fake and over the top, more so than most movies would ever even try to be. I played Brutal Doom for a few hours and walked away from it more than a little bothered, but then I came back to it. It started off disgusting, and it remained disgusting, but I was kinda fascinated at just how far SgtMarkIV had gone in this fairly popular Doom mod. I wound up finishing Doom 1 and 2 with the Brutal Doom mod and I still fire it up from time to time for what might be the most ridiculous gore I’ve ever seen in video games. God, it’s such a fucking mess.
The “Here’s A Fucking List Anyway” Bit
5. Titanfall – I probably won’t ever play Titanfall again. The number of people using the Smart Pistol just seems too high, and I was too frustrated the last time I played it to care. It feels like they nerfed the R101C so that it’s kinda useless against the Smart Pistol and nothing else feels useful against guys using the Smart Pistol. So now I’m running around trying to shoot guys who don’t even have to aim and that’s pretty frustrating, whereas before I could usually kill them just before they got a lock on me. But towards the beginning, when my complaints about the Smart Pistol weren’t so prevalent and I was running around, weaving between Titans, taking them out on foot, killing other pilots, mowing down dumb AI enemies – man, that was fun. And exhilarating. And tense. And exciting. If they make a Titanfall 2 and they remove the Smart Pistol, or nerf it to the point of uselessness, count me in.
4. Dragon Age Inquisition – This game isn’t good enough to change the minds of those people who were saying that this was Bioware’s “last chance”. It is good enough to make most of them grumble while they play it anyway, for God knows what reason. Full disclosure, I haven’t finished the game, I played about 25 hours and then gave it a break to play the next game on this list. Still, I bought this to run through magical fantasyland with some “dark” tendencies (read: not really dark, just fantasy-ass fantasy) and that’s exactly what I got. Huge, pretty, open areas, lots of stuff to do, some RPG stuff to mess with, crafting, etc... you know what? Dragon Age Inquisition is kind of overstuffed and nothing in it is stellar, but there is something in here for anybody who even remotely has an interest in open world RPG’s and I like a lot of the stuff in here, so count me in. It’s not stellar in any department but it’s pretty good in most and it’s basically crack-cocaine to anyone who wants or needs to do everything in an area before moving on.
3. Dark Souls 2 – I’ve described this one above
2. Wolfenstein: The New Order – again, described above.
1. Shovel Knight – So what if it’s “another indie platformer”? This game is proof that 2D platformers can still be relevant and good and fun and they need to remain a thing, so play it. Really. It’s so great.
Some Other Stuff
All of this is spoiler'd because this is actually a fairly long blog post and I don't want to make it seem longer, but there's more I want to write about!.
What did I miss?
Not so much "missed" as "haven't got around to playing much of yet".
I own Divinity, Transistor, Wasteland 2, The Banner Saga, Thief, and the PC release of Valkyria Chronicles, most of which I plan to play through at some point. Wasteland 2 is iffy. I feel like that game wastes a hell of a lot of time doing stuff. Can I fast travel to places I've already been? Can this lockpick be a "hit if I have the skill, miss if I don't" sort of thing? Can I have a medpack that heals everyone instead of waiting for some bar to fill up? I like the combat and the exploration and the setting and the writing is even pretty good but I don't really want to wait... and wait... and wait for seemingly trivial shit to happen. It's not much waiting in individual spurts, but you might spend ten minutes waiting for shit to happen for, say, thirty minutes of play. Or, well, that's what it felt like, I totally just pulled those numbers out of my ass.
The rest of that list consists of games that I'm generally interested in and I'll probably beat the ones that are twenty hours or less. The only game 2014 game I can think of right now that I don't own yet and still want to play is Alien Isolation. I may own South Park one day but, eh, I feel like I can live completely without South Park.
What am I doing in 2015?
Working! Moving out! Maybe finding a better job! Oh, gaming-wise. For January, I want to finish up Dark Souls II and play Resident Evil later in the month. I'd like to sandwich Splinter Cell Blacklist in between those two just to break up all of the darkness in both. To be fair, Dark Souls and Resident Evil have very different forms of "darkness", but they're both fairly grim in their own ways and I want to play something a little lighter. Never played a Splinter Cell game before, so Blacklist will be it if I manage to finish Dark Souls II before the 20th, which I probably will.
...oh, what's actually coming out in 2015 that I want to play? Nothing off the top of my head that I'm certain will come out this year. Persona 5 and Doom 4/The Doom/Doom 2015/whatever are both supposed to come out this year, but we haven't really seen much of either and I'll believe that Doom is out only when I'm holding it in my hands. The Witcher 3 is supposed to be coming out and it looks cool but I couldn't really get into The Witcher 1 or 2, as much as I tried with both.
Anyway, that's my 2014 year in gaming! I hope you enjoyed reading it, I hope 2015 is one of the best years this community has ever seen, and I hope 2015 has some way better games than 2014 did! Wait, you didn't think I was going to be the only guy writing up something about 2014 without mentioning how it kinda sorta wasn't so hot overall, did you?