I knew within a few days of starting Dark Souls II I'd be hard pressed to find a better game this year.
Prior to DSII, I'd played a less than four hours between Demon's Souls and Dark Souls 1. I decided to go into Dark Souls II completely blind. I avoided every screenshot and trailer for the game. Well, aside from the announcement video that, er, Jessica Alba presented at the VGAs a few years back. Huh, that was kinda weird eh?
The world and atmosphere of Dark Souls II grabbed me like few other games before it. Shadow of the Colossus and Journey are the only ones that come to mind.
And while the game prides itself on its difficult combat, it always felt (mostly) fair.
The game also gets my vote for best fitness/dance game of 2014. Every time I finally vanquished a boss that took me a good hour or two to beat I would instinctively jump up from my couch and started a celebratory dance. Very infectious.
And since I game with my girlfriend knitting beside me at almost all times, I was surprised to see her so engrossed in a game that has so little "story" to tell. In a year when Dragon Age Inquisition came out (a series we've always enjoyed together), Dark Souls II has taught us incidental, environment-based storytelling can be much more meaningful and long lasting.
My plans for 2015 are definitely souls-filled, what with Bloodborne and Dark Souls II arriving on PS4 in the first half of the year.
I would love to get around to Dark Souls 1 and Demon's Souls as well.
Dark Souls II gets my highest of recommendations. One of my favourite games of all time.
D4 is the game Deadly Premonition wanted to be. Cutting out all the bloat that almost ruined Deadly Premonition, and doubling down on all that makes a "Swery" game great: intrigue, memorable characters, absurd comedy.
The game's tragically short first season is but a paltry three episodes long, with each one a little bit weaker than the last. At this point, D4 feels wholly incomplete and way too short.
The game is an odd value proposition for some, and considerting Microsoft has done an awful job at marketing the game I'm worried it won't find its audience.
That would be quite unfortunate. D4 is stupendous.
Its irreverent, comical characters still come across as grounded and important in this weird world that Swery has created.
It feels earnest and emotional and stupid. And isn't that what we're all looking for in a game?
It feels like cheating putting this game so high up on my list.
This is essentially the first Theatrhythm game, re-released with a whole lot more songs and features.
There is nothing particularly new or exciting about "Curtain Call" that wasn't present in the original.
That said, it is the be all, end all rhythm game for me. No game will ever have a better soundtrack. Ever. And that's not even counting the incoming Bravely Default and Chrono Trigger DLC...
When the console's lifespan is over, I am sure Theathrythm Curtain Call will have my longest play time on the 3DS by a long shot.
(or no stars if you don't care about Final Fantasy music -- who ARE you??)
Okay, yup! Bayonetta 2 delivers. I don't know why I doubted it.
Mario Kart 8 abides by the now typical Nintendo mantra of: evolution and iteration over revolution and risk taking.
The result is a predictably excellent, nearly perfect video game. It is incredibly difficult to find fault with the game, from its "next-gen" look, class act soundtrack and refined controls.
It is almost with a certain sense of disappointment that I claim this to be the best made game of 2014, and certainly one of my favourites.
I think most telling of the game's masterful design is that there isn't really an Options menu. This struck me as odd at first ("why can't I turn the music up and the sfx off??"). But I've come to terms with this and see it now as such a strong sign of confidence.
This sort of assurance (some might say arrogance) in Nintendo shows you just how strong the game is. It's a weird touch. Or rather lack of touch. Immaculate. Yes, that's the word for it. Mario Kart 8 is immaculate.
Oh, but if there were a single chink in its armour, it'd be the exclusion of letting player 2 use the Gamepad's screen, removing the split screen during 2-player multiplayer matches.
Hah! You're doomed, Nintendo. Zero stars.
In a year where most of the West's big budget games fell flat, Sunset Overdrive soar.
Marrying the trick and style-based approach of the Tony Hawk series with a colourful, gorgeous open world, Sunset Overdrive dared to look and play different from its peers.
The humour was grating and the soundtrack extremely repetitive (two categories that can often mean the kiss of death), but the game was just so much fun to play. It takes its time to get going, but once you've unlocked all of your basic traversal options (the Air Dash, in particular), Sunset Overdrive comes into its own. I can think of few games that feel better than this one to just move around in.
I have never been a huge Insomniac Games fan, but in their first outing exclusively for Microsoft(!), they've managed to make both the inFamous and Saint's Row series feel pretty flat and obsolete.
Consistently playful and creative mission and level designs, gorgeous world and characters, the Xbox One has its KILLER APP that likely won't be topped til the inevitable Sunset Overdrive 2.
This came out last year, but I've only really sunk my teeth in it now on the PS4.
Eorzea is the first MMO who's world I've felt at home in. The world is fun to explore and the music is great. What's not to like?
I feel like I'm still scratching the surface of the game. Raiding and joining large parties seems way too intimidating for me but I've found plenty of enjoyment finding a quiet spot to fish, getting the right coloured dyes to match my clothes, or just monster hunting.
Five Stars (after thirty hours of play)
Another JRPG that I started and didn't finish in 2014.
What a breath of fresh air!
Bravely Default nails the look and feel of Final Fantasy IX, perhaps my favourite Final Fantasy. Revo's soundtrack is great and feels important accomplishment.
The combat system plays around with JRPG fundamentals just enough to feel instantly recognizable while still feeling fresh and new.
And yet, I stopped playing it. I can't say why exactly. I was enjoying it immensely and was often cackling to myself while playing it. "They've made the perfect game for me", I'd cheer.
But then I stopped playing. Curious.
I've heard the quality takes a huge nosedive near the end, with a Groundhog Day-esque section that needs to be repeated multiple times. But I didn't get that far into the game so that's not why I stopped.
It feels weird that this isn't even in my top five of 2014, since early on while playing it I was convinced it would be my game of the year. Game of the year!
In 2015, perhaps once I'm done Fantasy Life and Persona Q, I'll return to Bravely Default. Start it from scratch. Figure out what happened exactly.
Four Stars (after twenty hours of play)
My feelings for Super Smash Bros for Wii U are very similar to those I have for Mario Kart 8. Another great iteration on a classic Nintendo license.
Though, more than Mario Kart 8, I feel like there's a great valley when comparing the game's quality single player versus multiplayer. While Mario Kart 8 is still a ton of fun to play alone, I can't say I've put much time playing Smash by myself.
But I haven't been hooked on a Smash game this much since the original. I've got a feeling this game'll have even longer legs than Mario Kart 8.
Another home run for the little console that could.
Five Stars (after ten hours of play)
Like Destiny, Lightning Returns is a game of peaks and valleys.
The game's, lovely, open world invites the player to explore it -- a concept lost in the original FFXIII and beginning to be recovered in XIII-2.
The combat system is the logical evolution of Final Fantasy XIII's turn-based cinematic, flashy "big picture" job stratagies, mixed with Kingdom Hearts' more tactile, reactive real time combat.
The game brings something I've always loved in games that the Final Fantasy has largely skipped -- a plethora of customizable outfits!
Masashi Hamauzu and co produce a staggering four-disc soundtrack that ranks among the series' best (and certainly my favourite album of 2014)
But on the flip side, we're stuck with a largely indecipherable storyline with technobabble in place of strong characters and depth.
It's worse offender, and the reason I've yet to finish Lightning Returns (yet), is the endless "doom clock" that lingers over you at all times. There is a day/night cycle and you have a finite amount of time to complete all your quests.
This timer appears very liberal and I'm yet to find myself hurting for time, but its inclusion affects my enjoyment and the way I play the game. This isn't a world to soak in and enjoy. This is one you rush through. Every run is a speed run. It's awful.
Were it not for this countdown I'm sure this game would rank much higher on this list. I enjoyed what I played, but the dread caused by the countdown will forever ruin my experience with the game.
Three Stars (after twenty hours of play)
More specifically, P.T, which doesn't have its own wiki on Giant Bomb, since, well, it's just a teaser for Silent Hills.
But P.T excels in ways I can't imagine a big game like Silent Hills would be allowed to. It is a horrific puzzle. A nightmare enigma.
It is the scariest game I've ever played. I don't ever want to play it again.
Five Stars (after an hour of play)
Ground Zeroes was the worst of the two "teasers" that Hideo Kojima put out in 2014. When you also consider that Ground Zeroes was infinitely more expensive than P.T, it can't help but feel like a disappointment.
But if you treat it as the first "level" of MGS5, it feels quite promising. A very fluid evolution of classic MGS gameplay.
MGSV is going to make the previous Metal Gear games quite difficult to return to.
I'm still not sure how I feel about the enormous shift in tone from the previous Metal Gear games. Ground Zeroes is dark and uncomfortable.
I am still thinking about it more than half a year later. It's too early to tell whether this more mature tone truly fits the Metal Gear aesthetic.
Very much looking forward to seeing the second part of Metal Gear Solid V.
I started playing Terra Battle about a week ago, so to me it feels too recent to accurately place in my 2014 games pantheon. It could be that I'll grow tired of its grid-based combat, or that its free-to-play, microtransaction nature will eventually rear its ugly head. But so far that hasn't happened.
So far I'm left with my favourite strategy game of 2014. A deliciously simple little tile-based puzzle game wrapped up in incredible design. The character designs, menus and (Uematsu's) soundtrack are among the best of the year.
I always wish I'd payed forty bucks for this on my 3DS. But it's a phone game. The first phone game I've (gasp) loved!
That it's free feels like a crime. Not once have I felt any sort of urge to pay for any of its microtransactions -- they feel unnecessary and completely optional. Wow! I don't quite understand how Mistwalker plans on making their money with this game... mobile game dev is such a weird, mystical thing.
Congrats to the Gooch and his team, their best game since Lost Odyssey.
Four Stars (after a week of play)
Persona Q scratches a dungeon diving itch that I don't really have. It's itching for the sake of itching and nothing else. I've tried the Etrian Odyssey games before and those have never connected with me. I'd be lying if I didn't say I found Persona Q's dungeon crawling a bit tedious.
But that's not why I play Persona Q. I'm here for the P4 cast. I'm here for parts of the P3 cast. I'm here for the sublime remixes of Shoji Meguro's Persona soundtracks.
The combat is fun and engaging -- as much as any Shin Megami Tensei game -- but it's for the cast of characters that I've played and continue to play PQ. Well done!
Four Stars (after twelve hours of play)
With its saccharine piano score and its beautiful aesthetic, Valiant Hearts is my favourite war game of all time. And I haven't even finished it yet.
It's light puzzles and informative history lessons go well with the story they are trying to tell. One of the many games of 2014 that simply felt very special.
Five Stars (after a couple hours of play)
I've played through Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age II several times. I've got the big hardcover "The World of Thedas" encyclopedia. I've read three (THREE!) of the goddamn Dragon Age novels.
I was very excited for Dragon Age Inquisition.
But I haven't given it much of a chance yet. I started playing it the week it came out and was immediately turned off. The pacing felt wrong. The Hinterlands were gorgeous but incredibly repetitive and dull. The combat felt a little passive and underwhelming. The cutscene that led into the title sequence stuttered uncontrollably (on PS4). Several characters felt introduced too quickly and with not enough gravitas.
I put fifteen hours into it and then kinda... stopped.
It was a bad first impression. My expectations were unrealistic. I'll give it another shot in 2015 when I've got less things on my plate. I'm happy to see it atop of a lot of Game of the Year lists. It's ranking on my list is very low, but I expect (and truly hope) that it climb up the ranks when I give it a second chance.
Three Stars (after fifteen hours of play)
Destiny has the best first person gunplay and traversal I've ever come across.
Destiny's world and character design feel fresh and inventive. This is the best looking game I've ever seen.
Destiny's impeccable score already feels like a classic. If more big budget games cribbed from Martin O'Donnell we'd live in a much better sounding world.
Destiny is some of the most fun I've had playing a game online in years.
Destiny's mission design is staggeringly repetitive and drab.
Destiny's story and writing are even more damning than Sunset Overdrive -- it felt like they didn't even try.
Destiny is a depressing game to play alone.
Destiny is equal parts the best game of the year and the worst game of the year. Try not to think too much of the game that Destiny could have been -- should have been -- and you're bound to have a pretty good time.
Three Stars (after fifteen hours of play)
Cute and addictive. It feels like My First MMO but nails all of the fundamentals.
The world is colourful but lacking any sense of wonder. And it isn't Uematsu's best score, but there is still a lot of charm to be found in Fantasy Life.
Four Stars (after twenty hours of play)
I played through Diablo III and its expansion on my PS4 with my girlfriend.
Probably the best local co-op game I've ever played but... is it me or is the game woefully unbalanced? Even at its hardest difficulty the game was a total cakewalk. To me this game was the epitome of "push x to win". Even as we kept unlocking more and more difficulties the further in we get, it still didn't hold any challenge whatsoever.
I have to imagine this is some sort of bug with local multiplayer not scaling appropriately or something....right? It felt mindless.
Thankfully, mindlessly slaughtering thousands of weird, wonderful creatures is still a ton of fun.
If Blizzard could spend even a small fraction of their billions of dollars on a screenwriter who's talent can match the sheer talent in the game's many illustrators they'd have a classic on their hands.
This little game dared to weave a fun supernatural mystery only to bog it down with awful forced stealth sections.
I LOVED what I played of the game but raged quit after one too many of those stealth sequences. I sold the game but I think I'd be willing to give it another shot if I could find it for 20$.
Have a little patience with its rougher bits and you might find yourself enjoy this little chipped gem.
Three Stars (after five hours of play)
I loved the first inFamous and enjoyed the second one a fair bit. inFamous Second Son is one of the best looking PS4 games and Sucker Punch's performance capture looks almost as good as Naughty Dog's.
The game itself was largely a step backwards for the series however.
I enjoyed the story and characters but ultimately the game felt very safe and lacking depth.
In making a smaller, simpler game than the last two, they've managed to streamline a lot of the bloat that surrounds most open world games. Unfortunately the mission design wasn't particularly interesting. Especially compared to Sunset Overdrive.
To be honest, I'd completely forgotten about this game until I looked up a list of the games that came out this year.
The lighting was incredible though.
I haven't finished The Evil Within. My cousin and I have been playing it a few hours at a time, once a week. As such it's been a slow burn. I can't say I like it much yet, but I won't hold it against it since stretched out over a few months doesn't seem like the way it was meant to be played.
But the game has style. And feels like a semi coherent follow-up to Resident Evil 4. It feels special and weird, which is always a good thing.
More than anything it makes me wish I was playing The Last of Us again.
Excellent sound design.
Two Stars (after twelve hours of play)
Wolfenstein The New Order feels like it fell out of a wormhole from another dimension. Perhaps from the same dimension that the game itself takes place in. An alternate history where games like Halo and Modern Warfare were lauded for just the their single player components, their multiplayer discarded.
An alternate history where big companies continued to put the bulk of their resources into their characters in world building.
Behold! A first person shooter with no multiplayer.
Outside of outliers like the Bioshock series, this is a rare feat. And in this respect Wolfenstein: The New Order is commendable.
The characters look detailed and beautiful, and the sets are truly imaginative. The New Order shines.
But I can't say I particularly like first person shooters.
And its story was fun and well executed though not particularly memorable.
If you like shooters, give it a shot. You can do much worse.
Middling dearth. Shadow of more bores.
Marrying the world traversal of Assassin's Creed with the, um, everything else of the Arkham games, SoM really struggles to find an identity with its muddy looking setting of Mordor and aggressively forgettable characters.
Its saving grace, its gimmick, is the wonderful "Nemesis" system, which, on paper, is quite impressive and probably the only next-gen thing I've seen so far in these new consoles.
The interplay of the orc hierarchy and how every orc is named in unique is a mind blowing new feature that I'm certain open world games will unanimously crib going forward.
It's a wonderful idea. But personally I found the names and personalities of the orcs all blended into each other. It's nice and all to know that Thrak the Bone Thumper has held a grudge against me since I stabbed him the eye, or that Magog the Defiler wants me dead because I killed his captain... but to be honest it all felt very repetitive and rote.
Once you get the ability to jump over enemies and stunning them, the game loses any sense of challenge, rivaling the comedic scenes in the Assassin's Creed series where you'll just cuisinart your way through twenty enemies.
I look forward to seeing this "Nemesis" system in a game with more varied enemies. I'm happy to see a new IP in a world that I love receive such universal acclaim, but I'm not going to echo those sentiments. Shadow of Mordor reminds me of 2008's Kill Switch, a poor game with a revolutionary new game mechanic. Kill Switch came up with the third person cover, but it wasn't until Gears of War that it was implemented in a game worthy of the mechanic. Here's hoping "Nemesis" finds a home in a better game.
Heck, let Monolith have another crack at it. The world of Middle Earth is large and varied. Plenty of room to tell a more interesting story.
One last note: this game was a tipping point for my tolerance of Troy Baker in lead roles in big blockbuster video games. He is an incredible voice actor, but seeing him as a forgettable, vengeful dude in Shadow of Mordor just felt like satire at this point. It's starting to break the illusion hearing the same voice in just about every damn game that came out over the last three years.
Give him a break. Give others a chance.
Oops, I feel like a bad person for saying this but Transistor did nothing for me.
Like Bastion before it, its aesthetic and soundtrack are among the year's best (if not THE year's best), but the worldbuilding and gameplay didn't stick with me. Everything feels very well made and to be honest my criticisms of it are hard to formulate outside of just feelings.
I put about two hours into it before putting it down for good.
Would love to return to it someday. I listen to the soundtrack nonstop.
Three stars (after a couple hours of play)
OK, OK, OK. It's terrible. Yes, it's a shameless with its microtransactions. And yup you basically just swipe across the screen over and over again.
But for a good week there it was all I was playing. Is it a bad game? ABSOLUTELY. But let me list a couple things it does well:
What? Yes, if you read the item descriptions and the descriptions of the individual characters you're bound to have more than a few chuckles. IRL CHUCKLES. Playful little jabs at the FF series. It's surprising to see this unimaginably cold, shallow little phone game actually have the best sense of humour in the entire Final Fantasy series.
-The combat system isn't a bad idea.
All The Bravest involves tapping on characters on the screen to have them attack the enemy. Since your party eventually goes up to forty characters from the Final Fantasy pantheon, eventually you're just swiping your finger as fast as you can across the screen. It's madness and lacks any strategy. But the idea itself is sound: streamline the classic FF battle system so that it works well on a touch screen. Fiddling through combat menus in real time on a touch screen is a mess. I can imagine a simplified mobile FF where you just tap on a character to have them attack. Maybe this is what Mevius Final Fantasy will be? Either way, the idea of a hyper streamlined FF battle system for touch screens isn't without merit. I'd love to see it implemented in a better game.
-Amazing Pixel Art
This seems like a no brainer until you look at the awful work Square did with the remakes of FFV and VI on iOS and Android. All the characters in All The Bravest retain that classic SNES aesthetic, which is glorious. Better yet, the characters from the PSOne generation and on all look incredible in this game.
All the lovingly drawn weapons are also a treat to look at. As a free gallery of Final Fantasy pixel art, you can't go wrong downloading All The Bravest.
My girlfriend played this game, not me. I just watched her play, while occasionally controlling the little floating orb to help her out during combat.
Seeing as most of my interactions with the game were simply looking at it, I'm grateful for just how lovely the game is. This is one of my favourite looking games of 2014. This game and Valiant Heart are great examples of the UbiArt Framework.
But from me Child of Light's praises end there. The combat and world exploration lacked meaning and felt repetitive. The music, while never intrusive, didn't leave much of an impact either.
I'm a big fan of turn based RPGs, but I can't help but imagine this would have been more fun as a Limbo-esque exploration platformer.
Three Stars (after watching someone else play it to completion)
Surgeon Simulator Anniversary Edition for Playstation 4 is the Best Game of the Year.
Two Stars (after one hour of play)
Damn do I love watching people play Nidhogg.
But I don't really like playing it.
I need more people to play Nidhogg with.
Three Stars (after thirty minutes of play)
Nope, couldn't do it.
Played an hour of it and said enough. I am so sick of Lego games. I beat the Lego Movie game (which also came out this year), and even Platinum'd Lego Marvel Superheroes...
All of those games became quite tedious but this was the first one I had to draw a line in the sand. Enough. This series is so done.
One Star (after thirty minutes of play)
Watch Dogs. It's not that it's poorly made. Clearly a lot of people have put a lot of work into making this game. It plays well. In this rspect it is well made. Good. Good job.
And really, it's the human angle that keeps me from trashing this game too much. It is one of the few games this year that I've actively disliked. Aiden Pearce is one of the most uninspired lead characters I've ever come across. I am stunned. Who thought his design (and character) was even remotely interesting or sympathetic.
It's with games like Watch Dogs that I can't tell if Ubisoft is out of touch or if I'm out of touch. Either way. Stunning mediocrity.
One Star (after five hours of play)
I'm mostly putting this on my list as a reminder to play this. And the sequel. God did both of these actually come out last year? How crazy is that?
Will update this sometime next year..
No Rating (haven't played it yet)
(oh and while I'm making notes to myself: don't forget to play Never Alone, Alien Isolation, Persona 4 Ultimax, and that new isometric Tomb Raider).