Game of The Year 2014 Users Choice

I wasn't able to play much of the big hits this year as they either didn't particularly interest me or I was being extra picky with my limited funds. Long sections of time have been dedicated to FFXIV.

Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 (Beta) - Sept 2010 - I stand looking out over the locked city of Ishgard. We'll be able to go in there soon right? Someday. I can't wait.
Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 (Beta) - Sept 2010 - I stand looking out over the locked city of Ishgard. We'll be able to go in there soon right? Someday. I can't wait.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - Dec 2014 - It's been a long journey and I've met many friends over the years. My trusty companion and I lay our gaze upon Ishgard, and while the city is still shut from outsiders, it won't be for much longer. The time has finally come.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - Dec 2014 - It's been a long journey and I've met many friends over the years. My trusty companion and I lay our gaze upon Ishgard, and while the city is still shut from outsiders, it won't be for much longer. The time has finally come.

Honorable Mentions

These didn't make the list as they weren't released this year, they aren't full releases, they didn't hold my attention enough etc but I did play them:

I recently completed SteamWorld Dig while only ever playing it during bathroom breaks. Wargame: Red Dragon was a pretty neat unit-based RTS for the short time it held my interest. Insane amount of units and countries. Very cool. Had a brief stint with The Sims 4 when it was released. Its pretty much still The Sims. Prison Architect is a great sim/manager type game and I spent a bunch of time with it early in the year. Also got hooked on Kerbal Space Program again early in the year and it can still be as frustrating and absorbing as ever. I played something called RimWorld recently, a sort of sci-fi simpler/modern version of Dwarf Fortress? It was a cool game but still a work in progress. I spent some portion of time with Dragon's Crown when it was free via PS+ and thought it looked great and had some nice music, but the gameplay was just okay? And it didn't hold my interest. I had a brief fling with Infinity Wars after seeing it on Giant Bomb and was the first virtual card game thing I've tried. Pretty neat! And most definitely Grand Theft Auto V on the PS4. I had already completed the game to 100% on PS3 but wanted a copy for new hardware. I ended up playing through the whole story again! This game is amazing.

List items

  • PS4 Version came out this year so I'm counting it!

    Fantastic. An example of a very well polished post-WoW MMO. Able to take a style of gameplay typically reserved for a keyboard and 50 button mice and translating that to a fun and energetic control scheme on a controller (which can be used on PC or consoles.) Amazing music throughout. Great looking and colorful world. SquareEnix doing fan service right. While SE has been neglecting their core, older Final Fantasy audience for years, 14 does a great job of carrying over themes from various previous FF games, making them work in this world, and then making them fun. Consistent, frequent, and hefty patches have also been a huge plus and always gives me something new to do. Mix in regular "Producer Letter Live"s, where Naoki Yoshida (producer) answers questions from the community, sometimes has guests, and unveils new content and concept artwork for future content and you've got pretty frequent information coming out and community interaction.

    The issue that FFXIV has, just like any other MMO, is having a reliable group of people to play with will change your experience of the game from one of tedium to one of fun. It makes everything easier and you have friends to talk and shoot the shit with. Essentially a chat room with stuff to do.

    Once you consider how much of a hulking pile of crap the original Final Fantasy XIV release was and what Naoki Yoshida's team has been able to accomplish to COMPLETELY overhaul the game and turn it around in the span of a year or two and it's unheard of. Nothing like that has ever been done as far as I am aware. You also need to factor in that it is a subscription based MMO, not only surviving, but thriving in an age when everyone says this can't happen. Not to mention this is probably the only good piece of software SE has put out in a long time (aside from Bravely Default) and it's probably the only thing keeping them afloat.

    After all this good stuff you tack on the recently announced first expansion, "Heavensward", with new 3 new announced jobs, a bunch of new content, Alexander, the Gold Saucer, DirectX 11, Airships, and lots more. This game looks like it has a very bright future.

  • I liked this game just as much as the original Dark Souls, unlike a lot of other people apparently. If I were to guess, I'd say that was because Demons' Souls was my first, and after I finish one or two playthroughs of a Souls game, I typically don't go back and play them again. That gives me a couple years of breathing room between games and they feel fresh each time. I don't necessarily think it was easier either, I just think people know what to expect and the right way to approach this style of game, which allows for an easier learning curve.

    Dark Souls 2 was just more of Dark Souls 1. Excellent, original world and monster designs. Very atmospheric. Constantly keeps you on the edge of your seat. Having to reacquaint myself with the controls and mind set of playing a Souls game, watching my ability to play and execute, and get better and tackle stuff that gave me a hard time at first.

    A meaty, challenging, satisfying experience.

  • Let's be real, this is a proper, classic Final Fantasy game under a different name. It's missing Chocobos, the names of jobs are changed, and the summons are different. Everything else about the game is classic Final Fantasy. I almost feel the title they chose was making a statement. They weren't afraid of making this game a more grassroots, standard JRPG experience.

    I will say that I haven't made it to whatever this big twist is that seems to get people riled up but I think I've heard what it involves.

    Nonetheless, I have 90 hours on the game clock with characters at level 70-ish and it's still going. I've spent a lot of time playing this game. The entire soundtrack is faaaaantastic. Add in the superb adjustments they've made to the classic JRPG recipe and the turn-based combat and it makes you wonder why it hadn't been done before. Being able to alter the random battle encounter rate all the way from -100% to +100% lets you work around that common JRPG complaint. Being able to set battles to fast-forward or auto if you want to grind. The way you can essentially build your own limit breaks, everything from single or multi-target, to the element, to the name of the move and what the character says when they perform it! And then that special action can be used by other people on your friend list. Allowing you to use the original Japanese voice overs. The World and backgrounds are wonderfully hand drawn or painted in appearance and work great with the 3D on the 3DS. The quantity of jobs and flexibility therein from the classic Final Fantasy job system. The long overdue overworld map, complete with airship and boat. It's all here.

    My complaints: Why did it take SquareEnix so long to bring this to the West? And why do they take such a great JRPG experience and stick it on a handheld platform? And Square's own statements after the game's western release about being surprised the sales and interest in JRPGs, it just shows how completely out of touch they are with their typical audience.

    Pleeeeaaase stop putting out weird garbage like Final Fantasy 13 and it's completely unnecessary sequels.

  • Wasteland 2 came out of no where for me. It's been awhile since I played a tactical RPG (I skipped the whole XCOM:EU craze) and this just scratched an itch I didn't know I had.

    I wasn't even aware of Wasteland's (1 or 2) existence prior to release. I don't even remember how I first took notice of it but I remember being on the fence about buying it, unsure if I would like it. Eventually, after watching someone play through the first two hours or so of the game, I said F it and jumped in.

    Immediate addiction. I played this non-stop, 12-14 hours a day, for a week and completed it after 70-80 hours. I loved the environment descriptions and detail written into the print out journal thing on the HUD. I loved the sound and feel of firing the weapons. The item/gear/loot system that felt almost like Diablo except with guns. The quest/mission design and the way you can find various ways to complete or fail them. How they interact with other future quests. The various character build types. A complaint would be that it really needed more large scale enemies as there was only one of that type and they reused it multiple times.

    I had a great, memorable experience with this game and I'm glad I decided to go out on a limb and take the plunge.

  • Boy was the original Diablo 3 release a let down. Could it really be saved? I didn't think so.

    Turns out it could and they did. Most of what made Diablo 2 so addicting for me has been brought back into the fold. The "Loot 2.0" system paired with the closing of the Real Money Auction House (gag) are at the core of it. I was also a big fan of the Paladin in D2 and Crusader helped fill that void. Very happy with the Transmogrifcation system which allows you to change gear appearance or gamble with item stats.

    On the other end of things, I am kind of indifferent on the Adventure Mode and the Rift system. It still just feels like running the same thing repeatedly but it is probably better than running the same boss over and over again as it was in Diablo 2. I'm not sure how this gameplay loop could be made a more fulfilling experience but I feel like there must be a way. And while the environments of the new act are nicely done, the story didn't really mean anything which isn't dissimilar to the original Diablo 3 acts. My highlight would probably be the boss fight with Urzael which felt so epic and drawn out thanks to the music. Where as the final boss was just kinda "Meh."

    In the future I think I'd just like more classes, more gear, and more Acts to give you more environments (tile sets) to explore. Here's to hoping for another expansion.

  • I remember when I came across the original tech demo for this a year or two ago. The physics, audio, and terrain deformation blew my mind. I felt just like a little kid again playing with my Hot Wheels in the dirt. I played the tech demo until I ran out of stuff to do (about 6 hours) and immediately wrote a multi-paragraph email to the developers praising them on their tech demo/game thing while providing some suggested features, something I've only done once or twice in my life. I didn't get to sleep until 7 A.M. because of it. They responded with a nice thank you email. Later on down the road they started a Kickstarter for it I believe and well, here we are.

    This has to be a pretty niche game right? Oddly enough, when it came out, it got a surprising amount of attention. Getting a truck stuck in the mud and trying to get it out doesn't sound like the most exciting activity, but once you try it, you'll get hooked (mhmm) and the hours fly by. The game probably works best on stubborn people like myself. I rather spend 2 hours using a crazy system of winching off trees, messing with differential locks, and using other vehicles to pull me out and save my payload before I just give up and hit a reset button. Where's the fun in that?

    I like it mostly for the tech. When are other off-road games going to have this sort of Play-Doh terrain? The big, soft, marshmallowy tires. The sound of a diesel engine under load, belching out black smoke. It's machine vs mother nature.

  • I can't say I've ever played a game like this. First saw it during one of the E3 press conferences I think and loved the art style.

    Built on the Ubi-Art engine, the presentation of Valiant Hearts is fantastic and endearing. It has minor puzzle gameplay elements but most of what it's about is following the story of these characters from the beginning of the war to the end. How it pulled people apart and brought others together. Great audio and music. A very emotional experience. I may or may not have teared up at the end of it.

    My favorite aspect was the real life photographs, stories, and bits of information talking about what it was like surviving during World War I, in the trenches or abroad. The explanations on tools, weapons, and make-shift equipment the soldiers used to keep themselves alive or entertained. It was like playing a History Channel show as game.

  • Elite is yet another series I'd never heard of until recently. Apparently it was primarily a European thing starting back in the 80s.

    Elite: Dangerous was all about the immersion. The visuals and sound is stunning. The feeling of sitting in a spaceship cockpit, looking around, manipulating things on holographic interfaces. The first time you slowly hover into one of the space station docking ports. The lady issuing warnings and guidelines over the port intercom. Carefully guiding your ship onto the landing pad and looking around the inside of the station, watching other ships pull in and out of port, sometimes exploding from crashing or being shot down by station defense systems. It looked like the stuff I used to see in the Gundam animes when I was a kid. The giant space ring colonies. Having your ship lower down into the garage via the big, industrial hydraulic lift. Dog fighting in space! The crisp explosion when you blow up another ship. The sound of the hyperdrive thingy charging up and hitting a button to blast yourself to light speed. The incomprehensible scale of the galaxy! The essentially limitless places you could fly to. I ended up going on a space movie kick after playing this and rewatching the entire Star Wars Trilogy (the only one) and a bunch of others.

    The gameplay was still somewhat limited back when I first played it and I've been too busy playing Final Fantasy 14 to get back to it, but I do plan to.

    All of this information, feelings, and sounds and I wasn't even using an Oculus Rift. Word on the internets is that takes the immersion to a whole new level. I almost bought a DK2 just for this but decided to wait.

  • Kind of stretching for picks now. I did not play this to completion but I hope I will at some point.

    Yet another outstanding looking Ubi-Art game. Loved that they were willing to make a 2D, sidescrolling game with turn-based combat in this day in age.

    I think I remember the music being pretty good and just great overall presentation and polish.

  • Anyone remember Snap-On's Gearhead Garage? I do. Very fondly. That game was awesome and maybe taught me how cars work a little better? That time has long since passed and one of my primary interests/skills is cars and the, often miserable, work you do on them.

    I was amazed when Vinny fired this up on UPF and it seemed to play exactly like Gearhead Garage except, well, on 15 year newer tech! Immediately went and bought it off Steam and proceeded to binge play it for two days until I had completed it.

    While it certainly isn't perfect (maybe far from it) and its more along the lines of your typical half-assed PC sim game that devs crank out for every little thing in life, I did enjoy my time with it