The 2014 gaming cycle has come to an end, and I finally put down Guild Wars 2 last year in favor of playing more games. Due to the more time I had playing other games, this became a tough year narrowing down my favorite games, and even as I put this post together I am still fighting with a couple order issues on my list. There are still a handful of titles that sit atop a pile of shame, but I feel the list I put together is an excellent one with a diverse set of experiences. Instead of jumping right in to the Top 10 list, I decided to showcase some titles in other categories I felt are worth discussing.
Best Game of 2013 Played in 2014 – Gunpoint
Gunpoint was one of those games I ignored due to hearing the word stealth, until a bunch of 2013 GOTY lists and podcasts kept mentioning it. I eventually picked it up during a Steam sale and couldn’t believe how much I fell in love with it. It made me realize stealth games in a 2D world don’t annoy me like 3D titles. I actually find the way Gunpoint, and other 2D games(Mark of the Ninja), implement the stealth mechanics within their platform design. While the gameplay is excellent and forces one to use their brain to get through certain situation, it is the writing of Gunpoint that makes it such a gem. It nails the conversations between the main character and others, especially in the smart-ass humor it utilizes. Gunpoint is the one game from 2013 I know would have made my top 10 list had I played it during that year, and I highly recommend it to anyone.
Early Access – Gang Beasts
Gang Beasts was a game I had a friend continuously bring up in various discussions, but it wasn’t until Extra Life 2014 in which I got to experience this rag doll, brawler, wrestling game. As we were hitting the wee hours of our 24 hour gaming marathon, and struggling to stay awake, we ended up playing around 4hours of this and it killed any thought of sleepiness we may have previously encountered. The game is currently a local multiplayer (up to 8 friends), in which you try to eliminate others by either throwing them out of the fighting area, or sending them to their deaths. It is just ridiculous wacky fun, as players beat the living hell out of each other, throw each other around, or hang on for dear life to escape impending doom. Below I have included a video (it is long, but funny) from my friends at GameEnthus, that features us playing the game during Extra Life.
Most Disappointing Game – Disney Infinity 2.0
I decided to jump in to Disney Infinity 2.0 during a Black Friday sale, and grab a bunch of the figures as I couldn’t wait for Marvel and Disney to be side by side. After tossing the disc in and trying to get different characters in to the game, I quickly realized this game is not what one might expect. Playsets are limited to which characters you are allowed to bring in, and while some may be locked temporarily, some are downright denied completely. Maybe it is because I play a lot of Skylanders that I had set my expectations higher for what Infinity was supposed to be. Either way, the limitations of characters in playsets was atrocious and completely killed my excitement. I assume the larger appeal of Infinity is the Toybox, but I found that to extremely boring. I finally could gain access to all the characters, but only in a world I or others have built. It lacked the gameplay aspect of the Playsets, and I’m not one whom enjoys crafting levels/worlds to share with others. I’ll probably give Disney Infinity one last go for some achievement farming prior to packing it all up and selling it to at least recoup some of the money I wasted on the game.
Top 10 of 2014
10. Freedom Fall
Freedom Fall was a game that caught me out of left field. If I remember correctly I got the game out of a bundle, and while I enjoy plenty of bundled games, this one was a surprise. I started the game to get some Steam Trading Cards, but didn’t stop playing until the ending screen arrived. I found the game pretty challenging, and was having so much fun I didn’t mind taking the harder paths at times. The story plays out in a very unique way, with no dialogue and just text written on the walls by the princess. As you are falling, you learn more about the princess and how evil she can be. Even with all that, I kind of found myself charmed by her due to how the writing is presented in a very cute, cartoonish way.
9. Broken Age Act 1
I wanted to place Broken Age Act 1 higher in my Top 10 just based on Vella’s storyline alone. Yet when I started Shay’s story, it was so slow I almost quit out of utter boredom. Thankfully it picks up big time, and by the time you reach the end of Act 1 you are left with a true “Holy Shit” moment. Double Fine has crafted a fantastic point & click adventure, with intriguing characters and a beautifully crafted world. The voice acting is also top notch with some high profile names doing some excellent work. The mechanics are pretty much what you come to expect of classic Point & Click adventure games, and while I had a few times where I felt stumped, most of the time the solutions weren’t too difficult to come by. I can’t wait for Act 2 so I can continue the story, especially after that cliffhanger ending of Act 1.
8. Skylanders Trap Team
I never expected Skylanders would make my list two years in a row, especially after evolving in to needing more items in your collection than ever. To my surprise I actually really enjoyed the new mechanic of trapping certain bad guys, and love how they communicate at you through the portal. The combat is still just pure fun, and the writing of the dialogue still feels more often than not clever, and produces plenty of chuckles. The moment I knew this game would wind up on my GOTY list was the Sunday morning I woke up overcome with the flu, and I ran right out to Toys ‘R Us to snag the exclusive Light and Dark element packs released that day. My name is G-Nitro, and I have a problem with addiction. That addiction’s name is Skylanders.
Titanfall was that fresh take on the Call of Duty style FPS I had been looking for. The traversal of the maps felt fantastic with the jet packs, and the titans felt well executed. Each match had plenty of “Damn, did you see that?” moments, and when a game can produce that reaction, it says a lot about how well crafted the game is. When Titanfall first launched I would have told you this was my game of the year that entire first two months. Sadly Titanfall had one of the sharpest drop offs in player count I’ve seen for such a marquee title, especially on PC. By the time the third map pack released, the wait for games at times was longer than I was willing to put up with. This is why I have Titanfall at number seven and not in the top three.
6. Wolf Among Us
A Wolf Among Us is the first of the new style Tell Tale game series I have played, and damn was I impressed. The story completely pulled me in, and I truly felt like I cared about what happened to the characters. I felt their emotion, and at times struggled with my wanting to play as the nice guy. There were times the choices were excruciation to make in the short time they would sometimes give you. This helped make me feel even more immersed in to the character of Bigby For the most part everything is top notch, as the voice acting truly fits each character, and the animation and character designs look amazing. The only issue I had was some frame-rate jitters at times during cut scenes, but thankfully never during any time the game required action inputs from me. I can’t wait for a season 2 of this series if they can keep these production values up.
Jazzpunk was the one game I officially reviewed this past year, and it really stuck with me. It’s a wacky first person Point & Click adventure that encouraged the player to explore each area to find all the ridiculous jokes one could find. With fantastic artistic styling, great music, and comedy on par with the best of what Naked Gun films have offered. It is a game that still sits there in my library, just waiting for me to come back and search for those jokes I might have missed. If you are looking for how to nail comedy in gaming, Jazzpunk is the game that others should look to for inspiration. If you would like to know more about Jazzpunk, check out the review I wrote here.
4. Freedom Planet
A Kickstarter project I backed in early 2013, Freedom Planet turned out to be full of charm, cute characters,and pure fun. It also became my favorite retro styled game of 2014. While I expected a Sonic clone based on early videos and images, Freedom Planet proved to be more than just another clone. The surprising thing about Freedom Planet was how it managed to do Sonic better than Sonic ever has. You truly get the sense of speed as you go through the various levels, and the levels are all well put together, bringing pure fun and challenge. I understand the love for Shovel Knight, but people will regret skipping this gem over.
3. Bayonetta 2
Bayonetta 2 was that game in which made me purchase a Wii U. I waited a long time for release, and it did not disappoint. It started off slow with more cut-scenes than actual action, but once I got past the opening sequences I was right back in the action packed gameplay I loved from the original. Bayonetta 2 is pure action gaming and produces nonstop fun. Some of the boss battles are batshit insane and somehow continue to surprise you by getting crazier and bigger as you progress the game. I kept thinking they couldn’t top the last boss I beat, and they managed to keep doing it. After each session of Bayonetta 2, I always took a nice break to relax as my energy was always on high. The only real complaint I had with Bayonetta 2 is the same I had with the original, as some of the voice over work is just downright terrible. Thankfully you quickly forget about how bad it is each time you get back to the combat.
2. Dragon Age Inquisition
Dragon Age Inquisition is the largest Dragon Age game in terms of scope and areas to explore, and a huge change from the second installment. Bioware listened to complaints of Dragon Age II, and managed to deliver an excellent, yet sometimes flawed experience. The story itself is fascination, with some interesting, fleshed out characters you encounter through out the game. As a female inquisitor I romanced Sera, the elf, and I was enamored by how the relationship blossomed and how genuine it felt. There are a lot of times Bioware romances can feel clunky, and at least with the romance I experienced, they seemed to have nailed it this time. Until the writing of this post I had Inquisition in my number one spot, but the biggest issues with Dragon Age Inquisition kept me from allowing it to secure that spot. These problems come in the form of bugs and glitches. They show up mostly during conversations, and totally break the immersion. There were strange frame rate issues that only occurred during scenes where I was talking, but never happened in combat. I also was getting really annoyed with moments where characters would finish a line of dialogue, but would then sit there staring at me. I would have to spam the skip button and then it would just lose a line of dialogue all together. Nothing was entirely game breaking, and I still managed to put in over 100 hours in to the game, and that speaks volumes of how easily the game as a whole overcame some shortcomings.
1. Diablo III: Reaper of Souls/Ultimate Evil Edition
If in 2013, one had informed me that Diablo III would top my 2014 list as my Game of the Year, I would have felt like slapping them across the face. Upon launch of Diablo III vanilla, I hated the game and only made it to level 13 before calling it quits and moving on to better experiences. Suddenly loot 2.0 drops, and then the Reaper of Souls expansion. Diablo III was finally what it should have been at launch, and I was trapped for months. I leveled up various characters to 70, and spent a crazy amount of time farming for legendaries in adventure mode. When Blizzard launched its first season I was sucked right back in again, leveling up another Demon Hunter, and right back to farming yet again. My yearn for more Diablo III was not yet satiated, so I ended up buying it again on PS4 in the form of The Ultimate Evil Edition. From being a game I would rather forget, to a game that my friends and I could not stop playing, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls proves that developers can still produce a fantastic gaming experience even after release.