2014 is at an end - and it's certainly been a year for games. Let's take a break from the usual format this week and talk about our favourite Games of the Year in this, the GOTY edition of Tuesday Game Room!
Instead of the usual format, this week I thought I'd break down my five favourite games of the year. I've played a lot more games this year than 5, enjoyed them too, but it's hard to think of more than these 5 that will stick with me beyond the year. That's not an indictment of the year's quality, there's been plenty to like despite the ongoing unfortunate events that have surrounded gaming culture in 2014. But these are the games I'll remember from this year:
Shadow of Mordor completely defied any expectations I had of it when it released, using the Jackson-ified take on Tolkien's fantasy world to tell a story driven by the player's own abject hatred of the AI constructs, utilising its Nemesis System in perhaps the closest thing to a 'next-generation' experience as we've had so far. Everyone who's played it has a tale of one Orc - that one bloody Orc - that you tailed across Mordor, only to have them run away like a coward, or take you out for a promotion and a bolstering of their forces, time and time again until you cornered them, danced through the shadows tearing apart their bodyguards, before singling them out and ending their wretched life. Mordor not only managed to out-Assassin's-Creed Assassin's Creed this year, it was a riveting power fantasy that came out of nowhere and planted a dagger in my heart.
Okay, this is cheating a little as FFXIV came out last year, but I really got into it this year when it came to the PS4 - and aside from being the exact sort of Final Fantasy game I want (medieval fantasy aesthetic, classic homages to the series, an enjoyable story, fan service out the wazoo, a spectacular soundtrack), it surprised me the most because holy shit it's a traditional MMO on a console and it works. I had an absolute blast playing a Summoner on my DS4, and aside from never feeling like I was at a disadvantage alongside PC gamers,the fact that it ran a lot better than it did on my PC, without any limitations, was a big surprise for me. FFXIV is a fantastic MMO, and it works wonderfully on consoles.
Surprise! A game that I've been regularly playing for nearly 5 years had an expansion out this year, and I love it! As someone who loved the hell out of Mists of Pandaria, I was not looking forward to leaving it behind - but Warlords of Draenor represents some of the finest, most polished MMO action Blizzard have done in the games' 10 year life cycle. The path to Level 100 is told through a solid tale of adventure and sacrifice, and the endgame content has so many different things to do that I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of it. The Garrison feature, a sort of home base where you can collect followers and send them out on missions (akin to yes, some sort of mobile/social game, but somehow less insidious thanks to the fact you can't spend money to speed them up or whatever), has firmly entrenched itself as one of my favourite features to ever come to the game, and the new model update has left my Night Elf Hunter looking wonderfully fabulous. Here's to another 10 years of Warcraft, and beyond!
As one of the 7 people who adored Dragon Age II, I never had any doubts that I'd love the third entry in Bioware's dark fantasy series. It's such a huge game - I've played it for hours and hours and feel like I've barely scratched the surface, it's almost overbearing if I wasn't constantly intrigued by weaving my way through the politics of Thedas (there's enough meat in that aspect alone to make even a Lannister's head spin) as the story unfolds. But so far what I've liked so much about Inquisition is the deeply interesting questions about what it means to have Faith - be it in an allegiance, a friend, or a higher power. Early on in the game you're thrust into a position where people see you as a hugely important religious figure, and Inqusition is then brave enough to allow you to wrestle with that concept and what it means time and time again, to question it, to embrace it. It's a fascinating aspect of the Dragon Age universe I've long loved, but Inquisition handles it wonderfully, and then does so much more on top.
Oh, and the Multiplayer, while not as immediately enjoyable as Mass Effect 3's sublime take, is oddly satisfying and I can't help but keep going back to it.
Oh, Transistor. Let me count the ways.
I was never the biggest fan of Supergiant Games' first game, Bastion - not a popular stance, I know - so I didn't really know what to expect from Transistor, other than the fact that it had an incredible sci-fi aesthetic. In the five hours it took me to beat it, Transistor enchanted me to the point that by the time I came through the end credits, a sobbing mess, I knew then and there no other game could best it this year. The intriguing world of Cloudbank draws you in and raises so many questions, so many subtle hints and teases throughout the environment that gets you thinking about the world around you in an almost Dark Souls-ian style of worldbuilding. The tale of protagonist Red and the weapon she wields is in equal parts tragic and life-affirming, paired and intertwined with easily the best soundtrack of the year, and matched with an incredible visual style as well as an exciting combat system that encouraged strategic thinking and sandbox experimentation in equal measures.
You can read some spoilerrific thoughts I had about the game here, but suffice to say that I love it, you should play it if you haven't, and it is my Game of the Year.
Honourable Mention: Destiny
I hate Destiny. It's insipidly dull, an exciting world built to serve nothing but the same handful of missions again and again and again until your brain starts seeping out of your ears. There is literally one mission type used over and over for the game's 'story', a story that is so laughably non-existent (and when it is there it's told with some of the worst scripting I've seen in a long time) that it barely deserves to be labelled as such, as all the lore is kept parcelled away in a companion app. The great gunplay is hampered by the fact everyone's using the same handful of weapons (a handful of the bare handful that are in the game anyway) because they're the only ones that matter, whether you're grinding one of the 5 dungeons or playing the imbalanced multiplayer, or repeating the same content over and over in the desperate hope that the turgid drop rate designed to keep you wasting as much time as possible gives you something that isn't awful. The supposed 'best' parts of Destiny, the Raids, are kept behind ludicrous barriers to entry that means people sans 5 other like-minded friends don't get to try them out, and they recently charged £20 for a piece of DLC that could be completed in about an hour, in a content-starved game - and I was stupid enough to pay it because I bought the season pass before the game came out, when the marketing had lead me to believe that Destiny would be something that it is not: Good.
I've played it for 105 hours and I'm not sure when I'll stop. I think I hate myself more than I hate Destiny, and that's saying something.
We'll be back next week with a more usual Tuesday Game Room - but don't forget to talk about your favourite game of 2014 in the Comments!
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