So yeah...2014 is in the books for quite some time now but work and some personal stuff have kept me from writing this thing until now, but I hope at least some of you might still be interested in what I have to ramble about. Especially, since 2014 has been a year with a rather negative image, though I suggest that comes more from the stuff that surrounded gaming, than gaming itself. I counted and I played 82 games from 2014 alone. Taking games from previous years, I might easily crack the 100 mark and before you ask: yes, I finished the games, that are finishable. Sports games and roguelikes are kinda hard to finish, so take that as you will.
Alas, on with the show, as there is quite a few titles to discuss. But first, I'd like to shine the light on some titles I have not played for various reasons. Most likely, those reasons will be a lack of time, as I work a full time job with lots of extra hours. Also, this job doesn't pay tons of money, so yeah...couldn't afford all the games I'd like to play. So here's the ones I couldn't manage to get my hands on
Neverending Nightmares, Spintires, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, This War of Mine, Deception IV, Ys: Memories of Celceta, Rune Factory 4, Shin Megami Tensei IV
Note: Ys and Deception IV I do have here, but well...time constraints.
Also, before we move on to the main-event, I want to shed light on some things, that surprised me:
Best educational game: Influent
Educational Games are always tricky to pull off. Of course, you first and foremost want to educate, but you want to educate in a way, that's nevertheless fun. In comes Influent and blew me away with how easy to handle and yet effective for learning it was. The premise is surprisingly simple as well: You start of in your apartement. Everything you click tells you, what it's meaning is. Every ten new words, you can do a Vocabulary test, where it tells you a word and you have to run there and pick the right part. It's incredibly easy, very satisfying and teaches you a lot of stuff you actually need. Oh and it comes in a ton of languages, though you have to purchase every languagepack on its own. Better and way cheaper than Rosetta Stone imho.
Don't know what to make of it: Mountain
I was really skeptical about Mountain. I mean: from the looks of it, it's just a glorified screensaver. And yes, your interaction with the world is very limited. At the beginning, you have to draw some psychological stuff and then....there's you and the mountain. No objectives, no enemies. Just you, and an immovable piece of rock, old as the sea. Sometimes stuff happens, sometimes it doesn't. Every now and then, Mountain comments. Yeah Mountain, I feel you. He is me, I am him. I became the mountain....
So let's start of the big countdown. Oh but first a note:
Not yet counting: Tales from the Borderlands, Game of Thrones
As of January 1st, both games only managed to put out their initial episodes, so there's just not enough material there to warrant consideration for that list.
And now to the games I played in 2014. I made two lists, one for Early Access games and one for "real" releases, because I deemed it unfair to judge those two categories on the same merits.
That said: Each list goes from worst to first.
Early Access Watch:
Wants to be a mix of Tower Defense, Strategy and RPG with a roguelike structure. Manages some things well, others, however, still aren't close and the whole game feels a bit sluggish and over-repetitive at this point. Oh and there's PewdiePie as a playable character, because AHAHAHAHA. There's still hope in here, but some things should change this year.
I'm no fan of the whole Open World Survival Game craze that's going on and so I was rather delighted to see, that Pixel Piracy, despite its look is more Pirates! than Minecraft. That said, while being generally enjoyable, it is still very rough around the edges and there is work to do. What is there, however, shows that there are good ideas behind it all.
Distant Star: Revenant Fleet
Imagine FTL with a different look and more ships in your fleet. Not as enjoyable yet.
Dead Island Epidemic
I was actually surprised, that the Dead Island Hack&Slash turned out to be [s]not shit[/s] rather enjoyable in short to intermediate bursts. Doesn't reach the class of a Diablo or Torchlight, but it just went F2P so you can check it out.
Relatively little known Arcade-Air Combat game. Think of a cel-shaded version of Ace Combat and you have a rather good picture. Truckloads of content for the current state of the game (250 planes, 150 challenges, campaign, multiplayer, working editor) and they also thought about Singleplayer nuts and included a campaign. So if that's up your alley grab it.
Ever thought, that enemies in Dungeon crawlers reacted to stupid? Than grab a few friends, gather 'round ye olde PC and experience first hand, that these guys who you thought you knew really put the ASS in assassin.
Wait, this isn't a ful game yet? Nope. But what is there is already more than many full-price-releases can claim. Liberate the world with every 80s and 90s Action- and SciFi hero you can remember and/or come up with in an incredibly satisfying Run'n'Gun with destructible terrain.
Crypt of the Necrodancer
Come for the title, stay for the incredibly fleshed-out gameplay. CotN is a mix of Dungeon Crawler and rhythm game with RPG and roguelike elements. So go down there, collect loot, meet new people, find monsters, die and nod your head to the sublime Soundtrack. And should you grow tired of that? Just implement your own songs. It works great and is constantly patched.
Simply the most consumer-friendly Early Access game ever. You can watch development live on Vlambeer's twitch channel and give them feedback, that they'll discuss and incorporate. Also, the actual game itself is so incredibly fun and addicting, if they released it months ago, it would have been worth it. So is it today, so GET IT. I wrote a whole blog about it, so I won't be losing to many words here, but this is one of those games you need to play, to know how good they "feel".
And now on to the List of the full releases...sorry, I don't have any snarky remark here :( Again: Worst to First.
Pitched as "the new game by the makers of Incredible Machine" I was reasonably excited. The Rubens-Goldberg mechanisms of Incredible Machine were something fun to wrap your head around, whenever I felt that particular itch. Sadly, what I got here was a barebones mobile port, with ludicrously easy "puzzles". Can't even call it that, because from the start of every level, it is painfully obvious what you have to do. If a puzzle game fails in the puzzle department, what is left?
I wanted to like this game. I really did. Sadly, there just is no good game to back it up. I start to get suspicious, when something pitches itself as "the Dark Souls of x" and ND reminds me again, why I do. There are just parts, that are completely unfair, because you cannot win them with what you moved into and are not given any indicator of what's to come. Add to that an unremarkable soundtrack, shoddy graphics, really really bad dialogue and voice-acting and a Fantasy 101 story and you got yourself a whole fistful of disappointment. That's more so a shame, as the actual combat system offers some depth with all the factors that influence themselves.
Potatoman seeks the Troof
Great trailer, 08/15 Jump'n'Run that is very Hit or Miss.
A dungeon-crawler with visual novel elements on the Vita? Gee, what an intriguing novelty. Despite a rather nice artstyle, this game sadly doesn't offer much else in part of anything. Story, characters, monsters....nothing remarkable to hold your interest for long.
Do you remember that flash-game from the early 2000s, where you had a truck with a guy in it and you could slam that truck into a wall? This is the bigger, better and more colorful version of that (it really is..it's the same developer). There is a reasonable amount of content provided with the game and the workshop offers plenty to do, once you're through with it. Wears of its welcome rather quickly, but I find myself booting it up every now and then for a quick laugh. Schadenfreude never gets old.
One of the trippiest games of last year, the promise exceeded the final product by some degrees and after some forays to the Lovely Planet, I felt that I had seen everything it had to offer.
Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment
Say about the PS Vita what you want: there are a lot of Action RPGs for the system. Too many, if you ask me. SAO Hollow fragment (an enhanced port of the PSP game) manages to be average in a bunch of better alternatives. Especially baffling: You can only play as Kirito. You can change the looks a bit and even the name, but will nevertheless be adressed as Kirito. Why bother at all then? Let's just hopoe that Lost Song, which is slated for a release later this year delivers on some of the promises.
Yoshi's New Island
Okay Nintendo, what went wrong here? You had such a good run in 2014 in general and in 2013 on the 3DS, that this is kinda baffling. Everything about this game is incredibly uninspired and lacking in heart. It seemed sterile at times and in a colourful world such as Yoshi's, that is quite a feat to pull off. Also: the worst Nintendo-soundtrack in quite some time, with the title screen music being a really bad offender here.
AAA sucked in 2014 and if Titanfall and Watch_Dogs hadn't convinced you yet, Destiny sure has. Everything about this game went wrong or headed in directions, where it was a real headscratcher how ANYONE could think that as a good idea. Everything about the game was pegged as "THE" big videogame of our generation and yet it fell short in every aspect it set out. Take for example all the marketing pegging Peter Dinklage as a voice actor. Look guys, if your script ain't good, you could have the best actor in the world and it wouldn't help. Guys like Dinklage help make something good great, but you can polish a turd all you want; in the end, you'll just have a shiny turd. Lacking in content and variety, the loot-system and convoluted level-up process are the two worst offenders. A lot of people get angry about this game and so do I. Why do I? Because we know, what Bungie can do and because the actual groundwork is there. The shooting feels good and the soundeffects are awesome. The artstyle offers some nice stuff and the universe itself holds some promise. That is the most darned thing about this. It's like this football player who has all the talent, but only flashes it in two regular season games, before being hit with another suspension for substance abuse.
Five Nights at Freddy's
Freddy Fazbear's pizza place has become nightmare-fodder for alot of people and rightfully so. It actually understands pacing and how to build up a good jump scare. Just throwing a jump scare at you is not scary, it's surprising. FNAF understands that much and crafts an enjoyable little title around that idea. The idea eventually runs out of steam, but until then, you could spend your money way worse.
One Finger Death Punch
There was a series of flashvideos in the late 90s/early 2000s of stickmen fighting in ridiculously over-the-top choreographies with all the exciting gore, that stickmen could offer. This is that game and it is only controlled with two mouse buttons. I was really skeptical of that fact but in the end, this turned out to be a title that's surprisingly challenging and tactical in its approach to mass-stickmen-murder. Makes you feel like a badass without an ass.
Castlevania - Lords of Shadow 2
I really liked the first Lords of Shadow. It was a very competent action-game that incorporated several elements from other games to make it more challenging and a game, that was ultimately more than the sum of its parts. Sadly, after the first one, this subseries took a turn for the worse with Mirror of Fate on the 3DS and reached kind of a low point in this iteration. Sadly so, because the combat-system still offers fun gameplay and the art-direction manages to pull of some astonishing locales. Seriously one of the best looking games of 2014 (when it comes to Dracula's castle, that is). They just shouldn't have tried to hamfist it into modern times and force us to do those annoying stealth sections. Seriously, fuck those.
Danmaku Unlimited 2
Bullet Hell shmups are a weird fascination of mine. I generally like Shoot'em ups, but Bullet Hells always feel like endurance tests to me. You have to be more pixel perfect in your movement and are basically just holding the shoot button. In that particular genre, Danmaku Unlimited 2 offers a good starting point for newcomers as well as a challenge for the already initiated. Complete with a nice and cheesy Metal soundtrack, you could go worse. But also better. Though probably worse.
I had high hopes for this one and they weren't completely fulfilled. The story itself about the problems of storing memories in a digitized cloud and someone suffering from brain trauma because of that is interesting and the pacing keeps you entertained. However, the gameplay sections, like dodging cars on a freeway feel forced and so out of place, that they completely take you out of the flow. Less would have been more in this place, even if the game isn't particularly long to begin with.
Weapon Shop de Omasse
Finally, the fourth game from the first Level 5-Jam made it over to the west. Those games always provided some nice ideas with a lot of quirkyness and Weapon Shop de Omasse is no exception. It's not as good as "Attack of the Friday Monsters", but managing a Weapon Shop in an RPG is a nice new perspective. Combine that with witty writing and you got yourself a nice little title for your 3DS. Can get repetitive after long sessions.
There aren't enough Japanese indies over here. How can I tell? Croixleur Sigma. It's pretty much an amalgamation of a simple idea, but that one done well. You're in a magician-competition, to get to the top of a tower. On your way you level up, collect loot and fight waves and waves of more challenging enemies. It's pretty basic in what it does, but if what it does is made competently, then so what? I'd rather have one idea thought to the end than a bunch of half-assed stuff at my disposal (*winkwink* Destiny)
Did you like Cybernator on the SNES? Are you in general fond of mecha and side-scrolling Run'n'Guns with boss fights against giant super-robots? If the answer to all, some or none of these questions is "Yes", you should get Gigantic Army. A retro-loveletter done surprisingly right.
A 2D Survival Horror game in the mold of Lone Survivor. Never reaches the former's greatness but delivers on a good atmosphere and a surprisingly okayish female protagonist.
You date pidgeons. 'nuff said.
Wants to be an X-Com roguelike but falls ultimately short of that goal. The setting and artstyle are great, but the gameplay is weirdly lackluster and rather easy. Surviving an Alien takeover never felt so relaxing.
If the modern Fallout games feel to much like a deviation of the original two games for you, than NEO Scavenger is the game for you. This is a game about survival, presented like a pick your own adventure book and foraging into foreign cities. Even finding a shoe feels great in this game, as it means you at least won't step into glass shards and limit your movement.
Another game for purists, Xenonauts perfectly encapsulates the old X-Com games. I'm fine with the new one and find this one to be a bit sterile at times, but if you long for that exact experience, Xenonauts is the game for you.
Super Smash Bros 3DS
I never understood the craze about Smash Bros. This new iteration doesn't do much to convince me, especially with the shoddy netcode, but I have to admit, that the sheer volume of content and stuff to do, even for singleplayer modes, is something to applaud and gave me much more mileage on this, than I initially anticipated.
Renegade Kid have a thing for retro-style platformers. Their take on Metroid, while painfully short, delivers a fun little experience with challenging boss fights and power ups that make you want to revisit every level to look through each nook and cranny.
Of all the AAA disappointments, Titanfall was the most enjoyable game. I still loathe the Multiplayer-only decision, but you can feel the influence of the Modern Warfare people at every turn. Maybe even to a fault, because you feel like you have played that before. Still: the game itself is good and I feel kida bad for those guys that they have to dance as EA tells them to.
Tower of Guns
The self-proclaimed "Lunch Break-FPS" delivers exactly that. Short-term-fun in a roguelike package. You level up your gun and try to make your way out of the gun-tower....not without being shot at from every conceivable angle. NEver feel safe. Except when Hugbots are around.
Whenever I played Mind0, I thought: "Why can't you be more like Demon Gaze"? The story, while serious in its core, is told in a lighthearted way. This is furthermore supported by beautifully drawn and detailed, very colorful artwork. The soundtrack also does its due. The dungeons are varied in design that you don't get easily bored and then there's the monster-catching mechanic, which grants you different boosts and perks. All in all one of the better dungeon crawlers. I wished for a bit more story but that aside you can't really go wrong with this one.
Blizzard took on Magic the Gathering and of course they made something incredibly fun and gripping out of it. Hearthstone is easy to learn, yet all the different classes with their unique cards and the deck building mechanic add fodder for months to the game. Matchmaking is quick and easy and you always feel like making progress. The interactive battlefields are only the icing on the pretty delicious cake. Also: F2P done right.
Ghost Control Inc.
Ever wanted to have your own ghost busting company? Now you can have it in this light hearted X-Com clone. Only instead of Aliens you catch ghosts and research enhancements for your proton-packs. As a Ghostbusters-fan (R.I.P. Harold Ramis) I liked this one.
Mount your Friends
Where to begin, where to begin? Ech, screw it: If "A team of Cthulhuoid turban-sporting blue-skins teaming of against Punk versions of Dr. Fu Manchu with Dong-physics" doesn't get you excited, nothing will!!!
This game has made the rounds since 2012 and now FINALLY we could play the end result. The Atari-graphics look way better in motion and make for an incredibly fluent experience. Forget leveling up and perks and stuff: this is one on one fencing and the best one wins. Wild, heartpounding chases take turns with tense mind-games at a break neck pace and make for one of the best multiplayer-experiences ever.
Dungeon of the Endless
Yes, Endless Space, Endless Legend and Dungeons of the Endless are all based in the same universe. DotE is their foray into the roguelike genre and besides a good art-direction, they actually spiced things up with a very tactical, strategic and deliberate approach to roguelikes in comparison to the usually very action-heavy games in the genre. It forces you to manage your ressources and take risks that really hurt your efforts if they don't pay off.
A reboot of a classic franchise is always tricky. Good for us that the Strider reboot proved to be a servicable Actioner with possibly the most satisfying Swordplay. Maybe a bit to easy but SLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASHSLASH
Vlambeer silently had a killer year. Not only did they do an awesome job on Nuclear Throne, but they also released a little title called Luftrausers.Sounding particularly German, I can attest, that this is not a German word. Not even Klaus. The game, however, is fun, fast-paced and incorporated this "One more round" mentality like few other titles this year. Before you could actually make the decision to stop playing, you were once again knee deep in a last stand with ze allied forces. Really noteworthy: Depending on what parts you chose, the soundtrack changed. It's basically one song, but every part brings its unique instruments and twists to the formula.
Now this is kinda what everyone expected from Civilization: Beyond Earth (besides the Fantasy Paintjob of course): taking the ideas of Civ V and refining them, making for an experience, that feels comfortingly familiar, yet fresh enough to warrant another allnighter of "Just one more round". So yeah, Endless Legend delivered in its stead and for a smaller Indie Studio, they did a more than commendable job in replicating that feel. Everything seems fitting, from the artstyle to the music and the gameplay mixes things up without alienating anyone. Didn't have big expectations but damn, that was one fine effort.
Starting out as a trailer making fun of the simulator-frenzy, Goat Simulator managed to be an absolute delight. Like Surgen SImmulator before it, it very well understood what it was and never tried to be more. That in combination with the absurdity of possibilities and things to discover made for an incredibly fun time of just being the goat. Was it deep? No. But stupid in a very positive way and sometimes, when done right, that is all it takes. BAAAAAAAAAH
XBlaze: Code Embryo
I really like the fighting games by Arc System works. Not only for their superior gameplay, but also for a rather deep lore. Especially the BlazBlue series has its fair share of backstory and this is where Xblaze comes in. It's a Visual Novel in the BlazBlue universe, set 150 years before the first game. Your interaction with the world comes in the form of the TOi system (a personalized news-ticker of sorts) and what articles you choose to read or not. What was very notable was the quick pacing. Unlike a lot of Visual Novels, that take up to ten hours to introduce the characters, XBlaze does character progression on a more on-the-fly basis. All in all it more feels like episodes of an Anime. A rather good one at that. They could tone down a bit on the fanservice at times and some things weren't made that clear, but with some really great character artwork, great Japanese voicework (fully voiced with English text) and a killer Soundtrack, this one should be on your Watchlist.
The Walking Dead Season 2
Yes, it's complaining on a rather high level, but I was left a bit disappointed by the second season of Telltale's Zombie-Roadtrip. At times it even seemed like they were unsure, where to go and some of the characters were almost shockingly bland. That's not to say, that this is a bad game, far from it. It still has some incredibly tense moments and memorable sequences it just didn't impact me as much, as my GotY 2012 did.
Yes, yes, YES. This was the skating game I basically wanted pas THPS4. I didn't know I wanted it in 2D, but grinding and 720 kickflipping my way through a russian military base on my way to just another highscore quickly told me I should have known better. If you are like me and spent night after night in front of your Playstation or PC, trying to beat the Warehouse in THPS2 with everything collected in two minutes, while listening to the awesome soundtrack or sporting the new Limp Bizkit CD, then don't hesitate and grab it.
Bite me. I love Football and it has been a lot of iterations I didn't get, so it was time for a roster upgrade. But the changes they made (especially on the defensive side of the ball) are actually making the game a whole lot of fun and way more challenging. The franchise mode, as convoluted as the menus are, is still my mainstay and has everything I want from a football game, tuning my roster 'til perfection and leading my beloved Arizona Cardinals to where they belong!
Akiba's Trip: Undead & Undressed
This game always makes my gf laugh. Not that she pllayed it, but the title alone always makes her snicker. That aside, this is like a lighthearted Yakuza-light. In short: Vampires are about to overrun Akihabara and it's up to you and your comicshop/arcade-friends to stop them by....stripping them of their clothes. The game is actually far less offensive than it might seem now and instead focusses on a combatsystem that is nothing special but offers reasonable depth to not be boring and characters, that while ultimately not incredibly remarkable (your little sister aside) offer enough variety. This all sounds rather negative, but I enjoyed my time with this game more than I thought I would and while there are flaws (small areas, many "flat" storefronts), give it a try if you can get behind the idea.
Another game I weirdly enjoyed. When it released, the reception was rather lukewarm. I totally get those reviews. I also get the bad reviews as the game has obvious issues: repetitive gameplay, shoddy graphics, very.....crude humor. But this game ended up being way more than the sum of its parts. It will be rather soon, that at least one of the gameplay mechanics grips on you. Be it the weapon-collecting, leveling up or getting soaked in blood while fighting....and then the story picks up steam. At first, all the characters are basically assholes with your character being the absolute worst offender on that front. But after some time, a lot of things clear up and it paints a very different picture on many a strange fellow on your travel. Just not on Octa...he's a perv and always was one and we wouldn't have it any other way.
Now this is a weird one. Imagine the following scenario: humanity found a new exoplanet and the Extrasolar company spearheads exploration of that planet. Now they don't explore it by themselves of course but via little rovers and of course, YOU are one of the lucky ones to be chosen to pilot one. Now not of course initially, but I'm not gonna spoil more here, as the game, through real e-mails you get and a certain time between rover-input and response (because giant distance), creates a really great sense of immersion and actually glued me to the screen whenever something happened because I was genuinely excited. Try it. It's completely free by the way.
VA-11 Hall-A (Prologue)
Cyberpunk-Waifu-Bartending-Sim kinda encapsulates it pretty well. Up 'til now, only the prologue has released, but this already gives you a good look at what is ahead for this game and I'm more than curious to find that out. The cliffhanger was killer and now I want to know it all....also, I have spent some hours bartending racist, talking, multi-coloured Corgis. That accounts for something, right?
There is no better looking shmup out there. There just isn't. The game looks gorgeous and runs at a smooth 60fps through a bunch of amazing setpieces. They are passing by in a breakneck speed, so you better bring your a-game. The attacks and bonus attacks don't get out of hand, so you can concentrate on some serious ass-kicking and some motion-sickness if you're too close to the screen. The ever-changing perspectives actually serve a purpose as you always have to slightly adjust your tactics for every different angle. If you're only slightly interested in Japanese Shmups, don't let this slip you by. Seriously. Get it.
Sniper Elite 3
Well that one came out of left field. Released in June to little fanfare, this game actually as more Hitman elements than itman Absolution. Once again, you're a Sniper in WWII, tasked with stopping a German general in Africa from building his newest pet project: the P1000 "Ratte" (a giant tank, powered by 4 1000hp submarine-engines with a 3-barrel 46cm-ship artillery turret as the main weapon and two rear mounted TigerII turrets as back-defense) . And yes, that is a thing that actually existed, if only in theory. The open areas allowed for incredible player freedom when it comes to approaching your targets and either loud and nasty, or silent and deadly will get you to your goals. The real challenge comes from the fantastic bullet-physics and the fact, that you're not using a modern, high-powered rifle, but a WWII one, so kills feel really rewarding....oh, the bullet-cam also helps in that regard. Also, the AI is rather good in this one, rounding out a very good stealth-action-experience I wholeheartedly recommend to everyone.
As I said before, the Vita got a great deal of Action RPGs; a lot of them MMO-ish Monster Hunter-wannabes. Not so much in the case of Freedom Wars. Sporting a different artstyle, this game focusses much more on an interesting setting (you were born, which is kind of a biggie and warrants 1 million years in prison) and story. Along with that, you get an incredible deal of customization right of the bat with tons more to unlock, a fully customizable robot companion, upgradeable weapons, your own facilities, daily quests and a freakin' grappling hook, that can hook you to anything and also be used, to rip parts off of enemies. Why are you not already downloading it?
Tears to Tiara 2 - Heir to the Overlord
I love Strategy-RPGs. The mix of enticing storylines with combat, where stats are important, but I can also overcome big odds by simply rocking it never cease to entertain me. That said, there have been some....meh ones in recent years. TtT2 luckily, is not one of those. This one also incorporates MASSIVE influences from another genre I adore: the Visual Novels. The story is presented in a visual novel style and you might be forgiven to wonder, if there is an actual game behind it at first. You have about ten minutes of reading, than the introductory battle and then about two hours of story until the next one. Hell, it's ten hours until you get your first glance of the campaign menu. So yeah, it's paced incredibly slow, but a good story and very deep combat system make up for it. And if that's not it: you can command a really adorable chibi-elephant.
The Wolf among Us Season 1
This is one of the games you didn't know you wanted until you played them. The Telltale formula and style only rarely made as much sense as in this example: an actual port of a comic-series to videogame form. Imagine this as the scenario: All the figures from Fairy Tales actually existed in the same universe. This universe, however, got struck by catastrophe and now, the remaining few set up shop in 1980s New York city. You follow the Adventures of Bigby Wolf, investigating his way through a murder mystery. A noir-esque crime drama with a heavy dose of Grimm.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call
Nubuo Uematsu is a musical genius. I bet everyone who reads this can hum at least one tune from Final Fantasy history that makes you go back and reminisce back to the days, where you didn't have to defend Lightning Returns, because it was less horrible than XIII. Now imagine you could actually play those songs in one of the best "pick up and play" rhythm games out there. Now also imagine, that you collect more songs and characters throughout the entire FF lore, make your own party of those guys and level them up and eventually unlock an Adventure mode and....there is content for months in there and the difficulty settings are pitch perfect to suit everyone, from "I just want a relaxing distraction" to "WARGHARBL".
The Evil Within
A lot of people have their problems with this one and I get where they are coming from. However, this doesn't stop me from enjoying the shit out of it. Maybe it's the Shinji Mikami expectation, but I took it for what it was and that was a gloriously gory action-horror romp with some really fucked up ideas and imagery that genuinely made my skin crawl at times.
Technically 2013, but the Playstation versions got pushed into 2014 and I played them primarily on PS3 and Vita. The cross save system works incredibly well and make it even more addicting, when you can take your "stationary" save on the go and advance some generations on the commute. Easy to learn, hard to master, impossible to put down.
Gods will be watching
I was SO hot for this game. This plays like a point and click adventure and in this, does a great job in putting you under pressure, even if nothing happens if you don't do anything. The gist of it is that you follow an overarching story, interrupted by playable flashbacks, that put you against overwhelming odds. Don't mistake its point'n'click heritage: you WILL die. Sierra Adventures got nothing on this one and at times you will ask yourselves, whether there is a right choice. Hard choices have to be made and sometimes you have to realize, that the comfortable middle ground that doesn't annoy anybody will inevitably lead to an early grave.
Dynasty Warriors Gundam REBORN
I wasn't sure whether this would make the trip over to the west (since the first three sold poorly), so I imported it in Japanese for the Vita and what can I say: it's the best DW Gundam out there. The first iterations alwys felt sterile and never got the DW quite right. Not so here. Gundams from nearly all iterations are there (over 90 of them to be more precise!!!) and once you get into it, you can spend a LOT of time with this one. There are six storymodes, which each encompass one franchise entry. Then, there's a Storymode with multiple more stories, where franchise entries get mixed up and the SEED crew fights alongside Unicorn Gundam. Then of course there's the usual Muktiplayer and Endless modes, card-unlocking, parts gathering and Gundam updating to keep you busy. As a bonus treat for Gundam-fans: the storymode has Cutscenes from the respective series-entries completely redone in 3D. They look amazing (for the game they are in) and are a nice addition to a very complete Gundam package.
Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme VS Full Boost
...just rolls of the tongue, right? I was actually thinking about how to descibe the gameplay, until recently, Rise of Incarnates and the new DISSIDIA iteration eased that up. Imagine those games, only more fluent and with more depth than those games. Add a crapton of Gundams, each one feeling genuinely different (which is quite a feat. Imagine Street Fighter with 70 different characters....and no: just palette swaps like in MK don't count) and a Soundtrack that includes all the memorable tunes, from the cheesy early 80s title theme to the latest Gundam UC tunes. The netcode is super-stable, even when playing with and against people from Japan and even without an Arcade-Stick, the controls almost flow naturally. Even for solo-players, there are a lot of challenges to beat, but Multiplayer is really, where this is at. Fast paced, multi-faceted Mecha action greatness awaits you. NOW IMPORT IT ALREADY!!!
Borderlands - The Pre-Sequel
Even as a pretty huge Borderlands fan, I wasn't sure I needed this. It just felt...forced. So I put it off until the very end of the year and snagged it for 20 bucks on a sale. During the first four-ish hours, I thought myself reinforced in my belief of a quick cash-in. Everything seemed like BL2 with a new paintjob. But then, it seems, as if 2K Australia flicked a switch and said: "You know what? Screw that. We'll make our Borderlands more than just that." and seriously upped their game. The story leaves the forced-humorous paths and actually has some dark moments. Jack's downfall is orchestrated in a really gripping story, that also shows his inner workings and makes us at least understand him better and why he became, who he was in BL2. It might be my favorite story in the BL franchise. Also: traversing the zero-G areas is great and with all the new stuff they added (new vehicles, new weapon types, the Grinder) this is way more fleshed out than I thought it would be. Pick it up if you happen to not have played it.
I honestly don't know what to say here. I mean: it's a black&white, claymation musical, point&click adventure, with all the voices done by one person. It's incredibly weird and it took me some time to get used to this style but once it hooked me, it got me hook, line and sinker. It has this weird charme that just lulls you in and swallows you whole before you have a chance to resist. It's not a long gameand I think that works in its favor, by not overstaying its welcome and/or novelty.
Imagine you get stuck with a bunch of "Ultimate" students and the only way to escape your predicament is by killing someone and not being framed the killer in a class trial....all of this is hosted by a homicidal, talking stuffed bear. That's Danganronpa in a nutshell and since both games released this year (after being released in Japan on the PSP in 2011 and 2013 respectively), I packed them both on here. Some events actually build upon each other, so it's just fitting. I wasn't a fan initially, as everything is very crass. There is not a single thing in these games, that is not in some way hyper-stylized and that is off-putting to some people. I needed some time to acclimate, but having finished both games, I'm glad I did. Especially the endings pile up on the WTF-moments but that's kinda what makes this great. The actual reveals are made so that sometimes, you'd rather not know them at all. Which is always exactly what Monokuma has in store for y'all. Puhuhuhuhuhu
Valiant Hearts - The great War
If you ever needed further proof, that the UbiArt engine is incredible, look no further than this gem from 2014. Valiant Hearts tells the tales of four different people (who of course are all related in some way)during the tumultuous times of the first World War. This game has some puzzles, but none of them are so hard, that they'd get in the overall flow of the game telling its sublime story. There are so many great moments in this game, that it would exceed this blog to list them all but the last few minutes of that game left me both: extremely impressed and very very melancholic.
The Banner Saga
Did I mention that I love Strategy RPGs? Oh yeah, I did and The Banner Saga was an incredibly well made effort in that regard. Beautiful, handdrawn graphics and animation (seriously...it's hard to describe until you see it with your own eyes) meet with an engaging storyline and this sense of melancholy and doom looming all over it. One of the games I lost myself the deepest in. I just wanted to immersive myself in this Norse-mythology-inspired world and never return.
Comedy in games is hard to do...so kudos, that the team behind Jazzpunk achieved, what they did. This game is incredible in just about every aspect. It plays great and holy fuck. It's so hard to describe, because just saying things like "there's laughs behind every corner" sounds so incredibly like a back-of-the-box bullet-point, that it's not saying anything these days. But seriously: there are a lot of gags you can see "plainly" and adding to that are so many gags and references that pop up in places you wouldn't expect because...well it's "good" random humour because, like Monthy Python, it really plays with your expectations before taking them, wrapping them in a pie and throwing them in your face.
Retro done right. This doesn't just have a pixel-y NES-style, this looks exactly like an NES game (yes, there is a difference and seeing it in motion, you will know what I mean). Another reminder of that era is the great level-design, that makes you want to explore it, but will facilitate all your skills in doing so. Highlight of each stage (next to the great soundtrack) is the boss of each stage. If you ever wondered, what a mix of Mega Man, Duck Tales and Super Mario Bros 3 would look like get this game. One of my favorite platformers ever and I was genuinely surprised and impressed at Yacht Club's effort here. They nailed everything about this one.
Now this is the Alien game I was waiting for. Note: Alien, not Aliens. There is action involved, but stealth against overwhelming odds is the key here. The Sevastopol is crafted with so much love to detail, you're excused for mistaking it as shots from a never-released "Alien: Behind the scenes" art-book. From an atmospherical standpoint, Creative Assembly (of all people) nailed this one better than anyone ever did and even from a gameplay perspective, there is very little to critisize. Like in any stealth game, you'll eventually get behind the systems but that is stretched out by the good Alien AI, that also adds the element of randomness, that many brethren lack. Not really scary in my book, but atmospheric as hell and super-duper tense at times. Don't let this pass you by. You won't find a better tribute to this great series of films in videogame form (maybe Infestation on the DS, but that's another story).
Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney
Much like "Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem" I had to rub my eyes and read the announcement for that one again, because at the onset, this doesn't necessarily fit. But Capcom and Level 5 did a commendable job of merging these two universes into one great adventure. Puzzle-solving and court room battles are never tried to force into the same space and that really works to the game's favor. Nothing feels forced and both franchises are treated with a great deal of respect and attention to detail. Speaking of detail: the art-direction is absolutely gorgeous with its depiction of the medieval-ish town of Labyrinthia, but that is expected from Level 5 at this point. Good writing, creative puzzles and court-battles with some surprisingly high stakes round this one out. If you hunger for 3DS-stuff, get this one.
Far Cry 4
I really liked Far Cry 3 and yes: you could be so cynical as to just call it "more of the same". But that would make you a cynical asshole and just make you miss one of the best shooters of the year. Troy Baker does a great job as Pagan Min and the gameplay is as refined as in the previous iteration. Add to that the verticality of the Himalayan nation of Kyrat and you should have a good idea of what to expect....until you realize, that you can rode elephants and boy, Dumbo has evolved into a serious motherfucker after leaving the circus behind, let me tell you that...
Wolfenstein - The New Order
Well fill up my beerstein and call me Fritz, who thought that any studio could give the three-phase animation that was B.J. Blaskowicz an actual personality twenty years ago? Yet here we are with Wolfenstein: The New Order. A shooter, that doesn't revolutionize anything, but remembers, what made FPSs fun once and runs with that. Starting with the fact, that you can double wield nearly every weapon in the game (including sniper rifles because fuck logic, that's why) and ending with popular songs from the 60s being reimagined as German-versions (because Nazis), this game surprised, amazed and entertained me incredibly well. The locales are also varied and the gameplay also has its quiter, exploratory moments where you can admire, how much effort went into the creation of Nazi-Propaganda post WWII.
Persona Q - Shadow of the Labyrinth
I have well documented love for both: Persona and Etrian Odyssey. I loved Persona for its roleplaying elements when it comes to everything around the dungeon crawling, as they progressed the story, but always seemed like vessels for plot continuation for me. Etrian Odyssey, on the other hand, was always about the dungeons for me. Intricate layouts that you had to navigate with tons of nooks and crannies for the thorough explorer. Sadly, it always fell short in the story-aspect. Not anymore though, as Persona Q is a mix of BOTH. I can now finally have the personality of Persona with the superior dungeon crawling of EO and if that doesn't get your genitals to react in some way, then how have you endured my ramblings until now? Oh, it's also a really long game, clocking you in at anywhere between 70 and 100 hours.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
I kinda like MGS...I once broke the editor with a blog about MGS, so you can take the following with all the grains of salt you like. I also say this: you should not necessarily buy Ground Zeroes. I mean: it's a 20 dollar (download version for last gen) demo version. Considering the "I want people to know what to expect"-quote: Kojima-san, this might be news to you, but in 2014 everyone already knew how Open World games work. With all that out of the way, let me say this: this is the best MGS from a gameplay standpoint. Finally, there are no clunky controls in the way of anything. You can do what you like, when you like and it feels great. Yeah, the main story mission might take you one to two hours if you're so inclined, but if you really want to explore, want to know more how this game works and see this compund to its fullest...yeah, it'll take you longer than that. From a story standpoint, it got me more than hyped for The Phantom Pain and as said before: the gameplay is smooth and superior to any previous iteration.
Dark Souls 2
If you ever wanted a game to suck you in, if you wanted a game that you kept thinking about even hours or days after switchign of the console: Look no further. If you want a game with a supreme combat system in which each encounter could be your last: Look no further. If you want a game that grabs you by the throat but rewards you with an encouraging and triumphant feeling like few other games can: Look no further. If you want the best Action RPG of 2014 by far: Look no further.
Whenever the term "Visual Novel" comes up and you ask someone for suggestions, chances are "Steins;Gate" will come up with a glowing recommendation. And for good reason: it is just. So. Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood. A great "hard SciFi" story (one with actual science behind it) that forces you to connect some dots, only to invest you even further. Add to that absolutely top-notch writing, great dialogue, deep characters, some of the heaviest mindfucks you'll encounter and multiple endings that are well worth exploring all on your way to a fin