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Alessandro Fillari's personal picks for Game of the Year 2014

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I was dreamin' when I wrote this

What a ride 2014 has been, right? There's definitely been a few ups and downs for everyone, including some that wanted to get their last licks before the year closes out. Still, we got to see some pretty exciting titles released, some that delivered and others not so much. Regardless of what your feelings are of the games, you can't deny that we've had plenty to play this year. So with that, I've decided to take a shot at talking about my noteworthy, standout, and otherwise memorable games of this year.

I'm not particularly fond of doing a full ten list, even though I've got plenty to say about the year's offerings -- so I've taken a cue from John Cusack and brought things down to a nice list of five. Though five is an odd number, the shorter length will make it easier for me to focus on what really stood out as my favorites. I've also included some minor categories and other noteworthy picks from the year, as my big hope is that you'll get to see some games you might have missed, or even think of others in a new way.

So with that, here are my standout picks for games released in 2014.

5. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Who would've thought that during the period where Peter Jackson made a trilogy of middling Hobbit movies, Monolith Games would come of nowhere with one of the most original takes on Middle-earth? Granted, on the surface it looks like a cross between Assassin's Creed and Batman: Arkham Asylum set in the Tolkien's universe, but its approach to narrative, specifically player-made narrative, shows that even those established brands could learn some things from Shadow of Mordor.

The much-hyped Nemesis system turned out to be the real deal, and even offered some truer storytelling than the main narrative. It's one of the rare games where actions forge a personal nemesis. With Talion's quest for vengeance feeling like background noise, I was far more invested in his moves to undermine the legions of Orcs. However, my true appreciation for the system came after the end of the main story.

I realized I felt more of a connection to a particular warchief, who was the most ruthless and cunning foe I faced in the game, than I did with the game's final boss. Seeing him grow from a peon to major player in Sauron's army, who somehow knew my own weaknesses and dislikes, made me feel a bit sad that such a worthy foe had bit the dust. Uthra The Mad, if you're out there: I miss you, man.

4. Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

I was one of the many who got swept up in the Diablo III craze before its release back in 2012. With the series' status as a major influence to PC gaming, it was a quite a treat to be a part of the next installment right when it was released. But man, vanilla Diablo III was not the game I had in mind. Even though I had a lot of fun in the 60 hours I spent with it, it was padded out with phases that felt like I was doing chores. After only a few months, I ditched the game and barely touched it for a long time. But that all changed once Reaper of Souls was released.

To me, this expansion represents a culmination of nearly two years of outreach and addressing player criticisms. Reaper of Souls basically fixed everything corrosive with Diablo III, starting with the removal of the game killing auction house, and adding much needed content outside of the main story. It simply made the game satisfying and fun, just like its predecessors. Blizzard did a remarkable job of giving new life to a game that many wrote off, while showing that they've still got it when it comes to loot-focused action-RPG titles.

3. P.T.

This is definitely the strangest of my picks, but it's well deserved. Obviously, the enigmatic title released during gamescom turned out to be a teaser for the upcoming Silent Hills project. But even when the surprise came out only a few hours after its unveiling, people still kept playing it. If anything, its relation to Silent Hill brought more attention to this perplexing and haunting downloadable title. While it's often referred to as just an advertisement for a bigger game, the impact P.T. had will certainly make it one to remember.

Using a minimalistic approach to storytelling and design, players simply had to make it through a door at the end of the hallway. It was truly one of the few titles that felt like an actual event for the audience to take part in. Communities online began to formulate their own theories and tips on how to solve each 'loop' while avoiding the presence of Lisa, who will easily go down as one of the scariest enemies in gaming. Even when Silent Hills will eventually be released, I'll certainly still remember the rush I got from playing P.T. in a dark room with friends for the first time.

2. Wolfenstein: The New Order

In a time where first person shooters emulate Call of Duty and other generic military action games with drab storylines and scripted moments, Wolfenstein: The New Order returns to the roots of the genre and shows that it's okay to just let players cut loose. Made by former developers from Starbreeze, Machine Games' new take on the classic Wolfenstein gave me a somewhat iffy first impression, but getting my hands on the title made me realize how wrong I was. Despite the meathead-looking protagonist and the cliched Nazi alternate history storyline, there's a lot more going with the spectacle than you might think.

The New Order is very much a throwback title trying to reconcile its place in the modern area, and that comes out in the best way possible. Instead of conforming to the standards of the present, it recontextualizes the sterile conventions of today to fit its bombastic and high-octane nature. Featuring a storyline that channels the ultra-violence of Inglourious Basterds with extra cheese and a surprising amount of heart and humanity for its characters, Wolfenstein blends the best of big-budget FPS games of today with the pure action-oriented gameplay of the past. It's truly the best of both worlds, and it offered the most fun I've had with a first-person shooter in a long time.

1. Alien: Isolation

I almost lost hope for games based off of the Alien franchise after the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines. But who would've thought they'd rebound so quickly after such a misfire? Helmed by Creative Assembly, and modeling itself after the original film (which is the best), the developers wanted Alien: Isolation to feel very much like a cleansing of all the tropes found in videogame sci-fi, while restoring faith in what the franchise can aspire to be. And it all starts with humbling the player and instilling fear for the Alien once again.

With no space marine in sight, and firearms as the least useful tools, players have to rely on wits and careful planning to evade the gaze of the lone Xenomorph stalking the halls of the space station Sevastopol. Though the reception has been somewhat polarizing for its uncompromising stealth gameplay and save system, no other game has inspired so much dread and terror from deciding whether to make a run for it or waiting another agonizing moment for the creature to leave the area. Even the smallest of victories feel like a triumph, and getting the best of the Alien is immensely satisfying. Not only is this one of the best examples of doing a videogame adaption of a movie justice, it's also one of the best things to happen to the Alien franchise in a long time.

Honorable Mentions:
This War of Mine, Far Cry 4, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, The Evil Within, Valiant Hearts



The subject of war was given a lot of attention with the releases of This War of Mine and Valiant Hearts. Though the latter was one of the smaller titles released by Ubisoft this year, it's definitely the one with the biggest heart. I had a great time chatting with the developers of both games this year, and seeing games tackle the subject from a different perspective was incredibly refreshing. Here's hoping these two titles have inspired others to treat the subject a bit differently.

Games for my 2015 backlog:

Bayonetta 2, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Mario Kart 8, Shovel Knight, Super Smash Bros. Wii U



I'm not kidding when I say this, but the original Bayonetta was not only my favorite game of 2010, but also my favorite of console Generation 7 (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii). Though it breaks my heart that I wasn't there to give her the first dance on Wii U, I'm super delighted to hear that Bayonetta 2 has found new life on Nintendo's console.

Once I get the system, she'll be the first I spent my time with.

And the game I'll still play despite hating on it:

Destiny

Was Destiny a disappointing title? Yes. Does it feel like a virtual Skinner box? Oh yeah. Am I still playing it? Yep. Despite feeling like a newly released free-to-play title lacking content and leaving a lot of players disappointed, Destiny is still a fun and well polished shooter.

Even though I'm still trying to figure out what the hell happened to the game that was shown off in the pre-release trailers, the ground work for something wonderful is still there. Here's hoping they can someday get to it.

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Alessandro Fillari
Alessandro FillariStaff Writer   gamer profile

A San Francisco native, he's an admirer of the city's diverse culture and lifestyle. Prior to joining the staff, he was a contributor and an editor for his college newspaper where he wrote articl... more + disclosures


 


 



Filed under... #Destructoid Originals #Game of the Year #Top Stories

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