2014 was a great year on the whole and despite a number of games grabbing the headlines for all the wrong reasons, there was still so much on offer that gave us reasons to be thankful. Making our decisions for Game of the Year was difficult, so we also give some shoutouts to the ones who almost made it.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (PC)
Describing Hearthstone as anything other than a revelation in online card games would be doing it a disservice. Hearthstone’s digital-only nature, rather than being a digital representation of an existing phsyical product, is key to this. This results in a streamlined experience, removing many of the esoteric mechanical barriers that usually turn people off trading card games during their first exposure to them.
Being based on one of the most successful franchises of all time might have had something to do with Hearthstone’s success, too – but regardless of its license, Hearthstone is a triumphant demonstration of how to digitise a physical concept from scratch, and is a beautifully-paced free to play experience to boot.
Twenty million players can’t be wrong.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
This is one of those games that was released at the start of the year and has been largely forgotten about. I have a strong fondness for the DKC games of old, but this is probably the best in the series.
As amazing as Super Mario 3D World is, it really does take a while before it ramps up the difficulty. Tropical Freeze is hard from the third level. And yet, as difficult as it gets, it never feels unfair. It looks simply stunning, each Kong character you control feels different and the music is just sublime. If this is Retro Studio’s swansong with the DKC series, then it’s a great one to go out on.
I felt the need to put this here because, well, nobody has mentioned it. It’s a little block puzzler for the Vita where using the touch screen to match blocks of the same colour. That’s the basic setup, but for expert players it goes a lot deeper.
Surge Deluxe is probably the most fun I’ve had with a puzzle game in years, and still fire it up on occasion to try and beat my score. I was also the best in the world at this game from around a week or two. Just thought I’d mention that.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment
Playing the latest Sherlock Holmes game by developer Frogwares is almost like slipping into the actual smoking jacket, Holmes himself would often wear, as this game is just perfect for those long winter evenings.
Playing this game is no more stressful than reading a book, and while there are some moral choices to make, during each one of the games nine cases, getting stuck is almost impossible and it is even possible to skip through all the puzzles you encounter if you are finding them too difficult. In-fact I have been known to nod off a few times while playing this game, but that has usually been due to how much this game relaxes me, and not because I have become bored.
In a world where the majority of games require your brain and fingers to be working at full speed for long periods of time; I think there will always be room for titles like Sherlock Holmes and its rather lovely undemanding gameplay.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2015
All I can say about this game is…….thank God this franchise is almost back to it best. In yet another year where FIFA once again disappointed, playing this years PES, is like welcoming home a long lost son, you never thought you would see again.
While it isn’t quite up to the incredibly high standards of PES of old, this years titles has taken a huge step back up to the previous plateau of PES 3-5 , and is now quite easily the best football(Soccer for you Yanks) game that was released this year.
It is not perfect by any means, and keeping in tradition of all PES games, the presentation is still miles behind other sports titles but it gets so many things right, and is just so much fun to play. Hopefully Konomi will just make a few tweaks to next years game and not change anything to major, as if this happens, they could well end up releasing the greatests football game the world has ever seen.
I said this during my review, but when we said we wanted games to be more mature, this is exactly what we meant. Never Alone approaches a subject that doesn’t exactly stand out as a subject for a videogame in a very mature way.
It treats its audience with respect and assumes intelligence and a willing to learn. The gameplay itself is fairly average, but it is the the sum of all its parts make for one of the most amazing experiences of the year. If you haven’t played it yet, then I urge you to do so and start of 2015 in the best way possible.
It was a game that wasn’t on my list of must haves when it came to deciding on an XBOX One, but it was one that intrigued me from the very first moment I saw it. It was one of the games I picked up with the console and boy was it worth it.
It is a just fantastically fun game that is full of amazing moments time and time again. It makes fun of many videogame tropes and unashamedly revels in them too. Even quests that should be dull are joyful and exciting to play. This game alone makes my decision to get another next gen console worth it.
I am going to cheat and add a third game to my almost rans. Hyrule Warriors is just a fantastic game. Dynasty Warriors gameplay set in the world of Hyrule. Basically going round slaughtering enemies for fun. A joyous experience and one that I cannot get off of once I get going.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
Wolfenstein is unashamed in it’s straightforwardness. It simply does not faff around. There are no real bells and whistles, no multiplayer mode for people to ignore after a week, no time warping mechanic or super powers, just a man versus more Nazis than there are bullets in the world using lots of guns that are noisy and very satisfying to dual wield. Any game that allows you to shoot two sniper rifles at once for no other reason than ‘just because’ is alright by me.
It’s just incredibly well done in every single respect. The lack of multiplayer allowed Machine Games to make a game that feels solid, rewarding, and worth every single second you play it. It has some excellent voice acting and even decent plotting and dialogue.
One of my favourite aspects of the whole game is that all the German characters speak in German, aside from the times when they’re actually supposed to be speaking English. All the newspapers are in German, all the posters, all the propaganda literature, letters, even the songs by a certain Liverpool beat combo of the 60s have been redone in German in keeping with the game’s setting. It might sound like a strange thing to focus on, but if you compare it to Singularity it shows how poor just putting on a cod accent and making only aesthetic changes to English to emulate another language in print actually is. It wrenches you out of the world. It would have been a shame if they had gone down the route of printing everything in english but in a germanic gothic font and having the characters voiced by someone who sounds like Herr Flick from ‘allo ‘allo.
It’s one of the best FPS’s I’ve played in recent years, never mind 2014. Whether we’ll get a sequel or not, I don’t know. Maybe it should be left on that note, because it’s a very, very high one.
Shadow of Mordor
Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na MORDORRR.
Before buying it, I’d assumed that like previous games set in Middle Earth, Shadow of Mordor of was published by EA. That isn’t the case, it’s published by Warner Bros, much like the Arkham Batman games. So when someone says “it’s rather like Batman” what they mean is that it’s functionally identical, the combat, even the controls. If you like to read the word “Wraith” in place of the word “Bat”, you aren’t keen on gliding but do like grassy hills more than cityscapes then this is the game for you. The new system with the captains having internal battles to make it worth picking out targets, when combined with a slightly more elegant stealth system makes the game endlessly playable. Whilst this is “just” a Batman game, it is a very good one.
Where Shadow of Mordor re-skinned a great game and made it arguably better, this year also saw Civilization: Beyond Earth released. Essentially a more complicated version of Civilization V (no real extra depth, just complication) it was an incredibly disappointing release. Endless Legend, on the other hand, takes Civilization as a starting point and loads every single part of it with interesting new twists, oceans of lore, clever gameplay mechanics, elegant combat. It even looks gorgeous, elegant and tidy with fantastic art direction. It’s roughly as good as a 4X (“eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate”…PC gaming is a bit like that, sometimes) can be and comes massively recommended. Due to Civilization appearing it didn’t get anywhere near enough attention, so this is thoroughly deserved as a nomination.
I am, however, awful at it.