2014 felt like a very long year in terms of gaming, yet I didn’t really get through a whole pile of games. Perhaps my memory is going. What a sweet release. Or perhaps it was just that my pattern of play as it were changed quite a bit this year. I covered my thoughts on last year’s spending on games over here. I suppose one final note on that point was that I hit the deal hunter thing hard. Making solid use of sites like http://isthereanydeal.com/, http://www.cheapshark.com/, http://www.reddit.com/r/GameDeals/, etc. as well as (the now sadly neutered) Steam trading sites like http://dispenser.tf/ and http://www.tf2outpost.com/ and importing I got as much gaming bang for my buck as I possibly could.
Leaving out bundles I bought roughly €2225 worth of games and DLC and paid ~€700. Which, again leaving out bundles, equates to around seventy to eighty games. Including bundles it’s almost double that. I’ve already talked about my spending elsewhere so I’ll leave it there; suffice to say I stretched my gaming dollar as far as it would go. In terms of how I played games and what games I played 2014 saw me spending a large amount of time on a small amount of games. Most of the games that saw serious play from me in 2014 were more or less endless and those that weren’t endless were extremely (fucking) long. I’m not sure if there’s anything of note to glean from those facts. I generally prefer genres that lend themselves to games with long play times (RPGs, SRPGS, strategy games, etc.) and if it isn’t one of those genres it tends to be a genre that produces more or less endless games (ARPGS, fighters, grand strategy, etc.). A lot of the games I played this year though were extremely suited, or explicitly geared towards facilitating drop in/drop out play. They were games you could get lost in but equally you could just play for twenty minutes or so and still have a satisfying experience. I think it was the latter that appealed to me and is the reason they saw so much play. The year felt fairly scattered and I found it hard to commit to games that required long sessions of continuous play.
I also played quite a few mobile games this year. I got really into most of the big ones. Though Puzzles & Dragons, Terra Battle and Chain Chronicles are the only ones I still play with any regularity. Of those Puzzles & Dragons is the only one I’ve spent money on. Though I have been playing it for two years at this point so that’s probably not too surprising.
Beyond my own habits I think 2014 was a pretty solid year for gaming (and arguably the best year in a decade for RPGS), a lot of great games came out and while I didn’t get to play them all I still played enough good games that picking out a top ten was a bit of a struggle. I also think 2014 may be defined in many ways by the year of delays. A lot of the major titles for 2014 got pushed back to 2015 and 2015 looks like it’s going to be an absolute monster year for quality releases. With those general observations out of the way time to get down to the nitty gritty. A quick note on how I compiled the list. Any game I played this year, whether it was released this year or not, is eligible for inclusion. However if the game in question appeared in a previous year’s Top 10 it can’t be included unless it’s received a major update or expansion. I’ve also made a conscious effort to try and keep the entry for each game to around two hundred and fifty words. I don’t think anyone is interested in reading a magnum opus. I’ve rounded the top ten out with super brief thoughts on other games I’ve played this year that failed to make the cut. Looking at the Top 10 it seems 2014 was brought to me by the letter D.
Not going to lie, I completely fell in love with Danganronpa’s art style long before I knew what it was. When I found out it was a Japanese only PSP VN I was disappointed. When the fan translation was announced I was elated. I had played about an hour of it when the localisation of the enhanced VITA port was announced. Needless to say the wait for its release was interminable. Luckily it more than delivered. Obviously the game was packed with visuals in the art style I loved but apart from that it was a very solid hybrid of visual novel and, well I’m not sure what you’d call it, puzzle game? Something like Ace Attorney crossed with 999. The mystery stuff in it was fun enough, though, not to toot my own horn, I think I did deduce the majority of the twists before their reveal (though I generally do that in mystery stuff so it wasn’t really a let-down). However the real selling points are the crazy characters and the bizarre situation, all of which more than deliver. The story also delivers some real pathos in places. It does bang some the “common anime tropes” drum a little hard at times, but I’d argue it generally does so as a satirical parody of said tropes. I played this when it released in February, so almost a year ago, and the characters (the antagonists in particular are excellent) have still stuck with me so that’s a strong point in its favour. If you own a VITA you should own this game, and if you don’t own a VITA, well you should buy one because there’s tons of awesome content for it.
Time for a shocking confession, I didn’t really like Dark Souls and I think Dark Souls II is a significant improvement in a large number of areas. Well, that’s not entirely true. I absolutely loved Demon Souls. To date it’s my favourite entry in the Souls series. While other games have improved in numerous areas none of them have provided the same kind of atmosphere or tension as Demon Souls and to be that’s the key selling point of the Souls series. Needless to say I was really looking forward to Dark Souls when it came out on the PS3. However I spent my first five or six hours with the game trying to play it like Demon Souls and got fucking slaughtered. Even now I don’t think Dark Souls really achieves that careful balance of mixing difficulty with advancement that Demon Souls did. So my initial experience with the game soured me on it and while I went on to enjoy it on the PS3 and then to enjoy the Prepare to Die edition significantly more on PC that sour note never really lifted. The fawning devotion of fans online didn’t really help either, any kind of meaningful discussion about the games flaws always got shouted down. Still, I was really looking forward to Dark Souls II and for the most part it really delivered. While the online fandom is divided (as an aside I find discussion of videogames online to be generally toxic) on it I am not. I think it’s a solid upgrade but it takes things in a different direction so it doesn’t replace or invalidate Dark Souls. Leaving aside legacy issues, this is a fun, tough and atmospheric action game with a deep and rewarding level of customisation and exploration. I’ve held off on the DLC which everyone regards as excellent so I’m really looking forward to the complete Scholar of the First Sin edition that’s releasing later this year. If you’re interested in the series as a whole I’d suggest playing them in chronological order but otherwise this is an excellent place to jump in.
I have this odd habit where I convince myself or remain convinced that I enjoy particular genres of games when in practice every game I buy from said genre is a disappointment. I cut my teeth on classic dungeon crawlers like The Bards Tale and The Eye of the Beholder but it’s a sub-genre that I haven’t particularly missed nor wanted for. However recently I found myself getting back into it whether it was via enjoying similar sub-genres like Legend of Grimrock or playing fan translated stuff Generation Xth. So when Demon Gaze was announced for localisation I decided to go the whole hog and pre-ordered the limited edition. It wasn’t that much more expensive than the normal version and it came with an art book. I have a weakness for art books and the art was what drew me to Demon Gaze in the first place. The art book was decent enough but Demon Gaze will be my first and last physical Vita purchase. Due to the Vita being the black horse of the Sony family when it comes to ease of changing user accounts I have it set up to use my US account and I buy all my games digitally. This means I get them instantly. Waiting two weeks for the limited edition to arrive from the US was torture.
Luckily the game more than made up for it. While the artwork is great and the locations, limited such as they are by the nature of the thing, solid the real appeal of dungeon crawlers is the raw naked appeal of ever increasing numbers, of trying to get another square into the dungeon without running out of resources or getting crushed by its inhabitants. Demon Gaze delivered on that front. I’d fun putting together my party, deciding on how to level them and engaging in the always enjoyable mulling on whether pushing further into the dungeon was worth the chance of death. Which I encountered quite frequently actually. The characters and story were enjoyable enough, arguably a bit generic but their antics provided a chuckle frequently enough to make up for the times when it made me groan. I suppose, like most RPGS tabletop or computer based, it breaks down a little bit in the late game where normal enemies don’t really prove a challenge at all. Though even then manipulating your party to make auto attack a sure thing is its own kind of fun. It’s also the first game in a while where I wanted to (and did) complete the post-story content including hidden super powered bosses.
I suppose beyond the game itself I’m happy that Demon Gaze reignited my love for its particular sub-genre and got me interested in checking it out again.
The original Diablo 3 was an immense disappointment. After sacrificing entire summers on the altar of its predecessor’s addictive gameplay it was a genuine struggle to even complete story mode once in Diablo 3. After working my way up to Inferno with one character I gladly abandoned the game and never looked back. That was until earlier this year when the buzz surrounding Patch 2.0 drew me back in. Apparently it had “fixed” the game and if the days it stripped away from me is any indication it certainly did. Then along came Reaper of Souls which added another chapter to the story (and while still not amazing is easily better than the narrative in all the previous chapter), a new class (the Crusader) and most importantly Adventure Mode which introduced bounties and did away with having to play through the same story again and again (the expansion also added in a fuck ton of new items of course). Along with the patch Reaper of Souls delivered the Diablo 3 experience I’d been waiting for. While there are other solid ARPG’s out there these days none of them have the polish that Diablo 3 has. Path of Exile has a more interesting skill system, Marvel 2015 has the Marvel IP, Torchlight 2 has amazing mod support etc. but at the most basic level none of them quite match up to Diablo 3’s core gameplay experience. While the release of it has been slower than I’d like Blizzard’s continued support, in the form of Season’s and additional content make Diablo 3 a winner on the value front as well and while I might not play it all the time I regularly come back every few months to binge again.
I only bought this game because I got it extremely cheap. I used to love Bioware games; I’d buy them sight and review unseen. Which didn’t always work out (Jade Empire was largely shite for example). I was a big fan of the first Dragon Age game. But Dragon Age II was an immense disappointment and even on its own merits was a mediocre game at best. After the Mass Effect 3 debacle I flat out swore not to buy another Bioware game. They were clearly not making games I was interested in playing any more. So I just ignored Dragon Age Inquisition (DAI). Until shortly before release when I checked out a few threads on it out of boredom and was blown away by how well it looked. As the release date got closer I got more interested in it. But I’d been burned in the past and decided to hold off. However thanks to some saucy VPN action I got my hands on the deluxe edition for a bit over twenty quid. How could I resist? Well, as its entry here would suggest, I couldn’t.
But in this instance I’m glad I gave in. DAI is familiar in some ways to both its predecessors but in other ways is quite different and is really an exemplar of Bioware’s current approach to RPG’s. It’s about larger than life character in exotic locations involved in an epic tale. You don’t have a huge amount of room to customise who exactly your character is but the games scope and pacing carry you along so that isn’t too big of an issue. You’re playing it as much, if not more, for the characters (NPC’s or companions) as you are for the story or the gameplay. I think the game solidly delivers on the character front, even those whom I disliked were interesting and their stories were integrated a bit more smoothly into the game as a whole than they are in other Bioware titles. The story I enjoyed, it’s not amazing but it’s solid and had some great cinematic moments. The gameplay was more or less the same, I missed the tactical combat of the first game but once you embrace that the combats fine (use a controller even on PC, no seriously, use one). One of the big surprises for me was how fun the multiplayer was, while it was a little grindy it was also lots of fun and the multiplayer classes feel mechanically distinct both from each other and the main game. I put about fifteen or twenty hours into it I think.
To be honest the highpoint of DAI for me was the presentation and the exploration. The locales you could explore were huge and were just simply fun to move around in. I can’t think of another game that has given me such a solid sense of “place”, of being in the exotic locations that it presented. I think the game is worth playing for that alone. One of the big issues online is people complaining about the nature of some of the side quests, to be honest I just simply ignored the more boring ones so while I can accept that it may be an issue I only see it being one if your force it on yourself.
I actually picked up the original FFXIV on release and while it had a number of good ideas that I really liked it was ultimately a disappointing mess. Though if I’d known then how much I would enjoy its re-released version I would have kept playing to secure the sweet extra legacy players received. A Realm Reborn is impressive both in its own right and as an example of how to completely salvage a failed game. While I enjoy the world, the combat and the various other mechanics (especially the job system, no more alts, hurrah) it’s the story of ARR that I enjoy the most. Not only is it more or less head and shoulders above standard MMO fare it feels like a “proper” Final Fantasy storyline. Both in the way it’s delivered and it’s content. It’s so much more than reading (or like some animals do, ignoring) quest text and killing ten raptors for their ears. It really cements your place in the world and makes you feel a part of it. It also does a good job of making you feel like the “real” hero as opposed to Adventurer #546. I played the game exhaustively at launch, quickly maxing out my main with full best in slot. Unfortunately the content couldn’t keep up with my ardour and I ended up letting my sub lapse because I had more or less nothing to do (and anything I could do at that point would have proved more grindy than it was worth).
But the development team was true to its word and released content patch after content patch, all of which I ignored until late last year when a free weekend drew me back in and led to me re-subscribing after a year away from it. To be honest the amount of initial content, particularly on a story front was almost daunting. But I had a lot of fun getting through it and trying (and failing) to get back up to date. I let my sub-lapse because Christmas was approaching, though perhaps it’s because dreams of mai sweet home broke my heart. But that’s for another post. I resubscribed in the New Year and will likely stay subscribed up through the upcoming expansion. That to be is proof enough of the games quality as it’s basically the only MMO out there I can stomach any more. If you’re jonesing for either Final Fantasy or an MMO then I would heartily recommend this game (and you should make your character on Ultros so we can adventure together).
Honestly I picked this game up in part because of my hang-up (or obsession if you prefer) with experiencing storylines in the correct chronological order. That is, I wanted to play the VITA Senran Kagura game, Senran Kagura Shinobi Versus, but couldn’t bring myself to play the games out of order. Luckily a sale popped up around that time and I snagged this for the 3DS. The series is probably most famous for two things, the crazy shit that its producer comes out with and the “ecchi” nature of the games content. I never really got the idea behind buying games for titillation. If I want to look at saucy stuff it’s just a google (or apparently Bing because it’s the king of porn searches) away. By and large I didn’t really notice it when playing the game. I mean it’s certainly there but it’s easy enough to ignore and honestly is fairly tame. I was actually surprised how good the game was. It’s a great game on its own merits beyond issues of presentation.
At its heart it’s a side scrolling brawler, a genre I am certainly a fan off. The gameplay is quick and combo based, each character feels different enough to be interesting and has their own gameplay quirks. The game can be pretty tough, especially if you don’t bother with most of the side missions (which I generally did as I wanted to get through it for the story). Speaking of the story it was also a surprise. It’s not high literature by any means and is clearly meant to be at least partly a satire of more traditional takes on the same material. That being said there was some depth there and a moment or two of pathos. Neither of which I was expecting but both of which I welcomed. To be honest it’s because of the story that I like particular characters rather than just their visual design (or “assets”). In the end I didn’t actually get around to playing SK Shinobi Versus last year but I was more than happy with the time I spent with Senran Kagura Burst.
This game really is a treat for the senses; it looks and sounds absolutely lovely. I’ll get the negatives out of the way here, it’s arguably too obtuse for its own good and it’s too short. But don’t let either of those issues dissuade you. This game really is a treat to play. As I already mentioned both the audio and visual elements are excellent. On top of that you have a truly engaging story presented in a minimalistic manner but which really draws you into the world and characters presented. It also manages to create some moments of real pathos and while generally ambiguous it provides a satisfying and complete narrative experience. With that alone the game would have been good, but once you combine it with the unique hybrid combat system it uses it goes from good to great. To be honest its how fun that combat system is that makes me wish the game was longer (as I think for the story they wanted to tell the short length works). While you can replay the game with all levels and powers intact the story actually works against it on the second play through I found. I’d already got everything I wanted out of the story I just wanted to play more with the combat system. The combat system uses a hybrid mixture of turn based and real time with pause which is neat enough. But where it really shines is in the complex system of powers it uses. All of which function differently depending on how you combine them. Trying to put together unique and effective combinations of powers and using those combo powers to create full “builds” is really fun. I hope they re-visit the combat system in another game as it really deserves a longer game where it can shine. Still, Transistor is very much worth your time.
Warframe is a great game that I love but I that I just can’t play anymore. I can very heartily recommend it, which I do. The core gameplay is extremely fun, the combat is solid, and the weapons feel distinct and generally badass and best of all the free flowing acrobatic nature of the movement (and its recently added mechanical effect) really does make you feel like a “space ninja”. The games great either single player or co-op, the latter is more fun and the community is generally excellent. The majority of your co-op play will likely be with “randoms” but I ran into literally two out of hundreds of other players who turned out to be dicks. The game has a huge amount of content to unlock. A massive variety in core units (all of whom have unique powers and their own strengths and weaknesses), weaponry and game types. It looks lovely, it runs smooth. It receives constant updates and upgrade which improve the game and add new content (all for free). It has one of the fairest implementations of F2P pricing out there (95% of it is cosmetic and the other 5% is largely optional depending on your approach). So why can’t I play it? Well, quite simply I burned myself out. This is probably my most played game this year, well maybe Diablo. Either way I have put more hours than I want to think about into this game (think of a ridiculous amount of time to spend on a game, double it, that’s probably close to my playtime). I come back from time to time for new content patches but the other people I played it with are equally burned out. Though if you are going to try it out on PC let me know, I’d be up for some co-op action (and we have a clan with a full dojo and the majority of dojo research unlocked). So yeah, great game, that I still love. But just can’t play.
Doom baptised my love of the FPS genre, but time (and weakening wrists) caused my interest to fade. I mean we’d nod and smile if we met in public but both FPS’s and I knew the magic was gone. Then along comes this saucy little number. I really enjoyed my time with W:TNO. It has rock solid FPS gameplay which relies on good level design (placement of secrets was masterfully done), cool weapons and fun gameplay rather than a slew of tarted up tertiary mechanics. The story is actually surprisingly good, in an action movie way, as are the characters. Actually the characters in particular are really well done and the voice acting is generally excellent. The storytelling was also well presented involving a nice mix of direct narrative, diegetic dialogue and character building and a nice smattering of passive exposition included organically in the levels. It fully embraces the gonzo nature of the world presented and generally if you think “It would be cool if…” then the game makes it happen. This feels like an actual legitimate successor to “old-school” FPS’s rather than an unfortunate attempt to grow the genre laterally. The game has two story paths, though I honestly can’t see the second play through being that meaningfully different (and honestly didn’t bother to find out). But I was happy with the ten or twelve hours I got out of it and would definitely recommend it for fans of FPS’s old or new. I suppose the one fly in the ointment is that while for the majority of it the game allows an open approach to the levels i.e. you can use stealth or go in all guns blazing, the last level is quite long and only really supports the latter approach. A minor irritation at best and one that doesn’t really detract in a meaningful way from the overall experience.
I absolutely loved this demo. It looked lovely, had a cool “old school” JRPG vibe and completely “hyped” me for the release of the full game. Unfortunately the full game came out in a fairly packed month and I couldn’t afford to pick it up. By the time I got around to considering it the player feedback (essentially the game seems to take a big dip in the second half) had put me off it. Still definitely check out the demo.
I own everything for Civilisation V, yet I’ve never been able to finish a game of it. I don’t know what it is about it but I just can’t get into it. Maybe it’s the Not History of it all or maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is despite my best efforts I just bounce of the game. But with C:BE I was interested from the start. Now admittedly that’s because I was hoping for something like a sequel to Alpha Centauri which I adored. While that isn’t what I got what I did get was an enjoyable modern version of Civilisation that I could finally get into and enjoy. Finally that old feeling of just one more turn was back. Unfortunately while the games veneer appeals I’m not sure if it has a huge amount of staying power. I got my money’s worth out of it at the time but haven’t felt any urge to go back since.
Well there’s no nice way to say it. This was a disappointment. That’s not to say it’s a bad game. It’s not amazing but it is solid. However after hearing about it years ago and then buying into the Kickstarter and then waiting till it was finally complete it just didn’t deliver what I expected. It’s fun but flawed. Hopefully it will get there but until it does I’m not sure I’ll be going back to it.
Not a lot to say here really. The reason I wanted this game was because of the hilarious looking traps you could construct. The game delivers exactly that, though it was a lot more puzzle based then I was expecting. If you ever wanted to play mousetrap where the mice are fantasy adventurers and the cat is the daughter of the king of hell then you should jump on this. Unfortunately I tend to play puzzle games in bursts so I’ve yet to finish this which is why it didn’t make it into the top ten. However I’ll finish it this year (or likely pick up the upcoming enhanced PS4 port) so I imagine it will hit the top ten this year.
My single biggest gaming disappointment of the year and one purchase I really wish I hadn’t made. I had zero interest in Destiny until I happened to get into the alpha, which I adored. The beta cemented my love of the game and I was all too happy to pre-order, thinking I’d only seen the tip of the game. Unfortunately I’d seen more or less all there was to see. My first ten or twenty hours with the game were enjoyable enough. The next eighty or so was a battle between enjoyment and disappointment until finally the latter gauge rose too high and I was free. The majority of my play time with this game was never really fun. It was an empty and hollow skinner box that I was trapped in. Almost the direct opposite of Warframe in many ways, this is a game I played too much and won’t play again because I loathe it. Because I bought the la di da addition I got the two expansions. One has been released but was so underwhelming I didn’t even bother downloading it. I can’t say enough bad things about what a flawed product this is. Though in the interests of fairness it looks lovely and the core gunplay is really solid. Which makes what a shit show it is even more annoying.
Super addictive and hard (or maybe I’m just shit) mix of rogue like and tower defence. I often think I like rogue likes and then end up hating them but I really enjoyed my time with DotE. It announced quite close to the end of last year and I didn’t get as much time with it as I wanted something I’m hoping to remedy this year.
Not much to say here other than its Dynasty Warriors. If you like the series then you’ll love this, the PC version is arguably the best version of DW 8XL which is easily the best version of the franchise to date. An absolutely ridiculous amount of content and probably the best combat system in the game to date. Highly recommend it if you like DW games.
Following the fun I had with Demon Gaze I decided to try another well regarded dungeon crawler. While I enjoyed the first quarter of the game after unlocking a new area I just simply stopped playing. While the gameplay is excellent the presentation and world just don’t draw me in like Demon Gaze did. I do think I may have been forcing myself to play it though so I’m going to get back to it sometime this year in a more relaxed state.
As with most years I re-subbed to EVE for a month and while I enjoyed my time with it I, again as usual, felt no need to re-subscribe. It seems like to enjoy EVE you have to dedicate more time to the game and its community than I’m interested in doing.
I really enjoyed Hearthstone and then I got really bored of it. It just feels too simplistic for what I want out of a CCG style game. The tablet version is the best way to play it.
I enjoyed my time with this game. I love the Marvel IP and buy and large the heroes in this came capture their comic book namesakes quite well. It seems to be in more or less constant development and gets frequent updates. It’s very much improved from where it was at launch but I feel it’s not quite there yet, some areas (the UI in particular) still feel like they lack polish. Especially when compared to other entries in the field like Diablo. Their monetisation scheme can also feel like it falls on the shitty side of F2P at times. But they’ve made big strides there offering a much better starter pool of heroes and making it much less of a grind to earn new heroes in games. Combined with their frequent give aways and offers I don’t think it’s too bad. It’s not a game I play all the time but I do keep coming back to it.
A fun little action brawler. Tough and challenging, it’s great to blow off steam with. It’s a bit limited but then again it only cost me two quid.
This was announced for localisation in 2013, it was supposed to release in the West in early 2014. It still hasn’t come out and there’s no word, and realistically probably no chance, that it will. Which is a pity as it’s a really fun “Hunting” MMO. The fan translation efforts are great and you can certainly follow the majority of the main narrative with it. But while the game is good, it just feels like too much effort to play it, or to spend cash on it for costumes and such. I want to play the game but I don’t want to put in that much effort and still end up with a neutered experience. Maybe if I had more RL friends playing it would be better. But ultimately I decided I wasn’t going to go out of my way to give a company money when they wouldn’t put even the minimum effort in.
A good, though I feel over-rated game, that’s ruined by a poorly thought out and implemented replay feature. The story is quite solid, though it varies between underwhelming and good depending on which story path you happen to stumble onto. Two are particularly good and the others are ok to disappointing. The difficulty is all over the place but is only challenging in roughly two fights. Unfortunately once you complete the game once you keep your high levelled units which completely break subsequent playthrough’s – which you have to play through in their entirety to see the other story paths. They really should have added in a robust skipping option. Because replaying the same content, with zero challenge because of your redonk units, really grinds away (no pun intended) ones affection for the game.
Blast from the past here, finally got around to re-playing and finishing this. Solid shooter with some annoying control issues (and it’s visually aged poorly) but does an excellent job of replicating the over the top nature of John Woo’s trademark gun battles.
Probably my most played non-F2P mobile game. It’s a great port of the board game, which I enjoyed but had issues which a digital version completely by-pass. Fun to just put on and run a dungeon or two in. My two complaints would be the ridiculous price of the DLC (which I avoided by waiting or sales) and the fact that some of my favourite classes from the original are missing (where’s my Chaos Warrior?)
Looking back I’m not even sure why I bought this. Maybe the hope that finally one of the MMO’s that promised to deliver something new actually would? Wildstar did some things right but did far too much wrong, or worse, exactly the same. I didn’t finish my free month nor did I bother pushing to max level and in the interim I have felt zero inclination to go back. From all accounts the content patches have failed to meet their announced schedule, population is dropping and servers are getting merged. Unfortunate but unsurprising.