Matt’s Top 5 Games of 2014
At last, the REAL best games of 2014 get some recognition.
It was a rough year for games. Things were pretty broken just about everywhere you looked. You might have noticed. So broken were the games of the past year that their general bustedness stands out far more than any of the rare, working, competent games â€“ a theme that is reflected heavily in this game of the year list. Many of the titles up for consideration won their way to the top simply because they just worked.
No matter how you view it, 2014 was, on average, a bad year for games. Relatively few releases stood out and many that did garner attention did so for the wrong reasons (see also – Assassinâ€™s Creed: Unity).
Bear in mind that if a game was broken to the point where it detracted from the experience in a meaningful way, it was instantly slashed off the list. Games that launched broken but were then fixed post-release also lost huge points. There are some games that as of this writing are incredible experiences but because they launched in a giant, smoldering heap, they donâ€™t deserve the honor, nay the privilege of being considered one of Matt Eadesâ€™s Top Five Games of 2014.
5 â€“ Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor
For me, Shadows of Mordor was by no means a spectacular game. It suffered from an extremely uninteresting story and many of the tropes common to giant, open world, third person action games. However it did still manage to very competently bring together some pretty well established concepts (and if you know the history of that ex-Batman game itâ€™s not too surprising) and, maybe most importantly, it just worked. On day one. One of my top five favorite games of the year made it into this list simply because it didnâ€™t start on fire as soon as the disc was in the system. Weâ€™re doomed.
The part of Shadows of Mordor that makes it stand out is its nemesis system. It pits you against personalized rivals, ones who firmly believe in revenge and keeping on the sunny side. Just because you simultaneously defeated five, or sometimes hundreds, of them doesnâ€™t mean they wonâ€™t pick up the pieces and return later to take another stab at ending your already bleak, wraith-infested existence. Mindless murder has never been so satisfying.
4- Super Smash Bros for the WiiU
I donâ€™t really have much to say about Super Smash Brosâ€¦ The existing formula for Smash Bros that has satisfied since the N64 days didnâ€™t really need too much tweaking, but this yearâ€™s game still managed to somehow change it for the better. It looks and plays fantastically, has a good selection of interesting new items, modes, and challenges and apart from a few roster issues (unless you are a super high-end professional level player, Lucina and Dark Pit are basically just palette swaps) itâ€™s everything you could ever want from Smash Bros. Even the online play works fairly well!
3 â€“ The Wolf Among Us
Thereâ€™s only room in my heart, or top five list anyways, for one Telltale adventure game and for me itâ€™s an easy decision. The Wolf Among Us is by no means a perfect game but Iâ€™m still far to enthralled by it to notice any of its flaws â€“ it took me on a dark, gritty adventure into a world Iâ€™d never visited before and only left me thirsty for more.
The Wolf Among Us has a lot going for it. Even at its most difficult, itâ€™s barely a video game. That is to say, there isnâ€™t a lot of technical depth to playing it. At no point are you trying to master frame perfect inputs or frantically react with snap precision and instant timing. Anyone, or their mother, could pick up The Wolf Among Us and immediately have a perfect grasp on how to play.
The barrier to entry is lowered even more by the price tag. A measly five bucks an episode, or twenty for the season (at launch) means that gamers who would cringe at the thought of risking sixty dollars (or seventy now here in Canada) on an unknown quantity can still dip their toes in the Fables universe with relative safety.
The Wolf Among Us is one of the yearâ€™s most interesting stories and itâ€™s easily experienced and enjoyed by literally anyone (â€œgamerâ€ or otherwise). Not only is it one of my favorite games of 2014, itâ€™s one of my favorite games ever.
2 â€“ Sunset Overdrive
It brought a tear to my eye to see one of my favorite childhood developers climb back on their high horse.. Insomniac Games (the geniuses behind Spyro the Dragon) fell off the map for me sometime around the 2000â€™s. I grew up with Spyro and have a special reverence for it but the later Insomniac titles, like Ratchet & Clank, Resistance and Fuse didnâ€™t exactly set my world on fire. Sunset Overdrive not only gave me a reason to use my Xbox One, it gave me hope. Hope that whoever is holding the reins at Insomniac will let the crazy people that made Sunset Overdrive keep pumping out their special brand of insanity.
Sunset Overdrive is fast, fluid and funny (that last point is maybe a little arguable). The comedy style definitely wonâ€™t appeal to everyone but the gameplay very likely will. Itâ€™s chaotic and frantic but in only the most empowering ways. Youâ€™re given an arsenal of zany death dealing weapons and then allowed to run free through a city full of zombies, robots and generally unfriendly dudes with guns, carving a wide swath down the middle of it all.
I donâ€™t think the world needs another Sunset Overdrive but it definitely needs more games like it. Games that arenâ€™t afraid to try something that hasnâ€™t been done before. Games that set up their own brand of insanity and then commit to it, come hell or high water.
1 â€“ Dragon Age: Inquisition
I am in love with Dragon Age: Origins. It is one of my favorite games â€“ the gameplay was stimulating, challenging and rewarding and the writingâ€¦ oh the writing. David Gaider created one of my favorite worlds, certainly some of my favorite characters and some of the most difficult choices a game has ever had me make.
Fast forward a few years past Origins and we run into the stone wall that is Dragon Age II. It was an extremely rushed product that suffered from every industry clichÃ© that existed at the time. It was â€œmore accessibleâ€ to â€œappeal to a wider core audienceâ€ and â€œexpand the player baseâ€. Everything that attracted fans to the first game was essentially dumbed down. The amount of content washeavily reduced from the first game and an extremely small number of assets were copy/pasted over and over and over again making for a very small, poorly constructed world that missed the marks of Origins entirely. Working as a QA tester on Dragon Age II engrained every fault so deeply into my brain that I will never be able to see past them.
My relationship with Dragon Age was over. I would never love again. Or so I thought.
Inquisition gets back to what made Origins so incredible. The world is bigger than itâ€™s ever been, the choices your character is making feel at least semi-significant and the gameplay is an excellent balance of the technicality of Origins with the faster-paced action combat of Dragon Age II. Itâ€™s an incredible dense world filled to the brim with interesting dungeons, encounters and even some mild puzzle solving.
As a Dragon Age game, Inquisition unfortunately still trips over the same cracks that all recent BioWare games have. Instead of using mo-cap (which would probably be impossible given the sheer amount of content present) and being able to boast the same high fidelity faces that many other next-gen titles do, Inquisitionâ€™s characters look rigid and awkward. Animations very obviously slide and clash into one another and while the game is very striking technically (apart from the framerate on PS4 anyways), the characters look like puppets more than people. Itâ€™s a small thing but itâ€™s worth recognizing my game of the year isnâ€™t totally flawless. Without the sharp relief of fault, beauty is meaningless. I am a complex man.
Inquisition is easily one of the yearâ€™s most painstakingly crafted worlds and it brought me back to a universe I thought I didnâ€™t want any more to do with. It very firmly deserves to win the coveted Matt Eades 2014 Game of the Year award.
Another year wrapped and another game of the year list laid down on stone (in blood). 2015 is already looking to be an incredible year and with any luck weâ€™ll awkwardly toddle out of the embarrassing first year of these next gen consoles and begin crawling towards some revolutionary video games (or even any of the twenty titles that got pushed back into 2015). My bets for the future are still firmly placed on the Occulus Rift. In a perfect world, that thing will hit retail next year and I can finally realize my life-long ambition of gaining 900 lbs and never again putting on pants.
Dare to dream, dear friend. Dare to dream.