Dénouement 2014: Part 3

By Shamus
on Jan 16, 2015
Filed under:
Video Games

Here are the rest of my important games list in 2014. Like I said last time: They’re numbered, but this isn’t like a “Top games” list where #3 is supposedly objectively better than #7. Really, I just numbered the list so you have a sense of how far you are from the end.

Sort of. I dunno. I guess the last one is my favorite after all. Just resist the urge to haggle over the ordering, okay?

4. Unrest

WHERE IS THE PLASMA RIFLE? THIS ISN’T A REAL VIDEOGAME!!!!

Full disclosure: I’m friends with the lead writer of this game. I’m on friendly terms with the project lead and have swapped code snippets with him in the past. I’m probably not the most objective person in the world when it comes to this game. Having said that, below is my honest and heartfelt opinion on Unrest.

Here is what Chris had to say about it:


Link (YouTube)

Unrest is an amazingly tense game. Imagine some of the difficult and thoughtful conversations from a BioWare or Obsidian title. Now imagine a whole game of just those conversations. That’s Unrest. No combatTechnically there are a couple of situations that might lead to combat, but I never ran into them.. No leveling up. No turret or vehicle sections. Just an entire game of making decisions and living with themOr, in some unfortunate cases, not..

It might not be for everyone, but if your favorite part of those other games is meeting people, finding yourself in different situations, and making tough calls, then why have you not played this game yet? What are you doing? Waiting for another dialog-driven story game set in quasi-India?

The trick here is that you jump from one character to the next. One of the minor side-characters now might become a player character in a future chapter. The city of Bhirma is torn apart by civil unrest stemming from class warfare stemming from famine. There’s no untangling this thread of causality, only making the best of your part in it. For a game about making choices, there’s a certain smothering fatalism about it.

During the game you’ll meet or become just about every kind of person in the city: Royalty, peasant, soldier, outsider, and more. And when you’re inhabiting one faction you can see your own world so clearly (say, the slums) but only perceive an ugly, warped version of another (the palace) without realizing how skewed your view is. Then you swap perspectives and find out the other side has the same distorted vision. Everyone seems so earnest up close and so insidious at a distance. And none of this feels manipulative. It feels honest and raw.

This feels like a rough sketch of an idea with tons of possibilities. Please make more like this, indies.

3. Shadow of Mordor Nemesis System

How to make friends and influence people.

“But what about the Nemesis system!” was the usual defense of this game. And yeah, the Nemesis system is pretty awesome. While you slaughter your way through the piles of useless mooks, you’ll sometimes run into named foes. These guys have emergent stories of their own. If you kill their boss, they advance in the enemy ranks. If they kill you, they advance. They gain power and gear as they grow, and they remember things like if you ran away from a previous fight. It’s a brilliant thing.

The problem is that it’s not the core of the game. This idiotic revenge story is. And the gameplay itself ripped off the Batman Arkham game but stripped away a lot of the depth.

Mordor isn’t anything special, but the Nemesis system is. I hope someone takes it and puts it into a game where it can get the focus it deserves.

2. Wolfenstein: The New Order

IT’S BEEN ALMOST THIRTY SECONDS SINCE I SHOT A NAZI.

I realize that “better than it needed to be” is really faint praise. But let’s compare this game with Duke Nukem Forever: Both are an attempt to re-visit legendary 90’s properties long after their day had passed. But while Duke felt stale, boring, and flaccid, WTNO managed to nail what made those old games fun. No cover-based shooting. No two-weapon limit. No quicktime bullshit. No bullet-sponge enemies. No “realistic” movement speeds. You move fast, carry tons of weapons, hit hard, and you can open your own doors without needing to wait for some nitwit NPC.

The game even tries to keep the pre-rendered cutscenes to a minimum. It’s not perfect, but I do appreciate when it manages to do its storytelling and exposition in gameplay.

This game is clearly inspired by Half-Life 2. Your base has a “Black Mesa East” vibe to it, and you’re pretty much a walking gun in service of scientists. It even has an exotic tool / weapon for both murder and puzzle solving. It’s not the gravity gun, but it was clearly designed to fill the same role.

I’m not saying the new Wolfenstein has inherited the Half-Life legacyAlthough I wish SOMEONE would, since Valve seems to have lost interest.. But we don’t get many games that aim for this niche and I’m always grateful when we do. This really is a run-and-gun 90’s shooter at heart. The body count is absurd, there are secrets to find, it has lots of quiet time, and at no point do you crouch behind cover to pop up and shoot dudes. Yes, maybe running around in the open is less “realistic” in a gunfight. But when you’re shooting space Nazis on the moonThis is an actual thing in the actual game. then maybe “realism” isn’t all that high on your priority list.

1. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Thumbs up dot jaypeg.

I liked it. It was good. Gameplay was good. Sound was good. Graphics was good. Controls was good. Story was good. Musics was good. I had fun. 10/10 GOTY.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was fine. I laughed. I blew away bad guys on the moonMaybe instead of the year of “meh” this should have been “year we shot guys on the moon”?. It wasn’t as funny as Borderlands 2, mostly due to the fact that Handsome Jack was a protagonist. He was the guy you love to hate in Borderlands 2, but this game was about his fall to evil. This robbed him of a lot of his best shtick and left the game feeling a little less playful. Still, if you liked Borderlands 2 then there’s no reason not to give Pre-Sequel a shotAside from, you know, MONEY..

As in previous games, there are four playable characters, which also double as classes. Each character has their own skill trees and ability. And it’s not like one character has “ice” and another “fire”. I mean their special abilities are radically different in how they’re used, when they’re used, and they encourage different play styles and weapon loadouts.

Pre-Sequel has the best lineup of classes so far. In previous games there was usually only one or two characters I loved to play, but here they’re all pretty good. Athena steals the show for me with a Captain America-style shield that absorbs damage and can then be thrown at a bad guy to unload all the damage onto them. Nisha’s special ability just gives her several seconds of perfect aimbot assist. I’ve never used an aimbot before, and I have to admit it’s really fun to wave the gun around lazily and have the computer auto-correct every bullet into a headshot. ClaptrapTo avoid confusion: He’s a playable character/class this time, where in previous games he was just an annoying quest giver. is a running joke and probably best played with friends. I doubt the gag is good enough to last an entire play-through, but he’s worth playing for a couple of hours for laughs. Wilhelm is probably the least interesting of the bunch. His special ability is to release a couple of robo-drones that never felt like they were really doing much.

The environments were fun and fooling around on the low-gravity moon was a nice change. I also liked that the moon had its own culture and wasn’t just Pandora with low gravity.

And that pretty much sums up 2014 for me: My most unqualified recommendation is not as good as Borderlands 2, which wasn’t even my favorite game in 2012.

It wasn’t a bad year, but nothing really blew me away. It was a good year. A perfectly fine workhorse of a year with serviceable titles.

Next week, Josh is going to do his retrospective.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] Technically there are a couple of situations that might lead to combat, but I never ran into them.

[2] Or, in some unfortunate cases, not.

[3] Although I wish SOMEONE would, since Valve seems to have lost interest.

[4] This is an actual thing in the actual game.

[5] Maybe instead of the year of “meh” this should have been “year we shot guys on the moon”?

[6] Aside from, you know, MONEY.

[7] To avoid confusion: He’s a playable character/class this time, where in previous games he was just an annoying quest giver.



2020202013There are now 93 comments. Almost a hundred!

From the Archives:

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Nothing to do with the list,this is a technical issue:

    Apostrophes on your pictures rollover texts dont work.Instead of this code is being displayed &#8217.Ive noticed this on a bunch of pictures before,but I always forget to say something about it by the time I read to the end.So this time,I say this before I read anything else.

    EDIT:And the weirdest thing,writing the code in the comment window does display the proper symbol.So its just rollover texts that are wonky.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Please make more like this, indies.”

    Telltale does.Game of thrones is practically like unrest,only set in quasi europe(westeros)instead of quasi india.Also with a bigger budget and Peter Dinklage.Sorry Rutskarn,your game is fine,but it lacks Peter Dinklage.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “But let’s compare this game with Duke Nukem Forever”

    Heck,compare it to other two wolfenstein remakes,and its still way better.

    “and at no point do you crouch behind cover to pop up and shoot dudes”

    Technically,you do,because a few of the perks require you to shoot nazis from cover.But after that,you almost never need it.Well maybe on higher difficulties,but even then charging in with automatic shootguns akimbo is more effective and more fun.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Next week, Josh is going to do his retrospective.”

    “The year in which I havent touched my shogun 2 lets play.”

  5. Galad says:

    I loved Borderlands 2 and didn’t like TPS. Didn’t even get far into it due to how idiotic fights can get with low gravity.

    I LOVED Wolfenstein: TNO. One of the few shooters where I actually cared for the characters, and empathized with them. I’m glad you’ve given it the proper attention it deserves in an escapist column at the time it came out, Shamus.

    Unrest was good, but somehow it didn’t scratch enough of an itch, and I haven’t gone in for a second playthrough yet, while the game clearly has the potential for multiples.

    Shadow of Mordor, I think I’ll skip buying it even on a -75%. Watch the Shadiness of Mordor video by Jim Sterling on the escapist, to find out why..”Sad thing is, SoM is a genuinely good game and didn’t need to resort to such shady marketing tricks” – more or less a TL;DR of the video that speaks mostly of the marketing tricks.

    So 2015. I hope I can get into TW3, like I got into TW1 :) Other than the Witcher, I don’t know what other titles will come out that would interest me.

  6. boz says:

    If I were to choose a game of the year I’d chose Wolfenstein: The New Order. It’s mechanically perfect in achieving what they are targeting for. And storywise I would watch the hell of it if they would’ve done the WTNO: The series on TV. It has the perfect amount of cheesiness mixed with dark overtones.

  7. MichaelGC says:

    Next week, Josh is going to do his retrospective.

    Excellent!

    (Is that a new thing? If so, can we get a 2013 retrospective, too? And then retrospectives for 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009…

    As soon as he's done with Shogun 2?, you say? Righto – I actually haven’t been following that too closely, but I recall it being mentioned some time ago, so I won’t have too long to wait, I am sure.)

  8. Thomas says:

    That #1 choice really sums up 2014.

  9. kdansky says:

    You praise Wolfenstein for good shooting mechanics, lack of bullet sponge enemies and lack of waiting for doors to open, and then praise Borderlands despite its bad shooting mechanics, bullet sponge enemies and over-reliance on waiting for doors to open. That’s a bit weird. It’s as if someone recommended both Spec Ops and Call of Duty.

    Could it be that you liked Borderlands because you could play it co-op with friends? Because pretty much every game gets good if you can play it co-op with friends…

    For anyone who liked WNO: Get Shadow Warrior (2013). It’s brilliant.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “It’s as if someone recommended both Spec Ops and Call of Duty.”

      It can be done.I personally dont like modern warfare,but I can see the appeal of its multiplayer.

      Also,call of duty is not just modern warfare.Original CoD was actually a pretty good game,even in its single player.Heck,even the first modern warfares single player campaign wasnt as bad as the later two installments.

    • General Karthos says:

      I don’t like co-op with friends. I like it even less when it’s shoved down my throat as a more or less REQUIRED part of the game. (I’m looking at you, Mass Effect 3.) I play video games almost exclusively for the single player modes. On the rare occasions that I do play co-op with friends, I like them to be in the same room with me, and to have consumed the same quantity of alcohol or other controlled substances as me. But if I’m in the same room with someone else, and we’re drinking, I actually prefer to watch a movie and ignore it while we talk. That’s just me.

      I do NOT like the current focus that multi-player is receiving in the world and the video game industry. It’s like the only thing that would make a great game better is if all the mechanics were ignored so you could play it with other people. But hell, RPGs have been gutted, so single-player games will be gutted soon enough all the same. Essentially anything I like about video games gets snuffed out in favor of multiplayer shooters and real-time strategy games, my two least favorite genres of game. (If you’re going to have strategy, make it turn-based, like chess. It should be a battle of skill, not a battle of who can click on more things more quickly.)

  10. Zekiel says:

    Shamus did you deliberately arrange the footnotes so that the one about Half-Life was [3]?

  11. Zekiel says:

    Meanwhile I’ve had a great 2014 playing games like Gone Home, Far Cry 3, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and Gunpoint for the first time :-)

    Granted my approach to playing games does mean I want to discuss them 2 years after everyone else…

    • Lame Duck says:

      I’m very much in the same boat as you; the latest game I played was the Tomb Raider reboot (which was pretty awful) and my GOTY for 2014 was Crusader Kings 2, because Crusader Kings 2 is always the best game of every year.

      • BenD says:

        I’ve made it clear to 2009. Would anyone like to discuss Batman: Arkham Asylum or Borderlands (the first) in 2015? Maybe Saints Row 2?

        • Chuk says:

          I will as soon as I’ve finished GTA: Vice City.
          (okay, it’s on my phone so it might not count. I am usually a year or so behind but I am nearly done the new Tomb Raider.)

        • Bryan says:

          I played back to 2002 (Gothic 2).

          As well as 2006 (Gothic 3 — liked that one quite a bit), 2009 (Risen — also really liked it), and 2012 (Risen 2 — liked it, but not enough to start up a second game yet).

        • Csirke says:

          I played through all 3 Arkham games this year, got all the riddler trophies too. Even did many of the fight challenges, but that’s less interesting to me.

          I have to say, these games are great! And I partially played them because it was recommended on this site. They scratch the open-world itch for me in a similar way to Far Cry 3/4, I loved doing those little riddler puzzles. And I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the fighting system too.

          Here’s hoping for a great Arkham Knight this year!

        • Tizzy says:

          Ha! I’m way ahead of you, BenD: I just finished Arkham City…

    • Dev Null says:

      I’m kind of enjoying Saints Row 2 – go humble bundle sales!

  12. MichaelGC says:

    So I’ve carefully totted up my grand total and it turns out I’ve played exactly one of the games on the list. “Do I even vidyagaem?,” I ask myself.

    I certainly don’t disagree with the overall theme of the year, though…

    Mehgon Age: Inquisition
    Thoroughly enjoyed playing it (for hours & hours), but looking back on the experience none of it was especially memorable. In fact, lots of it could fairly be described as ‘mehmorable’…

    Divinity: Original Meh
    Mixed feelings on this one. If someone said that it was their favourite game ever and is an amazing achievement, I could totally understand that, and wouldn’t disagree on the latter point. And it certainly kept me occupied for many many hours. But, somehow it just didn’t resonate with me, so I’ll have to give it a richly-undeserved “meh!”

    Meh Wolf Among Us
    Meh. Got as far as Episode 4 (of 5), which I would say is the game-equivalent of switching off a film 15 minutes before the end.

    Civilization: Beyond Meh
    I had high hopes for this one, but… Fortunately, soon after I laid it aside (which was also soon after I’d taken it up), Endless Legend belatedly pinged onto my radar screen, and that’s been anything but meh! It’s the first game I’ve played in years – so long, in fact, that I can’t remember what the last one was – to give me those ‘oh crap, no way is it 3am?!?’ moments. (That said, I’ve heard that many folks bounce off it just as I did from Civ:BM, so this is not an unqualified recommendation! But it is a beautifully-presented 4X with some interesting and/or subtle tweaks on the standard “Civ formula,” so if that sounds like your bag then I highly recommend taking a look at it.)

    • Drew says:

      Did you play Divinity Co-op? I imagine it’s a completely different game single player. I played through it with a good friend and it was brilliant. I might have been less enthusiastic by myself.

      Also note that Wasteland 2 is a pretty good time, and between that and Divinity it was a great year for me, given my affection for turn-based combat games. Here’s hoping they made enough money on those that we’ll see more.

      • Attercap says:

        That’s my hope as well. I have minor quibbles with both Divinity and Wasteland 2, but those two games are still in my Top 5 for 2014. I want more turn-based strategy RPGs in 2015.

        Divinity co-op really does help sell the feel that this is just a digitized version of a table-top game.

      • MichaelGC says:

        Aye, I think that’s a very good point – I did indeed play solo, and can easily imagine that playing it with the right person would improve on and add to the experience no end! (I just happen not to know any of the right people; sadpanda. jpg…)

        I agree with both Drew & Attercap: more stuff along these general lines would definitely be favourite. (And I’d add Shadowrun: Dragonfall to the list of encouraging turn-based omens for the future!)

        • Wolf says:

          Played it coop and somehow at some point the story totally lost me.
          Maybe it was the utter meh-ness of the main quest and its characters?
          In contrast I found the first city and its murder mystery super charming and interesting. The story just dragged on after the source king for no reason that I could be bothered to care about.

    • Kian says:

      I feel very similarly about DA:I. Up to close to 100 hours now, still plodding towards the end. Other games I’ve felt the urge to play, but loading up DA:I feels like a bit of a chore. The extreme loading times might be an issue there. Once I’m in I enjoy playing it, but I don’t feel a sense of urgency to advance, or connected too much at all with the characters.

      • Tizzy says:

        Dragon Age? More like Drag On for Ages, amirite?

        I cannot get interested in this game at all. I tried: watched trailers, gameplay, before even reading any reviews, and it just looks like a time sink.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        Very much this. I’m at the point where I unlocked the second batch of the open, non-essential (at this point at least) maps, cleared about half of them but every time I look through my list of games to play and DA:I comes up it does feel exactly like I’m putting away a chore. I do sort of want to finish the plotline (though I heard it’s not really worth it) but my completionism won’t let me just carry on with it and ignore all the stupid little stuff scattered across all the stupid filler maps. A lot of people disliked the deep roads in DA:O because it was a combat heavy crawl with filler quests but for me it didn’t overstay its welcome. In DA:I however it’s as if someone decided the game needed ten times the deep roads with different decorations and it’s just too much.

  13. Canthros says:

    The good and bad about Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is that it’s mostly more of Borderlands 2. If there were things in Borderlands 2 that annoyed you, there’s more of that in the new game. If there were things in Borderlands 2 that you liked … well, that’s probably all still there, too. With Australian accents and low gravity.

    I played a few hours, but I’m already splitting my attention three different ways, game-wise, right now. I don’t know if I’ll get back to it anytime soon, and I’m not really committed to the story, so there’s not a lot of draw, there. I did like playing as Wilhelm, though. At least as far as I got, it was sort of like Mordecai/Hunter in the first Borderlands, which was a mechanic I enjoyed (partly because Bloodwing functioned really well at killing things I couldn’t hit/see, and Wilhelm’s Saint and Wolf do a bit of that; I liked Gaige a lot in Borderlands 2, too).

  14. Isaac says:

    Dishonored GOTY Edition is my GOTY. Dishonored’s stealth while extremely easy is fun but where the game really shines is in its combat system. Its visceral, fluid, violent, and easy to understand but challenging to master. When you do a 180 in midair, blink behind someone and shoot them in the back or when you transition seamlessly from swordplay to gunplay to magic and back to swordplay you’ll know what I’m talking about. I haven’t played a game that has such great, finely tuned combat mechanics since Batman: Arkham City. Its that good.

    • Chuk says:

      I think I just played the regular version but I finished it this summer and I’d definitely agree with that assessment. I’m kind of toying with the idea of playing it again with different power choices.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Too bad the game actually punished you for using those cool, fluid mechanics by giving you the bad* ending. I actually haven’t seen how fluid the combat can be until I watched Josh play it because I virtually never engaged in combat, the only time would be if it was absolutely impossible to bypass it and I honestly don’t remember if there was.

      *I don’t care if they call it “high chaos/low chaos” or whatever, the truth of the matter is it was still a good/bad ending.

  15. Cilvre says:

    I spent my year playing Divinity: Original Sin, Dark Souls 2, and Magicka. I played a little bit of Borderlands TPS, but I think I only put in about 8 hours or so and then just didn’t pick it up again. I think I’ve worn out my time with the borderlands series and it makes me sad. Divinity: OS was a really wonderful game to play and I will eventually start playing it again, but I took a break from it for school and now I feel lost in the game and with the controls. Dark Souls 2 is still occupying my time with a friend of mine, we try to play co-op 2 to 3 times a week for a few hours at a time. And Magicka I can always just sit down and play, especially with the co-op since you end up with a lot of laughs and stupid ways to die.

  16. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Going based on games that I played this year but didn’t come out this year, my game of the year is Fallout New Vegas. When a game is inclined not to take itself completely seriously, I’m more inclined to respect it. Plus, it made me wish Bethesda hired Obsidian to write all its games (including Morrowind which was probably my least favorite game of the year.)

    • In a similar vein, my GOTY was “modding Bethsoft games.”

      Fallout 3, New Vegas, Skyrim, they’re ALL improved vastly by modding (though New Vegas is the best of the three out of the box). About the only thing mods don’t do well or often is improve the storylines (with rare exceptions) due largely to how much work it is to overhaul an entire game without basically making a total conversion.

      I’m still hoping Skywind will be a success.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Oh yeah. I change my vote to that.

        As for overhaul, have you tried New Vegas Enhanced Content? It rolls a ton of mods together and works out the conflicts and redundancies between them.

        There’s also a tool that can merge graphics mods for that game, making the game run smoother. Wish I remembered the name.

        • Chuk says:

          Oooh, I am doing my first play through of NV now, that’s a good suggestion.

        • StashAugustine says:

          I feel I need to recommend the mod Josh Sawyer, the lead developer of New Vegas, made for the game- it fixes a lot of stuff and makes it a little more challenging.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            I recommend it as well. To anyone reading this thread though, the Sawyer mod is included in the New Vegas Enhanced Content mod so if you’re downloading NVEC, you’re covered. They’ve helpfully posted a list of all the mods that are included. The one drawback of installing NVEC is that you’re advised to uninstall any of the mods in the pack that you’ve already installed separately.

          • Sleeping Dragon says:

            Is this the mod where you die of dehydration if you sleep for more than several hours at a time?

        • I haven’t given that one a go, so I’ll have to add that one to the list! Thanks!

          I’ve also seen where there’s a bit of a competition between users of the Nexus Mod Manager and something called Mod Organizer (the latter seems to be purported to handle more mods than NMM, but we’re talking 100+ mods at once). All I know is that we definitely need to run the one that gives high-res textures to just about every object, and that includes spatulas!

          That’s where I think the Elder Scrolls misses out: It doesn’t have spatulas, does it?

      • Blackbird71 says:

        Now you’ve got me thinking about replaying modded Daggerfall; it’s been over a decade since I last picked that one up!

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      But then we wouldnt have alpha protocol and the stick of truth,and that would be a darn shame.

      • Isaac says:

        Alpha Protocol kinda sucked

        • Thomas says:

          Alpha Protocol is one of the most fluid games ever created. It’s an absolute gem. Never before or since have I had fun playing a game just to see what happens to a character whose a deadpan snarker _all_ the time.

          The meeting with Marburg in a cafe is one of the greatest moments in gaming for me :P

          • Audacity says:

            There is something so horridly beautiful and yet wonderfully satisfying about a game that lets me roleplay Sterling Archer as valid approach. :)

          • Isaac says:

            The story and dialogue were good but the gameplay sucked. I tried to make a brusier type character (high endurance, skilled martial artist, proficient in shotguns, etc.) and had a terrible time playing the game. Apparently this was a huge mistake because the game heavily favors pistol builds over the other weapons. The gameplay in general sucked: the hacking sucked, the gunplay sucked, the hand to hand combat sucked, the A.I. sucked, etc. I liked the dialogue wheels, the writing (especially the emails) and the characters but the gameplay was just so bad that I couldn’t continue. I ended up returning the game after the 1st Act (after that scene with the Halbeck missile in the Middle East and that terrible boss fight).

            Maybe one day I’ll return to Alpha Protocol but I’d prefer to wait for a sequel (whether it be direct or spiritual) to the game instead. I love the concept of an RPG spy game its just that Alpha Protocol faltered where it mattered most: gameplay.

          • Objection!

            “World of Goo” was the most fluid game ever created.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Its pretty much the last of us.Great dialogue,terrible gameplay.

          • Thomas says:

            The Last of Us’ gameplay seems to be a bit of a base breaker. Shamus and you didn’t like it, but it’s been actively praised by other people. A lot of reviews even highlight the gameplay as a plus.

            My first comment on the twentysided forum about the game was how I hadn’t expected that the thing I’d be enjoying so much about TLoU was the gameplay, and yet it is.

            If you’re really into flanking and reengaging stealth and letting things go haywire and then slipping away and crouching round a desk hoping you can get behind him before he finds you… then the gameplay is great. As a straight shooter or straight stealth game, or as a game that integrates it’s gameplay more than textually into the story… maybe not so much

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              And if your first time through alpha protocol focuses on pistols,then the game will be a breeze,and you will enjoy it much more,like I did.Hence the comparison.

  17. Coblen says:

    This year I mostly played Borderlands 2, Bayonetta and Dark Souls. Completely by coincidence all those games got sequels this year. I liked them all a lot, but don’t have any desire to go get the new ones.

    I really wish I liked unrest more then I did. For a game about making choices I never felt like any of my choices had an impact on the world. I never had a “this happened because I did this” moment. In a game that is almost nothing but making choices, I think having a sense of impact from your choices is the most important aspect. You can have the most amazing story, and atmosphere, but without that sense of impact all your actions feel empty.

  18. StashAugustine says:

    It says something about 2014 that when trying to think of my favorite game I tried to remember when Tomb Raider came out and then finally settling on Pike & Shot.

  19. Esteban Navarrete says:

    My personal choice of the game i… loved/liked/enjoyed/appreciated this year correlates to the one by George Weidman: Shovel Knight.
    Being a 17 year old now, i never had a N64, or a Snes, or an Atari, or whatever consoles the goodness gracious that is Mega-man came out on, so much like ZeroPunctuation, i cant be affected by nostalgia right?… rite?…
    Shovel Knight has just spectacular game design, from the music (which was composed using a program that emulates those ‘ole system sounds and each track feeling as good as “Super Mario World Athletic”) from the level design where not a single pixel is wasted on the screen, be that in a platforming sense (which they pull bunch new mechanics with each level without any tutorial) or in a Aesthetic sense where the game contrast so well and beautifully that you’re always aware of actual platforms while still conveying the atmosphere to the player visually. Even the narrative in my honest opinion is “better” than the giants of ‘ole: *SPOILER WARN- ouh…* while in Mario u rescue the princess because… she broke your favorite dinning plate or summin? and your rewards is meager kiss, in Shovel Knight you *2ND SPOILER WARNIN- not again…” rescue a friend not because X reason, but because *3RD SPOILER* Shovel Knight is kinda of incomplete without her, as as you spend an Odyssey platforming on platforms and falling in bottomless pits, Shovel’s Knight friend “Shield Knight”, on the final boss, acts as a platform using her shield for you: Basically conveying why Shovel Knight needs her as a partner, and how incomplete he is without her, and complete and whole with her, ALL trough the mechanics of the game itself, no dialog, no text, not even music, YOU infer meaning trough the mechanics of the game for that last Boss Fight…
    Man… i mean jesus christ listen to this
    God Tier Tune and tell me your not humming or hamboning or “untz”ing your head to the rhythm…

    P.D.: gr8 listh m8.

  20. James Bennett says:

    Between kids and work I don’t have as much time for gaming as I used to. Combine that with the fact that 2014 was the year I got into Kerbal Space Program and KSP basically took over 2014 for me. And it got a beta release this year, so technically I could argue that it “came out” in 2014, for whatever that’s worth.

    I’ve sunk more than 500 hours into that game, it’s ridiculous. Something about their quasi-realistic rocket building and space-exploration scratches an itch I never knew I had until I got the game. Occasionally I’ll get bored with the game, so I’ll stop playing it for a month or two, and while I’m gone those jerks a squad release an update that adds a bunch of new parts or gameplay mechanics or asteroids and I have to get back into it.

    The other interesting thing abut KSP is that it’s the perfect game to play while listening to a podcast in the background. While I’m waiting for my spaceship to reach the next maneuver-node or whatever (you do a lot of waiting in this game) I listen to the diecast in the background.

  21. Jeff says:

    Wilhelm’s bots can be upgraded to target whatever you tell them to target.

    It basically turns Wolf into an air superiority fighter, because otherwise I’m terrible at trying to hit puttis.

  22. Darren says:

    Hey Shamus, I don’t know if you actually care, but here is a link to an ongoing discussion of Bioware games, specifically Dragon Age, that has basically been going on since Inquisition was released:

    http://www.avclub.com/article/readers-continue-our-dissection-morality-and-choic-213973

    I know you criticized it by saying it made little impact, so I thought you might be curious to get a glimpse of a community that has had a very healthy discussion of it.

  23. Jokerman says:

    2012 really was an amazing year for gaming… so many great games that it was impossible to name a top 5 without leaving something really good out.

  24. Kathryn says:

    I started Unrest, but I had to drop it because “making difficult decisions with not enough information and significant potential impacts while navigating complicated political situations in which people are biased against you because of stuff other people did long before you were here oh and by the way no one appreciates anything you do and if anything goes wrong you will get 100% of the blame” is exactly what I do at work every day, and I just couldn’t take it. I play games to get away from that crap. Maybe once I get this hardware delivered, I’ll try it again. (Assuming I get a break before my next project.)

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Choice and consequence is why I actually dread Unrest and so it’s been sitting in my backlog for a while now. I get paralyzed by choice in telltale games at times and I am lead to believe Unrest is much more serious in this department.

  25. tmtvl says:

    Lessee, this year I played…
    Dark Souls.
    Dark Souls II
    Fallout: New Vegas (I’m speedrunning a fully maxed, high % run)
    Deadnaut
    Shadowrun: Dragonfall
    Mount & Blade: Warband
    The Starbound beta (So much better than the stable)
    SpaceChem
    Disciples 2 (Top difficulty run, so tense)
    Wizardry 8
    And far too little Touhou.

    I think a couple of them were released in 2014, right?

    • Galad says:

      Ohh, did you like Wizardry 8 and Disciples 2? I have very fond memories from the first, in all aspects, but the final fight with the Dark Savant – since my party always ends up being overpowered for it; and from the art and sound effects of the second.

  26. Kalil says:

    “If you liked Borderlands 2 then there’s no reason not to give Pre-Sequel a shot.”

    What if you liked BL1 but hated BL2? >.<

  27. Cinebeast says:

    Dragon Age Inquisition for me, although I feel weird declaring it my game of the year when A) I got it for Christmas, barely a week before 2015 started and B) I haven’t even finished it yet, although I’m about to.

    For most of 2014 I just played Skyrim again. And again.

  28. General Karthos says:

    My game of the year for 2014 was “Crusader Kings II” (closely followed by “Escape Velocity: Override” and “Escape Velocity”.) Although those games came out in 2012, 1998 and 1996 respectively, those are the three games I played the most in 2014.

  29. Jonathan says:

    This year, I became a daddy, so my gaming habits changed.
    I played League of Legends quite a bit, and then not at all.
    Other games played:
    Space Rangers 2: A War Apart – gameplay is varied and fun, but the game kept getting super-super-laggy at mid-level gameplay.
    Civilization 4: The BTS expansion significantly improved it. I need city automation to get more automated in late game, though.
    Baldur’s Gate II: Just a bit. It’s harder to play with a sleeping baby on you than SR2 is.
    Torchlight 2: I made it to the start of the 3rd act with one character, and have 3 or 4 more in Act 2. I suffer from “What if I tried X build” disease. Since there’s little plot and the gameplay is repetitive with occasional difficulty spikes of Death! I don’t have as much motivation to finish as I’ve had with other games.

  30. AJax says:

    “I liked it. It was good. Gameplay was good. Sound was good. Graphics was good. Controls was good. Story was good. Musics was good. I had fun. 10/10 GOTY.”

    Let’s say I’m just gonna disagree regarding the gameplay and controls, Shamus. I didn’t really care about the other aspects.

    I’m not a big Borderlands fan but I did enjoy 2 solely because of the co-op experience. I had problems with the gunplay, quest design, balancing and writing but it never really got in the way of me and my friends’ enjoyment. Borderlands: TPS is… I just don’t see it. Somehow They made the first couple of starting areas worse than 2. I have no idea how they could’ve possibly achieved that. From huge stretches of useless landscapes, excessive backtracking, terrible jet pack controls, NPCs who will just not shut up and let you skip their dialogue, awful jump ramps combined with the terrible vehicle physics. The addition of the Oxygen mechanic made the combat more annoying rather than tense. It’s like they took all the flaws from 2 and made it much worse. I heard the game is superior than 2 in terms of class balance and builds but me and my friends had enough of this game’s nonsense and just couldn’t bother to play more.

    Interesting comment on Wolfenstein regarding cover mechanics since I really enjoyed how they balanced run n’ gun gameplay with probably the most interesting implementation of a cover system I’ve seen in a first person game. I really liked how leaning acts as some sort of modifier that allows you lean in 8 different directions instead of the classic 2. Leaning below tables and diagonally were such examples. But yeah, Excellent shooter and it’s up there with Half-Life 2, FEAR and the Halo games for me.

    Overall, It was an excellent year with lots of interesting games that I still haven’t checked out. Looking forward to Josh’s retrospective.

  31. Disc says:

    2014 wasn’t bad, but I did pretty much skip the AAA releases. Waiting for a good sale for the few I’m actually interested in. So let’s see, I played

    Arma 3: Not much to say. Been playing it for almost two years with the same group and it still keeps being fun, especially with and because of our resident Zeus & mission maker. Got to admire the effort he puts in his missions, since it’s actually quite a lot of work dealing with all the scripting and making sure everything actually works as intended. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but just thinking about the amount work just to learn the basics keeps putting me off. It doesn’t seem that hard, but as extra hassle it does get in the way of my very fickle creativity, which is my main source of motivation.

    Guild Wars 2: So far the only MMO I’ve ever had more than two characters at level cap. The gameplay is still the best MMO-gameplay I’ve ever experienced and the first that actually made levelling fun enough for me to do several times over, which is what I’ve been doing mostly for the past six months. The lack of decent endgame is still the biggest downfall, though there’s a little more options now than before with the Fractals and Ascended gear.

    Took a year of sabbatical after the initial interest died out and got back around the time the first season of the so-called “Living Story” was ending, which was basically bunch of dungeons and world content that was only available for a limited amount of time and never-to-be-seen again, with an actual overarching storyline with a bunch of new characters. Season 2 kicked in and now you can play the content at any time, but it’s only free if you were actively playing during the time of release. And they continue the story right where S1 ended. So there I am, with a group of bunch of strangers I’d never met before, feeling like I’m stuck inside the wrong story. They call me “the boss” for whatever fucking reason, yet I never really get to make any decisions. I keep trying my hardest to give a single fuck about this somewhat uninspiring Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, but the writing starts out generally just bad. It feels like a work of bad fan fiction, where my character is just there to keep the plot moving forward. It’s only towards the end that it gets a little better, though it’s still not particularly great. For some redeeming quality, one of the characters actually grows on me a little, but mostly because she actually has some (reasonable) character development, if only for a moment. As the end nears, we get to meet some people who we actually have met before (including everybody’s favorite sylvari and members of Destiny’s Edge), but they’re mostly there just for show.. and exposition. It’s only the last few chapters that they get a more important role. And then finally there’s the um.. what I assume was supposed to be a big reveal, but which everybody pretty much suspected already thanks to around billion lampshades they throw at you along the way.

    Not the worst story ever, but pretty freaking meh overall. Gameplay was mostly alright though and I liked the new zones well enough, so there’s that. I don’t think I would have really bothered to play through the story otherwise. There’s talks of an actual expansion coming out this year. They’re gonna reveal it somewhat soon.

    Borderlands 1&2: 1 was pretty boring overall, but okay enough for a co-op playthrough. 2 blew it away in terms of writing and FoV-sliders. Main campaign was alright, but not too amazing. For DLC, Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage and Tiny Tina’s Assault were the most enjoyable, rest was playable but not that interesting overall.

    Dead Space 1-3 Kind of a mixed bag. The world seems interesting enough, but the games themselves never really get scary. Some of the fights can be tense, but that’s mostly to do with your own limited mobility vs. enemies that get too close or fighting bigger groups. The first game was otherwise mostly ok. Good for one playthrough. Second was kind of forgettable. You’re stuck on a rock and keep chasing some vague idea you’re not sure if it makes sense or not and whether it’s really doable or not. It gets a little bit better towards the end, but the “final fight” sequence was pretty freaking annoying. I’m still playing the third game co-op, but it’s been on hiatus for a couple weeks. We’re pretty close to the end. Can’t say I’m still relating to much anyone, the main character least of all, but it’s been entertaining enough to play. It’s probably the most fluid game mobility wise, but they amped up the enemies in turn too, some of which are just crazy fast compared to the earlier games. Not a change I was too excited about, but you get used to it. One thing that was disappointing was the plasma cutter becoming pretty obsolete around half-way through the game. It was the most reliable thing you could ever get in 1 & 2, but thanks to the faster and tougher enemies in 3, it quite literally just doesn’t cut it anymore.

    That’s about what stood out. The Walking Dead: Season 2 was another, but I’ve pretty much exhausted myself on the topic. In short: It was decent overall, but some dumb stuff really irked me and the ending was pretty disappointing thanks to railroading.

    • Ivan says:

      I refuse to give up hope for Guild Ward 2. It definitely has it’s problems but it’s not inherently bad. If for instance they actually hired some people who knew how to write then I might actually be interested in the living story (and the personal story that they made such a huge deal about when releasing the game). Beyond that though they’ve managed to do something really cool, and that’s make an MMO combat system that is fun to play, I say that because PvP is the most action packed and skill intensive (and even tactical) part of the game, and yet they still struggle to translate this system into PvE. They had a brief window of success with the queen’s gauntlet event, which was a series of 12(?) boss fights that were each as intense as a 1v1 PvP dule. The best part is that I got the impression that you could have beaten the gauntlet with any class and just about any spec (with some tweaking), because I managed to complete it with a more unconventional build while I struggled with more conventional builds that I was less familiar with.

      In any case, the lessons learned from the queen’s gauntlet were either that I was in the minority, or they were quickly forgotten, because PvE encounters are just as boring as in any other MMO. In the world maps, monsters only have 2 or 3 attacks, dodging and keeping your distance is rarely useful because you can usually beat something down before it can deal enough damage to threaten you, and there’s no meaningful variety among different mobs. Also when they want to scale up the difficulty they do it by adding more health to things, drawing out the fight so long that I die because I fell asleep at the keyboard. They also haven’t figured out how to scale things to multiple players yet. They give everyone one huge boss to wail on and make it effectively immune to crowd control. Also with the way condition damage works (as of last time I played) only one or two dedicated condition spammers are actually effective against a single target, because the debuffs they cause only stack so high. So in the events where you have 50 players against a dragon…

      Sry that kinda turned into a rant but I still think that GW2 can be a lot of fun. It has the bones it needs to be a really fun MMO but A-Net has kinda been dropping the ball. On the other hand they haven’t tried anything like an expansion yet and that would be a great opportunity to try to fix some of the problems the game has been struggling with.

  32. IFS says:

    I’d say that my GOTY is probably Dragon Age: Inquisition, even though it’s probably my least favorite of the Dragon Age games thus far its still a great game (though I definitely agree with the criticisms Shamus has made about it) and I’m a bit of a sucker for the Dragon Age series.

    Second place goes to Bayonetta 2 which is just fantastic crazy fun, an improvement on the first game in most areas. It pretty much never failed to make me laugh or cheer at its ridiculously over the top action.

    Third goes to Dark Souls 2, because even if it was a disappointment as a Souls game it was still a good game overall and one I’ve probably put close to 200 hours into. Also the DLCs were overall very good for it, Sunken Crown especially for me.

  33. Ivan says:

    Re: Shadows of Murder, I’m not surprised that someone took a unique and innovative mechanic and stuck it into an otherwise safe and unimaginative game. I mean so far as I’m concerned, this was just an experiment. Someone was like “Hey, I have a cool idea!” and in order to see if it worked they stuck it onto a bunch of other things that they knew would work. This is one of the few times I’ve been hopeful about innovation in AAA games but if Shadows of X+1 doors did well enough then we MIGHT just manage to get a game dedicated to the nemesis system, and that would be awesome.

  34. Ruethus says:

    My personal favorite game I played last year was Dark Souls. As a relative n00b on Steam, and the triple-A gaming industry, I finally picked up this game during a Steam sale, figuring I would get destroyed pretty quickly and amusingly, since it is always a bit fun to hop into a notoriously difficult game and see how long it takes to start a death/respawn/death cycle. Surprisingly enough, though, I had a blast with the game, and just recently rang Quelaag’s Bell (It took me a while to get through Blighttown…). The balance is mostly pretty fair, as long as I keep my wits about me and keep my gear in top condition. Toss in the (mostly) fun and interesting bosses, and you’ve got what I consider a pretty fun game.

    Of course, I’m well aware that I am well behind the times here (since other games I played last year were Portal 2, Skyrim, Oblivion, and Binding of Isaac), but I am slightly reassured by the presence of several other commenters with similar experiences. Oh well, better late than never, right?

    Also, I kinda feel like Spoiler Warning: Dark Souls would be kinda funny to watch, if Josh played the Deprived class. Falling deaths, “oh man I forgot they can riposte” deaths, and surprise Black Knights would be great, and there’s even a “wait, what?” lore moment for Shamus not too long after starting the second area.

  35. Richard says:

    I think the Nemesis system would be a perfect fit for a new Crackdown game.

    For anyone not familiar, Crackdown throws you into a city divided into three sections, each controlled by a different crime organization. There is one person at the top of each, with a bunch of other lower-level-yet-still-high-profile underneath that all serve specific functions. One may be in charge of getting weapons, another recruiting people, another in maintaining vehicles, and so on.

    There’s nothing stopping you from going right after the one on top except for a massive army of heavily-armed and armoured goons. Take out the weapons specialist and now those goons are armed with fewer weapons of questionable quality and limited stopping power. Get rid of the recruiter and you’ll run into fewer enemies.

    Also, you have superpowers. So that’s cool.

    The Nemesis system sounds like a perfect fit to me. Now you couldn’t just power through and take out the guy on top, but you would need to take out the entire foundation piece by piece.

    They could call the game Crackdown 2

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