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?
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:
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
“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
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
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.
 Technically there are a couple of situations that might lead to combat, but I never ran into them.
 Or, in some unfortunate cases, not.
 Although I wish SOMEONE would, since Valve seems to have lost interest.
 This is an actual thing in the actual game.
 Maybe instead of the year of “meh” this should have been “year we shot guys on the moon”?
 Aside from, you know, MONEY.
 To avoid confusion: He’s a playable character/class this time, where in previous games he was just an annoying quest giver.
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