The Most Interesting Games of 2014
It’s that time of the year again, where I write some stuff about the most interesting games of the year. These are not the best games or the most technically advanced, just the ones that surprised me in some way. Honestly, I’m not sure I want to recommend anything. Not because there weren’t any good games, there were, but because 2014 in gaming seemed to me a disappointing year. My perception (it is untested, just my perception) is that publications focused on everything other than games (development interviews, anime, cosplay, internet drama) more than in previous years, that major game releases were less than memorable, a lot of the games released were good, but not many were spectacular, Black Friday was more like “really long slightly discolored deep blue Tuesday lasting into the weekend”.
That being said, there were some interesting games. They were not as interesting as last year’s gems, but there were some interesting games.
The criteria for selection:
*Released between December 1 2013 and December 1 2014 in North America
*Console, PC, or portable (not mobile) games were considered [mobile games were not considered due to the sheer availability – there are no resources to sample every iOS and Android game released]
Bravely Default – Released on January 2014, is a JRPG for the 3DS that uses a job system similar to that of Final Fantasy Tactics. The battle system spend points to attack, or block to gain points, which makes for an interesting strategy where players will have to consider things such as when to block and when to attack. The story has heroes, crystals, kingdoms at war, and airships.
Final Fantasy: Lightning Returns – The end to the Fabula Nova Crystallis trilogy, FF:LR features Lightning waking up from her slumber and finding herself in the role of The Savior. The world is ending and Lightning has to save as many souls as she can while also saving the souls of her former friends from Final Fantasy XIII. In this world where no one ages but no one new is born, it s up to Lightning to save everyone before time runs out. There is a timer mechanism that the player can stop by using Chrono Points which they obtain in battle. Battles are fun and fast paced and some of the battle music was memorable.
Child of Light – a JRPG developed in the west. Set in a hilariously misrepresented cartoon of the mythical land of Lemuria, Aurora has to rescue the sun, moon, and stars of Lemuria stolen by the Dark Queen. It is a side scrolling game in the tradition of Odin’s Sphere (sort of) with more traditinal Grandia-esque battle scenes. The battles are not as interesting as Grandia’s (no battle system is as interesting as Grandia’s), but it’s fairly engaging.
Peggle 2 – Ok I haven’t tried Peggle 2. I’m just reminded of that overly excited announcer.
One Piece: Unlimited World: Red – Most anime-inspired games are terrible. The Naruto fighting games are decent but simple, the Bleach games have always been terrible, and the Dragon Ball games are only fun when you’re with a lot of friends and want to play an action packed easy to access button mashing fest. The Ippo game for the Wii was not Punch Out, most of the One Piece games so far have been less than stellar, and those terrible Dreamcast Lodoss War and Berserk games made me want to poke my eyes out. But being a fan of One Piece, I gave Unlimited World: Red a chance, and I was not disappointed. The action is solid, the story is interesting, the characters are faithful to their anime counterparts, there is a world building element, and the exploration and action are serviceable. It’s not a game for everyone, but if you’re a fan of the anime give it a try.
Five Nights at Freddy’s (both titles)- This is a terrifying game. There isn’t a lot of action or “fun” going on in the game, but the game isn’t about fun. It’s about making the player feel nervous and stressful and frightened, and the game does so beautifully.
Goat Simulator – Goat Simulator is stupid. It’s pretty much GTA 3 without the plot or the quests and a goat instead of a character. It’s only fun for as long as you can amuse yourself by doing silly things in a game. I got bored of it after less than 15 minutes of play. But it does something interesting. It’s an actual open world sandbox game. This is a term that gets thrown around a lot – Kingdoms of Amur was called open world sandbox, L.A. Noire, the GTAs, the new Fallouts, the Skyrims. These games are set in open worlds, yes, but they are not sandboxes. A sandbox game is one structured in a way where the player is meant to get enjoyment out of crafting his or her own objectives and tasks, while an open world game features an open world with developer-defined objectives. In Fallout III you need to find your dad, in Skyrim you need to be the dragonborn, in Goat Simulator you “are a goat now go do whatever”. It’s an amusing bit of software, so try it out if it ever comes out on a bundle with three other games.
Tethrythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call – I had not heard of this series before. It’s basically a music game for the 3DS with Final Fantasy music. I’m a music game fan and I think that some of the best game music of all time is in Final Fantasy. So yeah.
Bayonetta 2 – This game exemplifies the epitome of the action genre. It is action done right. It is fast paced, engaging, interesting, and colorful fun. The story is a bunch of hogwash and if you’re easily offended by ridiculous cartoonish proportions in game characters you may want to look away from this title, but as far as the game itself is concerned, Bayonetta 2 is probably the game that is the most fun to play this year.
The Banner Saga- A beautiful game in the tradition of Shining Force. It is more mature than other games in the genre (whatever that means) in the sense that players can build relationships with the games’ characters and this changes the game story, doesn’t focus on buying stuff, and there’s only one save that you can’t load after you lose a battle to recover from losses because autosave only.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – I almost hate having to include this here. CoD has been a stagnant title for the longest time. It had become boring and unappealing. Advanced Warfare made a simple change that revitalized the game – You can now double jump! the double jump makes the game feel more dynamic and fast paced, like an FPS should be (because I grew up on Unreal or whatever), not a slow “crouch and hide and find something to shoot” kind of slosh that the previous CoDs had been.
The Elder Scrolls Online – I’m not a big MMO player. I played Phantasy Star Online. I have a level 60 cleric in Fiesta Online (if that’s still a thing), a level 24 character in Gran Fantasia, and a I don’t even remember the level character in Vindictus. I recently got into Defiance and DC Universe and I don’t think I’ll stick with both of them (despite them being some of the best MMOs), and I’m willing to give Destiny a try if it ever goes below 20$ and Sega doesn’t release Phantasy Star. That’s the entirety of my MMO Cred (no WoW, LoL, Everquest, etc). Yet The Elder Scrolls managed to catch my attention enough for it to warrant a recommendation. Its worlds are lush and nicely designed, and the combat follows TES conventions. Sure, it feels like you are in a world where you don’t need other people, but that’s ok. This gives you the choice to either play by yourself or play with friends. Unlike in more traditional MMOs, you don’t really need a party of 10 tanks and 20 dpsers to go fight anything that’s not a slime or a boar. The monthly subscription is a bit high, but if you have the extra cash and the time to put into it and are not already in an MMO, give it a shot.
THE FRIEND’S RECOMMENDATION
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter – I haven’t played this one, but my friend says it’s “totally amazing you absolutely must play this game”. Something about a kid with ESP powers and investigating how people died by backtracking spiritual energy in the other dimension or something. It’s in my “to buy” list. I’ll get around to it.
BUT WHY NOT SMASH BROS / POKEMON OMEGA / ALPHA / THE CREW / SHADOWS OF MORDOR / DRAGON AGE INQUISITION / DIVINITY ORIGINAL SIN / FLAPPY BEHRD?!?
Smash Bros was super fun (probably the second most fun game this year), but it felt like an expansion to the previous Smash. Smash never gets old, but it doesn’t make you go WOOOW either.
Pokemon – haven’t played it. 3DS games are expensive.
Shadows of Mordor / DA:I / Divinity: Original Sin – don’t seem too interesting waiting for the price drop.
The Crew – the prospect of an open world racing game set in the US where you can go to Vegas is incredible, but I haven’t played it. And after the publishers pulled that review embargo stunt, I won’t play it until it drops to less than 20$ or becomes free to play.
Flappy Behrd – It was significant in some way or another, but it doesn’t make it good nor interesting.