2014 saw a lot of high-profile, AAA game releases. A lot of them lacked substance or saw forced and bug-ridden early releases. All things considered, I think 2014 was an eventful but rather mediocre year for gaming compared to other years.
Still, I have fond memories of this year, so let’s take a look at some of the best parts of it.
Favorite Games of 2014
While there were a lot of games that I’ve played this year, I’ve limited the list to my top ten.
One thing to note is that I’ve played almost no Nintendo titles this year. I’m not even sure why, but I really have to catch up on this front.
Here’s the TL;DR version:
- Alien: Isolation
- Dark Souls II
- Wolfenstein: The New Order
- Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
- Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
- Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
- Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
- The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
- World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
- NEO Scavenger
- Dungeon of the Endless
1. Alien: Isolation
When Alien: Isolation was silently announced back in 2011 I immediately thought: “Great, another shitty alien game that will continue to butcher this franchise.” The release of the horrible Aliens: Colonial Marines in 2013 by Gearbox Software didn’t do much else than reinforce my deepest fears.
A few years later, Creative Assembly – the developers, that are know for the Total War franchise – did an impressive presentation on the creation of Alien: Isolation at EGX Rezzed ’14. I was instantly hooked and somehow KNEW this will be good – at least I wanted it to be.
Alien: Isolation is a natural and faithful extension of the original Alien universe in a way that movies would never be able to portray. It’s crazy that it took 35 years for a video game to pay proper tribute to one of the best movies ever made. Creative Assembly really embraced Alien and it’s showing every second.
There’s not much else to be said that others haven’t: The art direction is outstanding, the visuals feel truly “next gen”, the music draws from the original soundtrack, the sound effects are haunting, and the Alien really is the perfect organism.
I’ve also played the experimental VR mode with the Oculus Rift DK2. The sensation of presence I’ve felt was just astounding, especially while being hunted. Instead of pushing buttons when hiding behind a corner, I literally stood up and leaned my head. It was a bit too much virtual reality for me; my heart is pounding, my hands are sweaty and my pants are soiled.
Thank you CA for such a wonderful experience and restoring (the) Alien to it’s former glory!
2. Dark Souls II
The strong contender for Game of the Year 2014. It would be my GOTY, if Alien didn’t came along.
It’s like Dark Souls with more areas, more bosses, more weapons and spells, more everything. What more could one want? Well, the real question is: Is it better than the first Dark Souls? While it’s a wonderful game and one of the best this year, some of the content still feels a bit rehashed and cobbled together. There are a few areas where it outshines the first Dark Souls though, namely PVP and the reworked magic system.
Through superior world crafting and a fresh, genuine experience the first Dark Souls ranks still a bit higher for me personally. While Dark Souls II is more of the same quality gameplay, it still uses mechanics I’ve had the time to get comfortable with over the years for two installments now.
Midway through the second play-through (New Game+) I’ve lost the motivation to continue, but I probably will. The Lost Crowns Trilogy DLC is also waiting to be completed.
Don’t forget to spread some love over christmas when doing PVP:
3. Wolfenstein: The New Order
The new Wolfenstein was a surprise hit for me. I knew I wanted to play it just for being Wolfenstein, but honestly thought it will be a mediocre game with weird German references at best. I was wrong.
It’s a wonderful homage to oldschool-shooters without some of the new-age design paradigms like non-existent difficulty, regenerating health (well, sort of) or in-your-face progress markers. It instead features akimbo shotguns, tesla grenades, nazi moon bases, sex scenes and some of the best fictional German brands I’ve ever seen.
Being a German myself, it was a pleasure to discover all of the brand ideas MachineGames came up with in their carefully crafted alternate reality. I think I’m craving some Eisenbier (“Frisch und belebend!”) and a Wolf Zigarette right now.
They even recorded re-imagined, fictitious versions of popular songs like “The House of the Rising Sun” as if Germany had won the war. In this alternate reality it’s from Wilbert Eckart & Volksmusik Stars and is called “Haus Abendrot”.
Other songs include “Mond, Mond, Ja, Ja” from “Die Käfer” (The Beetles) which is about the conquering of the moon.
Sadly the German version of Wolfenstein was obviously heavily cut: Voice lines were altered and re-dubbed, graphics censored and some content changed; at least it was released in Germany at all.
This is a real shame, as the original German voice-over is really, REALLY good. They’ve nailed local accents and vernacular of the Germans perfectly.
Germany really needs to grow up in this regard. It’s a fucking video game and we live in 2014.
4. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
“A $30 demo, lol!” and “It’s like the Tanker mission for MGS2 for the price of the full game!” it halls through the internet forums.
Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes is a well-crafted experience. A bit short, yes. It’s much darker than previous Metal Gear Solid titles. They kicked David Hayter as the cheesy but defining voice-actor for Snake in favor of Kiefer Sutherland from 24. It seems like Kojima goes through a transition phase personally and it shows in his games, namely this one and P.T., the excellent precursor for the new Silent Hill.
Ground Zeroes is just a taste of what’s to come in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and perfectly sets the tone. It’s dark and perverse; the franchise has matured in a way. Personally, I’m really deeply invested in the story of Metal Gear and can’t wait until Big Boss’ tale comes full-circle, even if it’s going to be sinister.
Although the Paz’ memos from Peace Walker are included in the game, don’t play Ground Zeroes if you haven’t finished Peace Walker yet – much of Ground Zeroes’ brilliance will be without effect if you don’t know what’s really happening.
Oh boy, Jazzpunk.
There are not a lot of games out there which force me to laugh out loud while being home alone in front of my computer screen, but Jazzpunk certainly is one of them. I literally LOL’d quite a few times while playing this game.
This game is so silly I can’t even begin writing about it, so I’ll just paste the Steam store description:
“Jazzpunk is a comedy adventure set in an alternate reality Cold War World, plagued with corporate espionage, CyberCrime, and sentient martinis. Gameplay is inspired by spoof comedy films and cartoons of yesteryear, with a focus on weird gadgets, exotic locales, and open-world style exploration.“
You have to experience it yourself. It’s worth it.
6. Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
They cut out the RMAH, vastly improved or rebalanced almost every aspect of the game plus new content. It’s a very, very good game now, and probably the most addicting hack and slash / Action RPG out there. I’ve wasted hundreds of hours on this game and you should too!
I’ve dedicated a whole blogpost on the matter: READ IT HERE
7. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Imagine Assassin’s Creed and Batman: Arkham had a child that was raised by The Lord of the Rings in his adolescence; being cocky and all that, he decided to move out *just* before attaining full age. That’s Shadow of Mordor in a nutshell.
8. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
It’s a card game. It’s very good. It’s the reason I can’t play digital versions of Magic: The Gathering anymore; They just feel bland, broken and unfinished. A lot of developers can learn quite a bit from Hearthstone, especially how to polish signs & feedback for players. I’ve shelled out more than €100 for it; that alone puts it on this list.
I yet have to take a in-depth look at the new expansion, Goblins vs. Gnomes.
9. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Edmund McMillen convinced me to give him €15 again – for the remake of a game that came out only 3 years ago. I’ll happily pay him money my whole life if I don’t have to see him crying again in another Indie Game: The Movie. Just kidding, I love you Ed <3.
10. World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
Yes, it’s World of Warcraft. Warlords of Draenor is the expansion I always wanted WoW to have, at least from a story perspective. Especially after Mists of Pandaria, which I’ve avoided most of the time because of Pandas that were never part of the original Warcraft storyline.
Warlords of Draenor answers the “What if” question of what would have happened if the Orcs never drank Mannoroth’s blood. Questing is fun, the story unfolds through various cutscenes and “epic” events; The whole expansion is focused on the player’s avatar, who’s been rescuing Azeroth for 10 years now. Sometimes things are a little bit too “epic” for my taste. It’s still one of the best expansions and there’s countless things to do.
I probably wouldn’t have played Warlords of Draenor if it weren’t for the included level 90 character boost though, which says a lot.
Read Raph Koster’s excellent Ten Years of World of Warcraft article here.
Also watch Blizzard’s wonderful documentary about WoWs development:
BONUS: NEO Scavenger
“How long can you survive the post-apocalyptic wastelands of NEO Scavenger?” Asks the developer.
To be more precise, It’s a game that will make you cherish plastic bags more than anything else.
At one time I did carry three plastic bags at once: One in each hand and one put on the shoulder. Inside these an assortment of the finest junk ever seen by man: Empty bottles, cigarette lighter, a t-shirt, twigs, a sauce pan and even more crumpled plastic bags, in case the current ones rip apart. Let me tell you, plastic bags are the superior container for almost anything you might want to carry at some point in the post-apocalypse.
Oh and don’t drink unboiled water – I did and it was a mistake. A few days later while trying to sneak up to a sleeping stranger at night (To rob him, obviously; I needed a pair of new shoes), I got diarrhea. Uncontrollable stomach cramps made me fall down and curl up into a ball. The moaning woke up the stranger who’s been in a very bad mood. I started to bleed from my nose – probably from a virus like cholera I’ve ingested by drinking the water from a pond days earlier. I was indeed particularly thirsty the last few days.
The stranger sprinted towards me and a few moments later, without asking questions, he clubbed me to death with the butt of his rifle – not because of my pain, but to conserve ammo. I think it was for the best, I would have died from internal bleeding anyway. My life was over before I even knew it.
The interesting part here is that all of this did not feel “unfair”; I made a mistake hours before (drinking contaminated water) and could have prevented it (by boiling the water). Even after the fact, the symptoms of dehydration gave an indication that something was wrong: I could have ingested medicine immediately, but I didn’t.
It’s great that games like this are made.
That being said, there are still a lot of games I haven’t played this year. High on my list are:
- Divinity: Original Sin
- The Legend of Grimrock II
- Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth
- Elite: Dangerous
- Shovel Knight
- Mario Kart 8
- Smash Bros. for WiiU
- Ys: Memories of Celceta
- Tomodachi Life
- Persona Q
- The Walking Dead: Season Two
- Octodad: Dadliest Catch
… and a lot of others. I may include them in the future.
What are your games of the year?