And here we have it, yet another year the world has avoided certain destruction and another gigantic 12 months of videogame releases. As usual, a big chunk of my gaming time was devoted to reviewing games, while the other stuck with playing older titles, so my list might be a tad understated in comparison to the rest of our staff. Still, I really wanted to go back and mention a few of my favorites, so bear with me here!
Best 2012 game of the year – XCOM: Enemy Unknown
I’ve been putting this one off for months and months and 2014 was the year I finally got to play it in any serious fashion. It was an incredible experience. More tactical games should follow this XCOM revival, really. It made me care about characters like few other games and hey, I still have the Enemy Within DLC to get through, so you can probably look forward to seeing more about that one in next year’s GOTY discussion.
Best *really* old game of the year – Thief II: The Metal Age
I’ve been a fan of the Thief series ever since the very first game came out, but have had the glaring omission in my belt of not truly finishing The Metal Age. Well, that was ticked off this year, when I finally jumped in and played the crap out of it back in March. It’s such a huge game for the time and it introduced a huge list of improvements to the original’s formula in just a couple of years. Truly incredible.
Best DLC of the year – Dark Souls II “Crowns” DLC
While the original release of Dark Souls II was really disappointing to me, especially after the fantastic games that came before it in the franchise. It just missed the mark and felt uninspired. But hell, the three downloadable packs really hit it out of the park. With the exception of the special area in Crown of the Ivory King, which was complete BS, all of the extra content was very well worth my time and are by far the best that Dark Souls II has to offer.
Funniest I’ve played in a while – Octodad: Dadliest Catch
I almost forgot to list this one. It’s because Octodad has been pretty much a bookmark in my mind for humor in games for years that it’s easy to forget it finally got the recognition it deserves on a fairly large number of platforms. Its E3 2013 debut had me in tears laughing and the eventual review was incredibly fun, as convoluted as things get controlling an octopus trying to pass off as a human and a family man can be. Loved it!
Best Eastern European game to come out of nowhere – Spintires
How can I even begin to describe this game? Right! Mundane. But as much negativity as that word’s meaning might entail, Spintires is anything but boring. Everything in this game is done in excrutiating detail and realism, which not only makes it incredibly difficult to get into, but also provides some of the funniest and craziest moments in my personal gaming history of 2014. And that was just an attempt to carry lumber from one side of Siberia to the other.
Best overall game of the year – Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
What can I say? I played this religiously over four months this year and am still getting my butt handed to me by people who are just smarter than me in the many facets of this beautiful, beautiful but ridiculously deep free to play game. If you haven’t given this a try and you’re a fan of Warcraft in general, do it. This is the best Blizzard game in a long while, in my modest opinion.
My other game of the year – Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
A cheat! Yes, it is, but hell, this is my list, so get off my case. Final Fantasy XIV is a great success story that might as well fit in within the list of underdogs. A failed MMO totally reinvented and made better, into something that’s probably the best game of the genre that I’ve played. Getting to focus on a single character and having all classes, jobs and professions available at once – after unlocking a few and leveling them up, of course – is the bee’s knees for me. That and the thoughtful implementation of controller support, married with much simpler and easier handle gameplay turned A Realm Reborn into the game I kept coming back to since July, after buying my PS4.
Middle Earth: Shadows of Mordor
This one was pretty good, so much that I’m once again hacking my way through it for the upcoming DLCs. The mix of elements from a variety of successful franchies made it just dumb fun. That and the cool little tidbits of story that were added in to the overall Lord of the Rings fiction, which might seem sacrilegeous to many, made ‘Mordor extra special for me and deserving of an honorable mention.
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Much like A Realm Reborn, Stick of Truth was born out of the ashes of a series of failures, but unlike it, it didn’t start out like one. It didn’t have to live up to an already abysmal title, but to everything that came before it that involved the South Park franchise. And boy, did it ever. South Park: The Stick of Truth feels just like an extended episode of the show, and even though its gameplay is extremely simple and easy to exploit, the writing is just so over the top that it’s worth sticking around ’til the end. And that’s what I did!
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
My dumb self was counting on playing this during my trip to Europe in the beginning of the year but power outlets decided to go against my plans. Still, I kept this in the back of my mind, and as soon as I was able to, I charged that sucker back to 100% and dove once again into the gorgeous world of Link to the Past. Given how the series is shaping up on the WiiU, it’s cool to see the little improvements that were already thrown into this one, like the return of an open-ended order in which you can play the game, something the franchise hadn’t seen since the NES original. That and the oozing charm fountain that Nintendo always seems to strike and exploit made A Link Between Worlds my current 3DS favorite and probably my most loved game in the series (this decade, anyway).
Gabriel Knight: 20th Anniversary Edition
While I consider myself a fan of Jane Jensen’s works, the original Gabriel Knight was a gaping omission in that belt I mentioned up there somewhere. I never really played it. I knew about it, studied it even for my college thesis on adventure games, but never really played it to completion. The remake game me the perfect excuse to do so within a beautifully remade package that made up for my disappointment with Moebius. Now if they could do the same for the other two GK games…