Monday, July 28, 2014

Top 10 games from the first half of 2014 - Gaming Thoughts

The first half of 2014 blew by very quickly in the gaming industry (so fast that we were almost through the first seven months before I finished putting my thoughts together on the year's first six months!). While there are no doubt quite a few quality games coming out in the second half of 2014, I wanted to take a look back and talk about the top 10 releases so far (plus 5 that just missed and the biggest disappointment of 2014 so far). Some of these names are pretty familiar, but others? Perhaps not.


Of course ever list is subjective and each person tends to gravitate towards some genres over others. Still, some titles are so much fun to play that they can transcend many of these lines. All of these titles do that in my opinion. We have a link to each review if you click on the title. So let's kick things off with...

Number 10: Titanfall - Yes, this game's success was largely the product of a huge marketing machine. That being said, the parkour gameplay and inclusion of the massive titans did something that few games have in the last few years: it brought something new to the FPS genre. Also, it was quite simply a blast to play.


Number 9: The Wolf Among Us - Technically, the final episode did not land until this last month, but we won't disqualify this amazingly entertaining narrative, which posted several episodes throughout the first half of 2014. In many ways more gripping and with characters who are more relatable than the popular The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us is storytelling excellence.


Number 8: Transistor - Brought to life by the same team responsible for the popular Bastion, Transistor requires a bit of time to get the hang of, but it is a unique, rewarding experience that may not be for everybody - but proves memorable to those who give it a chance.


Number 7: Bravely Default - Looking for proof that the JRPG genre is not dead? Then look no further as Square Enix released a spiritual successor to their Warriors of Light games. Some parts of Bravely Default feel very familiar to fans of the Final Fantasy games, while other aspects are completely new and innovative, hopefully paving the way for more JRPGs in the near future.


Number 6: Infamous: Second Son - While the release lineup for the PlayStation 4 was somewhat lackluster, it has produced some excellent games so far in 2014. Perhaps the most entertaining of these was Infamous: Second Son, which did everything the first two games did - only better. Outstanding visuals, an interesting story punctuated by good characters and multiple powers showed that this series still had room to grow.



Number 6: Shovel Knight - Retro is cool, and that makes Shovel Knight about as cool as they come. Old school action-platforming gameplay meshed with retro graphics and current gaming sensibilities made Shovel Knight an anticipated game by many. It was postponed a couple of times, but it proved worth the wait.


Number 6: Mario Kart 8 - Perhaps no title from Nintendo this year demonstrated that there was still life in the legs of the Wii U more than this one. Some multiplayer missteps cannot keep this fan favorite series from bringing all-new racing thrills to the masses, complete with anti-gravity, new weapons and perhaps most importantly, the now-famous Luigi death stare.


Number 3: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havok - With a heavier emphasis on narrative than gameplay, Danganronpa feels more like an interactive story than perhaps what some people would define as a game. Similar to The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, that does not keep Danganronpa from being a completely absorbing experience from start to finish, and a perfect fit on the Vita.


Number 2: Divinity: Original Sin - A game focusing on two created characters, Divinity: Original Sin is a throwback to the old Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights days of turn-based RPG fun. The presentation values are top-of-the-line, but more than that the world is simply waiting for you to interact with it, your decisions and use of magic and environment shaping the outcome of battles and the storyline equally.


Number 1: Dark Souls 2 - Known for punishing difficulty, what makes the Souls games so memorable to me is their heavy, oppressive atmosphere. Amazing music, dank and disturbing visuals combine with a gameplay that continually makes you better blend with sometimes subtle, often interesting online components to create a truly memorable gaming experience.


Close, but not quite:

Trials Fusion - the bikes are more fun than the other vehicles, but the game as a whole is a blast. Unfortunately despite the robotic voice proclaiming that this is the future - it feels more like a baby step for the long-running series.

Bound by Flame - there are some cool ideas here, but it does not quite overtake some of the bigger named action-RPG titles out there, and at times still feels a bit like a budget-constrained game.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - technically the PS4 version is the reason it is on this list, since it released some time ago on PC and PS3. Still, this is a spectacular MMO and deserves a lot of credit for undoing the wrong that the original Final Fantasy XIV did by its fans.

The Last Tinker - this PC title came out of nowhere to surprise us with its bright, colorful graphics and surprisingly fun gameplay. It still hasn't gotten as much attention as it deserves, so we wanted to make sure it was mentioned here.

Demon Gaze - this old school dungeon crawler for the Vita reminded me just how much time I used to spend with games like this, because deep down - they are still among my favorites. So many nice little touches turn what could have been a decent experience into a really, really good one.


Last but not least, my biggest disappointment so far:

Watch Dogs - by no means was Watch Dogs a bad game, but it had built up some incredible expectation with its delays and huge marketing push. At the end of the day, it turned out to be a decent, but hardly transformative next generation experience like we had been promised. Watch Dogs simply felt like it should have been more.


Agree? Disagree? These are only my opinions so far - I'm sure the rest of the team probably has a very different outlook on 2014 so far - but what's been yours? Sound off in the comments!

Article by Nick