Tagged: of 2014

My Top Five of 2014

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No other game in 2014 could touch the sprawling, bewildering sense of amazement and discovery of ArcheAge. Yes it’s my first real MMO experience but it’s far more than just a Warcraft clone. Katy and I spent straight weeks playing with new revelations every day about how crafting works, how farming can be more efficient, how to build vehicles and more. I reached the level cap largely from gathering resources and farming while dodging PvP ambushes. It went on and on until I finally hit the limits of what I could do without a guild or large raid group. Three hundred hours in and I practically quit, cold turkey. I’ll never forget some of those stories I’ve told here on GameLuv and others that were so much more mundane and special.

For those who still don’t understand the obsession with Earth Defense Force, let me sum it up like this: It’s my Borderlands. EDF is all about the next loot drop; the next gun that may be the best thing in the game but is probably something really silly and useless. Earth Defense Force 2025 mixes up the 2017 campaign and adds its own arc for a ridiculous total of 85 missions. New enemies, bigger playfields and character classes that are absolutely unique are what kept Katy and I coming back for over 170 hours. … I kinda can’t wait until we decide to play some more!

I’m not a big fan of mobile games but I am a big fan of Trials so when the free-to-play Trials Frontier hit Android I installed it but didn’t expect much. Yes, it’s full of mobile game “features” like limited energy and repetitive grinding but it’s such a great and massive Trials game I didn’t really care. I was at it every day for months, racing new and unique tracks, setting faster lap times and, yes, grinding for mats to upgrade bike parts. It also has a bunch of NPCs that give you quests and while that was weird at first I kinda miss it when I play other Trials games now. I eventually ran up against the infamous Trials difficulty curve and gave up the struggle but it was months of fun up to then.

How is this so captivating?

How is this so captivating?

Watch Dogs was never going to live up to the next-gen hype that was piled on its shoulders. I was let down too by Ubisoft’s mish-mash of Assassin’s Creed and Grand Theft Auto but there were some parts I found captivating. The hacking mechanic enabled me to play like a poltergeist setting up “accidents” while watching from an invisible vantage point. It also revealed the personal lives of Chicago’s populace through simple, touching and sometimes disturbing little vignettes. It made for a unique open world feel and it kept me going right through the abysmal story to keep hackin’ around for about 80 hours.

I didn’t put these games in ranked order this year but I did limit myself to five so the fifth slot is just as important as the first. As such, I’ve been debating with myself for weeks now over the winner. Sunset Overdrive is genuinely funny and plays like combat-Tony-Hawk but SpinTires is a wholly unique experience and in the end, it wins. It’s the digital equivalent of playing with toy trucks as a kid, turning the simple act of getting stuck in the mud into an imaginative and open ended challenge. I’ve felt more accomplishment in moving a truck 100 feet than I have in completing entire other games. It doesn’t hurt that it’s gorgeous to look at and simulates terrain deformation and water unlike any other game.

My Bottom Five of 2014

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I could never have predicted it but 2014 was perfectly bookended by two big 3DS bummers. Bright and early in January I was excited about Chibi-Robo: Photo Finder because I love the little plug-in pal and his disturbing world of characters. But this 3DS game — ergh! The photo mechanic is neat but the 3DS camera outputs the worst garbage and all the minigames you play in between are either immensely infuriating or just boring. The final blow is Chibi-Robo’s battery mechanic which requires you to plug in and recharge after every little thing you do. I can’t believe how big of disappointment this game turned out to be.

I cannot actively recall playing Strider 2014 so I’ll just copy and paste this summation from my Done Playing post: A few thousand button presses and a minimum of concentration is all it takes to blaze through in 4 or 5 hours. It’s all flashes, explosions and wonky mechanics and while that is Strider in a nutshell, this 2014 edition isn’t as memorable as either a Strider game or a Metroidvania game.

So excited was I for a spiritual successor to Panzer Dragoon that I denied all claims that Crimson Dragon was terrible until I finally played it myself. Thankfully it was a “free” Xbox Game with Gold but even still it wanted more money from me. Littered with time-limited boosts and daily energy meters — oh god, they made it a full price free-to-play monstrosity! All that aside it requires a lot of grinding on past levels and it just wasn’t much fun to play.

I didn't even have to make this image myself

Shame of the Year winner ‘Chibi-Robo: Photo Finder’ with trophy

Maybe I can come around on The Sun at Night down the road. Its alternate history world that stars the augmented Russian space dog, Laika, is the kind of weird I get into. It’s also an interesting and sprawling Metroidvania style game with quests and loads of upgrades. But that first night with it, wrangling its peculiar controls, getting past the lengthy text introductions and then having it all reset when I died was a terrible shock. I couldn’t put my hands on it again for the rest of the year… but maybe in 2015?

Come December and we’re back where we started with another downloadable 3DS game I was excited for. Yumi’s Odd Odyssey (otherwise known as Umihara Kawase) has been flirting with a Western release for years and it finally happened. I put it off until it was on sale for $10 but, ya know, maybe even that’s a little steep. The game is tough and requires an expert understanding of its rope physics to fling your character around perilous and abstract 2D levels. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was faster to reload and reset but it moves at the plodding pace of the Super Famicom original. We’re talking Super Meat Boy levels of start-to-death time with 10+ seconds of waiting to give it another go. I came back and made some progress but the first boss fight is more than enough for me. I’m done.

Of 2014: The Best Old Games I Discovered

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I finally brought my six year collection of GameFan magazines out of my parents’ basement and re-read them all in 2014. This sent me down numerous rabbit holes, rekindled my interest in tons of games and reminded me about things I’d long forgotten. This also helped keep my YouTube channel active as I bought and played several old games. Many others I just watched longplays of and created gif sets on tumblr.

hydlide 1The best of the bunch was Virtual Hydlide. It’s a game I immediately ignored when I was a teenager because it looks horrendous. Nineteen years later, though, its mysteries and roguelike gameplay had me smitten and I recorded — ahem — 13 videos of it.

Big Ol’ Bass 2 is a game I discovered thanks to virtual pal, Peter Skerritt. After much confusion over the series’ naming conventions I finally got to dig into the most bizarre fishing game ever. Jennifer Clam, Editor-in-Chief of World Monster Graphics, sends you on quests to catch the world’s most exotic fish… so she can eat them? It seems like she wants to eat them all. It is fantastically weird and I still aim to do a serious longplay recording some day.

I never owned a Game Gear and assumed a piddly 2D cart called Virtua Fighter Animation could never live up to the 3D power of the series. I was surprised to find it playable and even more surprised to find it fun and full of Engrish-y cutscenes that follow the Virtua Fighter anime. It was immensely gif-able.

heart2I don’t enjoy playing traditional adventure games but I sure do like watching them! Alien Virus and Heart of Darkness are two games I’m sure I glanced right over as a kid but in 2014 they were interesting, beautiful and weird for all the right reasons. Alien Virus was 2014’s BioForge, an adventure game of typical sci-fi tropes that somehow wrapped itself around my heart. Broken English that’s sometimes surprisingly poetic accompanies low rent voice acting and art. How did it win me over? I have no idea.

Heart of Darkness is a game I remember ignoring as a kid, never realizing it was Eric Chahi’s follow up to Out of this World. As such the animation remains fluid and impressive to this day where the story and pacing have suffered a lot. Its artistry impressed me enough sixteen years later to gif the hell out of it and make it into this very short list.

Of 2014: The Most Played Games

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Everybody sing along!
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
how do you measure, measure a game?

In quick saves, in swear words
In retries, in Achievement pop-ups
*trails off humming*

I spent so much time with a few of these games in 2014 that I literally could call them ‘Seasons of Games’. Here’s a little recap of each, and no more showtune analogies, promise.

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ArcheAge (Somewhere over 300 hours)
My first real foray into an MMORPG and it was a glorious, deep diving sinkhole for something like 50 straight days. Farming, crafting, questing, exploring, boating; it just kept revealing nuances about how all the thousands of components came together. I ultimately hit the end of what I could do solo and, to a lesser degree, my tolerance for unprovoked PvP deaths.

Earth Defense Force 2027 (170 hours)
This was almost entirely split-screen co-op with Katy. We played through the game’s 85 missions at least four times on various difficulty settings with different classes. The daily regimen of hammering all the controller buttons eventually wore down my hands and we moved on but there’s still loads to do!

Watch Dogs (73 hours)
Yes, I honestly liked Watch Dogs. I played it as stealthy as possible, shooting only when it was a last resort and setting off “accidents” to keep my Aiden’s conscience clear. It didn’t impact the story but I had more fun executing elaborate plans and prying into the private lives of Chicago’s citizens. There’s some powerful, disturbing and funny stuff to find if you go hacking.

Bravely Default (63 hours – 51 in-game, 12 demo)
For a game that found its way onto my Bottom Five list I sure did play a lot of it! I enjoyed leveling up the various job classes and strategizing the way they interact and enhance each other. But by hour 40 I was bored to death with the typical Final Fantasy dialog, the unbelievable characterizations and the spike in difficulty. I couldn’t even be bothered to finish it because the story bottomed out and I’d had my fill of the gameplay.

Prison Architect  (Tied for 39 hours)
How could I play this early access game that doesn’t even have a defined “win state” for nearly 40 hours? Because you get to design and lay out your own prisons! It’s like SimCity in microcosm with concerns for water pressure and the load on your electric grid. One thing SimCity never had: naked shower beatdowns! The wrinkles that a realistic prison population introduce are as compelling to handle as they are disturbing.

Dragon Age Inquisition (Tied for 39 hours)
Did it take 39 hours to confirm I still don’t like Dragon Age or did I just fall into the Hinterlands trap like a lot of other people? I will say this is the closest I’ve come to enjoying the series and I could’ve played more but the combat turned me right off. Spazzy and unreliable A.I. teammates made me feel more like a daycare teacher than the Herald of Andraste I’m supposed to be.

Of 2014: The ‘You Beta believe it’s not yet a game’ List

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I’ve tried to stay away from betas and early access games but nowadays you can’t help but stumble into them. Maybe it’s a marketing promotion or a free key passed around by friends. Maybe you get an invite for being an Xbox Gold or PlayStation Plus member. Maybe there’s just a good (pre)sale on Steam. Despite my efforts I wound up playing more of these than I expected to in 2014. Here’s a little about each.

 

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Beta: It’s just another word for ‘Timed Demo’

The Crew beta
Ubisoft blew it! A free-form racing game across the United States with no loading from coast to coast; and they gave it all away in the beta. All I ever needed out of this game was to recreate the Cannonball Run, and I did, and then I was done playing the beta. The actual game seems neat as well but the emphasis on multiplayer spoils it for me.

Destiny beta
I managed to get into the beta for both PlayStation 3 and Xbox One and the difference between them was a surprisingly minute amount of fidelity. They both played identically and ran just as smoothly with only higher resolution textures making a difference. This was the closest I got to being swayed by a beta into buying the full game but I was already bored by the time I got to the moon.

Titanfall beta
I love the world, the acrobatic gameplay and the giant mechs slamming onto the battlefield. It’s the playing that bums me out. It’s just another tiny arena where you mindlessly, endlessly shoot other people. I tried to explore the space available but some people just don’t care about architectural appreciation.

 

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Early Access: Play the game you just paid to help finish

Neo Scavenger Early Access
I played the demo of this game endlessly and finally bought into the Early Access version when it was in a bundle. I’m rubbish at surviving this game’s hardcore, hard science world but like any good randomized roguelike it only makes me want to try again (and again and again). It’s still not “finished” but what is there is substantial, I actually had to make sure it was even still Early Access.

Nom Nom Galaxy Early Access
I love the idea of focusing the resource gathering and crafting of Terraria on a larger gameplay mechanic. It’s all about streamlining the production of soup to beat out the competition. It’s the kind of mundane excitement that I can really get behind but like most of these games I’ve only dabbled until it’s farther along.

Prison Architect Early Access
Another pre-sale bundle buy, this is the one beta/early access game I’ve spent the most time with; around 30 hours to be more precise. Being a simulation game makes it easier as I’m building everything from nothing and not exploring already built content. It’s missing some core motivational features (campaigns, progress, Achievements, etc) but the basics are there to instill loads of stress and accomplishment.

Starbound Early Access
A sci-fi Terraria with interplanetary travel? I was sold the instant I heard the description and it’s still one of the few games I’ve backed. I’m still waiting for it to be more Final but I did jump into the beta build a few times. I’ve kept up with the development blog and though people seem to think the game has stalled I’m happy to wait. It just doesn’t make for any interesting stories to write in this recap.

Viscera Cleanup Detail Early Access
There is something supremely clever and oddly appealing about being the janitor that comes in behind the rampaging sci-fi hero. It wasn’t a kickstarter thing but I put down money as quickly as possible to pre-order this one. A year and a half later and I’m still waiting for it to be final before I put my heart into mopping up ludicrous gibs.