Old Post From NerdyEdge 2014, Reposted

Notes From 2015 – I just thought I’d repost this 2014 retrospective that I put up for NerdyEdge before it went belly up. I spent a fair amount of time on it.

Games of the Year

Dragon Age: Inquisition – Best RPG from a AAA company award
Cassandra Fighting a Dragon
You had us worried, Bioware. After the mediocre Dragon Age II, the debacle over the horrific Mass Effect 3 ending and the disappointing Star Wars MMPORG, gamers were wondering if you had lost your touch, eaten by the brain rot that seems to infect any studio touched by EA. But you delivered this time. I was really impressed by the detail put into the characters, the voice acting, the world, and you`ve managed to tell a complete story that you actually have an effect on, and it is one that actually engages you. The game isn`t short (I had like 80 hours by the end) and doesn`t reuse the same dungeon over and over (the levels are varied, huge, and gorgeous), and doesn`t make you feel like you have no impact on the story or game world (quite the opposite). The game isn`t perfect, but no Bioware game has ever been perfect. I look forward to full length DLC and expansions for this game, which is something I rarely, if ever, say.

Mid 2015 Note- Witcher 3 blows this away so much, it’s hard to compare. They are very different beasts, to be fair, but it’s just so much more of a satisfying game experience. CD Red seems to just get better and better with each release, while Bioware is a bit of a crapshoot.

South Park: The Stick of Truth – Only good game from the first six months of the year award
South Park Stick of Truth Pic from:  ProGmedia

In fact, this is pretty much the only game I can still remember that came out in the first six months of the year. How rare is it to find a product tie-in game that not only sucks, but fits nearly seamlessly into it’s licensed product? This game was so good it actually made my girlfriend a Southpark fan, and she’s hated it for nearly 20 years. Highly memorable and you really should buy it if you haven’t given it a try already: it should be on sale on both Steam, Xbox Live and the PSN pretty soon.

2015 Notes – I replayed this a bit, and if anything, my fondness for the title has grown. This is totally worth picking up if you like old school RPG’s or Southpark at all.

Alien Isolation – Holy shit, an ACTUAL Survival Horror game award

Freaky Alien

Freaky Alien

An Aliens Game, and its good? And it’s an ACTUAL survival horror game? And it was made by Creative Assembly (who are really only known for strategy games)? The fact that this game exists is bizarre. The fact that it’s one of the best games of the year is downright mystifying. Alien Isolation makes you feel like a soft fleshy human who can be killed at any moment. The space station you are stuck on oozes the creepy, retro 80’s future atmosphere of the movies brilliantly. The Alien isn’t a bad guy to be killed: its an unstoppable thing, a force of nature. You hide or you die (and maybe you die anyway).

2015 Notes-  Yeah, this wasn’t a bold prediction. It’s not even my sort of game, really, but it was prett good.

Divinity: Original Sin – Best B company RPG award
Here is a game that brings it old school, with a funky, late 90’s/early 20’s style isometric RPG complete with action points, tons of non-voiced dialogue, and a bizarre and arcane character upgrade system that allows for oodles of customization. There’s lots of options of players to deal with problems, from being sneaky gits with invisibility to setting up a bunch of exploding barrels. It reminds me a bit of Fallout 2 crossed with Bauldur’s Gate 2, only with a higher focus on tactics instead of strategy.

2015 Notes – I stand by this one. Pillars of Eternity has a very similar niche. Both are worth owning.

This War Of Mine – Best Indi Game award

This War of Mine title pic (from the studio)

This War of Mine title pic (from the studio)

This War of Mine manages to wonderfully get across its theme describing life in a war… for civilians. Its so rare to see a game that`s so fun to play, emotionally engaging and perfectly themed, particularly for a little known developer like War Child. It is grim without being hopeless and difficult unless you heavily strategize. I strongly recommend this game.

2015 Notes – I stand by this prediction. 2014 wasn’t the best year for gaming, if you ask me. Lots of crappy launch titles, lots of disasters and mobile gaming screwing my childhood. The indie games were the best of the bunch, really.

Far Cry 4 – Best Shooter
(Pic Failed, sorry, too lazy to find another one)
It’s like Far Cry 3, but with a more developed primary villain, even if the secondary villains aren’t as cool as Vaas (but who is?). Basically, it takes most of the good stuff out of Far Cry 3, fixes a few things, makes the protagonist a little more likable, and adds in honey badgers, elephant riding and awesome Bollywood music. Its good stuff, though would like to have seen a bit more of what Kyrat turns into once you take over. This is probably the game I agonized over the most. Far Cry 4 is just good, not amazingly super brilliant, but I had more fun with this shooter than any other I played this year.
Robocraft – Best New MOBA you’ve never heard of from a company you’ve never heard of
What, you’ve never heard of it? Not surprised, its still mostly in Alpha. Basically, its “World of Tanks” only you can make a tank, car, walking vehicle, hovercraft, blip or flier out of Lego blocks. It’s an awesome turducken of nerdy game themes that really needs to be played to be appreciated. I love obsessing about optimal character builds before I play, and this game lets you putter around for hours in the garage looking for more efficient designs or putting together a replica of Kim Jon Un’s face out of blocks with machine guns in the eyes and mouth, because why not? Did I mention it’s free and that its very good?

Game of the year

This War of Mine: Because it is an original concept, and got me the most engaged in the narrative of playing. When I played, I genuinely felt like an awful human being for stealing medicine from old people (or any of the awful things I had to do in this game). I haven’t felt as conflicted over a game since Spec Ops, only this war of mine’s standard game play is far more fun, and the game was created on a non-budget from a studio you’ve never heard of. See my review for a more in-depth look.

Notes from 2015 – I stand by this. The game has gotten some very interesting updates since, and has received critical acclaim. It’s also engaging, even if “fun” isn’t quite the right word.

Honorable Mentions

This is one of the very few games that ever made me consider buying a Vita. I suppose it is technically available on PSP as well, but mine failed years ago. It is basically a cross between Phoenix Wright and Battle Royale, if Battle Royale was run by a psychotic, teddy bear and involved a court room drama with lethal consequences instead of just fighting. It is weird and Japanese and fun. Of course, I’ve only actually seen it played, since I don’t own a Vita and don’t plan on it.

Valkyria Chronicles for PC/PS3
This game technically came out nearly a decade ago but until recently has been a bit hard to come by. It feels like cheating to give an award in 2014 for it, but it deserves mention now it is now available on PSN for PS3 and on Steam for PC. This is a fantastic mix of RPG, FPS and strategy war game.
Its themed on a magitech based WWII, complete with ethnic concentration camps (seriously), propaganda wars, serious character growth, batshit insane leaders on both side and the knowledge that any character can die at any time. Anyone who likes RPG’s really needs to play this one.

Persona 4 for PS3
See Valkyria Chronicles. If you like JRPG’s at all, Persona 4 is a must buy, though it’s a bit “weirder” than Valkyria Chronicles, and the dungeons can be really unforgiving if you don’t optimize.

Shadows of Mordor
I didn’t quite gush over this game as much as most other people. The closest thing I can think of to it is Batman: Arkham City, only without nearly as interesting a story. Still, its nemesis system is fun and randomly makes what should be regular “easy” fights suddenly turn into fit inducing frustrating battles as Doche the Craven (that boss who you were sure you decapitated five minutes ago) suddenly decides to pay you back by coming at you just as you are starting a fight against another boss. I just couldn’t get behind it as much as some other people, but if you like beat ‘em ups or the Middle Earth universe, this is worth buying.

Notes 2015-  I ended up playing this a bit more. While my opinion of it has improved slightly, I never bothered finishing it.

Borderlands the Pre Sequel
It’s pretty good. Not great, just good. Its well written, but I think I’m getting bored of the formulae. Sadly, this puts it well above the pack for 2014, so it deserves mentioning anyway.

Obligatory list of dubious awards

Akiba’s Trip – “Oh, Japan!” Award

Oh Japan

Oh Japan

A beat em up RPG game where you play a nerd who fights vampires…. so you have to strip people to expose them to sunlight. It’s on the PSN store. I honestly don’t even know if it’s any good. I love quirky Japanese games (I bought Way of the Samurai and Yakuza 4), but couldn’t quite bring myself to pick this one up. But the fact that a game this weird exists on the PSN store is hilarious.

Beyond Earth – Huge Underwhelming Disappointment Award)

Beyond Earth, by Firaxis Studios

Firaxis, I am Dissapoint

Firaxis, I am Dissapoint

It not a bad game, it is just so… bland. It’s the first Civ game I’ve had no desire to really play. I set the game to the hardest difficulty, took over half the map, and just don’t have the heart to finish. This game is trying to emulate SMAC, but it just doesn’t measure up. It neither has the writing chops to make me care about the world or my faction, or the gaming chops to really make me interested in conquering the world, because the AI can’t stop me on the hardest levels. It failed to really engage me once I actually started playing it, and that’s the first time that’s happened with a Firaxis game. There’s no real excuse for a game to be so unengaging when most of its engine was developed back in 2010.

2015- This game is still underwhelming. While the balance issues have largely been patched out, the game just doesn’t have any character or flavor to it. It’s paint by numbers Civ with a shitty theme and a lot of ideas that don’t go anywhere or mean anything. It has not been a good year for Space 4X.

Assassin’s Creed Unity – Awful AAA title and why Ubisoft should be Ashamed Award
You know it’s going to suck when they make a review embargo. Ubisoft released early copies of Assassin`s Creed: Unity to the gaming press, and then issued a review embargo set to expire 12 hours AFTER the launch of the game. Thus, reviewers who had early copies of the game couldn`t warn consumers that the game was buggy as hell in single player with constant glitches ranging from distracting to game breaking. As for its much hyped multiplayer, it was a totally broken hot mess (with recommended tech solutions like “delete all your friends and play offline”).

Ubisoft was lambasted for this by critics, but a few weeks later announced review embargos for their upcoming game, “The crew”, and the gaming world collectively facepalmed. And you have yet another reason not to ever pre-order stuff, particularly from Ubisoft.

Dungeon Keeper Mobile – Awful AAA Mobile Title and why EA should be ashamed award



Because, it just wouldn’t be a shit list without EA, wouldn’t it? Everything you need to know about this wretched, festering boil can be summed up with two overused clichés that these games utterly deserve:

1) This isn’t really a video game. There’s no strategy involved in this “game”. There’s no real gameplay at all. Just build a room, and either wait 24 hours for it to dig a tile, or spend real money so you can start another timer and spend more money. People may say virtual novels aren’t really games, but at least you have some options and the game has a narrative, a story you follow. This doesn’t even have that.

2) This is an example of everything that’s wrong with video gaming today. The fact that EA thinks they can slap mechanics more exploitive than Farmville and sell that shit to people who grew up with Dungeon Keeper (who are now in their early 30’s) speaks volumes about how completely out of touch the company is and how dimly they view their own customers.

This is awful, even by mobile standards.

People, I give you Electronic Arts, masters years of buying up your childhood memories and whipping that dead horse for the next 20 years with endless and soulless shovelware. I’d say EA is the Micheal Bay of gaming, but their mobile division is utterly devoid of even the explosions, cheap laughs and shallow entertainment that Bay’s movie. At least Bay knows who he’s making the movie for.

Gamergate Reasons Gamers should be ashamed Award
Because sigh.


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