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Armed Gamer’s Games of The Year

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Whoo boy! What a year it’s been! So much has happened and of course there have been plenty of games to keep us busy for 2014! With the year just about over (less than 24 hours, y’all!) I decided to ask my writers what their favorite indie games were, their biggest disappointments, and their games of the year. Keep reading below to find out what we all chose!

Best Indie Title

Steve – Strike Vector

This is a game that came totally out of left field for me, but honestly it just worked great in my mind. Strike Vector is a dogfighting/aerial combat game that’s fast paced, challenging, and great to play against others. I wish more people would play it so the scene could grow, but honestly it’s a super tight game I had a hell of a lot of fun playing. I still occasionally hop on just to see what I can do despite the fact that I suck horribly at it. It’s still an incredibly casual player of the game, but I hop on every now and then just for the exciting fights and crazy, trippy maps. It’s definitely not a game for someone who gets motion sickness easily, but holy crap is it fun.

Zach – This War of Mine

I wanted to put Never Alone as an honorable mention because it really is a great game. It is that kind of game you remember seeing. The story and art direction was so fantastic. You can read my review for it here. But I found This War of Mine to be the best indie game I played this year. Despite being part of a massive surge of survival in the last year, 11-bit proved they know game development and made a truly unique survival experience.

11-bit Studios is the creator of the genre-defying Anomaly tower defense series. They clearly took that knowledge and applied it to This War of Mine that had reletively simple survival and combat mechanics, but flipped the perspective of war around. Instead of playing as a God of War like you do in nearly every war game, you play as a civilian, the true victim of war. This alone showed that you can have a war game that doesn’t make playing soldier the focal point.

Honorable mention goes to Never Alone

Deborah – Risk of Rain

When a good friend of mine gifted Risk of Rain to me on a whim, I didn’t think much of it at first. But despite being a side-scroller with dated graphics and simple controls, this game has more to it than it appears. There’s no save points – you finish a level and you move on. Death is permanent and the monsters hit hard, so there’s really no chance for you to just shamble aimlessly about and shoot things. Getting past certain levels takes a certain amount of ingenuity and creativity that you might not consider in a game that looks like this, and I found myself unexpectedly pausing the game to think of new strategies (one of which involved bouncing up and down while shooting enemies on a platform across from me). It’s outer space 8-bit Dark Souls, and you’ve got to stay on top of your game.

Emily – Child of Light

Child of Light may not be a “real” Indie game, but honestly, it felt like one. That was perhaps the best turn based RPG I’ve played in a long time. Graphically whimsical, and the fact that everything was written in prose severely touched my inner literary nerd. As for a real Indie game, I didn’t really play any 🙁

Biggest Disappointment

Steve – Watch_Dogs

In a year that has been categorized by disappointments, it’s hard to choose just one. Destiny springs to mind as a strong contender, or even Assassin’s Creed: Unity, but if I’m being honest, Watch_Dogs disappointed even more. Don’t get me wrong, none of the games are strictly awful or unplayable. In fact, they could be quite fun and good, but they all were in their own way disappointing: Watch_Dogs most of all. There were moments where I could see the game it should have been, but more often than not it fell too short of greatness, leaving me feeling flat. The side missions that tried to build up lore and intense stories ended up just being minor events with no real emotion, and the campaign itself seemed to jump from one concept to the next only the loose concept of ‘hacker noir’ to keep the game rolling.

Couple those issues with the company’s decision to nerf the graphic capabilities of the PC version so they didn’t appear too far ahead of the consoles, and you get a game that disappoints on pretty much all levels. There is so much I would have loved to see, but in the end just about every decision left me flat.

Zach – Destiny

There is no doubt that these two games disappointed gamers everywhere. I put Watch_Dogs as an honorable mention because I was much more disappointed with Destiny. Watch_Dog‘s visuals ended up being a rather heated controversy after “E3 Graphic Files” were found in the coding of the PC version. But it didn’t stop there, the story received massive backlash for being convoluted and lazy. It simply lived up to none of the hype. Destiny did too, but for me, it was a bigger deal because I wasn’t actually looking forward to the game.

I saw Destiny at E3 two years in a row and both times I saw the same general content. I wasn’t very impressed with what I saw. Sure it was enjoyable, but after I participated in two beta tests I was left wanting more. I wanted to see how much bigger the game was going to be, so I kept my expectations low. I felt like this was a better option because that way, I could not be disappointed. Oh boy was I wrong. The final product was exactly what I played in the two betas. It disappointed someone who wasn’t even looking forward to the game, and that’s why it gets this award.

Honorable mention goes to Watch_Dogs

Deborah – The Evil Within

When I heard that The Evil Within was a product of two of my favorite game companies, Bethesda and Shinji Mikami, I expected a great deal more than what we got in the final product. It was a combination of two studios – unfortunately, instead of creating something new and different as the trailers seemed to imply, they made a Resident Evil game with a confusing, messy plot. It isn’t exactly easy to create a story based around alternate realities and different states of being, and ultimately the end result was a roller coaster of flashbacks and fade-outs with some combat in-between. It felt as though they were trying to emulate Silent Hill and failed, trying to pack too many elements into one game. The Evil Within isn’t a horrible game, but it does feel very ‘meh’, at best.

Emily – N/A

As for the worst game, I didn’t really play many games I disliked. In fact, I can’t think of any. Then again, I haven’t played much within the last several months. At least, any of the games I disliked actually weren’t from this past year.

Whiskey – Civilization: Beyond Earth

Really Firaxis? This one seemed like a mediocre mod that you dropped on top of the Civ 5 engine. If you’re going to sell something that transparent as a game, at least have the guy that developed Fall From Heaven make it.

Games of the Year

Steve – Super Smash Bros.

Discussing “Game of the Year” titles is tough. How do you justify that title? Is it a game that just technically worked best out of all of the games I’ve played, or is it a game that helped redefine gaming, or is it a game that justifies or enhances the platform altogether?

While I agree with Deborah and Emily that Dragon Age: Inquisition is a phenomenal game, I would have to say it stops just short of real GOTY material for me. The bugs I experienced sort of pulled it out of contention for me. Instead, the real game of the year in my opinion is Super Smash Bros. The 4th game in the franchise absolutely gets everything right from the various game modes, to the champions, to, well… everything. I can’t really pick out any major flaws.

The showing of Super Smash Bros. was so strong, I think, that it just about justifies the purchase of a Wii U on its own. Of course, the Wii U has other strong titles, but I’d dare to say that Sm4sh is the first ‘must-own’ title for the system, and just like Tetris helped the Game Boy outsell the Game Gear, I think Sm4sh is going to really help Nintendo have one of the best years they’ve had in a while. I think its importance in keeping Nintendo a viable company is really the reason why this is Game of the Year in my book.

Zach – N/A

As you could tell from my review, I really enjoyed Sunset Overdrive. The fast and frenetic combat was fluid and the story was awesome. The writing and environment was incredibly clever. Of course, the game had a massive arsenal of unique and diverse weapons which helped keep the game enjoyable. Sure, it had some of those traditional repetitive collect-a-thon problems, but the single-player campaign pacing was balanced and enjoyable. But when I say, “Sunset Overdrive deserves Game of the Year” it just does not sound right.

This is why my award for Game of the Year is “Not Applicable” because this year was pretty terrible for gaming. Dragon Age: Inquisition doesn’t even come close to deserving it because it released incredibly close to the end of the year and it alone has a lost of game design flaws as well as technical ones. Neither of Assassin’s Creed games impressed me, Destiny deserves no praise, and when I try to think of the other games I played this year, I draw up a blank. When the subject of GOTY comes up, the answer should be instant. Or so many idea should come up and it becomes a struggle to pick just one. That was not the case for 2014. So no game gets the award from me.

Honorable mention goes to Sunset Overdrive

Deborah – Dragon Age: Inquisition

I have the greatest amount of respect and love for this game and its developers. Bioware successfully restored my faith in them with this amazing addition to the series, delivering just about everything that they had promised and more. From the very beginning, it drew me back into Thedas, bringing back the same feeling of belonging that I’d felt when I picked up Dragon Age: Origins on a whim back in 2009.

For me, the best game sequels are the ones that rekindle a certain experience, one that I can’t really explain accurately in words. As if you’re experiencing the first game again, only this time you’re more deeply involved. Dragon Age: Inquisition did this for me, and continued to do it even after I beat the game and rerolled as a new character. Replayability is solid – you can change how you left the world in the first two games, and make different choices with different characters. The music, the characters, the voice acting, and the cinematics all work together to make this one of the most immersive experiences I’ve ever had.

I spent months flailing with excitement for this game, and I definitely got what I paid for and more. It’s truly an amazing experience.

Emily – Dragon Age: Inquisition

Game of the Year hands down is Dragon Age: Inquisition. Better battle system, so much more to see and do, fun characters, and tons of ways to get in touch with my secret inner lesbian side! Not really, but my character always is a whore. Engaging story, and you can finally play as a Qunari!

Whiskey – Divinity: Original Sin

Divinity: Original Sin is my choice for game of the year. In a year simply glutted with titles that did some of the same things, Divinity kicked some ass, took some names and set everything on electrical fire or some other crazy combination of elements. Original Sin is a game that embraces its roots, but forges ahead to do new and different things. It’s a stranger in a familiar land, tossing new and exciting changes our way to get us to question how we play the top down RPG, and it offered crafting and customization options that actually required thought, planning and direction from the player. Yes, you can royally fuck up the game if you make too many big mistakes, and that is awesome.

Honorable mention goes to Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Never has running around stabbing orcs or turning them into my army of obedient servants been so rewarding.

So, gamers, what are your games of the year? Let us know in the comments! Also, support independent games journalism and contribute to our Patreon campaign!

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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