An opinionated piece from an opinionated man
Here we are folks, bringing another year of our lives to a close. This is often a time of reflection for us all, a time for thinking about where we’ve been and how far we’ve come and the little things along the way. Well lets talk about games, that is why you’re hear right? We’ve had a pretty solid year in games. Although there were quite a few disappointments and growing pains into a new console generation, we have also had quite a few showstoppers if I might say, I’m really getting the feeling that the industry is coming into its own compared to times past. We saw Nintendo get backed into a corner with a retaliation of masterpieces. Some of those quirky kickstarter games get made into an actual product (that were also incredibly good). In my case a rekindled interest in a great game company, whose magic I thought was fleeting for several years. Well you didn’t come here to listen to this man’s ramblings so let’s get into this thing yeah?
This was a game that honestly had no excuse of taking this long to be thought of, but by god is it genius. Nidhogg is a fast paced sword dueling game where you strive to push through your opponent through a side-scrolling map divided into 7 sections. Any attack will kill your opponent instantly allowing you to progress forward until your opponent spawns and blocks your path again. It is a fighting game boiled down to its simplest form. The execution of the gameplay is easy enough for anyone to play , but the mind games is where this game shines. If any of this sounds appealing to you give it a shot, it’ll run on basically any PC.
9: Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-
Have I mentioned that Guilty Gear is FUCKING COOL! Seriously if you have a Playstation 3, 4 and you enjoy very technical fighting games give this one a shot. Would you believe me if I said what you saw in that picture were 3d models? Those wizards at Arc System Works managed to make 3d models look and feel like sprites, allowing dynamic camera and the most amazing intros and supers I have ever seen in a fighting game.
8: The Binding of Issac: Rebirth
Have you ever wanted to descend from your moms basement into the bowels of heaven and hell alone, naked with only tears as your defense against evil. Neither have I, but damn I love this game. You’re Issac, an innocent infant running and hiding from your insane christian mother. This game is a rogue-like which offers a completely different experience every time you press play. You descend through many floors of a procedural generated dungeon collecting power-ups from a massive pool of options as well as bosses with ascending difficulty (also from a massive pool of options) It relies on your competence as a player in most cases with the occasional respite of a lucky item combination that can make you unstoppable. There is so much to unlock and so much to learn you can pour 100s if not 1000s of hours into this game to master it. Go play it, its awesome.
7: World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
World of Warcraft and I have a very long, and strange relationship. For many years as a young adult I was utterly captivated by this game. For many years as a less young adult I’ve also hated it as well. I’d step in for a little while and take a poke at a new expansion but ultimately Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria were just lost on me. I came to hate the cycle, you may not know what I mean by “the cycle” but I’m sure many players of this game will understand. You work your ass off in this game to stay current and participate in its content whether its raiding or arena that suits your fancy only for all that work to be trivialized and blown away in the next content patch. If there isn’t a story to be invested in during this it all just seems so damn pointless.
I just couldn’t get invested in the past two expansions at all, and came to really hate the MMO model in general because it seemed to prioritize getting people to play rather than getting people to have fun. Draenor however just feels different to me, finally after saving the world a dozen times I actually finally feel like I get to participate as leadership of my faction. I really like the garrison system, it added what the game needed. Its nice to not be shoved into the legions of other players all the time and actually have your own little haven to get things done, only venturing out into the world when necessary to accomplish something. On top of that you get something other than pretty armor to show for all of your hard work. The story is great as well I was totally invested out of the gate, that lineup of baddies just begs to get smashed by my shield.
6: Shovel Knight
STRIKE THE EARTH! Not only is this a legendary game, but its development is an incredible story as well. This was a kickstarter game, this showed us how great a product from this origin can truly be. I’m just so happy that I could play this developer’s intended vision for their product with no corporate overhead bullshit keeping it from being anything less than what it is. You are Shovel Knight, A man searching for a treasure that cannot be spent. In times past him and his trusted companion Shield Knight journeyed the world far and wide in search of treasure and adventure. Disaster seeks the pair when their journey brings them to the Tower of Fate, they fall victim to the power of a cursed amulet. Shovel Knight grieves in solitude while an evil enchantress rises to power. When Shovel Knight regains his way he takes it upon himself to right the wrongs of the world against the evil enchantress and her “Knights of No Quarter”.
5: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
Need I really say more? This is such an excellent game that had an incredible amount of work and love poured into it. Smash 4 is just a pure experience, they just keep you in the game. They have simply done everything in their power to make that the best experience it can be. There just isn’t anything else to say about it. Go buy a Wii U already and have a good time with your friends.
4: Mario Kart 8
Man Nintendo put out some great games this year. This was the game that put me deadset on purchasing a Wii U from the moments I put hands on it killing time in a mall Game Stop. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long as a dear friend gifted me one literally days later. I happened to be on somewhat lengthy vacation to my home state with hardly any games with me when I first got this, and boy did I put some time down on it. Everything about this game is fantastic, from the music to how deep the rabbit hole can get to lower those lap times. There is a great roster of racers, vehicles customizations, and incredible gameplay. This is the best Mario Kart by a country mile. Go buy a Wii U.
3: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
Much like World of Warcraft I really disliked Diablo III for well over a year from its release. Between the terrible launch and just obvious lack of foresight in progression and the effect of the auction house it was just a total shit show. At the end of the day I still bought it and would poke at it little by little over time. Eventually development changed hands, and the folks who took the reigns slowly made changes that made the game better. Soon before this expansion my friends and I were really enjoying the game. A ways into the expansion however we were totally hooked. They’ve done so much to make this game a fun experience with its adventure mode dungeons, paragon leveling, and rift dungeons. What places this so high on my list though is what this game did for me personally.
For most of my life I lacked common ground with my family when it came to gaming. My father originally got me into video games back in the early 90s, but from his work and such just dropped off of it by about 1995 completely and just never had any interest there again. Into my adult years we’d have little interactions about games, but so much time was lost that even if he thought something was cool it would just be too difficult to play. Getting people into games or back into games after a long hiatus is a very difficult thing, but a major thing I would avoid is anything with complex controls. A thing like camera controls seems simple to most gamers, but is totally unapproachable to many.
Well I introduced my dad to Diablo 3 with the starter edition, and the adventures of Conan the Barbarian and Belmont the Demon Hunter began. He bought the game the night he tried it and got way into it. It took time to teach the game in its entirety, but now we play every week and have an opportunity to connect even from across the country. So because of that this game is now very special to me. For those curious he is now Paragon level 200 with a full Leap/Quake Immortal Kings Build.
2: Bayonetta 2
This game is an all-time legendary essential, and my review says it all. GO BUY A WII U!
1: Dark Souls II
Strap in kids, I don’t even know where to start. Let me begin by saying this was also my most disappointing game of 2014, possibly even my entire life so far I’ll explain later. I love the souls series, I picked up a copy of Demon’s Souls years back at its launch, coming off of my long time of playing World of Warcraft, and basically nothing else I got my ASS KICKED by Boletarian Palace 1-1. Something captivated me about how the game played but I’ll admit I shelved it for at least 6 months before giving it another shot. I basically forced myself to get good at video games again because my pride could not tolerate a game besting me fairly.
I beat Demon’s souls. Then I beat it again. Then I played it for over 1200 hours. Then Dark Souls came out, and my body was fucking ready. Everything was superior over its predecessor, I fell in love with this series and dumped I don’t even know how much more time into the first game on Xbox PS3 and PC (I literally bought and played this game on all three systems), I know the lore, I know the fights, I can SL1 clear the game, I can speed-run the game. This game was what was responsible for making me a better gamer than I’ve ever been. In the coming months before Dark Souls 2 was released I was like a ravenous dog, the hype was affecting my life. I bought the Collectors Edition and the hardback guide just because EpicNameBro and AGermanSpy participated in its creation. At this point I definitely did not need a guide. I shamelessly put my life on hold to tear this game a new asshole. This time however the game had far more noticeable flaws, don’t get me wrong its still amazing but some of the areas are pretty haphazardly put together, there are too many humanoid +1 sized bosses with a greatsword. I can go on for pages about whats wrong, because I judge what I truly love the most harshly.
I peered into the fog in search of answers for very important questions and found none. When they connected this world to the first game, it opened a whole new massive layer of depth to what with completely unknown about the nature of the world in the first game. There are simply unanswerable questions in this narrative outside of speculation. What started the cycle of fire, prosperity, disparity, and rebirth. Was there a beginning or was it eternal? What did Vendrick truly steal from the giants? What is the nature of Manus, the abyss. Where did our undead monarch actually come from before entering Things Betwixt and how did he get there. Is the Emerald Herald truly born of dragons and contrived by men? Or is she a betrayer that we fed immense power to all along? These are questions that have literally kept me up at night. I can go on and on as well, and have done so on numerous email correspondence with various enthusiasts from the community. Unfortunately the breadcrumbs just lead to more and more breadcrumbs in an infinite expanse with no answer. Maybe Scholar of the First Sin will touch on some of these questions, but I’m prepared to accept that they will not. This game has actually touched me on a deep level and is the first game to give me an existential crisis. Oh and the PvP is pretty good too.
You can bet that I’m ready for Bloodborne. See you on the next one.
-Sean “Roundabout” Boyce
Honorable mentions in no particular order:
Far Cry 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Alien: Isolation, Transistor, Bravely Default, Freedom Wars