2014 was a fantastic year for gamers. A wealth of quality titles resulted in much indecision whilst crafting our Game of the Year lists and trying to rationalise which deserved the top spot. Another Dungeon hasn’t been around long enough for us to do a “proper” GOTY with shortlists and user voting and the like, so this year we decided to provide you with our selections and discuss them with you in the comments. Alternatively you can head over to the 2014 GOTY thread in the forums and post your thoughts and/or votes there.
Whilst 2014 was replete with stellar titles, there was one that stood head and shoulders above the rest: Dark Souls 2. It took everything I loved about the franchise and improved on it. The world was deep and diverse, rewarding players who explored, and the combat was varied with a perfect difficulty to suit. It’s rare that I replay a game, and even rarer that subsequent runs feel like a new experience. Dark Souls 2 achieved this and even after three separate playthroughs (not to mention the DLC), still left me feeling like I’d only scratched the surface. A diverse and complex title that’s easy to learn, but difficult to master. Praise the sun!
Second place was a tough choice between Transistor and Divinity: Original Sin. Transistor was a beautiful game with unique gameplay that was executed perfectly. The music and visuals were amazing and created a truly engaging ambiance. Divinity: Original Sin had exceptional open storytelling and playstyle, which created a truly great role-playing experience. It really took the genre back to its roots, whilst applying a modern style to address the issues experienced in older titles. Bayonetta 2, South Park, and Hyrule Warriors earned their nominations due to the sheer amount of enjoyment I had playing them. They were all rounded, polished titles that were well presented and offered plenty to do. The Swapper and Rayman Legends would also have made the cut as I replayed their 2014 re-releases, however, as it was a re-play for me, I decided to exclude them. Not so with Fez. With its PlayStation debut, I was able to play this amazing puzzle game for the first time. If it weren’t for the map and area navigation, this would have been a much stronger contender!
It’s worth noting that, unfortunately, I didn’t get time to play many of this year’s big releases. I’m sure games like Wolfenstein: The New Order or Middle Earth: Shadow of Morder would have been in contention had I the time to give them a play. Still, what can you do? New Year’s resolution… play all the games!
It’s always difficult to choose a single Game of the Year, but it was especially so this year, as there were a number of titles that really shone – and some that were expected to that, well… fizzled and popped. I had trouble narrowing my nominations down to five – but you can see my final list above. A few more that I feel should also receive mention (why not?): Civilisation: Beyond Earth, The Sims 4, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition, Persona Q, Shovel Knight – it was a damned good year.Why did I choose Shadow of Mordor over the others? Well, overall – and especially compared to Far Cry 4 – it was light on variation, but really heavy on innovation. While Far Cry 4 had so much to do and see, Shadow of Mordor was a little more limited in scope. That said, Far Cry 4 was just an expansion on Far Cry 3, while there is nothing quite like Shadow of Mordor.
Destiny was always going to be a contentious choice, what with the “cool” position being that it was derivative and lacking in story, I found it to be a really solid gameplay experience, and to me, that’s all that really matters. Mario Kart 8 is, in my opinion, the finest title in the series, and really goes to show that Nintendo knows how to iterate. The big surprise for me was The Banner Saga, an independent title that had so much polish that it was perfect in almost every way – if a little short.
Overall, though, Shadow of Mordor introduced brilliant new features to an established world and took the risk of trying an approach not directly linked to the movies/books. With a really refined battle mechanic, a fully realised world, and the superlative Nemesis system, it was a refreshing new take on open-world combat. Sure, it got a little too easy half-way through, and became a bit too repetitive as time dragged on, but overall it was just too sublime an experience to pass up.
Looking back at 2014, it’s been another great year for gamers. Some great new IPs and some solid sequels made this year’s lineup fantastic, but there’s one game that I played way more than any other this year. This game is part of a fantastic series that’s well known for its challenging gameplay, and this year’s iteration improved on many gameplay elements and made this title well deserving of my Game of the Year.I’m of course talking about Dark Souls II. With its much improved combat and more diverse locations, Dark Souls II is a game that I sunk well over a hundred hours into – with one one character – and then replayed a second time using a different playstyle.
To me, it’s the sort of game whereby a lot of the enjoyment comes from the gameplay, and I feel it does a great job of balancing difficulty and reward. If you haven’t picked up this game yet, wait until the “Scholar of the First Sin” edition comes out next year with all the DLC included, it will be well worth your time.
The shooting mechanics work wonderfully and a phenomenal 20-hour story unfolds through beautiful visuals.
My nominations this year are perhaps not my typical choice of interactive experience. I’ve had an incredibly busy year of moving about and long work days; there’s been little time to sit down and slog through RPG’s and AAA titles, as I would have in years gone by. While it’s been a curse, it’s also been a great opportunity to refine my tastes and figure out what I really want from an interactive experience.My game of the year is Nidhogg, a two-player duelling game in which two players try their hand at fencing in a side-scrolling environment. I enjoyed the ridiculous back-and-forth and simple controls, making it an incredibly fun party game over a few drinks with friends. The hilarious animations and unfortunate deaths that you are often met with will keep you laughing while you get super competitive with your pals.
I can’t, however, overlook the honourable mention and close second choice, which was the wonderful interactive narrative The Vanishing Game. This piece of sponsored writing, displayed as a scrolling narrative with rich video and audio backing as well as narration, stood out to me as one of the most well produced and creative interactive projects to come out during 2014. Projects that experiment with a range of mediums and include interactive elements are particularly exciting to me, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in great story telling experiences.
Winner – Pokemon Omega Ruby