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Posted December 27, 2014 by Tim Norman in Feature
 
 

Tim’s Top 5 Games of 2014


2014 will likely go down as one of the lesser years in gaming history, with only a handful of genuinely great releases and a lot of games that seemed to be marking time as developers get more familiar with the PS4 and XBox One. On the other hand, indie games had a strong year, and helped fill up some of the larger-than-usual gaps between big name releases. With all that said, here’s 5 actually good games to come out in 2014…

Elder Scrolls Online

I was harsh on Elder Scrolls Online back when it was in beta. It felt clunky and slow, and it was as though Zenimax Online Studios had been forced to compromise on many of the things that make an Elder Scrolls game an Elder Scrolls game. Then it showed up on Steam for half-price and I decided to take a second look. I’m glad I did because I haven’t been this enamoured with an MMORPG since World of Warcraft, a game I spent seven years playing on an almost daily basis. Hell, I’ve actually been paying for a regular subscription to ESO.

What’s so compelling is that ESO is that it’s able to draw on the rich, creative world of the Elder Scrolls series, and it absolutely doesn’t compromise on its storytelling, something that’s generally a weakness of MMOs. It is visually gorgeous, features another great Elder Scrolls soundtrack and even has fully voiced characters for pretty much everyone. If you’re willing to pay the monthly fee, then there isn’t an MMO out there right now that comes close to what ESO is doing.

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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Okay, so Hearthstone was technically around as an invite-only beta in 2013, but it wasn’t until March that it was opened to everyone. By that time, it had already established a lively competitive scene, and was consistently one of the most popular games on Twitch.tv.In fact, it’s fair to say that the popularity of streaming Hearthstone has made minor internet celebrities out of people like Trump, Amaz, Noxious, Crendor, Forsen and Hafu, among many, many others. Not to mention it’s responsible for the most consistently entertaining Youtube video series of the year.

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Dragon Age: Inquisition

I would have reviewed Dragon Age: Inquisition by now, but I’m well over seventy hours in and nowhere near close to the end of the game. If that suggests a vast, daunting fantasy roleplaying experience to you, then that’s only because it is. BioWare clearly set out to make amends after the flawed Dragon Age II, and they’ve succeeded in a huge way by producing the best game in the series so far. The best part is that they’ve done this without compromising the elements that made the series so interesting to begin with. Players who go in expecting the next Skyrim might feel a little disappointed, but for everyone else, this is the fantasy RPG at its finest.

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Bayonetta 2

Since my review, I’ve decided that, just maybe, Bayonetta 2 doesn’t quite live up to the brilliance of the original, but it comes close enough that I don’t care. Perhaps the problem isn’t that it’s not as good, but that it’s just a bit different, a sidestep rather than a downgrade. It still offers hours of unadulterated crazy action, and it has a high replay value thanks to that never-ending desire to get all the Pure Platinum medals. Not to mention all the wonderful references to Nintendo’s games buried within (mostly replacing the Sega references from the original) and the beautiful rhythm of combat.

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Forza Horizon 2

Replacing the windswept mountains of Colorado for the sunny beaches of the Mediterranean coast between France and Italy, Forza Horizon 2 is one of the first games that feels properly “next-generation”. Visually, it’s a masterclass in what can be done with the XBone’s GPU, with beautiful sunsets and sunrises, stunning weather effects and some amazing landscapes. Couple that with gorgeously detailed car models, where the lighting plays realistically off the highly detailed interior, the full force of the Forza racing engine, and the ability to drive anywhere on the map, on-road or off-road, and you have a game that celebrates the freedom of driving as much as the cars themselves. Even people who don’t normally give driving games a second glance would do well to take a good look at Forza Horizon 2.

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Some honorable mentions

There’s a few games that I could have put on the list, but didn’t for whatever reason. Some of them are still worth giving a mention to, so here goes…

  • World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor: A fantastic return to form after the disappointing Mists of Pandaria expansion. WoD refreshes the WoW experience, and it’s no wonder so many players returned to the game immediately after launch. If you’re an old WoW hand, there’s never been a better time to get back into it.
  • Divinity: Original Sin: And the award for ‘sleeper hit of the year’ goes to… The latest in a long line of niche PC RPGs, Divinity: Original Sin is as pure a PC roleplaying experience as it was possible to get in 2014, and well worth investigating if that’s your thing.
  • Desert Golfing: The best mobile games are the ones that fill in the little gaps when you have nothing else to do and only your phone on you. Desert Golfling doesn’t even have a title screen, putting you into the action immediately. It also doesn’t ever let you go back, forcing you to proceed forever through an endless series of holes as your score inexorably increases.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn: That the original FFXIV was so disastrously bad that Square Enix actually decided to shut it down and rebuild it from the ground up shows that they are, at the least, committed to making it a success. The good news is that FFXIV:ARR is the follow-up to the legendary Final Fantasy XI that fans wanted. If you like your MMOs Japanese-flavoured, then this is definitely worth getting.
    Shovel Knight: I recently got this as a Christmas gift on Steam, and have loved every second of it. I haven’t played an indie platformer that captures the look and feel of classic NES platformers like Mega Man and Super Mario Bros quite as well as Shovel Knight does. The control is dead-on perfect, the colour palette is just right and the level design is the best this side of a Nintendo studio.

 


Tim Norman

 
Raised in the arcades of the 1990s, Tim believes that if you're not playing for score, then you're not playing.


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