My Top 5 Games List Thingy of 2014:

Written By: Jacob Reynoso 2014 was quite an interesting year for gaming. More crowd funded projects being fulfilled. Milestones for E-Sports. Major releases with problematic launches. Surprise hits. A wide range of interesting news, events and controversies. For better or for worse, 2014 was interesting. So, to start off the New Year, how about a Top 5 list of games for the year gone by? In no particular order: The Banner Saga (Stoic/Versus Evil; MS Win, OS X, PS4, Android, iOS, PS Vita) Steam: GOG: 01 02 I backed this on crowdfunding website Kickstarter mostly because of two factors: the beautiful art, and composer Austin Wintory, whose work on PS3's Journey I just loved. The Banner Saga is a beautiful journey through a Scandinavian/Viking-esque fantasy world in chaos, and I'm glad I backed it. 03 It's part survival game, part "Choose Your Own Adventure", with a decent turn-based combat system that's very nicely animated using a rotoscope style reminiscent of older cartoons. The art in the final product is consistently beautiful. The pace of your parties traveling through the world allows you to take in the great art, and it's accentuated by the great soundtrack. 04 While the story is straightforward and the experience rather short, the impact is quite strong and I do think it's worth going through at least once or twice. I'd advise anyone interested in a copy to also grab the Soundtrack. The Deluxe bundle on Steam has it, and the game, especially during Sales, is quite affordable anyway. A sequel has been announced.   Transistor (Supergiant Games; MS Win, PS4, OS X, Linux) Steam: 01   02 I'll be honest: I've never finished Bastion. It's pretty, the music is great, but it didn't really grab me, and its sitting there on my gaming backlog with stuff like Brothers and Child of Light. Transistor, on the other hand, got me interested the day they announced it. The interest and the self-generated hype was justified: Transistor is a beautiful game with an awesome soundtrack. 03 You even have a button to have your character 'hum' along. The game mechanics are great, too: while you can play combat in real-time, the mechanics shine when you see the pause-and-plan system in play. It seems relatively simple at first glance, but, as the game progresses, you'll have to use more skills and combos, in both combat and in setting up the protagonist's skills. 04 All throughout, it's a beautiful and colourful experience: from the combat, to the characters, to the UI. Pretty. I highly recommend it, and, as with the Banner Saga, I also highly recommend getting it with the soundtrack.         Shadowrun: Dragonfall Director's Cut (Harebrained Schemes; MS Win, OS X, Linux, iPad, Android) Steam: 01   02 I've been a fan of the Shadowrun setting since the 90s. So when a Kickstarter, Shadowrun Returns, popped up involving people behind the original Shadowrun pen-and-paper RPG, lead by Jordan Weisman, I just 'had' to back it. 03 Shadowrun Returns released in 2013 and it was pretty good. It did have one popular complaint: the story campaign was too short. Sure, it came with a toolkit to allow for User Generated Content, of which there are now a good number, but people were expecting more from the packaged campaign. Fortunately, less than a year a later, the much beefier DLC expansion for SR Returns, Dragonfall, was released. It improved on the game significantly, especially in regard to story, content and even a polishing of the mechanics. A few months later, the Director's Cut was released, which further improved on the expansion, and was also a stand-alone product (but free to both backers and Dragonfall DLC owners). 04 What is Shadowrun? It's cyberpunk with magic. Think Blade Runner, but with Dragons (one of which is a CEO), Elves, Fireball spells, Shamanic rituals and spirits, and a virtual playground/battleground called the Matrix. What is SR Dragonfall? You're a Shadowrunner, a private contractor/mercenary/criminal. You could be  a mage, or cyber'd up 'street samurai', or a decker who jacks into the Matrix, or a little of each. In Berlin. In a time of Anarchy and Megacorps. How does it play? Turn-based combat. Pretty good, but not too complex, especially if you're one for any of the X-COM/XCOM games. Why should I get it? 'cause the story's solid, the characters, story and setting are interesting, and the music's catchy. A new Shadowrun game Kickstarter, by the same developer, has been announced.   Dragon Age Inquisition (Bioware/EA; MS Win, PS3, PS4, XB360, XBOne) Origin: 01   02 Bioware's been rather disappointing in the past few years: Dragon Age 2 felt incomplete and rushed out to market. Mass Effect 3 was mechanically ok, but suffered in terms of narrative, especially at the end. Star Wars The Old Republic was, for the most part, a typical MMO. Dragon Age Inquisition feels like a 'return to form'. It's ambitious and huge. Not exactly an 'open world', but large enough to consume tens of hours even if you focus on just the necessary portions to advance the plot. Not that you should, as the characters and locales are quite well done and worth exploring. 03 It isn't perfect, though. As someone who loved Dragon Age: Origins, I found Inquisition's combat and its controls weak. The tactical combat of DA Origins, and even DA2, is replaced with something that feels stiffer and more MMO-like. Camera controls on PC are quite poor and micromanagement this time around feels less intuitive. The MMO influence is also felt throughout most of the other aspects of the game: the world layout, the activities and side quests, the way it handles gathering and crafting. 04   Still, it's probably my most played CRPG of last year. Origin tells me I've clocked close to 270 hours on it. If modders manage to improve the game, I imagine that I'll spend more time on it yet. The story is quite well done. The dialogue, characters, banter and voice-acting are some of Bioware's best. 05 The world itself is quite pretty: great art design, much improved lighting and atmosphere. Even my minor complaint of the world feeling MMO-ish doesn't detract from some of the really great views one can see in Inquisition's world. I just wish the mounts were faster. N.B.: while my experience with DA Inquisition has been mostly positive, I'd recommend waiting for more patches and polish. While it released in a working state, it's not without issues.   Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (Monolith Production/WB Interactive Ent.; MS Win, PS3, PS4, XB360, XBOne) Steam: 01 02 If I had to pick a game that would be my 2014 'Game of the Year', it would be Shadow of Mordor. I've played a little of Arkham City, and most of the Assassin's Creed games, and none of them felt as smooth and responsive with combat as Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. The swordplay, especially once you've hit a killstreak and your sword is glowing, is quite satisfying. Even now, while playing with the Photo mode for screenshots for this list, I still wince whenever I perform an Execution. Seeing the glowing blue sword impaled through an orc's skull makes me almost feel sorry for them. Almost. 03 There are some things that, say, Assassin's Creed does better, like traversal and traversal animations, but Shadow of Mordor, overall, feels just so much more polished. That also goes for its performance on PC: I don't recall any major issues with the game when I played it from launch up to completion. 04 Music, art style and design, voice acting, and most animations are top notch, as well. I've seen it argued that the story is a bit weak, but as someone familiar with Tolkien lore, and who doesn't mind Peter Jackson's take on Middle-earth too much, I enjoyed the story and presentation. 05 The much-lauded Nemesis system, where enemies that kill you can grow stronger, also allow for  emergent storytelling. That guy who killed you? Yeah, you'd want payback. Also, since death isn't necessarily a failure state, the urge to keep always going forward and playing is pretty strong. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor: Game of the Year, in my humble opinion.   Honorable Mentions: “First Sucker of Time for 2015”: Endless Legend (Amplitude Studios/Iceberg Interactive; MS Win, OS X) Steam:   01 02 Released in late 2014, but something which I only got at the end of the last Steam Sale a week ago. I've sunk almost 70 hours since then. Nice background music, pretty visuals. There may be performance issues. Engaging turn-based strategy 4X with some RPG elements, including heroes and quests. It could do with a lot more improvements, but still enaging. Also, each faction has different mechanics that force considerable gameplay style changes.   “My Most Played MOBA of 2014”: Heroes of the Storm (Blizzard Ent.; MS Win, OS X) Website: Status: “Technical Alpha” 01   02 Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm: probably the easiest MOBA to get into. No items. No last hits. XP is shared by the entire team. Overall, a simpler game than any of the other popular MOBAs (e.g., DotA2, LoL, SMITE). It makes up for this simpler gameplay with a greater need for teamwork. And I find myself playing it on a fairly regular basis. 03 This need for teamwork is highlighted by having to do map-specific objectives: in one map, you have to collect gold to get the pirate to shoot your enemies' towers; in another, you must hold two locations to activate a shrine that turns your hero into a fire-breathing, hero-kicking, draconic siege engine. It's a pretty enough game, and, for something in 'Technical Alpha', it feels more polished than many other released games out there. 04 Having established characters from Blizzard's Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo franchises greatly adds to the appeal, especially for someone like me who has enjoyed that developer's products over the decades. Closed Beta for HotS starts January 13, 2015   “Best Video Game Trailer of 2014”: “This is EVE”: Want more? I'd recommend Forbes' Best Video Games of 2014 with it's nice tier system (which I was tempted to borrow...): I'd also recommend checking out John “Totalbiscuit” Bain's awesome 'Arbitrary Game Awards – 2014': ...and his Top 10 Games of 2014: All games played on PC. Screenshots are my own. My System Specs: i7-2600k 3.4GHz, GTX670 2GB, 8GB DDR3 1333MHz, Win7-64, on 1280x1024 native res., 'cause I'm using this old LCD 'til it dies, apparently. Jacob Picture Jacob Reynoso is a bum who plays video games.        

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Tech Editor, gear head , photographer, videographer, editor and all around lover of technology.

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