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Game of the Year – 2014

January 4, 2014

Apparently forecasting NEXT year’s top games is fashionable. I’ve got to say, the PC Gamer version isn’t a bad read, and it actually provides a succinct, organized look at upcoming games I’d otherwise have forgotten about.

So here are my picks – these are the games that I’m legitimately interested in, and in some cases anxious to play. I’ve also included a “hype score” – basically how interested /I/ am in playing the game; this is more of a reference for myself, to look back at, to see what games I was excited about ended up being trite shit, and what games I didn’t care about ended up being fantastic surprises.

Age of Wonders 3 (10/10) – Without a doubt the single game that I will be pre-ordering in 2014. I’ve seen the demo videos and everything looks genuinely in the spirit of the first three games. Age of Wonders was originally a modern remake of Master of Magic, one of my favorite games of all time; so Age of Wonders 3 is really just Master of Magic 5. I couldn’t be more excited about a sequel…

Titanfall (9/10) – Titanfall  will probably end up being my “Black Ops” of 2014 – that is to say the competitive FPS game that I simply can’t get enough of. The feature that excites me the most is the opportunity to engage in huge battles, including AI controlled cannon fodder and player controlled super-soldiers and mecha. It’s basically Black Ops meets Mechwarrior meets Planetside 2. This is the primary reason that I want to get an XBox One – that and my general support for Microsoft, due primarily to the rampant philanthropy of Bill Gates.

Mass Effect 4 (10/10) – Technically a 2015 game, so I won’t say much about it for now, other than I’m very pleased to hear the series will be “continuing”. No one knows for sure if it’s a sequel, prequel, or completely unrelated game that uses the same moniker (something EA is known for).

Star Wars: Battlefront (9/10) – Another “technically 2015” game. We’ve all seen the leaked Star Wars Battlefront 3 videos (Links 1, 2 3), and it’s still a mystery why the Battlefront 3 was dropped. The mystery is particularly striking, given that the game was very much in a mid to late Beta state – based on the condition most full retail games are released in lately (Battlefield 4, WarZ, Sim City, Dead Island (PC), Magicka, Elemental, and so on).

Honestly, Star Wars Battlefront is one of the very few games that makes the Star Wars universe feel like a /war/. Moreover, it’s one of the few Star Wars games that actually features a large number of environments and characters from the Star Wars franchise, since it’s not restricted to any one era or conflict. I hope they include some kind of “single player” / “co-op” so that it’s not all Battlefield style PvP, particularly to enjoy with my little-ones. At least there was player vs AI “co-op” available in Battlefront 1 and 2 – something you can’t do in similar games (Battlefield and Planetside).

South Park: The Stick of Truth (8/10) – Games licensed from TV or film franchises are not something I typically enjoy, however I’m actually pretty excited about SP:TSoT. The main reason being that unlike most one-off licensed games, the original writers / voice actors of the series are very involved in this project. It seems like Trey Parker is taking this project quite seriously, since he was willing to let the game cook a bit longer in order to meet standards of the actual show. That’s quite the shocker, as most licensed games are RUSHED out the door, especially if Ubisoft is the publisher. The gameplay video actually looks decent, perhaps a bit reminiscent of Beavis and Butthead: Virtual Stupidity. The combat looks similar to Mario RPGs. Overall the game is shaping up to be a worthwhile. As a huge South Park fan, I am really looking forward to this game.

Cyberpunk 2077 (7/10) – I’m a big fan of CD Projekt RED – for a number of reasons, such as their for their stance on DRM and DLC, the high level of polish in their games, and the mature themes they approach in their games. While the maturity level of The Witcher is arguably distasteful, I grow tired of how shallow and cartoony action RPGs (ARPGs) tend to be. Beyond that, I fondly remember playing Shadow Run the table top RPG with friends and talking about Cyberpunk quite a bit – wishing there was a decent “cyberpunk” video game. I like the idea of  a futuristic ARPG with the level of depth and intrigue CD Projekt Red is known for – for the most part, the futuristic ARPGs of the past decade have been shallow garbage. I’m looking forward to a game with some of the qualities of Deus Ex, Mass Effect, and The Witcher.

The Witcher 3 (7/10) – Another CDPR game, this one is basically CDPR’s Skyrim. I never finished the first Witcher, and haven’t even /started/ the second one (even though I own it on PC /and/ console) – nevertheless I’m very excited to play  The Witcher 3.

Mad Max (7/10) – I’m interested in this MOSTLY because it’s being developed by the same team that brought us Just Cause (my favorite open-world game). I am also a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, in particular ones that focus on survival in a wasteland (such as Outlander and Fallout). I’m not going to get too excited just yet, since there’s been so little information released.

Hellraid (6/10) – The trailer for Hellraid looks fantastic, for a medieval L4D clone. I think there have been far too few “Fantasy FPS” video games, and far too many Iraq-war-simulators (BF2-4, CoD, MoH, CS, etc etc /etc/).

The Elder Scrolls Online (5/10) – I know that I’ll try TESO. I know that I’ll play more of TESO than I want. I know that I’ll end up rage-quitting TESO. Those are the knowns. The unknowns are: how good of an ARPG this game will be, how good the honey-moon-phase will be, and how long I’ll actually play the game. The videos that I’ve seen so far look good, but not great. What I’m mot interested in is group content, group finding, and PvP. It’s POSSIBLE that Bethesda might knock this one out of the park – but I highly doubt it.

Might & Magic X: Legacy (5/10) – The Might and Magic series has always been one of my favorite “old school” RPG franchises, and it gave rise to the Heroes series – so I’m pleased to see the series is being continued, especially using the classic turn-based, tile movement.

Star Citizen (4/10) – I loved Wing Commander Privateer, and I haven’t played a game quite like it since. The only thing that really felt similar was the more primitive Solar Winds 1 & 2. I’m skeptical of Chris Roberts and his sky-high ambition, especially since this project has been around (on paper) since Freelancer’s inception (~2001). He promised everything in Freelancer that he’s promising again with Star Citizen. To his credit, the technology to accomplish his vision of the perfect space shooter is finally real – so it’s just up to him to come up with the cash and the publisher.

EverQuest Next (3/10) – While I pledged to never play another fantasy MMO, I’m sure that EQN will be worthy of a few months subscription. I’ve read quite a bit about the game, and I like the direction they are taking the game. Plus, with the support that SOE has given Planetside 2 I’m much more likely to pick up another SOE game.

Destiny (3/10) – If this game was being developed by anyone but Bungie, I’d probably rate it much higher. Bungie tends to keep their combat, weapon choice, and customization options overly simple. Some appreciate the simplicity, but I think the numbers speak loudly: the combat and customization of the CoD is simply more fun to play. As such, I’m worried that Destiny will also feature Halo style bouncy-castle physics, castrated weapon selection, and virtually no customization options (for characters or weapons).

Until recently, Bungie had been doggedly vague about their new flagship IP, other than some arm-waving and promises of open(-ish) persistent world, and a focus on FPS action. A new GameInformer article reveals quite a bit more about the game (Cliff’s note version here). As one of the commenters said, I’m greatly disappointed that Destiny will feature combat similar to Halo. So that makes Destiny just a more “serious” version of Borderlands 2… The only reason that Destiny made my list is because of how much Bungie has been pushing the co-op aspect of the game.

Wasteland 2 (3/10) – If only Wasteland 2 was real-time, I would be much more interested. As it is, it looks like Baldur’s Gate mixed with Fallout (probably an appropriate analogy).

Fortnite (3/10) – If I knew more people interested in co-op games, Fortnite would actually rank much higher. Right now it’s to be Dungeon Defenders mixed with State of Decay. I’m quite convinced that the idea of this game came about from a few buzzed developers gawking over a print of Zombie Playground by Jason Chan – which coincidentally is getting its own game.

Thief (2/10) – Being a huge fan of the original series (and the entire LookinGlass lineage of games, from Ultima Underworld on), I SHOULD be excited about the upcoming Thief reboot. The problem I have is the fact that Eidos wants to completely renovate the feel of the game – and quite honestly it looks like a steam-punk clone of Assassin’s Creed. Yech. Just writing those words feels /wrong/. Eidos also developed the Deus Ex reboot – a game that I /sincerely/ detest, so my expectations are quite low.

Shroud of the Avatar (or, more accurately: Ultima X) (2/10): Having completed a few of the Ultima games and having played Ultima Online quite a bit, I once considered myself a “big” fan of the Ultima series. However after Tabula Rasa and Richard Garriott’s increasing detachment from /reality/, I’m very hesitant to play anything that he’s involved with.

Deus Ex Universe (1/10) – This almost made the “don’t give a shit” list; but I’ll probably end up playing it once it’s in the bargain bin.

Road Redemption (1/10) – Ordinarily I’d rank this one MUCH higher, however I’ve seen so many kickstarters fail lately (even ones that met their financial goals) that I’m not holding my breath for any pre-alpha, pre-anything kickstarter. Otherwise, I absolutely LOVED RoadRash 64 and RoadRash 3D; an updated Road Rash game is long overdue.

Carmageddon: Reincarnation (1/10) – Exactly in the same spot as Road Redemption for the same reasons: a reboot of a long-dead franchise that I once enjoyed. Albeit this reboot is being done by the original developers, so I have a little bit more faith that I might see a finished game…

Those are the games that I’m legitimately looking forward to playing. On the other hand, there are PLENTY of games generating a lot of buzz in the media that I couldn’t give two shits about.

What I’m NOT looking forward to in 2014:

Rogue-likes. I’m actually tired of even hearing the /term/ Rogue-like. While I don’t mind procedurally generated content (much), I do mind permadeath. I know that it makes the game “”more exciting”” (I’m using the mockingly sarcastic Dr. Evil air quotes) because failure has a much more strict consequence. I understand the basic argument for permadeath – it’s the same as the principle for the Counter Strike’s 1-life-per-round model. With that said, I LOATHE the assumption that a game with procedurally generated content (PGC) REQUIRES permadeath. The BEST games with PCG all offer permadeath as a gameplay OPTION – such as the Diablo series, Terraria, and Minecraft. I feel that “indie” developers use permadeath to distinguish themselves as “”old school”” and/or “”hardcore”” (again using the Dr. Evil air quotes).

Permadeath serves to artificially inflate gameplay time in order to pad the game out a bit, which I feel is cheap and obvious. Back in the NES days when a few good games were released per /YEAR/, it was acceptable – until “saving” became a key feature to allow for players to experiment, explore, and to truly enjoy the game without fear of being shit on. Permadeath is /asinine/ in an age where half a dozen “must play” games are released every /month/. I don’t have time to perfect my timing and muscle memory in your little 8-bit garage project.

Retro-this, Retro-that, 8-Bit Glory Days – It’s hard to describe how burnt out I am with the 8-bit retro fad. It was cute, at first, when you could play 8-bit-esque games in browsers, for free. Likewise, I appreciate how accessible “Retro” games are to novice game programmers – with a lower threshold for graphical and sound. But the 8-bit retro trend has become so played out that it’s just not fun anymore. What’s worse is how “Retro” almost always means permadeath. Ugh.

MOBA games – The entire MOBA genre. I don’t like it. At all. Well,  I /did/ enjoy Demigod quite a bit… Otherwise I find MOBA games to be an insufferable slog of rinse-wash-and-repeat, where 80% of the game time is spent crushing an overwhelmed opponent, or being the crushee. MOBA games are too dependent on all players being 100% knowledgeable about the game, all having 100% stable connection, and all having absolutely no outside life. Ultimately what makes the actual matches unbearable is their duration, and how very few MOBA games allow some kind of come-back. The winning team is usually decided in the first 10 minutes of 60 minute match, as a very slight difference in character power will rapidly and irreversibly snowball. That slight difference in the first few moments usually escalates into a total shutout of the trailing team. Yet, this isn’t even my main beef with the genre, or why I wish the genre would just /die/.

The worst part of the MOBA genre is the community. I have never in my life experienced a more miserable, hateful group of whiny little brats. Among gamers they are considered the most toxic, intolerant, racist players around – something that MOBA players take /pride/ in. It makes me SICK to think that when I tell someone that I play games, they think I’m somehow involved with those apes.

World War II Shooters – I thought we were over this fad. It looks like technology has come far enough for developers to want to dig up this old haunt. I could really care less to storm the beaches for the thirty-ninth time in gaming history.

Legos Online, again – Really guys? So, the complete and utter failure of Legos Unverse due to required in-store DVD purchases doesn’t make you wonder if in-store purchases of toys won’t ruin this game as well? I wish I was an executive at Funcom or the Lego Group, where I could get paid to make terrible decisions. “SKYLANDERS DID GREAT! LETS COPY-PASTE!” I hope they at least recycle the assets from Legos Universe, since some were fond of the game, and they already pumped $50 mil into that project.

So those are my predictions for my “favorite games of 2014”, and what trends I really don’t care for. Here’s to 2014!

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