Video Game Year in (Brief) Review: 2014

Another year has passed and as usual, I spent far too much time in that year playing video games. I hope to break some of these paragraphs out into longer pieces where I can dig into specifics, but I have no idea if I’ll be able to follow up and deliver.

Games I Played

Age of Wonders III – The problem I have with all turn-based strategy games (not 4X, like Civilization) is that they are not Heroes of Might and Magic III. That said, Age of Wonders III is pretty solid and unlike previous entries in the series I feel like I actually know what I am doing when I play.

Bayonetta 2 – Deserves a longer write-up from me–I really mean to do these things, I swear–but my favorite game by a big margin in 2014. I have spent many quality hours with Bayonetta and pals, scooting around on my chainsaw skis and kicking both angels and demons in the face. Every Platinum game is wonderful (I can say this because I haven’t played Korra!), but Bayonetta is the best of their best. Bayonetta herself is just amazing to me, she is so control of everything around her and this is not only established in cutscenes but in how the game plays. The way Bayonetta walks, the animations when she fights, they all tell you how she is going to do what she wants and nobody is going to tell her no. The incredibly slick battle system helps project this attitude when you realize you are having as much fun kicking ass as the character on screen is shown to be having. Very seriously the best action game I’ve played, and stored in that same space in my heart where I keep Onimusha and Devil May Cry 3.

Bound By Flame – A flawed but honestly very enjoyable game. It seems to me to have gotten a bad rap because people come into it expecting one of the following: Dragon Age or Dark Souls. While it is closer to Dragon Age 2 than Dark Souls it is really not a whole lot like either of them. It’s a rough around the edges ARPG that requires the player to be willing to die a lot (this is where the Dark Souls comparisons come from, because * Souls games are the first where the player dies a lot!), and that they not just rush into action. The Dragon Age part comes from making a few decisions in the game that affect the way the story goes in a small way. The worldbuilding lore is very interesting and I hope that Focus Home Interactive has Spiders do a second one or maybe some DLC, but that is probably a dream.

Child of Light – I love this game so much it makes me want to cry. It is just a really beautiful experience all around. Interesting and well thought out battle system, beautiful art and a very sweet Grimm’s Fairy Tales type story. PLAY IT.

Divinity: Original Sin – Pretty good party-based CRPG that has the kind of problems that really annoy me. The controls in-battle are just clunky and it’s far too easy to do something you didn’t mean. The mouse-target floats way too much so I found myself going to a location instead of attacking a creature more often than is acceptable. The targeting is also bizarre in that it changes based on ??? and you’ll be told an enemy is “Out of Sight” and then five seconds later, nothing changes but suddenly you can attack. Very sloppy.

Dragon Age: Inquisition – After Dragon Age 2 my expectations were seriously low and I pre-ordered DA:I at the last minute just so I could bitch about being a stupid idiot (it’s a personal problem, ok?), but it turns out that it is a really effin good game. The story is the feature, the big world is just there for you to plow through things. The first area you play through is very MMOish which makes me think EA was planning to shift the game that way, which would have been a bad thing so I’m glad they didn’t. I do think that Bioware has now created so many branches that they’re going to have to retcon some of what they’ve decided is the canonical story but that’s their problem, not mine. Overall, though, DA:I it is at the same level and better in some respects than Dragon Age: Origins.

Half-Minute Hero: The Second ComingHalf-Minute Hero has a very specific audience: People who have played lots of JRPGs. I have played a lot of JRPGs. I very much enjoy HMH.

Legend of Grimrock 2 – I haven’t played nearly as much Legend of Grimrock 2 as I had hoped, but I think it’s really fab. It’s rather difficult but that doesn’t bother me at all. I spend way too much time in the character creation screen whenever I start a new party.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky – I know this came out on PSP earlier, but my PSP has been collecting dust for something like five years and I have no idea where the charger is anyway. Trails in the Sky, like the other Legend of Heroes games is a very straight-forward, story-focused JRPG that isn’t here to shake up JRPGs as we know them. A fun 30ish(?) hours or so, I am a sucker for dumb ~fight for your love~ stories so I am eagerly anticipating the release of the second in the series.

Road Not Taken – Who got emotions in my rogue-like?? This is an extremely haunting dungeon-crawler style game about rescuing children ever year when winter comes around. You have to decide how you’re going to play: Save all the kids, or save only as many as you need to. There are a lot of gutpunches. The game itself is a match-3 style puzzler where you arrange items on each screen to progress/save children/not freeze to death yourself/etc.

Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut – I installed Dragonfall and when I finally got around to playing it, Harebrained announced that they were doing the standalone Director’s Cut with improvements to gameplay so I waited it out. A good choice, as Dragonfall fixes some gameplay issues from the original Shadowrun Returns and offers an even better module. The game has some very solid writing and an excellent strategic battle system.

Strider – I really wanted to like this but I just felt like the levels aren’t done very well and drifted away from it before finishing, never to return.

Tales of Hearts R – I bought a Playstation TV around the time of the secret price drop that has become official just to play this game. I am a Tales maniac and it hurts me deeply when there are Tales games out there ready to be played in a language that I understand that I haven’t gotten around to. This is no Abyss but it is a very solid entry with an endearing story and some cool characters. The battle system is simplified from the full blown ones found on the console but it’s never been so easy to string together 300 hit combos and I enjoy doing that very much. It has a skill customization system that is pretty neat; you decide how to allocate certain points you gain while leveling up to different kinds of skills for each character. There are overlapping skills in each area between a few characters so this allows you to build your party based on which characters you like the best once you figure out how that’s all working. Honestly, though, all the characters in the game are good and fun to have around.

Tales of Symphonia ChroniclesSymphonia is my second-favorite behind Abyss. The HD collection allowed me to be a total sucker for Lloyd and Colette all over again and I don’t’ care if you think she’s annoying, Colette is the best and you are wrong. Dawn of the New World isn’t very Tales-like at all outside of fanservice cameos and a real-time battle system and I have no idea why they decided to go the monster-collecting route. You don’t even have Pokeballs or anything strategic, sometimes monsters just ask if they can join you randomly after battle. The random aspect of recruiting is a huge failure in the game design and drags the game down. Add the most annoying lead character this side of Graces and the game just doesn’t work.

Transistor – Gorgeous, but doesn’t really work for me. Enemies do too much damage, and the game tries to be both real time and turn-based at once through a “planning” screen you can use to queue up a series of attacks and it doesn’t mesh well.

Tropico 5 – Overhaul of the game systems after Tropico 3 & 4, adds some interesting stuff related to eras but doesn’t reach the level of the previous games. I buy that you can’t build an apartment building in the colonial era but you should be able to build a clinic, dammit. Outside of the structure of the game, they replaced the previous radio hosts with a rather annoying and offensive “spicy Latina” girl who talks a lot about how cute boys are and how if they’re mean to her she’ll kill them. Bring back Sunny and Penultimo, please.

Wasteland 2Very good RPG that would be my top of the genre this year if not for Dragon Age: Inquisition.  Strong writing, strong battle system, lots of stuff to do all over the world in the game and it lets you do things how you want to do them. Sure, there are repercussions but one of the themes of Wasteland 2 is that there is no easy choice that fixes everything. It has immense replayability potential, there are at least three ways to do one area and get very different results.

Games I Watched My Husband Play

The following are some games I wanted to play, but let my husband get first dibs because he was more excited about them than me. I think they look cool and still intend to play through them:

  • The Evil Within
  • Infamous – Second Son
  • Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes

Games I Meant To Play, But Didn’t Because I Played Some More Tropico 4 Instead

Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star – Waffled on buying this because Ar Qoga was not a particularly pleasant experience and then the year turned into 2015.

Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky – I usually fall into an Atelier related hole and emerge months later but I fell into a Tales related hole instead. I am 100% sure I will like this because I am the entire audience for Atelier games in the United States, I just wound up working towards platinuming older Atelier games and playing Tales of [X] and then I forgot it came out.

The Banner Saga – I backed this on Kickstarter and really, really meant to play it but I installed it and got sidetracked and never came back to it.

Dark Souls II – My husband got me a PS4 and so I decided to wait until it made its way to PS4.

Kirby: Triple Deluxe – My commute didn’t mesh very well with playing 3DS games last year so Kirby fell to the wayside.

Never Alone – Snatched this up straight away, ran out of time in the calendar year to play through.

Games I Am Probably Never Going to Play

Destiny – This is included because people have asked me about it; it is not my thing.

Sunset Overdrive – This one is sort of a lie, if it comes out for PC a year down the road I will definitely buy it and then theoretically play it. I do not have room in my living room for an XBox One until it has more than one game I am interested in, though.

Titanfall – Even less my thing than Destiny but people pretty frequently ask if I’ve played it at all. My answer is “nope”.