- Papers Please – Stampin’
Papers Please came out in 2013 but we included it because we only got around to playing it last year. The premise of the game is that you are a border security officer manning one of the control points somewhere behind the Iron Curtain in 1985. Strict rules are in place and your character is severely penalised for making mistakes, often resulting in your family starving to death. I would best describe this game as a paperwork simulator and even though the gameplay is very similar to some of the tasks I do at work, I still really enjoyed this game. I strangely liked the tension of rifling through paperwork to try to find the right document or the keys to the gun cabinet. When I would accidentally let a suicide bomber across the border made me feel ashamed of my cavalier attitude with the approved stamp. However, using the approved/denied stamp was my favourite thing to do in the game. Maybe it was the sound design or maybe it was the illusion of power but it felt good putting the ink to the paper. Most stressful paperwork game this decade!
- Titanfall – A fortnight of fun
“Titan incoming” – these words blocked out any inclination that I was supposed to be doing wedding stuff. Although Titanfall only provided about 2 weeks of entertainment, those weeks happened to be leading up to my special day. Ask yourself, would you rather check RSVPs against seating arrangements OR shoot some bullets until your giant pet robot falls out of the sky and crushes some pleb or someone else’s pet robot? Then you enter your robot in some kind of rebirthing experience and shoot some bigger bullets at some more people and robots. Eventually some robot punches your robot in its womb, rips you out and throws you to your timely death. The first time this happened my inner dudebro lost his mind. I put my flat brim cap on backwards and settled in for a good time… no thinking required.
- Battlefield 4 – RPG vs Helicopters
Battlefield 4 was one of the first games we got on the new gen Xbox and we sure did sink some hours into it. The sweet graphics, 64 player team battles and selection of vehicles and equipment makes this game pretty enjoyable. I spent about the first month playing this with pitiful K:D ratios, where killing an enemy would be a surprising act. The turning point for me in this game was when I once parachuted off a building, shot down a helicopter, landed and then murdered two guys hanging out on a rooftop. After having such a hard time with the game, it felt so good to go in Rambo style and actually pull it off. My husband, aka backseat FPS driver, was even proud of me. Aside from fanging around in a 4 wheeler trying to run over enemies and do sweet jumps, shooting helicopters was my favourite pastime.
- Child of Light – Art?
ART! What is art? Is it the black canvas with a single white line through it? It is a series of mouse traps with monopoly money as bait and a dead rodent wearing a top hat to highlight our consumerism? No, that’s all nonsense. Child of Light on the other hand brilliantly combines dreamlike art, sensational music and solid combat mechanics into a fantastical gaming experience. Waking in an unknown world you play as Aurora, who discovers she must save this new land if she is to get home in time to save her Father from a weak constitution or something. You float around the world talking in rhyme and killing monsters through a real time/turn based mechanic. The combat is engaging and fun, but for me what stands out is the music and art design. Aurora visits stunning landscapes such as enchanted forests, eerie caves and spooky castles as her hair waves behind her luring you further into the game. The score compliments these worlds impeccably and keeps you tied to this fantasy world. It even has a mouse wearing a hat!
- Starwhal – Multiplayer
Starwhal is a narwhal jousting game with bright colours, funny physics and laughs to boot. Over Christmas, I played this with my brother and husband, all cramped in the family room. My dad walks in and comments on how little we all cram into the computer room these days, which brought back memories of my childhood and how gaming experiences were more shared back then. I love a good couch multiplayer game as well, so this was perfect over the break. The controls are hard to master which adds to the randomness and hilarity of the game. Many different areas and worlds give enough variety to keep the game interesting. Best Narwhal game I have ever played!
- Far Cry 4 – Tear shit up
What makes a game memorable, is it gameplay, design or music? Yeah all those things whatever, but if it includes honey badgers and explosions then you have a truly memorable game. Add one of the best voice actors in Troy Baker as Pagan Min and Far Cry 4 tears into the middle of the list like a ravenous ratel. I’ll admit I was hesitant at first; FC3 had some fantastic elements (eg. Vaas) but seemed to lose the plot at certain points. Admittedly, this has similar issues because the world is so big that you can lose sight of the story. However the core plot is engaging and it seems the main missions have been created for you to go “that’s cool” in the best way possible. Side missions keep you laughing or blowing something up, or both. Once the waters had been tested I jumped right in and was not disappointed. The very first time I was devoured by a pack of voracious honey badgers, I put the controller down and thought, well played Far Cry…well played.
The dialogue is top charts for every character (except your own) and Troy Baker continues to dominate the voice acting world my heart with a performance that is both unnerving and hilarious. But the thing with this game is that if you scratch the surface it touches on issues regarding religion, women’s rights, reasons for killing and the difference between right and wrong. All it takes is a little time to explore the world that Ubisoft have created and you will realise it’s not all about shooting, stabbing and explosions. In the end, it’s what you make of it. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to ride an elephant into battle, knock vehicles off cliffs and rain fiery death upon my enemies.
- The Walking Dead: Season 2 – Episode 5. No Going Back
Telltale Games sure have become popular of late, with titles up their sleeves such as The Wolf Among Us, Tales From The Borderlands and of course The Walking Dead. It was a hard choice to think of the most memorable moment from this game because, for me, the best part of this game is comparing your choices to others and trying to justify what you did. In the last instalment of TWD:S02, we see the Clementine making some hard decisions at the end of this episode. I chose to go with Kenny, mainly because when I had the option to shoot him, I couldn’t because I realised that I had formed an emotional connection with his character. Maybe it was just nostalgia from Season 1 and the fact he knew Lee and I had forgiven him for blocking the map in the front cab of the train. When Kenny begs the nice door-guard-lady to please take the children, I must admit there were no dry eyes in my computer room. He seemed tired after that and wanted Clemetine to go on her own, so I went in with the baby and parted ways. Watching him walk away into the field of snow was a 10/10 sad moment.
- Rayman Legends – Castle Rock
I love a good multiplayer game and Rayman sure does deliver! After grinding through wave after wave of zombies to get my multiplayer fix, it was a relief to play such a fun and colourful game that doesn’t induce excessive stress and tension. The characters are cute, the levels are well designed and it’s really, really fun. Rayman Legends has something special which I haven’t seen previously – music levels. The first of these will see you running, jumping and hitting to the meoldy of Black Betty that becomes infused with a hillbilly tune for 10% of the song. The gameplay is so seamlessly merged with the music that you could (almost) play these levels with your eyes closed! Rayman Legends wins the prize for game with the most toe tapping fun.
- Shadow of Mordor – Douche Warchief
Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2014, Shadow of Mordor (SoM) was one of the best gaming experiences for both of us. Unlike many titles this year it did not disappoint, which is kind of a bummer when it’s the first thing you say about a game. Regardless, a pleasant surprise is still a darn good thing.
So what did SoM do so well? The answer is almost everything, like a supreme pizza it takes everyone’s favourite bits and throws them on the tasty dough that is Middle Earth. A game that successfully combines the free running of Assassin’s Creed, the Combat from Batman Arkham and the exploration and cinematic presentation of Tomb Raider is not something to be scoffed at, so stop scoffing. Add to this the nemesis system, a mechanic that enables your interactions with enemy captains to be remembered throughout the story. Did you stab that Orc right in the face before he escaped? Well apparently the orc doctors (dorctors) can fix that with a simple bit of steel and a pat on the back, why he’ll be looking for revenge in no time. Enemy captains are randomly generated with different strengths and weaknesses so that no play through is exactly the same.
The first time I came across a captain he gave me some cockney lip along the lines of “man swine, I could smell your blood from a mile away” which I thought that was pretty great. Eventually I encountered a warchief which is essentially a boss with lots of captains around him so you know you are in for a fight. What made the battle memorable was the simplest sound effect – the continued chanting of the warchiefs name until he was killed. It added a fitting atmosphere for the fight and made me giggle during my fight with Dush (pronounced Douche). This did however, lead to me chanting my own name around the house and in public much to the chagrin of my wife.
All in all, Shadow of Mordor is the pinnacle of Orc killing simulators to date.
- Valiant Hearts – The Walk
A swig of golden ale is all it took for me to decide my favourite gaming moment of 2014. Valiant Hearts has stayed with me since I finished it and it’s the ending in particular that claims the #1 spot on this arbitrary list. This puzzle/platformer is set during the Great War and revolves around 4 characters from both sides of the conflict. There are aspects of this game that are phenomenal. Firstly, it’s a stunning game, not Child of Light stunning, but the folks at Ubisoft again outdo themselves by bringing a variety of visual elements to bring the beauty of the European countryside to life. On the flipside, the horrors of war, particularly trench warfare are highlighted in a way that isn’t glorified really struck a chord. A war game that doesn’t involve shooting waves of enemies may sound boring, but the way the story is told connects you to the characters and their quest to survive the war and be with their loved ones. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that it’s inspired by letter written during the Great War that enabled such a connection.
Scattered throughout the levels are historical items – letters, gas masks, whistles etc. and once found give you the history of the item and how it worked or changed during the war. On top of this there are miniature history lessons within the menu outlining the context of the situation and detailing the conditions and outcomes in a manner that manages to steer clear of the goodies vs. baddies trope. These titbits suit all ages and function as a learning tool within the game, something I hadn’t come across since Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?
Gorgeous, accessible and educational, what could this game possibly do? How about break my little heart into tiny little pieces. Though the entire game is emotive, it is the last level that re-enforces the insanity of war. After one of your characters accidentally kills their commanding officer in an attempt to save his friends from a suicide mission, he is court marshalled and sentenced to death by firing squad. The finale consists solely of walking to your death, the sadness of his fate heightened by the voiceover of his final letter to his daughter explaining his actions and saying his final goodbye. Cue the sad music with the inability to turn back as you pass your friends while they fade into memories and you are guaranteed to be a sobbing mess who needs a cup of tea and a hug.
So there you have it, our top ten gaming experiences of 2014.