Our community voting for Retailer of the Year 2014 and the Readers' Choice Game of the Year 2014 is already underway, we handed out our personal shouts for Game of the Year yesterday, and now it's time for something a little different. See, here on Dealspwn, we like to recognise that it's entirely possible to adore games that might not necessarily be the biggest or the very best. That's why we like to give out shouts to our favourite, or most-played, games of the year.
Frankly, it's just an excuse to shout about a greater number of awesome games. And that suits us just fine.
Yeah, there’s was no way I wasn’t mentioning this at least once in my GOTY nominations. After being my most anticipated title for 2014, it not only managed to meet the expectations that had been put upon it, but successfully continued a story that I had been patiently waiting for over seven years to return to. As I said in my review, the emphasis on contemplating your actions instead of was not only a refreshing change but brilliantly done. The fact the fate of Zoe Castillo could be altered in more ways than fans initially realised shows how much effort the team at Red Thread Games had put into this Kickstarted effort.
What really impressed me was how alive the Propast district of Europolis felt during Zoe’s main segment of gameplay. The bustling streets with NPCs that moved around instead of being static background props, along with the various conversations you could eavesdrop on made it all too easy for me to pretend I was actually there. The dystopian locale was filled with neon lights advertising both friendly commercial products and downright seedy locations, dreammachine addicts sit in doorways refusing to return to reality, and to top it off a street performer performs melodic guitar pieces with a crowd stood around them. All of this, on top of discoverable items of interest that detailed the world a little bit more.
To me, this is what Adventure game title should be returning to beyond being a platform to deliver well-crafted narratives. Sure, Dreamfall Chapters did plenty right in its first episode – a well presented story, plenty of choices, memorable characters that love welding – but the emphasis to explore the world around the player was the true achievement, and made it my favourite game of the year as a result.
Videogames have always had the power to tell amazing stories, but as a visual novel, that's all Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc can do.
And my God, it does that in sensational style. For 22 hours I was transfixed and obsessed by one of the most incredible narratives I've ever experienced as a class of trapped terrified high-schoolers started murdering each other to escape the clutches of a depraved robot teddy bear.
To explain exactly why and how this crazy setup works will ruin the surprise, but suffice to say that the quality of the writing, characterisation and localisation is absolutely peerless, while the game flirts with big themes, subtle emotional cues, pulse-pounding trial showdowns and a little humour to offset the graphic yet stylised depictions of brutal violence. It's a brilliant detective story, a compelling edge-of-my-seat thriller, at once disturbing, despairing, upbeat, heartbreaking and hopeful. It's like nothing I've ever played, yanking me out of my jaded early-year bubble and forcing me to feel all sorts of deeply conflicting emotions while trying desperately to rationally use my brain to survive.
In fact, my only complaint is that us Europeans had to wait until this year to play it! If you own a PS Vita, you owe it to yourself to experience Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Consider it an essential purchase, though its capable sequel relies more on fanservice than effective mystery writing.
Matt | 80 Days
There are so many games I could put here. Mario Kart 8 came close, what with its superlative track design, pick-up-and-play appeal, and topsy-turvy gravity gimmick, it's still one of the finest games of the Wii U. NBA 2K has once again stolen entire days of my life since release, but it's not quite as balanced on the court as its predecessor, I feel. WildStar was a revelation initially, but I'd lost interest after a few weeks, and my gaming diet is once again MMO-free. Divinity: Original Sin would have probably swept RPG of the year had it not been for Dragon Age: Inquisition, which I'm now waist-deep in, and ought to see me through until the New Year.
But, in all honesty, my favourite game of the year has been a mobile game. No, I didn't expect that either.
80 Days blew me away this year. It's a masterclass in inventive, interactive adaptation -- a game/book hybrid that defies easy pigeonholing and demands instead to simply be read and played and experimented with over and over again. I'd pick up my iPad and play bits and pieces of Fogg and Passepartout's journey around the world as I might read just before bed, dipping in and out of the adventure , snatching bits of play here and there throughout the day. As soon as I finished, I started another playthrough, to try different routes and see if I could beat my time. At the time of writing, I have played 80 Days through from start to finish no fewer than 15 times, and each time, I've found something new and fresh and astonishing.
It's not just the deft plotting, the well-balanced characters, the incorporation of steampunk machinery, magical realist elements, or more modern sensibilities when it comes gender and race, it's the tactile nature of the game too -- tapping and prodding one's way across the globe, delicately unfurling new lines of beautifully-written text and sentence fragments to choose from, which then give way to diverse avenues of exploration and progression, shaping Passepartout's character as we read and direct the flow of the story.
It's an utter masterpiece.
Brendan | The Wolf Among Us
I took a punt earlier this year, when I saw a Season Pass on sale for about £6 before the series had even finished. At about half price, I knew this would be as cheap as it got on PS3 for a while, so I dived in.
Turns out it was money well spent, as The Wolf Among us beat The Walking Dead at its own game. Telltale's new title was packed with dark, chilling takes on classic fable characters and their integration into a gritty 80s New York was inspired. My choices seemed to have much more weight to them than they had in TWD, and being able to play the game without a ridiculous wait between episodes was a compelling experience. Although, I did put at least half a day between episodes, as our Jon recommended giving each episode some breathing room to reflect on the choices, which turned out to be some great advice.
The Silent Hill-esque soundtrack was truly absorbing too and I found the game to be Telltale's most gorgeous yet, thanks to liberal uses of purples and yellows, especially for that opening title sequence. I really enjoyed my second playthrough too, where I opted for different choices and was able to try out Bigby's darkest impulses. This has probably been the game that's stayed in my thoughts long after playing it the most this year. Frankly, I think a third playthrough is about due.
How about you, dear readers. What were your favourite or most-played games of 2014? Let us know in the comments.