July is a slow old month when it comes to the gaming calendar, but provides ample time for reflection upon the best and brightest releases from the past six months and a great period for catching up on some of the games that you might have missed. So here's our primer for the cream of the first half of 2014, and a list of ten of the top must-play games of the year so far.
Wolfenstein: The New Order -- "a rollercoaster ride of FPS boom, blast, and ruin"
Watch Dogs -- "Ubisoft have delivered a huge versatile game that can be enjoyed on your terms"
Jazzpunk -- "an utterly absurd treat"
South Park: The Stick of Truth -- "worth the wait"
TxK -- "a marriage of hectic arcade fun, eyepopping style and impeccably-honed substance"
What we said: Etrian Odyssey Untold is a class act. The sensational vintage exploration, manual mapping and gruelling combat of the DS original has been granted a new lease of life, reinvigorated by strong characters and a superb story that's engaging enough to satisfy yet never outstays its welcome. Atlus approached their remake with subtlety and restraint, resulting in a uniquely lovely package. A rare treat for genre newcomers and turn-based connoisseurs alike, so long as you're partial to a little grind.
What we said: Wow, I seriously wasn’t expecting Final Fantasy X to blow me away again after 13 years. The world of Spira looks better than ever as the new layer of detail makes you feel like you’re playing a new game rather than a HD re-release and the traditional RPG combat feels better than ever in the wake of genre’s attempts at modernisation. Great storytelling never gets old though and Final Fantasy X’s is an absolute genre gem.
What we said: Imagine Game of Thrones crossed with a dark, brutal, bleak Disney production that Disney would never dare to make, and you're pretty close to The Banner Saga. Stoic have delivered a cracking tactical RPG centred around an impressively elegant combat system and a peripatetic adventure that never lets up with tough choices and decisions to be made, letting the burden of leadership weigh heavy on players' shoulders. Engrossing, challenging, and aesthetically striking, The Banner Saga is a crowdfunded triumph.
What we said: It won’t convert those who despise the Souls series, but the journey through the stunning lands of Drangleic is, for the most part, everything fans could have hoped for in a sequel. With fresh challenges, dastardly traps, and murderous invaders waiting at every corner, the sense of discovery and accomplishment is there for the taking… providing you’re patient and brave enough to overcome it. The Iron Price of gaming is back, and it demands that you die.
What we said: Super Time Force delivers the depth of Braid with the intense SHMUP satisfaction of an old-school run and gunner, letting you assemble a ridiculous army of skateboarding dinosaurs and Uzi dolphins by abusing time paradoxes. Something we don't get to write often enough. An outrageous, hilarious and potent shooter on its own merits becomes something utterly unique; deep without pretension and never losing the sense of anarchic fun. Fans of bombastic sidescrolling action and experimental indie gaming will find common ground here.
What we said: As much as anything, I can't wait to play it again. I want to play it right now. Usually I can't wait to be shot of a game after intensively crushing it for review purposes (even the best of them), but here, I'm ready for more. Stand by for Titanfall.
What we said: Macabre yet playful, disturbing yet uplifting, thought-provoking and intensely compelling, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a masterpiece of storytelling and characterisation. So long as you're prepared for a visual novel as opposed to a full-blooded adventure game, it's a truly essential purchase, and a Vita exclusive you'll savour over two dozen rewarding hours.
What we said: Mario Kart 8 is a great example of how to keep a 20-odd year old franchise relevant. It isn't shy to give you what you've already had before with it's predictable racing fun. But conversely it also offers up so much more with this latest installment thanks to brilliant track design, item tweaking, customisation and a strong online offering to keep you coming back for more for months to come.
What we said: Transistor is masterful. You'll come for the astonishing art direction and thoughtful storyline, but stay for the sensational combat that continually offers new opportunities and challenges long after your first playthrough comes to an end. It aims for the head, not the heart, and hits home in spectacular fashion. Beauty and brains in one smart razor-sharp package.
What we said: All things considered, WildStar has not only managed to weather the storm that was its launch period, but has continued to remain a fast paced, entertaining, and thoroughly challenging MMO for genre veterans while being accessible for newcomers. With powerful and versatile customisation options, and content for almost everyone, it’s a game that doesn’t reinvent the MMO wheel, but is the logical culmination of all that is great with the genre. Providing the same level of quality & regularity continues with its content updates, there will be more than enough reason to stay on Nexus.
What have been your games of the year so far? let us know in the box below!