If there’s one genre that really embraces the true potential of video games, it’s simulation. With simulation games, one can fulfil every dream they’ve ever had, from the more modest professions like long haul train driving, to the somewhat more unrealistic manager of a football club–even the downright impossible, such as an intergalactic trader in a futuristic universe, is made possible in a video game. Yet, despite their broad range of subjects, one thread tying most simulation games together is that their topics are usually things that people would love to do in real life. That isn’t the case for The Escapists, a simulation game that asks the player to plan and execute escape from gaol.
2014 has been a hard year to conjure Game of the Year nominations for, but not due to an overwhelming number of options, a problem I wouldn’t mind having right now. The year had some interesting releases sprinkled throughout, yet the dread of all the disappointments brought (shockingly) by the major developers has left me preferring not to look back on the year that regrettably was, but here are some highlights.
Battleblock Theater was re-issued for PC, and Abe’s Oddyssey returned as Oddworld: New N Tasty for PS4. Octodad: The Dadliest Catch and The Swapper proved several barrels-worth of enjoyment for too few hours, while Ubisoft’s South Park: The Stick of Truth and Valiant Hearts both managed to exceed my high expectations. It doesn’t seem so bad when I describe it that way, so I guess I’d better stop there.
My vote for GotY goes to a game that offered some strain of innovation without forcing me to consider reading the returns policy, a sad rarity for 2014.
After what seems like an age (I’m hilarious) of being glued to the PS4, I think I’m finally ready to talk about Dragon Age: Inquisition, the biggest game and first ever RPG to be made using the Frostbite engine. By claiming a powerful narrative, complex characters and an introductory area said to be bigger than the lands of the first two Dragon Age games combined, BioWare have set high standards for the game and it has been surrounded by a level of hype that can often be dangerous. We’ve already seen some AAA titles fall flat this year, so how does Dragon Age fare?
I can’t say that I’ve ever truly wanted to ride an elephant in a video game. It’s never really been a major selling point for me. So when Far Cry 4‘s marketing revolved heavily around the ability to do just that, I was highly sceptical. Surely there’s more to FC4 than just riding elephants? Well, after playing the fourth installment in possibly Ubisoft’s last respected franchise, I have come to the conclusion that the answer is much more complicated than a simple yes or no.
Particulars is a unique title and brand new poster child for well-rounded independent games. It demonstrates the capability of independent developers to create a moving story, believable, relatable characters, as well as amusing, functional gameplay with focused direction and honest creativity. I’ll have to justify my use of a lot of the words in that last sentence, but I suppose that’s what all these other words down here are for. While Particulars won’t be earning mainstream Game of the Year awards, SeeThrough Studios have done amazing work on this title, so I’m more than happy to affirm my appreciation. Go you, people!
Endless Legend is an engaging and enjoyable 4X strategy game with a sharp and appealing interface and interesting creative content that is not taken advantage of to the same extent as the skill and empire upgrade systems. Coming across a new minor faction of strange frozen giants or fire-possessed skeletons is interesting before you eradicate the flock; at this point you’re left with the same empty piece of lore-ridden land in any case. The different factions you can play as, however, are explored in greater creative depth and add to replayability – it is unfortunate the same cannot be said for your enemies. Walking the well-trodden path, Endless Legend still manages to tell some interesting stories and throw some enjoyable challenges along that pleasant, well-designed path.
This may come as a surprise, but A Story About My Uncle was the first game I ever heard described as a ‘non-violent first-person platform adventure’, and as soon as I heard that description I was excited by the prospect of what that could mean. Portal without the constant harassment by GLaDOS? Flying through the skies with a sense of childlike whimsy and without worrying about being horrifically attacked? The possibilities were great. As it turned out, I managed to work out how to predict how much someone was likely to enjoy ASAMU by boiling it down to a simple question: how much do you like to grapple? If the answer is ‘so very much! I could grapple all day!’ then (spoilers for the direction of this review) this may very well be the game for you. If not, you might be in for some frustration.