1 January 2015

That was the year that was 2014

2014 was a pretty good year in gaming. Not because of the new generation getting its first full year as we still don't see any reason to get either PS4 or Xbox One because all the great games were available for the 7th generation as well. Also, 2014 was a bit bad year in gaming too which saw numerous half-finished games pushed to the shelves, too many needless remasters for the new generation and of course those dreaded DDOS attacks aimed at Sony and Microsoft at the cost of the gamers just wanting to play their games.

But now to the games and there were plenty to choose from under different categories!

Dragon Age: Inquisition
Game of the Year
Best RPG

Bioware weaved its magic again. While all the previews made Dragon Age: Inquisition look like Bioware is trying to re-invent themselves after alleged disappointments of Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 3 which different internet communities like to hate, both games Lost Planeteers incidentally love, we couldn't have been more happier to realize DA:I turned out to be a true Bioware game. Paying a lot to the heritage of unfairly maligned Dragon Age II, we felt right at home when our spindly female elf rogue stumbled out of the rubble. It's only bigger, better and more beautiful than previous Dragon Age's combined.

(In Sera's voice) Honey tongue!

It goes without saying Dragon Age: Inquisition is also RPG of the year. The most important facet yet again is the the fact Bioware understands better than anyone else the concept of role-playing in computer and video games and that rises their games head and shoulders above any competition in the digital RPG field. It's not about stats, skills and equipment even though they play an important role in combat but it's more about how you assume the role of your chosen inquisitor and act as him/her through dialogoue and action choices which more or less ramificating consequences.

Best MMO
Best FPS

Bungie's much-hyped FPS was one of those many games which was met with a mixed reception last year. What people were expecting? Destiny is an MMO and most of the content in MMOs are based on grinding. You do the same things over and over again to get better equipment and upgrade them. While certain parties felt Destiny was the worst game published in 2014, it has 13 millions unique players worldwide so Bungie must have done something right, right?

I could watch this view for an eternity... but shooting is more fun!

And indeed they have. Solely designed for consoles, Destiny ain't no PC port with lousy controls clearly meant for mouse and keyboard. No other console FPS gives such a precise controls with such a natural and smooth feel to them, not even Bungie's first Halo games. And those beautiful visuals. You can't help but admire in awe the views Bungie's artists have conveyed to us.

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Best Female Character (Lightning)
Best Voice Actress (Maaya Sakamoto as Lightning) 

Ah, Final Fantasy XIII series. Yet another "lets wholeheartedly hate these games" case among dreaded internet communities. While Lightning Returns is far from perfect, it could have been the direction for FF series to go with its mix of story-stelling, real-time combat and open world-ish gameplay. Alas, FFXV is going to destroy anything good Motomu Toriyama cobbled together to his love child. But that's another story.

Isn't she sublime? Yes she is.

Some liken Lightning's personality to a brick but in truth you'd be hard-pressed to find a better female protagonist than her. Not quirky, not bubbly, not spritely but laconic, composed and enigmatic, Claire Farron is also sculpted in most tasteful manner. She's lanky and not quite ass or boob-tastic but that only makes her more attractive. It's Lightning's Japanese voice actress though who gives the soul to the character. Singer and VA, Maaya Sakamoto is phenomenal in the titural role, giving Lightning gentle and silent tones which make her the character those who play with English dub will never meet.

The Wolf Among Us
Best Story
Best Male Character (Bigby Wolf)
Best Voice actor (Adam Harrington as Bigby Wolf)
Best Music (Jared Emerson-Johnson)
Best Villain (Bloody Mary)

When Telltale Games struck gold with The Walking Dead, they seemed to halt their game evolution at that. All the games will be based on the same winning formula. In fact, one really can't call Telltale's games adventure games anymore but more as interactive storybooks where you choose dialogue and actions now and then. First epsidoes of Tales from Borderlands and Game of Thrones left us cold but luckily Telltale made their best game before those two. And we fear it will remain as such.

Gameplaywise The Wolf Among Us follows The Walking Dead mould but characters and settings derived from Bill Willingham's fantastic Fables comic book series and spun into a fascinating crime noir set in pulsating and electric 80's make The Wolf Among Us Telltale Games's brightest tale.

A classic film noir setting: a femme fatale and a rough around the edges detective.

Players assume the role of Fabletown's original sherif Bigby Wolf, the big bad wolf of fairytales. Voiced amazingly by Adam Harrington, Bigby is rough around the edges, charismatic and complex character who faces not only a murder case but prejudices of Fabletown's inhabitants. The latter plays a big part in solving the crime involving murdered prostitutes. Such a complete character Bigby is in Telltale's hands it almost comes as a disservice to the comic book. The original Bigby just doesn't feel as... real as here.

Telltale have had balls to inhabit the world of The Wolf Among Us with original characters as well who are just as fleshed out and deep as those in comic books. While the final culprit might not be the most original what comes to his motives, it's his right hand girl who strikes all the right chords. Psychotic with seemingly no conscience, morales or other redeeming factors, Bloody Mary is eerily titillating force of nature whose final confrontation with Bigby explodes in shades of grey (figuratively speaking). Evil is never unambiguous, whether it's Bigby's enemies or even the man himself.

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody...

Behind all this sheer excellence display of drama and brilliantly paced screenplay, the tensions are backed up by Jared Emerson-Johnson pulsating and moody synthetic score stalking in the background, lingering like a cigarette smoke never exploding into an end in itself.

Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day
Best Song (Galactic Gal-act by Akira Yamaoka)

Part of a media project Short Peace, Suda51's frantic and insane action runner Ranko Tsukigime's Longest Day rewards its sweaty players with irresistibly catchy J-pop song composed by Akira Yamaoka (of Silent Hill fame) and sung by Ranko's VA, lovely Maaya Uchida (pictured). Luckily the game comes with a cut scene theater so you can listen to this end credits song to no end and never get bored by it!


Alien: Isolation
Best Production Design 

Alien: Isolation is so much of gaming done right. It's unforgivingly hard and ruthless and scary as hell with a complex and adaptitive AI controlling the infamous alien Ellen Ripley's daughter Amanda has to face in a beat-up space station. True to Ridley Scott's classic sci-fi horror and most importantly, honoring H.R. Giger's monster, Alien: Isolation is simply the best Alien game ever made and one of the best survival horror games ever conceived. The look of the game is based on the original 1979 movie with its production design coming in form of fully-realized retro sci-fi from today's point of view. Clunky keyboards, flickering CRT monitors with basic graphics, analogue devices... it's so amazingly tangible and as such a perfect setting for the unfair game of cat and mouse.

This is your last view. Many, many times.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
Best Cinematography

While every gamer seemed to cry over Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes as just a tech demo with no game to speak of, they failed to recognize two things. First, gameplay mechanics with its stealth factor in an open world works like a charm and really is the way for MGS series to go. The second factor we think we never have seen mentioned and maybe is hard to notice for persons with no visual eye is the fact the whole game is one continuous take (in movie terms), all the way from the intro through the game to the gruesome ending cinematics. Hats off to Hideo Kojima who came up with this brilliant visual idea. Based on trailers Phantom Pain seems to carry on from it. Quite an ambitious goal for a game which should be a complete full-blown MGS experience.

I'm just a part of one continous shot...

Crap your pants award

Yes, another Hideo Kojima tech demo maybe but P.T. manages to make you shit in your pants. Okay, maybe that's exaggerating but it gives you helluva good scares. Even to a horror game fan who thinks is jaded to all the jumps and has seen it all. And then comes P.T. With the most basic gameplay and with one L-shaped corridor. And every time the ghost girl presented itself, the one Planeteer screamed in horror much to the other Planeteer's amusement. P.T. is an interesting study and experiment but it seems Silent Hills is more of a traditional fare. Pity.

Who would have known that one L-shaped corridor could be such a horrible place!

World of Warcraft
Lifetime Achievement

10 years and still going strong with Warlords of Draenor giving yet another lease of life for World of Warcraft. The other half of Lost Planeteers doesn't even dare to check /played with his main he has been playing since the day one...

Flying fun! And only kind of flying you'll encounter in WoD.

Honorable mentions

There were many other great games too which missed the above categories. Some barely, some by a mile but still great:

Drakengard 3
Ultra Street Fighter IV
Murdered: Soul Suspect
The Walking Dead season 2