10. Minecraft: Vita Edition
Better late than never. Minecraft has always been a favorite of mine on the PC and mobile platforms. Control schemes and convenience has always been a nagging issue with me in the past though. Minecraft: Vita Edition was one of the biggest reasons for me to buy my Playstation Vita this year. Building on the go, or comfortably on my bed was what kept me chipping away at my world. There is so much to do with this game, and it will definitely be played long into 2015.
9. Next Car Game: Wreckfest
Racing games in 2014 seemed to have taken a step back as far as evolving the genre. I had to look to an early access game that has one amazing feature. Complete and utter destruction. Cars don’t just get totaled, they get totally unrecognizable. The soft-body physics plays into cosmetics, as well as mechanically altering your race car, which is a big plus. You can jump right into a “destruction derby” style arena if your single focus is to relieve some built up stress. I found the race modes such as the figure eight and circle tracks the best mix of arcade, and competitive play. Upwards of 20 cars roaring around the track slamming into each other is an absolute blast. The sense of speed is magnified because any wrong move could put you from first to last. I can’t wait to see what this Next Car Game offers in 2015.
8. This War of Mine
A heart-felt strategy/survival game came out of no where in the tail-end of 2014. This War of Mine shared to the world the suffering of the human race as depicted by normal everyday people. Unlike many games where you play as the soldier, your task here is to survive at all costs. Everyday was a struggle, and it took a lot of trial and error to finally find my groove. Once I did, I set up my defenses and prepared for the worst. I eventually found the formula of success that took me to the end credits. It was a much welcomed end to the emotional journey that I still reflect on to this date.
7. Block N Load
Technically still in beta, this game will come out two months from now, but is currently playable on Steam. So have you ever wanted to play Minecraft with guns? Or maybe Team Fortress with Legos? Either way you look at it, Block N Load is a sleeper hit that is fun for many types of players. If building a stronghold with turrets and traps is your thing, Block N Load has it. Or maybe you like to burrow through a fully destructible map, sneaking around the enemy’s defenses. The sky is the limit with this game, although teamwork is going to be super important moving forward since it’s only 5 vs 5. Every member of the team has a direct hand in your overall success, or failure. I found many different play-styles so far, and base building techniques are constantly evolving. So grab a mic, grab some friends, and get digging!
6. Watch Dogs
Hype. Delay. Criticism. Everyone in the gaming world had the highest expectations for this open-world hacking game. For many, the hype was elevated beyond what the game could deliver. Even still, I put the game on the hardest difficulty and went for it. To this date, Watchdogs has given me some of the best gaming moments in 2014. No where else was I able to hack other players and spy on them as they attempt to play hide n’ seek with me. Some players would keep their composure as the data began ticking away. Others would start to panic, firing off shots at innocent bystanders in order to haphazardly put a stop to my crimes. For all of Watch Dogs’ faults, I found a game unique in its own right. Controlling a city with a tiny device in the palm of my hands could not be more fun. It was the only game this year that I completed every piece of content to 100%.
5. Infamous: Second Son
Mutants have always had a hard time with their human counterparts. They could just be jealous of the main protagonist of Second Son, Delsin Rowe. He is a conduit to all super powers he comes across, absorbing them with reckless abandon. The “choose your own path” lets you decide your own good or evil nature. I went down the evil path and felt every bit as guilty, but had a blast the entire game. Instead of subduing your enemies with light powers, I progressed down the “dark side” and left trail of pure destruction in my path. There is revenge, sadness, and major consequences for my actions. However, you have a chance to prevent some negative critical story arcs if it’s not too late in the game. I sacrificed my moral compass for a widely entertaining thrill ride. Every new power you obtain is a milestone in the game. The visuals are absolutely amazing, so make sure to play on a great TV with this one.
4. Shadow of Mordor
I’ve never really given the Batman Arkham series or the latest Assassin’s Creed games a fair shake. But when you take the best parts of each of those games and mesh them together, you get something special. Shadow of Mordor is a fantasy action/RPG success story. The Nemesis system was hyped by Monolith Productions at every chance, but deservedly so. My favorite scenes of the game were when War Chiefs would slow-mo walk to the chant of his name. Every time they spotted me, I was instilled with fear as the stronghold of Orcs pressed the attack. Technically, this was the one of the most impressive games I’ve played on my Playstation 4 all year. The visuals and sounds could not have been better. I could not believe just how many Orcs could be crammed on my screen at a single time, each one intertwined in the deep progression of the Nemesis system. Through my own stubbornness, I strengthened my enemies through my death, and they laughed in my face! If some of the story arcs and repetitiveness of the game can be a bit more polished, the next iteration will be a fantasy masterpiece.
3. Divinity: Original Sin
Old-school RPG depth, meets meets new-school gameplay mechanics. I had remembered an interview about Divinity: Original Sin a year back from launch talking about the different elemental properties. The video caught my attention because the combat seemed very different from other turn-based RPGs. The entire battlefield is interactive, and each spell can cause elements to react with one another. Setting up the battlefield is crucial since the game can be punishingly difficult at times. On the flip side, the challenge can be extremely rewarding because experimentation leads to a further understanding and mastery of the system. The quest-line is open-ended, making your story, completely your own. I loved reading every dialog choice; it helped that the humor and writing is top notch. Still, I had to save the game often because NPCs can be unpredictable. Divinity: Original Sin is at its best when your party matures to the right level, and the gameplay mechanics are fully utilized.
2. Dragon Age: Inquisition
I’ve searched high and low for that true, next-gen RPG experience. Few games this year could meet my own high expectations and criteria. Having played through a bunch of Dragon Age 2, then promptly putting it down, I had my concerns going in. This next Dragon Age meshes all my favorite things about the previous games of the franchise with great new elements of gameplay. The graphics are splendid, the landscapes are vast, and the combat lets you decide how to play. I’ve spent at least 30 hours into the game on Nightmare difficulty so far. Each battle requires sharp decision-making skills. Although many will experience the game with minimal tactical view, it is essential on harder difficulties. I’ve had the most fun setting up each battle, and then executing my spells and abilities like a chess master. Dragon Age: Inquisition still has plenty more in store for me, but my adventure has already been a rewarding one.
1. Smite – Game of the Year!
Coming straight from Dota 2, I knew there was something special in Smite within the first few minutes. I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to play a MOBA game in the third-person. In Smite, I never felt disadvantaged from the style of play that was required. Although many guides and video playthroughs were consumed; I took the good advice and blended it in with my own strategies. I caught the competitive bug quickly, and became attached to the philosophy of Hi-Rez Studios. With Smite, the updates come often and the action is fast and furious. Battling Gods against one another was my highlight of 2014.