Yeah, okay, we’ve had the warm-up already, so I’ll just tell you – OnlySP’s game of the year for 2014 is Dragon Age: Inquisition.
In a year full of really good games, but few distinctly amazing ones, Dragon Age: Inquisition stands out as being one of the fullest.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is a whole lotta game
It’s immense, in so very many ways. Not just its epic narrative aspirations, but also its large cast of charismatic supporting characters, its uncountable collectables, its deep crafting, its expansive environs, its super sexy sexing, its everything. If you want it, Inquisition has it, and lots of it.
Not only is it massive, but it’s also really good. Each of its individual parts is polished so thoroughly they squeak. In a good way. BioWare know their craft, and employ it with aplomb to create an RPG that appeals.
But, most of all, a player can easily eke out hundreds of hours of gameplay from Inquisition, all with a sense of awe and wonder. Each massive area holds wonders to discover, secrets to explore, and helpless people to help. And fennecs to ruthlessly murder.
Inquisition builds upon its established fiction, tweaks mechanics in an entirely new direction, and presents that familiar RPG grind with enough seasoning to inspire constant discovery. It feels fresh and new, and consistently surprises. In an era of blockbuster AAA games, it’s great to see a game that is not only broad in its content, but also deep in its application.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is a masterclass in RPG design, and OnlySP’s official pick for game of the year.
But again, this year was full of really good games, and, even though there can be only one game of the year, there are a whole bunch of other games that deserve special mention. So here they are, in no particular order – the best of the rest.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
This was another RPG, but cut from a more stealth/action cloth than Inquisition’s traditional CRPG roots. Taking place in Tolkien’s much-loved world of Hobbits and Rings, Shadow of Mordor combined a solid set of established stealth action mechanics with an innovative system for creating villains – the Nemesis System. Epic emergent narrative moments placed us in an evolving world and gave us the tools to create our own stories.
Another licensed game based on a loved fiction universe, Alien: Isolation scared us until we were brown in the pants. Its tense first person exploration of the claustrophobic Sevastopol space station was atmospheric enough to instill unease, but its real star was the Xenomorph. Relentless, smart, and unscripted, the original Alien chased us into air vents and lockers, reminding us just why the original Alien film was so seminal.
Beautiful music, beautiful characters, beautiful writing, and beautiful music make this isometric RPG wonderful enough, but it was really the music that made this game. Whether it was smacking programs in quasi-turn-based-real-time combat, or simply dancing and singing in the neon moonlight, Transistor captured an imaginary space and made it extraordinary. Also, the music is fantastic.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
First person exploration games have been gaining traction for a while, with Dear Esther and Gone Home paving the way. But where those titles focused on narrative and experience over more traditional structured gameplay interactions, Ethan Carter filled a niche by offering gameplay depth. It is very much an exploration game, but it is also a puzzle game – one that can be tricky at times. But the narrative payoff is worth the price of admission.
Dark Souls 2
Dark Souls 2 offers something that’s hard to find anywhere else – difficulty that is unforgivingly fair. Unlike its predecessor, Dark Souls 2 eased players into its intense difficulty curve, without losing any of its purity. While the world may have been slightly less complex to navigate than the original, the streamlining and refining made for an overall fantastic game – one that serves as the perfect tutorial for the first Dark Souls.
So there you have it, OnlySP’s favourite games of the year. 2014 has been great for games – a trend I hope will continue into 2015. Be sure to catch our picks for 2015 over the next few months, as we preview and highlight the games we think will be the great gaming experiences for 2015.