As the year draws to a close, let’s take a look back at the Top 5 tear-jerking and/or heartbreaking games of 2014 (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD):
5. Watch Dogs
Despite its mixed reception, I highly enjoyed the Watch_Dogs experience, both gameplay and story-wise. So why did I choose it for the #5 spot emotionally?
What others saw as a rushed and flat character in Lena Pearce, I saw as the guilt-trip that drives the entire plot. While it’s true that her character could have been fleshed out a little more, Lena stands as more of the symbol of what Aiden seeks to protect (or at least avenge) through his actions in Watch_Dogs following her death. I was satisfied by the, “What I do all goes towards getting payback for Lena’s death” justification for all the killing, hacking and mayhem Aiden dishes out to people who deserved or didn’t deserve it.
The cutscenes and voice acting drive home the emotions in this game (you have to play to understand, a video review or even a standard review isn’t the same as experiencing it yourself). While we’re at it, let’s face it, the in-game facial expressions and lip-synch are abysmal.
Some of what Aiden does and witnesses also brewed up quite a few negative emotions — including the love-hate towards the villains — during my playthrough.
If you enjoyed Watch_Dogs, be sure to be on the lookout for a possible sequel, with rumors flying around since July of this year that it is already well into development.
Overall, Watch_Dogs did okay emotionally, and this writer still highly recommends it.
4. Murdered: Soul Suspect
With the help of the review written by our beloved editor-in-chief, Lachlan, and with my own knowledge and experience with it, I decided to place Murdered: Soul Suspect in the #4 spot in terms of emotions.
It’s fascinating, but also simultaneously terrifying (emotions and expections-wise), to play a game where the main character, Ronan O’Connor, is dead. Being murdered is a pretty emotional and permanently traumatic experience to go through. Coming back as a ghost in order to investigate and avenge your murder is pretty scarring, too. Both of these are plentiful in Murdered.
Mystery and horror go well hand-in-hand in this game, making for a rollercoaster ride of emotions. A little psychic mumbo-jumbo doesn’t hurt the game either, dialing up the weird factor a notch or two as a result. The inability of Ronan entering a consecrated building unless it has open windows or doors is a fun little quirk, but adds to a bit of frustration as well.
As for the “being a ghost” part, emotions that draws up include horror, disgust and more than just a little frustration along the way too. The actual investigation into the Bell Killer also has a fair amount of details and features that made this writer want to cry, or at least feel gutted.
In short, Murdered did a fine job of being fun and moderately challenging while still managing to flick on the emotional light switches.
A game that I wrote the review for, Monochroma is all about the big bro-little bro relationship between the main character and his younger sibling. Through a series of events too long to recount here, the main character goes on a journey to rescue and protect his little brother.
Absolutely no dialogue (except for grunts and yells) forces players to rely on visual and auditory cues for context on the emotions and events in Monochroma. The lighting, body language and music in-game provided the best cues to go off of in interpreting what’s going on.
The villains in Monochroma provided a clear objective to avoid — and later defeat — despite a large number of redos and continues.
For these reasons, Monochroma remains a favorite of mine, and emotions ran high during my run-through of it.
2. Richard & Alice
Survival. Hardship. Desperation. Secrets. Forgiveness. These five words sum up the major overall themes found in Richard & Alice, which I also reviewed. Set sometime in the future, Richard & Alice follows the interaction of two underground prison inmates, Richard and Alice.
Losing those you love is another important theme that gets hit on over and over. The concepts of loss, acceptance and forgiveness are other themes that had me reading the dialogue (no voice-over, by the way) with bated breath.
The weather disasters (freezing snowstorms and blistering heat) enveloping the planet gives the game a sense of infinitely-imminent danger, so that I fully expected something to jump out of somewhere or the screen to suddenly shift into a scary picture or something along those lines.
Prison life is dull, and underground prison life is no different. However, the conversations shared between Richard and Alice provide a wealth of information, entertainment and quite a lot of emotional baggage that’s sure to hit you somehow as well.
Richard & Alice is a powerful tale of survival that requires being played to fully comprehend the gravity and weight of the story and what ending you get.
1. The Walking Dead Season Two
In the close race with Richard & Alice in second above, I chose The Walking Dead Season Two as my #1 emotional game for this year for many of the same reasons as already said above. The reviews for each episode, written by Steph, can be read here.
The struggle to survive always makes for exciting and pulse-pounding moments, as well as the extremely difficult moral and ethical decisions in the case of the zombie apocalypse. Telltale has mastered the art of the hard choice to make, often making it difficult and regretful to choose one action or dialogue option over another, and the consequences of those actions reverberate across the five episodes of the season — and beyond into the upcoming Season Three.
Some ethical dilemmas include whether to axe off a freshly-bitten hand, as well as the choice to go back to help up someone who has been a good friend to you throughout the season or not. Characters from Season One also reappear in one fashion or another, making for even more emotional moments.
As it’s said in the show, the threat of other alive people is much more pressing than the secondary threat from zombies (unless they’re a herd, in which case, you should run, like now, or perhaps cover yourself in zombie guts and do the zombie shuffle).
For what it gives and how it challenges players, The Walking Dead is a true masterpiece and deserves this #1 spot as Best Emotional Game of 2014.