It’s time to mop up the very last parts of the overly obvious food metaphor for the year. As we struggle to swallow down those last few mouthfuls of this trite cliche, let’s move on a far more delicious pudding: the final part of our Bestest of the Restest games of 2014. You can read part one here. And once again, they’re in no particular order.
Graham: Titanfall seemed like a great game that had been hobbled by the nature of its release. I loved its freerunning, its mechs, its capture-the-flag mode, but I was no fan of its lack of server browser, mod support, its requirement for Origin. In a world of games-as-service, it seemed like a crappy service. Was that why I stopped playing it and haven’t been back? I’m not sure, but I do know that I still love the game when I do play it. There’s something in my brain that still can’t believe that it works as well as it does, letting you leap from rooftops and cling on to passing mechs, or to call down and be caught in the arms of your own. Change the business model, offer users more freedom, and this might have been game of the year.
Alice: Big mechs, jetpacks, wall-running, and a chunky shotgun should’ve might’ve made Titanfall a Total Alice Game. Dashing about, shooting men, riding mechs, blasting robots, and stomping on everything was pretty fun and all but Titanfall didn’t quite get its hooks into me. Not helped by waiting around in menus for ages between rounds, I lost interest and haven’t played in months. Perhaps I’m bitter that it locked its big chunky revolver down away inside the persistent progression – a cardinal sin for any FPS.
Alec: As I’ve been saying ad nauseum lately, I’ve fallen out of multiplayer and need to find a way back. However, I spent a cheerful couple of weeks happily playing Titanfall with randoms. Underneath a paltry, thoughtless-seeming structure, there was a really great, really accessible, really exciting multiplayer shooter in Titanfall. I know ‘accessible’ is a toxic word for many people, but in this case it was all to the good as far as I’m concerned: big thrills with a low barrier to entry. One of the surprising benefits to this is that I found playing as a footsoldier more thrilling than doing the robostomp, which I hadn’t at all expected. That sense of being fragile, fleshy boots on the ground, and doing something useful, as the world turned to giant mecha hell was glorious.
There just wasn’t enough of it, and getting access to what there was increasingly became an exercise in time-wasting frustration and restriction. Again, there’s a great game inside Titanfall’s outer husk, and I hope someone finds a way to free it eventually.
Adam: Enormous, humorous and smart, Wasteland 2 is a triumph. I’ve met several people who reckon it’s the best game of the year and have enjoyed telling me why that is at great length. I wish I could be as passionate about it but I came away full of admiration but almost entirely bereft of memories. Despite my love of the radioactive wastes, I liked Wasteland 2 but couldn’t muster up any passion for it.
Adam: I installed Elite: Dangerous on Sunday and actually did a little excited dance when it was finished. Have I played enough to say it’s wonderful? Not a chance. But the sheer size and beauty of it might well make it the Elite Truck Simulator game I’ve been craving for a few years now.
Alec: It’s too soon to offer a real opinion, but clearly this was a big contender for our best of lists. Its depiction of space – or the wide-eyed nerd’s happy dream of being in space – is simply incredible. As a game about a journey – i.e. a truck simulator in the Milky Way – I think Dangerous has absolutely nailed it. As a broader game about galactic adventures I’m not quite so sure yet: there’s a lot of drudge work involved. I think Dangerous’ potential won’t be met for some time yet, but I do believe that it will be met. What we have so far is mere foundations, but they are truly formidable foundations.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
John: Ethan Carter was almost great, but also almost terrible. It’s plodding and cliche-ridden story, and daft, clumsy ghosty crime recreation minigame, ensured it could never be celebrated with end of year glory. But wow, blimey, cor, it was pretty. And while that might sound facile, this was one of those cases where pretty was really important. The artistry on display, the sheer brilliance of the creation of this breathakingly beautiful explorable town, is a remarkable achievement. It’s astonishing, and it should shame every other developer into upping their game, just as Far Cry once did.
The Evil Within
Adam: I nominated this in its very own category – Bestest Best Schlock of the year. The baddies have bits of metal sticking out of their bonces and you collect brains in jars to level up your abilities. There are gothic castles and bloody medical labs. Despite the schlock label it’s a clever game, combining stealth and the occasional stellar piece of level design to create tension and terror.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Alice: Hi, sorry, I should’ve played more BoI: Rebirth sooner. Only after we drew up our lists did I find time to play this and now I’ve played 13 hours over three days days and crushed Mom’s Heart and I have so much more left to find and see and unlock and murder. Okay, sorry, bye.
Adam: I played too much BoI: Rebirth but didn’t argue particularly strongly for it at all. I don’t know why. It’s brilliant. Bestest Best Poos.
Alec: ‘Bestest Best Freshening Up Of Existent Game’. Wonderfully, monstrously compulsive, and a successful liberation of Isaac from its traditional confines without losing any of the claustrophobic adrenaline.
Adam: When I played Jazzpunk at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t convinced I’d remember any of the gags by the end of the year. I do. Top notch gags.
John: I’ve had a great deal of fun playing this deeply peculiar and incredibly unfinished game this year. In a year that saw far too many survival games trying to compete for our attention, few got it quite as right as The Forest. It’s often dark, morbid, and terrifying, but at other times bright, cheerful and relaxing. Standing on a beach at dusk, watching the sun set, the moon rise, and the turtles crawl out of the sea to lay their eggs in the sand was only slightly marred by the mutilated corpse lying by the blood-splattered tent pitched nearby. That I was attacked by hideous naked lunatics on my way back to my shelter certainly changed the tone of what had been a pleasant evening’s stroll, but chopping them up into bits with an axe helped me move on.
It seems to be selling very well on Steam, so I hope there’s enough money pouring in for them to continue rapid development, and to see the game fleshing out into something that sustains more than the first few days of play. A first few days I’ve happily played over and over, merrily smashing open suitcases and fighting my way out of godforsaken caves of skin-crawling mutant monstrosities.
Alec:Very early – too early – days for Julian Gollop’s Chaos remake, but the turn-based wizard war is on track to be something rather special. Thoughtful and oddball, encouraging a very different kind of strategic thinking, and I think it’s an alternative we need more than we realise. By Jove, he’s pulled it off. I’ll be writing more about this in January, especially now there’s a singleplayer mode of sorts in there.
Dungeon of the Endless
Adam: Amplitude greedily guzzled our top prize this year but they could have snagged another as well if everyone else at RPS had been as handsome as me. Handsome people, as all of you handsome readers well know, are very much in favour of Dungeon of the Endless.
Deep Under The Sky
Pip Is it okay if my recommendation is just “The best single-button jellyfish ejaculation game of 2014”? Because that’s what it is.
The Blackwell Epiphany
Adam: The end of an era. An era in which David Gilbert delivered one of the best point and click series in the history of games. Roll on whatever comes next.
John: It’s perhaps not entirely helpful to include a game that’s not only not available for anyone to play, but actually in its incredibly early prototype stages. But I did at one point argue for this to get a trophy in the advent awards. A game lasting (actually less than at this point) twelve minutes, in which you Groundhog Day-style time loop back to the same moment over and over, trying to solve the mystery of why a violent cop keeps arresting your wife and murdering you, whether your wife has been lying to you about her father all these years, and why exactly you keep reliving the same twelve minutes over and over and over.
It’s bloody incredible. Three rooms, twelve minutes, three characters, and yet it doesn’t get boring to repeat. There’s enough smartness even in this early stage that lets you skip through the stuff you don’t want to see every time, but room to try to behave and respond differently to all the tiny details that occur. And the AI at work is like nothing I’ve seen before, adapting to such microscopic details. Who serves up dinner, for instance. Oh, I can’t wait for people to be able to play this to see why I’m so excited.
Adam: Alien: Isolation might have been my pick for Bestest Best Horror game of the year, but nothing scared me quite as much as Darkwood. A top-down crafting and creeping game, currently in Early Access, it’s startling, sinister, surreal and exquisitely constructed. It doesn’t fit neatly into the crafting survival box or into the survival horror box, but it is a crafting horror survival game. I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself writing about it again next December, should the planned summer launch go to plan.
With Those We Love Alive
Alice:I felt alone, alienated, oppressed, bored, and tired, and horrified by how quietly I accepted that, trying to find beauty and pleasure in the small things when I could until even that was too much. Pretty good, that. It stayed in my thoughts – and drawn on my body – for quite some time.
Game Of Thrones (Telltale)
Alec: Wolfamongous scooped our best adventurey thing gong, but if it were based on just a single episode, Telltale’s HBO-endorsed follow-up series based on That Television Show With All The Killings would have pipped it. Its first act was a great surprise, rich in characterisation, dilemma and terror – recreating the key beats of the show/books but with a brand new cast whose fates we can’t even begin to guess at. Really looking forwards to where Telltale take this one.
Alec: I frothed about how unbelievably great this unbelievably ugly CCG/roguelike was on iPad a couple of weeks ago, unaware that there was a completely unpromoted PC version too. I haven’t tried that version of it yet, but here it is. Hurrah! It’s one of the games I’ve most loved this year. More on this in the new year, I think.
Innumerable Small Games I Can’t Recall Right Now
Alice: 2014 was a wonderful year for small games. Each week brought several new short, weird, and wonderful games that were done and dusted within 20 minutes – and many were free. They don’t cram in padding and fluff, they do what they came to do then leave in time to catch the last train. They’re more free to be weird, playful, funny, experimental, and just plain imaginative. I find them some of the most exciting things going on PC games.
Let’s see if I can remember a few. Froggy. 2:22AM. Offline. Mario Cars 2. Meadows. Photobomb. Keep Walking EP oO. Heartwood. Lisa. Realistic Kissing Simulator. Hypnospace Enforcer. Oracle. Three Fourths Home. This list is absurdly short given that I know I’ve played and enjoyed dozens this year. My evidently failing memory aside, that’s fine. They’re short experiences to enjoy then move on from, but they get stuck inside somewhere. I smile whenever one pops into my thoughts.