Monday, January 12, 2015

The Games I Played and Beat in 2014 but Which Probably Didn't Come Out in that Year.

As the end of a year comes to a close websites of various disciplines love to compile lists that show their favorite or best things of that year. I did it already with music and I’m not going to do it with games. Why? Because I rarely play games that are brand new and usually I don’t get to them right away. I’m a huge procrastinator when it comes to playing games for the most part so a lot of my titles are from days past. However, I do believe this is probably the most games I have completed in a year which I like as I rarely beat games. Anyway, here are the games that I played and probably beat – in alphabetical order – for the year 2014.

Alan Wake (Beat)
Originally unveiled as a tech demo for the what-was-to-be-next-generation-consoles-of-2005, this psychological thriller became an exclusive title for the Xbox 360 (later ported to the PC). It took five long years but Alan Wake was finally released in 2010 and even in 2014 it still looks pretty damn good. Taking place in Blight Falls, a quiet little mountain town in Washington state, Alan Wake and his wife, Alice travel there for a vacation. The initial story isn't too bad although it relies on the damsel in distress trope as Alice is kidnapped near the beginning of the game to serve as a motivator for the plot. The way the story was set up (picking up pieces of pages that are Alan Wake’s unfinished novel and the events in the pages already happened or are about to happen) could've had a better and stronger start in my opinion.

The story does progress rather nicely and you end up fighting shadow creatures I feel that the combat could have been a little stronger too. The usage of light to get rid of the shadow creatures was a great touch but you had to dispatch the enemies after shining the light onto them with a gun of some sort. It constantly felt that the game was trying to be both an action game and a survival horror game with conventions of both genres pulling the game in every direction which ultimately makes the game suffer. It doesn’t have the strongest of gunplay and that is exacerbated in a scene involving a rock stage and wave after wave of shadow creatures. Other than those missteps, I did enjoy the game overall. The characters were well done and the environments were fantastic to explore.

Binary Domain (Played)
A post global warming apocalyptic game where robots are the main force of labor thanks to millions dying due to the rising waters. This action game has you shooting a lot of robots with your teammates making all sorts of banter based on your actions (helping them out in combat or interacting with them in side conversations post-action sequences). What would normally be a typical action game is actually a pretty deep system of combat and an intriguing conspiracy of robots who do not know that they are human and are being used for terrorist attacks. I played this game a fair bit before moving onto other games but I’ll definitely revisit this title in the near future.

Broken Age (Beaten)
Double Fine broke initial records with its debut Kickstarter for Double Fine Adventure – a throwback to the classic adventure genre. Even though the game made its money back eight times over I decided to back it in order to gain access to the forums which showed the development process. It was quite interesting to see what they were doing as the only idea they had was that they wanted to do an adventure game. Seeing it from prototype stage and then to final product was neat to see and somewhat of a throwback to my days as a game tester.

I really enjoyed this game with its charming characters and interesting story. There are two characters (Vella and Shay) and they each have different stories that you jump in between at certain points, usually whenever you feel like it. At first it doesn’t seem that they are connected but when you get the end you see how it is all tied together. I can’t wait for the second part to come out which is sometime this year.

Cities XL Platinum (Played)
SimCity 2000 and 3000 were my favorite building titles back in the day. I didn’t have a PC at the time so SimCity 2000 was played on the PlayStation. When my family finally got a computer in the form of the then new iMac, I was playing SimCity 3000 on that thing. SimCity has had a bumpy ride since then and now with the recent launch of SimCity. Trying to fill the void of what my favorite city builders have left, I felt that Cities XL would do the job.

And it does for the most part. It’s an expansive simulation very similar to how 2000 and 3000 were. It’s just not as polished as those titles. The UI is pretty bad with poor design and a lot of overlapping and some confusing icons. The lack of good snapping is pretty annoying too when trying to create a grid like set up for your city. However it does scratch that city building itch pretty well. Although I could just boot up SimCity 3000 again. Hmmm…

Deadlight (Played)
When I first played this game I was using a Logitech PlayStation 2 rip off controller on the PC. Since most modern games are exclusively supporting the Xbox 360 controller, I had issues with this game. The main issue was that the button layout was swapped - X and Y were swapped as were A and B. This made it a pain to enjoy as I would press the wrong button at a critical moment. However when I got the vastly superior Xbox One controller, this made the game more enjoyable.

A Metroidvania style zombie game, this is all about escaping the ruins of Seattle and finding your family. Even though I’m burnt on zombies for the most part this one is decent. I intend to finish it in the future but it’s nothing special to be honest.

Dust: An Elysian Tail (Played)
Hard to believe that this game is essentially a one-man project. It is a beautiful, deep, and epic Metroidvania game. The story does start off a little typical of what an old-school RPG plot would be but I’m sure it will pick up later. I look forward to completing this game.

The Evil Within (Played)
I picked this up during a Steam sale and this is the newest AAA title that I have so far. At first I wasn’t terribly interested in it; I enjoyed Resident Evil 1 through 4 (including Code Veronica) but never really paid attention to the series after that. I suppose I just had an itch to a newer title and this was at the right price. I have only played about 40 minutes of the game and so far it is absolutely disgusting and gore filled. This is a strong candidate for being a ‘metal video game’ with the copious amounts of gore. I don’t really scare easily and what I did play of this I did like so this one will get booted up again pretty soon.

Guardian Heroes (Played)
This game has a fresh take on the beat’em up genre. What Castle Crashers had with including light RPG elements, this Treasure classic for the Saturn (and then XBLA) did it first back in 1996. With the ability to select different characters and with branching stories, there is a ton of replayability for a genre that is typically meant to be played only once all the way through. While the original game on the Saturn still commands a high price, it can be picked up cheap on XBLA. However I got extremely lucky by finding this at a thrift store for two bucks!

Jazzpunk (Beat)
Jazzpunk is an absolutely bizarre game. It’s a stylized spy-adventure game with loads of references to video games and pop culture. There’s really not much to say about this except that it is fun, short, and bizarre. And it’s actually funny, which is rare for a video game.

Limbo (Beat)
This is a game that I have had for a while, played for a bit and then just set it down for some reason. An early entry into the indie game world, Limbo oozes dark and doomy atmosphere (perfect for funeral doom or depressive black metal). I found the puzzles to rely too much on trial and error but the oppressive atmosphere made it worth playing through, ironically. There is no dialog to the story; Limbo only relies on gameplay and environments to tell the story which does a pretty good job and it leaves a lot open to interpretation.

Remember Me (Beat)
When this game came out it was notable for having a female protagonist which is still, unfortunately, not that common. Centering on the idea of memories being able to be stored and altered or “hacked” there is a solid action game with some cool elements that I wish would have been expanded upon.
The future setting of Paris is well realized although it is pretty linear and confined. I really enjoyed the hacking sequences. I only wish there were more in the game. While the story was nothing special it paid off in the end and I look forward to Dontnod’s next title.

Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne (Played)
I have an almost complete set of US Shin Megami Tensei games and yet, I have not completed a single one. I played quite a bit of Persona 3 and 4 with some excursions in Persona and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. I decided to change that with Nocturne. Of course this game is more unforgiving than the Persona series it is really cool aesthetically and some of the character designs are really awesome too.

The difficulty is pretty punishing for my tastes so I’ll have to formulate a better strategy before I continue on with this game.

Sleeping Dogs (Played)
I haven’t played this for too long but my experience with it was a positive and I look forward to going back to this GTA style game set in Hong Kong.

Spec Ops: The Line (Beat)
When I first heard about this game, I had zero interest in it. It seemed like a standard military shooter, which I have little interest in to begin with, but after reading some articles about it I realized that I should take a look at this game. Taking inspiration from Heart of Darkness, the fa├žade of a typical military shooter hides the descent into madness Colonel Konrad or is it really Captain Walker?
Progressing through this game really pushes storytelling of videogames. While the combat is not the strongest, the depiction of Dubai buried in sand is stunning.

Stanley Parable (Beat)
The Stanley Parable is similar to Jazzpunk but less bizarre. Another first person exploration title, the narrative begins with an office drone suddenly alone and a narrator narrates the events unfolding to poor Stanley. This is another well done and genuinely hilarious game that plays with the conventions of videogames with its fourth wall breaking mechanics and playful jabs at games in general.

Steamworld Dig (Beat)
Never would I have thought that a game basically just about digging down would be so good. This steampunk, old-Western, Metroidvania style game is simple in its execution but has enough to keep you coming back. While most games have a set path for you, Steamworld Dig has you forging your own path downward. It is all around solid with its mechanics and charming character designs.

Tales of Xillia (Played)
Growing up I was a big fan of JRPGs. They typically didn’t require too much skill to play and I generally enjoyed the overall stories that they would have and the gameplay can be good too. I still do enjoy them but there are a lot of the conventions that I hate about them that makes it tough to return to the genre.

Thankfully Tales of Xillia takes care of a lot of JRPG conventions for the better. Random encounters are gone (other titles have done that too of course) and the quests are tracked and can be looked up in the menu similar to PC RPGs so that I don’t get lost if I leave this title for a while and decide to come back to it later. ToX still retains the grind of JRPGs but it’s not completely tedious with the fantastic combat system. Now that Tomb Raider is completed, I shall return to this game.

Tetris Attack (Beat)
This is another game that I’ve had for a long time but only recently completed it. And unlike most puzzle games there is a single player story mode and it involves beating Bowser (since this is a Yoshi’s Island skinned game originally released as Panel de Pon in Japan). I played this game to death as a kid and returning to it years later it still holds up. Everything about this game is fantastic from the graphics to the music to the addictive gameplay.

Tomb Raider (Beaten in 2015 actually)
I tried the original Tomb Raider once on the PlayStation but didn’t care for it as controlling Lara Croft was a pain for me. Because of that I never paid attention to the series. It wasn’t until this reboot that I finally took notice. They made Lara Croft more relatable and the gameplay has been completely revamped. It is now structured more like an open world title with plenty to do such as hunting, collecting and raiding tombs of course. This game has quickly become one of my favorite recent titles due to everything working so well, although Lara Croft sure gets thrown off of mountains a lot and slides down them a lot too.

Typing of the Dead: Overkill (Played)
The original Typing of the Dead for the Dreamcast was absolutely perfect in its execution and absurdity. Remove the games, strap Dreamcasts with keyboards to the protagonists and kill zombies with words and phrases. Mavis Beacan has nothing on this game! A sequel was finally released, this one based on House of the Dead: Overkill which is basically exploitation cinema for rail shooters and I love it!

I don’t feel that the words and phrases are as clever as the original Typing game but I chalk that up to the fact that the development of Overkill was literally finished up in one of the developer’s apartment because the company was liquidated during development sadly.

Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Bose (Beat)
There’s not much I can say about this game other than it is pretty confusing and the combat is not very good at all. Plus they couldn’t seem to decide what time of character to make Shion, going from a strong character to one who is constantly told to not use her emotions. I guess her brother is really just kind of a jerk.

Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra (Beat)

The conclusion to the trilogy, which really should have been six parts, condenses three additional games of stories into one game and it makes it even more confusing than the last game. It’s a shame the Xenosaga games weren’t as good as Xenogears as I love that title to death. Oh well, maybe one day we’ll see this series in its proper form.

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