This has been one of those years, hasn't it. What started off as the first real year of a new console cycle, ended with horrid tales of humanity's worst behaviors cast through the lens of the “gamer.” Through it all, games continued to come out, some great, and some seemingly as broken as the people that make them, play them, enjoy them. It's a lot to think about and process, and it's something I feel will continue far into next year. Hopefully, growth comes before there's any escalation. As far as video games go, I played less total games this year then I have in years previous, mostly do to budget. Outside of the few codes I've gotten for review, it meant a solid return to days where I would have to pay attention to what was coming out, looking for quality rather then “oh this looks like it could be cool.” As a result, my list feels like it's been sponsored by Blizzard, though, honest to the gods, I've received no tribute from them for this. With that said, here are 2014's personal gaming standouts!
Favorite Game released before 2014, played in 2014: LEGO: MARVEL Super Heroes
The pinnacle of Traveler's Tales LEGO games, LEGO: MARVEL Super Heroes sets a high standard for anything the developer wants to do in the future. High quality voice acting, super powers, and the introduction of LEGO Big Figs (larger then standard mini-figs used for heroes like Hulk) make this title both enjoyable and incredibly varied, while managing to iterate on the same formula used throughout the previous LEGO titles. Plus, you get to jump off the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier and sky dive into New York.
5. Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls
It's not often that an expansion pack decidedly changes the trajectory of a game. Reaper of Souls does exactly that, using a new system to completely redefine its loot mechanics, as well as adding an Adventure mode that shakes up the way Diablo is approached. It's what Diablo 3 should have been upon release, and it speaks wonders to Blizzard's commitment to iteration rather then ideals that they were able to finally deliver the definitive Action RPG experience.
4. World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
Earlier, I gave praise to Traveler's Tales for their ability to iterate. I think no developer does that better then Blizzard. Running strong for 10 years, World of Warcraft's newest expansion is a trip through time to before the Orcs charged through the Dark Portal in an attempt to conquer Azeroth. It also recognizes, story wise, the contributions your hero has given the cause, which ever side you may be fighting for, granting you control of a garrison that is the focal point of your side's engagements in Draenor. Through new systems, and further gameplay refinements, Warlords is the most content filled expansion yet.
3. Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Shadow of Mordor is an Orc manipulation and murder simulator. You spend your time hunting a war mongering race created by an evil super demi-god, manipulating their caste structure until their entire community has been tortured into submission. There's a pretty standard revenge story worked somewhere in there for effect, but that is secondary to the Nemesis system, an AI put in place that governs the orc hierarchy and gives them character, adding a face, substance, and story to what should be simply sword fodder. Even if Arkham-style combat and sneaking isn't your thing, you owe yourself to check this out.
#2: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Blizzard's free-to-play card game is the perfect game to play when you have a baby in your non mouse hand. Stretching from it's release at the beginning of the year until now, it's the only game I have continued to go back to all year long, and the most consistent source of impressive highs and demoralizing lows. If you've never played a CCG before, this is a great place to start.
1. Dragon Age: Inquisition
There's not a whole lot more I can say about this game then I did in the 5 star review I gave it. DA:I is everything I was hoping it would be and more. Through it's impressive writing and epic scope, it delivers the world promised to us in Origins and DA2. For some, this was a return to form for BioWare. For me, it was proof that they never left.
Honorable Mentions: Infamous: Second Son, The Last of Us: Left Behind (DLC), Marvel Heroes 2015, Final Fantasy XIV (PS4)
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!