Looking Back at my Best of 2014 List

Originally published on Trevor Trove on December 24, 2015

As I begin compiling ranking the games I played in 2015, I thought I’d look back on my top games of 2014. Fortunately, I’d already compiled that list back when Trevor Trove was just a think I called my old blog, before I ever even considered making this website. Here’s what I wrote on my Favorite Games of 2014 and some commentary from the perspective of 2015 Trevor.

Overall, despite a lot of games being released in serious need of some patching, I thought 2014 was a pretty solid year for games. This list is only focusing on the games I played through (hence the lack of any Wii U games). So here are my personal favorites.

But first, some Honorable Mentions:

Destiny – Yes, this game has a lot of problems but it’s still one of the games I put the most time into throughout the year so I figured it was worth a shout out. It’s also the game I spent the most money on this year because I pre-ordered the digital version with the expansion passes. Then on top of that, I have to end up getting a new router because with my old one, I could only connect in 1 out of 50 attempts even when I was connected via an ethernet cable. It was an annoying ordeal because there was no rhyme or reason to why I did or didn’t connect but ultimately, the game kept me entertained enough that I think I got my money’s worth. Though there is certainly also a part of me who will always be annoyed that as a solitary gamer, I’m shutout from the raids that everyone seems to identify as the best part of this game. Oh well. Maybe someday…

2015 Commentary: …or maybe not, since as I touched on last week, I never did get a crew together for the raids and I didn’t pick up The Taken King this year.

Diablo III Reaper of Souls – This game has obviously had some time to work out the kinks that plagued its initial release on the PC so I’m glad I came into it via the PS4 edition. I vaguely remember enjoying the original Diablo years ago when I was growing up. I don’t think I ever went the Diablo II route. But the loot game in here was very satisfying and I ended up putting in a lot of time with this one too. And I was able to connect with my sister who lives in Texas as we were kind of playing through it together at the same time. Unfortunately, she and her fiance are on the PS3 version so we weren’t able to play together, but we would text back and forth checking in on each other’s progress.

2015 Commentary: I bought my sister a PS4 for her birthday this year along with a copy of this game so we could play together. We played a bit of Diablo and a bit of Borderlands: The Handsome Jack Collection. Ironically, she moved back to Phoenix over the summer but we haven’t played now that we’re in the same city again.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection (Xbox One) and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (PS3) – I got a start on both of these games but they both came so late in the year that they got buried alongside all of the other games I was interested in. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played so far but I just haven’t played enough to include them in a best of year-end list. On the plus side, the fact that I don’t really have an attachment to multi-player meant that Halo wasn’t broken for me. The single player campaign was working fine and since I never really played Halo on the original Xbox and sat out the Xbox 360, I look forward to familiarizing myself with this collection. And Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is another game my sister picked up for Christmas so I look forward to playing through the campaign with her eventually.

2015 Commentary: Well my stance on Halo certainly changed when I finally spent some more time with it this year. But I really did end up enjoying Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, although not with my sister. When we played the Handsome Collection, we only played Borderlands 2.

Alright, with those out of the way, here are my top 10 games of 2014.

10.  Far Cry 4 – I loved the gameplay of this one (and the fact that it worked at the end of the year when all of the other games seemingly weren’t). The fact that it just felt too much like Far Cry 3 kept this from placing higher on my list. I always want sequels to build on their previous entries. Don’t just give me the same gameplay with a new coat of paint and a couple new elements like elephants. And learn to utilize your engaging villains for the entire game. Vaas was a great maniac in FC3 but was killed off so anti-climatically about 2/3 of the way through that game that I actually didn’t even realize I had killed him off at first. And Troy Baker’s performance here in Far Cry 4 is so wonderfully nuanced and insane that I just wanted so much more of him but he’s relegated to the beginning and ends of the story with the occasional pop-up over the radio that I was ultimately let down. Still a great game, but I think it could have been that much stronger.

2015 Commentary: Spoiler alert: my thoughts on Fallout 4 and where it may or may not wind up on my Best Games of 2015 list kinda sorta contradicts what I said here about Far Cry 4 being too similar to Far Cry 3. I’m only human and human’s are often contradictory creatures.

9.  Transistor – I picked up this game when it came out and was immediately enthralled with the art and music direction. Unfortunately, it hit just around the time I was going through a pretty significant career change so my mind wound up being distracted and the game got away from me. I revisited it at year’s end because it was definitely one I always wanted to revisit. Nothing got its hooks in me enough to get all the way through the campaign yet but the look and sound of the game, coupled with the great strategy RPG battle system earned it a place on the list.

2015 Commentary: I tried early in the year to revisit the game. Still loved it but also still didn’t get too far into it. Under my new criteria, I probably wouldn’t have put this game in the running because I didn’t play enough of it to speak to it.

8.  Rogue Legacy – I learned something new about my gaming tastes this year: I hate rogue-like games. The chaos of a brand new level/game every time just doesn’t particularly appeal to me. Nowhere was this more evident that Rogue Legacy. I got so frustrated and threw my controller and/or Vita more than a couple times but the charm of the various character traits kept me coming back long enough to get through that initially steep learning curve. But I must admit that few gaming moments were more satisfying this year than beating that first boss or getting a few more screens outside of the castle, or after killing probably well over 100 generations of knights, defeating the end boss. This game was incredibly addictive because the chaos was random enough that you could have an incredible run right after a one-hit death so you just kept trying. This was also my favorite use of the Cross-Buy functionality of the Sony ecosystem. I could play the game on my TV if I wanted or, more often, on my Vita before bed and always continue where I left off with ease.

2015 Commentary: Still the only rogue-like game to really hook me.

7.  Counter Spy – This was my fallback game during those countless hours before my new router when I couldn’t connect to Destiny. Another game with a great art direction, I really enjoyed the simple humor and tone of this game. I’m not typically a fan of stealth. When given the option, I definitely prefer going in guns-a-blazing. But this was a game where I continually found myself reaching for the silencer instead of the assault rifle. The only real downside to this game was that it really left me wanting more.

2015 Commentary: I was just thinking about this game the other day and wondering if the developer Dynamighty is currently working on anything else. A quick search of their website blog revealed they released a free-to-play mobile game earlier this year called Fingers of Fury. Hmmm…

6.  Child of Light – 2014 was a great year for “bite-sized” RPGs. TransistorChild of Light, and South Park: The Stick of Truth all did a great job of packing all of the fun deep-customization of RPGs without getting bogged down with a need to farm enemies and level up. Child of Light added a delightful spin on the idea of the fairy tale to its great gameplay mechanics. I get that rhyming couplets and the poetic language of the game might be a turnoff for a lot of people but as a student of theatre with a reverence for Shakespeare, this was speaking my language. The expertly-painted characters and world also made this my Most Beautiful Game of the Year.

2015 Commentary: Stand by this. It’s also a great RPG to introduce non-RPG players to because it doesn’t go too into the weeds on RPG mechanics.

5.  Shovel Knight – I love that I’m at a point where the people who grew up with the same stuff I grew up with are now the content creators. Fan-Fiction is increasingly becoming Fan-Fact. And in video games, there is no better example than Shovel Knight. It honors so many of the iconic Nintendo games of my childhood. As a result, it was definitely my Most Nostalgic Game of the Year. Rather than being another in an endless stream of remakes/remasters, Yacht Club Games took the elements that made games like DucktalesMega Man, and Super Mario Bros. 3 great and made their own masterpiece.  The level design is fantastic. My only frustration with Shovel Knight, and the reason it’s not higher on this list, is that I HATE the 3DS as a precision controller. It’s great for stuff like Fire Emblem and A Link Between Worlds, not for a platformer like Shovel Knight. The thumbstick drives me crazy and the system gets so warm that my hands are endlessly sweaty and I spend as much time trying to wipe them off as I do get through the levels. That said,I will gladly purchase it again for my Vita when it comes out.

2015 Commentary: I mentioned yesterday that I didn’t play enough Shovel Knight on the 3DS so playing through the Vita version made it eligible for my 2015 awards. Apparently, I completely forgot ranking it last year as well. As mentioned here, I really did hate playing it on 3DS so I didn’t play too much of it (probably only about a third of the game) until this year’s Vita version. This is another case where I probably shouldn’t have ranked it last year because I really didn’t play enough of it. But it was 2014. I was young and stupid back then…

4.  South Park: The Stick of Truth – Hands down, this was my Funniest Game of the Year (in a year with some legitimate standouts like Sunset Overdrive and the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands). The care that the South Park guys puts into this game is evident in every detail. It is an epic love letter to fans of the show. I myself fell by the wayside a few years back but this game got me excited for their brand of humor again so I wound up binging through four or five seasons in the lead up to the game. And while I’m sure there were still plenty of references I didn’t quite catch, this was everything I could have hoped for and more. Add to that another incredibly tight short-form RPG and I was sold.

2015 Commentary: One of my favorite announcements from E3 was when Matt and Trey came out to announce South Park: The Fractured But Whole. I had read so much about the last game nearly killing them that I never thought we’d get another. But they’re switching the story up and having the kids play Avengers instead of Lord of the Rings and I couldn’t be happier. Please please PLEASE let that game come out soon!

3.  Sunset Overdrive  – This game is pretty much the entire reason I have an Xbox One. I wanted to get my hands of it since first seeing it so I was very glad midway through the year when I landed a new great-paying job that meant I could afford doubling up on the consoles this generation (and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I succumb to the nostalgic charm of Nintendo once again). I absolutely loved the point of view and voice of this game. It was so refreshing to get such a gorgeous, colorful game in an era that seems to embrace grays and browns far too heavily. This was also one of the few games these days where I actively went through and found every damn collectible because I just enjoyed traveling through the world of this game so much.

2015 Commentary: Still one of the best games on the Xbox One. I enjoyed sticking with this game as the new DLC expansions came out in the early year. I hope once Insomniac finishes their Ratchet & Clank reboot that they amp up work on Sunset Overdrive 2.

2.  Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor – No single game element has me more excited for the future of this generation than the Nemesis system of Shadow of Mordor. The ability to create dynamic rivalries and stories with otherwise anonymous Orcs tooks this game to a new level and serves as the best example of what developers can do within the framework of the new hardware. On top of that, the game took the excellent combat mechanics of the great Rocksteady Arkham games and amped it up with swords, daggers, and bow and arrows, as well as the traversal and stealth mechanics of Assassin’s Creed (only better). While the story was pretty by the numbers, I cannot wait to see Monolith build on the great foundation they’ve laid here with the sequel.

2015 Commentary: Well 2015 has come and gone and we haven’t seen anyone else really incorporate the ideas behind the Nemesis system. And I admittedly never revisited this game or any of the DLC this year. But I’d bet money that there is a sequel in development out there.

1.  Dragon Age: Inquisition – As a storyteller, Bioware games have resonated with me since at least the days of Knights of the Old Republic. And Inquisition does not disappoint. It’s telling that I wanted to replay through Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II prior to this release to refresh myself on the epic story they’ve spent the past 5 years crafting. And arguably the best story element of Bioware games is the fully fleshed out characters they create. Inquisition is not lacking at all in that department with every party member bringing something interesting to the table. Even characters I didn’t want to spend that much time with like Cole and Solas are still fascinating in their own right. The action RPG gameplay was fantastic: falling in between the styles of Origins and DA2, with the options for the strategy-RPG-style if desired. Looking back on the entire year, I’m even more thankful for the short-form RPGs that whet my appetite because I knew I would be pouring a lot of time into Inquisition and after spending more than 100 hours in my first playthrough, I immediately jumped in again to try a different class and race, set up a different world using the Dragon Age Keep site to define choices from the previous entries, and see how that would affect the story. Dragon Age: Inquisition was my personal Game of the Year for 2014. Thanks Bioware!

2015 Commentary: One of my biggest gaming tragedies this year was that I was so consumed with playing titles as they launched and spending time with so many 50+ hour experiences that I didn’t have the time of wherewithal to revisit Dragon Age: Inquisition when any of it’s DLC expansions were released. The Witcher filled the fantasy RPG void this year but my 2015 was lacking in terms of a real stable of great characters to spend time with in a game. Fallout 4 probably came the closest but didn’t quite reach the heights of the bar that Bioware has set.

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