Friday, 23 January 2015

PC Game of the Year Awards - 2014: Notable Mentions

That's right it's the New Year which means it's time for our annual PC Game of the Year awards!

Now before we reveal the winner of this year's award, let's start off with celebrating the other games that were great features on the PC format for 2014.

For many the digital card game Hearthstone was a game from 2013. This is down to Blizzard's use of an extremely robust open beta test. The truth however was that it was in Q1 2014 that we saw this card game extravaganza hit gold release.

As a digital card game Hearthstone has so much going for it. For starters it is free to download, with costs only coming from the additional single player campaigns and the booster packs, all of which can also be purchased for in game gold.

For those unfamiliar with the game it's full name is Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and the game lives up to its name by having each playable class/character not only feel unique but as if they have been pulled directly from Blizzard's Warcraft lore.

That is not to say the game is flawless. If you are looking for the equivalent of Magic: The Gathering - Online then you will not find that here. The deck building is limited (can't have for example a Hunter/Rogue dual class deck) and St the same time it is not limited enough. On many occasions I have encountered a deck that was only a class in name, but because of the cards that it contained could have been belonging to any other class. Likewise there are certain 'legendary' cards which while rare to acquire are in some cases "IWIN" buttons, and on many occasions I have seen entire games be won because of one of these card's very powerful abilities rather than the owner's strategy and tactics.

All in all however, there is very little reason not to try out this game. It's single player learning curve is so gradual with no immediate costs involved, and in addition due to it's account being based off a (free) account you can play on PC, MAC, iOS and Android and import your decks and progress across each and every platform.

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls
When Diablo 3 first launched in 2012 it was a fun game but when I compared it to the (in my opinion) superior Diablo (1) it was lacking something. I couldn't put my finger on it; maybe it was the requirement to once again feature a desert level, maybe it was the visual style or maybe it just was not fun? I honestly would not be able to tell you what this missing x-factor was, but whatever it was Reaper of Souls had it.

I forget who it was who said it, but the only way to summarise: Reaper of Souls is what Diablo 3 should have been.

The introduction of Adventure Mode rather than Campaign Mode has meant that should you wish it is entirely possible to skip the God-awful desert levels, and to add that that; whether it is real or not, the combat feels faster and more brutal, with much less time spent travelling in between combat areas and completing missions.

Now in no way is Reaper of Souls a complete game, after all it is an expansion for the game Diablo 3; so that is something to keep in mind. At RRP if you have yet to pick up a copy of Diablo3 then this is putting you back somewhere between £50 and £70 to get both D3 and RoS that is a negative to it, and I would be lying if I said there was much more to the game than grinding epic gear (the introduction of 'Seasons' furthering this even more) but if that's your cup of tea along with a buddy or 2 then you can go much worse than Reaper of Souls.

Goat Simulator
Any game released on the first of April is something that clearly needs to be taken note of, none more so than the Epic Tale of Awesome that is Goat Simulator.

At launch Goat Simulator was a true sandbox game. You spawned into the game (a suburban town) with some very basic missions to try and complete. To begin with they are simple: walk forward, jump etc. after a short while they become a little more complicated including manualing (walking in front legs akin to the skateboard manoeuvre) performing insane spins in the air, becoming the Goat Queen, the Anti-Goat, Goats on a Plane, playing Flappy-Goat, the list just goes on and on! Then you discover you are only in the first area and there is another even larger zone further on!

At it's heart Goat Simulator is a silly waste of time that tries to be nothing more than it is, and it works! It's cheap to buy and it's fun.

Don't expect hours of cleverly scripted storylines or even credible voice acting; you'll find none of that here, instead you will find something that not only makes no sense, but is enjoyable in a way that is unexplainable, to the extent that as I try and write about the game here I am physically incapable of putting down in words why Goat Simulator is fun. It just is!

Fast forward to a few months ago and the first major content release was put out for Goat Simulator. Now when you launch the game you are treated to two games; Goat Simulator and it's mutant brother Goat MMO Simulator! Now it is super important that I draw attention to the wording. This is Goat MMO Simulator, not Goat Simulator MMO.

In Goat MMO Simulator (GMS) you create a character from Warrior (Goat covered in armour), Rouge (yes; Rouge NOT Rogue), Hunter (Goat with a fishing rod and a huntin' hat), Magician (card tricks, not fireballs) and Microwave (a microwave) and you travel around a simulated MMO complete with a chat box that you can use and is filled with chat, but it's all spam and "LFM-UBRS" while you go around completing quests for the game's many NPCs, such as giving an apple to a man surrounded by a thousand apples.

Once again this game is silly nonsense, but in that respect if you ask of it to be nothing more than it is, it delivers 100%.

Outlast: Whistleblower
For those who haven't watched my complete playthrough of Outlast: Whistleblower on my YouTube account; Whistleblower is an expansion for the first person horror game Outlast released last year which in turn also made my Notable Mentions for 2013.

Available as Downloadable Content or DLC for short Whistleblower takes you back to Mount Massive Asylum just in time to see the events of the main game take place.

If you enjoyed Outlast then you will enjoy Whistleblower; essentially it's just more of the same - running and hiding from creepy crazy people who want to hurt you and do nasty things with your body, and there is nothing wrong with that but at the same time the game does have a different change of pace compared to the original.

While playing the original I found an intense sense of dread that stuck with me at all times. It felt like the game didn't want to let up and give me a break instead it just continued to push and push until I felt like I was having an anxiety attack.

In comparison Whistleblower doesn't creep in under your skin like that, instead it jumps in your face giving a very different experience should you wish to ride this roller coaster to it's final destined finale...

And what a finale it is! Rarely have I ever watched a game play out from through the gaps in my fingers but with this game I did.

I will not ruin it here, I will only say that I have never seen a game go as far as Whistleblower did. And I'm glad they did.

Five Nights at Freddie's
When Five Nights at Freddie's hit the net it didn't look to be all that much, very little at first appeared to differentiate it from the thousand other 'indie horror' games that were already plaguing the market as is. Then people started playing it.

I think (but am probably wrong) that it began with Let's Play YouTubers but this game very quickly became a firm favourite and in turn I know that from my YouTube channel, my one and only playthrough attempt at this game has been one of the more popular.

The game has a very simple premise; you are a night guard at a place not too different to the famous Chucky Cheese from the U.S. This place is filled with animatronic humanoid animals that during the day entertain children, but at night run around the venue killing people because: reasons.

What this results in is a game that consists of you as the night guard watching security feeds to monitor the movement of these robots and activating your emergency security doors if they get too close to your security office.

Sounds simple enough; you're watching your feeds, you see one of them wandering around, no worries. A short while later another appears and is also wanting around, so now you're tracking two of them. That's ok.

Next thing you know another has activated, but wait where has the first gone? You're checking the feeds but you can't find it until you realise that you can't see it because it's in the one room where there is no security feed; your office.

You look away from the security feeds and are relieved to see no sign of the missing animatronic. You go to bring back up your camera feed to try and track down the mysteriously missing machine all the while keeping an eye on his friends when something catches the corner of your eye as a brightly coloured fur covered monstrosity lunges out from the shadows screaming in a sound only capable by machines.

You jump out of your chair throwing your headphones into the floor. You swear (a lot) you turn off the game vowing to never turn it on again and at that moment you know in the pit of your stomach, no matter how much you try to deny it... That was the best £3.99 you ever spent!

The Wolf Among Us
Now it's hard to really pin-point when in 2014 this game was released. As an episodic game that unlocks additional episodes as they are released it's full release has been spread across 2014.

Now I think I found The Wolf Among Us a bit of a love/hate relationship. I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline that the game presented to me and I felt genuine feelings towards the characters I met, however I spent the entire time wanting more.

You see Wolf is a game that is more like an interactive movie. You control Bigby Wolf aka The Big Bad Wolf as you investigate a series of murders in Fable Town a small region of New York City occupied by Fables (the mythical characters from childhood stories). The game essentially leads you through a series of Quick Time Events and dialogue options as you scrap with the other characters and question them about what they know, but beyond that there is very little interaction with the game world beyond 'walk around and click on everything highlighted'.

This puts me at an impasse.

You see I really enjoyed the game. Unlike many like it, when it comes to interrogating and questioning people, out of each dialogue option you only get to ask one, the others tend to be lost as the conversation moves on. This means your decisions and speed of making decisions are important however more often than not I found myself wanting to go back and ask a previous question when I had the opportunity and availability to do so, but due to game mechanics was unable.

I suppose I would have much preferred to have seen this game crossed with something like Murdered: Soul Suspect where your time in the world seemed much more involved and you didn't feel like you were on a theme park ride being carried from conversation to conversation.

That said; I need to iterate again; I enjoyed this game immensely, which is why it gets a spot on my notable mentions when games like the previously mentioned Murdered do not and if it wasn't for these mentioned flaws Wolf would have been a serious contended for GOTY.

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
When World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor released in November it was met with a lot of complaints, and to be honest most of them were warranted.

If you tried to begin the first mission of the expansion pack you were required to click on a single NPC in an area, what this resulted in was a massive bundle on top of this character, with plenty of people using the largest mount at their disposal just to make things awkward for others. As such this meant for many players the new content was unreachable until additional NPCs were added to certain locations.

Then there was the issue of Garrisons...

Garrisons are WoW's equivalent of player housing which you expand as you progress through the expansion. The issue was that at certain points in the game you were required to visit your garrison in order to progress the storyline, because of this the bottlenecking was so severe that thousands of players ended up disconnecting when reaching their Garrison and unable to load back in until the server was reset.

Now this is an interesting thing, as many previous expansions had similar mechanics; capital cities, certain NPCs that need to be spoken to etc, so why was it that these only became an issue in Warlords?

The answer goes back to something that occurred previously in the year: Server Merges.

Yup, earlier in 2014 many servers were merged together meaning where as before you would only be competing with say 10-20 others, now you are looking at 50-200.

However as with many of Blizzards previous launches they worked tirelessly to get these issues fixed and within 2 weeks of launch these bugs and issues were all but forgotten.

This allowed people to not only play the game but also enjoy the game; as I have to be honest here, when it works Warlords is a great expansion that really moved the game forward in both game mechanics and graphics.

Plus as a gesture of good will, Blizzard even awarded free time back as a way of saying sorry!

Now you can't go wrong with that, can you?

Dragon Age: Inquisition
So Dragon Age; Inquisition is a game that I am told is a really good game with an engrossing story and engaging characters.

The problem that I have is it is also a very buggy game.

Released in November, with a PC that is more than capable of running the spec required my playing of this game has consisted of immense framerate drops (as in from 75-80FPS down to 3) happening roughly every 10 or so seconds. The issue from what I've been able to understand is down to the game on some (random) machines rendering the field of depth at anywhere between infinite and negative distance.

For me this has made the game unplayable, however due to the length of time I spent trying to fix it (roughly a week) I passed EA's 48hr refund window and was stuck with a game that now more than 2 months later, I along with a large many other players are unable to play in an enjoyable way.

So why is it in notable mentions?

That's simple. In the few occasions I've been able to get a -playable- amount of time out of the game, I did really enjoy it. It is clear that the game is fun when it is playable.

Of course this does little to sate my anger as I am having GotY awards for the game shoved down my throats with little to no performance patches being released for the game 2 months after it was released.
- Do I think that EA and Bioware are chugging champagne while they polish their GotY awards choosing to give a middle finger to those who purchased the game and are unable to enjoy it through no fault of their own? Of course not, but it's not hard to see why one might.

So what did you think of the games this year? Anything you would have liked to see in the mentions, and who would care to guess as to what won the NFN PC Game of the Year award?

Until next time!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

1 comment:

  1. Sorry! Mine is Dragon Age: Inquisition. I appreciate lots of people have had serious issues with it, so it feels like I'm bragging a bit just being able to say it plays perfectly for me.
    But to be honest, any game that can make me cry with sorrow or pride at the outcome of decisions I've made gets a mega thumbs up.