Every year here at GameEngineStart we take a look back at the games that really caught our attention, for better or worse. We sit down with a few drinks and try and put them in some semblance of category and order. Some call it a fruitless task, we call it an interesting Wednesday evening.
Best Moment – “The Orlesian Ball” – Dragon Age: Inquisition
- “The Court” – The Wolf Among Us
- “The Bar Gig” – Kentucky Route Zero, Act 3
Calum – Bioware is very good at making imagined worlds feel incredibly real. If you’ve played any of their games, you know this. The pinnacle of this, in my opinion, was the when the inquisitor found himself attending a ball in the capitol of Orlais to secure the help of the Orlesian armies. Fans of Dragon Age have been told of Orlais opulence and lavish balls for two games. Seeing it for yourself in Inquisition is both the realisation of all that build up and more. As you progress through the evening, you learn more and more of the so call “game” that is played at all these events. You soon learn the ball is ancillary. This is about political manoeuvres and fights for power, and you are now right in centre. The fact you can end this event having played “the game” so well that you can blackmail the entire Orleasian court, making you the de-facto ruler is just incredible, and fits the whole idea of the event so perfectly. The section lasts about an hour in game, but will probably stick with me for a very long time
Best Couch Co-op – Nidhogg
- Gang Beasts
- Fibbage XL
Euan – This year has seen a resurgence in games designed to get people in a room together and play. Even with the two of us at GameEngineStart, we have both had separate avenues to explore these games, and have been some of the most enjoyable times with a controller we have had. From all of these titles this year, nothing has brought out the competitive nature as much as Nidhogg has. Trying to pitch a 1 on 1 fencing simulator as a way to spend an hour with someone takes a little convincing, but all it takes for them to be on board is five minutes of flinging their sword after their fleeing opponent for them to be on-board. There is enough depth there to keep people coming back, and watching high level play delivers the same level of thrill that I’m sure mainstream sport delivers to fans.
Biggest News Thing – P.T.
- Microsoft Selling a Kinectless Xbox
- Microsoft Purchases Mojang
Euan – The release of P.T. onto the world has been a gift that keeps on giving. Announcing the presence of this thing on the Playstation Store during their Gamescom media briefing, then downloading it to realise it was a hyper realistic horror game that was terrifying Twitch streamers almost immediately. To top it all off, ending with a trailer announcing the next in the Silent Hill series developed by Hideo Kojima and Guilelmo Del Toro rounds off one of the most interesting game announcements I think I have ever seen.
Most Disappointing Game – Bravely Default
- The Evil Within
Calum– Man this game is such a bummer. I’ve said this multiple times, but it still stands. I’ve never turned so hard on a game before in my roughly 20 years of gaming. From to close to perfection, to nothing more than a chore. This game builds up so much good will in the mind of the player, only to throw it all in their face and curse them for believing things could be so good. By making me play through the same content multiple times, only improving difficulty and providing minor story beats as sustenance, I gave up on Bravely Default. Listen to me Square Enix. Don`t do this for the sequel! You had, and can still have and amazing RPG here. Don`t throw it away now.
Thing to Watch in 2015 – Glitchspace
- The Return of the Obra Dinn
- Prison Architect
Euan – There have been a few games that have attempted to incorporate some level of visual programming as a core gameplay element, but most implementations have ended up too simplistic or too complex for the average gamer. Glitchspace manages to get the balance just right, with it being simple enough to get into and start experimenting with, but has enough flexibility to potentially allow for some very interesting problem solving. Add to that some very cool looking concept art that I hope highlights the direction they are taking the project, and it also being one of the better Early Access experiences I’ve had so far, with every update bringing new levels and modules into the mix, Glitchspace becomes an exceptionally interesting game that should come to fruition this year.
Best Writing – Dragon Age: Inquisition
- Wolfenstein: The New Order
Calum – Dragon Age almost wins this for the writing of Iron Bull on his own. The conversations you can have with that Qunari, and how he interacts with other members of the party are so incredible, that it deserves some achievement. It also helps that the game in many other faculties is impressively well written. Characters with believable issues and concerns, groups in the world with opinions that react to what you are doing are all amazing to see.
Mobile Game of the Year – The Sailor’s Dream
- Monument Valley
Euan – Simogo are a developer that really understands how to use the tools provided by phones and tablets to give you something truly unique. The Sailor’s Dream continues their amazing track record by combining gorgeous art and an utterly beautiful soundtrack to tell a story in a way that hasn’t been done before. It’s not for everyone, but if you just run with it, Sailor’s Dream will pay out in a big way.
Best Visuals – Transistor
- Fract OSC
- Kentucky Route Zero
Euan – There are very few studios that can create a game that feels like it comes with a signature, but Supergiant is for sure one of those studios. They have such a unique vision for their world and characters, while keeping everything coherent. Transistor is a gorgeous looking game and is incredibly polished in every area. This even extends to the UI, an area that doesn’t normally get a lot of attention, but I personally appreciate when it’s done well.
Best Original Song – “Evil Eye” – Payday 2 Hotline Miami DLC
Calum – Fucking Christ this song is so brilliant. It`s such a perfect blend of two pretty distinct styles of music, drawing it’s inspiration from the movie Heat. Wet bongos and uprising beat with heavy guitars and all. Hotline taking a more 80s dance style, with a modern EDM twist. Putting them together makes this beautiful amalgamation, that works in both quiet preparation moments of the heist, and drives you so hard forward when shit gets real and you have to pull out the guns. Listen to this song and get more pumped than you have ever been.
Best Music – Transistor
Euan – It’s a rare thing in games that it’s soundtrack is not only a core part of the story and setting, but also manages to stand on it’s own as an excellent collection of music, outside of any video game connection. Transistor’s OST has been on permanent rotation in my headphones, and I am not even remotely close to sick of it. It sets the mood for the world of Cloudbank so well that when combined with the unique visual styles that Transistor would be a distinctly lesser game without it.
GameEngineStart Game of the Year 2014 – Jazzpunk
- #2 – Divinity: Original Sin
- #3 – Transistor
- #4 – Wolfenstein: The New Order
- #5 – The Wolf Among Us
Calum – I said in my top 5 video that comedy is very hard to pull off successfully in video games. By the sheer fact it`s very hard to direct a player down the narrative needed for good set-up and punchline style classical comedy, you make it difficult for your audience to see the jokes as you intended. Jazzpunk transcends the need for this with an “everything and the kitchen sink approach”. By multi-barrel shotgun blasting the player with jokes, and seeing what sticks, Jazzpunk sets itself up in a way where you can`t NOT laugh at it. You’d think that this method means a lot of the humour falls flat, not sticking to this imaginary wall I have built. You`d be so wrong in that fact. 99.99% of these jokes land with such impact, I found myself howling in my chair. These guys have nailed comedy in video games. For that, they need a much grander award. Since I can’t give that, Game of the Year will happily do.
Euan – Jazzpunk feels like the digital manifestation of my sense of humour, and the fact that it’s possible to write that sentence makes me very happy. It’s astounding how much content there is in this game, and how readily Necrophone Games are willing to use each piece only once for effect and then leave it behind to move onto the next joke. It’s very possible that casual observers would discount Jazzpunk for being “just another crazy looking Unity game”, but there is so much craft in here it leaks from the seams of the lo-fi world they have created. This is the game I would have created if given the opportunity, and it would be a mere shadow of the accomplishment found here. That, ladies and gentlemen, is probably the highest honour I can hand out to a game, and Jazzpunk more than deserves it.