2014 Top Five – Max
When Tess suggested a Christmas Top 5 I was fairly certain I knew what direction I wanted to go in. We talked about making a cumulative Top 5 but there was no way we’d ever come to any kind of consensus, probably ending up listing a number of games anyway. Here are mine.
On paper Sunless Sea shouldn’t work; slow moving ships, weird creatures, lore heavy and dodgy combat. But it does. Still in Early Access Sunless Sea has been steadily evolving with each patch; adding more lore, more islands and completely reworking the combat has seen Sunless Sea change from a promising title with a lot of potential to one I can recommend without reservation.
It treads a fine line between humorous and dark in tone (one that I think it gets wrong occasionally) but the writing is always excellent and compelling and the world that Failbetter have created is constantly engaging. Sunless Sea is a story of isolation and colonies and the power and value of information and stories.
Divinity: Original Sin
If I did a full game of the year list with categories and everything Divinity: Original Sin might feature numerous times; story, writing, successful Kickstarter and the best RPG. Divinity: Original Sin came out of nowhere for me and impressed me with its variety and quality, especially in combat. Combining elements and understanding your party made every encounter exciting and dynamic. Yes you could break it by exploiting certain combinations but it was never less than thrilling.
The post release support has been fantastic as well with free content added continuously and major changes and balance updates as well. Larian demonstrated not only how to pitch and run an excellent Kickstarter campaign, but also how to make an excellent game as well. With two more projects in the pipeline I can’t wait to see what they make next.
Dungeon of the Endless
This list is in no order, but if pushed I think this would be top two. Amplitude have released another high profile game this year that’s attracting a lot of attention in game of the year discussions, Endless Legend, but for me the best of their games this year, and of their entire catalogue, is Dungeon of the Endless.
A clever mix of tower defense and roguelike games Dungeon of the Endless boasts incredible imagination from the team. Great art design and the soundtrack of the year also go a long way to sealing its place on this list. I haven’t reviewed it yet (mainly because I don’t have anyone to play co-op with) but when I do you can rest assured it’ll receive an amazing, and thoroughly well deserved, score.
I knew instantly four of the games for this list, reading back through old reviews and looking at my recent playlist on Steam gave me the fifth entry, and it’s another that is easy to recommend. I reviewed Insurgency a while back, giving it an 8, but since that day the game has changed, and improved, almost immeasurably.
It’s difficult to put, or consider, developer support and post launch changes when you do a review, but Insurgency and the team at New World Interactive deserve all the credit they get. There were two “indie” shooters firmly locked into my gaming rotation early this year; Insurgency and Natural Selection 2. Since then Insurgency has seen a number of well priced sales, gameplay fixes and huge content patches, crucially, for free. While Natural Selection 2 has seen paid DLC, a standalone combat mode to splinter the userbase and dwindling numbers as a result.
Insurgency’s visceral combat, emphasis on teamwork, positioning and tension filled firefights, coupled with incredible developer support, made it an easy choice for the list.
The most controversial game on this list, at least if the comments on the review are to be believed. I gave Eidolon a 10 when it released – and I stand by that decision every time its questioned. Much like Eurogamer’s wonderful review of Never Alone, I didn’t give Eidolon a “perfect” score because it ticked arbitrary boxes, I gave Eidolon that score because it spoke to me and evoked emotions and feelings in me as a player than no other game has before.
It’s extremely slow paced, has some funky mechanics and, at launch, had a few performance issues. That didn’t detract from what Eidolon was trying to convey though; this was a game about wonder and loss, a game about Nature and overwhelming, humbling scale and, crucially, a game about humanity and legacy. I fully understand that it was never going to be for everyone; but Eidolon was for me and that’s why it was the first name I pencilled into this list.