TGS Top Ten: Palmer's Favorite 2014 Titles

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Foreword by Tin Salamunic:
Happy New Year everyone!! What better way to start 2015 than with a top ten list of our favorite titles from last year. We decided to do things a little differently this year. Instead of having one big top ten list, we wanted to give each author the opportunity to discuss their favorite titles. We'll be posting one list per day throughout the week, and we'd love to hear what your favorites were in 2014. To start things off, here's Palmer's list of top ten 2014 releases:

2014 was a year chock-full of highs and lows. Impressive Indies like Shovel Knight, Transistor and Goat Simulator were unexpected hits that garnered massive attention, but small developers also had a chance to truly flex their muscles thanks to Kickstarter funding. With releases like Wasteland 2 and Divinity: Original Sin setting an incredibly high bar for RPGs of the year, it’s fair to say that there are a number of small studios that deserve our utmost attention going forward. Stumbles from AAA developers seemed to be the main focus of the year’s end with Sony and the Drive Club fiasco, Microsoft Studios and 343 facing flak for their broken Master Chief Collection, and Ubisoft doing its best to steal the crown of ‘most hated games publisher’ from EA thanks to an utterly broken Assassin’s Creed release. We saw countless games get delayed into 2015 (this year is slated to be amazing), and we saw DDOS attack after DDOS attack after DDOS attack... But what were the standout titles of the past year? What were the games that made us, the gamers, reaffirm our passion for the hobby? It was hard to whittle them down, but I’ve managed to pick out my list of the ten best video games of 2014. Without further ado, here they are:

10. Goat Simulator

Coffee Stain studios set out to make a mockery of the video game simulation craze, and they did so with a premise so ridiculous that it had tons of gamers glad to assume the role of “world’s most destructive goat”. Goat Simulator let players bounce, lick, and blow up their own paths to hilarity. The hidden gems and tongue-in-cheek references scattered throughout the small but robust world only reinforce the absurd nature the game so perfectly created. Take the title’s meager asking price of $10, ad in the free DLC that Coffee Stain has been pumping out in the months since its April release and you have not only one of the most unique gaming experiences of 2014, but one of the best bargains as well. 

9. Far Cry 4

Far Cry 3 surprised me when it came out in 2012. No part of me expected to enjoy it as much as I did, but I spent hours exploring the Rook Islands. Needless to say I was anticipating the release of its successor. The experience that was so perfectly captured in Far Cry 3 translated seamlessly to Far Cry 4. Troy Baker’s performance as Pagan Min may have been short-lived but his uncompromisingly brutal introduction had me hooked from the beginning. Throw in elephant havoc, explosives, and a full, open world to explore and you can easily see why this title ranked amongst my top ten gaming experiences of 2014.

8. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, or CoD:AW (pronounce it like a raven’s caw – Cod-AWW!), was a hard sell for me, especially once I saw how much Kevin Spacey’s face was plastered all over it. My immediate thought was, “Oh, man. Last year it was fish AI, this year it’s all about how well the developers can render Spacey’s cheeks.” I couldn’t have been more wrong. CoD:AW (CAW!) was an hard-hitting game with scary real-world undertones. Though those ideas may have been taken to extremes, they still remained very rooted in the turmoil of our current geopolitical landscape. Combine the great writing with Call of Duty’s brilliant controls and utterly addicting multiplayer and it’s easy to understand why this deserves a top spot. Oh, let’s not forget about the Exosuits.

7. Dragon Age: Inquisition

Dragon Age: Inquisition was one of my most anticipated games of 2014. The game, the content, and the huge world all shine with the polish that players have come to expect from Bioware. Unfortunately a few hitches prevented this game from ranking higher on my list. The dumbed down AI, the limited player controls, the generic story and character interactions (at least in the first half of the game), and the overly simplistic combat took me out of the experience. I missed the days of DA:O when I could control every aspect of my party, but the overall experience was something outstanding and it’s a well-deserved entry in this list.

6. South Park: The Stick of Truth

South Park: The Stick of Truth opened up the year with a great big “@#$&”. It may not have had the replayability that dedicated gamers have come to expect from RPGs in this day and age, but no one can deny how well this game captured the very essence of the long-running television show. Everything was present: the sick humor, the awkward situations, Nazi zombies -- heck, even Chinpokemon made an appearance. The combat may have been simplistic, but its fast paced button-press-fueled action left players like me paying attention to every beautifully animated impact. It may not have been perfect, but I can’t think of a single other game to come out this year that has made me smile more.

5. Wasteland 2

Add this one to the list of utterly outstanding indie releases of this year. Wasteland 2 is a bigger, better sequel to the original Wasteland that debuted in 1988. The game went on to influence the creation of the classic Fallout series (before Fallout 3), and with no REAL news about a new Fallout title around, then why not enjoy this one? The combat is deep and satisfying; the world exploration is completely open, but challenging; the character creation is some of the best you’ll find; and every move requires thought and tact. Though the graphics are a bit dated and the presentation isn’t perfect, its flawed appearance adds to the indie charm. If you haven’t played this yet and you’re a fan of isometric turn-based RPGs then you owe it to yourself to check this title out. 

4. Dark Souls 2

At this point you should probably know what to expect when dealing with a Souls game: unforgiving combat, a story that tells itself subtly through its use of scenery and setting, relentless bosses, and death… a lot of death. Though Dark Souls 2 might not have been the cream of the Souls crop, it’s still a marvel that demands any action RPG fan’s attention. March was an incredibly busy month for gamer’s this year, but you can bet I took more than enough time to venture through this title’s brilliant and brutal world. 

3. Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor

Take Assassin’s Creed’s stealth controls, Batman: Arkham City’s brilliant combat mechanics, sprinkle in a dynamic and ever changing world and throw it into the Lord of the Rings universe. What do you get? An instant classic. Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor is the very definition of a time sink. It’s an active and fully realized world that is engaging from start to finish, so much so that it succeeds wholeheartedly at constantly distracting the player from getting much of anything accomplished. You’ll set out to complete a quest, check your watch, and realize that you just spent the last four hours decapitating uruks (Uruk-hai?). There’s nothing wrong with that.

2. Divinity: Original Sin

Hands down the best RPG of the year. Sure Divinity didn’t have the funding that Dragon Age had behind it, but its clear direction, astounding attention to detail, fantastic combat, and incredible replay value all pooled together to make this one of the best video game experiences I’ve had in ages. The fact that this also came from an indie studio (Larian) is utterly amazing. If you’re not in the mood for dealing with DRM and feel like supporting a gamer-centric studio that actually deserves your money then you should drop everything and purchase this amazing game immediately, it’s worth every penny.

1. Hearthstone

Okay, okay. So Hearthstone has been in a very public, very playable beta for quite some time now. What the heck is it doing on this list? Well, it was officially released in March, it’s taken up more of my time than anything else on this list, and it keeps me coming back at least two-to-three times a week. Maybe that’s just because I enjoy playing it on my iPad during my visits to the bathroom. Who knows? What I do know is something that should’ve never garnered any of my attention (I hate virtual card games, I’d rather play them with people face-to-face) ended up exciting me so much that before the latest expansion came out I spent at least seven hours theory-crafting decks. If Blizzard would add some sort of Two-Headed Giant, and card trading options this would probably end up being more of an addiction for me than DOTA 2.

There you have it, my list of the top 10 games of 2014. Stay tuned throughout the rest of the week for our other contributors 

Article by: Palmer Sturman

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