It’s right before Christmas, and we’re soon tumbling headlong into 2015, in the Gregorian Calendar. Consoles matured, games came out, more games got delayed, and those that came out were often broken as all hell. I did manage to get through a few games, and am currently playing through a few more. I got a PS4 this year, but I haven’t beaten much on it. I find when I am at home, most of my time is spent on the PC, or with a handheld system. I have Shadows of Mordor, but frankly got stressed out by it a lot of the time. The game is incredible, and will probably be the game of the year for many, but it wasn’t for me. Frankly 2014 was the grand conclusion of what happened to me in 2013. Thanks to Persona 4 Golden, I got back into Japanese RPG’s in a big way. I found that I missed grinding, I still love the insane tropes, and I love the colorfulness and the often wacky nature Japanese RPG’s exhibit. So I played a bunch of those this year. As it turns out 2014 was a good year for those games, especially if you have a handheld system.
I am not gonna go into some huge list about my best games of 2014, because frankly I don’t have a huge list. I played a bunch of games, but not many of them came out in 2014. I played Tales of Xillia, and loved it. But that came out last year. I played like…half of Tales of Xillia 2. That came out this year, but it’s not that great. Or good at all. But yeah, I have 3 games that I want to talk about in numbered order, but first I want to give an honorable mention. Also before that, I want to talk about one game that I haven’t finished yet, but should be talked about. If I finished it, and it remained as good throughout, it would so be on my list. So without further ado, let’s get crackalackin.
Game That Would Probably Be On My Top Three Of The Year If I Finished It Before I Wrote This List Award- Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth (Atlus, 3DS)
I am 30 hours into this game, and I am about to finish the second dungeon on my first playthrough. To most people, that would sound like an insanely slow pace, and it may be, but for this game it feels perfect. Lifting the mechanics of Atlus’ Etrian Odyssey series, but then dropping in the cast and personality of Persona 3 and Persona 4 ended up being a perfect combination for me. Like chocolate and peanut butter, these two things went perfectly together, and I sincerely hope this isn’t the only title of its type. From what I understand, the normal Etrian Odyssey games are far harder than this title, and Persona Q isn’t easy. I am playing on normal, and haven’t wiped yet, but have gotten close. It’s that good level of hard that rewards smart tactics and will punish you if you just try to brute-force everything.
This is definitely a fan game however. As good as it is, a lot of the reasons why it is good will be lost on someone who hasn’t gotten through both Persona 3 and Persona 4. While I will tell anyone to play both those games on their own merits, I can see why the prospect of 200 hours of two games simply to understand a third game is insane. However, everyone should play Persona 3 and 4. Once you get through those, come to Persona Q. You won’t be disappointed, at least from what I have seen so far. As I said, I am at the end of the second dungeon, and there are four that I know of. I am sure another one will rear its head, it is how these games work. So I know I have a lot of game ahead of me, and if it stays this good, I am totally okay with that.
Okay, well that wraps up my talking about that game for the moment. However, I will be playing it more, so I am sure it will come up again. Now onto the Honorable Mention of my gaming year.
Honorable Mention- Crossy Road (Hipster Whale, iOS)
It’s endless Frogger. Between opening Japanese health clubs, how someone at Konami didn’t figure out to make this and throw it on phones everywhere is beyond me. Sporting a crisp, easy to see Voxel-graphics style, and feeling truly free, Crossy Road is probably the best time waster I have ever played waiting on line at the bank. It is a free to play game that has you dodging traffic and navigating logs Frogger style, and lets you play as a vast assortment of characters; many of which you will earn for free, assuming you are willing to watch some non-intrusive app trailers once in a while. Or if you want, you can buy characters at 99 cents per new character. I bought one new one, simply because I wanted to give Hipster Whale something for making this great game. While not very involved past the whole tapping and swiping to get around, the hole one can go down with this is deep. I am still sitting at my record of 125, and it is driving me insane. Damn you Crossy Road, you hurt so good.
Okay, let’s get down to my top games of the year, like I said, these are numbered. I know many games came out this year that I didn’t play. But don’t forget, I don’t get paid to play games, I don’t make a ton of money, and I have weird tastes.
Ray’s Third Best Game Of The Year- World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor (Blizzard, PC)
World of Warcraft and I have a long, and often rocky relationship. The last two expansions had me basically swearing off the game for the rest of time, as it just wasn’t fun. It started to feel more than stale, that Blizzard was maybe finally running out of tricks, and it was sad to see. However it seems someone at Blizzard watched those new Star Trek movies and realized doing the going back in time to an alternate universe trick worked. So that happened to WoW, using Garrosh as the Spock character…kinda. In any case, Blizzard came up with a great story that revisits some of the old RTS story-threads with a fresh, more refined eye.
On top of the great story came my new WoW obsession, Garrisons. Part player housing, part giant phone game chore management, part gearing vehicle, my Garrison is one of the first places in WoW I find myself wanting to stay in, even past this current expansion. It is my home in Azeroth, and I will be sad if the next expansion doesn’t carry over this great idea. WoW is back, this isn’t Cataclysm, this isn’t Mists of Pandaria. This is Blizzard doing what they do best, and showing why WoW is still going strong after a damn decade. They have earned my 15 dollars a month, and if the game stays at this quality, they will get it for a long time to come.
Ray’s Second Best Game Of The Year- Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (Blizzard, PC)
Blizzard had a strong year with expansions. WoW‘s expansion, Hearthstone and its new expansion, and of course Diablo III, and the new expansion, Reaper of Souls. I really disliked Diablo III when it was released initially. The Auction House feature, the loot system, and the need to endlessly grind the terrible, silly story made for a loot treadmill I did not want to run. It appeared that I was not alone in this feeling, and Blizzard decided to listen. Instead of throwing up their hands and saying “Well this is the game”, they went back and overhauled everything and released it all with the new content in Reaper of Souls.
Introducing the new (and best) class, the Crusader, the fantastic, story-skipping Adventure Mode, closing the terrible Auction House and making the loot system more akin to Diablo II, I got the game I wanted in the first place. I still load it up from time to time when I want to waste time. I want to get a couple of Paragon levels and call it a day. It’s great, cathartic, and I am supremely happy Blizzard is a company that is willing to fix their mistakes. This was by no means a broken game, it just wasn’t what it should have been. That changed in 2014, and I couldn’t be happier.
Ray’s Best Game Of The Year- Bravely Default (Silicon Studio/Square-Enix, 3DS)
If I remember 2014 fondly for anything in video games, it will be that 2014 was the year American gamers declared that we still want Japanese RPG’s. Unlike what Square-Enix thought before hand, we have shown we want them, we just want good ones. We don’t want Final Fantasy XIII, we don’t need crap. Sega released Valkyria Chronicles on Steam, Konami put Suikoden II on PSN, and Square-Enix (with Nintendo’s help) got my 2014 game of the year to American shores, Bravely Default.
Feeling both old-school in the best ways, yet modern in also the best ways, Silicon Studio seemingly reminded Square-Enix of the sort of game they used to make. Back when things were good, were right. Back before Final Fantasy VII made the guys upstairs think we want overly long Summon sequences and graphics graphics graphics. Proving a charming story, and deep, yet fair and learnable mechanics will trump graphical horsepower any day, Bravely Default is the game JRPG fans have been waiting for, and were finally delivered.
Featuring the ability to adjust random encounter rates, as well as bringing the deep, fun Job System of Final Fantasy V screaming into present day, I gladly sunk dozens of hours into this game, only wanting more. Granted, that more became a bit of a slog near the end, but with the ability to turn encounters off entirely, it was actually not bad. It’s this sort of game that makes me think JRPG’s should abandon the high development cost and long cycles of consoles and just stick to handheld machines. The 3DS and Vita are powerful enough to handle just the right graphical level needed for JRPG’s, and can more than handle all the mechanics they would need.
I have written about Bravely Default before, so all I really want to add here is that if you haven’t played this gem yet, you’re missing out. If you have a 3DS, pick it up, and get ready for the eventual release of the beautiful looking sequel, Bravely Second.
Well, that’s really it for gaming in 2014 for me. My next long post will be a list of New Year’s Resolutions. I have a few, and they mostly have to do with how I play games, and how that intersects with how I live my life. We all have room for improvement, and I am actually excited for the time to come. Until then, stay safe this holiday season.