Welcome to our first Mid Year Gaming Review! We’re about half way through 2014, so now is a good time to recap noteworthy game releases that have occurred so far this year, and we’ll also go over important news about worthy upcoming titles. Much has happened this year from E3 2014, to a number of fantastic game releases, some disappointing game releases, and everything in between. Scroll on to the next page to continue reading!
Starting things off on a positive note, on this page we’ll discuss the best game releases to occur so far in 2014, as well as other good games that came out already. First and foremost has to be Divinity: Original Sin, a much anticipated title that had its full release on June 30, 2014 (it was in early access for months prior). It’s a true modern classic cRPG: it’s not dated like Pillars of Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera appear to be, as it uses modern technology to its benefit and actually offers many innovations. On the other hand, it certainly has an old school feeling, being an isometric turn-based RPG that is thankfully 3D.
Divinity: Original Sin is what you’d call a modern classic, and a fantastic take on old-school RPG’s while keeping it fresh and modern. Beautiful environments are the first thing you’ll notice but beyond that are stunning visual effects and animations. Isometric games aren’t exactly known for their visual flair but Divinity: Original Sin is fully 3D with great atmosphere to boot.
One thing Divinity handles much better than ANY other game is the elements; water, earth, fire, air. Many RPGs have spell combos, as does Divinity, but Divinity takes it a step further with spells that interact with the actual world and cause a physical and visual effect. Examples would be any sort of AOE fire spell, this will cause massive burning to the surrounding area. That fire can be put out by a rain spell, and the puddles caused by the rain can create a chain reaction of electrocutions if an electricity spell is used on an enemy on a wet surface.
Divinity: Original Sin excels in every aspect it sets out to achieve and is clearly one of the biggest highlights in modern RPGs and gaming as a whole. You’d be doing yourself a disservice by not checking this one out!
Telltale Games, one of the best game developing studios in the world, also started off the year in spectacular fashion with the release of several episodes of The Walking Dead: Season Two and The Wolf Among Us. The former is a continuation of The Walking Dead season one which was released during 2012 and 2013, and it really showcased the evolution of point-and-click gaming as well as character development and storytelling in video games. Season Two is no exception, as it hits all the right notes.
The Wolf Among Us is a similar point-and-click adventure game from Telltale Games, though it has a very unique setting and style to it. You play as Bigby, the Big Bad Wolf, who is the sheriff of Fabletown. After their homelands were conquered, Bigby and other fable characters fled into new worlds, with Fabletown being a settlement located in New York City. They live in secret, masking themselves as normal humans living in a normal society. But playing the game reveals things are rarely the way they seem.
Not only is it magnificent and gripping from a storytelling and character development standpoint, it’s also an engaging detective/mystery game at times. The Wolf Among Us provides such a unique experience that’s easy for anyone to get into. No matter what type of gamer you are, or even if you’re not a gamer, The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead from Telltale games are must-owns.
This season of The Wolf Among Us was completed this year, and boy was it amazing. The Walking Dead: Season Two will be concluded this year as well; as of July 22 we’ve now been given four out of five episodes, and again… simply amazing.
Another noteworthy release is that of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Lost Alpha, an unofficial remake of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl. It is based loosely on the old script of Shadow of Chernobyl, which had a much larger, more complete plot. As the name implies, it also takes after the old alpha builds of Shadow of Chernobyl, which showcased much larger, more atmospheric level design and a bunch of features that were inevitably cut from the game.
The goal of Lost Alpha was to make a new version of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl, inspired by the old superior design but with many new features too. The result is masterful level design that far exceeds anything the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series ever provided. They also improved the gameplay mechanics vastly. The release of Lost Alpha on April 27, 2014 was a premature one, listed as early access. To this day, it’s still a work in progress, with a huge and necessary update on the horizon. Wait until then to play it. After all, it’s free. It’s not pure untainted excellence like the games mentioned above however; Lost Alpha’s story is absolutely ruined by its childish conclusion.
Shadowrun Dragonfall is another standout release. It’s an expansion to Shadowrun Returns, an old school 2.5D isometric turn-based RPG. Dragonfall is praised for its improvements and for its story.
Also check out State of Decay: Lifeline if you’re a fan of the base game. You play as a military unit whose purpose is to try to end the outbreak. It features a new map, all new characters, and lots of new gameplay elements.
Indie RPG lovers also got a kick out of The Banner Saga, a stylized RPG made by ex-Bioware members. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the mood for something different.
Xenonauts was released on June 17, 2014. It was another early access title. It’s a turn based strategy game that takes after the classic XCOM games.
Banished released in Feburary of this year to surprisingly high sales and critical reception. It’s a very simplistic “town builder” where your only goal is to create a thriving population. No economy and no limitations, just build to your hearts content. Highly addicting and the pretty visuals only help!
In other news, PAYDAY 2. one of the best multiplayer shooters of all time, has been updated continuously throughout 2013 and 2014. A ton of updates and new content has been released, shaping the game into a much more detailed and polished product that blows most other shooters away. Some highlight 2014 releases for this game include the Shadow Raid Heist (free of charge, like most other additional PAYDAY 2 content) and Big Bank Heist, both of which may be the best heists available in the game.
Eidos Montreal seems intent on ruining their reputation. In 2011 they released Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which was just phenomenal in pretty much every way. The one area where it was lackluster were the brief boss fights, which they fixed in the Director’s Cut edition released in 2013. Things were looking good… until they released Thief in February of 2014. It’s a reboot of the classic PC stealth franchise of the same name.
To this day, Thief Gold (1999) and Thief II: The Metal Age (2000) are more advanced than almost every other stealth game around. Hardly anything reaches the standard that the original Thief games set (Dishonored may be the only one). So some of us had high hopes for the new Thief; some of us hoped it would live up to the excellence shown in the first two games, especially since they made a fantastic game in Deus Ex: Human Revolution which also had very good stealth elements. Sadly, Thief is nothing but disappointment.
It destroys almost everything the franchise stood for: complex, sandbox gameplay offering freedom and emphasizing creativity on the player’s behalf. Spooky, creepy and distinct atmosphere were other strong points of the first two games. The original Thief games would let you pick your starting equipment and pay for favors for the mission ahead, before dropping you in on a well-designed map telling you what to do, and not how to do it. The game didn’t hold your hand and point you in any direction, it was up to the player to be creative and figure out how to get the job done. They also had very advanced gameplay mechanics, allowing you to climb almost anywhere, use all sorts of equipment, different terrain surfaces made different amounts of noise, you could interact with the environment to create distractions or find new pathways, and they were very nonlinear.
The new one, however, has generic atmosphere that doesn’t feel special in any way. Level design is dumbed down for young console gamers (the main focus of this game), gameplay mechanics were dumbed down to painfully bad console standards. Thief is full of contextual mechanics that can only be used in select few places per map. The freedom? Gone. The immersion? Gone. This image sums it up quite well.
Thief also tries to force a poorly written, perhaps revenge-driven story on you. The writing is perhaps the most painful I’ve encountered this year, which says a lot given how bad Lost Alpha’s true ending is written.
In short, Thief is a dumbed down console game designed for preteens, while the original Thief games were PC exclusive games designed for people who wanted to use their brains. Avoid Thief (2014) at all costs.
Eidos Montreal didn’t stop there. They’re now on a losing streak with the release of Deus Ex: The Fall, a smartphone game ported to Windows on March 18, 2014. But hey, what more can you expect out of a game designed for smartphones? Obviously it won’t be on the same level as Deus Ex: Human Revolution or the original. It is, however, on the same level as Thief.
Watch Dogs is some ugly business. It’s not a terrible game, even if it suffered from awful optimization at launch (that has mostly been fixed for NVIDIA users) and reduced graphics quality compared to earlier footage. But, as I accurately predicted, the game doesn’t come anywhere near its full potential. It is also yet another case of Ubisoft spitting on the PC gaming platform and all PC gamers who bought it. We’ll let this video do the talking.
Have a look at some of the more noteworthy gaming news and future releases.
Wasteland 2 releases in August. It has been available in early access stage since late last year, and has been looking splendid the entire time.
Metro Redux launches in August. This is a bundle of Metro 2033 Redux and Metro: Last Light Redux, which can be purchased separately. As the name implies, they’re remakes of Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light respectively. Metro 2033 Redux will be a large improvement, as it has been ported to an improved version of Metro: Last Light’s engine, and will use the superior mechanics seen in Last Light and much more. Both games are some of the best shooters available, not relying on simple run-and-gun and actually offering phenomenal atmosphere and remarkably detailed maps next to very good writing. See our review of Metro: Last Light here.
Grand Theft Auto V was finally announced for PC as I predicted a long time ago. It will release on PC, PS4, and XBOX One in either Q3 or Q4 2014.
Killing Floor 2 has finally appeared on Steam. Not much else to say really, just add it to your wishlist and sit tight.
Rainbow Six: Patriots got axed in favor of the newly announced Rainbow Six: Siege, shown at E3. Some cool features were shown, though the gameplay footage turned out to be too funny to take seriously due to the hilarious scripted voice chat. Who knows if the game will be good or bad, I doubt it will be anywhere near as tactical and unique as Rainbow Six 3, but it’s worth following if you like shooters. But hey, we all know what happens to games that are scrapped and made from scratch throughout their development cycle. Duke Nukem Forever, anyone? Aliens: Colonial Marines and Thief (2014) are other examples of such games.
The one we’re all waiting for, Dragon Age: Inquisition, releases in November. It looks like the most ambitious game of all time: featuring a vast, diverse, and interactive multi-region open world, with Bioware’s unparalleled dynamic storytelling/character development focus, and they appear to be focusing more on RPG elements for more diverse and tactical gameplay like with Dragon Age: Origins. If you aren’t familiar with the series, you can learn more about them by reading these two articles which are loosely related to Dragon Age.
Some other announced 2014 games have raised red flags, such as Battlefield: Hardline and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Unless you like being milked with the same rehashed childish entertainment, avoid those at all costs.
We’ve given you the insight on the best game releases of 2014 thus far, and the upcoming 2014 releases everyone should keep an eye on. We sincerely hope you didn’t miss out on too many of these games during the Steam summer sale. Keep in touch as reviews for some of these games surface here on GND-Tech!