So, it’s that time again where I have to decide on my game of the year. Or, to be more accurate, my game of the last three months, because I’ve got a memory that only a goldfish could be proud of. There was a clear winner for me in 2014, although a couple of others deserve honorable mentions as well.
Game of the Year: Far Cry 4
My stand-out pick is a shooter that reminded me why shooters are fun: Far Cry 4, the epic Himalayan adventure, with kick-ass elephants thrown in for good measure.
There’s not a lot I didn’t like about the game (apart from maybe the sucky auto-save). Set in a beautifully realised world rich with huntable animals, side missions and interesting characters, it took me three days to rush through Ubisoft’s title. Then, as soon as I’d finished my review I started again, determined to spend more time amongst the breathtaking peaks and enchanting low lands. Flying gyrocopters, riding elephants, flying said gyrocopters into said elephants – it managed to not only remind me of good times, but be a good time in and of itself.
Honorable Mention: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
The first of my honorable mentions is Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, a game I booted up with no small feelings of trepidation. As a fan of Tokien’s series, I knew it had some serious shoes to fill – but I’d played no more than a few hours when I knew it would be a contender for game of the year.
Not only was the combat Arkham-like and absorbing, but the world it invoked felt as true to canon as any of the movies; no small feat for a new story told in a complex and much-loved universe. From the tiniest mention of the Blue Istari, to Gollum’s well-placed cameo, Shadow of Mordor added to the mythos perfectly. Coupled with the excellent gameplay and stunning visuals, Monolith made discovering this hitherto under-characterised piece of Middle Earth a pleasure. However, it was the Nemesis system that I found most impressive.
Creating an almost infinite level of replayability, this never-before-seen system made every play through unique, and produced boss fights far more emphatic than your typical ‘he’s a bad ‘un, kill ‘im’ approach. Taking down an Orc that had killed you half a dozen times before was a true catharsis, and the late-game ability to possess Captains encouraged a more tactical approach. Will you take down this Warchief directly, or stack the odds in your favour by overtaking his bodyguards? The choice was up to you.
Honorable Mention: Dragon Age: Inquisition
My other honorable menton goes to a game, that, full disclosure, I haven’t actually finished yet. That’s not for lack of trying, it’s just that Dragon Age: Inquisition has such a depth of content that even 40 hours of playing has barely scratched the surface of its fascinating, well-presented world.
While Dragon Age 2 did everything it could to curtail the scale and complexity of the brilliant Dragon Age: Origins, DA:I took a huge step in the other direction – expanding everything that was good about the original and building a story fascinating in its own right (so far, anyway).
With characters I was genuinely interested in, gameplay that could be as tactical or action-orientated as I liked, and abilities handy enough that I couldn’t wait to level up, BioWare showed off the skills that have made them the world leader in character-driven RPGs. A game that’s sitting high on my after holiday to-do list, and an experience that, even unfinished, rates highly in my esteem. I can’t see anything except JarJar Binks ruining this excellent game.