Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best of 2014: Part Eight

Part Eight of the Best of 2014 list has arrived! Read and be amazed at the incredible games this close to the top of the list! Marvel and wonder at what games could be ranked higher than these illustrious titles!

Miss out on previous entries, or want to skip ahead? Fear not, beautiful reader; we've got you covered:


And now, the feature attraction:

6. Destiny (Bungie)
FPS gameplay at its finest!
If there is one thing that Bungie knows how to make, it's a first-person shooter; as the developers of Halo, Bungie has solidified a spot in the annals of video game history as the fathers of the modern generation of shooters. Halo redefined an entire genre of video games and gave cues to other franchises to turn them into the powerhouses we know them as today (Call of Duty and Battlefield, among others).

With that sort of pedigree, when Bungie gave up the reins to the Halo franchise and announced a brand new intellectual property, most everyone was excited: Bungie can do no wrong, after all, so whatever they want to develop will be gold. Or so everyone thought.

Destiny is a strange creature. It is an excellent first-person shooter -- truly one of the best, if merited purely on gameplay -- but the world-building left a bit to be desired. The game successfully melds several elements from different genres -- FPS gameplay mixed with MMO questing and RPG experience and loot grinding -- but suffered from a lack of defined direction. As with most multiplayer-only titles, the connection issues were frequent and frustrating. And let's not even talk about how Destiny has one of the most awesome casts in video games and completely squanders it with trite dialogue and lacklustre performances. "That wizard came from the moon" indeed.

Even better than Titanfall, Destiny masters the hybrid model
of gaming, melding multiplayer and singleplayer together seamlessly.
But despite all of these issues, Destiny remains an excellent and entertaining game because there is something there for everyone to enjoy. Want to put together a fireteam and take on some story missions? Done and done. Want to play solo and grind out some XP, shooting bad guys left and right? You can do that. Want to pit yourself against other players in some PvP? Yep, that too. Want to go back and replay an awesome story mission you loved before? Absolutely. Want to join a massive group of friends to take on one of the excellent raids, facing off against massive bosses, environmental dangers and incredibly bad odds? Okay, you sadist, get to work!

Destiny is a game that has gotten an enormous amount of backlash even despite the enormous successes it showcases. Bungie may not have hit the exact mark they were looking for but, dammit, they got as close as anyone has before. Destiny is excellent and is a game to be remembered and admired!

5. Dead of Winter (Plaid Hat Games)
The components are gorgeous and so is the artwork. Just... wow.
Dead of Winter is the best board game I've ever played.

Yeah, that's one hell of a way to lead off a number five entry on this list but bear with me and let me explain why.

Basic premise: Dead of Winter has each player controlling a small group of survivors during a zombie apocalypse. The game is semi-cooperative which means that, though there is a set objective for everyone to work towards as a group, each player also has their own personal objective in order to truly "win". These personal objectives are secret and, better yet, may declare you as a traitor which then forces you to work against the group in order to succeed. But remember: the goals are secret, so no one knows if you are actively a traitor or if you are simply working towards your own goal.

That is a big part of the game because if the rest of the group thinks you are acting too shady they can vote to exile you from their community. This is not player elimination, however; your group of survivors is simply evicted from the colony and are forced to fend for themselves, complete with a brand new "Exiled" objective. This can be to help the other players survive or completely screw them over. However the game progresses, however, it forms a narrative -- which is where the real beauty of Dead of Winter comes into play.

Zombies at the door, trash piling up, not enough food,
weapons running low... It's an apocalypse, alright, and I
can feel the tension building already.
Now I realize zombies are pretty played out at this point but Dead of Winter approaches the subject matter with a respect and seriousness I've never seen in games before, and it all revolves around the "Crossroads" mechanic. Every turn, the player to your right draws a card from the Crossroads deck and reads it silently. These cards have triggers that, when activated, give the active player a moral decision to make. These choices often have two sides but neither is ever a clear cut "good" or "bad" decision -- much like life, both options will have their benefits and drawbacks. Of course, the card may not trigger at all on your turn, making the content on each card rare and compelling when it does happen.

There's a lot to say about Dead of Winter -- too much to really say in such a small amount of space -- so let me just sum up by repeating: Dead of Winter is the best board game I've ever played. There are so many different mechanics all working in tandem, creating an extraordinary experience unlike any other in board games. If you like board games, you need -- need! -- to play this.

Part Eight
This entry got away from me a bit but the higher we get on the list, the better the games get and the more I have to say about them. Nevertheless, there are only two updates and four titles left in the list! Make sure you check back this week as we quickly approach the number one spot! Until next time, intrepid readers, game well!

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