Monday, December 22, 2014

Best of 2014: Part Five

And here we are, at the halfway mark! The Best of 2014 just keep getting better so, without further delay, let's finish off the bottom half and make our way to the top!

Missed out on the previous entries in the list? Fear not: with handy links, we can get you up to speed in no time!


And on we go!

12. Company of Heroes 2 (Relic Entertainment)

So many troops! As in real-life,
the western front can be a slaughterhouse.
As you may have guessed from my description of Banished from the previous entry, I have a soft spot for real-time strategy games. When I was very young, I began playing video games by delving into Age of Empires; my dad owned a copy of the original -- a disc I still have to this day -- and I enjoyed delving back in history as much as sending my catapults to destroy the enemy barracks. But there is truly no better real-time strategy game on the planet than the original Company of Heroes. While other RTS games focus on micromanagement and actions per minute, CoH rewards tactical thinking and defensive posturing in a way that no other game has even come close to managing.

The sequel to the 2006 masterpiece takes quite a few cues from its predecessor and tries to expand on them. Both games are set during WWII but, while the original focused more prominently on the eastern front of America fighting the Nazis, CoH2 jumps to the western front and focuses on the Russian forces. There are plenty of new features – weather matters, it’s easier to move around the battlefield, and so on -- but there are still some things that the sequel doesn't get quite right when compared to the original.

A more conventional view of Company of Heroes 2.
Still lots of troops, now with explosions!
All that being said, CoH2 is still a magnificent RTS and remains the go-to game for playing with some of my friends. There's nothing better than gearing up our forces together, setting objectives and missions for ourselves and fighting off the AI as they come rushing towards our defensive positions. We've each picked out our specialties on the field -- I'm known for building near-impenetrable defenses with infantry, while another of our group is our designated "quick-response force" with mobile units to respond to threats -- and we have managed to form a cohesive group that can fend off most threats.

Though the game was released in 2013, this year brought a much-needed expansion returning the Americans as a playable force -- and brought back much of the magic that the original held. Company of Heroes still remains the greatest RTS I've ever played -- it got so much right that other RTS games simply don't understand -- but CoH2 is a valiant return to the front, and one that I will enjoy for years to come.

11. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (Monolith Productions)

So much motion blur...
By now I'm sure we've established that I'm a huge nerd: beyond the fact that I like video games, I'm also a Star Wars junkie and even play tabletop miniatures games. So it will come as no surprise that I also love the world of Lord of the Rings and, by extension, Middle-Earth itself.

It was because of that love that I was instantly intrigued by Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor -- a game that would allow you to openly roam through a part of Middle-Earth, discover some of the lore hidden within and even delve into subplots that would have been occurring during the events of the books/movies? Sign me up! Thus, I was ecstatic that Shadow of Mordor also proved to be an incredible journey full of intense combat and some genuinely entertaining gameplay to sink some hours into.

The game sets you as Talion, a ranger from Gondor tasked with guarding the Black Gate into Mordor. At the beginning of the game, the Black Gate is attacked by some of Sauron's lieutenants and, unfortunately, Talion (and his wife and son) are killed. Instead of passing on to the afterlife, however, Talion is bound to the spirit of a wraith who you eventually come to know as Celebrimbor. The two of you are set on a path of vengeance against Sauron, hoping to one day fight and strike down the Dark Lord.

Did I mention that there's also a big stealth aspect to the
game? I'm sure I must have mentioned that...
Monolith did a lot of work ensuring that the plot of Shadow of Mordor stayed true to the source material while still trying to instill some of their own creativity, and I believe they did a fine job. There are some parts of the game that seem a bit unnecessary -- some encounters with Gollum spring to mind -- but, by and large, the game is not to be played for the plot. If anything, you should play Shadow of Mordor because you get to behead more orcs than Aragorn ever thought of doing.

Seriously, though: the combat system is smooth and intuitive, drawing some serious influence from the Batman: Arkham series. Each blow should be measured and timed just right, but it never feels difficult and is always incredibly rewarding. Add to this the Nemesis System, which will have orcs who struck you down returning stronger than before, or orcs you thought were dead coming back to haunt your every move, and you have a truly excellent game. Shadow of Mordor belongs on the shelf of every gamer this generation, and not only if you love Lord of the Rings.

Part Five
And on we go! We've reached the halfway mark; we can only go up from here! The top half of the list features some heavy hitters, some unorthodox choices, and a few games that are fairly old in comparison to the others. Still, we have lots of work to do and we're only halfway there.

Until next time! 

Missed any entries, or want to skip ahead? Check out the whole list here:


1 comment:

  1. I'm surprised by where you placed Shadow of Mordor on this list! I still think you need to play "This War of Mine" Before finishing the list completely. ;p


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