Friday, December 12, 2014

Best of 2014: Part One

Welcome to the first installment of my picks for best games of 2014, and the first entry on my path to get this blog up and running again! This is an experiment I tried before for 2011 and the games industry has changed substantially in that time -- as have my interests. While I still adore video games and devote more than my fair share of time to them, 2014 was also the year where I discovered many excellent board games and spent time playing them instead of digital media. 2014 was also a year where I rediscovered games from my past and grew to enjoy them more than I ever did before.

(It was also the year that I got married. So I guess there's that too. Love you, babe!)

With all of that in mind, I want to preface this list by saying that not all of my picks for "Best of 2014" actually came out this year. Similarly, not all of the games below are video games -- some are board games, or games that one would play at a table face-to-face with friends. As 2014 passed by, I realized that my interest in gaming is not wholly housed within digital media -- there is evidence of this on my blog, as I started doing week-by-week recaps of an ongoing Dungeons & Dragons campaign that I run. There is something exceptional about an excellent board game and the social aspect of such games are not to be understated, especially because it is something that video games are slowly drifting away from. (I mean, really: when was the last time you played a couch co-op game?)

TL;DR: Basically, don't be surprised if half of the titles below aren't video games. But rest assured: every game here is excellent and I highly recommend trying all of them, if you haven't already.

So, without further ado, let's dive into my list of my favourite games from 2014!

20. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Sledgehammer Games)
Hello, Mr. Underwood...
Two words: Kevin Spacey. Need I go on?

In all seriousness, Advanced Warfare was the first Call of Duty game that I have purchased in the last five years. After the legal battle surrounding Modern Warfare 2 with Infinity Ward v. Activision, and the disappointing experience I was having with the franchise to that point, I decided to do my duty as a conscientious consumer by simply not buying the product. Hell, I put aside the money I would have bought the next Call of Duty with to buy the first game by Respawn Entertainment (the developer formed from the employees of Infinity Ward who left during the legal action mentioned above).

But Advanced Warfare arrived this year bearing the face of Kevin Spacey and, surprisingly, the franchise actually delivered a solid offering this time around. Though I don't particularly enjoy the multiplayer of Call of Duty -- something that most people play the game exclusively for -- the singleplayer campaign of AW was quite entertaining. It still features the same shooting corridors and linear vehicle sections as its predecessors but in some places it gives the player freedom to explore. That’s something I haven't seen in a Call of Duty game for... Well, I can't remember how long!

The first vista of the game. It will not be the last.
Set in a near-future sci-fi theme, complete with realistic technology, the gameplay is as polished as we’ve come to expect, though there is a greater emphasis on enhanced movement to liven up the gameplay. Best of all: though the story might be obvious from the very beginning, with the always inscrutable Kevin Spacey delivering the kind of performance he has become known for the whole thing holds together a lot better than you might imagine.

Honestly, I have to give kudos to Sledgehammer Games -- this is their first Call of Duty game and they did a spectacular job with it. Time will tell if it manages to breathe new life into the decaying franchise but I know I’ll be watching intently in the future. 

19. Child of Light (Ubisoft Montreal)
I'm not sure a game has ever had as beautiful an art direction.
Child of Light is a turn-based RPG (think Final Fantasy) but it isn’t the gameplay that sets it apart – it’s the themes it invokes. It’s almost childlike in nature, innocent and full of wonder, presenting enemies and puzzles and environs that are simultaneously dangerous and harmless. Heck, all of the dialogue in the game is delivered in rhyme. It's almost sickening how charming this game is. Truly, this game captured what it was like to be a child better than most other games I've played.

But, in all honesty, the reason I have Child of Light on my list is because it marked the first game that my wife Kait and I ever played together by ourselves. We have certainly played other video games together with friends -- one of our earliest bonding experiences was me jumping off the helicopter to save her from a horde of zombies in Left 4 Dead -- but until Child of Light we had never played a game just the two of us.

The combat system, complete with multiple party members.
(Spot the firefly!)
The co-op play is where this game shines; one person controls the princess Aurora (who Kait controlled), the other a firefly named Igniculus (who I played, for obvious reasons), as you venture through this fairy tale world trying to find Aurora's father, fighting monsters along the way. The gameplay for Aurora is fairly straightforward -- you have an action bar that fills up as battle progresses, whereupon you can use your abilities -- but Igniculus is purely a support role, and it is this asymmetric gameplay that sets Child of Light apart.

As a firefly, Igniculus can reach places in the map that Aurora cannot, activating lifts or collecting power-ups to help Aurora. In combat, he can use his power to either assist Aurora or hinder the enemies. It's a purely support role but it never feels passive which means, even as the obvious sidekick, you always feel invested in the story and genuinely helpful. Ubisoft Montreal did a fantastic job with Child of Light -- not just as a game but as a way to bond with those closest to you. 

Part One
And there it is, part one of my twenty picks for Best of 2014. Part Two will land next Monday, with the rest following suit in the week. I'm hoping to hit an every-other-day schedule but, regardless, we shall complete this list by January 1st!

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


If you played either of the games above, or have some predictions for what the rest of the list might hold, drop a comment! Every little bit of support helps and I could talk endlessly about the games industry. Like, honestly, for hours.

Wait, that wasn't supposed to scare you away. Come back, we're only just getting started! Don't close this windo--


  1. Awww, you're sweet love! I love you too! :D Minor grammar edit: Under 'Child of Light' "he can either use his power to either assist".

    Love you!

    1. Love you too, haha! Thanks for the catch on the grammar, must have missed that in editing!


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