Best Game of the Year
‘Dragon Age: Inquisition’
In 2014, many released games had bugs and glitches that left us saying “I paid money for this?” and “This game isn’t even finished.” Where most games fell, one delivered not only what it promised but went above and beyond. “Dragon Age: Inquisition,” developed by BioWare, was not only a working game from the start but also one of the most unique and well polished action role-playing games to date. In the fantasy world of Thedas, you awake after an explosion with no memories and with demons spilling out of rifts only you can close. With its robust combat system, amazingly crisp and detailed graphics and attention to even the smallest of details, it gave the player the impression that BioWare could do no wrong. A game where you can pause the battlefield and plan your attack against huge dragons and armies, and protect the world with a diverse crew — it’s the clear winner in this year’s favorites.
Before its release, “Watch Dogs” looked as though it’d have amazing graphics and a comprehensive hacking system that was going to revolutionize gameplay by allowing the game’s protagonist to effectively “hack” into NPCs phones and the city’s streetlights, etc. That was not the case when Ubisoft finally released their game. Not only were the graphics nowhere near what they promised, but the computer-hacking mechanic was a complete tack-on and secondary to classic “kill everything” type of play. Even the multiplayer feature felt like a last second addition since there was no character customization other than which coat you wore. Not only did this game not meet expectations, it actually killed any hope for the future in this franchise.
Best Pleasant Surprise
Between the detailed character customization and the open-world hijinks, Insomniac Games’ “Sunset Overdrive” was a well-received surprise. Imagine if Spongebob Squarepants was the protagonist of “Slither,” and you’ll have a pretty good feel for the setting of “Sunset Overdrive.” Not only does this game look wacky, but it also has insane weapons, such as a grenade launcher that propels your childhood teddy bear strapped with dynamite called the “TNTeddy Launcher” and a vinyl record machine gun labeled “Nothin’ but the Hits.” Insomniac Games also made in-game movement to be like “Jet Set Radio,” which lets you traverse the terrain like a parkour master on rocket skates — making movement around the city seem flawless and incredibly fun.
Worst Game of the Year
‘Assassin’s Creed: Unity’
“Assassin’s Creed: Unity” was released unfinished, and while a patch on day one isn’t unheard of, that first patch still didn’t prevent the protagonist from glitching into a variety of places (such as the floor) or keep the game from crashing when joining co-op play.This is already bad for a triple-A game, but “Unity” is worse than unplayable. Ubisoft simply released a game that doesn’t significantly improve on the series, as many of the frustrations from past iterations are still in full force, and it doesn’t even capitalize on the successes of previous titles. The story lacks historical involvement despite being set during the fascinating French Revolution. The un-playable co-op mode is also a huge let down since none of the four playable characters are female. This is particularly disappointing since the plot focuses quite a bit on the unremarkable love story between protagonist Arno and his beau Elise.
Best Indie Game
The puzzle-platformer style of “Never Alone” is hardly innovative gameplay, but the cultural involvement and beauty of both the game’s graphics and its underlying concept is truly spellbinding. A collaboration between Upper One Games and the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, “Never Alone” is centered on the journey a young Iñupiaq girl named Nuna and her arctic fox companion take as they travel to find the source of the eternal blizzard threatening her community. The enemies she faces along the way range from evil spirits to realistic arctic dangers. By switching between playing as Nuna or the fox, players complete puzzles and evade dangers either alone or cooperatively with a friend. The mechanics can be difficult, but for a low-budget platformer they are surprisingly complex and innovative. Overall, the tone and fable-reminiscent core of the game are novel, inspiring and frequently educational — a good argument for supporting the increasing diversity of games.
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