What does the year of the gamer entail? Multiple front page hits of the New York Times? Beating TV ratings for eSports? Or maybe it's just good games? We asked our regulars about the brightest moments of 2014, and while they might seem satisfied, some still eagerly anticipate 2015 will shine brighter.
Favorite Games of 2014
Star Citizen's Arena Commander 1.0
The most memorable gaming event from this past year to me has been the release of Arena Commander 1.0, the dogfighting component to Cloud Imperium Games' Star Citizen. While the hype train usually lacks brakes and there will be masses of disappointed fans, the release of Arena Commander is a big step and a welcomed sigh of relief for many backers of Chris Roberts’ space sim. With $67 million of supporter money at stake, it is easy to be worried that deadlines will be skipped and development will be lax. But it seems the folks at CIG are working away at producing Star Citizen. In a year of disappointment and broken promises, it is a pleasant surprise to see a company working to produce exactly what they promised.
The Banner Saga
by Bryant Francis
The Banner Saga is an angry game. Cold. Miserable. Pounding with a drumbeat for the end of the world, it turns the Apocalypse into a ritual, something foretold by prophecy and greeted by omens. It’s been over 6 months since I completed Stoic Studios’ Nordic RPG, and the lives I sacrificed and betrayals I endured still ring clear in my head after cutting a cold path across the wastes. The Banner Saga found strength in some of the best turn-based combat seen in the genre with nuanced turn-based mechanics, casualties whose impact on the bigger world was more subtle than simple permadeth, and a conservatism in its character stats that allowed the player to constantly have a firm grasp of the stakes on their campaign. Its characters, from Alette to Rook to Yrsa, all play a pivotal role in the grand battle that is to come, and put a face to each of the different personalities you will meet when your world is falling apart.
The story of The Banner Saga may not be over, but its first entry stood out like a flame-lit arrow shining into over the snowy parapets. And thus, it earns my game of the year nomination.
Franchise Favorite: Borderlands
by Kt Sagona
With understandable villains and complex narratives in vogue, Gearbox knows how to strut on the catwalk. Both The Pre-Sequel and Telltale's Tales from the Borderlands expand on the fertile Pandoran universe we craved from Borderlands 2. Few E3 attenders passed by the Pre-Sequel demo without chuckling at Handsome Jack's description of the Gladiator class, as if we could resist another iconic hero/bad guy. And while the change of mechanical genre perplexed some fans at first, the release of Tales From the Borderlands' first episode was just as compelling -- if not more at times -- than its FPS predecessors.
This generation sometimes appears as if gamers are stranded on Pandora itself. With unoriginal sequels of never-ending and less relatable video games, some seek more than the 15th installment of the same franchise. While Borderlands may turn to another grain of sand in that dry nightmare, it also may grow into one of the rare oases that can supply fans with refreshing perspectives of the same universe.
Memorable Gaming News
Sierra Rises From the Ashes
by Zach Yost
Going under the radar in the summer was an exciting, somewhat unexpected announcement from Activision: they were reviving Sierra Entertainment. Previously dead since 2008, Sierra's heyday was in the 1980s and 1990s, releasing games like King's Quest. The stated objective in these sorts of these adventure games was to progress through and obtain riches and/or the princess's love. In actuality, the real goal was to avoid dying in a truly humiliating way. Man was Sierra good at death screens. However, you always had the opportunity to restart your game, and now, perhaps fittingly, Sierra themselves have that opportunity. I look forward to seeing what humiliations the new King's Quest has in store for us in 2015 - hopefully it won't be worse than what happened in Democracy 3.
Exciting 2014 Trends
eSports Reaps its Well Deserved Rewards
by Gabe Wood
While 2013 seemed like a year of explosive growth for eSports, 2014 kicked that growth up exponentially with one decisive factor: money. 2014 was the year of the big dollar for eSports. DOTA 2's The International 2014 tournament featured a massive $11 million prize pool, with a grand prize so large it instantly made the first place players the highest-paid cyber athletes in the biz. Just a couple months after that, Amazon bought Twitch, the primary website people use to watch streams of eSports games, for $970 million. eSports also expanded at a more grassroots level, with Chicago's Robert Morris University offering scholarships covering up to half of tuition and room & board for students to play on their varsity League of Legends team. I feel like a community I have been a part of for years is now, in 2014, being generously rewarded for its passion and dedication.
2014: A Solid foundation for the Gaming Community to Grow on
by Justin Mohn
For me 2014 was, on the whole, a comfortable year in gaming: steady gains in functionality to keep the frame rate zealots happy and a lot of quiet gains in storytelling. Civilization: Beyond Earth introduced storytelling into their sci-fi take on the classic gameplay, and it definitely added to my experience. And Bioware, an undisputed leader in the RPG field, managed to give us a third set of “best friends we never had” in Dragon Age: Inquisition. I’m excited for game studios to start thinking in terms of out-of-the-box storytelling – let’s continue to see a more diverse cast of characters to expand gamers’ minds while still delivering an enthralling experience. They can start by expanding their cross-media adaptations from just movies and the odd TV show to encompass some great material in the literature and webcomic spheres. Which, incidentally, I plan to cover in my first article of 2015.
Happy New Year, readers!