Previously I wrote about the disappointments of 2014 and to be frank it really bummed me out. Don’t get me wrong–2014 was a pretty lame year in gaming, especially after the what should now be referred to as the triumph that was 2013. The industry charged into the new year with it’s two new shiny consoles promising life-like graphics, more engaging gameplay and ultimately showing us why we lived off ramen noodles for weeks to be part of “the next generation”. Much like any good politician they fooled us, hook line and sinker.
Fortunately there were some gems that stood out. The indie hype train kept on chugging, the WiiU woke from it’s slumber and the general public began learning shiny graphics and big explosions aren’t what make games great.
So here is what was awesome:
South Park: The Stick of Truth
In what has become a rebirth of licensed games, South Park continued the trend of not taking a beloved IP, bending it over and…you get the point. It was hilarious, fun, jam-packed with references to the beloved show and bursting with ingenuity. The Stick of Truth is what happens when a team is given time to finish and polish a product (a striking contrast to many AAA titles of the year). Matt and Trey, the creators and driving force of South Park oversaw every inch of the game, from the many inside jokes in Cartman’s closet fans of the show will recognize to the layout of the town and beyond. You’re playing an episode of the show, and that’s awesome.
E-Sports Go Big
As much as I hate the term “E-Sports” it really seemed appropriate for how much professional gaming evolved in 2014. Massive arena’s were being filled with fans both casual and rabid to watch high level of gaming showing the world we’re not all basement dwelling nerds.
It’s not just the social aspect that grew but more importantly the business side of it. Team’s were pulling in big name sponsors such as Coke, Nissan and Red Bull, adding some well-deserved legitimacy to many of these teams and organizations. The ludicrous amount of online viewers titles such as DOTA 2, League of Legends and Counter Strike regularly garnered were pivotal in bringing e-sports to the attention of larger corporations thus creating a strong infrastructure for e-sports to flourish, pretty awesome.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Everybody take note, this is how you do a free-to-play game ! Don’t create an eco-system dependant on micro-transactions. Give the players the option to spend real currency but don’t give them an unfair advantage for doing so. Keep gameplay simple and clean and above all else make it accessible.
That’s precisely what developer Blizzard did, they took their most beloved property and transformed it into and completely new experience that feels fresh and new yet familiar to veterans of card gaming (Magic the Gathering). Hearthstone’s charm comes from it’s fine balance of simplicity and the intricacy. The game doesn’t punish players for not knowing the nuances of card gaming strategy, instead providing a simple enough platform to self-educate oneself about this genre making it accessible to all gamers, damn awesome.
Pokken Tournament Announced
It’s an arcade fighting game featuring popular Pokemon spawning every generation. It’s being developed by Namco Bandai and the team behind the Tekken franchise in collaboration with The Pokemon Company.
That’s it. Simply Awesome.
Smash Bros. Is Still Amazing
This year marked the release of not one, but TWO brand new Smash titles. Okay that’s not entirely true, but it was brilliant nonetheless. Smash Bros. 3DS and WiiU are technically the same game with a few different features but they gave fans exactly what they wanted, the Smash experience on the go and in glorious HD respectively. And a steady online multiplayer that actually works ? Awesome.
WiiU Wakes Up
2013 was undeniably a horrific year for the big N’s home console. We got Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, Wind Waker HD and well that’s it. Criticized for it’s seemingly high price, small library and poor third party support the WiiU was justly the butt of most gaming jokes.
Luckily the slumber was over and giant had awoken. While the PS4 and X1 were floundering with glitches, hacks and troubled AAA releases, the WiiU build upon it’s library with solid titles for every gamer. Mario Kart 8, Bayonetta 2, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Hyrule Warriors, NES Remix and of course Smash Bros. (not a single one of those titles had troubled launches, how about that ?). Not only did 2014 justify the purchase of a WiiU, it reassured Nintendo is just fine without much third party support. Quite Awesome.