Talk about anything and everything Squad-related here -- what you've been playing, what you're looking forward to, and how big your Pile of Shame has grown after that last Steam sale...
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Re: Squadron of Shame 2014 Games of the Year Thread

by Calin Kim » Mon Dec 22, 2014 6:13 pm

Apparently I have a copy of Oniken. I do not remember acquiring this game, but I will definitely play it after that recommendation.
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Re: Squadron of Shame 2014 Games of the Year Thread

by Angry Jedi » Tue Dec 23, 2014 1:23 pm

I have, as ever, played a whole bunch of Final Fantasy XIV this year, but that was my Game of the Year last year so it doesn't seem very fair to put it up there again. Next year may be another matter entirely with Heavensward, but... actually, you know what? Fuck it.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, A Realm Awoken, Through the Maelstrom, Defenders of Eorzea, Dreams of Ice



You know, before I started playing FFXIV, I would look at the "hours played" counter on people's Steam accounts and wonder how anyone could possibly plough 1,000+ hours into something like DotA2. Having been playing Final Fantasy XIV since the beta test for its 2.0 "A Realm Reborn" incarnation, however, I now have my very own game to put into that category -- and I'm not even a particularly hardcore player compared to some.

FFXIV, for me, tickles a number of different happy places. The ongoing story which expands episode by episode every three months is solid, enjoyable, interesting and, most noteworthy of all, a lot more "Final Fantasy" than many of the other recent installments in the series. Set in a world that feels vaguely Ivalicey (but which -- to our knowledge so far, anyway -- is not Ivalice) and bringing in elements from classic installments in the series (Magitek Armour, Gilgamesh, Ultros, Ultima Weapon and the distinctly Judge-esque Imperials to name just a few), Final Fantasy XIV is series fanservice by the bucketload for anyone who has been following the series for years. Remember how FFIX snuck in subtle and not-so-subtle references to past FFs at every opportunity? FFXIV is very much the FF installment of this particular generation (or, more accurately, straddling two generations, since it's on both PS3 and PS4) that does the same thing.



It's noteworthy for me for a couple of reasons besides the story, though. Firstly, it's the first MMO in which I've ever 1) reached the level cap and 2) indulged in true endgame play. And FFXIV's endgame is extremely solid, offering a number of different branches depending on what kind of player you'd like to be. If you're a more casual player, you can work your way through the continuing story and the sidequests that open up new dungeons, and in the process acquire endgame currency at a good rate in order to acquire new equipment. If you're willing to invest a little more time, you can take on the "Relic" quest, in which you acquire a legendary weapon and then set about a multi-part, extremely lengthy quest to gradually upgrade it into one of the best items in the game. Even raiding has two distinct tracks -- the Crystal Tower series of 24-player raids, heavily inspired by Final Fantasy III and possibly implying that III has some direct connections to XIV, cater to more casual players and provide a quick an easy means of acquiring good (but not the best) gear; a step up from that is the Extreme difficulty boss fights, for which eight players come together to tackle mechanically demanding fights in which most (preferably all) people involved need to know what they're doing; and at the very pinnacle of endgame play comes the three Binding Coil of Bahamut multi-part raid dungeons, which encompass some of the most challenging encounters in the whole game, with the reward being some fantastic backstory that anyone who really wants to immerse themselves in Eorzean lore will most definitely want to seek out.



Secondly, it's the first MMO in which I've stuck with a group of players and not become frustrated with them. The Free Company (guild) I'm a member of has had its fair share of drama, particularly in the last few months, but for the most part the core group of players that are on regularly are the same people I started playing the beta with way back last summer. We all progressed at different paces, but the nature of endgame play -- eventually you'll bang your head on the ceiling until the next major patch and consequent upgrade in gear tiers rolls around -- means that everyone has the opportunity to catch up with one another, and we're always willing to do things together and help one another out.



Thirdly, and this is the thing I was perhaps most surprised about, it's the game that has truly got my other half Andie into gaming. Previously, she'd played a few things -- she enjoyed Theatrhythm and Harvest Moon on 3DS, and ploughed through Recettear and Cherry Tree High Comedy Club on PC -- but I've never seen her get so much into a game as she has with FFXIV. She's made some good friends through it, which I'm happy about, and it's something we can do together. She's even raiding with me, which is the last thing I expected.



The next major patch is coming in a month or two and is set to wrap up the 2.0 story ahead of the "Heavensward" full-on expansion later in the year. It's also introducing an FFVII-style Gold Saucer (complete with that music) and includes FFVIII's card game Triple Triad, which I'm very excited about revisiting. In other words, FFXIV looks set to keep me busy for a very long time yet. Check out the trailers I've posted above to see quite how much is added to the game every three months -- that and to hear some of the game's incredible music. The expansion supposedly includes as much content as the base game... so yeah. This game isn't going anywhere any time soon.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1

I fucking love Hyperdimension Neptunia, as most people here probably already know by now. At the same time, I'm very conscious of the series' numerous flaws -- and in particular, it was always difficult to recommend the first game in good conscience, which, although utterly packed full of charm and joy, was a fairly shoddy piece of work. Its dungeons were repetitive, its battle system was broken (but fun) and it ran at a framerate that... well, it was a tad lower than it should have been, let's just say.

Since I enjoyed the first game so much, though, despite its flaws, I stuck with the series and moved on to its sequels Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 and Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. What I found was a series that was very much aware of its flaws, and which made a distinct effort to build upon and correct those issues with each subsequent installment, with each game being significantly and noticeably better than the previous -- and, in keeping with the game's cheeky, self-referential sense of humour, willingness to openly acknowledge in the game itself that it could have done some things a bit better.



Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 is an interesting example of what seems to be a bit of a trend with Japanese developers at the moment: a remake of a game in the same generation which isn't just a "remaster" or a slightly expanded version, but rather a complete rebuild from scratch. In this case, Re;Birth1 takes the basic plot outline of the original game, rewrites the script entirely and bundles it all in the considerably improved game mechanics from Victory. It then adds its own new elements on top of all that -- most notably, the "Remake" system, which allows you to "craft" both usable items and even tweaks to the game mechanics -- along with a much better explanation of its more obscure elements than ever before, and the result is by far the best Neptunia game we've seen in the West to date; however, in true series tradition, Re;Birth2 and Re;Birth3, both of which are already available in Japan, significantly improve on Re;Birth1's formula, with Re;Birth3 being, I'm assured by people who know their Neptunia even better than me, the absolute pinnacle of the series as it currently stands.

Re;Birth1 is a hugely enjoyable game, and a very "handheld-friendly" RPG, in that its dungeon forays are short and snappy and it's always easy to see when you're about to get into a plot exposition sequence, so you can save those for when you have time to enjoy them. The cast is, as ever, adorable, and Idea Factory International's translation is, although occasionally a tiny bit wobblier than NIS America's previous work on the series, full of charm, wit and on-the-nose satire about both games and anime. It's definitely one of my favourite experiences this year.

Steins;Gate

I knew that Steins;Gate was a well-regarded Japanese work, but I didn't know a lot about it. When JAST USA announced it would be localising the game for the West back in 2013, however, I knew that I wanted to find out more about it, so I jumped right on it as soon as it became available in March of this year.

What I found was a remarkable sci-fi tale that blended plausible real-world elements and actual urban myths with the stuff of pure fantasy. It featured an incredibly memorable and unconventional cast of characters, a gorgeous "grimy" art style and a lengthy, compelling story that branched off in all manner of surprising directions according to the player's choices throughout.



Unusually for a visual novel, you weren't presented with binary choices throughout. Rather, the game's progression was based on how you responded to text messages and phone calls the protagonist got throughout the game -- with choosing to ignore them altogether always being a valid option, too. The actual implementation of this made for a somewhat convoluted means of navigating the game's various narrative paths -- I defy anyone to stumble across the (excellent) True Ending without a guide -- but as with most visual novels, the point of this isn't really about gameplay; it's about telling an interesting story, and Steins;Gate most certainly does that.

The story itself takes an unconventional and original look at time travel and how it might actually work in a vaguely realistic scenario. The scientific theories presented throughout are eminently plausible, and the key narrative element of the choices you make having genuine and lasting consequences is explored extremely well, particularly in the various endings. The game also features an extensive and interesting glossary of terms it brings up throughout, with topics covered ranging from elements of real-world Internet culture (things like 2channel's place in Japanese society and the like) to otaku terminology via historical notes about Japan. Playing the game is as much a learning experience -- almost a cultural exchange, in many ways -- as it is a fascinating time-travel tale, and I found that these elements gave the whole experience a strong degree of "takeaway", which is something we in the Squad are all about.

Being a pure visual novel with nothing you'd call traditional "gameplay" throughout, the experience won't be for everyone, for sure, but for those of you interested in experiencing a fascinating, beautifully presented interactive story, Steins;Gate is one of the most memorable experiences I've had in the last year. And for those who don't want to play on PC, it was recently announced that PS3 and Vita versions are on the way to the West next year, so watch out for those!
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Re: Squadron of Shame 2014 Games of the Year Thread

by Alex Connolly » Tue Dec 23, 2014 1:51 pm

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A brilliant, utterly PC market game, Spintires took me by a storm that churned mud and rocked chassis with such determined vision that not even the technical aplomb of Bugbear's magnificent Wreckfest could unseat Oovee's east of the Urals affair. Not exactly a sim, not exactly arcade, Spintires played by its own rules and won my heart through a soviet celebration of mud, sweat and tires. Magnificent, grueling and entirely unique.

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Finally, a decent cricket game! After a decade of decaying quality orbit, the grand old game got a decent iteration, and one with a grassroots tale to tell. Featuring a control scheme with depth and length, a smart reliance on community content to sidestep licensing costs and that unmistakable sense of knowing this was anything but phoned in, Don Bradman Cricket 2014 is a title to be proud of. Worth of the Don.

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A recommendation by Pete Davison, Jeff Minter's portable Tempest iteration TxK - some say his finest - grabbed me by the short and curlies. A time-tested concept, this British tube shooter is by far the year's best arcade experience. Great controls to match lean and crisp audio-visual presentation, there remains little to say outside of simply 'play it'. Space is everything. Incredibull.

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Amplitude are part of a developer triumvirate I hold dear as desperate shots in the arm of strategy gaming. Here, in Endless Legend, tired Tolkien tropes are subverted in a wash of refreshing science-fantasy. Featuring great faction design and a world as rich as they come, there's really no alternative to Endless Legend when looking for a 4X fantasy empire builder. Sure, the table is crowded with gear sporting names like Age of Wonder 3 and Warlock 2, but at the end of the day, I can only recommend one.

And Amplitude gets the nod.

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Despite initially being a quick one-off project between Sorcery! IF titles, 80 Days is as good as it gets in 2014 for personal narrative high points. Meg Jayanth's writing, coupled with a fantastic and thankfully subdued visual style, makes plotting a trip around a Victorian steampunk globe utterly beguiling. A rich and rewarding experience.

Also, if you're a Philistine and think 80 Days is not worth your time because it's only available on iOS/Android, go leap in front of a Phaeton automaton.

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Deadnaut. Without a doubt, my game of the year. 2014's personal best. There hasn't been a game that has spoken to a fellow so profoundly, it feels like some sort of genetic AI hijack. Deadnaut is a dark, tense science-fiction squad management game with more granularity than you could possible poke a space stick at. An analysis or investigation of the often-omnipotent and seemingly indefatigable conduit of information afforded by a player; one that often phases and buckles under the pressures of simulated reality. A game of discerned ambition, the hard science fiction and determined retrofuturism is assailed with such vigor and devotion, most triple A games chasing similar themes feel sophomoric, bloated and clumsy.

Keep your particular blend of isolation, proletariat. I'll be over here with my GOTY in Deadna-....[transmission deteriorates]
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Re: Squadron of Shame 2014 Games of the Year Thread

by Bowley » Tue Dec 23, 2014 5:42 pm

Alex Connolly wrote:Image

Deadnaut. Without a doubt, my game of the year. 2014's personal best. There hasn't been a game that has spoken to a fellow so profoundly, it feels like some sort of genetic AI hijack. Deadnaut is a dark, tense science-fiction squad management game with more granularity than you could possible poke a space stick at. An analysis or investigation of the often-omnipotent and seemingly indefatigable conduit of information afforded by a player; one that often phases and buckles under the pressures of simulated reality. A game of discerned ambition, the hard science fiction and determined retrofuturism is assailed with such vigor and devotion, most triple A games chasing similar themes feel sophomoric, bloated and clumsy.

Keep your particular blend of isolation, proletariat. I'll be over here with my GOTY in Deadna-....[transmission deteriorates]


Where do you find this shit? It looks like a real-time squad tactics game played through the fuzzy scope of a SAM simulator. The reviews say, "Event Horizon: The Game" and "You're pretty much Gorman (from Aliens) running the show."

Sold.
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Re: Squadron of Shame 2014 Games of the Year Thread

by Calin Kim » Mon Dec 29, 2014 8:34 pm

I didn't play very many 2014 games in 2014, which is okay. This was a busy year in my personal life, and I didn't play nearly as many games as I normally do. I think that if I was able to get in four or five hours a week that was a productive gaming week for me this year. I went whole months without turning on a console or booting up Steam. Not for lack of interest but because real life is more important than video games.

On to the shit I did play, which I'm not going to rank in any meaningful fashion because I seriously played like five 2014 games or something like that.

Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall - This is probably my game of the year, and it might be my game of the year by default but fuck it. It's really, really good.

I recommended the original Shadowrun campaign to fans of Shadowrun who were willing to deal with a relatively linear game. I recommend Dragonfall to everyone who likes RPGs and has a pulse. Harebrained Studios took the community's comments fully in mind and released a game that fixed basically everything I criticized about the first campaign. The writing is still really sharp, and it gives you a stable group of runners you can get to know and like. It's great. Go play it if you like RPGs.

Wasteland 2 - I can't really comment on the game since I haven't played it much, but the collector's edition is a thing of beauty. Everything is in a big metal ammo case, and it comes with a cloth map, ranger badge, and other assorted goodies. Pretty glad to get it in the mail even if I paid for it in 2012.

Goat Simulator - Or maybe this is my game of the year? Definitely my GOATY. I love the fact that someone else looked at the state of Steam circa early-mid 2014 and realized there were way too many boring sim games on there. Farming Simulator 2014. Euro trucking simulator 2014 w/Ukraine expansion. No, fuck you. Fuck all of you. Fuck everyone who bought those bullshit sim games as a joke. Europe makes some boring ass board games based on the banal minutiae of shipping routes, and now they're making awful pc games about it too. Just leave me alone already.

Goat simulator is the antidote to that. (Also, the fact that Total Biscuit hated it makes me love it so much more...) You play a goat, and you simulate a day in the life of a goat in a small town. Bounce on a trampoline. Mess with protestors. Become the earthly embodiment of Satan who is lord. All in a day's work for a goat.

GAME OF THE YEAR: 420BLAZEIT vs. xxXilluminatiXxx [wow/10 #rekt edition] Montage Parody The Game - This is Frog Fractions for a generation raised on memes. It parodies and willfully and gleefully participates in the silliness that are image macros and some of the online culture that has spawned around them. Go play it. It's free: http://www.gameoftheyear420blazeit.com/

If it's too much work to play it, you can watch Pewdiepie play it. He's sexy and screams a lot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_5Pco0Alic

There were also some thoughtful indie games this year.

This is Dee's Big Night, and it's a really clever exploration of video games, and that's all I'll say. It takes like 10-15 minutes. Just play it: http://mkopas.net/files/deesbignight.html

Also, The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo, which will take you immediately back to 1993... kinda: http://jayisgames.com/games/the-uncle/

I also really dug Coming Out Simulator 2014: http://ncase.itch.io/coming-out-simulator-2014

All of the last four or so games will only take you 20 or so minutes to experience, so if you're looking for bite sized experiences, there are plenty of them here. This was a really good year for that, actually. I don't always have time to play stuff that takes hours upon hours, but I do usually get 15-20 minutes during the work day to mess around with games.
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Re: Squadron of Shame 2014 Games of the Year Thread

by Alex Connolly » Wed Dec 31, 2014 9:02 am

A fine list, Lord Grajko.

Though, as one of those fellows who legitimately enjoy the simulators - my 2014 sims include Euro Truck 2, Farming Sim 2015 and TransOcean - you do raise an interesting argument. A lot of the simulators are low-quality German sweatshop efforts that don't do anyone any favours.

I'm still waiting for a decent, non-buggy successor to Airport Tycoon...and it certainly wasn't found in Airport Simulator, an empty exercise in badly-rendered drudgery.

But Eurotruck or Farming Sim or A-Train? Such passionate attention to detail. Cannot get enough.
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Re: Squadron of Shame 2014 Games of the Year Thread

by sinfony » Thu Jan 01, 2015 7:24 pm

I hereby amend my list to include joint champions Destiny and Elite: Dangerous.
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Re: Squadron of Shame 2014 Games of the Year Thread

by RedSwirl » Thu Jan 01, 2015 10:28 pm

I wanted to do some other things first, but at some point I'm going to gush about Wolfenstein somewhere on this board.
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Re: Squadron of Shame 2014 Games of the Year Thread

by Raven2785 » Thu Jan 01, 2015 11:40 pm

RedSwirl wrote:I wanted to do some other things first, but at some point I'm going to gush about Wolfenstein somewhere on this board.


Please, by all means, do so.

I just got the game on the Steam sale and it is fantastic
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Re: Squadron of Shame 2014 Games of the Year Thread

by Grant Heaslip » Fri Jan 02, 2015 5:33 am

I bought a copy of Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth1 in a Boxing Day sale in part because of Pete’s continuing drumbeat. I know almost nothing about the series and I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about. (I can forward my proof of purchase if you need that for your commission :)).
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