Every year I make so many promises in regards to new content, and ultimately I feel that I fail to deliver. Despite having developed an overall larger audience in 2014, I feel like I put out not only the least amount of content, but the least amount of quality content compared to my efforts in prior years.
Of course, I also happen to be quite critical of myself. I still managed to put out videos, podcasts, blog posts, and articles on GamersWithJobs. I have not exactly been slouching. Even so, a lot of time was dedicated away from writing and gaming, and I’d like to get back on track in 2015 to better provide content.
While I played the fewest amount of new games in 2014 than I’ve played in recent years, those that I chose to play were, largely, excellent choices. Each title in some way served as a reminder as to why I love video games as much as I do, why I’d choose to dedicate so much time to analyzing and dissecting them. Games that have so much going on to them that they are worth celebrating.
DmC: Devil May Cry was an awfully surprising start to such a year. While I was hardly impressed with the plot and setting, I found the gameplay to be surprisingly enjoyable. It wouldn’t have the same degree of challenge and polished design as Bayonetta 2 would prove to possess later down the line, but implementing the chain as a combat and platforming tool helped to keep DmC a unique, well-paced and exciting adventure. The announcement of the definitive edition hitting next-gen consoles this year is only too fitting, as I should be able to get my hands on a Playstation 4 in the near future.
My return to JRPG’s this year began with Bravely Default, a title whose story wasn’t quite up to the quality of my old favorites, but whose gameplay design far surpassed anything I grew up with. A true evolution of the genre, Bravely Default made each character’s turn a form of currency. Knowing when to store turns and when to go into debt was key to completing fights in an efficient and timely manner, as well as capitalizing on some of the more advanced techniques of each character class. While the repetitive nature of the story was rather frustrating, the game managed to remain invigorating by requiring the player to learn the more intricate tactics afforded by its system. If you didn’t, then the A.I. would start to outsmart you and the game would become incredibly difficult. It was flawed, but I eagerly await the sequel Bravely Second.
I continued to play JRPG’s on handheld devices, moving on to Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, a more user-friendly variant of the combat in Final Fantasy Tactics. While I was not as pleased with Tactics Ogre as many of my peers, it was most certainly an enjoyable and well done game, the first tactical role-playing game I truly became invested in since Final Fantasy Tactics itself.
Yet the latter half of the year was spent diving right back into Wild Arms, Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IX, and largely due to my acquisition of Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy: Curtain Call. One of the most interesting experiments to perform is to go back and replay old games you haven’t touched in years, and to try and determine what made them so memorable. Sometimes you have to come to terms with how poorly a title aged, that it might not be so easy for newcomers to jump in and experience the game for the first time. This was most certainly true of my time with Wild Arms. However, other times you find that your early impressions weren’t always accurate (Final Fantasy IX), or that there was more going on than you had ever understood before (Final Fantasy VII).
The Nintendo WiiU more than justified itself as a purchase this year as well. I finally got around to finishing The Wind Waker for the first time, a rather enjoyable experiment that I wish Nintendo had truly explored further with Skyward Sword, and completed Super Mario 3D World. Yet it was Mario Kart 8 that truly reignited the love affair that The Wonderful 101 had begun. Both offline and on, I found this latest iteration of the franchise to be exactly what I yearn for in the franchise. Challenging with a hint of chaos, filled with creative levels and neat little tricks and passageways throughout every map. Super Smash Bros. would prove to be a similar case, exhibiting an exorbitant amount of polish into how the characters play. Characters were given a bit more “easy access oomph”, allowing more casual and experimental players to stand a chance against more experienced or skilled smashers. It proves to be a sincere marriage between casual and competitive play, offering extremes for both sets of groups as well as a wide variety of customization for those that meet in the middle. If Super Smash Bros. is disappointing in any way, it is merely that the varied single player experience fails to entertain as well as the multiplayer, unlike the earlier Mario Kart 8.
I did not get to finish either, but Alien: Isolation and The Evil Within helped to teach me that horror games are starting to make a comeback in the triple-A industry. While I did not get very far into The Evil Within, it was quite clear that a careful approach and decent amount of stealth was required to properly progress. Not nearly as tense an experience as Alien: Isolation, a game that leaves the player so vulnerable that my nerves are incomparably frayed after a play session, but one in which the concept of pushing onward is still an intimidating one.
The two games that truly left the greatest impression on me, storywise at least, were Drakengard 3 and Murdered: Soul Suspect. A pair of smaller titles released in the first half of the year by Square Enix, these games possessed stories, settings and narratives that truly intrigued me. While they haven’t proven themselves to be the next artistic breakthrough in terms of stories in games, they exceeded what I most certainly would label as competent. Drakengard 3 is just a depressing, cynical, crude, and violent tale about despicable characters, and it is fascinating every step of the way. Murdered: Soul Suspect opens up with an excellent method of delivering exposition, all focusing on our core character, and allowing us to understand his background before the story itself gets going. The narrative and gameplay are frequently intertwined in a natural fashion, an adventure game that tells a satisfying and creative story that I yearn to experience again.
If I learned any lesson from 2014, it is that I have become quite good at boiling down what games I will greatly enjoy and which are worth skipping for the time being. This allows me to simply focus more on the hobby, to constantly be honeymooning over the medium as I explore one enjoyable game after the next. I will do my best to keep this level of judgment into the future, as I shall be able to afford my types of games in 2015. In particular, I’ll be coming into possession of a Playstation 4, which shall allow me to keep up with currently releasing games. However, I shall still be rather picky about what I play.
I cannot play everything, so I shall do my best to play what I find most intriguing. That way I can enjoy games just as much in 2015 as I have in 2014.