Monday 5 January 2015

The Top 10 Games of 2014 (4-2)

2014 was the year of the next-generation consoles the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One. Well, technically they're now considered current-generation, but you know what I mean. However, while there have been many, many interesting and exciting exclusives released on both platforms in 2014, none of them have made our top 10. In fact, almost every entry on our top 10 list are playable on multiple, previous generation platforms. This next batch is no different. Enjoy.

4- Alien: Isolation

Since seeing it when I was around 6, I've always loved Ridley Scott's Alien. It's intense, creepy and though it could have turned into a super generic crappy 70's sci-fi, it remains one of the most iconic films in history. James Cameron's sequel Aliens was fantastic too, and went for a more action orientated approach. It worked though, and and propelled the heroine Ellen Ripley into new and interesting territory. I also enjoyed Alien 3. I know some people despise it, and despite it very cruelly killing off both Hicks and Newt, I found it to be a fitting end to the series. Don't even mention Alien: Resurrection. In my mind that didn't happen. Ever. But while Alien 3 did reclaim some of the bleakness Aliens lacked, nothing beats the original. Now, after loads of terrible games based upon the Alien franchise over the years, one has come along that literally does the job perfectly.

Developed by The Creative Assembly, developers mostly known for their Total War series, Alien: Isolation places you in the role of Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Alien series protagonist Ellen Ripley. Set 15 years after the events of Alien, Amanda, working together with the Weyland-Yutani group, sets out to retrieve the flight recorder of the Nostromo, the ship her mother was on when the alien first appeared. Of course, things don't go exactly to plan, but whereas Aliens: Colonial Marines took a massive piss all over the lore and history of the film series, Alien: Isolation's story is smart, non-invasive to the series and incredibly worthwhile.

Alien: Isolation takes a page from the book of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, in the way that gameplay mostly revolves around hiding, escaping, solving puzzles and, above all else, surviving. Though there are other enemies that will get in your way, your main enemy here is of course the alien- the perfect organism. The game gets incredibly unnerving when hiding from the alien, as it can often be pretty close to you. Granted there are bits where you get to wave a gun around, but Alien: Isolation is at its best when there's little or no hope, you find yourself inside a dark vent and the only way to proceed is forward. It's chilling, genuinely shit-your-pants scary and the best entry into the Alien franchise since Aliens.

For it's thrills, chills and kills, Alien: Isolation nabs our number 4.

3- Dragon Age: Inquisition

For the last week, whenever I get the time between playing all the new releases, I've been replaying Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Man, what a game! From deciding to give the serum to Zax for 1000 credits instead of the human Doctor, screwing up that female Twi'lek's dancing audition on purpose, to that big, BIG reveal, it's still one of my favourite games of all time. It was created by Bioware who in recent years have given us both the Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises. However, over the past two years or so I've seen a massive drop in the quality of their games. Mass Effect 3 was awful and Dragon Age 2 was even worse. So personally there was a lot riding on Dragon Age: Inquisition. Could Bioware get back to their former glory, or were they condemned to slow but surely fade into a shadow of their former selves. Well, seeing as Dragon Age: Inquisition is on this list I'm sure you know the answer already, but it does indeed look like Bioware is back on form.

Taking place around one year after the events of Dragon Age 2, you take on the role of a user created character, and though Dragon Age: Inquisition does break away from the previous two Dragon Age titles in many ways, it keeps the existing lore in its end-of-the-world storyline. In terms of combat, exploration, customization and narrative, Bioware are getting back to their The Knights of the Old Republic and Baldur's Gate level of excellence. This is an RPG that welcomes and satisfies both the hardcore and casual gamer. The world presented here is an open-world, and it's one of the greatest open-worlds I have ever experienced in a game. From lush jungles, desert plains to deep dark caverns, seeking adventure in the land of Thedas stands shoulder to shoulder with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The world is massive, diverse, brim full of interesting areas and a genuine joy to get lost in.

Combat kind of plays like a hybrid between Dragon Age 1 and 2, as while you do have the flashy action based combat of Dragon Age 2 here, you can freeze the gameplay and take into deep consideration what move you'll make next, much like Dragon Age 1 and many old-school RPGs. Essentially the game fits both play-styles, and this success of how much Dragon Age: Inquisition will suit pretty much every gamer's needs is what gives it lasting power. Customization for your team is incredibly in-depth too, and this level of detail runs deep throughout the Dragon Age: Inquisition experience. Your team will grow on you both in terms of personality and in stats, the world will become your playground for adventure and 80+ hours in you'll still have stuff to see and do! Welcome back Bioware.

Dragon Age: Inquisition takes the number 3 spot.

2- Dark Souls 2

Back in the day I used to hate- and I mean HATE- games that were too difficult. You see, I didn't exactly have much patience when I was younger, especially if a game just seemed so unfair. That naturally changed over time, but I never really put it to the test until I played the original Dark Souls released back in 2011. At first it infuriated me, but when I eventually started to realise that my lack of skill was to blame and not the game itself, I stuck with it. It was a trial by fire, but it delivered an experience like no other. Now developer From Software is back at it, as the Dark Souls series has returned to kick to asses of many gamers across the globe.

Dark Souls 2 is set in the dark, grim and almost Gothic world of Drangleic. There are some absolutely incredible environments present, fused with a great sense of geography and location as each level is generally linked up with other levels. From the huge, open areas atop a cliff that give the player a view across the vast roaring ocean, to the smaller settings of merely buying weapons from a blacksmith in Drangleic, the attention to detail here is wonderful. However, this is all fancy dressing to the true focus on the game, even if it is incredibly beautiful and masterful dressing. You see, Dark Souls 2 is all about combat. But this game doesn't hold your hand like 99% of other titles out there, no, as it will excel in kicking your ass time after time.

Offering a massive selection of weapons, armour and attacks right from the outset, Dark Souls 2's combat is the best I've ever seen. If you button bash you'll die in seconds. If you keep spamming attacks you'll have your ass handed to you. Instead you'll need to keep changing up your play-style and character set-up. From using one-handed to two-handed blades, spears, daggers and even going bare fisted, there's enough customization here to suit almost any player. Enemies are fierce, never back down and are pretty much incredibly hard right from the get-go. It's not a game for everyone out there, but if you're looking for a rewarding challenge, you've come to the right place.

Dark Souls 2 almost gets the number 1 spot on our list, but ultimately gets second place.

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