Friday 2 January 2015

2014 in Gaming [Personal]

Since video gaming is one of my most favourite hobbies, I decided to split this from the main 2014 review. That will follow up after, since this is probably going to be longer. I was going to do one of these last year, but messed it up.

Over the course of the year, I've been buying a number of games away from their releases in the hopes of getting them cheaper. Of course, the Steam sales do help, as well as those on Origin, but sometimes you can find games without the help of sales. Both Pikmin 3 and Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics 4 were bought off Amazon at reduced prices. Harvest Moon: A New Beginning was also bought at a reduced price as well. Wii Party U was bought more for the free remote than the game itself, but I've still had fun with the game. Then I bought an official Mario remote later on. That's the thing with me - I hardly ever trust unofficial accessories.

Most of the time though, I feel a game is worth the purchase on release. If I know I can handle it financially, I will buy the game on release. Big releases bought at launch include Mario Kart 8, Tomodachi Life, Pokemon Omega Ruby, Pokemon Link Battle, 3D Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric [I enjoyed it for what it was worth, and did manage to score the reduced preorder price], Super Smash Bros. 4 3DS, and the official release of Elite: Dangerous. I'll get back to Elite in a minute, as I want to talk about some of the other purchases.

Mario Party: Island Tour was bought on launch as well. For some reason I bought it, and have enjoyed playing it on occasion. But just like with Wii Party U, it's more fun with friends. Unlike Wii Party U though, more people are going to want to gather around one big screen rather than keeping to their own smaller one. A party game just doesn't feel the same on a handheld, and so while I have enjoyed playing it, Mario Party: Island Tour has only been picked up on occasion. At least I have it with me all the time though, having bought it on the eShop.

I bought Super Mario Kart on the WiiU's Virtual Console owing to the deal. The price of Super Mario Kart off Mario Kart 8 if MK8 is bought off the eShop. I eventually didn't go through with that, instead getting MK8 for cheaper elsewhere. But the time I have spent with Super Mario Kart I have enjoyed. It was also the last Mario Kart game I had to properly play, and owing to Nintendo's distribution of the older Mario Kart's, I can say I own all of them [even if the first three are digital releases]. Mario Kart 8, on the other hand, impressed me so much it knocked my previous series favourite - Double Dash - off the top spot, and also nestled itself in my top ten all time favourites. I've spent massive amounts of hours on Mario Kart 8, and the download content has added a lot more to the game.

Duck Hunt is an old NES game, and on Christmas Day, it was released on the WiiU Virtual Console. Since I actually own the cartridge, but have no way to play it [what with modern TV's not allowing the old NES Lightgun to work], I decided I may as well rebuy. The game itself is good, even if it is basic. Duck Hunt was the end of the year, while 3D Sonic the Hedgehog was the beginning of the year. While not being on the Virtual Console, the original Sonic game was remade for the 3D Classics line of titles on the 3DS. I like the original titles, and the ability to play the original on a handheld appealed to me. As well as that extra mode of enabling the level select without using debug mode.

And so we get onto those titles I bought on the sales from both Origin and Steam. While Steam does have more sales, the ones on Origin are not to be laughed at. After all, find me another place where, at this point in time, you'd be able to get Battlefield 4 for under £10. On the Steam Summer Sale, I did go a bit mad on games involving sci-fi. And so Endless Space, Space Engineers, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II ended up in my library. Of those three, only Space Engineers has been played for over ten hours. Then again, I do like making things. Now yes, I am a Star Wars fan. But I cannot get into that psuedo point-and-click control scheme that certain RPG's like to implement. Not to rant forever about it, but it takes most of the control out of your hands. Dragon Age: Origins was On the House on Origin, and only got one play out of me due to employing the same control scheme. Endless Space I felt was a good game to play, but for whatever reason lost interest after one play. I'll consider playing it again, but highly doubt I will after what I picked up on the Steam Winter Sale.

Between the two sales, I hardly bought any games. Aside from finally buying the full version of Minecraft on PC, and The Escapists purely because of the Team17 label on it, there wasn't much else bought on the PC aside from the aforementioned Battlefield 4. Minecraft has been played by me for over a year now, on the offline version, but when I bought a new laptop, I lost the maps I had made and the launcher. I wanted to buy the full version for quite a while, but never got round to it. Since the new launcher only allowed the demo to be replayed, I bought the full game, made a custom character, and loaded some mods up. I found it to be better than the offline mode, as it also allowed me to play with friends. And removed a whole load of bugs I'd been putting up with in the offline mode.

Now Battlefield 4 was bought on sale for under £10. I'd tried both Battlefield 4 and Titanfall on Origin Game Time, and was quite impressed with both of them. When both were on sale, at the same time, I said to myself I would only buy one. But even then, I'd put off doing so until the sale was almost over. I decided on Battlefield 4, and that reason was simple. It was most like Star Wars Battlefront. And since buying Battlefield 4, not only have I became a lot better at using a keyboard and mouse on certain games, it sets me up for when EA finally release the new Star Wars Battlefront. Since that game is being made by DICE, as was Battlefield, there are going to be similarities in how they play. The game itself has proven a hit with me, and even if you manage to beat me online, I'm not particularly interested in that part. While I am improving, I'm more of a capture person than a killer person. As well as assists. I'm good with assists.

While I'm not going to be covering all the games I've bought this year [and as well as that, you know what I think of three retail games, and another two will be reviewed beginning of this year], this isn't just about the games released the year just gone. But I still want to cover three more games. Two games have been bought from the Steam Winter Sales, and one of them was mentioned as a reason I might not be playing a game bought in the Summer Sale. Both Test Drive Unlimited 2 and Star Wars: Empire at War have been sitting on my wish list for a year now. With the Winter Sale, I was able to get both with a considerate amount knocked off each. I am seriously loving playing Test Drive. I love open world games, as well as racing games, and while I don't think the game can beat Forza Horizon overall, it does in certain areas. It feels like a more... open world, shall we say. But Empire at War is the bigger of the two games in my eyes. Star Wars strategy. A game I have been wanting for ages and ages, and when I heard of Empire at War, I knew I wanted it. But only at the right price. After all, over £20 is too much for a game released eight years ago. Under £10, or around that price I felt was right. And I managed to get half of £10. I haven't played much, except for one battle, but I can already tell I was right. Star Wars and strategy do go together, and if another game like it is made, I will be right in line. Well... maybe not. Not before I've got a good amount of time with Empire at War, anyway.

And now we come to the biggest game of the lot. Elite: Dangerous. The game itself got released on my birthday, and as a gift to myself, I preordered it ages back. From first playing it, I could tell it would be a game I would love. And it was. Exploring space. Being a trader, miner, or combat specialist, you travel the galaxy to earn money any way you can. And the game is not for a casual play. Go into a session, you have to be committed. Mining can take hours. And that's the full of it, from starting off, finding a spot in an asteroid field, using your laser and cargo scoop to collect fragments, then once formed into the metal or mineral itself finding a suitable place to sell them to. Trading is a case of knowing where the prices are. Combat is a case of being better and having a better ship than the other pilot. But most of all, the game is a winner as it has no handholding whatsoever. Run out of fuel - too bad. Get into a fight too heated for your taste - better warm that Frame Shift Drive up, or you'll be biting the space dust. And it isn't a case of respawn at your last reversion point either. If your ship blows up, you either need to buy it back, or get a free ship - one of the most basic ones - and build up all of what you had again. If you have the money, no problem. If you don't, that's bad news.

Now then, considering what I've just been saying, it'll be no surprise as to which games make my most played list. Mario Kart 8 and Elite: Dangerous both get on it. I'm still as strong as ever playing Star Wars Battlefront II. And also Sonic Generations. Mario Kart 7 has still been played a lot this year, as has Pokemon Y. If I had to guess at two more, I'd say Sonic Adventure 2: Battle and a tie between Minecraft and Space Engineers.

A revised top ten of games are as follows. Now this is all-time favourites. I'll only be doing this for games, since it is my main hobby [and numerous lists in the other post would be too much], but it should give you a general idea of what I favour. If a game in a series has been replaced, I'll say the game that has been replaced. I won't be saying what games have been knocked off the list.

[1] Star Wars Battlefront II - This has been an all-time favourite ever since I was first introduced to it back in 2006. No game ever I feel has come close to beating it, and I never miss an opportunity to play it.

[2] Sonic Adventure 2: Battle - This one is more to do with the gameplay than any other factor. More specifically, the gameplay of Sonic. I feel that no other 3D Sonic game has got the feel of control much better than Adventure 2.

[3] Pokemon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire - Now, it should come as no shock that the games these are replacing are the original generation three games - Ruby/Sapphire. The region itself had a lot to do in it, I felt, and the remakes add even more to what is a pair of great games.

[4] Mario Kart 8 - For ages, I heralded Mario Kart: Double Dash as the greatest Mario Kart game ever. I felt it had the best control, the best tracks, and the best ideas. All three of those have been beaten by the latest entry. Mario Kart 8 revamped the series for the better. Battle Mode aside.

[5] Super Smash Bros. Melee - I still consider it to be the best. It might be that I still need more time with the latest versions, but there is still something which draws me back the to Gamecube game. Maybe it feels more natural to me.

[6] Kingdom Hearts 2 - The second of the main series, and the only game in the series I consider to even be a contender. It improved greatly on the original, and every game since has used a gimmick battle system of some sort, while the combat in KH2 is the simplest to use.

[7] Forza Horizon - New to Forza and Xbox in general two or three years back, I bought Forza Motorsport 4 with an Xbox 360 Kinect bundle. The Kinect got used and forgotton. Forza was a new love in racing games. But in reality, I'd really bought the Xbox for Horizon. The open world racing.

[8] Elite: Dangerous - It had to place somewhere, and next year, it could even place higher. I've talked about why I love it, and the company who made it are a favourite of mine as well. Frontier Developments have made some of my favourite games, and this is the best of the lot.

[9] Thrillville: Off the Rails - Talking of Frontier, this is another of their games. LucasArts published, the game had you managing a theme park. Not like in Rollercoaster Tycoon though, as anything you placed, you could play. The missions and environments weren't bad either.

[10] Dave Mirra BMX Freestyle 2 - Out of all the extreme sports games, this is the one that stood out most to me. Another one from the Gamecube, I played this a lot. Never got far within the game [in fact I hardly ever saved the campaign], but the game itself has stuck with me more than any others.

The last thing I want to say is about those games I'm most expectant about for this coming year, and of course, the first and most expectant is Star Wars Battlefront. A reboot of the series made by the people whose series Battlefront was inspired by. As I said before, I've already bought Battlefield 4 to see how the Battlefield series has evolved, and that in turn should guide thoughts on how Battlefront will evolve. And hopefully, with the next Star Wars Celebration coming in April, I'll be able to see if I'm right. Of course, there are also other Star Wars games that are sure to be in the works. And if those get announced, I'm sure I'll be following those too.

As I said before, Frontier is one of my favourite development studios, so when they announced Screamride at the Microsoft conference during Gamescom, I was immediately excited by what game it would be like. And it seems like a cross between Thrillville and Rollercoaster Tycoon. I love those games, so I should love this too. And there isn't that long until it releases either, with an announced date of beginning of March.

Most Nintendo games are worth looking at, even if you don't particularly like that genre. But a number of games got me wanting to play them when shown last year. The first was Splatoon. The third-person shooter recreates what shooters are about, and is more like a turf war game in that the team that covers the battlefield in the most ink wins. A lot of people are expectant about this one, and Nintendo know that - so more news shouldn't be far off. The next game is The Legend of Zelda, which seems to be evolving itself. The next in the series is an open world game, and not much else has been said. I've been sidelining The Legend of Zelda series for a long time now, always on the edge about taking the plunge. The game is open world, so this might be the first one I buy. But it all depends on what else is shown. Then there's another series I've been sidelining, and that's Kirby.

Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush/Curse [EU/US] is a sequel to 2005's Canvas Curse on the DS. As such, the gameplay involves drawing lines on the screen to control an ever-rolling-forward Kirby. The game itself looks interesting, and a recent Japanese trailer showed off more gameplay, including bosses. As ever, there'll also be Pokemon games, though none have yet been announced. Dependant on what they are, I'll be looking into them for buying.

One other icon is Sonic the Hedgehog, and the last of my big three franchises to mention. But here's the catch. 2014 for the Sonic brand wasn't exactly on top form in terms of gaming. The games were two spinoffs from the same sub-series, and a continuation of content for Sonic Dash and the release of Sonic Jump Fever on mobile devices. The only thing as yet confirmed for 2015 in gaming is another mobile game. This one might be bigger though, but only because Sonic Team themselves are developing it. I just hope there is also a main game coming, otherwise this year, like the last, will hardly have much merit to it.

So there you have it. My 2014 year of gaming. Look out for the general review of my 2014 soon.