Last of the Listicles

Gary here, listing it up again. This time I want to talk about the year in games. I've heard a bunch of folk on twitter bemoaning this year and saying that it will go down as forgettable but I beg to differ. The common complaints focus on let downs in the world of highly anticipated AAA releases. Though it seems that sphere has redeemed itself a bit recently with Shadow of Mordor, Dragon Age Inquisition and Alien: Isolation, the first half the year was supposed to be a bit of a wet fart when it came to blockbusters.

To my mind, if the Michael Bay set isn't doing it for you, look to the indies, which is where this year shined for me. So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are the indie games that touched my heart this year...

♪Let's List Again Like we Did Last Summer!♪

Shadowrun: Dragonfall. This seemed like the year where Kickstarter started working for games. Given that four of my favorite games this year were Kickstarted, I feel like we've finally arrived. Dragonfall delivers on the promises that the original Shadowrun Returns made, improving on the base campaign in almost every way. Dragonfall is bitesized, emotionally resonant and morally complicated and does justice to a setting I hold very dear.

My absolute favorite aspect of the way Harebrained Schemes handled this series and their Kickstarter can be boiled down to modesty and transparency. Harebrained have been an absolute exemplar, listening to the community, not promising the moon, and keeping within restraints (I'm looking at you, Doublefine). I will play each game in this series day of release, most likely, as long as they can keep up the quality.

Shovel Knight. I don't want to burn cast talking about this too much given that we're going to cover it for BSC but what a fucking delight. This is probably my 2nd favorite game of the year and it all comes down to how it feels like it was already part of my history. No other "Retraux" game has ever cuckooed itself so well into the NES library. This game is nearly perfect and I can't wait to revisit it for the show.

Divinity: Original Sin. My favorite RPG I've played this year, excepting possibly Dark Souls 2 (if you want to call it that), D:OS is messy and huge and breakable in a way that games often aren't these days. It gives you a tool box and a world but there aren't gates. If you can sequence break and get to a later game area and if you can, by clever manipulation of the brilliant elemental system, somehow succeed, the game doesn't try to stop you. If you can't figure out a mystery and want to kill the people involved, you likely can. Though the game has some seriously uneven difficulty and some issues in the late game, this is the best successor to Baldur's Gate I've played ever.

Wasteland 2. Though I don't quite love this as much as D:OS, this tackles a significantly more original setting and is essentially an alternate reality version of Fallout, frequently cited as my favorite game ever (though I think Dark Souls might have dethroned it). I also think I like WL2 partially because it made me like Fallout more, if that makes any sense, similarly to how Lords of the Fallen makes me appreciated Souls more. WL2 has little of the humor or big sci fi 50sness of Fallout and playing through WL2 reminded me that Fallout is more than just post apocalyptic. It might sound like I'm shitting on it, but I'm really not. WL2 is highly enjoyable on its own.

And finally, my favorite game of 2014...

Binding of Isaac: Rebirth I have a written piece on this coming out for Retro and I've talked about it at length on mic but criminy, does this game just do it for me. I'm still learning things about it to this day, different item combinations and secrets, and that's after 132 hours. 132 hours! I don't know if anything I can say can help unlock this game for anyone having a hard time getting into it but I take some solace in knowing I'm not alone. My Steam friends list has been a who's playing Rebirth list for more than month now. I've gotten hours of entertainment out of watching Youtubers break the game in interesting ways. And there's an expansion planned. I honestly sort of wish I could erase it from my mind and start over, experiencing it all again. If you would have told me ten years ago that one of my all time favorite games would be filled with abortion references, dead babies and shit, I would have run screaming out of the room.

Then, hours later, throat raw and lost, I would have made camp under a bridge with a friendly vagrant community. There, they would have told me their secrets and indoctrinated me into an organization they called The Shapers. As a Shaper, I would have been able to manipulate the ebb and flow of time, bending it according to my whim and whimsy. I would then travel to the future and see, with my own eyes, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth and my bloated self, plopped in front of it, grunting about Proptosis and The Ludovico Technique. This would have caused a paradox of sorts and unraveled all of time.

Whoa, right?