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Best of the Rest: Xav's picks of 2014

Xav de Matos, @Xav
01.05.15
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ATTENTION: The year 2014 has concluded its temporal self-destruct sequence. If you are among the escapees, please join us in salvaging and preserving the best games from the irradiated chrono-debris.


Set aside your cries of it being a glorified demo; you'll get no support from me. I poured dozens of hours into Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, exploring every facet, achieving S ranks throughout (some of which you can watch on my YouTube channel) and doing it again and again to test and examine its reaction to my exploration and exploitation.

Ground Zeroes is a marvel of technology and, yes, it's a great tease of what Kojima Productions has in store with The Phantom Pain. Truthfully, I'm a series fanatic and – as last year's mention of Splinter Cell: Blacklist will attest – a lover of all things stealthy, so it may come as no great shock that I ended up adoring Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. But I can identify when something doesn't work and I truly believed Ground Zeroes accomplished its task beautifully. I loved the game for what it offered and ultimately delivered on: a taste of what's to come, powered by technology befitting of a main course. I think we all got a little mad about it because we can't wait for more.


Elite Dangerous

There are echoes of EVE Online that reverberate throughout the space surrounding Elite Dangerous, getting me very excited for its future. Since it's only, officially, a month old, it's hard to judge it as a final product – especially since it's now an online-only affair. In 2015 I'll further explore my feelings on the game in a series of diaries, in lieu of a review, but in the meantime I'll admit that for a game that has seemingly lived in the shadow of the crowdsourced behemoth Star Citizen, Elite Dangerous has had no trouble making its mark on the world.

Its abandonment of a single-player mode is disappointing, but it makes what's available now no less impressive. It's complex and dense, it's beautiful and detailed. It may live on for a decade before some ever discover its treasures, much like EVE Online, but so far it seems to be space worth exploring.

Infamous: Second Son

I disliked both Infamous and its sequel, but Infamous: Second Son enraptured me. Hate to admit it, but what really got me was how marvelous the game looks. It's still one of the prettiest console games I've ever seen. Though its morality system was a little too black and white for its own good, I took to the new cast of characters. It was more than one man's struggle with power as featured in the original games, it was about a culture, the respect within a community, loyalty and trust in an anti-hero dystopian society and how power can be the catalyst for both hope and fear.

I wasn't in love with some of the game's abilities – the video transmission stuff looked cool but wasn't nearly as fun as neon – but it was a unique take on the superhero genre in an era where it seems the world is exclusively pulling all ideas from the nearest comic book page.

Dark Souls 2

What to say about Dark Souls 2? Brevity may be best when discussing a game Sinan already so eloquently lauded. But as the length of this post can attest, that isn't my strongest quality.

Yes, the game pulled back on what seemed like a franchise promise to be a skill test of patience and strategy by making things a bit too manageable, but Dark Souls 2 is still a fantastic piece of work. From Software did something with that franchise that I never could have expected – they popularized punishment and made it profitable. To fans of the series – or even the style, if you want to consider Bloodborne as part of that lineage – From Software releases have now become an event. As a fan of their work (and by that I mean: please play the Otogi series and pray for its revival), I couldn't be happier to see the studio find some consistency that allows it to evolve its leading ideas.

Titanfall

Titanfall was something special to me when it launched. Not since Battlefield 2 have I felt like such a small cog in a big machine of war. And I say that with respect. That means something to me. It's the difference between being a participant and being a savior. It's the difference between war and fantasy. So often I feel like online games reward those that disregard anything out of their field of view, but Titanfall's scale and its simple ideas – like exiting a map, or killing those looking to escape – help tell a story about what each moment means to the greater narrative.

I would have preferred to have more of a story given to me rather than attempt to craft one out of my experiences, but I loved what Titanfall had to offer. It's unbelievably cool and unique. You can't say that about a lot of big budget first-person shooters.

Destiny

Bungie's latest opus was an ambitious undertaking, but what ultimately held my interest was how entertaining it was to play the core game. It has issues telling its story, though a rich one does exist if you explore its mobile companion app (yes, it's ridiculous that you have to do that) and its missions harken back to an era of bad MMO quests, but Bungie makes one helluva shooter. It held my interest longer than most online games this year and it has me keen to see what Bungie will do to answer critics in future installments.

Destiny is a big project, and a ten year commitment. Bungie is a renowned studio with the ability to deliver amazing games. Eventually those two pieces may align and the Destiny franchise could become everything we wished it was. For now, it's a game I keep playing. And isn't that the point, really?

Tabletop Games Hooked Me

Not a game but a hobby. Before PAX East 2013 there were only a few board and card games in my collection: Cards Against Humanity, a horrible party game version of Trivial Pursuit and Clue. Since that fateful September event my collection has exploded to over 100 games. Nothing particularity interesting happened to change my mind, I just passed a kiosk selling games and thought, "Maybe [my girlfriend] would be interested in playing a game." Thankfully she's accepted my new addiction. It's nice to sit back, relax, turn off the screens, get away from the internet and just enjoy gaming with friends. I hope to bring some of that love to Joystiq with some video features in 2015.

Favorite Tabletop Games Released in 2014
(Note: I haven't played Star Wars Imperial Assault or The Witcher Adventure Game yet!)
  • Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game – A terrific co-op game with hidden traitor elements about surviving a zombie apocalypse with an emphasis on story and not so much on the zombies. My favorite board game of the year, by far.
  • Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game – A superb deck building game with its focus on the Alien film franchise, featuring gorgeous and gruesome art.
  • Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men and The Uncanny X-Men – A little like other deck building games, except you build your deck with dice rather than cards, featuring heroes and villains from the Marvel Universe.
  • Golem Arcana – a very light war game featuring black magic. Watch our Off The Grid video series for more!

Best Thing That Happened to Me in 2014: She said yes! Best Christmas ever.

Bonus 'Bests and Worsts' of the Rest!

[Images: Konami, Frontier Developments, SuckerPunch, From Software, Respawn, Bungie]
Joystiq is highlighting its 10 favorite games of 2014 throughout the week. Keep reading for every writer's personal picks in Best of the Rest roundups.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
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