159 Best PC Games Of 2014…So Far

We are a little less than half way to the end of 2014.  Which games have enamored our staff here at TPG?  Thomas Faust, Matt Camp, Adam Ames and John Williamson give their PC GOTY picks for the first half of 2014.

Matt Camp – Spintires

Had I been asked last month to talk about my favourite game of 2014 so far, I would not have been able to answer.  Throughout the first half of this year, I have either been disappointed by games I had been looking forward to, such as Watch Dogs, or have found the interesting titles placed out of my reach thanks to publisher controlled regional restrictions.  It’s not all doom and gloom now though.  There is a break in that storm and a true gem for the year is now out playing in the puddles, splashing mud everywhere.  Spintires is an extreme trucking simulator, that for me at least, really did come out of nowhere.  I’m not one for following crowd-funding projects so the first I heard of it was when the store page appeared on Steam.  Since the date of my purchase, I have found it nigh impossible to put down.

Unlike the majority of trucking simulators readily available today, Spintires can be very unforgiving and brutal.  I’ve seen it described as the Dark Souls of the trucking simulator genre and that’s a very apt comparison.  This is no easy Sunday drive down the motorway.  Instead, even the simple task of transporting wood from A to B can turn into the most epic of quests.  Make a wrong turn, miss-plan your journey, and you’re more likely to wind up falling off a bridge, getting bogged down in the mud, sinking to the bottom of a river, or more embarrassingly, running out of fuel than actually making it to the lumber yard. This is the level of extreme trucking that puts other extreme trucking games to shame. I can safely say I love Spintires, even if I don’t share the same level of affection for the in-game camera.  I consider Spintires a true contender for the crown currently worn by Euro Truck Simulator 2.  This is the new bar that all future trucking simulators need to achieve.

160 Best PC Games Of 2014…So Far

Thomas Faust – The Wolf Among Us

Strictly speaking, Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us is a 2013 release, but since the majority of its episodes came out this year and it still isn’t finished, it’s probably fair to treat it as a 2014 game.  That being said, this is one amazing production! Adopting the episodic nature of their Walking Dead games and honing it to near-perfection, Telltale deliver a stunning piece of storytelling.  Each of the five episodes won’t take you longer than an evening to play through.  They heavily lean towards telling a good, mature story while largely sacrificing the point & click gameplay of other adventure games.

This is not to say that they are less interactive.  Your decisions shape the plot in quite substantial ways, and I’ll probably replay all episodes one day just to see what I missed out on the first time.  Music and voice-acting are top-notch, and all the characters are animated in such a way that you could probably call their actions stellar acting.  While fans of Bill Willingham’s Fables comics will undoubtedly get the most out of it, The Wolf Among Us is a prequel of sorts, so prior knowledge is not required at all.  Even if adventure games are not your thing, this is an absolutely riveting piece of storytelling which shows what good video game writing is capable of.  Definitely the best 2014 game I played so far!

161 Best PC Games Of 2014…So Far

John  Williamson – Tropico 5

Tropico 5 is an addicting city building simulator where you will spend an unhealthy amount of time playing as a tyrannical dictator or an upstanding leader of the free world.  The comedic tone and charismatic characters create an infectiously entertaining experience.  I found the game to be extremely cathartic as it alleviated my elevated stress levels through its slow and captivating pace.  The improvements over its predecessor are small but work to produce a much better game. The fact that you can reign during 4 different eras just adds to the available variety and appeals to players who enjoy a specific period of history.

Adam Ames – Wolfenstein: The New Order

It is sad that in the day and age when a multi-platform release offers beautiful mouse controls, PC gamers feel the need to throw a party.  There is no need to mess around with mouse acceleration, sensitivity or any other setting.  Just load the game and play.  The music, story, weapons and gameplay aspects are all top notch.  Level design can get a bit repetitive, but there is saving grace with the types of areas the player will visit.  For example, you may walk into an office with several workstations in two different places, but they all end up feeling oddly familiar.  All in all, with the exception of unnecessary and stupid sex scenes, Wolfenstien: The New Order has set the bar high for future shooters who will release on the PC in 2014.

REVIEW: THE WOLF AMONG US

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Yes, Telltale Games has struck gold again with the first season of The Wolf Among Us. This is no ordinary story of displaced fables that end up in a real-life city like New York. Telltale’s story is so much more than that. What makes the new episodic series so good is the way that it tells an incredibly gripping story — one which not only has unforeseen plot twists, but a story that also has incredible character development and relationship building.

156 REVIEW: THE WOLF AMONG US

Players take control of the primary protagonist, the Big Bad Wolf — or Bigby, for short. Bigby has retired from his previously evil ways to act as the sheriff of the fables in New York. He is charged with keeping the peace when he finds a murder on his doorstep one night and it is from there that he attempts to solve the murder while continuing to try and keep the peace within Fabletown.

As with The Walking Dead, gameplay within The Wolf Among Us concentrates on dialogue rather than point-and-click puzzle-solving and it functions much better as a result. Players do not have to fumble with confusing puzzles and can instead focus their efforts on solving the murder and forming relationships with other characters. This is why it  stands out; whereas in The Walking Dead where puzzles felt like a big hold-up to the wonderful story, The Wolf Among Us features episodes filled to the brim with an exciting story and fast-paced action sequences.

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Where Telltale’s newest adventure truly shines is not only within the plot itself, but the aforementioned character relationships. The dialogue choices allow Bigby to ally himself with certain character while alienating others, allowing him to do what is morally good or lawfully just. There is no answer that is simply right or wrong; it is Bigby’s story and you just choose how to live through it. In fact, the game does such a good job at keeping the player emotionally engaged that even I, for the first time ever, killed a character in my game when given the choice to spare him or not. The Wolf Among Us does exactly what it advertises: expertly tests the player in self-control to see whether or not their inner wolf comes out.

Since the game is so dense in terms of content and story, the game unfortunately is rather short. Each episode runs $5, but is roughly 90 minutes. Replayability is useless, due to the fact that replaying is just like watching the same TV show over and over again — it simply becomes boring. Therefore, those looking to pick up The Wolf Among Us should take into strong consideration the duration of the title and perhaps wait for a sale if it’s a concern.

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It is also important to call Telltale out on a very important issue. No matter how many episodes of their games are released on consoles, they still run terribly. I was met with freezing, screen-tearing, dropped frames, unimaginatively long loading screens, and other graphical hiccups. Telltale needs to understand that it is no longer a small developer releasing small games and that it now creates high-selling titles. It no longer has that particular “get out of jail free” card and, if the company continues to release games that are bad from a technical standpoint, it will negatively influence them in the future.

The Wolf Among Us is overall another great episodic release from Telltale. Not only does the game unfold an engrossing narrative about Fabletown, but it also successfully weaves interesting relationships and interactions throughout the game’s duration. It is unfortunate that the episodes are so short and that the game technically runs very bad, but all those who choose to depart into the land of the Fables will not regret doing so.