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.
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!
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.