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GOTY 2014: Game of the Year

Here's our ten favourite games of the year.

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10. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (Monolith / Warner Bros.)

Monolith Productions' Shadow of Mordor is something rare with it being a really well-crafted game based on a licensed property, but what really qualifies the game on this list is the ingenious Nemesis system. It adds story, meaning and brings gameplay variation to the open world, the thing in these kind of games that typically becomes forgettable and routine. Combined with a surprisingly strong main story, lots of collectibles and side activites, and a decent progression system - Shadow of Mordor was one of the finest games of 2014 and worth its place on this list.

GOTY 2014: Game of the Year

9. Titanfall (Respawn Entertainment / EA)

It was a great debut from Respawn, and one of the best online shooters of the year. It lacked a quality single-player experience, which will have alienated some, but for those with a functioning internet connection and an Xbox One / PC / Xbox 360, Titanfall was one of the highlights of the first part of the year. It was also a huge boost for Microsoft's new console, which was in need of more AAA exclusives following the strong launch of PS4, and in Titanfall they had a worthy exclusive. The PC version, thanks to its base in EA's Origin platform, lost traction early on, but on console it remains a popular shooter, and thanks to subsequent content drops, there's a great selection of maps to play on.

GOTY 2014: Game of the Year

8. Mario Kart 8 (EAD Group No. 1 / Nintendo)

Nintendo had a great year when it came to local and online multiplayer, and the jewel in their crown this year was undoubtedly Mario Kart 8 (though, it should be said, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U only narrowly missed out on a top ten place). What a stunning return to form for the series, and arguably the best entry since the N64 or even SNES days. Visually it looks fantastic, with Nintendo's signature style doing a fantastic job once again. On top of that, the controls are perfect, as you'd expect from a first-party game like this. Nintendo has created one of the best multiplayer experiences of the year, and the best racer too.

GOTY 2014: Game of the Year

7. Nidhogg (Messhof)

When Nidhogg landed earlier this year we didn't really know what to expect. To our huge disappointment, the netcode wasn't up to scratch at launch and the online multiplayer simply didn't work as well as it needed to. If that had been the story of Nidhogg then it'd have been a sad one, but luckily we dragged some friends round and tried it locally, and... wow. The formula is a simple one, two figures each clutch a sword and must get by their opponent and onto the next screen, again and again until they reach the end, victory, and a giant man-eating worm. Along the way there's a tense back and forth rhythm, laughter, pain, joy and despair. It's brilliant local multiplayer and if you've got the friends and the controllers, download it today.

GOTY 2014: Game of the Year

6. Far Cry 4 (Ubisoft Montreal / Ubisoft)

After our exploits in paradise during Far Cry 3, we were confident that this was going to be good. Happily Ubisoft didn't disappoint, and in a year where their headline offerings were a little hit and miss, Far Cry 4 was most certainly a huge hit for the publisher. This time we were whisked off to the fictional Himalayan country of Kyrat, to take part in a civil war while on a journey to scatter our mother's ashes. The whole concept is well put together, from the outposts and towers that existing fans will be familiar with, to the newer elements that have been folded into the mix. That said, it's an Ubisoft open-world game, so there's a fair amount of familiar in there too, but don't let that put you off, this is the best game that the publisher has put out this year.

GOTY 2014: Game of the Year

5. Bayonetta 2 (Platinum Games / Nintendo)

Platinum Games represents the pinnacle of Japanese third-person action and Bayonetta 2 may very well be their best effort to date. It's the poster game for Wii U in a year that saw both Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. release on the Nintendo system. Silky smooth animations and a brilliantly precise combat system really encourages the player to learn it in full.

The hair-powered witch, Bayonetta, comes with a set of moves that will make your head spin and there is simply no limits to the imagination used when conjuring up scenarios and events. And nothing tops the extravagant boss encounters of Bayonetta 2 - they are truly a sight to behold. Add to that a surprisingly addictive co-op mode and you've got a game that came close to capturing the top spot on our list of 2014's finest titles.

GOTY 2014: Game of the Year

4. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (Blizzard / Blizzard Activision)

We're getting sick and tired of writing about Hearthstone in these GOTY categories; it's made such an impact that it's featured prominently in several of our lists. And with good reason, as it's bloody addictive stuff. Whether you're playing on PC or tablet, this is a game that once it has sunk its claws in, won't let go. Already this year the full release has been followed by an innovative single-player campaign and an explosive expansion in the form of Goblins vs. Gnomes.

All told it's been a hugely successful year for Blizzard, and Hearthstone sits first and foremost among their achievements, and when you consider that amongst releases like the World of Warcraft expansion Warlords of Draenor and Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition, that is high praise indeed. Little did they know it but their biggest game would come out of left field, and a CCG would become the studio's big hitter almost overnight. Actually, they probably did know they were onto something big, after various teams around the studio had to be dragged off of prototype versions of the game. The addiction has now spread around the world, and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft stands as one of the finest games of 2014.

GOTY 2014: Game of the Year

3. Destiny (Bungie / Activision)

Destiny is also probably one of the most divisive games on this list, but we're huge fans and so you're going to have to humour us if you fall on the other side of the spectrum.

What Bungie has crafted here is one of the finest shooters ever made. Mechanically at least, this much is true. The kinetic heft of the weaponry, the fluid movement of the different characters, the explosive effects and the visual feedback; all of it is first rate.

It's a shared-world shooter, and that means that it's best played in company, and it's in the fireteams of three where the game really comes alive. Confused by many as an MMO, Bungie has here formalised the different ways that their fans have been playing Halo games for years, creating a more compelling reason to engage in the repetitious story content. There's an element of grind in there for those who want to reach the highest ranks, and perhaps the entry level to get into some of the late game content has been placed a touch too high, but once you're caught up in the addictive metagame, Destiny doesn't let go of you until you've put hundreds of hours into the game.

There are issues that hold it back somewhat. The story is lacklustre. The expansion was much needed but slightly over-priced. If you've got an Xbox you'll have less content than your peers on PlayStation. There's not enough Strike missions to keep the grind from getting overly repetitive. However, even these issues aren't enough to sour our overall opinion of the game. We've poured dozens and dozens, maybe hundreds of hours into Destiny, and we've enjoyed the vast majority of that time.

The Crucible, which we've hardly mentioned, is the hugely entertaining competitive multiplayer part of the package, and our go-to place when we want to blow off some steam, and looking ahead into 2015, it will likely remain so. Destiny is just over three months old, and it still has so much room to expand. If Bungie can start to fix some of the issues detailed above, there's no reason why their shared-world shooter can't continue to grow and develop, and get even better as it matures.

GOTY 2014: Game of the Year

2. Alien: Isolation

We didn't dare hope that Alien: Isolation was going to be as good as it ultimately turned out to be. Aliens: Colonial Marines already had us on the defensive following the first announcement, but fear quickly turned to optimism after we actually got our hands on a short demo. And optimism, no matter how cautious, turned to joyous fear once we had the final version of the game in our mitts.

Creative Assembly and Sega have delivered a tremendous game, one that can proudly sit next its source material, the iconic Ridley Scott film, Alien. That source material has been handled with such care and reverence that it's clear to see just how much respect the developers had for the film, as they've built their game from the ground up around the aesthetic of the movie, everything from the visual finish to the high quality audio is exactly as you'd expect.

However, it goes deeper than that. The shallow explosions of Colonial Marines, however misjudged, were, to an extent, a reflection of their source material. Isolation pulls the same trick, replacing over-zealous gunfire with expertly-paced panic. It's here that Creative Assembly really delivers, there's tension throughout the experience. That's not to say that it's flawless, and sometimes you'll feel the systems push against the immersion, but when it works, when you're caught up in the moment and your pressed in cover and praying not to be discovered by the the Alien as it glides past your hiding spot, there's no finer feeling, and there's no fear more exquisite.

It's here - hidden in cupboards and sweating under desks - that Alien: Isolation won our hearts and cemented its place as one of the year's very best titles (as you'll find out in a minute, it was a close run thing). Creative Assembly - and by extension Sega - has delivered something bordering on being a masterpiece, a game that perfectly captures the essence of its source material, and a modern classic.

GOTY 2014: Game of the Year

Dragon Age: Inquisition (Bioware / EA)

It was a close race for number one. No matter how we did the maths, no matter how we worked out, there was very little separating this year's top two. With votes cast by key contributors from across the network, it was clear that both games had had huge impacts on us all. However, there has to be a first place, and after much deliberation the tie was broken and Dragon Age: Inquisition stood as the winner.

The Dragon Age series has become something of a cult favourite among fans. This is largely thanks to the depth of the world and the relationships you cultivate with your companions and the other people you meet along the way. Then there's the combat system that blends real-time action with a tactical top-down overview, simple to use for a novice, but with enough room for advanced tactics from expert players.

With Dragon Age: Inquisition Bioware deviated somewhat from their proven hub-based RPG structure, and they went for a more open world design featuring various regions. It gave the impression of an open world, while retaining most of the core structure we've grown used to over the years. We truly enjoyed the variation the main campaign quests brought, there was a lot of thought put into the stories, with quests and collectibles fleshing out the overall experience. We particularly enjoyed solving some of the puzzles hidden down in the dungeons, and hunting the ten high dragons that littered Thedas.

As you'd expect from a Bioware RPG, the production values are very high. The visual design is strong throughout and the world tells its own story, one steeped in history. The music hits all the right notes and the voice acting is impeccable.

At the end of the adventure, when taking stock, it's the characters that stand out and it's your relationships with them that truly sets Dragon Age: Inquisition apart.

And then there's your own stories. Did you side with the Templars or the Mages during the initial conflict? Did you use religious fever to fuel your Inquisition? Who did you romance? What was your critical choice here or there? Did you send any of your companions packing? After 100 hours with the game there is much to discuss and we can't wait to boot it up for a second go, maybe take the difficulty up a notch, try out a different world state (via Dragon Age Keep), and make some radically different choices.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is a brilliant RPG, and it's our game of the year.

GOTY 2014: Game of the Year


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