The Golden Barrel Awards 2014

Looking back now at the article we posted at the start of the year, listing our most anticipated games of 2014, it is nice to see that while we did pick out a number of games that eventually ended up on our game of the year list below, we also got a number of surprises. While many will consider 2014 a disappointing year, with so many games delayed into 2015, the list below does show that we still had plenty of games to play (with only one re-release in our list too).

The list was compiled by asking each member of the BRB team to list their favourite five games of the year, in order of preference. Each choice was then given weight based on their position in the list and the final list below was calculated from that. Without further ado, let’s get to Big Red Barrel’s Game of the Year list for 2014.

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10. Wolfenstein: The New Order (PacManPolarBear)

wolfenstein

Wolfenstein: The New Order was one of the most welcome surprises of 2014. It soared under the radar for most right up until launch. The idea that any developer could turn William “B.J.” Blazkowicz into a real fleshed out character we could invest in and connect with seemed ludicrous. So when MachineGames delivered a lengthy, incredibly well paced single player campaign full of memorable characters, harrowing moments and brutal combat gamers were blown away. A game people thought would at best be “OK” turned out to be “crazy fun.” Even if the old school armour and health system was not your cup of tea, roaming Nazi hallways armed with dual auto-shotguns never got old. It may not have had much visual polish or a multiplayer offering (considered by many a must have for any first-person shooter) but it was fun. Turns out sometimes series reboots DO work. Given the place the original Wolfenstein has in gaming history it’s great to see the next generation of the series live up to (and surpass) its beloved forefather.

09. Titanfall (Tudor)

titanfall

Titanfall was my pick for the most anticipated games of this year, and the final product did not disappoint. The mixture of jetpack-powered parkour with run-and-gun gameplay along with the titular mechanised expo suits gave players a balanced feel of speed and power. While the multiplayer campaign transpired to little more than fairly generic matches bookmarked with cinematic sequences, Respawn have, in my eyes at least, more than made up for this lack of canonical depth through the continued aftermarket support of the game. Adding customisation options for load-outs, custom game options, new game modes and making the essential balance tweaking along with paid for DLC maps have prolonged the life of Respawn’s first game, which already has a great pick up and play aspect to it.

08. South Park: The Stick of Truth (Tim)

south park

I was glad to see that enough of the rest of the BRB staff also remembered South Park when it came to our awards. It claimed my top spot but I was concerned that given that it was a game based on previous generation of hardware and appeared early in the year, that it may have been forgotten about. I should have had more faith in my BRB colleagues to recognise a well made game when they see one. After some disappointing consoles outings, both in the past on the N64 and more recently in downloadable formats, South Park games have flattered to deceive. How nice and refreshing it was to see a game deliver the South Park universe in such a well presented and thought out comedy package. In a year of disappointing Destinies and faceless Assassins, it was nice to have a game work so well from a technical standpoint while meeting or exceeding expectations in all other departments.

Stick of Truth tells a story within the South Park universe, loosely based on the LARPing console war and Game of Thrones-style parody seen in a special triple episode from the previous series. You play the part of the new guy in town, who alongside your new found friends, made up the regular bunch of main characters from the show, are all role playing the parts of fantasy characters. Each character’s abilities have a real world element to them which really helps introduce Matt and Trey’s trademark humour to the game. With the likes of Cartman’s “electrical spells” actually getting their power from throwing a bucket of water over your childish opponents and connecting them to a car battery, being a typical example. The South Park creator’s brand of humour permeates throughout the game with lots of gaming and wider pop culture references that enhance the enjoyment of a well made game that resisted padding its content with the unnecessary bloated levels of sub-standard content that seems to infect almost all other modern RPG’s. A great game that didn’t outstay its welcome. I would welcome an enhanced version on new hardware as I would like to head on down to South Park and have myself a time. Apparently they have ample parking day or night.

07. Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition (Lauren)

diablo

This year we were graced by a new chapter and a re-release for Diablo III – in the form of its Ultimate Evil Edition. Although not a completely new game, the new chapter (which felt fully realised and not rushed out like some additional content) brought forward new challenges and goals to complete through the new rift and bounty systems as well as a new Artisan.  I loved this game when it was first released but once I had completed it twice, I was fairly bored of it.  With the new content and challenges, there is plenty to come back to.  Since the re-release on the new generation consoles, I have played this at least one evening a week without getting tired of it or feeling like I am just playing the same thing over and over again.

06. Dark Souls 2 (Kev)

dark souls

In a year that ended with broken game after broken game, and disappointment after disappointment, it’s easy to forget that the first two thirds of 2014 were sparsely populated with some solid releases. Among them, Dark Souls 2 was thrown to the feral hounds — otherwise known as the Souls Series fan-base — to see if it could survive through a frenzy of criticism that few games ever manage to escape without limbs torn asunder, and guts drooping onto a floor stained in the aftermath of every wanting lamb that came before them. This metaphor is going pretty deep, so I’ll just finish it up by saying Dark Souls 2 passed the test. It’s a video game worthy of the name Souls. FROM Software successfully made significant strides towards a more intuitive menu and UI collaboration, changed up the gameplay balance enough to keep veterans of the series, well, off-balance, and stuck to their guns regarding fulfillment through attrition and adaptation against what seem on the surface to be impossible odds. Even the ever-evolving PvP functionality within the series got a serious overhaul, making it less intimidating for new players and more fun for the long-committed community. It’s a beautiful game in more than just its looks, and despite not quite matching the ‘je ne sais quoi’ of its predecessors, deserves its place on BigRedBarrel’s Game Of The Year list.

05. Far Cry 4 (Diarmuid)

far cry

Ubisoft would probably prefer that you forget what happened during 2014. However, among the broken games and their inability to animate women, they did manage to make at least one superb game this year. Taking on the role of Ajay Ghale, the core of Far Cry 4 follows the main theme of the entire series – the power fantasy – and I can confirm that taking down an outpost or fortress, with a friend as Hurk, possibly while you are riding an elephant, certainly scratches that familiar itch.

Iterating on the good aspects of its predecessor, and improving on the others, the biggest improvement to the Far Cry formula has been the online co-operative multiplayer. Allowing players to share their open world and request/offer help to others has changed how often I use the feature at least, from ‘not at all’ to ‘quite a bit’. If you find Far Cry 4 under the tree this Christmas, you will not be disappointed.

04. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (Coleman)

shadow of mordor

Set in between the well-known fictional world of Middle Earth – during a period somewhere between the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s original movie trilogy, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor seems to be faithful in slotting itself into the Lord of the Rings lore while at the same time creating an experience that can stand alone without having to be a super-fan.

Some may say that there is simply too much to cover in Shadow of Mordor but this is one of its greatest assets. As you progress through the game, things expand exponentially giving more room to play around in but on a learning curve that is paced out perfectly. Fantasy fans will probably owe it to themselves to give Shadow of Mordor a shot, especially if they are fans of Tolkien’s work. If you are not overly familiar with the lore from the books and movies, you may find it difficult to appreciate most of the content available here, but you will still find a fantastically fun fantasy action title with a robust amount of content and some familiar core gameplay

03. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Smashsoul)

smash bros

Nintendo had a very good year in 2014 with a list of stellar exclusives including Bayonetta 2, Mario Kart 8 and Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. However, their crown jewel and ace in the hole this year was undoubtedly Super Smash Bros. for Wii U – with the 3DS version also being released to critical acclaim – with its familiar yet solid gameplay, massive roster of gaming icons and – for the first time ever – the Smash Bros. series in full HD.

The hype surrounding the game was huge, with Nintendo pulling out all the stops at E3, gamescom and EGX to show off the game. It’s a hugely replayable, well designed and gorgeous love letter to fans of gaming and Nintendo with an emphasis on getting up to eight people around the same television for some good old fashioned Smash. Whether you’ve been playing games for ten years or thirty years, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is a game that anyone can pick up, play and enjoy for hours on end for years to come. If you own a Wii U, this game should be in your collection.

02. Destiny (Dom)

destiny

Destiny is the greatest good game ever made. That’s the best way I can think of to describe it despite wracking my brain for something a bit more eloquent. Despite its many flaws and issues, like the complete absence of any kind of story, unskippable cutscenes, and inconsistent loot (around 200 hours played and I’ve only had 2 random legendary engrams drop from enemies), I and judging by the popularity of sites like DestinyLFG and r/fireteams, plenty of others just cannot stop playing. There is something about the Universe and gameplay that Bungie has crafted that just keeps on pulling us back night after night, day after day, week after week, and this is why it’s my personal Game of The Year and Big Red Barrel’s No.2.

01. Dragon Age: Inquisition (PacManPolarBear)

dragon age

That Dragon Age Inquisition secured our top spot is probably not surprising to any who played it. The BRB staff selected DAI by a landslide; securing almost double the votes Destiny (some of us are more forgiving than others) received. The reasons DAI made such a strong showing this year are pretty clear. First and foremost it did an admirable job of living up to the hype. Dragon Age 2 was considered a disappointment by many and a number of 2014’s biggest names had underwhelmed the gaming public; if not outright angered them with bungled launches. Luckily DAI came roaring out of the gate, spitting fire and ready to once more solidify Bioware’s place as one of the premiere RPG developers working today.

While it is true DAI launched with some bugs and some questionable choices made regarding the PC version, on the whole launch was smooth. People bought their game and could play it that same day without having to wait until the servers were back up or a critical game fixing patch arrived (traditional day 1 patch aside). The more tactical, customization heavy elements of the original Dragon Age were meshed with the more action intensive combat of Dragon Age 2 and the end result is the best combat, customization and progression systems the series has had yet. The Dragon Age Keep, which allowed players to reorganize and then carry over the decisions they made in the previous 2 DA games, worked as advertised. Despite having a core campaign that was among the shortest of any Bioware RPG in recent years the game in its entirety offered up 100 or more hours of entertainment. Even if the ending underwhelmed (but lets be honest with Mass Effect 3’s ending still on peoples minds they did alright) the road to get there was incredible. The companion characters and their attached quest lines are at the heart of what made DAI shine so bright. Well that and the dragons that finally let the series live up to its name. Bioware wove humor, tragedy, love and war into a tapestry that is truly a wonder to behold. Beautiful visuals, rewarding combat, masterful storytelling and an incredible amount of content made selecting Dragon Age Inquisition as The Golden Barrel Awards Game of The Year easy.

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So what do you think? Did we get it right? What was on your list that we omitted? Let us know in the comments below.

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