Monday, December 9, 2013

This year’s renamed VGX has revealed some exciting new looks at our most anticipated games of 2014 as well as a few significant announcements. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest debuts of VGX 2013.
Tomb Raider

I enjoyed the hell out of Tomb Raider, and hopefully many players did earlier this year. Tomb Raider coming to next gen was no secret, but was confirmed at this year’s VGX. Some clear next gen differences become apparent: Tress-FX is finally coming to consoles, and Lara’s facial animations look more emotive. However the environment and NPCs from this premier trailer look rather indistinguishable at a glance from last gen’s Tomb Radier. If you’re the type to revisit up-resed versions of past generation games, so be it. But if you haven’t experience Lara Croft’s rebooted adventure, then there might not be a better time to catch it then in this new generation.
Donkey Kong Cranky Returns

The follow up to one of my favorite Wii platformers, Donkey Kong Country Returns, is shaping up to be one of the most roster filled Donkey Kong platformers since Donkey Kong 64 in Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Along with Diddy and Dixie Kong, Cranky Kong joins the party with a very Duck Tales-like pogo cane jumping ability. In fact, his special appears to be ripped out of the aforementioned NES classic by being able to gain extra height and bounce on hazardous spikes.
Tropical Freeze’s VGX demo also debuted Kong-Pow moves. If this follow up is anything like its predecessor, Tropical Freeze will be difficult. And Kong-Pow moves will be vital GO-OJ-Free cards when things get too hectic, allowing you to vanquish all the enemies on screen at once. They disappear in an anticlimactic poof, but Kong-Pow looks to add a helpful dynamic to the DK Country formula.
Quantum Wait

Quantum Break’s gameplay premier was, by all accounts, a tease; a mere glimpse into the actual gunplay of Remedy’s next action game. It’s fitting that Remedy would work time mechanics so intricately into their next game as we look at their pedigree from Max Payne’s bullet time and Alan Wake’s action slowdowns.
We get but a quick look at our main character’s time manipulating abilities such as being able to run at super speed through the environment. One of the concepts that excite me the most is being able to play through levels that fall apart around you in slow motion. This could open up opportunities for continuously changing level design for cover and vantage points. Just imagine running through a collapsing bridge shooting enemies as bits and pieces if it slowly falls to the waters below?
Perfecting Titanfall

Battlefield 4 and Grand Theft Auto Online will be remembered in 2013 as two of the most disastrous online experiences this year. From DICE’s assumed pressured release and EA’s faulty servers to Rockstar’s lack of beta testing prior to the release of GTA Online, gamers’ patience is wearing thin for stumbling launches of online multiplayer games.
When Respawn’s Vince Zampella was asked if there would be a beta for next year’s most anticipated shooter Titanfall, he simply stated, “We’re thinking about it.”
This worries me.
There’s no doubt that the folks over at Respawn know how to develop an online multiplayer shooter as the studio is comprised of many of the most talented members from Infinity Ward. However, there has never been a game quite like Titanfall, fusing agile mechs and jetpack boosting pilots battling on the same map all supported on Microsoft’s cloud powered servers. It’s an ambitious feat that has raised it to be, for many including myself, the most anticipated game of 2014.
Ambitious titles that are heavily or solely relying on online functionality can rarely afford not to be beta tested. Yes, Sim City and Battlefield 4 ended up being catastrophes even with beta testing, however stress testing a games server performance, weapons and map balancing is better than nothing at all.
With just roughly 3 months to go, Titanfall has shown no signs for beta testing. My fingers are tightly crossed for Respawn’s ability to deliver.
Telltale takes the VGX by storm

Telltale has created such a monolithic reputation with The Walking Dead Season 1, and the recent beginning of The Wolf Among Us. The studio has earned itself as being referred to as pioneers in video game dramatic story telling, so how is that going to translate a story through Borderlands, a game where you shoot many guns at enemies who scream “I’m the one who knocks?”
It’s difficult to separate Telltale from drama, but it’s easy to imagine many forgetting that this studio has done comedy before. Remember Sam and Max and Strong Bad? Sam and Max brought us the witty banter between the two anthropomorphic animals, its zany sense of humor, and overall intelligent writing making the series one of the most classic comedy adventure games. Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People was a little more outrageous in its comedy, delivering a game that Homestar Ruiner fans deserved. Delving deep into Telltale’s history, comedy was a huge part of a number of the studio’s projects.
But if comedy doesn’t do it for you, undoubtedly Telltale’s confirmed Game of Thrones will win you over.
Game of Thrones has captivated readers, and later, audiences with its brutal politics and unapologetic morality of many high profile characters. No one could have said it better than Geoff Keighley, Telltale is the exact developer that’s primed to make Game of Thrones interactive.
As seen with The Walking Dead and the first episode of The Wolf Among Us, Telltale has proven to bring quality drama, unseen twists, and mortal consequence to gamers. Game of Thrones embodies the very essence of all three, so the marriage between the developer and the lore will only surprise us if it DIDN’T work.
But the big question is, can Telltale deliver something more gut wrenching than the Red Wedding?
Game of the Year Honorable Mentions

There’s no doubt that the VGX’s GOTY nominees deserved recognition as being among the best titles in 2013. However with the growing presence of the indie scene, separating “Best Indie Game” and “Best Game” is becoming less and less relevant. Even outside of indie development, there were some fantastic games that received much less attention than they deserved. Here are some honorable mentions for GOTY:
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was a shockingly dark themed game where its mechanics pull the emotional rug right from under us nearing the game’s conclusion. Talking about the game along wont do it justice, and it’s a game that’s absolutely worth playing.
Gone Home was well deserving of winning “Indie Game of the Year”, however for many, its evocative narrative won people’s hearts and is considered THE game of the year to many. Gone Home evoked emotion right from the start, from the haunting chill of an empty house to the developing romance story of a young woman. Gone Home touched so many gamers, recreating what it was like to fall in love as an adolescent.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is an enchanting JRPG with one of the most engaging battle systems in the genre. Studio Ghibli’s aesthetic captivates us who may have grown tired of the samey traditional anime art style; and the story, while still subject to JRPG tropes, is a heartwarming tale of a young boy trying to revive his dead mother. The battle system fuses monster collecting with Tales-like real time gameplay, creating intense fights laden with reflexes and strategy.
The Stanley Parable can be a haunting realization of what little control you have as a player of video games. This sense of weird comical unease partly comes from this former Half-Life 2 mod’s clinical Portal sheen as the witty and hilarious narrator mocks your every move. And the narrator is always ready, delivering a surprising amount of dialogue to ostensibly no matter what choice you make, how many times you make it, and however long you decide to make one. Choose to go through the same door he told you NOT to go through, you’ll then face a boarded up door way MAKING you walk through the other door he dictated. Its brief campaign is superseded by its multitude of endings which carry the essence of The Stanley Parable, what could they possibly throw at me next?
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds has recaptured even the most critical of Zelda fans such as Polygon’s reviews editor Arthur Gies whose publically been unrelenting towards the franchise for years before claiming that A Link Between Worlds is “The best Zelda game of the last twenty years”.
Rupees mean something. Dungeon order means nothing. It’s these very fundamental differences in which has earned A Link Between Worlds so much praise. As an unsubtle ode to what many consider the best game of all time, A Link to the Past’s references serves as a reimagining, not a reskin. Being able to complete dungeons in almost any order, being able to rent all items very shortly after the start of the game, and not having to deal with the hand holding bulls**t the franchise has so painfully relied upon shakes up the formula for Zelda titles, and from here on out, no one wants to ever look back.
What other games would you say deserve to be honorable mentions?
Game of Show: No Man’s Sky

My first impressions of No Man’s Sky was that it’s Destiny with The Witness inspired visuals without the emphasis of first person shooter gun play. But No Man’s Sky looks to be so much more.
Indie developer Hello Games gives us one of the most impressive looking upcoming next gen titles to date. Its procedural generation of aquatic life, sprawling planets, and space clutter is awe inspiring, and few games capture the wonder of moving from sea – to land – and seamlessly taking off into space. However even more so than procedural generation, No Man’s Sky looks to be the game that owns the term, “If you can see it, you can go there.” In this massively multiplayer online game, mountains, stars, and planets are all real locations in No Man’s Sky, and it’s almost unheard of that this game is a product of a team four people strong.

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