The biggest parts of 2014: A review
2014 is just about fading in our collective cultural rear-view mirror, and to that I say “fuck along.” This year has been sort of terrible, after all. But as this blog was started/revived/whatever in March, it’s been around long enough that I do not have immunity to the contractual requirement that you have to do some sort of year-in-review piece. On the plus side, at least I don’t have to cast a vote for game of the year.
I probably should, but I didn’t play all of the games this year, so whatever.
So let’s look back at the collection of broken bottles and drunken notes that encapsulate 2014 and talk about them in hindsight, a hindsight heavily filtered by the fact that pretty much no one wants to remember this year and that I have a terrible time remembering when things actually happened. Seriously, I still think Lost premiered recently. I am not well-suited to retrospectives for precisely that reason.
Bravely Default: A reminder of why this genre isn’t a thing any more
I honestly feel like Bravely Default was a really great game up until it wasn’t. I enjoy it, don’t get me wrong, but it simultaneously hits all of the highs of the old-school turn-based JRPG while also hitting every single chore-based irritation possible. So it’s kind of a reminder of all of the ways in which gaming has evolved beyond its fumbling days on the SNES and the early Playstation lineup. This is a direct descendent from Final Fantasy III‘s remake, and while it’s not bad, it’s also showing its age really well.
The first time you start settling into the game’s whole “dungeon, town, sidequest dungeon, town, dungeon, town, repeat endlessly” format, it feels familiar and welcoming. The hundredth time is a different story. And when it runs out of plot, it just does the whole thing over again for basically no reason other than the fact that it can. There are a couple of oblique reasons offered, but the real reason is “keep playing our game.” Facebook-esque town rebuilding doesn’t exactly do the game any favors, either.
So the game that was supposed to be a big JRPG revival reminds us all of why sometimes genres don’t go on forever. Irony!
Dragon Age: Inquisition is as good as it should be
By contrast to Bravely Default, which sort of came in like a wrecking ball and then rolled around on the ground like something less than a wrecking ball, Inquisition sort of just crept up on my radar and then was here. There was never a scenario wherein I wasn’t going to buy and play the game, of course, but I hadn’t really been paying attention to it closely. Then it came out, everyone adored it, and then I started playing it and I adored it. It took me a little while to adjust to its whole philosophy of not having any healers in the game, but there are also respec tokens on sale at long last so I appreciate that the game sort of expects that to be a regular thing.
There are problems here and there with the game, yeah – there’s not nearly enough direction in some zones, and for the first half of the game it’s easy to get lost in terms of what you’re supposed to do next. The best thing to do is to burn through the game until you choose your first major ally, because the extraneous stuff, while nice, can easily overwhelm you and cause you to sink lots of time into the game before you hit the meat of it. But it has great combat, a diverse cast, spectacular writing, and on a balance its flaw is generally that you have too much to do rather than not enough. So I’ll give that a pass.
Transistor hits most of its milestones
I hadn’t been following many games going into the year, honestly, but I figured Transistor would be pretty great from what I played of it at demo stations. Turns out that yeah, it’s pretty darn great! It’s a satisfying mix of turn-based and action combat, it has great storytelling, and most importantly it’s fun. Go drop five bucks and play it already.
A year in developer punchlines
Boy, between the utter bullshit of Amiibos and a lineup consisting of nothing until next year, you’d have thought this would be a year for even the Nintendo faithful to finally start pointing fingers at the company. I mean, this was not a good year to own a Wii U as your primary next-generation console, unless you have a deep and powerful love of waiting until next year for another Legend of Zelda game that will play like the games you’ve already played with a thin coat of paint.
Any missteps made by Nintendo were minor league compared to Ubisoft’s inability to take two steps without screwing the pooch somehow, though. I mean, where do I start? With the fact that the new Assassin’s Creed game couldn’t feature a single lady because they needed to make sure your dude assassins could get customizable hoods? Or with the fact that the finished version of that game is such a steaming pile of bugs and non-functionality that you can hate it for being shovelware when you’re bored of hating it for internalized misogyny? Hell, do we get to be super mean and bring up stuff like The Crew which managed to bite off more than it could chew without really being ambitious?
Meanwhile, Blizzard managed to piss off pretty much everyone with their development cycle that took roughly forever to push out an unambitious content update, although I think good feelings about Overwatch pushed that to one side for the crowd who has never heard of Team Fortress 2. At least it stacked well against Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy XV reveals universally earning eye-rolls and disbelief from the audience that is already not looking forward to the game; it might have been a better go to just drop the title instead of reworking it into the next numbered entry. Oh, and I guess Electronic Arts got people mad because you can’t have pools in The Sims 4, which is low on my list of things to care about.
At least Jagex isn’t handling Transformers any longer, though. Although I suppose that’ll be handed off to the War for Cybertron folks, so not exactly an improvement.
GamerGate reminds all of us that gamers are stupid, entitled, whiny shitbabies
What I was really hoping for this year was that seeing as how video games are now so fucking mainstream that everyone and their cat has played Angry Birds, we wouldn’t have idiot throwback movements that succeed at showing every dedicated gamer as a crying six-year-old terrified that he has to share his toys with someone else. Wait, no, I wanted the exact opposite of that, but here we are.
The one good thing that came out of this was… um… well, there wasn’t anything. I guess it gave people a shorter and faster way to make it clear that they’re shitbabies?
I guess television is still there, maybe?
Telling me that the internet would do nasty things to print media was never exactly surprising. Telling me that it would start to deform television too, though, would have been a hard sell. It’s still a hard sell except for the fact that it seems to be true.
I willingly opted out of having any sort of active television service last year, and I hadn’t really used it much before that. What really gets me, though, is that these days that seems to almost be the assumed state of being. Between the new stuff hitting the ground on Netflix (and I could write about five articles on BoJack Horseman alone) and the growing trend of just tossing everything on Hulu or Amazon streaming or Crunchyroll or whatever…
Seriously, I’ve watched more television this year than I have in the past, and none of that has to do with not sitting through ads. People complain about having to see ads, but that’s not what bothers me and it never has been; what bothers me is sitting through the huge amount of programs that I don’t want to watch and will never want to watch. We’re reaching the point wherein you no longer have to shuffle around and hope for a repeat from a show you like; you just go watch an episode. That’s a good thing.
Apparently I mostly watch kid’s films now
I would have thought that at some point before I hit 32 (or nearly that) I’d decide that I was tired of seeing movies like Big Hero 6 or Book of Life or Guardians of the Galaxy. My biggest disappointment this year was Mockingjay part 1, which was probably the most “adult” film on my list, and that’s an adaptation of a young adult novel anyway. (A needlessly slow and tedious adaptation of a young adult novel, I’ll note.) So apparently this is just who I am.
Not that I’m complaining, mind you. All of those films were pretty great. So was Maleficent, for that matter. Fun times all around, unless I wanted to seem appropriately intelligent by perching a pair of pince-nez glasses on the bridge of my nose and talking about a tedious foreign drama.
So that was 2014! Some of it, anyway; I’ve talked about the rest of it in other places. Not a good year, lots of stupid crap, but the high points were pretty great just the same. Hopefully we can do better in 2015? Even just a little?