This year, Nerdy but Flirty is doing something a little different with its GOTY awards. Instead of doing a site-wide list, I invited all the writers to create their own list. It didn’t even have to necessarily be games released this year – just ones we played this year. I haven’t played a lot of 2014’s released games yet – including my most highly-anticipated game from last year’s GOTY, Dragon Age Inquisition. Maybe it will make next year’s list. We’re kicking off with my picks, and we’ll have more coming for you in the coming week or so!
Best Action Game: Costume Quest 2 (2014)
I’ve been playing this on StreamFriends with Arden, and we’ve been having a great time. This is a game with RPG-lite elements, but without much customization or decision-making, I decided to put it under action. It’s a hilarious, colorful, gorgeous game that builds on what worked from the first Costume Quest. Unfortunately, the combat can get repetitive, but switching up the costumes can help with that, as can playing in short bursts. My favorite part of this game is the writing – there’s joy in every corner here.
Best Horror Game: The Last Door: Collector’s Edition (2014)
The Last Door is easily my favorite horror game this year. Despite a few strange puzzles, it works at creating an atmosphere that’s creepy without being cliché, doesn’t rely on jump scares, and delves into some truly unsettling imagery and themes. The sequence where you walk through your old boarding school in a lucid nightmare is absolutely chilling. The team also does a lot with the minimalist graphics. I can’t wait to see where the series ends up; the fifth part is out now, with more forthcoming.
Best RPG: The Banner Saga (2014)
When I reviewed this, I basically didn’t move from my computer until I was done playing. The Oregon Trail meets RPG meets strategy gameplay completely sucked me in. Everything about this game is perfect, from adjustable difficulty for people who aren’t so great at turn-based combat (me) to the art style to the amazing soundtrack from Austin Wintory. The consequences of your actions are deeply felt, and this is a game I’ll be revisiting to see where other paths lead me. I can’t wait for the sequel, which is coming this year.
Best Adventure Game: Blackwell Epiphany (2014)
When it came time to review this game, I hadn’t played the others in the series, so I played all five games in a row. This might be the best way to play the series; I don’t think I would have been nearly as emotionally affected if I hadn’t played the other games first. Each game is about two hours, with the exception of this one, which doubled in size. There’s so much to love about the Blackwell games, from the fantastic woman protagonist Rosa to the lack of inventory puzzles. This was a perfect end to the series, and the only game that made me cry this year.
Best Mobile Game: A Dark Room iOS (2013)
A Dark Room iOS was like nothing else I played this year. This game will stay with me for a long time, and I was glued to my iPad for hours at a time. There’s very little I can say without spoilers, but the premise is this: you start in a dark room, with a dead fire, and soon a woman stumbles into your hut. You will grow and survive, but at what cost? Play this; for 99 cents, you can’t go wrong. I found this version more enjoyable than the web version, but to get a taste, you can play here for free. Mechanically, the iOS version plays much better.
Best Visual Novel: Cinders (2014)
I love visual novels, and am always looking for more. This is one of the most gorgeous ones I’ve ever seen, and it sets out to retell a tale we’re all familiar with in some form or another. It uses Cinderella as a base, but there are so many different paths to take and endings to see that your story can end up very differently. You don’t even have to end up with the prince! The soundtrack is also excellent, varied, and wonderfully evocative.
Best Characters: Vella and Shay from Broken Age (2014)
I can’t separate these two! They’re precocious without being annoying, a fine line to walk. The character’s lives, despite being very different, are drawn in parallel; both find themselves wanting more beyond what fate has dealt them. Having one of the protagonists be a girl of color is fantastic as well. Vella doesn’t stand for being a damsel; she’s funny and independent. Shay kind of fulfills the typical damsel role; he’s trapped in a tower – er, spaceship – and his days all run together. He decides to save himself though. He’s also voiced by the always-fantastic Elijah Wood. I can’t wait for the second half of the game!
Best Voice Actress: Masasa Moyo (Vella from Broken Age) (2014)
Masasa has been an actor since 1999, with parts in film, television, animation, and video games. Some of her most prominent video game roles have been Adi Gallia in various Star Wars games, Leblanc in Final Fantasy X-2, Silk Fox and Princess Sun Lian in Jade Empire, various voices in the Saints Row series, Lisa Hamilton in the Dead or Alive series, Rosina Selden in Valkyria Chronicles, and Candy in Batman: Arkham Origins. She has a huge range and brings a lot of playfulness and emotion to Vella. I’m also glad that a woman of color was cast to play a character of color!
Best Voice Actor: Abe Goldfarb (Joey from Blackwell Epiphany) (2014)
Abe is a Wadjet Eye Games standard (Rabbi Stone in The Shivah, Kane in Gemini Rue, Reggie in Resonance, and Crispin in Primordia), and he does such a fantastic job with making Joey a fully emotional character – especially for being a ghost! He has a wonderfully dry tone, but can also be sweet, angry, worried, and more instantly. He also plays off of Rosa extremely well, and their banter is another part of what makes the Blackwell games one of my favorite adventure series.
Most Anticipated Game: Pillars of Eternity (3.26.2015)
This is the spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate, which is my favorite series of all time. I backed this Kickstarter INSTANTLY, and I’m beyond excited to play it this year. I remember getting so many chills when the first animation video went out, and bouncing in my chair when I watched the announcement trailer. Here you go:
[Disclaimer: I played and reviewed Blackwell Epiphany before dating, or even becoming friends with, the artist of that game. Its selection as my adventure game of the year was not motivated by our relationship, but rather the effect it had on me as a game and as part of the series as a whole.]