Since this year is about to end i wanted to share my random thoughts about gaming, with 2014 being in focus.
That said, I’d still be very happy to hear your opinion about my thoughts and your gaming experience as a whole during this year. Leave me a comment below this article and i’ll make sure to reply in time:)
Looking back at this 2014 and the years before i definitely see a pattern: my gaming habits have shifted greatly. Playing longer and time-consuming games used to be one of the things i enjoyed a great deal. The biggest candidate for “time-eater of my life” definitely was World of Warcraft (WoW), which i gave up on playing several years ago. After that there was a big void to fill, which i thought i could be done by last year’s biggest anticipated game: Wildstar. But alas, as it turns out to be, this game wasn’t my highlight of 2014 – quite the contrary. It leads to my first nomination for this year:
Biggest personal disappointment: Wildstar
Once again: this is a personal opinion. Wildstar isn’t a bad game by a long shot. The launch and early beta phase was well-organized, especially when compared to competitor MMO standards and even Blizzard. Wildstar featured decent balancing, good and working fighting mechanics and the servers were capable of handling the load for most of the time i’ve played. The game itself also came with a very fresh look, interesting character choices and a relatively untapped futuristic setting.
So what went wrong for me? Well, coming from WoW and Guild Wars 2 this game was basically trying to sell both games combined in a new wrapping. The questing and zone system was borrowed from WoW while the fighting mechanics where more action-based. It’s a good combination which suited my needs just perfectly. However the whole package felt so similar to the aforementioned games that i couldn’t help but compare the game in every aspect. Every feature was already pretty balanced on release, but Wildstar was simply missing one big thing: distinguishing features and progress. It all burned down to simple questions, that all new MMOs (especially the ones with monthly fees such as Wildstar) have to answer: what new things does it bring it to the table?
And this is where Wildstar falls short: It’s the same grinding through repetitive fetch, kill and delivery quests. The dialogue was uninteresting and kept short on purpose, just asking to be clicked away within seconds. Too soon i found myself back in the same “gather all quests at a hub” treadmill that i experienced during WoW, and it left a sour taste in my mouth. After seeing the first dungeons (which i enjoyed) i came back to this disappointing daily grind and failed see the whole picture: no story to hold me, no red string that tried to make the grind a bit more interesting. So i kept asking myself: Why even carry on? Why does the “good” stuff only happen at max level? If you guys are so original, why not escape this outdated concept of grinding your way up to the “good” stuff. And even being there: huge raids weren’t really my thing either, so i was looking for good 5-man-dungeon content which this game just didn’t deliver enough of.
And obviously i wasn’t alone with those thoughts. My Wildstar server emptied quickly within the free month, leaving back empty starting areas and barely anyone to chat with. During my playtime of 2 months my guild formed and died, even the bigger player hubs soon felt empty as well. I enjoyed and got hyped by the many little things that Wildstar had to offer, but the whole package simply wasn’t for me. It could be that i simply moved on from MMOs as a whole, but that wouldn’t explain why i still look back at WoW with a sense of desire.
Greatest Immersion: Transistor
Transistor was a surprise to me on so many levels: the way the world was presented visually, the outstanding soundtrack, the compelling story. This game is very short, but oozes with quality and originality. It’s one of those rare games that feels like a polished experience right from the get-go – a feeling that has gotten rare as many games are being released with day-1-patches.
Very much like Bastion this game tries to surprise the audience with distinct and defining features. In Bastion it was the great narrator that kept you going. In Transistor the developers not only kept the interesting companion at your side, but also improved upon their previous strengths: tight controls, interesting fighting mechanics and a gracefully built world that sparks and keeps your interest.
This game also made me realize what smaller game studios are really capable off. “Supergiant Games” has the potential to become one of the best self-published developers in the coming years, proving that word of mouth can be more than enough to spread your game if the quality and production values are there.
Transistor is so good that it feels ridiculous and too obvious to even recommend it. So i’ll just add that: even if you don’t care about the action/strategy genre all that much, do yourself a favor as a gamer and experience this game. If you didn’t enjoy it, feel free to come back to me and complain!
Biggest rollercoaster of emotions: Warframe
With over 920h on record, Warframe is one of my biggest candidates for the imaginary “Grand Time-theft Auto 2014” award. The reasons why this game is so captivating are manifold: distinct visuals, very smooth and fast gameplay, tight controls and a “space-ninja” setting that is yet to be matched by any game out there. Warframe has a great F2P concept going that delivers tons of content without much of a pay wall being noticeable.
But one of the most mentionable points about this game is the developer behind it: Digital Extremes (DE). Barely any company has such a close relationship with their audience, which really shows in the (almost monthly) big content updates provided for free. Like many other games, Warframe started as a small, unnoticeable Beta release with a small player count, relying on “Founder Package” purchases and micropayments to stay afloat. But what distinguished this game and made it one of the most successful F2P-titles as of today is the effort that the developer has put into it. Using the huge player feedback the developers improved and changed so many aspects of this game that it barely resembles the version from 1 year ago. It’s this admirable devotion that keeps both DE and the community engaged in order to make a game that pleases as many people as possible.
However this is also one of the biggest downsides of Warframe. Content gets added quickly to keep the player base interested, but unfortunately this results in both a lot of poor design decisions and bugs being added to the game. Digital Extremes does their best to keep bugs out of the game, but it is visible that a lot of the recent decisions haven’t always pushed the game in the right direction. In addition to that there are a lot of “loose end features” that get added and then neglected due to poor player feedback.
Warframe is a fun game with new surprises almost every month, but it also got me shaking my head about the many unfinished or unpolished ideas making their way into the game. It’s a double-edged development approach that both has great potential for future success and epic failures, depending on how capable Digital Extremes will be in balancing user feedback and demand for new content against quality assurance and potential sources of income.
Long-term hard drive hogging award: League of Legends
League of Legends just continues to be one of the successful games of this 2014, as proven by the huge player-base of >10 million active players. In an unbroken trend Twitch still lists LoL among the most-streamed games of 2014. Riot Games keeps improving upon the existing concept, just cautiously adding new mechanics and trying out new game modes every so often.
For me the appeal of League has shifted towards exactly this point: ARAM (All Random, All Mid). It’s a fast-paced mode that just kicks your team of 5 heroes against 5 other human players, all on a small bridge where you can’t really do anything else than fighting. While sacrificing a great deal of complexity towards the main meat called “Summoner’s Rift” the ARAM mode also has a lot going for itself: quick drop-in-drop-out matches without the huge pressure of losing a 30-60 min. game. LoL has an infamous reputation of a toxic player base and this mode gets rid of most of the tension.
New modes like this may not be added as fast as i would love it, but Riot seems to see that there is a huge demand for original and new game modes. This is also a selling-factor as the market for MOBA-games (multiplayer online based arena) is filling up with competitors. If Riot keeps on going with this mix of adding interesting and diverse champions and game modes, this game has high chances of staying on my hard drive for many years to come.