Another year has come and gone and with it the first birthday of the Next Gen machines. At times it has been underwhelming and at times overwhelming. Sometimes it has displayed how clever gaming can be and at other times how elements of gaming- or gaming related things – can make you shake your head and despair. Has 2014 been the year of gaming we were promised – probably not. Has it been an eventful year – Hell Yes.
With this eventful year almost over, then it is time to look back and see how you, the Midlife Gamer Community have voted in this years awards and boy did you come out in force with almost double the votes in 2014 than any previous year. You also proved what an ecletic bunch you are with 24 community members voting before two people agreed on a number one choice for Game of the Year. So it’s time to sit down, kick back and relax with a cup of mulled wine and a gingerbread biscuit as we begin the Midlife Gamer Community Awards.
The Baron Award (aka Most Relaxing Game to Play) – Child of Light
With all the flack Ubisoft has been getting recently over buggy releases and rehashed game systems and unwelcome microtransactions, it’s good to take comfort in the fact that the Assassin’s Creed juggernaut has allowed the development of such gems as Child of Light, the Midlifegamer Community’s most relaxing game of the year, also known as the Baron Award.
What made this little game, produced by ex-Far Cry 3 developers, so relaxing? The game’s fairytale atmosphere helps nurture this feeling, the story of a young girl who seemingly dies and is propelled upon a very light RPG-cum platforming quest to unite the sun and the moon for reasons that are vaguely told via an awkward rhyming scheme which, stilted as it is, endears you to it. Whilst the story is slight, the progression of finding new areas, new abilities and new companions drives you onwards.
Yet the pace is never urgent. You aren’t forced, rather nudged along, and the Grandia-style turn based battle system, with a semi-random encounter mechanic, allows you to set up battles in the way you want if you contact enemies correctly, allowing you to tackle the game on your own terms.
The game is easy, make no mistake, and the lack of challenge means that you are never really put in much danger. This sense of safety certainly makes it a relaxing game, one to be simply experienced rather that beaten. Of course for those people who wanted, the developers did add an extra mode of difficulty, but the default setting is one where the tale and the action can be enjoyed as simply and as casually as possible.
A full admission: I never finished the game, finding the action repetitive and the story not powerfully engaging enough. The game deserves it’s award though, as a charming little title that demands little, and yet gives little back. A game that is so relaxing and lacks so much urgency that the need to finish it is never instilled. A lovely little game nonetheless, but one so unessential, so bereft of meaning, it is like the equivalent of leaving the TV on whilst you drift off sleep, something I think the Baron himself would approve of…
The Press X to Win Award (aka Easiest Game to Complete) – The Walking Dead Season 2
Press X to win. It feels a little unfair to give a game such as this an accolade so tinged with such negativity. Such phrases connote a sense of ease, a sense of a lack of player urgency and a sense of a game that one does little in.
As a community, you might have made the right call.
Taking on the role of the first season’s Clementine, a girl wise and experienced beyond her years, it is clear that Telltale sets you on a critical path, and use a good deal of smoke of mirrors to give the illusion of choice. The swift and brutal dispatch and separation of familiar characters, and the later introduction of a previously believed to be dead character, cultivates the sense that many of the events are way out of the player’s control. The fates of certain characters are set in stone, and the inexorable movement of the plot can be felt continuously, but the game can be personalised, role played if you will, in the way that you see fit. You can make Clementine your own Clementine, especially during the middle sections, where some tough choices have to be made.
Essentially though, these choices are made regardless, and everyone that plays The Walking Dead, completes The Walking Dead; does that make it an easy experience? Not necessarily- the second season takes many bold and tough turns and choices in its final stages, choices that are are up there with the best of the first season. However, as a whole, this second foray into Kirkman’s world lacks the impact of the first, and the fact that many of the supporting cast do not engender the same sense of strong feeling than the previous do, adds to this sense of detachment.
The fact that an easy full set of achievements can be earned just by getting to the end credits must have contributed to the game’s appearance on this list. A full set of platform branded attainment icons can be easily gathered, and only the most bored of gamer will not see the end. Yet like the first season, the final destination is less important than the journey. Yes, The Walking Dead Season Two can be experienced with a minimum of input, but the overall effect can still be personal and affecting.
Press X to win – press X to experience more like…
Best In-game Music 2014 – Transistor
An hour into my initial play through of Transistor, my interest in the music was peeked enough that I took a trip to Supergiant Games website to look into buying the soundtrack. Thankfully I was faced with a message suggesting players first finish the game before listening to the music out of context as it could potentially spoil key elements of games experience.
I am so glad that I did wait.
Like with Supergiant Games debut title “Bastion”, Darren Korb is back to produce what I consider to be this year’s greatest video game soundtrack (in fact the best I’ve heard since Superbrothers Sword and Sworcery). It is also great to hear the return of Ashley Lynn Barrett who was also the key vocalist in Bastion.
The music in Transistor not only helps set the scene (coined by Korb as “Old-world Electronic Post-rock”) but it really helps give further character to the protagonist “Red”, who in this story is a famous singer who for one reason or another has lost her voice. I have found many of the 23 tracks included work so well in my every day activities, either something in the background to hum along to while working, to even keeping me company as I traipse through the dark (and not so scary) streets of Tring – either ignoring everyone or assuming I’m a hero out on a dangerous mission for more wine!
With two solid games under their belt, both with fantastic soundtracks, I await Supergiant Games tricky third album.