2014 Top Five – Alex

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Following in the fine footsteps of Tess and Max, it was time to pen my thoughts on 2014’s finest fare. Across the PC and Vita, it was a grand crop and a bumper harvest. From alpha buy-ins and Early Access to the gold releases, I felt – as is usually the case – like a pig in the proverbial. Please find attached my personal picks for the year.

Spintires

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A brilliant, utterly PC market game, Spintires took me by a storm that churned mud and rocked chassis with such determined vision that not even the technical aplomb of Bugbear’s magnificent Wreckfest could unseat Oovee’s east of the Urals affair. Not exactly a sim, not exactly arcade, Spintires played by its own rules and won my heart through a soviet celebration of mud, sweat and tires. Magnificent, grueling and entirely unique. CBG is no stranger to Spintires coverage, with Michal Jarzebowski’s fine review and my own pithy impressions, so if you desire a smidgen more convincing, cast an eye that way.

Don Bradman Cricket 2014

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Finally, a decent cricket game! After a decade of decaying quality orbit, the grand old game got a decent iteration, and one with a grassroots tale to tell. Featuring a control scheme with depth and length, a smart reliance on community content to sidestep licensing costs and that unmistakable sense of knowing this was anything but phoned in, Don Bradman Cricket 2014 is a title to be proud of. Worthy of the Don.

In a reverse sweep of sheepish ego-stroking, I penned a nutshell history of cricket games; the sad decline and the rise of a homegrown hero.

TxK

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Jeff Minter’s portable Tempest iteration TxK – some say his finest – grabbed me by the short and curlies. A time-tested concept, this British tube shooter is by far the year’s best arcade experience. Great controls to match lean and crisp audio-visual presentation, there remains little to say outside of simply ‘play it’. Space is everything. Incredibull.

Endless Legend

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Amplitude are a developer I hold in high regard as a desperate shot in the arm for strategy gaming. Here, in Endless Legend, tired Tolkien tropes are subverted in a wash of refreshing science-fantasy. Featuring great faction design and a world as rich as they come, there’s really no alternative to Endless Legend when looking for a 4X fantasy empire builder. Sure, the table is crowded with gear sporting names like Age of Wonder 3 and Warlock 2, but at the end of the day, I can only recommend one.

And Amplitude gets the nod.

Deadnaut

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Deadnaut. Without a doubt, my game of the year. 2014’s personal best. There hasn’t been a game that has spoken to a fellow so profoundly, it feels like some sort of genetic AI hijack. Deadnaut is a dark, tense science-fiction squad management game with more granularity than you could possible poke a space stick at. An analysis or investigation of the often-omnipotent and seemingly indefatigable conduit of information afforded by a player; one that often phases and buckles under the pressures of simulated reality. A game of discerned ambition, the hard science fiction and determined retrofuturism is assailed with such vigor and devotion, most triple A games chasing similar themes feel sophomoric, bloated and clumsy.

Keep your particular blend of isolation, proletariat. I’ll be over here with my GOTY in Deadna-….[transmission deteriorates]