It’s finally time to reveal our Game of the Year.
While 2014 might have felt a little flat to some people, there was still a whole bunch of great games that landed last year.
In the form of Donkey Kong, Mario Kart, Smash Bros., and Bayonetta 2, who would have thought Nintendo would have had such a strong year of exclusives?
As is becoming the norm, there were plenty of great indie releases with the likes of OlliOlli, Sportsfriends, Transistor, The Banner Saga, A Bird Story and Heavy Bullets to name just a few.
But there were pleasant surprises on the bigger-budget front, too. Ground Zeroes was more than just the glorified demo some people feared, South Park: The Stick of Truth finally arrived – and became the first ever good South Park game, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare turned out great (wait, what?), and last year’s Call of Duty was among the best ever made.
So that’s 2014 in the rear-view mirror. All that’s left is to name our Game of the Year for 2014.
And the winner is…
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Of course, it’s hard not to start with the Nemesis System when looking back at what made Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor so great. An actual hierarchical society within the enemy ranks – with promotions, infighting, deaths, and key events like feasts and duels – is the kind of thing that usually sounds great until you sit down with the game.
But Middle-earth delivered on its promise. As well as the above, returning enemies recall your last encounter and individual character traits dictate how orcs react to given situations; for example, one might be vulnerable to stealth attacks, whereas another might be completely immune.
This means that preparation when aiming to down a given foe is every bit as key as taking a sharp sword into combat. You gain intel from lower ranked orcs, learning opponents weaknesses and acting accordingly. You might choose to dominate, rather than kill, orcs who you’ve discovered are the bodyguards of a key warchief. When the time is right, you might then choose to turn them on their leader, allowing them the heavy lifting as your foe is cut down.
Of course, all this can take immense amounts of time, but the satisfaction of seeing all that preparation bear fruit is truly unique to Shadow of Mordor.
Even without the Nemesis System, Shadow of Mordor plays wonderfully. I’ve heard it described as Assassin’s Creed meets the Batman Arkham series and I’m too lazy to come up with anything better, so there you go.
The depth to the combat, though, really is something of a standout. By the time you’ve levelled up enough and spent your talent points, you’ll be firing arrows in slow motion, performing multiple executions back-to-back, instantly mounting giant graugs and stomping enemies into mush, making orcs heads explode en masse, and wheeling away to the safety of a nearby tower. It’s giddying stuff.
The Nemesis System is a fantastic inclusion that smart developers will be taking note of as we speak, but there’s virtually nothing in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor that falls short. With excellent combat and traversal, interesting missions, and gorgeous visuals (particularly on PC), Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis System is a part of an excellent game made better with its inclusion.
And that’s why it’s TGH’s 2014 Game of the Year.
Check out our individual staff picks in the links below: