Every year we say how wonderful it was for iOS/OSX gamers but this is the year that has topped all of the years. We have seen the volume of indy game releases somewhat decrease but the quality remains unmatched. This is a perfect example of quality VS quantity.
Over the course of this month we replayed all of the top games on our list along with a few that we wanted to check out for the first time to see if any of these should make there way onto this list. I can’t stress enough how hard it was to narrow down our top ten list and then find a way to organize them. Having said that, the one and only exception to this is the Game of the Year which was unanimous across the board.
Game of the Year
All of our past Game of the Year winners have one thing in common and that is that they all push gaming as a whole to a higher level. Last year’s pick, Tell Tale’s The Walking Dead, is a prime example where the main mechanic driving the gameplay is your choices influence the narration of what’s to come. Golem Arcana continues this tradition by melding both the digital and traditional board gaming worlds. This is a massive feat do to the fact that it allows non-board gamers to jump into a massive war game with no need to memorize rules nor crunch an absorbent amount of numbers. Instead all of this is kept track of on your iPhone, iPad or Android device.
Proving that this isn’t just some sort of gimmick, the actual game is a digital strategy gamer’s dream come true. The board and the pieces are lush with gorgeous details and the amount of strategy begins to bloom after each game. Even after having our hands on Golem Arcana for a few months, it’s the one and only game that we want to replay if we have free time. If you haven’t checked Golem Arcana and you have had the urge to venture into board games then this is the one and only game that you need to play.
Rarely does a game come along where we can’t put it down. Hearthstone is one of these few games where addiction became a reality. It’s that good. The CCG approach is much more streamlined than Magic The Gathering where learning the basics and being able to actually win games comes at a much faster rate. This is partially due to the limited amount of cards (it is slowly growing over time) and that each player is in some way limited to how they build their deck. This isn’t always a good thing but it is this time around because it creates a meta game onto the actual game. Adding to why we love Hearthstone so much is the fact that this can be enjoyed for free. You can purchase packs if you want but, if you’re good then you can earn in game currency fast and unlock a massive amount of cards without ever spending a dime.
If we were to pick one publisher for Publisher of the Year then hands down it would go to Square Enix. This year they updated some of their classic iOS games to fit the newer iOS models and even better is that they released five Dragon Quest games. We decided to choose only one of these titles to be on this list and decided to go with Dragon Quest VIII because it’s simply amazing that Square Enix somehow managed to create a robust control scheme onto the iPhone and managed to have it be playable with just your thumb (all of the other DQ titles share a similar control method but this one is in 3D and allows for camera movement). Over the years I personally stepped away from J-RPGs but this game renewed my love, and it’s perfect on-the- go.
This is the one game that moved up and down the list a couple of times. In the end we decided to keep it because despite its faults (mainly the UI) it is one of our ultimate favorite games we’ve played this year. Like Hearthstone, jumping into competitive battles and posing as a threat as a new player is a reality. This is because the core principles that make up this game is easy to earn and you can create a deck that best suits your playing style. Once you begin to understand the mechanics, you’ll be matched up against more difficult players where you’ll need to learn and create your own strategy in order to win. There’s a lot of CCGs out there and a lot skimp on the strategy. Don’t let the kiddie look of the cards fool you—the strategy goes up there with Hearthstone and MTG. Note: play this on PC or Mac. The iOS port is beyond terrible.
It felt a little strange including Rust on this list only because it hasn’t officially been released—it’s still in beta. Even though it’s rather rough around the edges, and everywhere else, it creates a multiplayer experience that is unlike anything else we’ve encountered. It puts the uneasiness of trusting strangers into the digital realm. Is this person that you encounter going to help you out or are they going to kill you? If they’re going to kill you then you should strike first. It’s this tone of paranoia that creates an amazing experience.
Besides the need to survive from other humans, Rust ups the anti by incorporating one of the less forgiving worlds (it becomes more forgiving after you have a shelter etc) because you’re plopped into the world naked and with a rock…so just like being born in real life…well without the rock that is. The first time or so you might die and loose everything that you worked for but over time you learn how to hunt, cook and build a shelter amongst other things. There are other crafting games out there but Rust is the only one to put things in this uneasy and challenging package. If Rust leaves beta and it’s released over the course of 2015 then I will not be surprised if it makes 2015 Game of the Year list.
Love it or hate it, Flappy Bird triggered an insane amount of über-difficult games where you expecte to die within fractions of a second. RETRY is the one insanely difficult game to hit this year that took this idea and flew with it. The levels are pre-constructed which allows for some of the most frustrating gaming sessions that has you trying to beat each level over and over again—well as long as you didn’t smash your iPhone. Adding to the great level design is how RETRY incorporates the free-to-play check point system where you can play the game absolutely free if you didn’t mind watching a few ads throughout each level. We’re talking about nailing everything right here: great levels, solid controls, replayability through the roof and an overly generous free-to-play approach.
Normally anything permadeath is a complete turnoff for me but everyone here, including myself, fell in love with FTL. The idea of taking the hardships of space exploration and the concept to specialize your ship with random-is parts remains fresh with every session. I’ve spent who-knows-how many hours playing this and I have yet to beat the game. Even though failure greeted me with every game, I still absolutely love it.
#8 Galaxy Trucker (iOS)
I wish that it was more than a coincidence that two very similar themed games with very different gameplay are placed next to one another on this list but that’s how it worked out. Galaxy Trucker is a digital port of Czech Games Edition’s Galaxy Trucker board game where each player needs to snag parts of spaceships and build an overly fantastic ship and see how well it sails when put to the test. Seeing your ship either stay intact for the whole journey or see your ship be absolutely disseminated throughout space always remains fun. This is one of the few times where being in last place and barely staying afloat can be just as much fun as being in first place. We love both of the phases in Galaxy Trucker (building and testing it out) and this one remains on our iPads.
We have not been shy over the year about how much we love playing all of these great digital ports of board games. This year Fantasy Flight Games squeaked by in time with BattleLore Command to make our Game of the Year list. BattleLore Command takes place in a fantasy setting where two players will face-off by taking command of either the Daqan Army (humans) or the Uthuk Y’llan Army (demons). The game itself is rich with strategy that incorporates melee, ranged and magical attacks. This game has only been out for a few weeks and it managed to swallow up all of our free time with its great solo campaign and Multiplayer battles.
Wrapping up our Game of the Year list is Square Enix’s Hitman GO. When we first caught glimpse if this we were taken a bit off guard by the completely different direction from all other Hitman games. If you missed out on this one then you missed out on one of the best puzzlers that also incorporates a board game-like feel. Each level is made up of three different challenges which not only creates some brain stumpers, it also extends the replayabity unlike most games that we’ve played this year.