Welcome, ladies and gents to the ceremonial presentation of the IncGamers Reader Awards 2014. Thank you to the thousands of you who cast your votes (or to the one person who was manipulating their IP address to vote thousands of times; either way.)
Some of our nine categories were hard-fought affairs, coming down to just a handful of votes. Others were a complete walkover. Here’s what you voted for, plus a little bit of additional commentary from our own point of view.
Best PC Exclusive Title 2014 Winner – Divinity: Original Sin
Tim [McDonald]: We picked everything in this category so obviously we approve of every game in there, but I’d still have complained if Football Manager had won. I’m not sure if Divinity: Original Sin would’ve been my personal pick – I’d have had a hard time deciding between this and Grimrock 2 – but it’s certainly a winner I’m not going to complain about. It’s a superb slice of classic CRPG goodness, but with all sorts of modern bells and whistles to make it look, sound, and function fantastically.
Peter [Parrish]: Honestly, I mostly lobbied for Football Manager to break up the RPG/Strategy hegemony a little bit.
Anyway, Original Sin ran away with this one; although both Wasteland 2 and Endless Legend caught up a little bit over the final few days of voting. I think this is an absolutely worthy winner; an outstanding, top-down RPG released at the height of summer to a rave reception from players and critics alike. It was also a fine example of how to use both the Kickstarter and Early Access systems in a useful, timely and appropriate manner. Larian are swiftly approaching Obsidian-levels of “keep an eye on everything they put out” for me.
Best Cross-Platform PC Release 2014 Winner – Dark Souls II
Peter: I didn’t rig this result, I swear. Far Cry 4 ran it extremely close, but Dark Souls II is the cross-platform game of choice for IncGamers Readers. Again, no quibbles from me, Dark Souls II (especially with the trilogy of DLC releases) is one of my favourites of the year. Can you criticise it for not being quite as good as the original Dark Souls in some areas? Sure. But I’m not going to let a handful of lackluster textures, mystery elevators and the odd duffer of a boss battle put me off.
Rather than pick over the clean bones of those issues, it’s better to dwell on the guidance-free feelings of accomplishment, mighty (and actually functional) SunBro-ing, lore diving, shit hot FashionSouls-ing and lovely PC-powered 60fps that make Dark Souls II one of 2014’s best games.
Tim: Considering how often Peter and I try to distract Paul on the podcast so that we can talk about this game, there’s obviously going to be no argument from me. Dark Souls 2 is utterly brilliant, and the port actually functions without mods.
Best PC Port/Version 2014 Winner – Shadow of Mordor
Peter: I got The Fear when I saw the fairly beefy recommended specs for this game, but it turned out to run rather well and had a wealth of (nicely explained) graphics options to tinker with. SEGA’s (or whoever they contracted that port to) fine work on Valkyria Chronicles was my personal choice, but I’ve no complaints about giving it to Mordor.
Tim: There’ve been a load of good ports this year (as well as some shockers, which we’ll talk about shortly) but Shadow of Mordor seems a perfectly acceptable winner. Stable framerates across a variety of systems, a wide range of graphical options to tinker with, and some actual explanations of what those do. It’s maybe not the flashiest of choices, but it’s an incredibly solid port. A good amount of time was clearly spent on making the PC version work properly, and that’s something I genuinely appreciate. You lot do too, from the looks of things.
Worst PC Port/Version 2014 Winner – Assassin’s Creed: Unity
Tim: I can’t say I’m surprised, but I am disappointed. Okay, I haven’t tried Assassin’s Creed: Unity, but the horrors of Final Fantasy XIII stand out to me a lot more. I mean, come on: Unity let you choose a resolution! That’s surely got to be worth something!
Peter: A fair and salient point, but it’s not like selecting a lower resolution in Assassin’s Creed: Unity actually improves performance all that much.
The sheer volume of annoyance among Assassin’s Creed players made this a bit of a stroll for Unity. Though obviously a bit of a stuttering one, with lots of pop-in and frame-drops. I’m writing this blurb on the eve of a fourth patch which may improve the game’s PC performance, but almost everything about this release was a technical disaster. Unity was able to humble almost every type of PC, from the lowliest, min-spec machine to boxes with twin Nvidia behemoths in SLI. In retrospect, we should have taken Ubisoft’s insistence on the superiority of “cinematic” 30fps as a dire warning. Not that Unity can even manage a steady 30fps for most players.
Tim: So what you’re saying, then, is that Unity actually lived up to its name, unifying PC users everywhere? It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to run the game on a toaster or on a computer capable of predicting the future: Unity brings us all down to horrible framerates! Hooray for egalitarianism! Hooray for equality! Hooray for… wait, no, that’s not actually a good thing.
Peter: I will say this much, I have seen it display quite splendid graphics under very, very precise conditions. Not the ones exhibited in the screenshot above though, obviously.
Most Likely to Become Commonplace PC Technology Award 2014 Winner – Oculus Rift / Virtual Reality in general
Tim: Not sure about this one. Sure, VR (or at the very least, augmented reality) might well become totally commonplace within the next couple of decades, but other options are likely to become the standard an awful lot quicker. With the way resolution creep is going I’d be surprised if 4K isn’t pretty common within the next five or six years, but maybe that’s just me. I still remember playing things in 320×200 and below. I’m old. Also, if I’m honest… well, I can see VR sticking around for awhile, but for the foreseeable future I’d be surprised if it becomes more than a fad that people enjoy tinkering about with. I’d be happy to be proven wrong, though.
Peter: As the one member of the IncGamers staff who hasn’t tried VR, it’s difficult for me to say whether I’d be a convert once that happens. It does seem to have that effect on people. Overall though, I’d also lean towards 4K Resolution Gaming being the most likely candidate from 2014 for widespread acceptance. That, or “none of them, they’re all fads.”
Best Post-Release PC Game Support 2014 Winner – Blizzard
Peter: My lack of in-depth knowledge (or interest, really) in what Blizzard is doing these days is probably colouring this view, but my own pick for this award was Amplitude. Not only did they release a pretty rapid (and free) expansion for their excellent 4x title Endless Legend, they were also still amending, patching and re-balancing their prior 4x, Endless Space. Dungeon of the Endless seems to have made a smooth transition from Early Access to full release this year, too. Something not all developers are able to achieve.
Tim: I, too, haven’t been paying much attention to Blizzard this year. I guess they patched Diablo, and offered people free World of Warcraft time? I don’t have much to say about anything in this category, really. None of them really staggered me, so… well done to everyone?
Peter: Faint praise for all.
Best (released) PC Crowdfunded Project 2014 Winner – Divinity: Original Sin
Peter: A second award for Divinity: Original Sin, and, again, well deserved. Wasteland 2 was the nearest challenger, and would also have been a suitable winner. Both games delivered on their Kickstarter promises, and both were released in a timely manner relative to their final funding tallies and expanded scope.
Tim: Again, lots of decent games in this category, and again, I can’t really complain about Original Sin winning. All I can really do is parrot Peter: it’s a great game, and it actually delivered what it promised in a timely fashion.
PC Digital Service of Choice 2014 Winner – Steam
Peter: What a SHOCKING RESULT. Okay, no, but seriously. When we came up with this award it was fairly obvious who was going to emerge as the winner. I was actually more interested in what kind of numbers the other contenders would get. GOG’s 19% is pretty healthy. I’m assuming EA’s Origin garnered 4% thanks to relieved PC players being able to utilise its fairly decent (actually better than Steam’s) refund policy for Dragon Age: Inquisition. I have no idea why anybody was voting for uPlay. If you were serious about that: seek help.
Tim: Well, it lets you play Ubisoft games. If you’re in the UK, then uPlay means you can play Far Cry 4! That’s… that’s pretty good, I guess?
Peter: Oh, right, I forgot about Ubisoft’s bizarre removal of games from UK Steam. Isn’t that kind of like voting for hostage-takers though?
The Ultra Special ‘See You In 2018’ Award Winner – Half-Life 3
Tim: Ah, optimism.
Peter: You guys think we’ll see Half-Life 3 by 2018? Wow.
Congratulations to all our winners, and thanks once again to the many readers and passers-by who voted in these awards.