Compared to Peter and Tim I don’t have as much time to get stuck in to all the games that arrive at IncGamers. I have to keep everything up and running on the site and make sure everything is operational; but I still get chances to play a reasonable amount of titles when the hours allow.
This year I’ve been excited for classic space sims, and although Elite: Dangerous is technically the only one that’s made it to release in 2014, it seems like I’ve been immersed in some manner of space cockpit for the majority of the year. Here’s hoping that Elite: Dangerous is just the first stage of a major revival.
Even though the game still feels a bit incomplete, it cannot be faulted for revitalising my interest in Virtual Reality as a viable extension of gameplay.
90s VR was poor, and although contemporary implementations are still not fantastic (Oculus still have a lot of work to do,) what Elite: Dangerous has done is confirm VR’s potential. The implementation in the game is excellent, and it’s one of the main reasons I‘ve found myself going back to Elite: Dangerous every couple of days for a romp around the stars. It even made me spend five hours testing out different HUD colours, and boy did I have a sore head after that.
In time, Elite: Dangerous will find its feet but there’s still more to be done to make the game completely captivating. Peter’s review here on IncGamers was spot on, and, while it does keep pulling me back, there’s a slight sense of disappointment when thinking about features and design aspects the title is currently missing. Perhaps it was released just a little too early, but Elite: Dangerous should have the sandbox foundations to become a space classic.
Now the game is out the door, Frontier can concentrate on additions and improvements for the new year. Sitting back and hoping that the players shape the universe without the aid of a steady stream of new content and features would be a big mistake.
Next up on my list, which may seem a little odd, is the reboot of Gauntlet. A couple of months ago Arrowhead released their version of the arcade classic and did a great job of capturing the feel of the original. While I love an in-depth ARPG, Gauntlet does away with all the complex itemisation and just offers pure dungeon running fun.
Gauntlet is one of those games that’s great to fire up for a quick blast with little consequence, and doesn’t require a huge time investment – which is why it’s one of those games I return to when I can. It looks great and offers some really fun co-op play. Amazingly, players tend to actually work together. This is always great to see and makes for a pleasant change. Just stop shooting the damn food FFS!
One other game that I’ve been following closely this year, and we can actually call it a game now, is Star Citizen. The release of the dogfighting ‘Arena Commander’ module gave PC gamers a glimpse of what’s to come, and (crucially) something to test out that was actual gameplay rather than just hangar porn.
The game looks gorgeous if you have the necessary hardware to run it, and the space combat is not half bad either. Chris Roberts seems to be sticking to his stated intent to push the boundaries with what’s possible on today’s PC hardware.
While Peter and Tim will probably be having a good laugh at this choice, the fact is that Arena Commander is now a proof of concept and is a concrete, playable “thing.” I’m still not entirely convinced that the whole Star Citizen package will gel now that an FPS portion is being added, though. In fact I’m still finding it a little hard to understand why Cloud Imperium are adding an FPS part to the game at all. But that’s probably because I struggle to care about that aspect of the game.
One of the much more exciting prospects, from my point of view, is the Squadron 42 single player portion of the game. I thoroughly enjoyed Warthog’s Starlancer, which was developed by much of the same team now working on Squadron 42. Based on what we’ve seen so far in Arena Commander, this could be a truly fantastic single player space romp.
Star Citizen makes my list partly because we end 2014 with the release of Arena Commander v1.0 which has taken many, many months to get out the door. Let’s hope that next year we see development speed up, and we get to see even more of Star Citizen in a shorter time-frame than we did in 2014.