Top 50 Challenge 2014 – Civilization: Beyond Earth

about X hours ago from

My colleague Daniel Tack has been sharing with me his enthusiasm about Beyond Earth since his initial review, so I jumped at the chance to dive into the game myself and see how it compares with previous Civilization titles. I’m glad I did, as Beyond Earth is a rich and complex title. While it took me a little longer to grasp its fundamentals and terminology, It was worth the effort, because the game has a lot to offer.

Learn more about the Game Informer Fight For The Top 50 Challenge 2014

Firaxis’ Civilization games have always fascinated me. Without exception, I start playing a new installment and find myself wondering what all the fuss is about as I make my way through those early turns. Suddenly, it is hours later, and I’ve become thoroughly engrossed in my burgeoning nation. In particular, I remember an early playthrough of Civilization V in which I won by sending a spaceship out into the cosmos, and I found myself wishing that the game would continue on into that new future. Beyond Earth responds to that wish. 

Top 50 Challenge 2014 – Fantasia: Music Evolved

about X hours ago from
Top 50 Challenge 2014 – Fantasia: Music Evolved

I like music. I know it’s not exactly a controversial statement, but it’s been a constant throughout my life. Growing up, something was almost always playing on the family stereo. I played an instrument from elementary school through high school, and eventually combined my loves of music and sarcasm into a stint at a record store. In another obvious observation, I also like video games. When Harmonix created the first Guitar Hero game and transformed what was a niche into a phenomenon, I was hooked. I followed each of their releases and spent way more money than I care to admit on Rock Band DLC. Then Fantasia: Music Evolved came out this year and I didn’t know what to make of it.

Learn more about the Game Informer Fight For The Top 50 Challenge 2014 here.

I played a few demos of it at a variety of shows, and while I understood what they were getting at, it didn’t click for some reason. In some ways, I guess it was like hearing a new album from one of your favorite bands, a new album that takes things into an unexpected direction. It was kind of like Dance Central, only you weren’t dancing? And you mixed songs, and it had Lady Gaga and Tchaikovsky on the setlist? Also, it’s based on a Disney movie that I’d say most people only pretend to have actually seen? OK then.

Top 50 Challenge 2014 – Wolfenstein: The New Order

about X hours ago from

I'm a huge fan of shooters, so I had no qualms with picking up the new Wolfenstein game for this year's top 50 challenge. Oddly enough this is the first time I've ever played this classic series, but I'm glad I did.

At this point we're all more than familiar with the World War ll shooter formula, however Wolfenstein: The New Order managed to keep me intrigued with its unsettling premise. The year is 1946 (what should have been the year after the surrender of Germany) and Nazis are winning the struggle against the allies with the aid of strange, advanced technology not unlike that of Hydra from Captain America.

We’re thrown headfirst into an intense airborne raid of a Nazi fortress with the objective of bringing down general Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse. This menacing figure catches you in a trap shortly after the raid begins, and with a genuinely creepy grin he makes you choose which teammate of yours to spare, with the other doomed to a grisly fate.

Top 50 Challenge 2014 – Skylanders: Trap Team

about X hours ago from

I’ve seen too many bad games foisted off on young gamers, shoved aside with the phrase “It’s not good, but kids might like it.” Kids don’t deserve bad games any more than you do, and Skylanders: Trap Team helps prove that they don’t need to settle for them.

Learn more about the Game Informer Fight For The Top 50 Challenge 2014.

I didn’t expect to be defending Skylanders. When Jeff issued the challenge to play Trap Team, I can’t say I eagerly jumped at the chance. However, I have always been curious about this series’ appeal; I couldn’t tell if it was legitimately good, or just a clever gimmick to sell action figures. Even if one day playing Trap Team isn’t enough to fully absorb everything about Skylanders, it’s definitely enough to understand why the franchise is such a phenomenon.

Top 50 Challenge 2014 - Assassin's Creed Unity

about X hours ago from
Top 50 Challenge 2014 - Assassin's Creed Unity

I always look forward to playing a new Assassin's Creed game each year. When the Animus is roaring at the peak of its capabilities, traveling back to a pivotal point in human history is likely one of the best experiences of the year. But as we all know, the Animus is often unreliable, and can deliver a dud like Assassin's Creed III, a game that makes a mockery of history, even putting the protagonist on Paul Revere's horse during his famous ride.

Fight For The Top 50 2014 – The Banner Saga

about X hours ago from

The Banner Saga isn't a game filled with spectacle. It doesn't feature motion-capped voice acting, or big budget particle effects, or hundreds of hours of side quests. Still, it's an incredibly intelligent strategy game wrapped around a compelling and heartfelt story. Even more impressive, the game was made by a team of only three developers. The Banner Saga is a small indie project, but it does big things, and it definitely deserves a spot on any gamer's end of the year list.

Learn more about the Game Informer Fight For The Top 50 Challenge 2014.

Admittedly, I was drawn to The Banner Saga even before the game released. I had been keeping a close eye on the title after Stoic's Kickstarter campaign raised over $700,000. In fact, I'm sure The Banner Saga's stunning Eyvind Earle-inspired art turned a lot of heads. However, the gaming landscape could fill a landfill of titles that have looked great and failed to perform. Thankfully, Stoic didn't drop the ball there either.

Fight For The Top 50 2014 - This War Of Mine

about X hours ago from

I don't like gore in games. I've never been a fan of the God of War series, and I'd prefer never to chainsaw an enemy in Gears of War. What I do love in games, however, are personal consequences. Sims creator Will Wright once spoke about how no medium other than games can convey the emotions of pride and guilt, and I love embracing what games do best. As devastating as it is, I love the idea of losing my best buddy Garrus to a swarm of Collectors at the end of Mass Effect 2 or my most-trusted sniper from a sloppy grenade toss in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. This War of Mine from 11 Bit Studios is a game all about making the best of a terrible situation and living with the morale-crushing consequences of your decisions.

Learn about Game Informer's Fight for the Top 50 Challenge 2014, happening today and tomorrow.

Fight For The Top 50 2014 – Earth Defense Force 2025

about X hours ago from

I love the way that developers have been exploring more sophisticated themes in games in recent years, but not everything can be heavy and poignant all of the time. Yes, sometimes I want to play complex games with intense narratives. On the other hand, sometimes I just want to shoot a bunch of aliens. That’s when Earth Defense Force 2025 becomes the perfect game.

Learn more about the Game Informer Fight For The Top 50 Challenge 2014.

A hostile alien force called the Ravagers is invading Earth, after apparently being defeated in the previous entry, Earth Defense Force 2017. To combat the resurgent threat, you control members of a military squad who try to send the enemy army (consisting of giant ants, giant spiders, giant wasps, and giant robots) back home to space. In a series of quick missions (usually 10 minutes or less), you drop in and blast a swarm of bad guys with rockets, missiles, lasers, and other entertaining weapons. You hear the over-eager chants of your fellow EDF soldiers, then usually watch them die as they stumble over each other trying to fight the overwhelming alien forces.

Fight For The Top 50 2014 – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

about X hours ago from
Fight For The Top 50 2014 – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is straight-up demented, but that’s what makes it so damn intriguing. This visual novel adventure game keeps the tension rolling as you and a group of students are trapped in a school by a sadistic bear named Monokuma. Your only way out? Murder. If you kill another student and successfully get away with it, you can get your freedom back.

Learn more about the Game Informer Fight For the Top 50 Challenge 2014.

The stakes are costly, but Danganronpa is all about psychological torment. How far can you push people before they finally succumb to murderous tendencies? This intriguing premise kept me engaged, wondering who the next victim would be and which student would betray the group next. The results were always downright twisted and the storyline was often unpredictable (even when you knew a murder was coming). Danganronpa is easily one of my favorite games this year for the dread and hope it instilled in me, and I’ll be fighting hard for it to earn a spot on our top 50.

Fight For The Top 50 2014 – Monument Valley

about X hours ago from

When we put together our list of the top 50 games of the year, we don't distinguish between retail, downloadable, and mobile titles. A great game is a great game, regardless of its platform. The result of putting all games on one master list is that many smaller titles – and mobile games especially – don't have what it takes to crack the top 50. I think Monument Valley stands out as a shining exception.

Learn about Game Informer's Fight for the Top 50 Challenge 2014, happening today and tomorrow.

Several indie games like Antichamber and The Bridge have tested players with puzzles based on optical illusions, but Monument Valley does so with production values that rival the biggest and best 2D games on the market. It's not just the crisp visuals and silky animations that make this point-and-click puzzle game stand out; the art style is wholly unique, and each lush, sprawling level is worthy of being printed out, framed, and hung on your wall. Monument Valley is a beautiful intersection of art and game design – I don't think there's another game this year that made me frequently pause to soak in and enjoy the visuals.