2014 is going to be a banner year for video games in my mind. 2013 had more than a few games that I really enjoyed—Pokémon X&Y, Rune Factory 4, Tales of Xillia, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Remix, Path of Exile, The Wolf Among Us, Final Fantasy XIV, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, and Civilization V: A Brave New World—it didn’t actually feel like a very busy year for gaming. But 2014 promises to be spectacular.
As far as current gaming goes, I certainly plan of getting Siege of Orgrimmar 10N down with my raids before the expansion drops in World of Warcraft, and I’ve started getting back into Final Fantasy XIV for a bit, so we’ll see how long that lasts. It is a lot of fun, though. I also want to add The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds to the list, because I hear it is marvelous. And can’t forget more episodes of The Wolf Among Us. At some point I apparently also need to play The Last of Us.
So how about new games?
Bravely Default: Where the Fairy Flies – February 7th
A game by Square Enix for the 3DS, this is the more traditional JRPG the masses have been clamoring for. A Job System, 4 Heroes of Light (but not named for that), Crystals, and Turn-Based Combat. All the trappings of the traditional, wrapped up in a more modern game. The story is apparently somewhat straight-forward, but the characters are delightful and the game itself is quite accessible for a JRPG. RPGamer.com has a review up (http://rpgamer.com/games/other/3ds/bdff/reviews/bdffstrev1.html) for it, and they gave it a 4.0/5 (and they’re pretty stingy on their reviews).
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII – February 11th
Unlike most of the Internet, I rather enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII. A lot of folks denigrated it for being a totally linear romp with a convoluted story, but I didn’t find it difficult to follow, and I’ll take a well-executed linear game over a poorly-executed open world, myself. Final Fantasy XIII-2 was interesting, and the battle system had evolved a bit, but it was still enjoyable (though I honestly didn’t care for the story in XIII-2).
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII brings back the title character, Lightning (Oops, spoilers!). The world is going to end in 13 days and only Lightning can save the people of the dying world—note that she isn’t saving the world, twist!
This time the combat system seems to be a mesh of the frantic, action-oriented Final Fantasy XIII and the costume system of Final Fantasy X-2. It looks gorgeous, and the world is relatively open in this case, but you’re limiting factor is time. Some parts of the day certain areas or quests will be unavailable, and events may occur only at a specific time and place. As well, you have complete control over Lightning. She can run, climb, jump, and so on through environments. No longer are we limited to being stuck because there’s a log in the way.
Tales of Symphonia Chronicles – February 25th
I love the Tales series. Unabashed fanboy, I readily admit. The combination of fantastic characterization, decent stories, and intense real-time combat systems really does it for me. Tales of Symphonia, in my mind, was the pinnacle of the series for all of those points (until Tales of the Abyss, anyhow). Originally for the Gamecube, the Chronicles version is the PS2 port rereleased on the PS3 with upgraded textures. If you played the Gamecube version of the game, this one has a few extra attacks, titles, events, better AI, and harder bosses. If you’re new to the Tales series, I highly recommend Tales of Symphonia. I also highly recommend you skip the sequel (also packaged), Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, which was an incredibly mediocre game.
Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD Remaster – March 18th
Another rerelease of a previously released pair of games with updated textures, Final Fantasy X is definitely an excellent turn-based JRPG. It brought innovations like the Sphere Grid for levelling, and took head-on the concepts of religion, death, and self-sacrifice. X was an excellent addition to the Final Fantasy series, and another game I highly recommend to folks interested in JRPGs. Bonus, this is the International version of the game, release in English for the first time, so it comes with a bunch of extras the original game didn’t, like different Sphere Grids for each character.
Final Fantasy X-2 was a divisive game. While the story was so-so, the combat system was excellent. Fast-paced costume-swapping, changing your classes on the fly to deal with whatever situation might come up, I never got bored of FFX-2’s combat system. I can tell when a game is engaging when I actively seek out battles because I just want to fight more things. FFX-2 did just that for me.
I’m getting this for the PS3, but the Vita is also an option for the gamer on the go.
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – March 25th
Blizzard’s expansion for Diablo III, it will bring about a marked change in the game itself: new loot system, new methods of character advancement, no more Auction Houses, more bosses to kill, new classes. While I did like DIII when it was released (I finished the game on normal), I didn’t find it quite had the replayability Diablo II had. I’m hoping these fixes to the game’s core will give it that oomph. At the very least, the AH, while an interesting experiment, most definitely killed my enjoyment of the game, so I’ll be interested in starting from scratch with a character and seeing where it takes me. One that is untainted by the AH.
Fantasia: Music Evolved - ??? 2014
Music and Rhythm games are my jam. From Dance Dance Revolution to Rock Band to Dance Central, music games are one of my favourite genres, and Harmonix is king. So when I found out they were doing a music game to Disney’s Fantasia? Heck yeah, please! And it’ll use Kinect. Now, I hear folks groaning, but if you’ve played the Dance Central series, you know that Harmonix is one of the only developers to really have a handle on what the Kinect can really do. Dance Central was an amazing piece of software, and a complete blast, so I’m actually willing to pick up this game sight-unseen based on the company’s previous reputation.
But Fantasia: Music Evolved is more than just a rhythm game. It’s like a music creation game. You’re still performing actions to the game, but you can adjust instruments along the way, change how the song sounds, make your own drum solos, and so on. It’s very much just play, with music.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix - ??? 2014
Kingdom Hearts is another stand-by series for me. I love the combat, and I rather enjoy seeing Disney characters in different worlds and the soundtracks that go with them. Part nostalgia, part ARPG. This rerelease of games sees the “Final Mix” versions of Kingdom Hearts II and Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep in high definition on the PS3, which originally came out for the PS2 and the PSP, respectively.
Kingdom Hearts was a fun game, but the original suffered flaws with the camera system and control system that were honestly pretty hard to get by (and going back to them on the 1.5 Remix was painful), Kingdom Hearts II fixed all of that and layered a deep combat system on top. The story wasn’t too shabby either. Birth by Sleep’s story and characters were much better done, and the combat system was a little simpler, but still just as fun.
The series as a whole has an incredibly convoluted story, but I don’t really find it that hard to follow myself. But frankly, you don’t need to actually follow the meta-story across the series to enjoy each individual game. Still, super excited for this one.
Tales of Xillia 2 - ??? 2014
The original Tales of Xillia followed in the footsteps of a long line of Tales games with more great characters, and a really good story this time around, along with a compelling evolution on the Tales combat system. The end of the first game leaves us with a world in flux, where great changes are occurring, and the second game takes place one year later in the aftermath of that great event. Where Final Fantasy seeks to reinvent itself entirely every game, the Tales series is a bit like JRPG comfort food. Baby steps, rather than giant leaps, but at the same time they’re always high quality releases that are pretty entertaining, so this one for me is an automatic must get.
Hearthstone - ??? 2014
Surprisingly, I’m not actually that excited for Hearthstone on the PC. On the iPad, however, I am ecstatic. A game played in 10 – 15 minute increments seems perfect for my bus rides, so if I can play it over my cell connection on my tablet, that will be perfect, whereas when I’m actually at my computer at home, I usually want to play something a bit meatier, like WoW itself. Still, the game is fun and has an active metagame. Time will tell if Blizzard can continue to evolve the game past release to really give it legs.
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor - ??? 2014
For me, duh. Garrisons, and more raids to complete next expansion. I’m guessing/hoping it’ll get released by early summer of 2014, but we shall see.
And that's it for games that are announced as far as I'm aware. And it also doesn't really include all the cool indie stuff that is coming up, nor does it really include much for the latter half of the year. We'll have to wait and see what kind of juicy games will happen then. Perhaps PAX East will reveal some of those secrets. Until then, I know my plate will be really full!