To me, 2014 is the year of hope. All of the next gen consoles have been released. Several games have been announced for them. Now, we all wait in anticipation, hoping the games will be as good as the developers say they are. We spent a lot of money on these consoles. We want revolutionary games that will make that money worth it.
I have looked at the games that are expected to release in 2014 and made my predictions on the best in each genre. In general, I do not cover game genres that I do not play. However, this year there are several big games in other genres that have won awards in the past. I decided to add a Special Mentions section for these games. I am not experienced in those genres, but their franchise histories are enough to warrant possible contention for Game of the Year awards.
I make my predictions based on a combination of factors, such as the hype surrounding the game, the developer’s history of games released, the previous games in the series if it is a sequel, and what I personally think from the preview footage of the game. I generally weight full game releases higher than expansion packs. An expansion pack has to be perfect to beat a new full game. Unless the company has history of making superb expansion packs, I usually will not even include them in the list of contenders.
Other Contenders: Destiny, Sunset Overdrive, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Halo (Xbox One), Call of Duty 2014, Quantum Break, Tom Clancy’s The Division
It feels like a slow year for Action games. There are just a few select titles coming out, but they are big ones. Right now, most of the hype is surrounding Titanfall and Destiny. I am not sure if they will live up to the hype, but both will do enough to cement their places at first and second for the year. Of the two, I am picking Titanfall simply because there is a lot more information available about it.
Titanfall’s walker mechs add a whole new set of interactions to the FPS genre. You can take control of them as expected but can also ride on a friendly or enemy mech to support or cause trouble. The game also has parkour elements such as running along and climbing vertical walls, with jetpacks allowing for double jumps over long distances. It appears to have just enough new and old to get good reviews and appeal to all Action game fans. It will be the top Action game of 2014.
Destiny also has a lot of hype though. Many are calling Destiny a MMO, but it seems to group players together like every other shooter. Unless there is a large world where anyone can connect with anyone else, it is not a MMO in my eyes. I think players will be able to collectively influence the world somehow as they play, but for the most part it will play like a lobby-based shooter. There will be some metagame connecting all of the individual games together.
I am pretty sure Destiny will be a free game with a cash shop. Those types of games do well initially, but interest usually falls off after a few months. Since Destiny is coming out late in the year, the frenzy might still be enough for it to beat Titanfall, but Titanfall is definitely the safe bet. I might change my mind if the developers released more details on Destiny, but very little is known about the actual gameplay at this point.
Sunset Overdrive is an open world, zombie shooter game from Insomniac Games (Ratchet & Clank, Resistance). Combine Saints Row’s craziness with Dead Rising’s zombie slaughterhouse, and you have Sunset Overdrive. It will have parkour elements just like Titanfall. I do not see a whole lot of newness in the game mechanics — parkour was done in Brink back in 2011 — but the developers have a really good track record. I think they will be able to pull it off. It will score around 8.5 but is not going to win any awards simply because there too many other good games releasing this year.
The original Hotline Miami scored very high, consistently getting high 8’s. It sold more than enough to be very profitable for the tiny development team, just not enough to get the huge player interest that wins awards. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number will be more of the same. Even if they just add new levels, it will score at least 8.5. If they add in some new mechanics, it could go up to 9.0. Sales will be better than the first game, but still not enough to win many awards.
Even though barely any information is available, Microsoft says a new Halo (speculated as Halo 5) will be out this year. Like the past Halo games, its Xbox exclusivity will prevent it from getting major awards. Now Titanfall is also Xbox exclusive, but it is also adding enough new gameplay possibilities to offset the lower sales and interest that causes. Basically, Halo games play the same every time. They have become like Call of Duty. The Halo games are better than the Call of Duty games, but they still need regular innovations to reach the top.
I cannot forget Call of Duty after writing about Halo. There will, of course, be a new installment this year — it looks to be Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4 — but I am expecting it to get similar low scores that it got in 2013. The graphics will be better, being matched up with the new console hardware. That will push up the review scores to an 8.0 average, but there is just too much competition this year from original titles for it to make a dent.
Last on my list are Quantum Break and Tom Clancy’s The Division, not because they will be bad, but because I do not think they will be coming out in 2014. Quantum Break could possibly release in 2014, but they are doing the whole TV show thing like Defiance last year. Defiance showed how hard it is to make a game that fits within TV episodes. The developers will take extra time to make sure it works. Tom Clancy’s The Division is so ambitious and so early in development, I do not think there is a chance it comes out in 2014, despite what the publisher, Ubisoft, says. It might be better classified as a MMO, but it is too early to tell.
Winner: Watch Dogs
Other Contenders: The Order: 1886, Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes, Infamous: Second Son, Thief, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, Dying Light, The Evil Within, Fortnite, Bayonetta 2
There are quite a few big releases in the Action/Adventure category this year. Despite all the new announcements, I am still going with Watch Dogs as my pick for top Action/Adventure Game of the Year. The possibilities are endless for a game that lets you hack into any electronic device. I predict it to get a 9 out of 10 as well as very high sales.
The next one in my list has to be The Order: 1886. It is set in the King Arthur mythology during the industrial revolution, with a half beast / half human threat. It is a combination of fantasy, real history, and science fiction, which to me sounds like it could be a really interesting setting. You play 4 knights who are part of a team to fight the “hybrids”. Aside from the setting, there has not been a whole lot of gameplay information released. The setting is enough for me though. I predict it will be getting 9 out of 10 or at least a high 8.
Two-parters usually do not get the best reviews. It ends up feeling like a cash grab to a lot of players. That is what Konami is doing with Metal Gear Solid 5. However, Metal Gear Solid games have historically received very high marks and been very popular, so I am picking Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes to be third this year. A lot of players feel they have too much story and not enough gameplay, but that does not seem to lower the sales or review scores.
Most of the remaining games, I see being about even at 8.5 or higher. Some of them will get more sales than others, but not enough to compete with the above titles. Infamous Second Son will sell the most with a lot of hype behind it, but it will not get amazing reviews. The previous games have been in the mid 8’s. This third game will score the same. There was a lot of hype behind Thief as well until the developers explained how they had replaced some stealth elements with more action-heavy elements. To me that means it will feel similar to Assassin’s Creed, scoring 8.5 and getting pretty good sales.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 1 got good reviews. The sequel will be more of the same, getting similar reviews and unit sales. Dying Light has an interesting day/night cycle with zombies being strong in the nighttime and players being strong in the daytime. Other than that, it does not really have any new game mechanics to keep things interesting. It will score similarly to Techland’s Dead Island.
The Evil Within will unfortunately do poorly. First of all, traditional-style survival horror games just do not sell very well these days. They can get good reviews, but sales are always low. The Amnesia series is proof of that. That might be enough for an indie game, but not for a bigger budget game. Also, Japanese studios have not been producing the stellar titles they did in the past. I want this game to do well — I personally like old school survival horror — but there are too many conditions for it to be an amazing game.
Fortnite and Bayonetta 2 are the delayed games on the list. I do not expect them release this year. In Fortnite’s case it is because Epic Games has been so quiet about it since the initial announcement. To me that means it is very far from completion. Bayonetta 2 is for a similar reason. Nintendo has not shown it much in their recent preview videos, and we still have almost zero gameplay footage.
Winner: The Witcher 3
Other Contenders: South Park: The Stick of Truth, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Kingdom Hearts 3, Dark Souls 2, Final Fantasy 15, Divinity: Original Sin, Lightning Returns FF13, Mass Effect 4, Pillars of Eternity (formerly Project Eternity), Grim Dawn, X (Wii U), Wasteland 2, Persona 5
The Witcher 2 easily won RPG of the Year in its release year. The Witcher 3 will do the same. CD Projekt RED, the developers, are making it an open world this time, and claim it will be bigger than Skyrim. Imagine a game as big as Skyrim but actually having good character development and story. If they pull it off, there is no doubt it will win the awards. Even if they cannot, it should still do as well as Skyrim did, which was easily RPG of the Year in 2011 and also won many Game of the Year awards.
Last year South Park: The Stick of Truth had a really good chance to win. It was not the best year for RPGs in 2013, so there was space for a smaller budget game to do well. This year, nothing will be able to compete with The Witcher 3. Still, I expect it to score around the 8.5 to 9.0, easily making it the highest rated South Park game ever made. That is good enough for a second place spot.
When it comes to Dragon Age: Inquisition, players are cautiously optimistic. After the disaster that was Dragon Age 2, EA/Bioware seem to have learned their lesson. They are giving this game a lot more time than Dragon Age 2 had. I expect the game to be a hybrid of Dragon Age: Origins and the sequel. The main protagonist will be voiced like Dragon Age 2, while the world will be more open to explore like Origins. This is another game I expect to get 8.5. Most players will see it as an improvement over Dragon Age 2, but it is not going to break any sales records or win awards.
Kingdom Hearts has a great history. Every game has consistently scored well and sold well. This will be Square Enix’s highest selling RPG of the year. Despite that I still do not expect it to do more than 8.5. The sales will be enough to pull it ahead of many of these mid 8’s games though.
Dark Souls 2 is another 8.5. The previous games were great, but this sequel feels like more of the same. Developers need to be constantly adding new gameplay mechanics if they want to maintain the review score. A recent example is the Arkham series. The newest game failed to add anything to new to the gameplay, and the reviewers gave it lower reviews. In addition, Demon/Dark Souls is a hardcore series. A lot of players are intimidated and will avoid a game like this.
Divinity: Original Sin is looking more promising the more I read about it. It is one of the last games in the PC Action RPG revival started by Torchlight. Unlike Beyond Divinity and Divinity 2, Larian Studios, the developers, are going back to their roots. The original Divinity scored the highest out of all the Divinity games. I expect this game to be a refinement over the original, and score 8.5 or higher. Since it is more of an independent title, it is not going to have huge sales, keeping it out of the top.
Next, are two Final Fantasy games. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13 concludes the story of the Lightning character. It will be an okay game, but Final Fantasy 13 has been tarnished too much to get attention. This is very much a game for fans, not new players looking to try their first console RPG. It will get an average 8.0 score. Final Fantasy 15 will be an improvement over 13, but not a huge one. I see the combat system being much more fun but the exploration elements still too limited for a RPG. It will get 8.5.
Every year there are several games that miss deadlines and do not come out until the next year. I predict Mass Effect 4, Pillars of Eternity, Grim Dawn, X (Wii U), Wasteland 2, and Persona 5 will not be out in 2014. Some of these games are in early access and do not feel polished enough to release this year to me. Others appear to be very early in development.
Winner: Galactic Civilizations 3
Other Contenders: Heroes of the Storm, Stronghold: Crusader 2, Tropico 5, Total War: Arena, Massive Chalice
There year it is a battle between mainstream and niche strategy games. In one corner is Galactic Civilizations 3. The previous game was an amazing strategy game easily as good as Alpha Centauri and Master of Orion before it. Stardock made a lot of mistakes with Elemental: War of Magic, but they corrected almost all of them in the massive expansions afterwards. Galactic Civilizations 3 will get the highest reviews this year in strategy games.
In the other corner is Heroes of the Storm. It will not be praised for being innovative or creative, but it will have that signature Blizzard polish that creates extremely popular games. A lot of players think Blizzard has lost their touch, but not me. Yes, they have made a lot of mistakes, but they have shown signs of the golden touch in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Heroes of the Storm being free to play will be much more popular than Galactic Civilizations 3, but GalCiv 3 this year will get much higher review scores. I believe Galactic Civilizations 3 will sell enough to get the attention needed for year-end awards. We will just have to see how things end up.
I do not expect much new from Stronghold: Crusader 2 or Tropico 5, but previous games have been successful. Stronghold: Crusader got surprisingly good reviews for a game from a small studio. I expect the sequel to score just as well, the mid 8’s. Tropico is a series that is fun to play, but you never buy every game. They definitely have a niche as a quirky strategy game that is happy to poke fun at itself, but there usually is not enough new to buy every sequel. Tropico 5 will score similarly to the previous game, high 7’s.
Total War: Arena came out of nowhere, and that is a bad thing in this case. It looks to be combining RTS and MOBA elements to make some sort of Arena combat game. It is little too ambitious. The Creative Assembly has been hit or miss with their Total War games, even though they have a lot of experience making these games. I do not think they have the skills to pull this game off. I expect it to be like Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes, killed off in beta or shortly after release.
There is only one strategy game I predict to miss 2014: Massive Chalice. This is Double Fine game, the second of their crowd-funded games. They have shown very little gameplay. Judging by the success of their Kickstarter, they will spend extra time on it. They are not afraid of taking that extra time. If it does come out this year, I predict it to be second or third place.
Winner: Everquest Next: Landmark
Other Contenders: Wildstar, The Elder Scrolls Online, Warlords of Draenor, Trove
This year I only see a few major MMOs that could win awards. The early part of the year will be focused on Everquest Next: Landmark and The Elder Scrolls Online. Landmark is the first part of Everquest Next. The Landmark portion of the game will allows players to create their own objects and environments for use in the later Everquest Next MMO. Last year I predicted Neverwinter to do well because of its Forge dungeon creator, but Landmark looks to give players even more freedom. This will be the moment of truth for player creation in MMOs, and I predict it to be a huge success. It will be the MMO Game of the Year.
Wildstar and The Elder Scrolls Online will be competing for the second place spot. Between the two Wildstar will do better. I predict the subscription model will fail for both games, and both will go free to play. It will happen much sooner to The Elder Scrolls Online though. It will really be a mirror image of Star Wars: The Old Republic’s failure. The Old Republic failed to replicate the gameplay of the Knights of the Old Republic games. They did add the most story ever in a MMORPG, but gameplay was just too different compared to the single player games. The Elder Scrolls Online is even more different than its single player games, switching from first-person to third-person and focusing more on action than exploration. It is a recipe for failure.
On the other hand, Wildstar will do about as well as Rift. It will be able to stay subscription-only for a few years, but will eventually have to switch to free to play as well. It will have some unique gameplay mechanics compared to the typical themepark MMO and an interesting world to explore, but it will not be able to set itself apart enough from World of Warcraft (WoW). I do think it will temporarily lower WoW subscription numbers though.
Now we come to Warlords of Draenor, the next World of Warcraft expansion. It is going to sell a little less than Mists of Pandaria, the previous WoW expansion. The game is in a slow decline now. It will never be going back to its heights. Subscription numbers will rise to around 8 million after Warlords of Draenor and will later bottom out around 7 million for the remainder of the expansion cycle.
Trove is an ambitious game by Trion Worlds (Rift) like Everquest Next: Landmark, but I do not see it releasing in 2014. There are still a lot of details that have to be ironed out before they can even begin to think about a beta. If the beta does start in 2014 it will be very late in the year. Also, some of Trion’s games have been in development limbo for years. Trove could be one of those games that is just too hard to hammer down unless you are swimming in money like Sony Online Entertainment is.
Contenders: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Broken Age
There are several game genres I do not normally make predictions for. Some game genres I do not follow very much, not having the time or money to play the games. However, sometimes there are games with a lot of hype or past success behind them that are impossible to ignore. There are two games this year that could possibly steal Game of the Year awards if they live up to all the hype.
Super Smash Bros. always does well. It usually scores at least 8.5 or above, and past games have also sold well. Sales will probably be less due to Wii U’s low installed base, but the games could really blow players away. If they are big enough games, they could possibly pull the Wii U out of the downward spiral it is currently in. If it is a perfect game like Super Mario Galaxy, it could win many Game of the Year awards.
Broken Age, an adventure game, is Double Fine’s first Kickstarter game to release. It will probably be the first big crowdfunded game to actually release. There have already been success stories with low budget crowdfunded games, but Broken Age’s release will show everyone if big budget crowdfunded games can turn out well. I personally believe it will not live up to everyone’s expectations. It will not be the next Grim Fandango. It will easily get 8.5, but very few will consider it so breathtaking that everyone needs to play it.
Overall Game of the Year
Winner: The Witcher 3
Other Contenders: Watch Dogs, Titanfall, The Order: 1886, Everquest Next: Landmark, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Destiny, Galactic Civilizations 3, Broken Age
The Witcher 2 was a massive success, but The Witcher 3 is even bigger. Most developers would not be able to pull it off, but CD Projekt RED can. I see tons of hype already. It will only get bigger as the game gets closer to release. Of course, the game could be delayed to 2015. Outside of that, The Witcher 3 will be the 2014 Game of the Year.
If The Witcher 3 does not get it, one of these fine games is sure to take it:
The Top Ten Games of 2014
- The Witcher 3
- Watch Dogs
- The Order: 1886
- Everquest Next: Landmark
- Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
- South Park: The Stick of Truth
- Galactic Civilizations 3
- Broken Age
Any of these could potentially steal the Game of the Year awards if The Witcher 3 does not turn out as well as I expect.
Here’s to 2014 being a great year for games. I hope all the games turn out well, developers make lots of money, and players have tons of fun.