The following games on this list exceeded my expectations for this year, whether that means I wasn’t expecting as much from them or they came out of no where to really floor me. Isn’t that the best feeling though? Nothing quite like giving a game a chance and being pleasantly surprised in the end. The following games on this list are my favorite surprise games this year.
And the winners are…
DmC: Devil May Cry
Ninja Theory seemed to be in a losing battle from the beginning after redesigning the lead character of Dante to fit within the world they were creating. Traditionalists and franchise fans were outraged and some even swore off the title before seeing or playing the game. It was their loss because DmC: Devil May Cry is one of the best action games I’ve played this year. The story and world is a sort of reboot or offshoot from the previous games. Dante this time around is a young man, seemingly living life without a cause or care. He’s brash, overly confident, and is soon pulled into a conflict between demons and a rebel group called The Order. What’s great about this game outside of the stellar controls is the world itself. As Dante is pulled into this parallel plane called Limbo, the environment he’s in seems to shift and change itself almost like it’s taunting the main character. DmC: Devil May Cry is fast, fluid, and a hell of a lot of fun to play. As it seems with Ninja Theory games, even though the game was well made and executed, sales just didn’t seem to follow unfortunately.
I picked this game up on a whim during the Steam Summer Sale so I pretty much had no expectations going in. Needless to say, it’s addicting and super fun even though it can really kick your ass as well. You have your core roguelike elements: randomly generated dungeons, bosses that need beating, and a higher than normal (but fair) difficulty. The twist with Rogue Legacy is that when you’re character dies, you then get to pick from three randomly generated heirs to continue the quest. Each heir has unique traits and abilities including genetic based charactistics such as ADHD, color blindness, and dementia to name a few. Each alters the game in various ways and ensures that each playthrough is extremely unique. While the game encourages short runs, there’s a large progression system where the player can spend gold on new passive upgrades and gear. For a game that I had very little knowledge going into, Rogue Legacy has me hooked.
Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons
Pretty much the same story as Rogue Legacy, minus the whole Steam Summer Sale part. I had heard overly good things from other people so my curiosity grew. Almost immediately, this downloadable title from Starbreeze Studios sucked me in with it’s fantastic art style and extremely cinematic way of telling a story. The core gameplay revolves around the interaction between two brothers and the world around them. The player will use them to solve puzzles and obstacles in their quest to save their ailing father. What I also really enjoyed was seeing how the different NPCs in this world reacted differently to each brother. If you love cinematic experiences like Journey or even a game like Fable, you should definitely check out Brothers. It’s one of the most unique and satisfying experiences of this year.
Batman: Arkham Origins
Is it fair to say that expectations were lower for Origins prior to release due to the fact that a brand new studio had taken over development from the beloved Rocksteady? As it turns out, WB Montreal developed an outstanding Batman game that really is able to stand on it’s own two feet and tell a great story. Much of the gameplay remains unchanged from previous games, outside of a handful of new gadgets and abilities. The real hook for me was the story and seeing how a relatively green Batman managed to deal with the issues facing him. On Christmas Eve, Black Mask places a $50 million bounty on Batman’s head and invites nine top assassin’s to come and basically hunt him down. From there, the player will go through many twists and turns in this open world action game, which will also give players ample things to do outside of the core campaign. The voice acting took me by surprise the most as longtime vets Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill have steps down from their icon roles and gave way to Roger Craig Smith and Troy Baker. Both men really nailed their performances and made both Batman and the Joker their own. The game started off a little slow but once it got going, I couldn’t put it down.
Sometimes all you want in the summer is a game where you can shut your brain off for a while and have fun. Activision’s Deadpool is just such a game. What’s kind of ironic here is that the game didn’t exactly inspire confidence leading up to it’s release with Activision delaying the game, reducing it’s price by 10 dollars off the standard rate, and even firing a number of employees from High Moon a few months prior to launch. As it stands, Deadpool is a game that turned out better than I thought and is a solid action hack and slash game. Where the game succeeds is that instead of trying to be something it’s not, High Moon made sure the game excels at one thing: being fun. Through a simple progression system, high quality Nolan North voice acting, constant fourth wall breaking and enough cannon fodder to slice and dice your way through, Deadpool is a short but extremely fun ride through the Marvel universe.