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Friday, June 14, 2024

Aggie Arcade: Your weekly dose of video games

Best of 2014 (So Far)

All good things must come to an end. Graduation is just around the corner, so this marks the final edition of the Aggie Arcade. But sappy goodbyes are boring — let’s talk about great video games instead.

The first half of 2014 has seen plenty of enjoyable releases, but a few games stand out among the crowd. One of those games — Transistor — came out just last week. It’s the newest project from developer Supergiant Games, the team behind 2011’s critically acclaimed Bastion. Let’s just say they avoided a sophomore slump.

Transistor‘s greatest strength and weakness is its ambition. It tells a complex story of identity and technology that lacks a much-needed emotional punch, but it makes up for it with a gorgeous sci-fi world and deep combat system.

I became addicted to Transistor‘s action/strategy hybrid combat and its insistence on experimentation and careful planning. It reminds me of games like Valkyria Chronicles and XCOM: Enemy Unknown in that overt aggression works against the player. Thoughtful decisions and patience are the keys to success.

And though I found the narrative to be disappointing, the way in which Supergiant Games crafts a unique and highly detailed world always makes for a memorable experience. Years from now I’ll still fondly recall Transistor‘s Cloudbank city.

I loved my time with Transistor, but Dark Souls II and TowerFall Ascension are my two favorite games of 2014 so far. Both have been discussed in previous editions of the Aggie Arcade, but it’s worth repeating why they leave such a huge impression.

Anyone who knows me knows my passion for the Souls series. It challenges players and truly tests their resolve, but victory and the ensuing sense of accomplishment stands as the series’ greatest achievement. Dark Souls II retains that distinctive feeling and makes some important mechanical changes in the process.

I still prefer the original Dark Souls, but the sequel provides another unforgettable experience with terrifying bosses and even more terrifying environments. Even at its worst, it trumps most RPGs out there.

TowerFall Ascension, on the other hand, captures the nostalgic joy of my youth. It reminds me of when my brother and I would play multi-player games together in the same room. Now the industry continues to push online multi-player, but games like TowerFall still remind us how fun local multi-player can be.

It helps that the game itself emphasizes the importance of smart game design. At its core it’s a simple 2D archery game, but the way in which TowerFall factors in different arrow types, environmental hazards and player movement makes for a fun game outside of the appeal of local multi-player.

As I said, there are plenty of other 2014 releases that I have enjoyed, but Transistor, Dark Souls II and TowerFall Ascension are my clear favorites. I can’t wait to see what the rest of 2014 has in store.

Now it’s time to close the Aggie Arcade. Thanks for reading!

ANTHONY LABELLA can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.




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