Features & News

End of Year 2014: Best Story

December 19, 2014, Author: The TIMJ Team

Welcome to the fifth of eleven daily ‘End of Year’ pieces from TIMJ, where in each, we discuss our favourite things of 2014 from carefully selected categories.

Next up is ‘Best Story’. Which plots kept our team members on the edge of their seats?

James Sheppard (Reviews Editor) – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Out of all of the categories I’ve had to pick a winner for this year, ‘Best Story’ has been by far the easiest. That’s because my pick for this category has probably one of the best stories I’ve ever experienced in a video-game. For what Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc lacks as an accessible game title, it more than makes up for with a seriously deep and fascinating narrative.

The initial premise is just as ridiculous as the title: an evil bear called Monokuma traps you and fifteen other students in a school for the ‘ultimately’ talented. You’re told that the only way to escape is to kill one of your classmates, but with each murder comes a class trial – and if you’re found out, you’re executed in one of a variety of imaginative, grisly ways. Suspend your disbelief, however, and you’ll be treated to a wonderfully dark string of intrigue, despair and murder mysteries.

Each case is elaborately constructed, rapidly jumping in suspicion from one suspect to the next. What’s impressive is how well Danganronpa can pull the wool over your eyes, with surprising twists and turns thrown at you constantly. It’s utterly absorbing.

Runners up: The Last of Us Remastered, Final Fantasy X HD Remaster

Andy Buick (Features Editor) – The Walking Dead Season 2

TWDF

While it doesn’t quite live up to the first season from what I’ve played so far (I’m not sure many games could, it was that good), it’s still wonderful storytelling. Telltale are never afraid to pull the rug from under your feet, but more importantly they keep creating characters that are never short of totally believable, and that you can’t help caring about.

Runners up: Child of Light, InFamous: First Light

Dan Moore (Staff Writer) - Transistor

The ability to create a universe that feels real, like it has always been there before you picked up the controller, is something few developers can do, yet, after just two games, Supergiant Games have managed to show that they are real masters. Just as Bastion was my favourite story in the year it was released, its follow up, Transistor, is one of the best this year too.

Centering on heroine Red, Transistor has you pick up a sentient sword known as ‘The Transistor’ and work out what is happening in the city you’re placed in. There is no overt back-story; this world has always just been there, alive and kicking, for years before your involvement. As you start to play, the story builds around you, because Red and The Transistor discover things as you do; what is happening and why; who the bad guys really are, and what motivates them. It is a great story told very subtlety, but very well indeed, and I cannot wait for the next game from these guys.

Runners up: Halo: Master Chief Collection, The Last of Us Remastered

Andy Corrigan (Editor In Chief) – Valiant Hearts: The Great War

The best story I’ve experienced this year is the only one that brought actual tears to my eyes.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a cartoon-styled, side-scrolling puzzle game by Ubisoft. Set during World War 1, it sets itself apart from other war games through a number of clever directions.

Most importantly in terms of this category, however, it has you playing both sides of the war through its five main characters, who are all connected by family ties or friendship. This helps to blur the lines between the tropes of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’, and through its focus on people rather than the war itself, it gut-punched me more than once and, by the end, I felt like a wreck.

The plot is endearing, charming and emotionally charged; this is a game with real heart. One of the most important war games ever made? I think so. Utterly fantastic.

Runners Up: Wolfenstien: The New Order, Danganronpa 1/2

Matt Parker (News Editor) – The Wolf Among Us

TWAF

This was a tough one. No story really grabbed me like it might have in previous years. That being said, I think my winner is pretty deserving – I’ve gone for The Wolf Among Us.

Much like other Telltale games, The Wolf Among Us uses its episodic nature to its advantage, leaving the player wanting more at the end of each chapter. The tale’s full of grey areas and there’s very few ‘goodies’ or ‘baddies’, just lots of tough choices to be made.

It’s a good sign that after five episodes and many hours, I’m really looking forward to seeing what else the Fables get up to. Great stuff.

Runners Up: Transistor, The Swapper

Matt Best (Staff Writer) – Wolfenstein: The New Order

This came down to two main choices, Wolfenstein: The New Order, and Valiant Hearts: The Great War, but for different reasons.

In the end, however, I would have to say Wolfenstein: The New Order. Whereas Valiant Hearts told a tight and emotional story, the re-imagining of a Nazi-ruled world Post WWII won me over. The well considered storyline ticked all of the boxes. It was sometimes shocking, even frightening, but that was adequately contrasted with times of humour and tenderness.

There was a depth to it that extended beyond the typical ‘go here and blow this up because reasons’ that you often see in first-person shooters. I found myself caring about the characters and didn’t once find myself thinking ‘wait, what am I doing this for again?’

All games tell a story, one way or another, but there’s only a few which nail it, not just in tone, but in length. This is one of those few.

Runners Up: Valiant Hearts: The Great War, Freedom Wars

Jonn Blanchard (Staff Writer) – South Park: The Stick of Truth

South Park has had its fair share of bad games, but Stick of Truth turned out to be a true diamond. The story is relatively simplistic. During fantasy playtime, the Stick of Truth is stolen from Cartman and the gang, and they have to get it back. Simple, but the way it’s told makes it a true work of art. The story is absolutely true to the show’s style and with its irreverent humour and quirky twists and plot devices, it complements it perfectly.

This is no accident as the shows creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, took a completely hands-on approach. It shows in the high production values and great voice work. The single most important thing, though, is that you could take this storyline and make a standalone cartoon and it would completely work.

I realise this isn’t the most sophisticated story, but it’s well told and brilliantly produced.

Runners Up: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Thief

Jade Sayers (Staff Writer) – The Wolf Among Us

I know that a game has been good when it infiltrates every scope of my life, and minutes after finishing the final episode of The Wolf Among Us, I was on the internet to buy volumes of Fables, the graphic novel on which it is based.

The Wolf Among Us resonated to me on so many levels, and the story was the deepest connection I have felt with a game for a while. I really cared about the characters, and in only the way Telltale Games can do, I found myself agonising over every choice I had to make, and replayed each episode multiple times to squeeze every last drop out of it and see where I could take the story and my beloved characters.

Runners Up: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Persona Q

Jasper Pickering (Staff Writer) – Stick it to the Man

My favourite story of 2014 was Stick it to the Man. The reason for this is that it did something that very few games do any more: it was funny.

I’m not talking about a chuckle here, a soundless snort of badly masked contentment there, but a genuinely consistent riot. The dialogue was hilarious and it possessed the bizarre logic that you would expect from a pseudo-adventure game.

It reminded me of the good ol’ days of classic Schafer-esque, humorous storytelling and more games need to have the capacity to make me laugh like this one did.

Runners Up: Transistor,  Broken Age pt 1