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The best PC games of 2014

best PC games 2014

2014 ended up being a classic year for PC gaming. Nostalgia-funded dreams became new favourites thanks to Kickstarters, friendships were broken over repeated games of Warcraft cards, and we found everlasting love in the eyes of a pigeon.

Not one for looking backwards? In that case you might want to head over to our carefully curated list of the best PC games to play right now.

If you found yourself momentarily distracted for twelve months and have no idea what games you should have played in 2014, take a look at this handy list to find out what you missed.

Alien: Isolation

Best PC games 2014 Alien: Isolation

Horror games fall apart at the seams as soon as you notice how those seams have been stitched together. The moment you figure out how an enemy works – how close to it you can get without it noticing you, how large its cone of vision is, how long it will search for you for before giving up and returning to a pre-scripted patrol route – the mystery of that enemy evaporates and along with it goes the thing’s ability to frighten you. So it’s legitimately terrifying to discover that Alien: Isolation’s big alien fellow is designed to react differently every time you play; granted animal-like behaviours that plug straight into the fear centres of your brain.

The badly-lit corridors of Creative Assembly’s first-person survival story belong to the xenomorph. Its movement, the noises it makes, its impossible predatory skill – it’s all immediately evocative of the original Ridley Scott film. Isolation is almost so good that you’ll forget Colonial Marines ever existed. Almost.

Elite: Dangerous

Best PC games 2014 Elite: Dangerous

David Braben’s crowdfunded sequel to the seminal space classic, Elite: Dangerous defeated all odds to come good on its promise of a galaxy of interstellar adventuring for its backers to explore.

Moving through systems leaves you slightly in awe of the scope and scale of the worlds you’re travelling between, a feat that’s helped along by a creaking, groaning soundscape of rocketing frameshift drives and churning space engines. Your ears will believe you’re in a battered old boat that’s breaking several laws of physics just to deliver a load of vegetables to the next star. Visually too, the fidelity and slickness of the most basic actions in Elite: Dangerous totally sell the idea of space travel. Its void can feel lonely and desolate, even now Frontier have expanded on their original vision, but the very simple joy of flying through it can’t be denied, and should probably be experienced by everybody.

Broken Age

Best PC games 2014 Broken Age

Broken Age tells the story of two children living separate lives: Vella, who must be eaten by a monster for ceremonial reasons, and Shay, a boy who saves aliens with the help of a wolf. The player flits freely back and forth between their two worlds – both of which are more compelling than any Double Fine have built before. Most of the puzzles are fun and not too finicky, such that you can rattle through them at a decent pace, and more easily take in its story of two young adults so desperate to throw away childish things and break out of iffy norms that they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

After years of seeing Tim Schafer take a backseat as studio head, there’s a refreshing jolt every time you recognise his voice jump snarkily from the mouths of either of his protagonists. The fact that Part 2’s puzzles accidentally revived the frustration inherent in LucasArts’ classics couldn’t diminish this quirky, heartfelt, outstanding point-and-click adventure game.

Hearthstone

Best PC games 2014 Hearthstone

Blizzard’s incredibly popular card battler left beta in 2014 with a buzzing community and a metagame already in constant evolution. It’s since become the liveliest game on PC, convincingly taking turn-based gaming into arenas and onto streams for the first time. It’s a bona fide brain sport.

Hearthstone isn’t interested in your capacity for trash talking opponents, or flipping tables, or building card pyramids. It’s only interested in your mind, and what it does when presented with part of a deck at the start of a new turn. You know when you sit down to play 15 minutes of Hearthstone that you’ll get a proper game in – because it only does proper games. And that when you win, it’ll be a real, cerebral victory. Your brain will have championed over somebody else’s, simple as – and you’ll get to feel quietly smug for at least an hour. Hearthstone is the best of you.

The Banner Saga

Best PC games 2014 The Banner Saga

The Banner Saga is a story-driven tactical RPG played from multiple perspectives. Burly vikings and horned giants clash with monstrous stone demons in turn-based combat and travel across a Norse-inspired fantasy world while attempting to manage supplies and lives. You’re journeying against a backdrop of huge snow-capped mountains and monolithic statues dedicated to unknowable gods. Though the hulking varl loom over their human comrades, they seem positively tiny in that lonely, frozen and exquisitely beautiful land.

The fighting mirrors the desperation of the caravan manangement – your warriors becoming weaker as the Dredge stick them with pointy objects. When a warrior dies, the loss is significant; when members of the caravan starve, it’s a personal failure. And it’s through the individuals along for the ride that we slowly learn about this world; not through wordy over-exposition, but through short, meaningful conversations. The Banner Saga is a masterpiece of sad, subtle storytelling.

Banished

Best PC games 2014 Banished

A year before Cities: Skylines repopulated the genre, we had this cruel medieval city builder – where the lives of the citizens under your protection are at the mercy of freezing cold winters, plague-bringing nomads and the looming threat of starvation. Lumber, iron, stone, food – these resources can turn a tiny colony of exiles into a burgeoning city, but they aren’t the most important resources in Banished. That honour goes to people. They are born, get jobs, educations, start families and eventually die. Management is a juggling act, demanding that players attempt to balance growth with stability, because starvation and death are only ever one disaster or unexpected population boom away.

Everybody dies over and over again in this city-builder, to hunger, to pestilence, to cold, to fever. They’d be throwing themselves against the sharp edges of the UI if they could, such is their powerfully absent instinct for self-preservation. Banished asks for caution and patience – and as such remains unlike most everything else in contemporary gaming.

Titanfall

Best PC games 2014 Titanfall

Titanfall’s magic is in its leaping. Leaping out of dropships, leaping through windows, leaping off billboards, leaping along walls, leaping onto robots, leaping off of robots as they detonate in a weirdly-not-that-deadly nuclear explosion. The stompier option isn’t the trudge it could be, either. Titans can run full pelt – and there’s true happiness to be found in chasing a man into the confines of a highrise where they think they’ll be safe, only to fire a cluster missile inside and turn the floor into an endless explosion party.

This is a superb multiplayer shooter: built to please the hordes that savour Call of Duty, but accessible to everyone. It’s funny and knowing: note the little robot face that smiles as you exit to war, the vaguely Portal-like tutorial, and the endless waves of grunts that die for your pleasure. Mega-budget triple-A first-person shooters can inspire cynicism. Yet somehow, Titanfall inspires joy.

South Park: The Stick of Truth

Best PC games 2014 South Park: The Stick of Truth

Possessing a copy of The Stick of Truth is like owning something utterly illicit. Breaking into the homes of South Park’s residents and stealing their sex toys, defecating in their loos, leaving the shower running or catching them in compromising positions is not entirely unlike sneaking into a pub when you’re 15. You know you probably shouldn’t be doing it, and if anyone catches you they’ll frown and probably shake their heads. Awful stuff.

But it’s entirely worth the risk of someone walking in and finding you carrying gargantuan dildos while listening to a racist child singing about a waterpark. Underneath the gags and grotesqueness is incredible design. This was Obsidian’s best role-playing game until Pillars of Eternity, seamlessly blending FInal Fantasy combat with Metroidvania style exploration. Somehow it crams in the best qualities of countless games, making it loot-driven one moment and narrative-driven the next. The Stick of Truth will set you free from identikit RPGs.

The Wolf Among Us

Best PC games 2014 The Wolf Among Us

In many ways the opposite of Tales From The Borderlands, so cheery and bright you could play it on your phone at the beach, The Wolf Among Us is Telltale noir. But it’s more than a supernatural detective yarn it appears to be; philosophical and moral quandaries spring out of Bigby ‘Big Bad’ Wolf’s murder investigation as you explore of the various plights of the Fables – fairytale creatures living the not-so-good life in New York city. If, at moments, it feels as if the consequences aren’t clear or significant, it’s because it’s building to a brutal conclusion. You’ll regret almost every choice you make, but probably wouldn’t make them any differently given the opportunity to rectify your mistakes.

The very real issues of invisible, disenfranchised people and the inability or simple lack of interest that administrations have in protecting them is central to the game. The Wolf Among Us left us feeling uncomfortable, but desperately wishing for a second season.

Towerfall: Ascension

Best PC games 2014 Towerfall

Ever had a friend round and found yourself scrolling wistfully through your Steam library, at a loss for what to suggest? Towerfall is your solution: a local multiplayer arena battler in which everyone grabs a controller and directs a tiny sprite to fire arrows at their fellows. Every death is fair: there’s only one screen, so no sneaking a glance at somebody else’s perspective. If you do end up stuck with a pointy stick, there’s nothing to do but quietly admit that your mate was the better player.

There’s plenty of scope to become a great yourself, of course. Towerfall is crafted and honed to really bring out not only the foulest, most sea-worthy language in you, but also the best skills. With a few matches under your belt you’ll soon have dash-parkour down to a tee, and grabbing an arrow mid-flight becomes muscle memory. Go easy with the trash-talking though, though: your opponents are sat near enough to give you an all-too-real thump after a particularly humiliating kill.

Luftrausers

Best PC games 2014 Luftrausers

Luftrausers is about flying – with the emphasis on ‘fly’. At the centre of its design ethos is a desire to make the player feel cool, as they swoop high above battleships and duck down below zeppelins in a tiny plane. And it’s successful, thanks to the sepia filter that colours everything and the dependable momentum that governs movement. Tight controls allow you to cut the engines at any time – then boot them up again the instant before you hit water level.

The variation comes from Luftrausers’ unlock system: interchangeable plane parts. Builds can be as extreme and peculiar as ‘The Pig’ – a squat machine with a bulky abdomen suitable for flying right through those battleships and out the other side, leaving only explosions behind. Where their indie peers are criticised for making the game equivalent of meandering, self-indulgent guitar music, Dutch studio Vlambeer write perfect pop songs. This is another of those.

The Walking Dead: Season 2

Best PC games 2014 The Walking Dead

The continuation of Telltale’s gut-wrenching adventure game series based on Robert Kirkman’s comics – in which child-protagonist Clementine tangos with zombies, shifty survivors and an unhealthy helping of guilt. It’s a tricky bastard, building you up with reunions, safety, even light-hearted joking, and then BANG. Tragedy. But it doesn’t just do this once, it does it again and again. There’s a mythology at work here: resurrections, heroes, tremendous evil past and present.

Soon enough, the new group is no longer the ‘new’ group – having gone from completely strangers to fully realised characters within two episodes. And dammit, yet again Telltale force you to care too much. Season two draws on everything that came before it. Choices made as a different protagonist, even when they don’t directly affect what’s happening to Clem and her new friends, will still inform how you act and who you are willing to trust or sacrifice. There isn’t another series that manages to do this so subtly and effectively.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Best PC games 2014 Wolfenstein: The New Order

MachineGames, some of the folks who brought us Riddick and The Darkness, delivered a straightforward and unpretentious shooter in their id reboot. It revels in ultra-violence and alternate-history horror while never deviating from a remarkably strong and immensely satisfying core mechanic: shooting Nazis so that their blood comes out.

The New Order knows where its roots lie, paying just enough homage to the original Wolfenstein 3D while never being overly reverential. So there are hidden rooms and bowls of dog food, but no cheeky winks to the camera when such things appear. It sets a surprisingly well written and keenly self-aware pulp script, brooding Max Payne style monologues and all, against such ridiculous abilities as dual wielding sniper rifles. Expect an FPS fan’s FPS, dumbly entertaining in its kinetic, punchy gunplay but at the same time hiding an endless capacity to repeatedly surprise with an endearing plot and cast. For our money, the best Wolfenstein game ever made.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted

Best PC games 2014 Sir You Are Being Hunted

A good portion of Steam’s top sellers list is now regularly composed of open-world survival experiences – but there’s not one aspect of Sir, You Are Being Hunted you’re likely to find replicated exactly in another game. The premise finds you dropped on an archipelago of procedurally generated British countryside, inhabited by a small population of aristocratic automatons armed with hunting rifles and robo-dogs, and tasked with retrieve all the parts of your shattered invention needed to return home.

With no levelling or inherent skills, you are the contents of your backpack. So choosing what to take with you and what to leave behind is a continuous, nail-gnawing toss-up between pragmatism and aspiration. An empty blunderbuss is lovely – but oughtn’t you really take a couple of extra bandages and a bot-distracting glass bottle instead? Between its uniquely provincial setting and dedication to undergrowth stealth, there’s more than enough novel in Sir that you’ll gladly be the rabbit in its lights at least one time through.

Dark Souls II

Best PC games 2014 Dark Souls 2

If you’ve played a Souls game, you know what this one is: a punishingly difficult third-person RPG that actively loathes you, presents you with apparently insurmountable challenges, and delights in killing you unfairly with cruelly designed traps – all while funnelling you into taking risks and gambling progress at every turn. Exhaustion, oppression and mercilessness are not usually the tenets of good game design, but in Dark Souls II they come together to create a game that pushes you as much as it punishes you. Every death is a lesson, teaching you how to deal with the mounting challenges by showing you just how poorly prepared you are. And the option of co-op assistance means it’s not just for masochists.

This sequel doesn’t better the original but is far better tuned to PC gaming. The stale breadcrumb trail of rewards and granular successes is just as gratifying a second time around – and the fallen kingdom of Drangleic is filled with more malformed, unexplained creatures to dodge and dance with.

Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea Part Two

Best PC games 2014 Bioshock Infinite

The second half of Bioshock Infinite’s story-based DLC, Burial at Sea Part Two saw you take control of dimension-hopping Elizabeth in the doomed city of Rapture, primed as it was for its spectacular downfall. With shrewd stealth and a clear-thinking plot, this finale stands out as some of Irrational’s finest work on the series.

For fans this marks a sort of spiritual full stop: a full circle brought to a neat close. After the disappointing first DLC, which was a mess of combat ideas dragged out of Infinite and dropped into a Rapture that didn’t want to co-operate, this second half was a refreshing return to what made Rapture a captivating place to be. You were solo. You were outnumbered. You were tactical and slow. It was the magical reimagining of the underwater dystopia we’d wanted first time around. Burial at Sea’s conclusion looped Irrational’s timeline back around to meet System Shock, and proved a fitting swansong.

Child of Light

Best PC games 2014 Child of Light

An idiosyncratic surprise from Ubisoft’s trusted Montreal citadel, Child of Light was a side-scrolling RPG that matched gentle world-exploration and puzzle solving with deceptively strategic turn based combat. You’re a girl trapped inside her own dreams: a world of monsters and fantasy creatures and weirdness and poetry and delight.

The 2D UbiArt engine, loaned out by Michel Ancel’s Rayman studio in Montpellier, gives Child of Light a beautiful hand-drawn style. As a result, the game is lent a gently tweeness that touches every square inch of the screen. From the dialogue, which is written entirely in rhyming couplets (and then brilliantly subverted at one point) to your means of moving and flying around the unpredictable landscapes of a young imagination, Child of Light is an uplifting experience. The combat, meanwhile, is surprisingly deep: semi-turn-based and with elemental strengths and weaknesses that combine to create a complex and at times super-challenging RPG. You might have to turn the difficulty down. Dreams are hard.

Distant Worlds: Universe

Best PC games 2014 Distant Worlds

A 4X wargame, Distant Worlds: Universe is the culmination of Matrix Games’ work in space strategy, gathering together in one place the base game and all of its expansions while expanding the galactic narrative and chucking in vastly greater modding capabilities. But it’s better not to think of it as a game at all – rather a tool that allows you to experience leading a galactic superpower on your own terms. You can automate everything (the AI actually coping pretty well) and just fly around space in a single exploration vessel, pretending you’re Picard. Or you can steer everything, from your empire’s complex economy to ship production and war.

All of those numbers and systems that hold the simulation together create dramatic stories, about gallant captains pushing back the frontier, and races under the thumb of pirates rising up to take back their independence. Distant Worlds is a 4X, a space sim, an RTS and a galaxy builder all in one. That’s quite the cocktail.

Tropico 5

Best PC games 2014 Tropico 5

While Tropico 5 introduces eras, taking dictators from the colonial era to the modern age, this is still very much the city building simulator you remember, just with a few extra toys and novelties to play with. That means you take control of a fledgling banana republic, ruling the tiny nation by whatever means necessary, all while expanding, researching and trading to maintain your power.

It’s set in the series-standard paradise, and as ever, life for your people is rarely so sunny. The biggest difference between this sequel and its predecessors is how your state no longer feels like it’s in a vacuum. Foreign powers interfere more, and relationships can deteriorate to the point where war breaks out, the game turning into a slightly iffy RTS for a spell. It’s another diversion, but being able to properly defend your island is a welcome addition. Tropico 5 is like SimCity but cleverer, with political satire out the jungly wazoo.

Divinity: Original Sin

Best PC games 2014 Divinity Original Sin

Larian are known for their decades-spanning Divine series, a staunchly traditional top-down roleplay universe laced with curious characters and maddening detail. The Kickstarted Original Sin is no exception, allowing you to be the tricksiest arsehole in an unpredictable world of swords, magic and physics-enabled crates. It also eschews the action combat elements that held back previous entries, embracing an interactive elemental twist that enables you to burn oil barrels, electrify pools of water and steam the faces off of unsuspecting orcs. Taking turns is not only the most polite way to fight anybody, but it’s also the most tactically challenging.

Playing as two main characters, you’ll pick and choose the dialogue on both sides of a conversation, making actual playing-of-roles unavoidable. And you’ll want to submerge yourself in Larian’s world: it’s thick with inspired incidental encounters and silly asides, and laced with comedy as broad as its maps. Divinity: Original Sin doesn’t feel like some tortured piece of nostalgia, but rather a contemporary and fresh new round in a genre that had all but totally evaporated.

The Sims 4

Best PC games 2014 The Sims 4

You’ll already know one version or another of the real-life simulator in which you take control of a dollhouse of virtual people, managing every aspect of their existence, from marriage and career progression to showering and pooping. While the larger simulation of surrounding neighbourhoods has been dialled down this time around, The Sims 4 is the most realistic modelling of tiny digital brains yet, introducing a palette of moods that affect how the sims behave and what they’re capable of.

The decision to focus development on what happens inside a sim’s head rather than on how the wider communities of sims congregate and interact was the correct one, and set a strong foundation for a relatively restrained onslaught of expansions. This game remains fascinating, funny and still (weirdly enough) the only game of its kind worth playing. As with every Sims game that came before it, we were totally and inexplicably engrossed.

Hatoful Boyfriend

Best PC games 2014 Hatoful Boyfriend

Hatoful Boyfriend is brilliantly weird. A visual novel and pigeon dating simulator in which you, a human girl, take up residence in a school for birds, it’s an interactive text adventure with a branching plot and surprisingly complex storyline. Myriad twists and turns can lead to JRPG battles with, or even death at the hands of, pigeon punks; slowly you’ll get to grips with the uncomfortable class hierarchy that puts fantails on the top.

But it’s the sensitive side that’ll win you over: you’ll find yourself growing to care for your strange avian chums, who between bombarding you with bad puns start to open up, revealing painful tragedies and touching stories. Seemingly inconsequential choices open up new paths and new romantic or platonic encounters. The days blend together in a whirlwind of fast-forwarded text, until eventually you’re living in their surrealist world without irony.

Watch Dogs

Best PC games 2014 Watch Dogs

Watch Dogs’ Chicago is a great big simulated city, and you’ve got all the switches. In this open world third-person hacking adventure, you can manipulate your environment using a magic phone. Steal from ATMs, look through security cameras, raise bollards, lower bollards, explode steam pipes, see the secret lives of the pedestrians around you – you’re basically free to become a local authority’s worst nightmare in Ubisoft Montreal’s cybercriminal world.

It’s true the studio’s weaknesses are unusually apparent here. A cacophony of side missions and distractions feel arbitrary and mindless. The main character is a hateful caricature of a vigilante nerd with awful fashion sense, and there’s just something altogether charmless about the world. That said, when the main story missions really hit their stride and the mechanics of hacking different objects finally come together, Watch Dogs becomes ludicrously good fun. Similarly brilliant is the multiplayer mode in which you’re tasked with hacking another player while remaining inconspicuous. If you’re willing to persevere there’s excellence wrapped up inside Watch Dogs’ dull, battered brown trenchcoat.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Best PC games 2014 The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Ethan Carter is a scenic first-person walkabout set in an impossibly beautiful game world in which you use supernatural powers to inspect crime scenes and solve environmental puzzles. Its Red Creek Valley is a lonely paradise that you could be forgiven for mistaking as real footage of a real location, so rich in detail are its worn armchairs and ringed tree stumps. In fact that’s pretty much spot on: The Astronauts used photogrammetry to build exact 3D replicas of objects and buildings from photographs. The effects are spectacular.

This verdant slice of American wilderness doesn’t simply impress with its realism, though. A streak of horror and isolation flows through it, slowly building, leaving this adventure game simmering with tension. Punctuating the trek through the woods are weird tales, pulpy horror, sci-fi and fantasy yarns that defy reality and transform the gamespace, revealing more of a memorable place that is not what it seems.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Best PC games 2014 Shadow of Mordor

The only place and time Assassin’s Creed hasn’t been is inside Tolkien’s head, so Monolith obliged. As a sword-swooshing ranger with wraith abilities, you’ll mill about an open world murdering up and being murdered up by orcs. Icons popping up all over the map, villains to kill swiftly and silently, a pretty crap story – it’s familiar. The twist is that you’ll earn nemeses as you adventure: orcs rightly miffed at you after being defeated, who’ll appear later in your game to exact their very personalised form of revenge.

Before you know it, you’ve become Sauron’s number one recruiter – inadvertently turning green(skin) recruits into new captains with names like Ghura the Endless and Thakrak the Fool. You might even feel proud of your worst enemy: he started off as a nobody, after all, and worked his way up the ladder to become a legendary bodyguard to one of the infamous war chiefs. The Magneto to your Xavier.

Wasteland 2

Best PC games 2014 Wasteland 2

Sequel to the quarter-century old RPG that inspired the Fallout games, Wasteland 2 is an RPG that wears its traditional roots all down its tattered old sleeves. You command a small group of rangers who are routinely forced into making difficult moral decisions in a ruined and post-apocalyptic California. Combat is turn-based with action points, like a big game or irradiated chess with shotguns.

And it’s huge. Not just by merit of the massive map, but also the number of stories and many ways they can play out. Though individual moments in this humongous adventure left us disappointed, we always left the game eager to return. Inventive solutions to tricky standoffs, a failure to save a life, a silly line of text spotted in the peripheral – these are the things that stuck with us every time we pressed ‘quit’. Though the name Fallout has meant something different since its Bethesda reboot, Brian Fargo and his team have ensured that little from the Interplay era’s been left behind.

Valkyria Chronicles

Best PC games 2014 Valkyria Chronicles

Valkyria Chronicles was locked away in console land for half a decade, but its natural audience was always here on PC. A turn-based strategy game set in a Japanese anime-styled reimagining of the Second World War, it’s got some of the most involved squad management of any game since Jagged Alliance 2. Each soldier has special quirks, abilities, and synergies with the others on your team. And for all but the crucial characters, permadeath is on.

Sega took a more personal approach to war than is typical of the turn-based tactics genre. A close-up perspective puts you right in the middle of battles, and your troops are not just numbers, but people. This makes the costs and risks seem even higher than they are in XCOM, and when you see a gigantic engine of war aiming its gargantuan guns at your favourite scout, you’ll worry like a parent who’s just dropped a baby.

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Best PC games 2014 Binding of Isaac Rebirth

A hard-as-nails action-roguelike with some nightmare-inducing imagery. The original Binding of Isaac mercilessly consumed time, with a structure that enticed you to play ‘just once more’ until the hours blurred together. Rebirth takes all of that addictive content, adds the Wrath of the Lamb expansion, new skins, a new soundtrack, and a drizzle of extra monster designs – before strapping everything into a faster, more stable engine. If you’re new to the game then this is the best version to begin with, and if you’re already a fan then perhaps the presence of new poo physics will tip you over into another purchase.

Even playing through the very first level over and over again can kick up some unexpected treasures, be they miscellaneous pills that affect you in unexpected ways, power-ups that transform you into strange beasts and shifty looking demons, or special enemies that drop equally special loot when killed. Secret rooms and surprises can be found right from the get-go, and you’ll only find more as climb down the levels.

Endless Legend

Best PC games 2014 Endless Legend

Set in the same universe as the supple Amplitude Studios’ Endless Space, this is a sci-fi fantasy 4X game in which bizarre factions fight for dominance over a single world. Expect turn-based empire and city building and curious tactical combat.

Become a warmonger, a being of pure energy trapped inside a suit of armour, watching your armies sweep across the face of the world like a merciless machine. Or be a peacemaker, a measured dragon, bringing the races together to create something better. Or maybe an insectoid monster, feasting on the corpses of your foes and inspiring fear and hatred. Endless Legend combines fantastic fiction with compelling strategy. And underpinning it all is a strong design philosophy that connects the tenets of the 4X genre together seamlessly, providing a plethora of options without overwhelming. Even during a time when we’re seeing a lot from the genre, Amplitude’s effort sets itself apart.

Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition

Best PC games 2014 Icewind Dale

Icewind Dale was Black Isle’s attempt to bash out an action-RPG in Baldur’s Gate’s Infinity Engine. Because they were the studio who’d built Fallout, they failed miserably: accidentally making a coherent world of Faerun’s northern wastes, and filling its dungeons with tangled networks of tactical battles. Whoops.

There’s never been a better time to relive the wintery wonder that inspired the underground adventures of Pillars of Eternity. The new version pulls in all the class and race options from Beamdog’s other Enhanced Editions, turns once-broken multiplayer into convincing co-op, and blows up the game’s maps to the highest resolutions – where the tangible cold of the Dales can be properly appreciated. The starting town alone, Easthaven, manages to pack subsistence, stoicism, religion and the stench of drying fish into an isometric drawing. What’s more, this remains to our knowledge the only RPG in which you can have an argument with a skeleton about the problem of proactive foreign policy. Bone-rattling stuff.

Legend of Grimrock II

Best PC games 2014 Legend of Grimrock 2

In the Before Time, we had graph paper. Stacks and stacks of it. These magical sheets were our lifeline – a way to escape whatever prison we found ourselves in. And it was up to us to fill them in, to facilitate our escape. Dungeon crawler Legend of Grimrock II might be a modern game, but it’s got one foot in that era. The world is a fantastical island prison – one giant maze, filled with monsters, beasts and the undead, all wanting to kill you. So it’s fortunate that you’re actually four people, a party of adventurers that might include a minotaur, or a giant rat with a penchant for guns and explosives.

And it’s not just for the old-school lot. Grimrock II is pretty, ripe for exploration, boasts deep character customisation and a groovy magic system. What’s more, the puzzle design recalls Portal. Don’t play it for nostalgia’s sake, play it because it’s great.

Classic or cack, great or guff? What did you make of 2014, and our choices for that matter? Let us know in the comments below.

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