The best PC games of 2014

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SIM

Maxis disappointed sim fans with SimCity in 2013, but can they bounce back with The Sims 4? That won't matter at all to flight-sim fans, who will be hoping that the latest entry in the veteran IL2 Sturmovik series will live up to its billing. In 2014, sims will be moving to new frontiers. Mars exploration game, Take on Mars, represents a new direction for Bohemia, and Spacebase DF-9 will hopefully improve to give us some good spaceship management by the end of the year.

IL2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad


Developer: 1C Game Studios
Publisher: 1C Company
Release date: TBA 2014
Link:IL2 Sturmovik site

The battle for air superiority had huge consequences for ground troops in the battle of Stalingrad. The latest in the veteran series of IL2 Sturmovik flight sims will include conflicts from Operation Uranus to the surrender of the 6th army. Gigabytes worth of flight manuals and historical accounts are being used to help model the feel of each plane, and veteran test pilots have given their feedback on the alpha version based on their real flying experiences. It claims to be the “largest and most detailed recreation of the Battle of Stalingrad theatre ever modeled in a flight simulation”. Players can buy into early access now, but the full release is due this year.

The Sims 4


Developer: Maxis
Publisher: EA
Release: Early 2014
The Sims site

The game that will launch 1,000 expansion packs is set to arrive in early 2014, bringing more tactile, squishier character creation to the table and a much bigger focus on emotions. Group conversations will play a far bigger part too, with EA having noticed that human beings are capable of talking to more than one person at a time.

For more on how the next Sims will model emotions, check out our Sims 4 first look.

Spacebase DF-9


Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: In-house
Release date: TBA 2014
Link:Spacebase DF-9 site

Anyone who’s enjoyed a bit of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine will have wondered about what the day-to-day running of a space station would be like. Spacebase DF-9 is a game all about exactly that. As well as maintaining your station and its inhabitants, you have to deal with approaching meteors, passing derelicts, space pirates and the ever-present threat of decompression. A very shoddy early version of the game has appeared on Steam Early Access, but hopefully with time the bugs and clipping errors will be resolved, and DF-9 can evolve into a deeper sim.

Star Command


Developer: Star Command
Publisher: Self-published
Release: 2014
Link:Star Command

Initially destined for IOS and Android devices, the successfully Kickstarted PC version ensured that this spacebase management sim will get a desktop release. You populate your station with a customisable cadre of spacefarers, fend off alien invasions and travel the galaxy meeting new species. Given the complete portable versions, it’ll probably reach us ahead of Double Fine’s similar effort, Spacebase DF-9.

Mew-genics


Developer: Team Meat
Publisher: Self-published
Release: 2014
Link:Mew-Genics site

Team Meat’s Edmund McMillen describes Mew-Genics as a “cat lady sim” whose influences include “The Sims and Pokemon with a sprinkling of Animal Crossing and a dash of Tamagotchi”. You have a household full of procedurally generated cats that will mate and produce offspring bearing combinations of their traits. Enter a desirable cat into a pageant and you’ll get rich, but first you have to encourage champion mogs to drop sprogs - not an easy task. Like herding cats, you might say.

Kerbal Space Program


Developer: SQUAD
Publisher: In-house
Release date: TBA
Link:KSP's site
Kerbal Space Program is already a brilliant rocketry sandbox - even in its pre-launch Early Access state. With access to an almost overwhelming number of ship parts and rocket boosters, you're left to conquer the great void above Kerbin, filling it with orbital satellites and manned missions to other planets. The last few updates have focused on the newly introduced campaign mode, adding some structure to the game via the need to collect science points to unlock new parts. Next year, expect to see that refined and expanded on, as the game approaches release. Also look out for the recently announced official multiplayer mode.

Where to begin? Ian brought us a hands-on account of the latest 0.23 update, Phil detailed his many failed attempts to land on the Mun, and we've rounded up the twelve best mods currently available for the game

Space Engineers


Developer: Keen Software House
Publisher: In-house
Release: TBA
Link:Space Engineers site

Don a suit and build spaceships in space to crash into other spaceships, in space. Space Engineers ditches the block-based morphism of Minecraft in favour of more methodical building, which has players creating struts and layering on panels to form outer hulls. You also have to craft individual components to power your ship, including engines and weapon banks. There’s a tech demo available on Steam Early Access, but it only offers a hint of Space Engineers’ full potential.

Take on Mars


Developer: Bohemia Interactive
Publisher: In-house
Release: TBA
Link:Take On Mars

Bohemia Interactive, known for detailed simulations of war in the Arma series, are diversifying a bit. Realising they have the technology to render vast swathes of beautiful terrain, they decided to point their artists at the surface of Mars, and create an exploration sim in which you control a rover mapping the surface. It’s been in Early Access since summer 2013, and offers a series of science missions in which you guide your robot through experiments to test the surface and uncover the history of the planet. Hopefully they’ll resist the temptation to stick aliens in it by the time it releases sometime this year.

Banished


Developer: Shining Rock Software
Publisher: Shining Rock Software
Release Date: February 18
Link:Shining Rock's website

Citybuilders, like real-time strategy games, are something of a hibernating genre these days, so it's always great to see indie developers keeping the flame alive. Banished tasks you with constructing and maintaining a medieval town, with a particular focus on the grim business of keeping its population alive for as long as possible. Can you keep your town going through the harsh winters, harsh autumns, and let's be honest harsh springs and summers of medieval life? Probably not, but you can always select 'New Game' afterwards to give it another go.

We mostly enjoyed our time with Banished in the course of formulating our review, but we didn't feel any great urge to return.