The best PC games of 2014

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ADVENTURE

You can thank Kickstarter for the return of the adventure game. Double Fine's Broken Age showed that there's still a huge appetite for narrative-driven puzzle games. Now we have a number of nostalgic returns to great adventure gaming series like Broken Sword. Elsewhere, Telltale lead the charge with their character-focused and choice-driven take on adventure games. Can Season Two of The Walking Dead live up to the terrific first run? Will The Wolf Among Us capitalise on its strong first episode? We can't wait to find out.

Broken Age

Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: In-house
Release: January 2014
Link:Broken Age site

Here it is: the monster that started it all. Without the astounding success of Double Fine Adventure's (now Broken Age's) nostalgia-baiting Kickstarter project, we wouldn't be seeing this current deluge of resurrected point-and-click franchises. Broken Age itself comes from names indelibly associated with the LucasArts point-and-click classics of yore - and this heritage was alone was enough for people to throw nearly $3.5 million at the company before a concept was even outlined. Still, one has since taken shape: some sort of girl-meets-boy yarn, stretched across interweaving sci-fi and fantasy realities.

Since its reveal, several videos have helped to elucidate what Broken Age is all about. This one shows off the game’s twin worlds, this one offers the first glimpse of gameplay footage, while THIS one shows the level of voice acting talent we can expect. Did somebody say ‘Jack Black’, ‘Jennifer Hale’ and ‘Raz from Psychonauts’? Yes, it was us just then.

The Walking Dead: Season Two

Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: In-house
Release date: Episodes 2 - 5 to be released throughout Early 2014
Link:Telltale's The Walking Dead site

The first series redefined how Telltale approach their licensed adventures. With the second, they're upping the ante: bringing more tales from the dark heart of post-apocalyptic, zombie-ridden America, this time from the perspective of the small but capable Clementine. After a first season spent teaching, protecting and caring for Clem, the creators have removed the middleman, putting the player directly in control of her fight for survival. Expect an affecting mix of heart and horror along the way.

Have Telltale resurrected a winner with the second season? Read our review of the first episode.

The Wolf Among Us

Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: In-house
Release date: Episode 2 due early 2014. Episodes 3, 4 and 5 TBA
Link:The Wolf Among Us site

The Wolf Among Us is an episodic series of adventure games based on the universe depicted in Vertigo’s Fables comic book series. Fairytale characters carve out a hard life Manhattan, camouflaged by magical human personas called ‘glamours’. You play as the current sheriff of Fabletown, Big Bad Wolf, a man feared and respected for the dark old days he spent blowing down houses and trying to eat Little Red Riding Hood. There’s a mysterious and terrifying murder, of course, and soon enough you’re investigating your friends, and digging through age-old fairytale relationships. It’s rendered beautifully in a stark noir style, and got off to a thrilling start with episode one in October.

Find out just how much we enjoyed part one in our Wolf Among Us review.

Broken Sword: The Serpent’s Curse – Episode 2

Developer: Revolution Software
Publisher: In-house
Release Date: January
Link:Revolution's Serpent's Curse site

Revolution's Kickstarter-funded adventure aims to make up for the mostly dire third and fourth games, which injected nonsense block puzzles and stealth elements into the celebrated mystery-'em-ups. By all accounts, it seems to have done a pretty good job, though of course we won't know the full extent until the game's globe-hopping story is concluded this January. Like most good things, The Serpent's Curse begins with a spot of pizza and light murder, before George and Nico – surely one of the best couples in gaming – reunite to investigate another ancient conspiracy.

We spoke to Revolution's Charles Cecil recently. Head here to read this thoughts on Broken Sword, religion, historical accuracy and the Da Vinci Code.

Dreamfall Chapters

Developer: Red Thread Games
Publisher: In-house
Release: 2014
Link:Red Thread Games

Much-loved adventure series The Longest Journey is to have at least one more chapter, coming from series creator Ragnar Tornquist and his new studio at Red Thread Games. Zoe Castillo, protagonist of Dreamfall, returns to the twin worlds of Stark (futuristic) and Arcadia (medieval fantasy) to, among other things, stop the evil Azardi empire from harvesting dreams. Mmm, dreams. The Longest Journey star April Ryan will appear in some form too, along with rogue Azardi soldier Kian Alvane. We know little more about it than that, but depending on your point of view, expect unique/tedious puzzles and philosophical/soporific dialogue from strong/Buffy women in their pyjamas/underwear.

See how far Chapters has advanced since it was first announced, to the reveal of this impressive in-game footage.

Kentucky Route Zero

Developer: Cardboard Computer
Publisher: In-house
Release date: Episodes 3, 4 and 5 TBA
Link:Kentucky Route Zero site

The first two episodes of this sublime and atmospheric adventure game are already out, but the remaining three linger in development limbo – an anxious situation for those of us transfixed by the KRZ’s excellent music and evocative depictions of Kentucky. You play a deliveryman ferrying packages for an antique store, a point that’s quickly sidelined as you’re coaxed into increasingly miraculous scenarios in the forests and mines nearby. There’s a strong imagination at work here. The mysterious Route Zero is subterranean multi-dimensional doughnut, organised by an underground human bureaucracy with its own strange office buildings. There’s a museum to everyday objects in a dark, hidden part of the woods. The mines are littered with the belongings of long-vanished workers. The overall effect is strange, haunting and slightly unsettling, as though someone gave Kafka a banjo.

Read our verdict of part one of KRZ in our Kentucky Route Zero review.

SOMA

Developer: Vogelsap games
Publisher: In-house
Release Date: TBA 2014
Link:SOMA site

Frictional Games have proven that they know horror – first in the Penumbra games, and then again in Amnesia, an experience some of us will never forget. Soma is their latest first-person scare-'em-up, and after a few days of video teasers involving freaky pre-cognitive computers it was soon revealed to look quite a bit like their previous works. Until the Doc Ock-style tentacles make an appearance anyway. Expect creepy experiments, creepier blinking computer-things, and lots and lots of hiding, if Frictional's previous games are any indication.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Developer: The Astronauts
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: TBA 2014
Link:Astronauts website

Considering that indie studio The Astronauts are made up of former Painkiller and Bulletstorm developers, it was a surprise to learn that their first project would be a slow paced adventure. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter puts you in the shoes of a psychic detective investigating a child’s disappearance, and features hardly any super shotguns at all.

Game of Thrones

Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: In-house
Release Date: TBA
Link: The Telltale Games site

Questions abound regarding Telltale’s foray into George R.R. Martin’s wildly popular fantasy world. Question one: what with this, Tales of the Borderlands, and The Walking Dead, are Telltale spreading themselves too thin? Question two: can Telltale’s trademark episodic structure do justice to the sprawling land of Westeros? Question three: will the games presumably cel-shaded style (we’ve yet to see the game in action) have a trivializing effect? After their award-winning Walking Dead season last year, however, we have no doubt Telltale will strike it big with this one.

Tales from the Borderlands

Developer: Telltale
Publisher: In-house
Release Date: TBA
Link:The official site

How many episodic adventure games are Telltale making now? Joining The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us and their just-revealed Game of Thrones series is Tales from the Borderlands, which as you may have guessed is based on Gearbox's Aliens: Colonial Marines. (Actually, no, but can you imagine?) The story concerns a bunch of “wannabe vault hunters”, and based on the sole teaser trailer it seems to have captured the tone of the shooty co-op games fairly well. Oh, yeah, that's the other thing: there will be shooting, according to Randy Pitchford, albeit not quite in the Borderlands house style.

Check out Tales from the Borderlands' first teaser trailer here, along with an even less revealing one for Game of Thrones.

Murdered: Soul Suspect

Developer Airtight games
Publisher: Square Enix
Release: Mid 2014
Link:Soul Suspect site

Being dead is a notable disadvantage when it comes to fighting crime – or so you would think. After being shot and killed by a mystery assailant, detective Ronan O'Connor (that'd be you) decides to put his afterlife to good use by solving his own unfortunate murder. He does this with the aid of the spirit community, and his new found ability to possess (well, a bit) living beings. It's pretty much Ghost, only with seemingly far fewer romantic pottery scenes.

Jane Jensen's Moebius

Developer: Pinkerton Road Studio
Publisher: In-house
Release Date: Early 2014
Link:Moebius site

Just to be clear, since the apostrophe’s misleading: Jane Jensen isn't Moebius, but she is responsible for the seemingly mad-as-a-box-of-hammers adventure game bearing the same name. You might remember Jensen from the similarly pointy-and-clicky Gabriel Knight and Gray Matter; here she turns her attention to the secret organisation known excitingly as 'FIST'. I feel like they worked backwards from the acronym there, and as ever that's no bad thing. You'll play as improbably named antiques dealer Malachi Rector, tasked with investigating a wide-reaching mystery in the same manner that Lovejoy or Tinker might – although with admittedly more murders along the way.

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure

Developer: Big Finish Games
Publisher: Atlus
Release date: Early 2014
Link:Tex Murphy site

Subject of yet another unexpectedly successful Kickstarter campaign, this sees the hardboiled PI from the future return for another adventure of mystery, drama, live-action cut-scenes and natty hats. Development of this belated sequel hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing, but recent video seems to indicate that it’s still on track for an early 2014 release. If you’re sad that FMV adventure games didn’t take off in earnest - really? Also: you’re going to like this hokey, cheesy, but above all fun trailer very much.

The Blackwell Epiphany

Developer: Wadget Eye Games
Publisher: In-house
Release: “Marchish”
Link:Wadget Eye games website site

The fifth in a series of paranormal adventure games has been going since 2006. The Blackwell games are self contained mystery adventure starring medium for hire Rosangelina Blackwell and her spirit guide, Joey Mallone, while dropping hints at a greater story about where Rosa’s powers come from, and who Joey was in life. The series has matured and improved over time, with 2011’s Blackwell Deception the pick of the bunch, and developer Dave Gilbert promises Epiphany will be the longest and darkest game yet.

Armikrog

Developer: Pencil Test Studios
Publisher: In-house
Release date: TBA 2014
Link:The Armikrog site

A claymation adventure game from the creator of Earthworm Jim, Armikrog scooped almost a million dollars of backing from its Kickstarter plunge last year, and ongoing pledges have earned enough for them to consider branching out to the WiiU and beyond. They describe it as a spiritual successor to to early 2000s adventure game, The Neverhood, as fans quick quickly notice after a glance at the unusual moulded art style. You play a clay explorer called Tommynaut, and must escape the mysterious prison of Armikrog with your trusty talking dog, Beak-Beak.

Luminesca

Developer: Matt Glanville
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: Episodes 3-5 TBA
Link:Luminesca site

Luminesca is a haunting underwater exploration game. Armed only with a torch, you have to navigate a shadowy subterranean world full of dark machines and an ecosystem of smaller pondlife. It’s a gentle, accessible game designed to reward “curiosity, exploration and playfulness”. The first two chapters are available through early access on Luminesca’s site, and a further three are planned.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release: TBA 2014
Link:Debut trailer

Ubisoft's Ubi-Art framework (as used in Rayman Origins and Legends) is being used here to tell the stories of four strangers during the first world war. It's an adventure game of sorts, featuring spectacularly beautiful illustration and a story that promises to not just tug but yank at the heartstrings. May contain dogs.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch

Developer: Young Horses
Publisher: In-house
Release Date: TBA
Link:The Octodad site

Octodad: loving father, caring husband, secret cephalopod. In this absurd third-person puzzler, you play a suit-wearing octopus as he tries to convince his human family he’s, you know, not an octopus. Humour here comes from placing a ludicrous force in a mundane setting - a supermarket, a church, the back garden. Here you’re given simple tasks such as ‘BBQ the burgers’ or ‘put away the plates’, tasks made slightly more challenging when you’ve got a tangle of tentacles to contend with. Plates will smash, burgers will burn, and brilliantly, no-one will suspect a thing despite the fact, again, you’re a freaking octopus. This is self-generating slapstick: you’ll smash through the banana stand at the supermarket, mow the grass by dragging a lawnmower around on a rubbery limb, don a top hat for your wedding, and pour juice over your daughter as she innocently holds out an empty cup. Surely one of the most original concepts of the year.

Jazzpunk

Developer: Necrophone Games
Publisher: In-house
Release Date: January
Link:Jazzpunk site

Jazzpunk is... well that's the question. It's constant invention and weirdness make it hard to define. Really, it's a comedy game - one where every small interaction offers another funny vignette that riffs off of the techno-'60s espionage theme. From infiltrating a Soviet consulate, to flicking popcorn at annoyed cinemagoers, Jazzpunk frequently rewards your exploration with surprising new ways to make you laugh.

Phil chuckled his way through the first two levels in a hands-on preview of the game's IGF build.

Among the Sleep

Developer: Krillbite Studio
Publisher: In-house
Release: TBA 2014
Link:Krillbite studio site

Horror games are at their best when they make the player vulnerable, which is why Among the Sleep, which puts the player in the body of a two year old child, looks utterly terrifying. Even an ordinary house becomes intimidating and challenging when you’re only two feet off the ground. As a small child, your only way to deal with danger is to hide from it, crawling into small spaces and hoping it will pass you by. Truly one of the scariest games of 2014.

Stasis

Developer: Chris Bischoff
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: TBA
Link:Stasis site

You play a man rudely awakened from suspended animation on a spaceship in distress in this dark but detailed adventure game from one-man team, Chris Bischoff. You’ll have to make your way through the ship to find out where it’s headed, and why you’re on it. An alpha demo is available now if you’d like a closer look at that hyper-detailed artwork.

Ether One

Developer: White Paper games
Publisher: In-house
Release Date: TBA 2014
Link:Ether One

Ether One asks you to explore the mind of a drug addict in order to repair her shattered memories. For some reason the minds of drug addicts bear a striking resemble to landscape paintings of Cornwall, who knew? It’s a fairly simple first person adventure game at heart, but one enlivened by it’s surreal, dreamlike setting and the Eternal Sunshine style ethical dilemma that drives the plot. It also has Oculus Rift support, which really brings the bleak landscapes to life.

For more information, read Tom Hatfield’s Ether One preview from earlier this year.

Homestuck Adventure Game

Developer: MS Paint Adventures
Publisher: In-house
Release: 2014
Link:Homestuck site

A webcomic parody of the adventure games of yore in the shape of Homestuck/MS Paint Adventures, transposed to an actual version of an actual adventure game actually funded to the tune of millions of actual dollars by Homestuck's rabid fanbase. It's the sort of thing the internet was made for. So it's nice to see it's the sort of thing that is being made for the internet then, really.

Captain Astronaut’s Last Hurrah

Developer: PopCannibal
Publisher: In-house
Release: 2014
Link:Captain Astronaut site

Captain Astronaut is like a strange and sad fairy tale. An injured child (dressed as a Astronaut, hence the name) travels through a weird fantasy world by guiding swarms of lights. On the surface it appears to be a point and click adventure, but the slight swarm parts feel more like a puzzle game, and the developers say it plays more like an RTS. We’ll find out more next year.

Dream

Developer: HyperSloth
Publisher: Mastertronic
Release: TBA 2014
Link:Steam Early Access

An exploration of lucid dreaming, Dream asks you to play as a directionless young man called Howard Phillips, whose believes his dreams are trying to tell him something about his live. Using your bedroom as a hub, you explore some utterly stunning dream worlds, solving puzzles and helping Howard get his life on track. The game is currently in early access alpha, with only a handful of dreams available, but it already looks like one of the most mesmerising games of 2014.

Dropsy

Developer: Jay Tholen
Publisher: Jay Tholen
Release Date: October
Link:Jay Tholen's site

Dropsy might look rather terrifying – he is a clown after all – but beneath his grotesque make-up lies a gentle and warm-hearted individual that wouldn't harm a fly. He's starring in an open world adventure game with little to no text, and a structure that will allow you to explore and move the story along at your own pace. The game uses an icon-based speech system that represents Dropsy's essentially mute nature, meaning this should be one of the rare adventure games natively playable in all languages. While humans may be a little weirded out by Dropsy, he seems to have no trouble communicating with animals – including his similarly clownlike dog Eughh.

We first encountered Dropsy late last year, after he successfully juggled his way through his Kickstarter campaign.

A Bird Story

Developer: Freebird Games
Publisher: In-house
Release date: TBA
Link:Freebird Games' site

Rather than launch straight into a sequel to To The Moon, Freebird Games are instead working on a spin-off. A Bird Story is billed as a surreal short that's set in the same universe, but that takes place before the adventures of the doctors Watts and Rosalene. Instead, it tells the story of a bird with a broken wing, and a boy who will later grow up to be the patient of To The Moon's planned second episode.

Elegy for a Dead World

Developer: Dejobaan
Publisher: In-house
Release date: TBA
Link:Elegy for a Dead World site

You wander around a dead alien world, making notes about your observations and drawing conclusions about the fate of the long-dead creatures that came before. Then you reach the end of your exploration, and your notes are packaged into the Steam Workshop for others to upload, rate, and discuss. It’s a reflective writing game, essentially, inspired by the works of British Romantic poets, Keats, Shelley, Byron. In the entire list, this is the game least likely to contain an end boss, health packs and a rocket launcher.

Gods Will Be Watching

Developer: Deconstructeam
Publisher: In-house
Release: February 2014
Link:Gods Will Be Watching

Deconstructeam's beautiful adventure webgame is being expanded into a bigger and more complex experience, complementing its lone survival scenario with several more that have to be, er, survived. It's not just about living, however: one of the new scenarios sees you playing as a group of bioterrorists, tasking you with managing a tense hostage situation without causing panic or mutiny.

White Night

Developer: OSome
Publisher: In-house
Release Date: TBA 2014
Link:White Night

If the words “survival horror”, “Alfred Hitchcock” and “German Expressionism” make your ears prick up, then point your eyes at this adventure game, inspired by all of the above, and Alone in the Dark. Rendered in stark black and white, White Night captures the ambience of the moodiest cinema noirs, and promises to use it to create some memorable scares in its haunted house setting.

Tengami

Developer: Nyamyam
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: Mid 2014
Link:Tengami site

Tengami is a serene adventure game set inside a pop up book. As you guide your character through each unfolding spread, you can manipulate the papery seams of the scene before you to unfold new staircases or reveal hidden caves. It’s set in a dark fantasy take on Ancient Japan, and is being co-developed for iPad - a perfect fit for the tactile folding and sliding of cardboard scenery.

Octopus City Blues

Developer:
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: Late 2014
Link:Octopus City Blues

This surreal adventure game is set in a city built around a colossal Octopus. You play a “tentacle cutter” called Kaf Kafkaryan suffering from mysterious hallucinations about a world inhabited by “twisted creatures” who don’t live in a giant Octopus. Expect weirdness. Lots of weirdness.

The Detail

Developer: Rival Games
Publisher: In house
Release date: TBA 2014
Link:The Detail site

The Detail is an old-school noir-style adventure game. As veteran detective Reginald “Reggie” Moore and former criminal informant Joe Miller you walk the streets, investigating murders and trying not to get smoked by sinister members of the criminal underworld. It’s built in the Unity Engine, and counts early Lucasarts adventure games and HBO series The Wire among its influences. Expect death, angry men swearing at the injustice of the world, and stylish lighting.

Lioness

Developer: Zack Ayles
Publisher: In-house
Release date:First episode out by 2014’s end
Link:Lioness Kickstarter page

This experimental adventure game from Zack Ayles casts you as freelance journalist, Eggbert Kirby. Accompanied by a Nicotine-addicted cat, you must investigate the circumstances surrounding seven mysterious disappearances. Ayles says the game is primarily about “human connection” and says that the team are “experimenting with unique new ways to approach games as a storytelling medium.” If that’s not interesting enough, the game will also feature “time travel” and “interdimensional coffee”. The first of the seven planned parts should be out before the end of 2014.

Dyscourse: Survivors, Choose Wisely

Developer: Owlchemy Labs
Publisher: In-house
Release date: September 2014
Link:The Dyscourse site

Can you guide your group of survivors to safety? Dyscourse is a game about life-or-death decisions in the wilderness, rendered in a rather lovely living-collage aesthetic. You’ve crashed on a large island and must stay alive long enough to be rescued, but you’ll spend more time managing your group’s psychology than gathering resources or battling monsters. Dyscourse will present many branching decisions that will affect your group’s relationships with one another. Misjudge the politics of a situation and members could betray you, or go it alone. Crack the group completely and you could be wiped out in days. One to watch for fans of The Yawhg and The Walking Dead.

1979 Revolution

Developer: Ink Stories
Publisher: In-house
Release date: TBA
Link:1979 Revolution

1979 Revolution is an episodic adventure game in the vein of Telltale’s The Walking Dead series, except there will be a strong historical element supported by historical photographs and voice recordings. You play as a photojournalist caught up in the Iranian revolution of 1979, making decisions and trying to protect your friends as the security forces and revolutionaries clash. 1979’s Kickstarter flopped short of its $395,000 target, but the team are still amassing contributions on their site. It’s a team of considerable talent, and the lead developer Navid Khonsari - formerly of Rockstar - was branded a spy by his native Iran for working on the project. The game’s claims to authenticity are strengthened by collaboration with French photojournalist Michel Setboun, who covered both sides of the conflict in 1979. Photos you take during the game can even be compared to genuine shots taken by Setboun, and events from the game will be enhanced by genuine stock footage.

Ghost of a Tale

Developer: Lionel Gallat
Publisher: Self-published
Release date: TBA
Link:Ghost of a Tale

As a tiny wee mouse you must explore and survive a world full of wandering undead beasts in this gorgeous adventure game built by one man, Lionel Gallat. Gallat is using advanced textures and DirectX11 techniques to create a hyper-detailed island full of dark shores and carefully crafted dungeons. Development is proceeding gradually, but a closed alpha is due early in 2014.

Catequesis

Developer: Baroque Decay and Curved Cat games
Publisher: In-house
Release Date: TBA 2014
Link:Catequesis site

You know what sucks? When you meet your girlfriends’ parents for the first time and it turns out one of them has an incurable disease that can only be cured by a mysterious and certainly evil ritual. Such is the challenge that faces you in Catequesis, a horror adventure game inspired by the 16-bit era and classic low-fi horror games like Yume Nikki.

Crimes and Punishments


Developer: Frogwares
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: September 2
Link:Sherlock Holmes: The Game: The Site

We're still waiting on a truly great detective game, and it would be apt if turned out to be one starring the Great Detective himself, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Crimes and Punishments is Frogwares' latest Victorian sleuthing adventure, and this one boasts all manner of technological advancements, more involved detective elements, moments of moral deliberation, and the ability to dress Holmes in a variety of disguises – if you've read the books or seen the wonderful TV series starring Jeremy Brett, you'll know that Holmes was pretty much the original Agent 47.

Frogwares and Focus Home acknowledged the terrifying Creepy Watson video with their own take based in Crimes and Punishments' engine. When you're sufficiently spooked, check out this massive trailer for the latest game.

Hatoful Boyfriend


Developer: Hato Moa, Mediatonic
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release Date: August 21
Link:Hatoful Boyfriend site

The world's first—and presumably only—pigeon dating game doesn't appear to have much to offer beyond its gimmicky premise, but if the writing/jokes are strong enough, there's always room in our hearts for a good parody game. Alternatively, this could be a hugely engaging story that just happens to take place in a school for talented birds. You'll play the part of the only human in the institute—let's hope they can understand your pigeon English.