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Best Strategy Game of 2014 Nominees
Developed by Amplitude Studios
Published by Iceberg Interactive
Released September 18, 2014
Available on PC
Endless Legend (PC DVD)
There isn't much we love more than a strategy 4x game that uses hexagons - ala our long-lasting love affair with Civilization V. Combine that addictive just-one-more-turn gameplay with a game that's a pleasure to play and beautiful to look and and you've got science-fantasy romp Endless Legend. With a gorgeously easy and intuitive interface and beautiful painted pastel aesthetic, the game's user experience really captured our hearts. On top of that, each of the game's eight factions is completely unique, utilizing mechanics and units much different from what you'd expect in a typical game of Civ. When a game is addictive and has style like this it's hard not to sink in dozens of hours.
Endless Legend seems willing to do the one thing other games in its genre aren't: Break the rules. Whether it's making a faction that simply doesn't use one of the major resources or taking away direct control or your units, the game is a masterclass in shattering your expectations. While it's not always executed flawlessly, the differences between factions, missions, and maps make every hour of the game unique.
Developed by Blizzard
Published by Activision-Blizzard
Released March 11, 2014
Available on PC, iOS, Android
We at The Escapist have made no secret of our love for this digital card game. Hearthstone just works on every level as a free-to-play game that feels fun and rewarding no matter how much money you throw at it. You can spend nothing and still love it - what other strategy game from 2014 can say that so emphatically?
Hearthstone is the epitome of casual. It's easily approachable. It's free to play. There are plenty of microtransactions. You can also sink hours and hours into it without realizing it, even though a match can take as few as five minutes. Most importantly, it's highly addictive. Whether you're drawn to the collection side of things, powering through Arena runs (which we'll touch on later) for the prize pack, or drawn to the competition available in Ranked play, if you've got a compulsive bone in your body, you'll have a hard time putting it down.
Hearthstone is the kind of game that virtually everybody can enjoy for at least a while. Some will burn out quickly, and others will play for a long time to come, but it's hard to imagine anybody that simply doesn't appreciate the simple elegance that is the stripped down ruleset of Hearthstone. If you love Magic, Hearthstone will offer a good diversion, even if it may seem a little simplistic in light of your experience. More so, if you just want to love Magic, but don't have the wherewithal to plod through 200 pages of rules, the barebones Hearthstone is exactly what you need.
Developed by Haemimont Games
Published by Kalypso Media
Released May 23, 2014
Available on PC, PS4, Xbox 360
Tropico 5 - (PC)
The shtick of Tropico 5 has been around for ages - it's essentially the history of typical banana republics but, you know, in a fun tongue-in-cheek way - but Haemimont nailed it with this fifth iteration in the series. It may have flown a bit under the radar in 2014, but Tropico 5 deserves all the accolades. We were not threatened to say this by El Presidente.
The game's new eras are a welcome addition to play, with each giving an interesting objective and flavor to what you're doing as you move through the stages of city expansion. In the early game you'll be building through the colonial era, a race to kick off a revolution before your term as governor expires. You then settle into the world wars, a balance of appeasing the Axis & Allies respectively, lest one or the other invade your country - or you can throw that out the window, ally with one for massive benefits, and fight off invasions from the other.
The writing can be pretty funny, even, when it's not being uncomfortably or offensively stereotypical. The graphics look quite good on a high end PC. The music is, as usual, just incredible. The mix of latin jazz and dance music is superb, well curated, and varied enough that you'll come to love particular tracks and want to pause for a dance break when they come up.
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