image

A lot of crap hit the fan in 2014 and I’m not just talking about the Master Chief Collection. There were some culture wars and some collapsing currencies, but to paraphrase Tori Amos, it was still a pretty good year. We at The Escapist like to shine light on the artwork that lets use get through the bullshit: the movies that amaze, the comic books that delight, or the science that astonishes, and yes, the games that keep us playing until the wee hours of the night.

A few weeks ago we published the nominees for the expanded Escapist Awards of 2014. The aim of these Awards is to commemorate works from each of our five channels, celebrating that which was truly great this year. Today, we announce the winners in each of the categories below. Click on the link to jump to page for each category.

Video Games

Best Shooter of 2014
Best RPG of 2014
Best Strategy Game of 2014
Best Action/Adventure Game of 2014
Game of the Year 2014

Movies and TV

Best Movie of 2014
Best TV Series of 2014

Tabletop

Best Card Game of 2014
Best Board Game of 2014
Best Tabletop Roleplaying Game of 2014
Best RPG Supplement of 2014

Comics and Cosplay

Best Single Comic Book Issue of 2014
Best Comic Book Series of 2014
Best Comic Book Art of 2014
Best Comic Book Writing of 2014

Science and Tech

Best Gaming Mouse of 2014
Best Gaming Headset of 2014
Best Gaming Keyboard of 2014
Most Significant Breakthrough in Science & Technology of 2014

image

Best Shooter of 2014

Read more about the nominees here.

Destiny
Far Cry 4
Wolfenstein: The New Order

And the Escapist Award goes to:

Far Cry 4

farcry_ 4_sla_hunter

Developed by Ubisoft Montreal
Published by Ubisoft
Released on November 18, 2014
Available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One
Far Cry 4 – Xbox Oneimage


Editor in Chief Greg Tito says: For many players, the first person shooter is the quintessential game format. From its roots in games like the original Wolfenstein and Doom, to the multiplayer in GoldenEye, TF2 and Call of Duty, the impact shooters have had on game development is huge. This year alone, big-time publishers aimed their sights on the waning Call of Duty audience with robots, spaceships, and Kevin Spacey. All they were missing was a honey badger.

Ubisoft built on the success of Far Cry 3 to give players an open world in a unique setting. Kyrat may be a Nepalese stand-in, but the mountainous country was ripe for exploring new places to shoot things. Far Cry 4 looks absolutely stunning on new consoles, and offers a wonderful sandbox in which to wreak all kinds of havoc. Want to set loose a bear to take out guards? Yeah, that’s cool. Trying to stealth into an outpost only to be discovered by a pesky eagle ripping your eyes out from above? It happens. Want to storm a group of Pagan Min’s troops with a only a grenade launcher and a prayer? Bold. The beauty of Far Cry 4 is allowing you to accomplish things in the world however you want.

Speaking of Pagan Min, the deliciously detestable villain was brought to life by the incomparable Tory Baker. In many ways, Far Cry 4 tells the story of the dictator through his relationship to the protagonist’s parents and Ajay himself. It’s almost as if Min wants us to kill him, and the curious way your path intersects with him through the game acts as a skeleton to all the shooting shenanigans.

As columnist Robert Rath asserts, Ubisoft recreated a lot of what the Himalayan nation of Nepal feels like while missing the mark on a lot of cultural touchstones. But if nothing else, Far Cry 4 lets those of us who don’t travel internationally very often a chance to play in a new part of the world.

But above all, Far Cry 4 is a shooter that understands interesting situations are better served a la carte than on rails, and for that it earns the Escapist Award for the Best Shooter of 2014.


image

Best RPG of 2014

Read more about the nominees here:

Bravely Default
Dark Souls II
Dragon Age: Inquisition

And the Escapist Award goes to …

Dragon Age: Inquisition

daireview12

Developed by BioWare
Published by Electronic Arts
Released November 18, 2014
Available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Dragon Age Inquisition – Xbox Oneimage


Managing Editor Josh Vanderwall says: I’ve never played a Dragon Age game before, and I didn’t really intend to play this one. My wife started playing in the evenings while I entertained myself with the games I did intend to play, but every day I found myself playing fewer and fewer hours of my own game, and putting more and more of those hours into hers. This went on until one day I realized that I was no longer playing my own games at all, and, frankly, she was no longer in control of her Dragon Age adventures.

Even when it’s in the periphery, Inquisition‘s story and characters are wildly compelling, and if you find yourself in the same room as someone playing it, you’ll inevitably take frequent breaks from whatever it is you’re doing to listen to the dialogue, and most likely start grilling your companion about what’s going on in the world at large.

Beyond the impressive number of voiced conversations, the breadth of the game and story are mind boggling. At home, we collectively sunk two or three dozen hours into DA:I when we hit what seemed like the inevitable conclusion of the storyline. Then, three scenes later, it dawned on us that we’d only just made it past the prologue. It took another 100 hours for us to actually finish the story.

DA:I‘s experience customization is also worth mentioning. As a party-based game, you’ll be traipsing around as yourself with three other characters most of the time. Your party composition, however, is more or less up to you. If you just want to watch the world burn, try a party of all mages. With the right skill setup, you can pretty much crowd-control any situation until everything explodes from the unending barrage of spells. If you’re more of a traditionalist, you’ve also got the option of a “balanced party,” whatever that means.

An exciting combat system, untold pages of scripted dialogue, and a surprisingly deep story which touches on elements from loyalty to faith to skullduggery fit together perfectly to create an unparalleled RPG experience that should not be missed.


image

Best Strategy Game of 2014

Read more about the nominees here.

Endless Legend
Hearthstone
Tropico 5

And the Escapist Award goes to …

Hearthstone

vlcsnap-2013-12-10-10h05m20s194.png

Developed by Blizzard
Published by Activision-Blizzard
Released March 11, 2014
Available on PC, iOS, Android
Hearthstone- PC


Managing Editor Josh Vanderwall says: Long, long ago, in October of 20 aught 13, I got into the Hearthstone closed beta. I played every single day for months and months, until I thought I couldn’t play any more. It launched in March to general acclaim, and I found myself continuing my hours-a-day habit. As a two-decade Magic veteran, I wasn’t expecting the hyper-simplified Hearthstone to really keep my attention for that long, but the constant shifts in the meta game, the always-random Arena runs, and battling up the ladder for rank kept me coming back.

Just a few months after its successful launch, the single-player Adventure, Curse of Naxxramas, hit, challenging players to take down bosses of various difficulties, who refused to play by the rules. The different wings rolled out weekly, with new and exciting challenges for players at every turn. The balance was superb, with regular matches often taking a few tries, but ultimately being beatable, and the Heroic versions taking dozens of attempts in some cases.

Fast forward to December, and the first proper expansion, Goblins vs Gnomes launched, bringing with it all kinds of randomness that has potential to really change how you play. Featuring new mechanics, new Minion types, and a penchant for silliness, GvG highlights Hearthstone‘s “fun-over-all” mentality, while offering some truly powerful cards for the more competitive-minded player.

Hearthstone is something of a gateway game for to-be strategy enthusiasts, and we couldn’t be happier to name it the Best Strategy Game of 2014.


image

Best Action/Adventure of 2014

Read more about the nominees here.

Alien: Isolation
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Watch Dogs

And the Escapist Award goes to …

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

shadowofmordor_domination_print

Developed by Monolith Productions
Published by Warner Bros. Interactive
Released September 30, 2014
Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor – Xbox Oneimage


Managing Editor Josh Vanderwall says: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is one of those games that I heard about months prior to release, but never really paid much attention to. I love Tolkien, to be sure, but I’ve seen and played a lot of adaptations of Middle-earth-related things, and haven’t been terribly impressed in recent years. Shadow of Mordor, it turns out, is the clear outlier in the occasionally-glutted market of Tolkien-related media.

Mordor shines in both narrative and gameplay, with a lore-packed story centered on your post-mortem quest for revenge. With an ethereal mentor, you’re looking to beef up your fighting skills, recruit an army, and take down the combined forces of Mordor. Shadow of Mordor offers a healthy combination of melee, ranged, and stealth combat, allowing you to focus on mission in whichever style suits you.

The core of the game is the counter-based combat system. Surrounded by uruk and spamming your attack button, you’ll need to watch for the Counter prompt, which will keep you from dying, while also taking down your enemies. As you progress through the story, you’ll get a very real sense of the increase in your power level as well. You’ll unlock new abilities as you go, which drastically alter the way fights play out.

Eventually, you’ll get the Brand ability, which basically turns an uruk into your minion. You’ll likely find yourself doing this over and over in every fight, until your minions outnumber the opposing forces, and you can just wander off and let them finish the battle. It is, in a word, glorious.

The much-touted Nemesis system is almost as incredible as the hype around it. You’ll encounter thousands of uruk, but occasionally, one of them will get a brief cinematic and a name. Each one has a distinct look and personality. They remember your victories, they remember your defeats. If you run away, they will taunt you about that when they see you again. They’ll also fight among themselves for rank and position in Sauron’s army.

Between the novelty of the Nemesis system, the visceral brutality of the combat, and the lore-steeped storyline, Shadow of Mordor was simply too good not to recognize.


image

Game of the Year

Read more about the nominees here.

Alien: Isolation
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Far Cry 4
Hearthstone
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
The Walking Dead Season Two

And the Escapist Award goes to …

Dragon Age: Inquisition

daireview12

Developed by BioWare
Published by Electronic Arts
Released November 18, 2014
Available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Dragon Age Inquisition – Xbox Oneimage


Editor in Chief Greg Tito says: My Inquisitor has horns. Yours may have pointy ears, or a big beard. My Inquisitor doesn’t really believe in the Maker. Yours might and might believe they are touched by the divine. My Inquisitor is obsessed with mystical shards that seem to litter the landscape. Yours might be more interested in destroying dragons or in chasing down rogue mages. Everyone’s story in Dragon Age: Inquisition is different, which has made it dominate the water-cooler discussion since it came out. Everyone who plays it can’t help but talk about it.

Building on the previous iterations in BioWare’s flagship fantasy series, Inquisition seemed to be the first major RPG that took full advantage of the processing power of the new consoles to deliver a truly massive game. It’s not a seamless open world, but the areas you can explore across Ferelden and Orlais are humongous. Simply getting from one point to another in these areas is an adventure unto itself.

The characters of Dragon Age: Inquisition are so well-established that they start to feel like familiar friends. There are the party members. Varric the smart-talking dwarf returns and has a wonderfully complicated relationship with his interrogator Cassandra. Solas the elven mage intrigued by the Fade contrasts nicely with former Tevinter Dorian and the court mage Vivienne. Even the characters I didn’t play with much at first, like Cole and Sera, were intriguing. The Iron Bull is just, well, great.

image

But I especially enjoyed the supporting characters like Fiona the First Enchanter, Josephine the ambassador, and some of the returning folks (no spoilers here!). Each one of them was a fully realized person instead of cookie-cut attributes or regurgitated sterotypes. Hell, I even loved interacting with the dwarven scout Harding. She was a delight to speak to whenever I traveled to a new place – I really felt like she and I had a bond.

Above all, Dragon Age: Inquisition portrayed its political scope so excellently. The Inquisition is a movement that has weight in the world, and that is shown most clearly through the war room mechanic and the massive table map. It looks like something out of Game of Thrones and I’m convinced that was intentional. You, as the leader of the Inquisition, are allowed to feel like you are controlling something important. What you do matters. The judgments you mete out have impact. You are in control of the fate of the world – many games state that on the back of the box but DA:I made sure it wasn’t just a bullet point.

Dragon Age: Inquisition used the technical capabilities of the new consoles and the processing power of high-end PCs to push the boundaries of what is possible in a single game. I’m excited for what gamemakers create next with Dragon Age: Inquisition as inspiration.


image

Best Movie of 2014

Read more about the nominees here.

Big Hero 6
Snowpiercer
The LEGO Movie
Guardians of the Galaxy
Captain America: The Winter Soldier

And the Escapist Award goes to …

Captain America: The Winter Soldier


Stars: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson,Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson
Directors: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Released on April 4, 2014
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (DVD)image


Senior Editor Elizabeth Harper says: Of all the fantastic movies that have come out this year, this April’s Captain America sequel came up in conversation again and again as The Escapist team tried to narrow down what we thought was the top movie of the year. It’s a rare treat that a sequel can be as good — or even better — than the original material, but Cap and crew pull it off in The Winter Soldier, which is a fantastic movie on a lot of different levels.

For comic geeks (which includes many of us at The Escapist), it brings great comics characters to the screen for the first time. The film introduces both the Falcon and the Winter Soldier into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in ways that feel true to the originals – something Marvel Studios has proven especially good at. As a bonus that pays off for dedicated fans, this flick turned the cinematic universe on its head by destroying S.H.I.E.L.D., which continues to have far-reaching consequences in Marvel’s movies and television efforts.

But for viewers tired of superhero movies, The Winter Soldier ditches most of the expected capes ‘n cowls pageantry to be a proper spy thriller – even going so far as casting Robert Redford in a lead role, which certainly adds gravitas (and spy cred) to the film. Whether you know Marvel arcana or not, this is a roller coaster ride of a thrill movie… and that’s what makes it really stand out among this year’s crop of films. It’s a movie that’s clearly been made with love and care for Marvel fans to enjoy, but the movie works on more than just that level. It’s a tough tightrope to walk – we’ve seen Sony and Fox try to make mainstream action blockbusters of their own Marvel properties, to mixed results — but The Winter Soldier does it so skillfully as to make it look easy.

We’re not ashamed to admit that even after watching this multiple times, we’re still finding new things to love about it… and we bet you are, too.


image

Best TV Series of 2014

Read more about the nominees here.

Doctor Who
Legend of Korra
Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.
Hannibal
The Flash

And the Escapist Award goes to …

Hannibal


Stars: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Hettienne Park, Laurence Fishburne, Gillian Anderson
Airs on NBC

Hannibal Season 2 [Blu-ray]image


Senior Editor Elizabeth Harper says: We love a lot of different shows on television right now, and it was a real challenge to narrow our finalists down to just one show. But while we enjoyed shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Doctor Who, they were often hit or miss, with good episodes and bad episodes. And though we were willing to put up with the lesser parts of these shows to get to the good stuff, the inconsistent quality didn’t make them feel like best of the year material. Hannibal, however, has put out consistently spectacular episodes throughout season 2 (and season 1 before it). The show is bleakly gorgeous, with a thrill-ride of a plot that you just can’t look away from.

The violence, both physical and psychological, can be hard to watch, especially as your favorite characters are caught up in Hannibal’s machinations — but throughout the season we’ve stayed glued to our televisions with the need to know just what happens next. Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal sells the character’s curious detachment from the world around him, as he plays puppetmaster with his supposed friends simply to see what will happen next. We wouldn’t recommend it for holiday watching with the family, but Hannibal a must watch for any fan of good drama.


image

Best Card Game of 2014

Read more about the nominees here:

Warhammer 40,000 Core Set
Doomtown: Reloaded Core Set
Magic: The Gathering Commander

And the Escapist Awards goes to …

Doomtown: Reloaded Core Set

doomtown shadow walk

Designed by Mark Wootton. Orignal Design by David Williams. Additional development by Eric Jome, Konstantinos Thoukydidis, and Steven Martino.
Published by Alderac Entertainment Group
Doomtown: Reloaded Base Setimage


Senior Editor Jon Bolding says: A standoff is taking place in town square. Hands rest on pistol butts, but nobody’s willing to draw first because one gang has a wizard with a pack of ghostly playing cards, and the posse after them has a steam-powered gatling revolver. This is the world of Doomtown, the weird western Deadlands card game that rose like the desert sun this year after its death in the late 1990s. Remade as a non-collectible expandable card game and stuffed with quality components, it already has one expansion (Called a “Saddlebag”) with another on the way. While its mechanics might be considered too complex for many, there are deep layers of satisfying randomization because of the poker hands built into every game card. That’s why since our original review, the game has more than grown on us.

See, in Doomtown battles are decided between players by drawing cards from your deck, because each card has its own built-in suit and value on the top right, you then construct poker hands. Those hands have values, which determine who dies in the ensuing shooutout – and whether they’re simply wounded back into someone’s deck or if they go to Boot Hill along with every copy of the same named card. As you’re maneuvering your posses of dudes around, you’re building a boomtown by placing properties, and by vying over control of those with your opponents you gain enough share of the town to win.

None of this mentions the game’s ingenious deckbuilding, where you’ve got to balance the utility of each card with its suit and value, trying to build in combinations for good poker hands without drawing a “cheatin’ hand” too often – because someone’s going to nail you to the wall if you’re cheatin’ too often. And that doesn’t even factor in how well Doomtown scales to three or even four players with simply the core set.

With clever mechanics, lovely art, and an engaging theme, Doomtown captures the spirit of the best of card games with few of the drawbacks.


image

Best Board Game of 2014

Read more about the nominees here.

Evolution
Five Tribes
Shadowrun: Crossfire
King’s Forge

And the Escapist Award goes to …

Shadowrun: Crossfire

shadowrun crossfire cover

Designed by Mike Elliott, Rob Heinsoo, Jim Lin, Gregory Marques, Sean McCarthy, and Rob Watkins
Published by Catalyst Game Labs
Shadowrun Crossfire Base Gameimage


Senior Editor Jon Bolding says: When we first sat down with Shadowrun: Crossfire we were baffled: How could we, a crew of experienced gamers, get so utterly dismantled by a simple cooperative board game?

The answer? We had been coddled for years.

While a special few cooperative tabletop games offer a real difficult experience on their hardest settings, we’ve never played one that really threatens players like Crossfire does. Puzzling out each turn takes all the brainpower you’ve got at the table. Building a deck that complements the other players’ choices is a decision all your own, but you know that the others will be counting on your choices in later rounds. Cooperative deckbuilding doesn’t sound like the most fun thing on the surface, but making your team into a perfectly interlocked mechanism of destruction is about as good as it gets. As you play cards to match colors and values on challenges you’re up against, the game’s scenarios throw wrenches and curveballs at your perfectly-laid plans. When a market lockdown card keeps the players form buying for a turn, the situation goes from bad to worse. Then a runner flatlines and you have to break out – but you want right back in. You want to try again and master this game.

That’s the experience that wins Crossfire game of the year for us. While other games offer a more pleasant or easy play experience, or a more cutthroat sense of competition, this one makes a group of people band together and desperately want to taste victory against long odds. Its mechanics support that sense, too, because they use persistent characters. Every time you play the game, your own unique character gets karma points that they can spend to get upgrade stickers, allowing you to customize yourself and take on harder scenarios. The persistent experience is more than worth the effort of getting the same group together week after week, and if you can do it, you should do it.


image

Best Tabletop Roleplaying Game of 2014

Read more about the nominees here.

Firefly Roleplaying Game
The Strange
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

And the Escapist Award goes to …

D&D Games Pt 2 3x3

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition


Designed by Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Bruce Cordell, Peter Lee, Robert J. Schwalb, Rodney Thompson, James Wyatt.
Published by Wizards of the Coast.
Player’s Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons)image

Monster Manual (D&D Core Rulebook)image

Dungeon Master’s Guide (D&D Core Rulebook)image


Senior Editor Jon Bolding says: No surprise here, there simply weren’t too many games willing to go up against the 500 pound gorilla of tabletop gaming, the venerable Dungeons & Dragons. Besmirched in the minds of many gamers by a divisive Fourth Edition, the Fifth Edition has won back hearts and minds by sticking to the well-trod basics of what D&D is while innovating just enough to please the new generation of gamers. The new D&D focuses on cutting away the cruft of extra rules that the game had accumulated in favor of playing as fast as older editions of the game. With a focus on readable, clear rules and easily understood character options, this might be the fastest playing edition of D&D since 1981, and certainly has as much depth as anything published in between.

The game’s core three books are all artfully illustrated and consistently written, with the Monster Manual especially being a lovely book and a master class in how to inspire good adventure. The new mechanics, like the Advantage/Disadvantage system, all make the game quicker and more enjoyable, allowing you to focus on story and not on stacking modifiers to your rolls. Characters have a new focus on background and story elements, filling in parts of the roleplaying experience that D&D has awkwardly ignored for decades. There are problems, sure, and if you’re not interested in high fantasy gaming this isn’t going to change your mind, but the remarkable completeness of this game’s execution cannot be ignored. Nothing has been left out, nothing forgotten, and tradition respected. This is how you make a new edition of a game. It’s a model for years to come – years where we’ll still be playing Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons.


image

Best RPG Supplement of 2014

Read more about the nominees here.

Deep Magic
Pathfinder Advanced Class Guide
The Ninth World Bestiary
13 True Ways
The Fate Freeport Companion

And the Escapist Award goes to …

deep magic cover

Deep Magic


Designed by a laundry list of famous designers.
Published by Kobold Press.
Deep Magic: 13th Age Compatible Editionimage


Senior Editor Jon Bolding says: In a year filled with tons of short, sweet supplements that allow for hours of gaming in a new world or with a new suite of classes, it’s strange that we’d pick the titanic tome that is Deep Magic, but that’s because there was really no other choice. Where on the surface you might mistake Deep Magic for a game book from the early 2000s, a “What a value!” hackjob stuffed with content because the authors could do it, not because it’s all good, this is actually just a bound collection of some of the most clever magical house rules and subsystems we’ve ever seen. With a laundry list of clever designers and storytellers – from Kobold Press’ own Wolfgang Baur to Ed Greenwood and Jason Buhlman – spinning out Pathfinder mechanics and spells from the bizarre to the brilliant. This is, in effect, hundreds of pages of short, sweet supplements. Any one of the subsystems in this book could make a campaign unique, and adding all of them would turn an established campaign on its head.

Fantasy game players are too used to knowing precisely what spells are. “Oh,” says your fighter, “he’s casting sleep probably.” Well, no, actually, he’s not. Because you’ve got Deep Magic and that guy summons angels and bad luck. From homunculi and myths to runes and blood, there’s not much to hate in here. Players will find unique hooks aplenty for characters, and DMs will find fascinating inspiration for villains. While other supplements this year fleshed out their campaign world or offered a new one to splash around in, Deep Magic added value to every fantasy campaign you’ve ever played – whether in Pathfinder or 13th Age. If you’re in either of those systems, this is a can’t-miss book.


image

Best Single Comic Book Issue of 2014

Read more about the nominees here.

Rocket Raccoon #5
Astro City Vol. 3 #8
Southern Bastards #3

And the Escapist Award goes to …

Astro City Vol. 3 #8

Single Comic Astro City Vol 3 Ep 8

Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
Written by: Kurt Busiek
Art: Alex Ross (covers), Brent Anderson (issues)
Release Date: March, 2014


Senior Editor Ross Lincoln says: Why did Astro City win? That’s a question that might take almost 20 years to answer. Since 1995, Astro City has been the definitive post-Alan Moore reconstruction of the superhero genre, digging into the lives of bystanders as well as heroes, with the epic events which normally make up the bulk of superhero comics relegated to (almost) background events. And as previously mentioned, one of the best things about the series is how author Kurt Busiek inserts small details seemingly at random that will later pay off hugely.

That’s what happened with “Victory”, the first storyline in Astro City to focus on his Wonder Woman stand-in Winged Victory. Finally exploring tidbits of information only alluded to in previous arcs, it digs into Winged Victory’s origins, the feminism of her particular crusade, and her ambiguous place within the larger group of mostly male heroes she often works with. (Including her boyfriend, the series Superman analogue Samaritan). Without parodying feminism nor taking the position that the sexes are inherently opposed, Busiek delivered one of the most satisfying stories in series history. That it also ends up being a great alternate universe Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman team-up is just gravy.


image

Best Comic Book Series of 2014

Read about the nominees here.

Saga
Hawkeye
Ms. Marvel

And the Escapist Award goes to …

Ms. Marvel (Marvel Comics)

Comic Series Ms Marvel

Publisher: Marvel Comics
Written by: G. Willow Wilson
Art: Sara Pichelli


Senior Editor Ross Lincoln says: Like I said previously, the entire Comics and Cosplay team nominated Ms. Marvel for this award, and as such we have to give it to her hands-down. For people who love their comics replete with lore porn and connections to the larger universe, you’ve got her fan-worship of the former Ms. Marvel/current Captain Marvel, plus the recent reveal that the new Ms. Marvel is an Inhuman. For people who like their comics full of real-feeling personal drama, you’ve got a coming of age story about a young adult grasping for independence, still needing her family, and navigating a complex social world.

But the best thing about it is that it’s an exciting superhero story, with cool powers and the development of a great story arc, married to an authentic story of the immigrant experience. Kamala Khan is of course a Pakistani teen whose parents are quite traditional. The way this series explores that as an aspect of her developing superpowers should be studied as a perfect example of how not to pander, paternalize, or give in to tokenism. Brilliant stuff.


image

Best Comics Art of 2014

Read more about the nominees here.

Ben Dewey – Tooth and Claw
Jesse Moynihan – Forming II
Tom Neely – The Humans

And the Escapist Award goes to …

Ben Dewey – Tooth and Claw

Comics Art Tooth and Claw

Publisher: Image Comics
Writing: Kurt Busiek
Art: Ben Dewey


Senior Editor Ross Lincoln says: Take The Wind in the Willows, mix it with Watership Down, and throw in a heavy dose of The Lord of the Rings and The Once and Future King and you’re somewhere close to Tooth and Claw. An epic set in a magical world filled exclusively with anthropomorphic animals, it concerns the terrible after-effects of an attempt to bring a long-vanished champion back into the world to deal with a horrible crisis. Read it.

But while co-creator Kurt Busiek’s writing is, per usual, excellent, it’s the art by Ben Dewey that really stands out. Dark, grim, bloody, yet almost pastoral, it’s textured and gorgeous. This new series is essential for anyone calling themselves a fan of comics, and Dewey’s art is some of the best in the entire medium since P. Craig Russell.


image

Best Comic Book Writing of 2014

Read more about the nominees here.

Greg Rucka – Lazarus
Kieron Gillon – The Wicked and the Divine
Brian K. Vaughan – Saga

And the Escapist Award goes to …

Brian K. Vaughan – Saga

Comics Writing Saga

Publisher: Image Comics
Art: Fiona Staples


Senior Editor Ross Lincoln says: Ho-hum, another decade, another example of how incredible Brian K. Vaughan is. His Y: The Last Man is rightly regarded as an all-time classic, but at the end of his career, Saga is probably going to be seen as his magnum opus.

Like a cross between Star Wars, Heavy Metal and Dragon Riders of Pern, Saga takes place in a universe with galaxy-spanning societies currently torn up by a war between magic-users and tech-users. The central characters are two former soldiers from the opposing sides who fall in love and run off together. Joined by members of their extended family (and their baby), they’re being chased all over the galaxy by former commanders, by bounty hunters, and by the members of a royal family comprised of Robots who have CRT monitors for heads.

Vaughan’s writing displays particular maturity here. Clearly affected by his television work, he manages to blend cinematic conventions with comic book conventions in a way that feels almost effortless, while also crafting believable characters and a touching romance. Profane, sexy (and explicit), heartwarming and thrilling, Saga is one of the greatest space operas ever conceived.


image

Best Gaming Mouse of 2014

Read more about the nominees here.

G502 Proteus Core
Deathadder Chrome
M65 RGB
Tyon

And the Escapist Award goes to …

G502 Proteus Core

Mouse G502 Proteus Core

Manufactured by Logitech
Logitech G502 Proteus Core product pageimage


Senior Editor C.J. Miozzi says: Logitech has been one of the leading names in gaming mice for years, but the tech company has really outdone itself with the G502 Proteus Core. Priced competitively with other gaming mice, the Proteus Core edges out its competition by offering more features, greater customizability, and more versatility across different genres of gaming.

While I personally don’t need more than three buttons on a mouse, a lot of gamers make great use of them – and some MMO gamers can’t get enough buttons. From executing macro commands to simply reallocating key presses from your keyboard to your mouse, gamers continue to find increasing value in additional mouse buttons. With 11 buttons, the Proteus Core offers more than most gaming mice without getting into the “seriously overboard” territory that some MMO-mice lean toward – at least, from a non-MMO gamer’s perspective.

There’s even a twelfth button that allows you to switch the mouse’s scroll wheel from slick and fast free-scrolling to highly-tactile stepped-scrolling. No more having to decide between a mouse that features one or the other – we now have the technology to please everyone.

The Proteus Core’s optical sensor offers up to 12,000 DPI, which is more than its competition and more than most gamers currently need. But with 4K gaming on the horizon, you can call this “future-proofing” rather than “overkill.” And before you scoff at that optical sensor – you know, for not being a laser sensor, despite some pro FPS players swearing by optical – know that Logitech implemented a feature that allows you to calibrate the sensor to your specific gaming surface through its software for optimum performance. This software also allows you to store three profiles on the mouse itself and many more on your computer. Profiles for specific games will automatically load when the game does, allowing you to execute programmable macros and in-game commands via mouse click.

The mouse itself is on the smaller-size, best suited for claw- and finger-grip gamers than palm-grip gamers. As for its weight, this is one of the most tunable mice out there. The feel of a mouse is very important to a competitive gamer, and the Proteus Core has a weight and balance system that allows you to adjust not only how heavy the mouse is, but also its center of mass.

If there’s one mouse released this year that is most likely to please everyone, it’s the Proteus Core.

Note: To qualify for this award, the product must have initially released in 2014, or had a new version release in 2014.


image

Best Gaming Headset of 2014

Read more about the nominees here.

HyperX Cloud
H1500
9H
G4ME Zero
Kave XTD

And the Escapist Award goes to …

HyperX Cloud

Headset HyperX Cloud

Manufactured by Kingston
HyperX Cloud product pageimage


Senior Editor C.J. Miozzi says: The HyperX headset – from Kingston, of all companies – takes this year’s prize for providing excellent quality at a sub-$100 price point. Built out of strong, lightweight, and flexible aluminum, there’s no risk of the HyperX cracking or snapping like flimsier, plastic headsets you may find at a similar price point. The leather coated memory foam headband and earcups ensure a comfortable fit, and a set of secondary, more breathable earcups without the leather coating serve as a backup option for those who get sweaty during extended gaming sessions on those hot summer days.

Within the truly circumaural earcups are two 53mm drivers that produce high-fidelity sound without distortion even at high volumes, and there’s very little sound leakage to disturb those around you. The braided cable ensures longevity and fewer tangles, an in-line controller comes with volume and mic mute controls and also serves as an adapter for mobile devices, and a six-foot extension cable offers plenty of slack for you to move around your desk space.

The mic is detachable and has a very flexible boom that allows you to position it however you want. It’s not the best mic around, but hey – this is a gaming headset, not a podcasting headset. It gets the job done.

You may have noticed that I didn’t mention surround sound – that’s because the HyperX has no such features. “What?” you cry, “You’re giving the gaming headset award to a headset that doesn’t have surround sound?” Yes I am. Deal with it.

Surround sound may be necessary for highly competitive FPS players, but for general gaming usage, I’ll pick high-quality stereo sound over lesser-quality surround sound any day. Many of today’s top PC games have little to no need for 7.1 positional audio, and some gamers can’t even accurately pinpoint the direction of audio in simulated surround sound.

Simply put, the HyperX offers a level of quality far beyond its price point.

Note: To qualify for this award, the product must have initially released in 2014, or had a new version release in 2014.


image

Best Gaming Keyboard of 2014

Read more about the nominees here

Vengeance K70 RGB
BlackWidow Chroma
Ryos TKL Pro
G910 Orion Spark
Quickfire Rapid-I

And the Escapist Award goes to …

Vengeance K70 RGB

Vengeance

Manufactured by Corsair
Vengeance K70 RGB product pageimage


Senior Editor C.J. Miozzi says: When it comes to keyboards, 2014 is the year of 16.8 million color illumination and custom mechanical switches. With the expiration of the Cherry MX patents, the door has been opened for everyone to manufacture and distribute their own mechanical switches, and Razer and Logitech are two giants that took a stab at it with their new keyboards. Feedback has been mixed as to whether they are superior to the time-tested Cherry MX that we’ve grown accustomed to, and I look forward to seeing how these companies iterate on their switch designs in the years to come.

Meanwhile, Corsair has kept with Cherry MX, and the Vengeance K70 RGB is an exceptional example of the current leading tech in gaming keyboards. Available in your choice of Cherry MX red, brown, or blue switches, the Vengeance gives you options: do you want more resistance and clackety-clack (blue), less (red), or somewhere in the middle (brown)? A detachable wrist rest covered in soft plastic is there for those who want it, but if you don’t have the desktop real estate or you don’t like the feel of it, then it comes right off.

All mechanical keyboards cost more than traditional membrane keyboards, and while it may be a hard sell to someone who has never owned a mechanical keyboard, they simply feel better to type with. Plus, they’re built sturdier, they’ll last longer, and you’ll never lose a keystroke input when hitting multiple keys at once.

The K70 RGB’s software allows you to create custom profiles, record macros, and reassign keys. It lacks dedicated macro keys, but this allows the keyboard to have a smaller footprint on your desk, and outside of serious MMO gaming, dedicated macro keys often just collect dust.

But the K70 RGB’s flashiest feature is, well, the RGB. Using the software, you can customize the lighting of individual keys, and beyond “simply” changing the colors, you can program in all manner of complex behaviors. Some are just razzle dazzle, like the ripple effect that sets of “wave” of changing color emanating from the key you pressed across the entire keyboard, but I’m sure clever gamers can find tremendous use in others, such as the ability to cycle colors on a key every time it is pressed. Imagine how useful it can be, when learning a new game, to have important hotkeys highlighted in particular colors on your keyboard. Imagine color-coding your MMO ability hotkeys: green for healing spells, red for attacks, and blue for buffs. Imagine no longer having to fumble about to reorient your finger position if your hand slips and you start hitting the wrong keys – from the periphery of your vision, you can spot the color-coded keys to rest your fingertips on.

In the past, I’ve considered lighting an aesthetic bonus feature on a keyboard, but certainly not something that is worth driving up the keyboard’s cost significantly. But we are now entering an era in which keyboard illumination can actually positively impact your gameplay in ways we never imagined. The K70 RGB costs a pretty penny, but it wins this year’s best gaming keyboard award for being one of the best-made keyboards that is expanding the boundaries of the tech with no wasted features and plenty of options.

Note: To qualify for this award, the product must have initially released in 2014, or had a new version release in 2014.


image

Most Significant Breakthrough in Science & Technology of 2014

Read more about the nominees here.

Adult Human Cells Successfully Cloned
Lockheed Martin Makes Breakthrough in Nuclear Fusion
DARPA Develops 1 THz Circuit
Biologists Delay Aging Process in Fruit Flies
Researchers Eliminate HIV Virus from Human Cells
Breakthrough Graphene Synthesis Method
Nanomotors Inserted and Steered within Living Human Cells
Researchers Cure Liver Disorder in Mice through Genetics
New Means of Destroying Spreading Cancer Cells
Rosetta’s Philae Lander Touches Down on Comet

And the Escapist Award goes to …

Science and Tech 7th Story Good Size

New Means of Destroying Spreading Cancer Cells


Senior Editor C.J. Miozzi says: A great deal of deliberation went into selecting a winner for most significant breakthrough in science & technology. We consulted alumni with backgrounds in biology, biochemistry, planetary science, and chemical engineering, and opinions were mixed on which was most deserving of this award.

We wanted the winner of this award to be the breakthrough with the greatest potential to change the world and have the biggest impact on the most people possible. This helped narrow the candidates down to a single breakthrough.

Lockheed Martin’s designs for a new nuclear fusion reactor would have been a sure winner… if they had shown us something concrete. What they are promising is truly revolutionary, but it’s little more than a promise at this point. If their claim holds true – that they can build and test a functional design in as little as a year – then they are bound to win our 2015 award.

The touchdown of the Philae lander on comet 67P was an incredible achievement for humanity and the advancement of space exploration, but it lacks the appreciable everyday impact that many of these other candidates possess. The nanomotor achievement shows great promise toward the advancement of nanotechnology, but its current applications seem limited. The advances made toward curing HIV and genetic disorders were certainly contenders as well, but if there is a single deadly disease that impacts the world like no other, it’s cancer.

This year’s award goes to the Cornell biomedical engineers who developed a new way to destroy metastasizing cancer cells. It may not be a cure for cancer, since it only kills cancerous cells in transit and not tumors, but this method can potentially be combined with current tumor-killing/removal techniques to great effect. We have developed techniques to treat localized cancer, but cancer becomes especially deadly when it spreads. Once that happens, chances of survival and recovery drop dramatically.

According to the World Health Organization, 2012 saw 14.1 million new cases of cancer occur worldwide. That year, cancer was responsible for 8.2 million deaths – 14.6 percent of all human deaths in 2012. Roughly 90 percent of cancer deaths are attributed to cancer that has spread, so if an effective means of killing spreading cancer cells is developed, millions of lives a year can potentially be saved.


That’s it. The Escapist Awards for 2014 was a blast to assemble because it allowed us to focus on celebrating the parts of our culture we truly enjoy. Here’s to more happy times in 2015!

Move Over, Internet Explorer: New Browser to Ship with Windows 10

Previous article

Security Firm: Sony Pictures Hack was Inside Job, Not North Korea

Next article

Comments

Leave a reply

You may also like