Disappointment of the Year 2014

By Owen Faraday 08 Dec 2014 0
Burn notice. Burn notice.

The Disappointment of the Year wasn't the worst game of 2014 -- but it was the biggest let-down for sure. It was our very own Freddy Adu: keenly anticipated for its potential, utterly forgettable once it arrived.

The spies who didn't love you. The spies who didn't love you.

Back in May of 2013, new Finnish studio PlayRaven gave us the first look at a game that, in broad strokes, sounded like a PT reader's dream: Spymaster, a turn-based strategy game where you managed a team of Allied saboteurs as they raised hell behind Axis lines in WWII Europe. Spymaster would draw inspiration from board games but would take full advantage of tablets to create a one-of-a-kind experience best described as Football Manager for spies.

Once we had all picked ourselves up off the ground and patted dry our drooled-on jumpers, we started asking more questions. Would there be permadeath for agents? Yes indeed. How about dynamic events and emergent storytelling? You betcha. And it's a premium game, right?


When Spymaster eventually arrived in September, it was a strange chimera of hardcore game concepts extruded through a slimy free-to-play press. Every interesting element of the game's design was undercut by its constant squeals for money. Dead secret agent? Resurrect for gold! Lose a mission? Get more turns for gold! You could see the bones of an engaging, intelligent game somewhere inside Spymaster, but it required a grimly determined autopsy to discover them.

PlayRaven had tried to keep a foot in two camps: old-school hardcore gamers who wanted cerebral experiences and new-school free-to-play gamers who demand no barriers to entry. They certainly didn't please us (as my review from this autumn underlines) but they apparently didn't please anyone else either -- Spymaster slipped off the App Store charts relatively quickly and didn't come back.

It was (and remains) a great concept, but Spymaster's insidious free-to-play execution leaves it firmly out in the cold this year.

Runner-up: Rollercoaster Tycoon 4

(Dis)-honourable Mention: Dungeon KeeperManhattan Project, Civ Rev 2


To see all of the games recognised in the Pocket Tactics Best of 2014 Awards, visit the 2014 Awards Index page.
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