Multiplayer Game of the Year 201417 Dec 2014 0
The best multiplayer experience in a year full of brilliant ones came from a company that had never shipped a mobile game before, and it represents only the second time we've ever given an award to a free-to-play game.
Blizzard chose 2014 as the year to dunk on Wizards of the Coast (and everybody else). Consider this: when people talk about spending lots of money on Hearthstone, they talk about things like gratitude for an excellent experience and the desire to support a developer who has given them many hours of joy. When people talk about spending money (and lots of money) on most other free-to-play games, it is a call for help with their weakness of will in the face of an artificial frustration engine. People love Hearthstone, not only because it is a superbly-presented game with strong gameplay fundamentals, but also because it is exquisitely tailored to avoid many of the pitfalls games that share its payment scheme usually break their legs in.
Primarily multiplayer games, for example, crumble if players can't find games. Not really a concern with Hearthstone's massive marketing push, high quality, and low barrier to entry. Digital CCGs frequently have so much player interaction that games flow poorly and take forever, or so little that the game leaves little opportunity for dynamic player skill; Hearthstone strikes the balance. Similarly, a poorly-tended metagame can leave too many strategies out in the cold, with only a small number of viable builds. Blizzard watch the meta keenly and intervene readily to put down any monsters they've unintentionally created.
But that's apparently not enough. They managed to do free-to-play in way which evokes gratitude rather than addiction (well, in addition to, anyway), multiplayer-primary without fear of tumbleweeds in the matchmaking lobby, brief but deep, varied but balanced-ish. Then they did things like add a fascinating and very tablet-friendly twist to limited play, write quotable flavor text and hire talented voice actors to make it memorable, and throw in generous incentives to play in different ways just because other developers apparently weren't feeling bad enough about themselves already. I can't wait to see how they dust themselves off and go straight to ludicrous speed to compete.
Runner-up: Galaxy Trucker
Honourable Mention: World of Tanks Blitz, Talisman Digital Edition, Desert Fox, Battle Academy 2, Yomi,
To see all of the games recognised in the Pocket Tactics Best of 2014 Awards, visit the 2014 Awards Index page.