Bronze: Lords of the Fallen by CI Games
In a world where Dark Souls 2 failed to live up to its royal lineage, it was hard to care about the bastard child that was Lords of the Fallen. You hear nowadays a lot about developers and publishers publicly state that Dark Souls had inspired their game in some form or other. But surprising with now critically and financially successfully the Souls series has been up until this point, no one has straight out copied the Dark Souls formula wholesale, preferring instead to lift a feature here or there. Lords of the Fallen took on this bold task of coping the entire framework of Dark Souls, co-developed by CI Games of all people, and was surprisingly successful at nailing some of the magic of the Souls franchise. Not only that, but Lords of the Fallen also added some neat mechanics and elements to establish its own identity within this very specific style of game, making it a surprising success and a pleasant surprise in the cynical world of the video games industry.
by: Isaac Wagner
Silver: Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare by PopCap Games
I think this great game took most of us by surprise. Don't get me wrong, I like the original tower defense iteration of Plants vs. Zombies but when Garden Warfare was announced, I really didn't take much notice of it. The idea of translating a 2D tower defense style game into a third-person multiplayer game just sounded like a recipe for disaster. By my surprise though, this is actually one of the best multiplayer shooters of the year. Despite the game's colourful and cartoon-like aesthetic, this is a deep and engaging shooter that plays just as well as other class based shooters like Team Fortress 2. On top of that, Garden Warfare has a lot of unlockable characters and cosmetic parts that keep you coming back for more. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is a great game, and I just didn't see it coming!
by: Ross Hartley
Gold: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor by Monolith Productions
We really weren't looking forward to Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. First of all, we both hate Lord of the Rings because it is shite. Secondly, we were sad that our heroes Monolith were forced to make another licensed game. Gothom City Impostors and Guardians of Middle-Earth were okay for what they were, but compared to their masterful previous games like F.E.A.R. and No One Lives Forever, it was clear that the Monolith Productions of today were not the same Monolith from back in the day.
Despite all of those negative preconceptions, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is brilliant. Sure, it largely borrows its core mechanics from the Batman: Arkham series but that is not a bad thing, and it also introduces the great Nemesis system, a smart mechanic that helped make the enemies and encounters in Shadow of Mordor more interesting and dynamic. Even for Lord of the Rings haters like us, the forgettable story does a great job of not getting in the way of what makes the game so good. We were wrong to doubt you, Monolith.
by: Ross Hartley