Banner Saga, Broken Age, And Threes! Are Our Games Of the Year

Since we’re closing out 2014, it’s time for the Games of the Year. This is no way an attempt to recycle some old content to phone it in over the holidays—no sireee, not this guy. Thereare a lot of games that I wish I could add to this list, but I kept it to one game per platform. If you want to share your games of the year, please tweet us @macgasm.

Banner Saga – Mac


Banner Saga is on iOS as well, but I first played it in its original form on the Mac. I reviewed this game back in February, and I was quite taken with the animation style. The story was really well done, and the gameplay had some interesting mechanics. Here is the original review:

The last time that the art in a video game was this good, you had to shove quarters into Dragon’s Lair. Banner Saga looks like it was created in the golden age of animation, but plays like a hardcore strategy RPG.

The game takes place in a world where winter refuses to end, and an invasion of Dredge is coming from the North. The Dredge are essentially armored barbarians, and the player is in control of groups of humans and Varl. Varl are tough giants, with a weak alliance to humans. Trying to keep that alliance together is a delicate process, and you’re forced to do a lot of mediation. The developers bring their expertise from Bioware here, with conversation trees that change the way the game plays out. Characters can die as well, which will change the game even further.

This is a game that straddles the modern era of customization-heavy RPGs, with the classic era of strategy focused combat. Managing the characters is fairly straight forward. That simplicity doesn’t come at the expense of customization. It is a bit obnoxious that you have a single currency for leveling up your characters, buying supplies for your caravans, and getting items for your characters.

The art style is great, and the story is engaging. It draws a lot from Vikings and Game of Thrones style fantasy, making this stand out from the usual sword and sorcery genre.

What’s Good: Great art. Engaging story. Easy character management.

What Sucks: Single currency for all items and character management is limiting.

Buy it? If you’re looking for old school RPG action, but still want modern RPG storytelling, grab Banner saga for $19.99 on Steam. You can grab the iPad version for $9.99 on the App Store.

Broken Age – iPad


Putting Broken Age on this list is a bit of a no-brainer—I was excited about this game when it was on Kickstater. Tim Schafer’s return to the adventure genre was exciting enough, but Broken Age also had an awesome cast and a great design style.

When longtime Lucasarts designer Tim Schafer took to Kickstarter to fund a new adventure game, the Internet went nuts. With good reason, Shafer worked on some the classics in the genre: Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, and Day of the Tentacle just to name a few. That anticipation is a double edged sword, as Broken Age had a lot of hype After some drama around breaking it up into two parts and an embargoed PC release to backers, the game has finally come to iOS.

I can’t tell you if it lives up to your expectations, but I really loved this game. I chewed through the game in about four or five hours, and enjoyed every minute of it. The game is split between two characters. Vella is a selected for the Maiden’s Feast, where the towns sacrifice girls to Mog Chathra. (Think Cthulhu as a cotton ball covered in eyes.) She decides to fight back and ends up taking a tour through the other villages in her quest to kill the monster and save her town.

The other character is Shay a boy stuck in a repetitive loop of safe “missions” at the mercy of his spaceship’s maternal AI. Once you figure out how to escape this safety, he meets up with Marek. Marek wears a wolf suit, which has to be a Wilfred reference, and encourages Shay to break out of the mold and help him rescue creatures ravaged by war. Each story is really well done, featuring unique puzzles and progression that makes them feel entirely separated.

There’s a lot of great voice acting in this game. Stars like Elijah Wood, Jack Black, and Will Wheaton all do very well in their respective roles. Everyone in the game delivers great performances, not just the big stars. My particular favorites are the two blind girls guarding the Dead Eye God’s Pyramid. Through the whole game, make sure to explore the entire dialog tree with every character. You’ll find a lot to laugh at.

Broken Age avoids most of the random click quests that beleaguer many adventure games. You will need to do some work, but the game retains the feel of a graphic novel that you’re exploring. Which brings me to the game’s art style. The game is just beautiful. It picks up some of the character design of Double Fine’s Costume Quest, but the world design is really vivid. The different villages all have their own unique feel and the characters take that theme further.

There’s only so much that I can fawn over this game, but it deserves it. Go play it now, so we can all wait impatiently for the second act.

What’s Good: Great art and design. Good voice acting. Fun game.

What Sucks: Having to wait for Act II.

Buy it? Everyone should play this game. Grab Broken Age on the App Store for $9.99.

Threes – iPhone


Oh, Threes: It has all the addictiveness of Candy Crush but with none of the dicky business practices. It spawned thousands of imitations and knock-offs, but none of them had the charm of Threes.

Threes is one of those games that seems really stupid, then you end playing it for two hours straight. The game has a simple concept. The game has a 4-by-4 grid and you start with nine tiles filled. These are a mixtures of 1, 2, and 3. You need to combine the 1’s and 2’s and turn them into 3’s, and then every number above that you combine together to combine them into a tile with double that number. Each move adds a new 1,2, or 3 to the board (sometimes 6’s, 12,’s, 24’s), and the game is over when you can’t make any more moves.

It seems absurdly simple, but what seems like a novelty quickly descends into pure addiction. Each game is about 2–3 minutes long, meaning you’re going to furiously chase your high score. Each new number you create adds a character to the title screen. Each of the tiles is a little anthropomorphized, giving the game a neat personality. This game has already made a bit of a splash, and deservedly so. This is the definition of how to make a puzzle game: start simple and slam the addiction button as hard as you can.

What’s Good: Simple but fun design. Addictive gameplay.

What Sucks: You may end up waving people in front of you in line for coffee or forgetting to eat on your lunch break.

Buy it? If you like fun puzzle games and don’t mind losing every free moment, grab Threes! for $1.99.

Mac geek? Gamer? Why not both? Mike is a writer from Wisconsin who enjoys wasting immense amounts of time on the Internet. You can follow him on Twitter.