It's time once again for our Co-Op Game of the Year Awards. We look back at 2014 as a fairly mediocre year in terms of co-op game. While we had high hopes for many games, there were no true must have stand-outs. That's not to say there weren't some great games, it's just compared to previous years this one seems slightly more forgettable.
After the staff nominated both AAA and Indie games we left it up to the community to vote for their picks. Here are the results.Indie Co-Op GOTY: Community Vote
Winner: Divinity Original Sin (PC)
After a drought of hardcore CRPGs, we've seen a resurgence in both remakes and brand new adventures. Divinity: Original Sin was birthed on Kickstarter and continued to have support throughout the community.
AAA Co-Op GOTY: Community Vote
Winner: Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls / Ultimate Evil Edition (PC / Xbox One, PS4)
Diablo 3 continues to dominate people's playtimes in 2014, thanks to a great console version on next-gen systems and continued support of the PC version with the expansion, people love the ultimate battle of good vs evil with their friends.
Read on for the staff votes and the official winners and runners up.
Indie Co-Op GOTY Winner: Dungeon of the Endless (PC)
Dungeon of the Endless snuck up on most of the staff. A late discovery in the year after a long "battle" in Early Access on Steam, Dungeon of the Endless was a game developed by the community in so many ways. The four player co-op game feels like a social board games experience, friends team up through this rogue like that carefully combines several genres and gameplay styles.
While the game is incredibly deep, it's also accessible. It's challenging, but rewarding. It's retro, but new. Dungeon of the Endless is a complete package and represents what makes indie games so great, the risk of trying something completely outside the norm. Co-Op is a must in this to succeed, and when you do, the feeling is exhilarating.Runner Up: Divinity Original Sin (PC)
Divinity: Original Sin evokes the same feeling of the classic isometric, squad-based RPGs of a decade ago, but with some new era touches. While co-op was supported in some of these older games (such as Neverwinter Nights), it was missing from many others. Divinity: Original Sin revitalizes the genre with modern day graphics as well as an emphasis on the co-op experience. This is done with little touches such as spell/skill combos between characters and dialogue interactions/voting between player characters that change story outcomes.
Each of the two players gets one protagonist which they can fully customize from the start. Other members will join the party at certain story points which can then also be distributed between players and fully controlled. The difficulty of the game's combat sequences combined with the immersive world (complete with a myriad of story-based and dialogue-driven quests) ensure that the players will communicate and strategize with each other at all times. Divinity: Original Sin is truly a game that does the concept of "co-op RPG" (with emphasis on "Role-Playing") right - an extremely difficulty task that few games can boast.
Dark Souls 2, and perhaps the Souls series in general, might not be for everyone. It feels as though Dark Souls crawled out of a previous era, where crucial mechanics weren't explained, but figured out through multiple playthroughs. It is reminiscent of experiencing Zelda for the first time, only with much more punishing gameplay. Dark Souls 2 fights you the entire way, from the brutally devastating enemies, to the bizarre controls, even other players which are encouraged to invade your world and murder you. Underneath the punishing systems however, lie a labyrinth of amazingly realized concepts and ideas. Delving into these systems. Exploring these brutal dungeons, experimenting with the bizarre mechanics, and communicating with others are all crucial components of what makes Dark Souls 2 great.
Some may argue the first Dark Souls, (and even Demon's Souls) may have been a better game. However, the second installment introduced a radically improved summoning system to get you and some buddies together more efficiently. You and a couple of pals can be trudging through the darkest of dungeons in only a few minutes, as opposed to messing around with summoning signs for half an hour. There's really no better feeling than teaming up with some friends to waste a shockingly difficult boss, and Dark Souls 2 has plenty of those. It exists to test your friendships through a trial of fire, where one wrong move could leave you, or one of your buddies, a red stain on some boss monster's rug. Though it's a terrifying slog the whole way through, there was not a more rewarding experience of this year.
We ended up with a tie for our runners up, and honestly, all three of the games listed here in our AAA category were a close call. While Dragon Age Inquisition is a monstrous single player game with an additional co-op mode, Destiny is a monstrous co-op game with something of a single player mode.
Dragon Age Inquisition stands in its own right as something that could be fully fledged downloadable title, four player online co-op with almost a dozen different classes to experience a Diablo meets Mass Effect 3 like loot scenario. It's obviously built with replyability in mind, and the longevity of it has rivaled the length of the single player game for some.
Destiny on the other hand looked like a sure in winner earlier this year, but several decisions within the game design itself make it hard to sit on top. If every section of the game played like the two available raids, there's no doubt those are some of the best co-op experiences one can have. But that same quality and craftmanship is somewhat missing from even the co-op strikes. While they are still fun, most don't find them as replayable.
Overall we thought the year was incredibly strong for indies, but a bit on the weak side for AAA. Our AAA vote was incredibly tight with the three games on our list coming within just a few points of each other. What's interesting is how the community vote tended to favor established franchises, games that the core experience haven't changed all that much over the years. Hopefully 2015 is a banner year for co-op games, both AAA and Indie.