Well, after a few months of waiting, we have finally arrived folks. Before we begin, I just want to take a few moments to discuss the process and 2014 as a whole.
The Best Ofs were conceived as an admission of my own limitations. There are only so many games one man can play on his spare time, so I designed these awards to ensure everyone who deserved recognition will, at the very least, be nominated. It’s a system that makes this particular ‘Editor’s Choice’ list unique because the readers have a say on what gets on the list of considerations for awards. I want to thank everyone who participated this year and flooded my Inbox with your nominations.
2014 will go down in the history books as a lighter year in English Visual Novels. Many developers took the year to work on their long term projects and the good stuff was there, it just took more work to find them under the several layers of crap piled onto us thanks to certain projects that I spent the last six to eight months ripping apart, so there’s no need to continue on that trend. But the good games were there and, in fact, there were several games good that I would say defined the 2014 for EVNs. Those are our nominees for English Visual Novel of the Year.
I have YET to have a year where rewarding this particular prize is easy, because more often than not they are all games I have rated very highly and enjoyed. I want to personally thank all of the teams behind those games for their hard work and dedication in crafting these standout titles:
- Icebound by Fastermind Games
- Autumn’s Journey by Apple Cider Games
- Taarradhin by Cyanide Tea
- Aloners by Sonnet009
- Basiliska by Carrogath and Clua
- Romance Detective by NomNomNami
- Tales of Aravorn: Seasons of the Wolf by Winter Wolves
If you haven’t played any of these EVNs yet, you have really missed a treat and I encourage you to play them. However, as the old timers say; there can only be one. This wasn’t easy, but ultimately EVN of the Year is a mixture of excellence in storytelling, presentation and ambition. It is a game whose tale stays with me the entire year and even at this moment this game smile not only at how well it was told, but how far the team that completed it has come since we met one of its member in 2011.
Auro Cyanide used to tell the story of how she first came into my line of fire in 2011. She did the Event Graphics for don’t take it personally babe from Christine Love and it was one of the areas of the game I was highly critical of. Since then she and Lorelei, the second half of Cyanide Tea, have honed their unique skills to be one of the standout teams of the EVN community. Taarradhin is yet another milestone in their journey as a team as well as their individual trails as artistic minds and it has more than earned its place as English Visual Novel of 2014.
Taarradhin employs several mechanics that are familiar to regular Cyanide Tea readers, and Lorelei fanatics (hi Rins!) by now. It is clear as our supposed romantic leads are introduced to our young and naïve heroine that there is more going on that what appears to be. However, only after Neqtia follows through on your atypical romantic route and we are forced to watch the final moments of whomever you didn’t choose does it become very clear there is something much deeper here. If Taarradhin was just about the emotional manipulation, suffering and death you have to watch covered only by a thin veil of ‘romantic attraction’ with Neqtia remaining as ignorant of the darker world around her , then Taarradhin would be worth a play through. But it is the True Route, the one you can only get by barreling through the suffering and emotional manipulation part I was talking about, does Taarradhin really stands out.
Taarradhin is coming-of-age tale at its core, but it is uniquely personal and intimate. There are no high fantasy journeys of destiny or magical twists of fate that raise Nequtia from a simple girl to Messianic savior. It’s all tied to how she sees two complete strangers: either as tools for her own heart’s desires or people with their own desires. It also has an interesting statement about social classes and culture. As a student of world history, I was surprised by just how much Lore managed to tie in different religious ideas and customs to create a unique world not see often in the EVN sphere.
Let us not forget the beauty of this game when we talk about it. Everything looks amazing and the final death graphics are a story in and of themselves. I particularly liked Araerda’s as she stares directly at the reader in pure defiance for not picking her to live. It is visually incredible and distinctive: giving the game a unique feel that sets it apart from dozens of others and cementing Auro’s status (in my mind) as one of the finest artists working in the EVN community.
Both of these women are amazingly talented and I strongly believe they will continue to improve. Which means, for them, the best is still yet to come. For now though, Taarradhin is the English Visual Novel of 2014. Congratulations to you both.