This was the year that I started making video games. I have peeked behind the curtain and seen how the sausage is made. So, yes, I probably think about them a little differently now. Details that once seemed incidental have become deeply impressive. This list is certainly coloured by that. These games may not be the ones that I had the most fun with, or the ones that I played the most of, but they’re the ones that have most affected me. They’ve probably made me jealous.
The mechanics were a little undercooked, but the overall package worked brilliantly. Like Alien: Isolation, I admired its attention to detail and how well it captured the soul of its source material.
Holy shit, where did this come from? Many called it the first real “next-gen” game, and there’s a bit of merit to this. But what Mordor really proves is how a single great idea can elevate a mishmash of familiar design elements into something really great. The nemesis system was wonderful. I hope people start stealing it.
It burned brightly and then was gone. I feel the lack of variety in the pace of its core gameplay eventually led to players tiring and dropping off. But, while it lasted, it was brilliant. My friends and I played almost nightly, and a multiplayer game hasn’t grabbed me like that in years.
Dragon Age’s massive increase in scale comes at the cost of some intimacy. More quests, more characters, more landscapes, more stuff! But much of it is delivered at a distance, through text walls or found scraps of letters. Still, the character banter is great and its high points are the highest of the series.
Just one more hole. Just one more hole. Gotta beat Chris Remo. Just one more hole.
So slick, so polished and, miraculously, so non exploitative. The perfect example of a free-to-play game.
The incredible success of The Walking Dead made me worried that we’d not get another light-hearted adventure from Telltale. Tales was a massive surprise. Sharply written, well-performed and very, very funny.
I love this game, but I cannot play it. It is too scary, and the trial/error of its progression keeps me from wanting to come back. But I love Creative Assembly’s uncompromising approach to its vision. I love that it doesn’t care whether I like it or not and I love that its design is never weakened by a need to cater to everyone. It’s not my perfect game, but I’m sure it is somebody else’s.
2. Grand Theft Auto V (in first-person)
GTA V was great. In first-person it is unstoppable. Everything is grander, more keenly felt. The scale of the world more expansive, the detail more minute. Just incredible.
The most enjoyable game I played this year was at a tabletop. I was a bard. He had a magic tambourine and a horse called Necroprancer. His accent lay somewhere between David St. Hubbins and Michael Caine. He was pretty fucking metal. Game of the year.