When he's not preparing for humanity's imminent collapse, Vincent "Vinny" Caravella spends his time heading up Giant Bomb's video efforts. He still loves point-and-click adventure games, great storytelling, and sharing amazing puns on his Twitter account.
I think 2015 was a fantastic year if you were into playing video games. There were so many great and varied gaming experiences, especially if you were sitting in front of a PC. I hardly turned on my consoles, except for exclusives. While the PC versions of some games suffered for mysterious reasons, I sought out and played games on my computer if I could. I'm still waiting to play the PC version of Rise of the Tomb Raider, so that will have to wait until next year, sadly. At some point I'll play Destiny, and I'm amazed I haven't played Halo 5: Guardians yet, but maybe that speaks to what a strong year it has been.
I could have easily padded this list out to 15 and beyond if I wanted. Batman: Arkham Knight, Rocket League, RONIN, and Rebel Galaxy all originally had spots on the big list. And I've got plenty of games I'm itching to get back into when I have time like Bloodborne, Pillars of Eternity, Technobabylon, Invisible Inc, and Fallout 4.
With all that being said, here's what I enjoyed the most in 2015.
This is my fault, Geralt. It's me, not you. You treated me right. You brought me beautiful open worlds, challenging combat, and the promise of exciting tales filled with morally ambiguous characters. No, no, it's OK! I like to get morally ambiguous sometimes! It's just... you were asking for so much of my time at a point in my life where I just wasn't ready to commit. Sure, you have your flaws, like your silly upgrade tree--boy that really drove me nuts. And that sound you make when you eat a banana. D'MACK. D'MACK. D'MACK. Who does that? But, I guess what I'm trying to say is: I'm ready to give this thing another shot if you'll have me. I'm ready to love a Witcher again.
You should play Undertale! Boy, that's a refrain that gets old quickly, right? But seriously, you should play Undertale. It's almost tragic that game keeps your character so isolated in the first hour. Undertale is a game about relationships and choices. For those to really pay off, time has to be invested. I don't think I really appreciated everything that was on offer until I'd finished the game. Even after that, it took another ending and some internet sleuthing to realize the intensity of the caustic narrative I'd unknowingly co-authored.
So you wanna be a hacker, eh? Well, learning how to code is really hard and there's math involved. Also, most of it just looks like words and brackets, not swirling helixes of numbers or raining letters resolving into a password. Hacknet understands what you want. You want movie hacking, not boring, actual hacking. But you also want the illusion that MAYBE this could be real. MAYBE this is what real hackers do and now maybe you're a real hacker. You always delete your logs, so it's not like they could ever catch you if it were real, which it's definitely not... I mean most of it is fake... some of it is probably, kinda, like how real hackers do it... right?
7. Until Dawn
I don't know how more folks aren't amazed by this one. It looks great, it uses the mechanics and choice system exceptionally well, and for something built to run like a teen horror flick it fires on all cylinders. I really enjoyed playing it, and then enjoyed watching Alex play it in the office. I even tried to get my wife to play it, but if you thought I didn't have enough time to finish a game you should talk to the person that watches the kids while I'm trying to play a game. It's fun and dopey, but it plays well and looks exceptional. It also has Peter Stormare happily chewing up the scenery like a four-month old labrador. Can't wait to see more.
I love adventure games (which we'll get to next) and a good story hook will pull me through most rough spots in gameplay or repetitive tasks. Cradle lays out a world for you to pore over with your mouse like you are studying the handwriting characteristics of an anonymous letter writer. You are given very little in the way of a structured narrative, but slowly you begin to assemble what looks like a reasonable sequence of events. The gameplay itself has faults, but there's some really novel sci-fi being spun here and it's all set against a Mongolian steppe. It may not stick the landing but I think you'll enjoy the spectacle.
I feel like this is the part of the list where I'm the precious one. The person trying to be outside and putting games you never heard of on this list because I'm too cool to like Halo. It's not true. Not all of it. Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is one of the best adventure games ever made. Not even one of the best of a bunch of crappy recent games. I mean up there with Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max, and Fate of Atlantis (I really like that one). You probably won't get the best mileage out of it unless you've played through the original Book of Unwritten Tales, but if you are looking for an old adventure game done right, you've found it.
There's something to be said about the game and the experience you had playing the game. Contradiction gave me so much enjoyment this year, and I was so happy to have been able to share playing it with the Giant Bomb staff and community. I think the game itself is a fantastic blend of FMV and adventure gaming. Giving the player enough agency, and then using the FMV as an actual mechanic rather than full motion trimming. All of the actors are entertaining and they all seem in on the joke, but without spoiling the fun. It's one of the best uses of FMV I've ever seen, and I've probably seen too many.
As of this writing I haven't seen the end of Life is Strange. I don't care. As with Contradiction right above this, the experience of playing this one with a group might be influencing my overall enjoyment of it. I just think this game is hitting more than it's missing and it's swinging pretty far out there. It's handling subject matter that is tough in the best of narrative situations, let alone one in which you give the player any control. The choices feel meaningful, and despite the occasional bout of melodrama, I'm finding myself completely bought into what they are selling. I'm hoping the rest of the series delivers, but even if it fails miserably and collapses in on itself like some beached whale it can't take away what it has already given me.
Kerbal was first available somewhere in the Taft administration around mid-2011. Since that time it has been molded, tuned, plucked, preened, and made ready for its 2015 launch date. Now four years later, with the official PC game in my hands, it truly is a wondrous thing. Building your own spacecraft and exploring the galaxy is nothing new to video games, but the feeling that you just might be doing it in any realistic way is very new. I'm not saying that this is a pure simulator, but there's enough going on here to make you damn proud of any accomplishment, big or small. It's also full of rockets that you can put anywhere. I'm excited to see Kerbal transition from the PC to consoles in the near future, and also to see the Unity engine upgrade supposedly in the works. That probably means more framerate for more rockets, and that's always a good thing.
And here we are at number one. Metal Gear Solid V. I put a lot of time into MGSV, at the expense of too many good games this year. I thought the gameplay was great. Running around the world, taking on missions at my own pace, and resolving them by my own means was fantastic. The story was enough to keep me moving through the game, even though I still haven't seen the truest true TRUE ending. It doesn't matter to me. I had enough fun with this one to put it at the top. The game has a polish and cohesiveness to it that kept me going long after I probably should have been doing something else with my limited time. I hit a couple of snags here and there, but I kept coming back. I think a lot of my obsession had to do with how missions were listed and the ease of accessing them. It was very easy to see where I was going and order a mission off of the menu. That appeals to someone who is not sure how long their gaming session is going to be. And heck, the dog has a knife, you're tying balloons to everything, and I never tired of "The Man Who Sold the World" (even if it is a cover).