Best of 2015

Relevant platforms I have access to:

  • Android phone
  • Apple tablet
  • Microsoft Xbox One
  • Nintendo 3DS
  • Nintendo Wii U
  • PC
  • Sony PlayStation 3
  • Sony PlayStation 4
  • Sony PlayStation Vita

Notable early access games and add-ons of 2015 I’ve played this year:

  • Besiege
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition’s “Trespasser”

Games that didn’t make the cut:

  • Absolute Drift
  • Contradiction: Spot The Liar!
  • Fallout Shelter
  • OlliOlli2: Welcome to OlliWorld

Games I meant to get to but couldn’t:

  • Cities: Skyline - Having to learn how to play the game before really getting into it is better saved for a time when there isn't much coming out, but even then, who knows when I'll finally get to it.
  • Massive Chalice - Spent maybe an hour with it and it just didn't stick with me.
  • The Order: 1886 - I bought a copy of this for the hell of it for cheap. I don’t intend to play this anytime soon as I no longer have a PS4.
  • Ori and the Blind Forest - Completed the prologue and realized that there was going to be a patch or DLC for it? I'll wait until then.
  • Tembo the Badass Elephant - Odd PC hiccups prevent me from playing this.
  • Undertale - Got a copy of it very late into the year and hope to get into it after Yakuza 5.
  • Yakuza 5 - While I'm a huge fan of the series, forcing myself to finish the game just so it can qualify on my personal GOTY list is no bueno. I'd rather take my time with it when I finally get to it.

“Oversights”:

  • Assassin's Creed Syndicate - With the clusterfuck that Unity was, I’m surprised this one actually looks appealing to me. Still, I’ll wait for a discount.
  • Bloodborne - I’ve played a spiritual predecessor and it didn’t stick with me long enough to get me excited for this game.
  • Halo 5: Guardians - While the Halo games are one of the few FPS games I care about, I can wait for a discount.
  • Just Cause 3 - Senseless destruction is good to an extent, but not for very long.
  • Mortal Kombat X - I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not a big fighting game guy so getting these games as soon as possible is just a bad idea.
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider - I’m waiting for the PC version.
  • SOMA - I’d rather watch than actually play through these types of games with their typically annoying puzzles and chase sequences.
  • Splatoon - Despite the new take on the shooty game genre, this never interested me.
  • StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void - I’m probably part of the few who play these games for the story. Nonetheless, I shall wait for a discount.
  • Star Wars: Battlefront - I’m not a big fan of Star Wars or shooty games so I’ll pass.
  • Until Dawn - Since I’ve seen multiple playthroughs of the game, I think I understand its appeal but imagining myself playing through it would be nothing short of boring.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X - Too many good-looking open-world games out this year. Maybe another time, after I play through the first one.

FINAL LIST

List items

  • In the months leading up to this game’s release, I vowed to dive deep into Witcher lore starting with the books. Two short story collections, three novels, and one game later (I skipped the first one in the series), the excitement that comes with a new video card and finally getting my hands on what seems to be Geralt’s final adventure meant a bittersweet emptiness will soon consume me. The Witcher 3 promised to reinstate Geralt’s memories and bring everyone back together for one final hurrah, and that they did.

    No game for me before has felt as dense and engaging after spending over ninety hours in its war-torn yet beautiful world. Visiting small blood-splattered desolate villages surrounded by wavy foliage bathed in the golden hour felt so haunting and stunning at once. Dealing with this world as an already established character meant I lived by his rules, choosing the lesser evil and living with the consequences. Despite my many attempts in trying to make things suck less in comparison, tragedy always struck, and hard.

    What has become an odd trend for me lately is that I’ve been playing games on a difficulty one notch higher than normal, more or less expecting a challenge. As expected when combat was inevitable, signs and potions were my saving grace in the beginning but as the game went on, either of my swords were more than capable of taking down enemies with a small helping of the shield spell. Even though I had been playing the game sparingly before finally deciding to sit down and complete the story, the final battles merely needed a rushdown offensive to achieve victory.

    5/5

  • I’ve usually never found myself having trouble staying on track in racing games, it was always pick and play and make sure to keep in mind: slow in, fast out. In this game, I didn’t realize how much a track could actively try to throw you off if you weren’t careful even if there’s a passenger constantly telling you how severe the turns are up ahead. DiRT Rally has been my go-to podcast game for the better part of the last seven months, so I’ve spent a lot of time with it. Even then, what my muscle memory has retained doesn’t mean guaranteed arrival at the finish line.

    I’m not a racing fan at all. Even though I listen to a podcast based on F1 racing, I don’t watch or care for it. The act of driving has always been appealing to me, in real life and virtually. But it was usually pretty boring and stale and predictable. This game, while obviously not the first of its kind, introduced me to a less forgiving kind of racing, one not based on multiple laps on just asphalt, but also on gravel and ice from Point A to Point B. Gliding atop these types of terrain required a certain grace to get through and a loose understanding of physics to get a vehicle to perfectly drift into and out of a U-turn, so coming out of a track unscathed, it’s an immensely satisfying feeling.

    (There’s more about DiRT Rally in the Forza Motorsport 6 section below. I didn’t think they would get to version 1.0 this year, but here we are.)

    5/5

  • Prior to my own personal playthrough of the game, I experienced a majority of the shock and heartbreak that the main character Maxine Caulfield faces through others. What was originally going to be just a purchase for a job well done without the motive of playing it myself, once I saw the ending of the third episode I knew I had to play it myself.

    The setting alone was enough to make a genre I typically ignore to gain my attention - being a student in high school in the 2010s versus what has been abundant with a zombie apocalypse, medieval fuckery, or Borderlands to deal with in the current state of adventure games. While I have a few reservations regarding the turns some characters make, I cannot say that the story wasn’t gripping and rife with mature themes scarcely seen in video games I normally play: domestic violence, bullying, and growing pains among other things.

    The ability to rewind time with the intention of “righting” whatever “wrongs” you may have done may be by nature very selfish, but even with the given choices to approach whatever obstacles teenage high school student Max has to face, like choosing between going to the police immediately or waiting to gather enough evidence at the cost of her friend’s seemingly endless torture, there was still no “right” choice to go about it without potentially unnerving or lessening Max’s resolve.

    4/5

  • What was once going to pay for its forebearers’ stringent and inept styles of gameplay <strike>became my absolute game of the year</strike> for being what is essentially a methodical open world game with near limitless options to play around with. Despite my attempt in skipping this game altogether when I was reminded how dull and annoying the previous games can be regarding their controls and age, murmurings about this entry before its release piqued my interest.

    Ninety hours later and counting, it’s not only a huge turnaround in comparison to the older games but a fantastic game in its own right. From the huge playgrounds of Africa and Afghanistan down to the minutiae of arriving by helicopter to and from your base, staff of which you manage with what is clearly 80’s holographic tech, technology with which you direct what tools or weapons are developed or what missions to take on and so forth. There’s a lot in this game to pay attention to, but the least of which is, surprisingly, its story.

    I’m not the biggest Metal Gear Solid fan out there, so seeing a series known to have stories rife with convoluted explanations taking a backseat and instead have immersive systematic gameplay up front is a welcome change to me. Its attempts to replace the iconic charm of codec calls with cassette tapes is an unfortunate step down that lessens the markedly anime feel (read: repeating someone’s name or the last significant word said) that I felt give Metal Gear Solid its trademark feel. There’s a lot in this game that makes it so not the Metal Gear Solid games people grew up and fell in love with, and that I still find hard to believe that this game turned out that way.

    5/5

  • To see such a niche game released in 2008 gain enough of a following to dip into different genres within established and without explicit role-playing game elements, it truly boggles the mind. It’s no secret that my attachment this series is thanks in large part to the site I’m posting this to, so fanservice isn’t exactly something I’m in any way against. In this case, it’s not surprising to see a rhythm game come to fruition considering Rise’s character arc in the original game.

    Continuing after the epilogue of Persona 4 Golden, the Investigation Team convene to help Rise stage her comeback so of course things go awry. For some reason, I didn’t expect this to have such a lengthy story mode despite the fighting games having what felt like a novel’s worth of text across its many, many characters to choose from, but it did. Anyway, while the story was immensely predictable, it was once again great to see these characters interact with each other, even under what is probably the most extravagant of situations: having to dance the Shadows away.

    What could have easily been a collection of songs we’ve been listening to these past seven years, they’ve now been dance-ified, making them catchier, bassier, jazzier, and most certainly stylish as fuck. Leaving these characters on this potentially final note, it’s an oddly bittersweet thing. If they can pump out as many feasible reasons for them to get together... I’m all for it, if it makes at least some sense.

    4/5

  • Within its short playtime, Lara Croft GO differentiates itself from its spiritual predecessor, Hitman GO, enough to feel like a new experience but sacrifices challenging replayability. Rather than listing out optional tasks for Croft to engage with, such as completing a level within a certain amount of moves, collecting out-of-the-way briefcases, or murdering everyone on a level, merely tapping on a pot with sparkles above it without even having to move Croft physically near it to piece together long lost artifacts is enough to warrant full completion to unlock more outfits for Croft to wear besides presenting another board/world to play around in. In this case, completing journals/worlds was enough to progress, no gating you for not having enough stars or what have you.

    While I do find it a disappointment in that regard, its simple yet beautiful environments won me over along with an inventive boss battle that plays by the game's rules that never once frustrated me and only left me to blame when met with failure.

    4/5

  • You’d think by the fourth time they put out another one of these games, the combat would be stale and thus easier to grasp and breeze through the game with. It’s true, coming from someone who had replayed through Arkham City recently prior and Arkham Origins on release, this game feels like an immediately artificial challenge continuing from those two. Varying enemy types and obstacles make a return and are thrown into situations fairly early into the game, with new additions fortunately, and even more brutal ways to dispose of them.

    Prime among them is the Batmobile. Love it or hate it, it reinvigorates the series when this could have easily been “another Batman game.” It adds another weapon and way to traverse the city to Batman’s repertoire, for better or worse. What made me love the series in the beginning was its “Metroidvania” approach to collectibles. Requiring a certain gadget to progress or gather a Riddler trophy satisfied my desire to see everything these games have to offer. This time around, gadgets are used sparsely in favor of the Batmobile by way of timed races, tracking green paint, and shooting galleries all thanks to someone riddled with problems.

    This is the game in which I finally realize just how sad the Riddler’s existence is. Building elevators to project his verbal superiority and underground race tracks specifically for the Batmobile just to get one over Batman made for one annoying experience. More than before, approaching trophies required either much less finesse to grab compared to previous games or were very annoying to deal with, a handful acting as references to the actual locations of the trophies you want to get.

    4/5

  • Despite the game’s simplistic art style, the design of some levels can be unseemingly mischievous causing a momentary lapse of spatial judgement. Once enough trial and error occurs, the solution becomes what was thought to be completely out of reach to blatantly obvious, truly the goal of any decent puzzle game. In any case, it’s inventive and easy to understand so finishing the game in just a handful of sittings isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

    For a large majority of the game, sets of levels in this game were used exclusively to introduce the player to a new mechanic or obstacle to repeatedly use or overcome. Until the very final set before the credits roll, what you’ve learned up to that point is finally thrown together in a way from which you are familiar enough to recognize the patterns needed for you to create the solution to any given problem from then on.

    4/5

  • There’s unsurprisingly not much to say about a game centered on cars and the act of racing them other than comparing it to its contemporaries. In this case, DiRT Rally’s been a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine the past few months, challenging my muscle memory and cornering ability. Cornering which requires a graceful loss of control that not only feels immensely rewarding when done correctly but very difficult to do consistently.

    With this game, I fully expected to win every race usually by a long shot or sometimes barely lose to a rather skillful drivatar, and that is indeed happening. I’m a little surprised Google Drive didn’t outright consider “drivatar” a misspelling of some other word. Anyway, it isn’t because I think the game is easy but because it allows me to change the difficulty of who I’m racing against. With DiRT Rally, when you get good you better stay good. Unless of course you choose to retire from sets of races to lower your standing, but that’s besides the point.

    Forza Motorsport 6 just feels great. With all assists off with automatic transmission, driving on asphalt just feels right. The added hazard of water puddles is surprisingly scary and usually forces me to rewind a few seconds back just so I can avoid it entirely the next time. I may be drifting time and again as a holdover from DiRT Rally, but this game just feels great and that’s all you really need from a racing game.

    4/5

  • For better or worse, it’s another Fallout game. That isn’t inherently bad in my case as it rekindles my tendency to scavenge every area from top to bottom with the hopes of finding something useful and being satisfied with myself when I find a collectible from time to time. Fortunately, what was considered absolutely near-useless trash are now valuable crafting items for use with things like weapons, armor, structures, lighting, and the list goes on. Suffice it to say, I’m hoarding like no other.

    While all that’s well and good, what makes a Bethesda game a Bethesda game still plagues, well, this Bethesda game. These games are of a kind only they can seemingly make, huge open worlds with a large number of objects that can be interacted with by the player and storage containers like ammo crates, closets, or even corpses can retain what was stored in them for as long as your game is active. Unless, of course, something goes wrong, which isn’t atypical of these games.

    A slew of small issues are prevalent in every element of this game, from the unfriendly PC interface to the stilted animations (especially after playing something like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt before this) to the conversations, especially the conversations. For a role-playing game, it’s crucial that you want to play the character you want to play, however, with the new addition of a voiced player character, progressing the conversation with another can effectively only allow the player to only hear one-fourth of the recorded dialogue in some conversations.

    Can I ask this guy why his face is all fucked up? Wait, let me ask him where to find my son first. Okay, now that I know that, I should ask about his face since I imagined my character putting aside any potentially rude remarks before we reach any agreement unhindered by any social faux pas caused by my post-apocalypse inept character. Wait a second, now I can’t because the game finished the conversation for me and will never allow me to hear what would probably be a sarcastic retort. Great.

    3/5

  • rjayb89 award for Game I Mostly Watched Being Played Despite Owning and Thought It Deserved To Be On This List Somewhere Award

    Despite having little to no nostalgia for Mario platformers, fanfare and coverage of the game got the better of me. What always pushed me away from platformers, however, were how collection-based they became in scattering out-of-the-way collectibles and the fact that that existed was enough to annoy me. I’ve become more of a “get it done” type of player over the years, looking less and less into nooks and crannies for every little secret, and mainlining levels as quickly as I can and only reveling in that exploratory aspect of the games I enjoy playing immensely.

    With the help of its community, “getting it done” is the point. Mario platformers can get a bit tricky but were always manageable, so with others making Mario-based levels, the rules are bent and broken but still somehow abide by each respective game’s rulesets. With it backed by a legacy of thirty years and counting, players are already familiar with the groundwork so it comes as no surprise as to the detail and specificity levels can achieve. Playing, and watching, this game at play is an undeniable marvel.