2015 was a year full of disappointments for me. And I’m not talking about the games here. The games were pretty stellar. No, I was let down by the lack of time I could weasel out of life for all of the great releases. I missed out on Metal Gear Solid V. I missed out on Batman: Arkham Knight. What may have very well been my personal GOTY, Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, was left installed, patched up and un-played. Ori and the Blind Forest, Lisa, Until Dawn, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Pillars of Eternity… the list goes on.
While many of the games I’ve included here still sit half finished or deserving of more time put into exploring their respective virtual worlds further, it’s hard to deny the memorable nature of my personal 2015 list.
Axiom Verge just might be a perfect game. It’s a faithful homage to how 8 and 16-bit games used to feel. Not how they actually exist when wading through the rose-tinted fog that surrounds classics like Metroid and Castlevania. This is how the game’s of my youth were the first time I remember experiencing them. They all had incredibly tight controls. They moved at a quick pace, a bevy of insanely inventive power-ups being doled out at a good pace. The art and music was transportative, despite the obvious abstractions. The story, while sparse, hinted at a larger and more expansive dark underbelly being present. And most importantly was that they surprised me every step of the way. Axiom Verge is all of the things I loved and love about gaming.
Bloodborne is a game of moments for me. The first time I saw the beautiful abandoned cathedral, the mysterious fleshy eye monster blasting me from the darkness above with psychic blasts as I hid behind stone pillars. The surreal nature of the first nightmare, eldritch headstones everywhere as a spider man on a cliff overhead giggles down at me while chimes ring out, summoning invaders into my world. Accumulating enough arcane knowledge of the world to finally see beyond the veil, gigantic horrors hidden within plain sight the whole time. While relatively one note for most of the adventure, the world From Soft. made was nonetheless memorable.
The Beginners Guide
The creative process is often seen in popular media with an air of mystery about it. Where does inspiration come from, and why do we connect so deeply with certain works of art? Was it an intentional act on the part of the artist, or something relatively random that individuals connect to? The follow up to the Stanley Parable is equally as amusing but far less funny. When I was finished I had a good, long think about what I had played and what the creator was trying to get across with his game, and then, whether I should be doing that at all.
Destiny: The Taken King
Destiny should have been the best game of last year. Heck, it almost was. But there was just a grand lack of places to see, items to equip and things to do in the vanilla experience. Now enter The Taken King, a more-or-less full priced expansion that manages to fix nearly all the problems with the base game. Engrams now drop plentifully, really helping to engage in that loot-lust center of the brain. Repeatable community events are deeper and more rewarding, trickling some of the coolest strategy elements of the still woefully unattainable raids down to the rest of the folks who can’t get a group of more than three together. And for the first few weeks, there were things to discover in the new environment, secrets that actually mattered. Now, 40 hours or so later, I’m right back at where I was with the base game. But at least now I have confidence that Bungie is honing in on what makes their game so much fun to play.
Life is Strange
Life is Strange can at times be awkwardly written, sounding more like a group of thirty-somethings trying to write trendy dialogue for teens. And while this can take you out of it from time to time, it oddly enough helps to add to the quirky and charming nature of game. Max and the supporting cast of characters are all memorable and unique, playing loosely into the standard teen tropes but working wonders within. Homosexuality, domestic abuse, white entitlement, abortion, depression, physical disabilities – the list of difficult to discuss topics found within the game never feel shoe-horned in to an otherwise fun little sci-fi adventure game. They only help to bolster this gem of a game.
Super Mario Maker
Not much needs to be said about Super Mario Maker other than it is petty awesome. It allows for an endless supply of classic NES and SNES Mario levels to be available at last, an all encompassing sequel to every side scrolling iteration of Nintendo‘s plumber platformer. The level creation couldn’t be easier, and it’s been endlessly fun (and secretly an academic marvel) to create and upload handmade levels to the community. Features like overworld creation and missing tile sets for desert and snow levels are disappointing, but what was delivered has been the best twenty minute blast of gaming all year.
“Why so low?” I would ask myself any other year. Fallout 3 was one of the best games I had ever played, hitting right at a low point in life where a fully immersive WRPG was just what the doctor ordered. I’m sure the third installment of Bethesda’s take on the Fallout franchise should be right at the top of my list. But time constraints and the promise of the modding community peeking from just over the horizon caused me to hold off on fully committing to playing Fallout 4 for now, choosing instead to only wet my palette for the time being. But when the time comes a post apocalyptic Boston setting, complete with moddable weapons and towns, it’s guaranteed to be a personal favorite.
The internet lost it’s collective mind over Undertale.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
The Chinese Room is one of my favorite game-makers out there. A studio who seems to be able to produce games that thematically hit it out of the park, but never manage to surpass a ‘B’ tier in the quality department. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a painfully slow game. For me, a branching point in the story meant that I advanced too far into the narrative and missed an entire section, having to then backtrack for what felt like hours of in-game time while I slowly walked along the beautifully barren English countryside. The slow pacing is unfortunate, but I understand why it was necessary. It gave me time to think. Think about what the ghostly characters had just said to each other, to ruminate on possible love triangles and whether gossip from the crotchety old woman can really be trusted, especially when it’s her son shes talking about. And when you begin to uncover the manner in which everyone left the world, the breathtaking beauty of the empty homes and businesses hits you with a real sense of loss. Yes, the ending is big-picture hopeful, but still, I can’t help but feel it was a real shame everyone had to die.
Wolfenstein: The Old Blood
The ‘expansion pack’ to 2014’s game of the year continued the adventures of B.J. Blaskowitz as he hunts himself some more Nazi scum. The action remained some of the best in the industry, with a few new weapons to dole out the hurt. But for all the over the top action moments, I couldn’t get past the sense that this was a collection of ideas that were left on the cutting room floor for the first game. The stealth, while great when it’s an option, becomes tedious when required for the extended sneaking sections of the first half. Combat against the zombies in the latter half of the game is beyond mindless as they speed directly at you. It was a whole lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, but The Old Blood never transcended it’s “dumb action game” underpinnings like The New Order managed.
Best Blast of Whimsy:
Biggest Difference Between Quality of Screenshots VS Quality of Game:
The Second Greatest Bethesda Published Game:
Elder Scrolls Online
Best Sports Game!
The Biggest Waste of Big Budget Bucks Award:
The Order: 1886
Top Tabletop Simulator:
2015’s Game of 2014
The Evil Within