2015 was a year of change for me.
Ended the year by moving into my first house, it was my first year being a regular part of a podcast. It was also the year that my love for television, comics and music surpassed my love for games. Because of this, I didn’t end up playing anywhere near the number of games I had in prior years. I became more of a “main-stream” gamer. The amount of indie games I played probably should have been way higher, (Her Story still gets a shout-out) but that’s okay with me. The games I made time to play were mostly those that I was familiar with and whom I felt confident would be at least decent. With that being said, my personal Game of the Year of 2015 was one I initially had no inkling to play. It’s funny how life works.
So, here’s my personal Top 5 Games of 2015.
5.) The Witcher 3
If I had to describe The Witcher 3 in one word, it would be dense.
The world that CD Projekt Red created for this game is overflowing with possibilities. There are so many characters to meet, side missions to do and time to waste playing Gwent, it’s a bit overwhelming. The best Witcher game to date and the most gorgeous to boot; it probably would be significantly higher on my list if I had completed the main quest and could rate the story. Which just highlights that its greatness strength can also be its greatness weakness.
You can get lost in all of the possibilities the game provides and walk away after 50 hours not really getting to the main point of the story. I appreciate all the options The Witcher 3 provides, but as someone who prefers their story more linear and focused in games, having so many optional quests and side stories will usually end up in an unfinished game for me; great or not.
4.) Batman: Arkham Knight
This is one of the few games I went into 2015 being excited for.
I had a bit of Batman fatigue as well, but Rocksteady Games did such a great job with Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, that I was still really looking forward to seeing how they would close out their trilogy. The addition of the Batmobile was included heavily in their pre-launch promotion of the game and for good reason; it wasn’t just an addition they made for transportation, it significantly changed how you played the game and how the game was designed to be played.
Because of this, many people’s overall enjoyment of the game coincided with how they felt about the Batmobile. For me, I’m Team Batmobile. It took a while to get used to the controls but once I did, it became crazy to me that it wasn’t included in the series earlier.
Arkham Knight includes tons of fan service as usual and while the reveal of the actual Arkham Knight character was ultimately predictable and a disappointment, the game ends in such a way narratively that I was surprised. Arkham City ended on a pretty big cliffhanger and the way this game ends, it probably means the end of the series. I don’t recall the comics ever going in the direction Rocksteady decided to go in for their ending but I could be wrong about that. Either way, Arkham Knight scratched that Batman itch one last time and left me excited to see what Rocksteady will release next.
3.) Until Dawn
Sometimes you play a game at exactly the right time and everything about it works.
That’s how I would sum up my experience with Until Dawn. I’d heard about it for a year prior to its release and was looking forward to playing it but just didn’t have time to when it released in August. Fast forward two months; it’s Halloween, I’m moving into a new house and the internet hasn’t been set up yet. It was the perfect time to try out a horror game. That’s when I decided to pick this up and give it a try. I admit, I almost bailed after the horrible intro song, but I’m soooo glad I kept playing.
Sure, at first glance it looks like a generic horror game but there’s a layer of depth there that even decision-based games like Heavy Rain are missing. The choices needed to save certain characters may seem obvious but some require that you made two to three additional choices earlier as well. I’m still not certain how to make certain characters survive. I’m sure I could take a peek behind the curtains but that ruins all the fun.
The characters are a great mix of those you love, those you hate and those you love to hate. Emily is such a horrendous person that I totally understand why people would just let her die. I, on the other hand, just had to go the extra steps to make sure she survived. The role of The Analyst in creating a more personalized horror experience is a great idea and works well. All in all, Until Dawn surprised me at multiple levels and is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t.
2.) Rise of the Tomb Raider
I love me some Tomb Raider.
When Crystal Dynamics took over the series with Tomb Raider: Legend, it was a noticeable upgrade in quality to what fans were seeing with previous releases. When the Tomb Raider reboot was released in 2013, it was my personal Game of the Year even though The Last of Us (which is fantastic) was released as well. I felt what the reboot did to rejuvenate the franchise made it worthy of that distinction for that year. Enter Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Sure, all the base elements of Rise of the Tomb Raider are the same as the reboot. The combat feels the same, the climbing feels the same. But these didn’t need fixing. Crystal Dynamics choose to expand the crafting system and the variety of environments available in the game, which naturally makes sense since Lara is not stranded this time around.
While some might think the overall story is weaker, all in all Crystal Dynamics successfully iterated off the reboot and gave us another excellent game in the series. With how close this series was to wrapping up before they took over, this shouldn’t be disregarded as an easy thing to do.
1.) Tales From The Borderlands
Finger gun battle.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you haven’t played Tales From The Borderlands. And that’s a shame because Tales From The Borderlands is the best thing Telltale has done since the first season of The Walking Dead.
I’ll admit it; I was experiencing some serious Telltale fatigue this year. They release so many games nowadays with the same formula that I had no intention of playing this. Couple that with the fact that I know nothing of the Borderlands series as a whole, I never would have bet that this would end up my Game of the Year. I’m so glad I gave it a shot.
All of the characters in Tales are fantastic and for me, it has the best new character of the year in Loader Bot. His interactions with the rest of the crew are both funny and touching and his character arch as a whole was so surprising to me. His pairing with the other robot companion of the game, Gortys, lead to some memorable situations and dialogue.
Tales From The Borderlands also is the best example of the Telltale formula. While decision-making has been a staple of theirs for a while, previous games ended up pretty much the same no matter what choices you made. The way you play through the final scenario in the season is directly affected by the decisions you made in earlier episodes. It reminded me of the final battle in Mass Effect 2 and I hope that there is someway that Telltale can incorporate more of this in their future titles.
Tales From The Borderlands is a shining example of what Telltale Games is capable of. I do worry about them being stretched a little too thin with all the projects they have in the works. They currently have games coming up for both Marvel and Batman as well as a new season of Game of Thrones and a Walking Dead miniseries focused on Michonne. Hopefully, Tales From The Borderlands doesn’t get left in the dust and we see a second season with Rhys, Fiona and company soon.