Asky is a friend of the site who is ready to give you many hearts when you least expect it. He is also the current reigning NFL league champion of the site; long may he reign over us. This is his interesting and varied coverage of video games in 2015 and tell him what you thought on twitter here.
What a season, what a season. Video games happened this year! So much so that I didn’t even get to all the stuff I wanted to. Maybe I should’ve spent less time playing old games. Oh well.
I don’t really have much else to say about this year, but it was solid. More like this, please.
Other games from 2015
Assassins’ Creed Chronicles: China
I do like me some stealth games. It doesn’t execute quite as well on the whole 2D stealth thing as Mark of the Ninja, but it’s still a good time. Additionally, the art style is tremendous. It’s a really unique look that looks great throughout.
Guitar Hero Live
I could never get this game working for some reason. My guitar drops connection to the little dongle occasionally, which makes playing the game rather difficult! Maybe it has to do with the overcrowded airwaves in this apartment or maybe my hardware is just bad somehow, but either way it’s not ideal. Additionally, I cannot for the life of me get the game calibrated right. I have tried over and over and never gotten it to a place that felt good at all. Maybe it has something to do with the aforementioned guitar problems, but it seems like the calibration drifts around constantly. You’d think a problem like that would be caused by TV postprocessing, but I have all of that turned off and Rock Band is always rock solid. It’s mystifying. It seems like it would be a cool game to try out, with the way it mixes up the standard plastic guitar gameplay, but I can’t really play it as is.
Contradiction: Spot the Liar!
If you haven’t watched the GBEast guys play this one, you really should. This game is everything that an FMV game should be. It takes itself exactly as seriously as it should; the kind of game you want to stick with both because you want to see the next silly thing and because you’re interested in where the story goes. I would love to see a continuation.
Old Games of the Year
There’s really nothing left to be said about Dota at this point. It remains a great game to both play and watch, and I really appreciate how much Freezy Frog is willing to blow everything up from patch to patch.
I continued to play a whole lot of Diablo this year. Blizzard keeps cranking out great patch after great patch. I would really like to see a second expansion in 2016, but the game has certainly not lacked for content, as it’s been supported tremendously well with big patches all year.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II
The original Knights of the Old Republic is one of my favorite games of all time, but I somehow never got around to playing the sequel. The somewhat random update the game got this year to add Steam Workshop support and modern resolution support was the perfect excuse for me to finally go through it. The verdict: man, I would have loved to play the game this would have been with another year of dev time. Lucasarts famously forced Obsidian to make KOTOR 2 in 14 months in order to ship for holiday 2004, and it really shows. The difficulty curve is tremendously uneven, plot points just appear and disappear without explanation, and some of the dialog is straight up broken. (I played the game with the Sith Lords Restored Content Modification, which no doubt is responsible for some of that) But underneath all of that, the story they’re trying to tell has a lot of interesting questions to ask about the nature of the Jedi and the Sith, among other things. I can see why Austin cites it as his favorite game of all time. It could have been every bit as great as its predecessor and it’s a shame we’ll never get to see the version of it that could have been.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Since no one seems interested in giving us the proper Knights of the Old Republic III that we deserve, I’m stuck with going to MMO Land to satisfy the remainder of my KOTOR thirst after finishing The Sith Lords. In May, Bioware launched an event called Epic Story XP that provided 12x experience from class quests. Update 4.0 more or less codified this boost by making it permanent. This made it possible to complete each class story by only doing the class quests, dramatically reducing the time commitment for each one. As a result, I spent a lot of time playing TOR this year, and even found myself deciding to play TOR instead of current stuff like Tomb Raider. It’s no KOTOR III, but there is some cool stuff in the class stories and I’ve been having a lot of fun working through them one by one.
Game of the Year
10. Assassins’ Creed: Syndicate
Unfortunately, the fun doesn’t last. In an attempt to make the back half of the game more difficult, areas start getting filled with more and more enemies, to the point where completing missions without being spotted is no longer possible and every area turns in the the series’ now-trademark counter-fest. In addition, the back half of the game seems way buggier than the first half. At one point, I ended up stuck in a loop where the game would reload at a checkpoint, wait for a minute or so, and then immediately fail the mission for no reason, over and over. Ubisoft clearly has more work to do if the series is going to retain its former glory, but for a brief, shining, handful of hours, I was reminded of why I loved these games so much.
At one point before the release of Fallout 4, I posted somewhere that “the best thing about Fallout 4 finally getting released is that BGS can get started on the next Elder Scrolls game”. I’ve never really been into the Fallout games; something about the setting just doesn’t interest me in the same way that Tamriel does. However, Fallout 4 is still a Bethesda RPG, and no one makes anything quite like a Bethesda RPG. I’ll probably not stick with Fallout 4 for the long haul, but it’s just great to play one of these games again, jank and all.
Cities: Skylines is the game I wish SimCity (2013) was. Maxis’ focus on turning city-building into a multiplayer experience and their inability to build a simulation efficient enough to scale above a small town are the two major failings of SimCity and together they are what really sank that game. Cities: Skylines, on the other hand, doesn’t do anything particularly unique or innovative, but it does get those two things right. As it turns out, when you remain focused on providing a good single player experience and allow the city size to scale up beyond village sizes, building a city is a lot of fun. Like Kerbal Space Program, Cities: Skylines is a game that makes me want to learn about how real civil engineers handle designing roadways and zoning to support a large modern city.
Wait, Kerbal Space Program? That game has been out for four years, hasn’t it? The long-running beta has come to an end and KSP 1.0 released this year, so it gets its turn to be recognized here in GOTY.
If you asked me to list my interests, video games, space, math, and physics would be among the first things out of my mouth. There was an old DOS game called Buzz Aldrin’s Race Into Space that addressed some of these interests. It put you at the head of a space program during the moon race, and you would have to build the program up from the start, performing R&D and running missions to prepare for the ultimate goal, performing a manned landing on the moon. It’s one of my favorite old games from the era. Kerbal Space Program is like BARIS expanded a hundredfold.
In addition to managing the program as a whole, KSP puts you in charge of designing and building your own spacecraft from scratch and then makes you actually fly them. The game models all of the things real rocket science entails, so you’re having to consider thrust-to-weight ratios, aerodynamics, and orbital mechanics while trying to execute anything other than the simplest missions. It’s occasionally frustrating when things seem to not be working and the reason is unclear, but the answer is always rooted in real-world science and it’s immensely rewarding to eventually conquer some difficult obstacle while actually LEARNING something along the way.
In the pantheon of my Favorite Things Ever, Persona is definitely in one of the prominent seats. I’ve really enjoyed the various P4 spinoffs Atlus has released over the last couple years, and Dancing All Night is no exception. It comes with a lot more caveats than previous games however. The story is nonsense and the rhythm gameplay is merely serviceable. As a celebration of the music of Persona 4, though, it’s wonderful. The P4 soundtrack is one of my favorite things about the game, and it’s all here, along with some pretty great remixes. The game is really built to show it all off and that’s where it really shines. Also, when you play well, Izanagi shows up and busts out a sick bass solo. This game is alright.
The GOTY eligibility of Destiny: The Taken King is a hotly contested topic in Mixlr chat, and notably, The Taken King does not have its own game page on GiantBomb.com. It meets my GOTY eligibility requirement number 3, however, so I am including it here.
The Taken King is a lot like Destiny’s version of Diablo’s Reaper of Souls expansion. Both games launched in an…unfortunate state, in need of a lot of improvement. Both games eventually got it, with big 2.0 patches releasing alongside their respective expansions. Destiny 2.0 doesn’t solve all of the problems of the base game, but The Taken King is a game that I had fun playing, which is not something I said about the base game.
One thing that base Destiny had going for it was that the core shooting felt really good. The Taken King finally builds a game worth playing around that core, and it makes a world of difference. The story is still not especially great, but it has characters! And dialogue! But much like Diablo, it’s the fixes to the item game that really benefit it the most. The old system was arcane and difficult to understand and you would go for a long time without making any progress. Destiny 2.0 improves on this immensely by just making the numbers easier to understand, by making the paths to finding upgrades more obvious and varied, and by dripping you useful gear at a rate that keeps you motivated to play more. I made it up to 294 light and even ran the raid, which was a cool experience. I had written off Destiny completely, but Bungie has found a way to turn it into something pretty cool, and I’m excited to see where they go from here.
In general, MOBAs are for crazy people. Dota is a game for crazy people. Heroes of the Storm is a game for not-crazy people. When I first heard about the ways that Blizzard was simplifying standard MOBA gameplay for Heroes of the Storm, it sounded crazy. Without last hits and gold and inventories and even individual levels, what would you even do? Doesn’t that game just play itself?
Having tried it, however, the decisions they made make a lot more sense. By paring down the hundreds of things you have to be constantly thinking about during your average Dota match, Blizzard has built a game that is very focused on team coordination and map control. The tight focus makes it a fairly different kind of game than your standard MOBA, but not unrecognizably so. For new players, it offers a way to sort of wrap your head around this ludicrously complicated genre and for more experienced players, it offers a way to get your MOBA fix in a more relaxed way. Add on the typical Blizzard polish and finish, and you have yourself a video game!
(Nova 4 lyfe)
After Borderlands 2, I didn’t want any more Borderlands. I didn’t hate Borderlands 2 as much as some people seem to, but a Telltale Borderlands game sounded like a hellhole of “wacky” Claptrap hijinks and terrible Internet memes and I wanted no part of it.My process of getting into Tales from the Borderlands resembles my process of getting into Life is Strange. I ended up with a copy of the game thanks to a sale, gave it a shot because of the positive things I was hearing about it, and ended up really enjoying it. Where Life is Strange is serious and real, however, Tales from the Borderlands is bright and fun. The whole thing reminds me a bit of Galaxy Quest in its commitment to both comedy and adventure. It’s a blast from beginning to end.
Rock Band is another one of my favorite games of all time. Ever since the first time I played Guitar Hero at a friend’s house in early 2006, I’ve been in love with the plastic guitar. After the split, the Rock Band games became my implementation of choice and I’ve been playing a Rock Band game constantly ever since. The only reason my 360 remained hooked up to my TV is so that I could continue playing Rock Band 3.Rock Band 4 is not a difficult game to describe: “It is Rock Band, but on new consoles now”. That’s all you need to know to decide whether you’re in or out. Fortunately for me, that’s exactly what I want. I love the fact that all existing content is carrying forward, and the Rock Band core gameplay is as strong as ever. The only downside is that my family still demands that I bring all my Rock Band stuff every time I come home… >.<
GOTY 2015 was already decided for me the day that Rock Band 4 was announced. It was going to come down to either Persona 5 or Rock Band 4. As long as Persona was Persona and Rock Band was Rock Band, one of those two games was guaranteed to be my favorite game this year. Persona finally getting officially delayed pretty much sealed it. Then I played Life is Strange.Life is Strange is not a game that was on my radar at all. I really enjoy the modern Telltale format of choice-heavy dialog-driven games however, and the Life is Strange quick look did pique my interest somewhat. I picked up the game during the Steam summer sale, but it wasn’t until GBEast started playing it in October that I finally got around to giving it a shot. About midway through Episode 4, I realized that GOTY had been completely upended.
Life is Strange is not without fault. The facial animations aren’t great. Some line readings don’t mesh well at all. The scripts for the first couple episodes sound like something not written by a native English speaker. However, it’s a game with a powerful emotional core. It’s about broken people trying to make the best of their situation. It’s about friendship. And it’s about both the power and powerlessness of an individual. I laughed. I cried. Marvelous.