Another rad year
As I’ve said in the past, every year is a great year for gaming if you look hard enough. I see “this year sucked” so many times around the web and just can’t relate, because while there may be disappointing releases on a constant basis, there’s plenty of gems being created as well.
2015, like so many years before it, was very good to me. As a note, there are no numbers on this list, as I generally don’t like ranking games in order — they were all great in their own way.
What an amazing year for Souls fans. In addition to announcement of Dark Souls III coupled with a solid release date, we also got the fantastic Scholar of the First Sin, and of course, Bloodborne. Sony and From Software were absolutely genius with their timing of the latter. It was released earlier this year, leaving plenty of time to develop The Old Hunters DLC, just in time for our Game of the Year voting process.
With a more twitchy action-based combat system in tow, Bloodborne felt significantly different from its predecessors, but was still a Souls game at heart. If the series is to truly end with Dark Souls III, it will end without one bad game under its belt.
I’ve developed a full-on addiction to this franchise. I watch the TV show, I’ve acquired a few pieces of merchandise, and I love the first game. Yo-Kai Watch managed to make its way into my heart for one simple reason — Level-5 put so much effort into this series that it truly shows.
Whether it’s the endearing references to the basically-but-not-technically Japan setting and hilarious cast, I’m usually smiling when I’m experiencing something Yo-Kai related.
When Blizzard first started talking about a “casual MOBA” years back, I never really took the prospect seriously. I was a devoted vanilla DOTA fan (and years later, League of Legends enthusiast), and the concept really didn’t resonate with me. Until I played it, of course. The fact that the roster is made up of classic Warcraft, Diablo, and StarCraft heroes and villains is only the icing on the cake, because as a whole, the game works.
I love that I can boot it up for just a bit, play a game that’s only 15-20 minutes, and move on, instead of dedicating hours upon hours for it to truly get anywhere. The team-based XP system is brilliant as well. Fellow players are still able to keep up with everyone without getting left in the dust because they didn’t last-hit every creep throughout a match.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Expectations were through the roof with Kojima’s last project with Konami, but man did he and his team deliver. With open-world gameplay that absolutely smashes so many of its competitors, Phantom Pain was one of the most engaging games I’ve played in years. It also helped that it looked gorgeous, as every bullet, explosion, and setpiece was beautifully designed and orchestrated.
While Metal Gear Online and the sum of its other, seedier microtransaction parts leave much to be desired, the campaign has earned a rightful place among the best work from Kojima’s long, storied career.
I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Metroidvanias, and Ori and the Blind Forest is a perfect example of why the formula still works. The platforming is spot-on, the environments are engaging and vivid, and the minimalist story is so well done that it hurts. Clocking in at 12 hours or less, there isn’t any fat on Ori — you need every bit of that game for the package to work.
Shortly after completing it the first time, I went back and did another run. I can safely say that it will become part of my annual replay routine.
Ah, Xenoblade. I still remember the very moment I knew how polarizing the game was going to be. I had cleared out an afternoon to do a story quest, only to find out that it needed a sidequest as a prerequisite. Having no idea how the flow of things operated, I thought it would be a mere diversion, and I would be able to power through the main questline. Oh how wrong I was, and six hours later, I still wasn’t ready to continue the campaign.
But you know what? That entire six-hour block was a joyous session. I found a heap of hidden areas, fought gigantic looming world bosses, unearthed a ton of useful loot, and just generally had a blast roaming around the sprawling maps. It’s so easy to get lost in Xenoblade Chronicles X, and although it can be a bit too old-school for its own good, the journey is its own reward.
I usually have one oddball pick every year, and this is it.
It sounds like a cop-out to say recent Resident Evil games are better with friends, but damn it, they are. Even Resident Evil 6, despite its general garbage multi-campaign approach, had redeeming qualities with its “Mercenaries” component. My wife and I were hooked from start to finish, and the asymmetrical co-op characters really worked for us. The episodic format was a bit jarring, but ultimately fine, and I liked that some sections had multiple outcomes or endings, among the hundreds of other extras and goodies packed in.
I must admit, though, most of my enjoyment is derived from the game’s raid mode, which is probably my favorite incarnation of the game-type to date. I’ve spent more time playing it than practically any other game released this year.