2015 was a year of mixed emotions for me. One the one hand, there where a ton of great games to play across multiple systems, I went to E3 and got to mingle with the ‘industry peeps’ and tried out new games, and my vita make a huge resurgence in my life as I have over 30 games on it that I chip away at. That said not everything came up milhouse as we had poor Xbox game sales compared to projections, PSN outages, and the #Fuckonami movement for all the bullshit that came out of there camp. These are only a few of the high’s and lows of 2015 but what really made this year great was the games. This list is the top ten games I enjoyed the most in 2015. I am breaking it up into two posts to keep it from being incredibly long. As with any list, this is just my opinion and what I had fun with. I didn’t get to play everything so I may not have the same list as you. Mild spoilers ahead.
#10 – The Order 1886
Whoa wait.. don’t leave!. I know this game doesn’t get a lot of love from the public or critical eye but I enjoyed myself with this title. Starting off with the obvious; this game is short. I was looking for all the collectible-s and it took me 11 hours, as I am slow and kept missing one of the collectibles in the later levels. The Order is also a bit shallow in terms of its gunplay, and while its not bad it is easy to call it uninspired from a weapons standpoint until you get later. The unfortunate trend in a lot of first person/third person shooters is to fill them with generic weapons with the spice of experimental weapons and the Order is no different. Where Galahad and the lads (great barbershop quartet name btw, your welcome) DO break away from the mold is with the science/experimental weapons they bring to the hunt. Of all the weapons in the game, my favourite has to be the TS-21 Arc Induction Lance, as there is something supremely satisfying with throwing lightening at enemies. Weapons aside, The Order 1886 has solid cover mechanics, a budding story into (hopefully) a classic monster hunter franchise and some of the best visuals put out this year.
While this mini review sounds like I am bagging on the game I truly did enjoy it. The criticisms of the game, while warranted, to focus a lot of the negative aspects or aspects people didn’t like. There is a lot to this game to enjoy and that enjoyment can start from the very first frame you get to see. As mentioned above, this game is beautiful and it is enjoyable to just look at the characters/scenery as you move through the game. The cut scene’s are also done with the in game engine, which tells you were the team spent the bulk of their time and money. The story had given Ready at Dawn & Santa Monica Studio a foundation to build a solid 12-20 hour single play game on. For those who didn’t play this game,. the story revolves around The Order as a continuation of the Knights of the Round table. They battle supernatural enemies and their allies, all while sustaining themselves on Blackwater, essentially a regenerative healing water that allows them to live longer than natural lives and heal from grievous wounds. The enemy in 1886 were Werewolves, and half breeds which were shipping hibernating vampires to the colonies. This premise screams to be fully flushed out, and with the graphics engine set, world built, and destruction raising up all around them, the Order 1887 (my own title..original I know) could launch us into battles both London for Queen, and to the colonies for country. If you are looking for a cheap game to kill a weekend on, pick this up.
#9 – Tales from the Borderlands
You may consider this cheating as Episode 1 game out in Nov of 2014, but I have just recently picked this up and I have been having a blast with it, so I am putting it as my number nine. Borderlands and Borderlands 2 have been some of my favourite shooters in recent years. They scratched the itch for gear treadmill like Diablo 3 and the ridiculous shooting that is needed to have fun when the more serious shooters started to drag. When Tales from the Borderlands first came out, I dismissed it as a quick cash grab using the name as a boost. I had not played any other of the other Telltale games has they had not really interested me and at the time I was heavily invested in Destiny. Fast forward 8 months and it’s me picking up Tales from the Borderlands to change up the flavour of my day to day gaming.
What I found was a fun and highly entertaining story driven game that gives you control of the flavour you experience while playing. The comedic chops each character brings makes it enjoyable to actually listen to the story, as all too often after an hour or two I find myself trying to skip dialogue/cut scene’s in the majority of games, unless its the Witcher 3 or Dragon Age. Some of my favourite lines come off so quick and clean that you don’t realize the joke has been made until you are moving onto the next scene/set of dialogue. I personally love loaderbot and I am looking forward to seeing how the rest of the episodes (I am almost done episode 2) grow his character. Not much else can really be said about this series as I have not finished it, and I don’t think there is a need for in depth analysis for a relaxed, comedy fueled story. Great to pick up if you haven’t yet, or wait for the full TellTale sale when they heavily discount all their games as a bundle.
#8 – Mortal Kombat X
If I knew how to phonetically spell Liu Kangs bicycle kick noise, I would have opened with that! Mortal Kombat X hit with a mixed bag in my group of friends, all of us enjoy a good fighting game, and MKX’s fatality trailers had us looking forward to breaking spleens and shattering spines. Mortal Kombat’s faction wars were a cool idea, and everyone loves a good tower run when they have a bit of free time however the game we got seemed to stumble a bit out the gate and miss that perfect combo of game-play and dlc. With faction wars not working initially, micro transactions for the fatalities, silly pre-order bonuses for Goro and a fairly weak Krypt, the game met with some fan backlash, even while it critically did well. Once players got over these hurdles and a few patch’s hit, Mortal Kombat seemed to fit much better into peoples games rotation, and was a constant in my group for a while at pre-parties/parties and lazy Sundays.
What puts MKX at my number eight slot isn’t the story, and as I think many would agree, story isn’t the driving force for this game. What brought me in for a couple months, and kept me practicing with the frost master was the styles of combat you could choose from. There is something incredibly satisfying about mastering each fighting style and THEN learning how each style stacks against the rest of the roster. As a subzero player primarily I (grand)mastered the ice clone to battle against my friends Scorpion with Ninjitsu (I believe that is the teleport variation). Violence aside, the game is quiet a bit of fun to play alone if you are into fighting games, but it does truly shine when you are playing against another person. Online, for me, was a decent experience as I got a couple of hard fought wins, but many loses. Funnily enough the loses had no “stupid lag moments” for me as the game ran smooth, and I was just out skilled. If you are waiting for Street fighter V or Tekken 7, Mortal Kombat X will definitely tide you over.
#7 – Shovel Knight
Oh, let. me count the ways I almost threw my Vita across the room when I narrowly missed a jump, or got hit by a projectile I didn’t see. Shovel Knight is a game I am STILL working on, yet love so much. The art style, the music, the difficulty. . . the game is just a fantastic throw back to the side scrolling platforming games of old which were friggin hard. If you enjoyed any of the Megaman collections, Shovel Knight will fit right into your wheel house. As I said above, I play it on Vita (#Vitamasterrace) so I am on the lookout for Kratos. If you are on Xbox you get to battle against the BattleToads. Shovel Knight is a tale of redemption for our hero as he battles his way across the land and up the tower rescue his friend Shield Knight.
Shovel Knight, as a game, is pretty spot on when recreating that hard platform gaming of old, and as you couple that with the Megaman collections, Super Meat boy and the slow rise of Rogue-like popularity there are a lot of side scroller’s that can punish you for your mistakes. While only a few bosses in, I have found each to be an enjoyable challenge that culminates from the level they are part of, which again harks back to the classic side-scroller’s of our childhood. Since this game has come out for multiple platforms there is almost no reason you shouldn’t own it. It even has its own Amiibo for the WiiU version which looks fantastic.
#6 – Destiny: The Taken King
You may consider this cheating as Destiny did not come out this year. I however like to think of the expansion, The Taken King, as a strong second leg of the franchise as it brings many of the pitfalls from The Dark Below and Houes of wolves back from the brink of mediocrity. As many know, the first two expansions for Destiny came out with mixed reviews. The Dark below had its dragging content and seeming lack of focus, while House of Wolves made steps in the right direction with etheric light and higher tier content, it too eventually stagnated on a rotation of weekly’s and skolas runs. With a lack of new raid, in HoW and new real new content advancement, the game and its players seems to wind down in interest.
Then came the King, or rather the Taken King. This new DLC really jump started the experience for a lot of people again with its hefty, in Destiny’s terms, story content, revision to the light level mechanic and its introduction of a third element for each class (Titan Master Class ftw). Also coming in TTK were new weapons, which led to the brief annoyance by some over the lack of the OG Thorn, Last Word and Gjallerhorn, and the retooling of existing weapons ‘year two’. New Ships, armour, shaders and emblems also showered down from the digital heavens as players worked through crucible and vanguard ranks to unlock them. Then came the raid, and damn that was a crazy time. Watching streams of players trying to hit worlds first as they fell to their death on the jumping puzzles, learning the War priest and getting crushed by the sisters were entertaining for many hours. Doing them myself really brings out the ‘try hard’ mode as you don’t want to be the guy who dies first, or who messes up a Golgoroth orb rotation. TTK has continued to expand upon its original content, with mixed reviews. We have the Iron Banner still running, now with new gear and Trials has also made its way back into rotation with its own set of bounties (I still suck at it though). A new game mode, SRL: Sparrow racing league was also introduced, and from all accounts seems to be pretty entertaining, I have not tried it as I was moving at the time.
As we wait for new content to emerge from the Bungie camp, the community currently sits at a crossroads. On the one hand, the game is pretty enjoyable with friends, and there is enough content to keep you busy throughout the week if you like to do everything. The flip side of that coin is if you do not like to do everything, you may find yourself logging on less and less, much like I have, as you don’t enjoy certain aspects or find the same content over and over again to be a bother. Couple this with the micro transactions currently in game AND the possibility of new major DLC being cut into smaller microtransaction chunks leaves some with a bad taste in their mouth. However for the moment, Destiny is still a fairly vibrant community, and jumping in now (or re-jumping in after a break) gives you a lot of options to have fun with.
Up next is the 5-1 games of the year and then some honorable mentions. Stay tuned!