By William Chandler
While I certainly didn’t do too much writing this year, I definitely still played a lot of games. Rather than organizing a half hearted Top Ten or Top Five list that doesn’t always accurately convey what made each game truly special, I’ll do some more specific categories.
Light spoilers ahead.
It may be my least favorite of the “Souls” franchise overall, but damn, it easily has the best art style of them all. From the gloomy stonework of the decidedly gothic streets of Central Yharnam to the maddeningly nonsensical cliffs, valleys, and lakes of the Nightmare Frontier, the environments of Bloodborne have the intense beauty of an extremely unnerving painting, but it’s even better in motion. Vicar Amelia’s flowing hair and serene glow as she tries to horrifically maim you inside of a dreamily lit church cathedral stands out in my mind as the moment in which I realized that Bloodborne’s visuals were something truly special. Too bad they had to absolutely murder the frame-rate to achieve such incredible visual design but whatever.
Favorite Multiplayer Game
Picking an MMO as my favorite multiplayer game is a huge step towards me finally admitting that maybe I’m not as sick of them as I once thought. After the incredible experiences that were Star Wars Galaxies and Burning Crusade era WOW, I became pretty fed up with the fact that MMOs never seem to truly progress as a genre. But, dammit, I started playing Final Fantasy XIV earlier this year and didn’t stop until I had cleared most of the content up thru Heavensward… Almost 200 hours later. The formula mostly remains the same as always; quest, grind, loot, and dungeon runs until you’re ready for the big leagues of raiding. But FFXIV has awesome aesthetics, a surprisingly engaging plot to follow, and a number of quality of life player conveniences that make it feel fresh enough to keep even the most jaded MMO hater enthralled.
Plus, most of the dungeons are really fucking good.
This was a tough decision for me considering that MGSV and Bloodborne both came out this year and have absolutely incredible soundtracks.
Undertale is nothing if not interesting and this particularly shows in the game’s eclectic mix of tunes. From melancholic, folky guitar riffs to silly and upbeat chip tune tracks, Undertale’s music is both extremely varied and highly affecting. I can call to mind each in game moment when I hear its accompanying song. I can’t think of a game from 2015 whose identity is so intrinsically tied to its music.
Game I Played The Least Before Deciding I didn’t Like It
Sticky driving, tired hand to hand combat, innumerable open world game design tropes and some developer’s Dad doing a horrible Max impression all caused my patience with this one to run out in about two hours. It’s too bad because the visuals are stunning and there is likely some good buried deep within this game, you just have to do far too much scavenging to find it.
Most Disappointing Game
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
I was saving this category for Fallout 4’s stark mediocrity but, honestly, I can’t seem to get over the depressingly empty feeling that the “conclusion” of Metal Gear Solid V left me with. Perhaps that was the whole point of it, and if so, congrats to them for fucking up my entire life. I mean, the fact that the story meandered around awkwardly for forty hours before just deciding to wrap up with a twist that most of us saw coming from the first big trailer is pretty upsetting to me. Venom Snake barely saying a fucking word and a distinct lack of stupidly long cutscenes were just the icing on the cake.
Oh well, at least it was fun to play I guess.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3 likely makes my top ten games of all time list. The combat is vastly improved from The Witcher 2 which immediately fixes my biggest problem with that game. Throw in an exceptionally designed world that, in all its beauty and horror, actually feels like a real place despite the inclusion of mysticism, and some of the best character writing in the past few years of gaming, and what you have is an open world RPG that feels truly special. Many of the side missions in The Witcher 3 could be the main storyline in a number of lesser RPGs. Not once in my 100 hour playthrough did I feel like I just wanted the game to be over.
I mean, I really fucking like it.
Images courtesy of giantbomb.com