Prestigious GOTY Awards 2K15

GOTY, Opinion, Video Games

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.

Prettiest Game

Bloodborne

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

FFXIV: Heavensward

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.

Favorite Soundtrack

Undertale

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

Mad Max

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.

Favorite Game

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

Advertisements

The Witcher 3 and open world storytelling

Opinion, Video Games

By William Chandler

(Light spoilers from the first ~4 hours ahead)

Throughout my nearly 100 hour playthrough of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I couldn’t help but constantly recognize ways in which the game continued to make the story of the main quest feel compelling. A surefire way to break the immersion, sure, but it felt like something truly worthy of recognition. After all, often my least favorite parts of open world RPGs are the main story, yet The Witcher 3 manages to make its main questline feel important and consistently interesting despite the dozens of hours of other content also vying for the attention of the player. This is, of course, a natural extension of the game being all around really damned good, but there’s definitely more to it than this.

It certainly helps that the main objective at any point in the game can be boiled down to a single line without feeling meaningless. It starts off as “Find Yennefer.” It’s pretty clear from the game’s opening moments that Yennefer is a person of great importance to Geralt and that their relationship extends beyond one of mere intimacy, especially since his dream initially depicts a fairly simple and relatively mundane version of their lives together. A lazy and beautiful morning at Kaer Morhen with some of the people Geralt cares for most. Geralt the character clearly feels compelled to find Yennefer but why would the player controlling Geralt feel the same?

The dream continues on to depict his relationship with Ciri, a young girl who takes the role of his protégé but perhaps somewhat of a daughter figure as well considering their apparent closeness. Everything then goes quickly into nightmare territory with Kaer Morhen coming under siege by a force of overwhelming power and Ciri being attacked directly.

While those with knowledge of the past games, or perhaps even the books, will recognize all of the shit that Geralt and Yennefer have actually gone through together, these details are unnecessary thanks to the game’s presentation of the dream and Geralt’s brief discussion with Vesemir afterwards, should the player choose to let Geralt open up about it. Geralt even states that he dreamt of he and Yen together at Kaer Morhen despite the fact that she had never even actually been there, making the beginning clearly idealized. In this conversation it also becomes readily apparent that Geralt is worried by the dream although fails to go into much detail about why. One thing is certain though. It seems as though Yennefer is in danger and that danger may extend to Ciri as well.

Peep this opening cinematic for Witcher 3 in which a single crow kills a man

News, Trailers

By William Chandler

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been unable to complete either the original Witcher or the Witcher 2 due to a combination of hating the combat systems and extreme laziness, but I played the first few hours of Witcher 2 and then saw a friend of mine play the last thirty minutes so it’s basically like I beat it.

Anyway, I’m hoping the Witcher 3 will finally be my bag so I’ll be able to give the franchise the attention it deserves and, based on the gameplay I’ve seen of it so far, it definitely seems like that’ll be the case. Further solidifying this notion is CD Projekt Red’s dedication to releasing badass trailers for the game and the one they released a few hours ago is no exception. Revealed to be the opening cinematic for Witcher 3, the trailer, which is titled “The Trail”, features Geralt tracking someone down using a trail of clues that are made apparent through flashbacks of prior events.

In one of the flashbacks some huge jerk is shown cutting off the head of a girl’s horse in order to halt her forward progress and she responds by somehow using a crow to blow a hole in his fucking head. I dunno. But you should probably just watch it.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt drops February 24th, 2015 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.