So... if it weren't for my top 10 anime of 2015, the last post I made before this one would be my annual end of year games list thing. That means I haven't posted anything here for an entire year. I would say "that won't happen again!", but I can't exactly guarantee that. So, I dunno, "whoops", I guess. But anyway, it's the end of the year, that means it's time for the now fourth annual Top 10 List of Games What I Think Were Alright This Year Or Whatever. As always, these are in no particular order, and the game simply needs to have had a release in calendar year 2015 to be eligible. Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy VII and Ultra Street Fighter IV all had releases this year, but for your sakes, they're not on this list.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
I'll say it: MGSV wasn't the grand finale it was apparently supposed to be. It didn't tie everything together nicely, it didn't answer all the outstanding questions. MGSV is, however, simply one of the greatest open world action games ever made. Similar to Ground Zeroes, it doesn't have as much of what I want out of a Metal Gear game as the earlier instalments. It does have a decent amount of the crazy anime bullshit we've come to love from Metal Gear, but not quite enough, nor often enough. But that's okay, because the actual game part of this game is by far and away the best that Metal Gear has ever been. Even with the fact the story is clearly unfinished, even with all the crazy politics surrounding Konami and Kojima, it's still one hell of a game.
I was never into the Souls games before playing Bloodborne (and don't get me wrong, Bloodborne is a Souls game, in everything but name), but man did it suck me in. The combat is quick, deliberate, punishing, yet immensely satisfying. The world design is incredible. The environmental storytelling is a breath of fresh air when compared to games that are very upfront and "tell, don't show" with their stories. Hell, even telling you the actual genre is technically a spoiler (it's not gothic horror, like the boxart/trailers would have you believe). I originally planned on writing a big post about the game earlier this year that never panned out. Although I'm not too likely to go back and sink a lot of time into the older games, Bloodborne told me exactly what these games are, and I respect them greatly.
Whether or not visual novels are technically "games" is a topic for another day. Regardless, the English version of Steins;Gate had its console release (PS3, Vita) earlier this year. If you're into anime at all, the name will likely be familiar. It is after all one of the most popular anime among westerners and often recommended for people wanting to get into anime (and a recommendation I mostly endorse). The anime, however, is an adaptation of a visual novel that originally released on the Xbox 360 in Japan in 2009 before being ported to every other major console and eventually finding an English release on PC and Sony consoles within the last year or so. The plot is thus: an idiot and his mates accidentally turn a microwave into a machine that can send text messages into the past. Then a time-travel story happens. Incredible art, music, characters, plot, everything. I will likely write more on it in future. Based on the name of the genre (visual novel) you can imagine what it actually consists of if you haven't played one before, but it's well worth the ride.
At the time of writing (a couple of weeks before this post is live), I'm still making my way through the main quest of Bethesda's latest post-nuclear RPG. It's about what you'd expect from a game with the title "Fallout 4". Obviously, being six years since Fallout 3 , there have been many changes and tweaks, for better or for worse. The game looks nice - the lighting is fantastic and makes exploring the wasteland at dawn or sundown as enjoyable as it always has been in these games. Your character is now voiced, which unfortunately means it's now more difficult to create a character that truly feels like your own. There's nothing wrong with a game that wants to tell its own story, but Bethesda RPGs have always felt more about the story being yours and having it play out how you want it to, a feeling which is severely diminished in this latest game. There are other changes, like the gross simplification of the dialogue system, the combination of skills and perks, the removal of karma, that are better suited to discussing in a separate, more detailed post. But the core of the game is still the same: wondering around, discovering new places, people and monsters, and exploring, talking to and killing them. And in that aspect, it's as good as it's ever been. If you've an itch to return to the wasteland, it scratches that itch well enough.
Halo 5: Guardians
I'm still slogging my way through Halo 5's campaign. I say "slog" because I mostly don't have a fuck to give about Spartan Locke and his buddies (even if one of his buddies happens to be Nathan Fillion). If you'd rather be playing as Master Chief (you know, the Halo guy) and following the part of the story that actually matters, have fun, because that accounts for like, maybe 20% of the game. Apparently the ending is also a Halo 2-esque cliffhanger. But the single player campaign isn't why this game is on this list. Halo 5's multiplayer is the best it's been in a long while. New movement options that make the flow of the game feel zippy and modern, without taking away what makes it feel like Halo. Equal weapon starts, and none of that random power-weapon drop bullshit. It's what Halo 4 should've been.
Oh, and it has card packs. PACKS. Those who know me will know how much I liked Mass Effect 3's multiplayer. The packs were a big part of that. I can't help myself. Send help.
You're a dude with gun boots who jumps down a well. Tight difficulty, tight controls, tight design.
Destiny: The Taken King
Destiny was a game I mentioned last year as being "the most disappointing game I couldn't stop playing". Bungie's latest is not a bad game. It has the excellent gun-play you'd expect from the studio that made Halo, and nothing about the way the game plays is bad. But the original release had some major, unforgivable flaws. Bungie had created this big, interesting universe, but the storytelling and plot was absolutely abysmal and not what you'd expect from the studio that made Halo. The loot and player progression was largely uninteresting, and there was a major lack of content, which for a game meant to emulate an MMO-like experience is a major setback. But then this year, The Taken King came out, the game's big expansion. They've made strides over the past year to improve the progression, but more importantly, it's starting to look like a game you'd expect from the studio that made Halo. The first 20 minutes of The Taken King has more personality and better writing than the entirety of the base game.
Imagine playing indoor 3-a-side football, only instead of running about kicking a football, you're driving about in rocket-powered cars ramming into a 20 foot ball. Deceptively simple, but hard to master and with a tonne of depth, Rocket League is easily one of, if not the best, multiplayer game of 2015.
Also, it has hats. You can put hats on your car.
The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
I need to get back to The Witcher III at some point. I've put in maybe 30 or so hours into it and it barely feels like I've even scratched the surface. I own and have played the previous 2 Witcher games, but found them to be largely impenetrable and didn't have the patience to get properly stuck into them. In The Witcher, you play as Geralt, the titular witcher. Witchers are monster-hunters who have undergone some sort of mutation to make them better-monster hunters. What this gives them other than white hair and cat-eyes I'm not sure. The Witcher III does a fantastic job of having you play as an actual character, as opposed to a mostly blank slate for the player to self-insert into like a lot of western-made RPGs. As someone who generally doesn't self-insert into video game characters, this pleases me. Give me a well-written, fleshed out character any day of the week. In fact, the entire game is incredibly well written, with one particular side-arc involving a character called the "Bloody Baron" being perhaps this year's shining example of good video game writing.
Also there's boobs.
Persona 4: Dancing All Night
Dancing All Night marks the continuation of fantastically titled Persona 4 spin-offs, following last year's Persona 4: The Ultimax Ultra Suplex Hold, which was unfortunately nerfed somewhat to just Persona 4 Arena: Ultimax outside of Japan. Dancing All Night is... well, it's a rhythm game, with a bunch of Persona 4 music remixes. That's pretty much all I needed to know to be sold on this game. That's all it needed to be, but it even has a full-blown story mode. Similar to the previous Arena games, the story is basically a visual novel with the occasional fights (or dances, as is the case this time) spread throughout. The fact the game gives a justifiable, in-universe explanation as to why the Persona 4 crew have to defeat shadows by dancing is somewhat commendable. I'm not totally done with it yet, but the story even seems to be a much more solid offering than that of the fighting games, and will hopefully be a stellar send-off for Persona 4. Please, Atlus. I love Persona 4. A lot. But you don't need any more spin-offs. Lets just get to Persona 5 already. My only real gripe with the game is that some of my favourite songs from Persona 4 seem to be conspicuously missing (boss battle themes, mostly), but the selection that is there is decent, and the rhythm gameplay is simple, yet solid and enjoyable.
Even though 2015 was a pretty great year for games, I actually struggled to put this list together. I even considered condensing it down to a top 5. I just didn't play all that many of this year's games, partly out of laziness, partly out of not wanting to shell out £40+ per AAA game (and then not picking it up cheaper later) and partly because I spent a lot of time this year watching anime and playing Street Fighter. So many well received games came out this year that the over-abundance of choice can be overwhelming and you end up not playing anything.
In regards to this blog itself, I'm planning on updating the look of the site sometime in the new year. I've a design I've been slowly tinkering away at here and there which I will hopefully be done with in the not too distant future. Once I'm completely happy with the way it looks, I just need to convince myself of going through the boring process of making it into a WordPress theme.
2015 was a pretty dope year overall for games, many of which I will likely be playing at some point in the future. Games like Undertale, Tales from the Borderlands, Axiom Verge, Until Dawn, Her Story, Life is Strange, SOMA, Ori and the Blind Forest, Grow Home, Invisible Inc. and plenty of others I'm failing to even think of. That's not to mention the ones from this year I have played but need to get back to.