Daniel Garcia-Montes – Batman: Arkham Knight
The year 2015 has been a pretty decent year for new games with a lot of big name releases. Some fell short of expectations, while others ended up being surprise hits. I’m a picky (and cheap) gamer though, so there were many titles I didn’t play. Fallout 4 and The Witcher III: Wild Hunt had my attention, but I try not to overload myself with too many games that could take me hundreds of hours to get through. Bloodborne also piqued my interest, but I decided not to give myself a reason to get needlessly frustrated and possibly develop an aneurysm. The only new games I played in 2015 were Evolve, Batman: Arkham Knight, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. I removed Dishonored: Definitive Edition and Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition from the equation since those were re-releases of games that are already about three years old. So how did the three new games I played compare to one another?
I had high expectations for Evolve since it looked like the type of game that could provide a rather unique online experience with its 4 v.s. 1 formula of a player-controlled Monster taking part in a deadly game of hide-and-hunt against four player-controlled Hunters. It ended up being a fun game, but without a dedicated group of friends to play the game with, I was stuck playing alongside a bunch of strangers whose skill levels ranged from tactically superior to outrageously incompetent. Plus, the lack of a real story campaign brought the overall experience down a bit, at least for me. Evolve was still a pretty good game, but definitely not in the running for anyone’s GOTY.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was a great game, which is pretty much what everyone expected from a Hideo Kojima game. It got incredibly high scores from other review sites, but to be perfectly honest, The Phantom Pain was not the paragon of stealth-based gaming perfection that many reviewers made it out to be. Simply put, it relied too much on gamers replaying the same types of missions over and over again in order to advance through the campaign, and the amount of GMP (experience points) required to upgrade your base and weapons pretty much demanded even more of your time to grind through these missions. The shortage of memorable boss fights and complete lack of a climactic final boss battle didn’t help matters either. Even the story had its issues due to certain content being cut from the game entirely. Despite these setbacks, The Phantom Pain still had a great story and addicting gameplay, it just failed to live up to the expectations of many gamers, including myself. If you’re interested, you can check out my full review of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain right here.
It should be obvious by now that my personal Game of the Year is Batman: Arkham Knight. This game has received criticism for the implementation of the Batmobile and its limited number of boss fights. The latter issue can certainly be considered valid, but all the complaints on the implementation of the Batmobile; mainly that you’re forced to use it too much and that it doesn’t handle very well, are total crap. I appear to be the only one who remembers how badly everyone begged and pleaded for the Batmobile to be controllable in the Arkham series since Arkham Asylum. I for one was grateful for all the cool stuff we could do with the Batmobile, but many gamers are apparently spoiled critics who can’t appreciate what they get anymore. I will admit that there was a bit of an overreliance on the Batmobile when dealing with a lot of the Riddler’s puzzles, but I enjoyed everything else about the Batmobile. As for the rest of the gameplay, it was among the best in the entire series. The story was also spectacular, especially the ending. If you want more details on why I consider this game worthy of being my personal GOTY, then check out my review of Batman: Arkham Knight here. In fact, add another 4 points to my final score for the game and you’ll really know how much I enjoyed it.
Happy gaming from all of us here at Gaming Respawn.
Daniel Choppen – Undertale
If I was asked at the end of 2014 to predict what my 2015 Game of the Year would be, I feel I could’ve had a fairly accurate shot in the dark. In May, we had The Witcher 3, a game that we knew would revolutionise RPGs with new mechanics and gorgeous visuals. Metal Gear Solid V would come out later in the year and completely shake things up with an absolutely epic campaign and the best stealth gameplay, perhaps ever. It was fairly obvious we’d see a new Bethesda RPG, which turned out to be Fallout 4, which gave us yet more of the same Fallout goodness (for better or for worse). A few solid titles from Nintendo and maybe a couple of exclusives (honourable mention for Bloodborne) would contend the lower end of the table. But what no one foresaw was Undertale.
I first saw Undertale when digging through Humble Bundle one boring day. I had heard a few things about the game through various comment chains and Twitter mentions but nothing that had made me purchase the game. It was available for £6.99 and for that you got a Steam Key and a DRM-free copy and I was of course comforted by the knowledge that 10% of the purchase goes to charity. I installed the DRM-free version (of course, if you didn’t know I am a big fan of DRM-free content) and away I went.
It didn’t make a good first impression if I’m honest, it felt a bit like a browser game and not a modern one. It had barely any menus and a fairly rudimentary soundtrack, but nonetheless I carried on. Not long after, I was completely enthralled.
You see Undertale proves that if a game’s ‘good’, it’s good. The graphics didn’t matter, the sound didn’t matter and the lack of multiplayer certainly didn’t matter (take that Battlefront). No other game has made me laugh quite the way Undertale did, even though it was just delivered lines of text, and no other RPG had me quite so engrossed. And all of this for the price of a couple of cups of coffee.
I don’t believe in the perfect game, but if I did Undertale would be it. An outstanding RPG with buckets of humour, personality and charm. Completely original and the most immersive game I have ever played. No one saw Undertale coming and that made it all the better.
The only must-play game of the year. In fact it’s game of the century. The best game ever? Who cares; play it now!
Stephen Jackson – Prison Architect
When I got asked what my Game of the Year was, I didn’t have an answer. More than that, I didn’t really have a clue. Not because 2015 was a bad year for gaming, but it certainly wasn’t a revolutionary year. There were some huge games such as The Witcher 3 or Fallout 4, and while I enjoyed both of them immensely, sinking hour after hour into them, they failed to capture me in the same way as games of previous years have. Fallout 4 was the game I was going to pick, but I decided against it.
Sure it was the game I have sunk the most hours into in 2015 and one of the games I have enjoyed the most. But it disappointed me. It was dumbed down too much and lost a part of its soul when it stripped back the RPG mechanics in favour of becoming a better shooter. I love the shooting in Fallout 4, but Fallout should be an RPG before a shooter. The Witcher 3 on the other hand was my highest scoring game and it certainly didn’t disappoint. But I started to grow bored of it and haven’t re-visited it for months now.
So that got me thinking, what game has really surprised me the most? What game did I go into with low expectations but ended up finding a gem? Why does a Game of the Year have to be a triple A game? We know what to expect with regards to fancy graphics and depth but all too often, some still fail to meet expectations.
Therefore, my Game of the Year is Prison Architect. It blew me away with how polished it was when it came out of Early Access. I didn’t expect much of it when I picked it up, but I literally stayed up until 5am playing it. I went to sleep, woke up and played it again the whole of the next day. When you read about the backstory of Introversion Software, it makes the success of Prison Architect even more deserved. It’s one of those games which goes under the radar but is highly rated by those that play it.
The bottom line is it’s fun. It’s really fun and for me, that is the biggest question. What game did I have the most fun with in 2015? Prison Architect.
Jorge Godinez – Xenoblade Chronicles X
My game of the year has to be Xenoblade Chronicles X. It quickly became one of my highly anticipated games when it was revealed at E3 a couple of years ago. It was announced before I had even played the original but when I did, I only became more excited. The original Xenoblade Chronicles which released for the Wii, with a remake on the 3DS, is one of if not my favourite video game of all time. So, it only made sense that I would immediately fall in love with X. Well, I would love to say that, but as with every game, there are a few negatives, especially when compared to the original.
I usually do not like comparing games but what else can you do when you expect so much from a “sequel” to your favourite game ever. Still, there are not many problems with the game on its own, making it a great Wii U addition and one you should have in your library. The story is decent but that is my biggest problem with the game, it falls short in comparison to the original Xenoblade Chronicles. It does however accomplish its goal of being an open-world adventure game. Xenoblade Chronicles X is massive, the world is filled with so many details that make the planet Mira come alive. On the back of the game box it states “if you can see it, you can reach it”. I personally thought that there was no way this could be true but the open world is made easy to explore. There are no boundaries that prevent you from going in a certain direction and swimming for a long time will eventually get you somewhere.
Even the tallest of mountains can be traversed once you get your Skell, this huge machine that can eventually even fly when you progress through the game. Every aspect and criterion for a great game can be found in Xenoblade Chronicles X: an amazing soundtrack, a deep combat system and graphics that make you wonder if you are really playing on the Wii U. I have invested around 40 hours in Xenoblade Chronicles X, and I see that number easily reaching the hundreds in a few weeks’ time. If you have not picked up the game yet then do not hesitate to do so now. You won’t regret being sucked into this amazing game.
Sean Morge – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
I think my Game of the Year was quite easy to determine, and it’s for one reason. When you think of an open world RPG, take Skyrim for example, you think of an epic; something that contains hours upon hours of content with abundant room to explore the world and numerous people to talk to. In these games, however, there tends to be a glossy coat, at best, something that looks quite marvellous from a distance, but lacks much depth underneath. This doesn’t mean the game becomes bad per se, more that detail is traded away in order to magnify the scope of the experience. What amazed me the most about my Game of the Year pick was just how much depth the game managed to have. It was an experience that rivalled World of Warcraft’s groundbreaking storytelling achievements, at the time of its launch. I am, of course, referring to The Witcher 3.
There are certainly criticisms that can be levied towards the game, whether it be a propensity towards enshrining Geralt as an action hero, a quality that is far less shining than his endless wit, or a lack of diversity in the fictional Northern Realms, there are problems with the game. Despite this, there is no way to describe just how amazingly well-crafted the game is. Side quests have the same, masterful touch that graces the main story, with very few resembling the uninspired filler quests of most RPGs. The voice acting, and especially the movement of the characters, is spot on, giving the genre a whole new sense of realism. The score is well composed, the graphics are some of the best in years, and the gameplay is well orchestrated, even if it contains its fair share of glitches. I think an apt way to put it is this; Skyrim is often praised for its sandbox experience, providing a world that resembles a diorama, something that never changes all that much, even with the seemingly sweeping actions of the player. The fun in Skyrim is the adventures you are able to create within that framework, which is quite a hard task to master. The Witcher 3 is something new in the genre, a game that creates a world that one can sink hours into, ignoring the main story completely and doing whatsoever you choose. The true difference between The Witcher 3 and its predecessors is its ability to make that sandbox experience feel as well designed and thought out as that of a linear story, providing an enthralling world with numerous side activities that never feel like an afterthought. That’s what makes The Witcher 3 so special.