In my books, we’ve had one of the best years of gaming in recent memory. Of the massive list of games we’ve seen released, it was a grueling challenge to determine exactly which titles deserved to be in my top 5, because if I could, there’d be a whole lot more sitting right beside some of the games that made it onto my list.
So, without further ado, here are the results of my incredibly difficult internal struggle to calculate my personal Top 5 Games of 2015.
Had I only been allowed to take the campaign into consideration, this wouldn’t be on my list. However, thanks to the amazing work done by 343 Industries on bringing us such a fun multiplayer experience, Halo 5: Guardians has more than earned a spot at the big kids table.
343i may not have given us the best overall story in the Halo franchise’s stunning history (especially for newcomers, or those who only follow the games), but as someone who has read, and absorbed every piece of information, history, and lore that we have been given, I gotta say, this was still a lot of fun. What can I say, sometimes nostalgia drives a gamer’s decision making - I’m a Halo fan, and Guardians scratched that itch quite nicely. Well, at least the multiplayer did.
Do I wish the story had blown my socks off the way Halo 3, or even 4 did? Yeah, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. The Campaign may have, perhaps, been poorly told, but when you take into consideration the incredibly fun multiplayer modes like Warzone (especially Assault), and Breakout, along with classics like Arena, SWAT, and Capture the Flag - not to mention the weekly, votable, featured game types, and recently added Big Team Battle (with it’s own maps, completely for free mind you), I think that Halo 5: Guardians is certainly one of the best games of 2015.
This title right here is a testament to the power of Telltale Games. Time for a little confession - I may own all of the first-person shooter Borderlands titles, but honestly, the Diablo / Destiny gameplay style of trying to find the next unique weapon with stats slightly higher than my current weapon never appealed to me. So, I haven’t really enjoyed my time with the franchise as much as other gamers out there… please don’t shoot me.
Then along comes Telltale Games. With their particular way of crafting interactable stories within their titles, I just had to give Tales a try, perhaps this would be the Borderlands game that could steal my heart - and boy-oh-boy, was I not disappointed. Every character is unique, and not only is this an amazingly fun and funny game, but the storytelling was some of the best the company has ever delivered.
One of the things I liked most about the five-episode series was how Telltale gave us a totally different type of game and story, all set within the Borderlands universe. The interface, the art style, and the humor all felt right, and despite being such a radically different game, it slots perfectly within the what has already been established.
Fantastic storytelling, along with new, entirely lovable characters, all merged with great cameos from the previous games, and top notch art design means that, in my mind, this title deserves some well placed nods this awards season. It’s such a fun game, and most definitely one of the best experiences of the year.
Epic moments, memorable characters, and an insanely dense world make Bethesda’s Fallout 4 one of the best games I’ve played all year - and that’s not to mention the crazy amount of customizations you have over the numerous settlements, weapons, and armor found in the world.
The mere act of journeying from one quest to another and becoming side-tracked by a house or area that begs to be explored, or the numerous random encounters with the inhabitants of this post-apocalyptic wastelands is a true joy. Not only is the game highly replayable, but the people you meet, the decisions you have to make, and the impact you can have on this world is remarkable. It also helps that the gunplay is top notch, the V.A.T.S. system has had many fine improvements made to it, and the companions are a delight to bring along - I really wish I could bring more of them, just so I can have them chime in on what I’m doing, or have their input in a conversation. Oh wait! That might be possible soon because the PC modding community is freaking amazing, and many of those mods will eventually work their way onto the consoles!
I’ve had such a blast with this game, and just wandering around, exploring, saving people, and killing anyone who dares attack is a ton of fun - but it’s not without it’s flaws. The graphics have their glitches, sometimes missions don’t properly start or end, and the storytelling isn’t as good as I would have liked - most of which are the result of how open the world is, and it doesn’t mean it’s not a fantastic game, with great stories told within it.
There’s just so much to do, see, discover, learn, and kill that I can safely say that Fallout 4 is 100% worth picking up though for any gamer wanting a world to get lost in. The only reason it’s not higher on my list is the mere fact that I feel there are games that have told their tales a bit better.
I adored the return of Lara Croft with 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot, so the anticipation I was feeling for Rise was quite high. It was a pleasant surprise to see that not only did the 2015 follow-up bring all the best parts of it’s predecessor to the table, but it also did away with modes that felt out of place, like the versus multiplayer. Standing in for that are challenges, and it was always a little treat to see how my score fared in comparison to my friends.
On top of that alteration, we were given plenty of stunning vista-filled environments to hunt, explore, and loot. The tombs this time round provided plenty of fun, as they were both challenging and rewarding. I was personally quite a fan of the story; sure, it didn’t make full use of the interesting side characters like the first did, but this was a more personal story too.
The enemies were also great foes for Lara to go up against. Gone are the weird group of insane people trapped on an island - here we have a secret organization, crossed with a religious sect that’s been around, and evolved with the times for thousands of years. Sure, they basically play the same, but it’s the context that’s key here, and I mean, how much more like Indiana Jones can you get! Loved it.
Action, adventure, explosions! Jonah! Refined gameplay mechanics; an amazing portrayal of Lara once again by Camilla Luddington; massive, beautiful environments; tons of tombs (and more coming) plus a ton of secrets to discover, all filling out the game for Lady Croft’s pulp adventures. There’s really little else I could have asked for, save the aforementioned rounding out, and inclusion of Lara’s friends.
I place this in second place because of the enjoyment I got out of Rise of the Tomb Raider’s high quality gameplay, and the fact that Crystal Dynamics managed to (in my mind) successful create, and enhance upon an already amazing reboot of a beloved franchise. Buy this game. And if you don’t own an Xbox One yet, get one, and get this game with it.
Much like Dragon Age: Inquisition last year, The Witcher 3 is as close to a living, breathing world to get absolutely lost in as we are going to find in games today. I found the massively open environments a pure delight to get lost in, and despite the setting, we aren’t drowned in dreary colours, here the land is lush and vibrant, a stark contrast to similar 2015 titles.
I also found Wild Hunt a lot more approachable than previous entries in the franchise. Don’t get me wrong, I love the complexity that is here, but the game just feels more open to those new to the series. There were a few little annoyances I had with item management, but that’s such a tiny complaint in a game that has this level of quest design, overall voice acting, and a world so thick with lore that you would think it’d get bogged down with it - yet CD Projekt Red somehow manage to give just enough information to keep players informed, give us a glimpse at characters’ histories with one-another, and still have it completely inviting for gamers of all kinds.
Here is a game where getting distracted from the main story to complete side quests never had me feeling like I was letting someone down. I was transported to lands of Velen and Novigrad, and I was the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia. I could play him as heartfelt or ruthless as I felt the scenario deemed necessary, because unlike games that make me feel like I should play with my own sense of morality, in the world of The Witcher, I’m walking in the shoes of Geralt, and not everything is black and white.
And then you have Gwent. This is a card game that I legitimately want to own. I really enjoyed it, and spend more than a few hours hunting down cards, sorting them, creating good decks, and tracking down people to play against… honestly, can we get a stand-alone version of this to play online?
This game has it all, and combines everything I love about gaming - massive open worlds to explore, filled with stunning vistas, interesting characters with great voice work, RPG goodness, secrets to find, morally grey, and really interesting decision making, and an interesting main campaign, surrounded with side quests that could almost be complete games unto themselves.
I loved being in this world, and playing this game - so it is with great pride that I say The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is my personal Number 1 Game of the Year.
So there we have it! Those are my Top 5 Games of 2015 - Agree? Disagree? Feel free to comment below and let me know. I look forward to reading what everyone has to say, because quite frankly, this was one hell of a year to be a gamer.