Welcome to “Palaver” – a monthly discussion where the Another Dungeon team answer a question presented to them. If you have a burning question you’d like to ask you can post a comment below or send us an email.
This month, we answer the grand question of:
‘What is the Best Game of 2015?
Andrew: When I look back at 2015, it’s clear that I certainly played a lot more games in 2015 than I usually would. Whether it’s because I’ve been reviewing more games or not, who knows. Usually my year is made up of adding games to my eternal shame pile. This year, one game almost thwarted my progression entirely – that game was Rocket League. No other game swallowed more of my gaming time than Rocket League did this year. I’d sit down to play Fallout 4, and instead would say, “oh, I’ll play five minutes of Rocket League first”. Three hours later, I’d still be playing Rocket League.
I had originally written off Rocket League as a stupid game about soccer and cars. In fact, when the game was announced, I had just written up an article about the future of PlayStation Plus and had thought that it was another sign that Sony were just throwing any old game in the ‘Instant Game Collection’. But oh boy was I wrong. The easy to play, hard to master aspect of it made it a perfect timesink. The even playing field at the beginning of each game made for a supremely enjoyable game through and through. The continual free map updates that have been rolled out have ensured that the active community is never segregated behind paid DLC.
After my years of playing Battlefield and sinking hours into 800 ticket matches, I’ve found myself seeking out shorter multiplayer games, and Rocket League managed to fill that void. Part of the pure joy of Rocket League is when you manage to find yourself within a team that just works and co-operates. The intuitive communication system, which allows for just the right amount of discussion between team mates, helps bring even the most junior player up to speed. The fact that this game has almost immediately found a place within the esports world shows that it will hopefully have a long and rewarding lifespan.
A few thoughts on the other games I played: Mad Max surprised me with its expansive world and enjoyable mechanics, even if its core story was a slight letdown. Soma enveloped me with its immersive and thought-provoking story that still raises questions in my mind today. Broken Age made me fall in love with point-and-click gaming in a way I never expected, and discussed topics that aren’t usually discussed within a game. Fallout 4 made me into a fastidious house designer who fails dismally at killing Mirelurks. The Beginner’s Guide surprised me with its boundary-pushing game design, with storytelling that made me question myself as a gamer and the idea of game criticism as a whole. Lara Croft Go gave me a zen-like experience on a mobile platform. Grow Home made the idea of climbing a tree over and over again exciting and enjoyable. Yet, none of these games made me as excited to play games as Rocket League did, so here’s to many more rounds of “Soccer with Cars” in 2016.
Tim: 2015 was a great year to be a gamer. There were so many great titles released that I didn’t get time to finish them all. Looking back at what launched in 2015, I found it increasingly difficult to pick which game was my standout game of the year. I also realised that 2015 had some pretty disappointing releases as well. Mario Party 10 was somehow even more of a letdown than 9, State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition had very few improvements and all the bugs that State of Decay shipped with, and Resident Evil Revelations 2 was not the saving grace that the series desperately needed. If you want a list of all the games I played in 2015, I’ve made a list here.
So let’s start with the runners up. There were a heap of worthy contenders across a range of categories. For starters, I would say Zombie Army Trilogy was one of the most underappreciated co-op games of 2015. It had a story of sorts, but all the fun came from partying up with mates and slaying hundreds of zombies. The game has enough hidden collectibles and is hard enough that all third-person shooter and zombie fans alike will be pleased with this title.
My second runner up would have to be Fallout 4. I thoroughly enjoyed my 60+ hours wandering the wasteland. With all its flaws and shortcomings, it’s still a fantastic title for both veterans and newcomers. Great weapon customisation and sort of pointless settlement building added some great changes to the series, and the way the perk system has been altered makes Fallout 4 a must play. I would also like to throw in Rise of the Tomb Raider as my pick for best story-driven game. I played it over my holidays and loved every minute of it.
But as for my game of the year, I would have to go with Dying Light. I have been a fan of Techland’s titles since the first Dead Island game and I was interested to see the direction they would take with Dying Light. What we ended up with was a game where you can really feel the struggle of your character as you progress from a weak starter character with found weapons, to a total badass zombie slayer with homemade everything. The way they did the whole parkour traversal system bought a whole new dimension to the gameplay, and for once the story wasn’t terrible. It’s not great, but it was much better than previous story lines. I can’t recommend this game enough – I know it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for fans of the genre, it’s above and beyond any other game out there by far. On top of all this, you can play the entire game with up to three friends and there’s a new expansion, The Following, coming out in 2016. I can’t wait to jump back into the world of Dying Light this year!
Greg: As much as I’d like to give Bungie’s Destiny: The Taken King expansion my game of the year stamp of approval – especially given how much it improved and built upon the original title – I can’t do so in good faith, given it was really only DLC. Still, considering the hundreds of hours I put into it since its release in September, I felt it had to get a mention at least…
That said, 2015 was a damned good year for solid releases – both in terms of titles I actually got to play, and those that I’m still very keen to check out. Titles I missed, but expect to have been on the money, include: Bloodborne, Box Boy!, Splatoon, Super Mario Maker, Star Wars: Battlefront, Just Cause 3, Xenoblade Chronicles, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, to name a few – almost enough to fill up a year’s worth of casual gaming on their own!
Of those that I did play in 2015, there are a bunch of stand-out titles that blew me away for various reasons, but weren’t enough to compete for the big prize. The Order: 1886 surprised me for its narrative and cinematic extravagances, but it was a little lacklustre and wooden overall. Similarly, Until Dawn blew me away with its ability to immerse players in what I felt was a highly cliché, but thoroughly enjoyable, horror movie experience. Helldivers turned out to be a complex and entertaining co-operative twin-stick shooter that I enjoyed for many hours against initial expectations. And Fallout 4 did everything I expected it to in terms of a grandiose open-world sandbox to explore, but unfortunately not much more than that.
This leaves me with 4 titles that I felt stood out above the rest – Dying Light, The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, Mortal Kombat X, and Rocket League. I’m sure Andrew will go into more detail about what makes Rocket League such a great title, but for a game that sees players controlling cars on a soccer pitch, trying to score points against another team of cars, it surprisingly feels more like a sports game than most sports sims have in years, and for that reason, it deserves to be high in my list of favourites. Mortal Kombat X continued from the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot and built upon what was already a very solid entry in the franchise, creating a fighting game that wasn’t just fun to play with friends, but fun to get deeply involved with. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt ate away weeks of my time – in fact, while I played it I was unable (or unwilling?) to play anything else, and for this reason, I really struggled for a reason not to put this in pole position – but I just felt like it was an improvement on the Witcher formula, and not necessarily something new.
And “something new” is a term that suits Dying Light perfectly. Yes, it’s a first-person title, and yes, it’s a zombie game, but it’s so unique compared to any other title that had come before it. While it did have strong similarities to both the Dead Island and Dead Rising series’, it took a more realistic and gritty approach to the genre, and really found its place. And the addition of parkour to allow for players to navigate their way around the city, not to mention the requirement to keep an eye on both the time of day and the condition of your weapons, meant that Dying Light was intense from start to finish. For all of these reasons, Dying Light was my clear winner for 2015.
Noel: For me, 2015 was one of the best years in gaming for a long time – don’t get me wrong, each year has had its great games and memorable titles – but for me, 2015 just seemed to be the year that a lot of titles I’d been looking forward to finally came out, along with a certain game that unexpectedly became my game of the year.
Before I get to my top 3, I have to give an honourable mention to a game series that has always held a special place in my heart. It’s a franchise that I’ve loved from the very start and I’m sure I always will. I’m referring, of course, to Need for Speed, and in any other year this would have been easily been higher up the list, but given all the other games that came out this year, it has to settle for an honourable mention.
Need for Speed brought back some of the key elements from previous games, like the customisation of Underground and Most Wanted, great handling and tuning capabilities, a decent storyline (well, as good as one can be for a racing game, of course), and a beautifully detailed and styled environment, with a great array of cars and challenges to keep your inner rev-head happy.
3rd Place: Fallout 4:
Putting Fallout 4 in 3rd place might seem to be a little contentious for some, but hear me out. I make no argument that the game looks phenomenal, has an incredible storyline, and brilliant crafting and customisation options, but beyond all that, the side quests and annoying NPC’s really took their toll on my enjoyment of this game. I’m aware that there were a few flaws and glitches when released (but that seems to be par for the course with most titles these days); however, all the side quests and the seemingly pointless need to establish settlements unfortunately knocked it out of the top spot for me.
2nd Place: Star Wars Battlefront
I make no apologies, I am a massive Star Wars fan (to the point where I even bought the new Vader PS4), so there might be a little bit of bias in this case, but regardless I still love this game. Given that I thoroughly enjoyed the previous Battlefront games on the PS2 and Xbox back in the day, my levels of anticipation for this game were pretty high. I adore the iconic landscapes and vehicles from the Star Wars universe, and the Frostbite engine ensures that the gameplay is smooth and looks utterly amazing. However, with the limited amount of content that was in the initial games’ release, and the need for a bit of balancing when it comes to putting players against people of similar skill level, Stars Wars just missed the top spot.
1st Place: Rocket League
It’s hard to explain why I love this game so much, but it might have started long before this game was ever released. Not so long time ago, back in the heyday of the PS3, there was a game that I adored and I never thought there would be a sequel to, but with the current generation of consoles came the spiritual successor to this incredible title and my personal game of 2015. From its humble beginnings in its initial form as Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket Powered Battle Cars (which by the way is still the greatest game name ever) came the one and only Rocket League. This game is simply phenomenal; beautifully styled, fantastic, and enjoyable gameplay that you can enjoy for a few minutes or a few hours without any issues. With balanced vehicles, and maps that put the emphasis on the player’s skill rather than the vehicle they use (or the DLC they have purchased to get a pay-to-win advantage), it’s no surprise that Rocket League has made the jump (or rocket boost) into the competitive gaming circuit along with winning the hearts of many gamers like myself.
Dave: 2015 was a very tough year to call. Not because of a lack of decent titles but more because I didn’t really experience a lot of what it had to offer! That’s not to say I didn’t play many games – I played loads – it’s just that many of the games I played were from previous years, or were in early access (like the amazing Darkest Dungeon). If you’re interested in what games I did play I’ve come up with a list to help provide context for why some of the bigger titles (like Dying Light or Xenoblade Chronicles) aren’t mentioned.
Creating the list of video games I’d played last year proved quite interesting. Courtesy of services like PlayStation Plus I experienced a great range of titles and even tried some I would otherwise have missed – fun games like Xeodrifter, Unmechanical, and Stealth Inc for example. That said my top picks for the year are all standalone releases that I purchased outright, rather than as part of a subscription.
Bloodborne is the first runner up and must be mentioned despite the fact I had neither the patience nor opportunity to give it the time it deserved. Games like these can be extremely enjoyable but, at the same time, brutally punishing if you’re not paying attention. The next game in my runners up list is Cities: Skylines – the greatest city building sim I’ve played in quite a while. Despite a few strange quirks like the traffic AI or lack of late game goals Cities: Skylines did almost everything I wanted a modern city builder to do. It had an impressively large scale, provided great versatility, and never left me feeling bored. In fact, I think my biggest problem with Cities: Skylines was the way I’d sit down to spend 30 minutes tweaking my “mid life crisis” suburb only to find I’d spent many hours playing and it was time to go to work!
My second place position is tied between Invisible Inc., Mad Max, Until Dawn, Ori and the Blind Forest, and The Binding of Isaac. These are all exceptional games that perfect their genre while adding something new… except for Mad Max. Mad Max does nothing new whatsoever, but had a style and fun that engrossed me for hours! Ori and the Blind Forest would be a very strong contender for the top spot however I only started playing it properly a week or so back so I’ve not yet given it enough time to make a proper decision.
So which game took the top spot? For me that was The Witcher III: Wild Hunt! As a fan of both the novels and CD Projekt Red’s previous two video game adaptations I approached the third game with trepidation. Despite the hype and “streamlining” of it’s style CD PRojekt Red managed to nail the formula once again. It told an engaging story, replete with interesting characters, and provided varying experiences with real choices and impactful outcomes. Most of all, it was an absolute blast to play. It looked and sounded fantastic without sacrificing gameplay. There were a few flaws such as the repetitive “world filler” tasks but, when taken in context of the amount the game “got right”, they felt inconsequential.
2015 was a great year for tabletop gaming, although most of what I played was from previous years or prototypes of games yet to be released/funded! That said there were a few games that stood out for me as great releases of 2015.
XCOM: The Board Game was a pleasant surprise as, despite not being what I expected, it provided a unique and enjoyable cooperative experience. Using an app it introduces time based decision making adding thrills (and stress) no other format would achieve. While nothing like the video game it is a worthy video game and easily up near the “pointy end” of my favourites list. Continuing the themed board games trend my next runner up is X-Files: The Board Game. Again, dubious about themed board games, I approached this one with no small amount of trepidation only to be surprised at how clever and enjoyable it was. Mixing cooperative play with a GM type role it provides a unique experience where misdirection and teamwork can make all the difference. A clever concept that works well while being an excellent stand alone game – regardless of the name on the box. Following this trend my third runner up is Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Aquisition Game. Set in the Portal universe this board game encompasses the humour and culture of the video game perfectly. Whilst not as enjoyable as the previous two runners up my inner fanboy can’t help but squee at the fact they managed to make an enjoyable, original board game out of Portal… and it’s really fun!
So which game takes the cake? Nope, it’s not Portal (despite the punning opportunity that would present), but the psychic ghost investigation game Mysterium! Combining image recognition mechanics like those in Dixit with Cluedo-ish murder mystery staples (who, where, and how) it provides an exceptionally enjoyable cooperative experience. I’ve played this game with friends, family, and strangers and had an absolute blast each time… well, except for the time I couldn’t find the right images to tell a psychic they should look at the iron! It has a few flaws and can feel a little unbalanced in the second stage but, on the whole, feels like a unique, and enjoyable game that should appeal to most players. Why does it matter whether others will like it? Well it shouldn’t but, as with all board games, the ability to find people to play with can impact my enjoyment.