Kyle’s Top 10 Video Games of 2015

Well, I know this is coming out late. There’s been a lot going on around here in my life, and I’m not trying to use that as an excuse, but that’s just what happens when I’m not home to write these for the better part of a week. No complaining though. It’s only my second week back, and I missed a day. That’s not great, but it happens. The Wednesday, Friday thing is only ever something I’m hoping to hit anyway. Hopefully I’ll find time to work on Friday’s and that one won’t be late too.

Here we are. Kyle’s Top 10 Video Games of 2015. It wasn’t easy coming up with this list, as I’m really bad at ordering things around. I don’t have as much time as I’d like to make this, so I won’t be able to go too in-depth into each of my picks, but I might make a series of mini-reviews for all of these games later if I find the time. As need be stated for things like this, this is all my opinion. I also didn’t get to play every game this year, obviously, so there are probably some glaring omissions. For instance, I haven’t actually finished Undertale. I feel the need to mention this, because Undertale is apparently the second coming of Jesus, but as I haven’t actually finished it, I can’t provide a complete opinion of it. I plan on finishing it, but I won’t have the time any time soon. So I decided to unfortunately move forward without it. That review will be coming once I finish it, though. Count on that.

Without further ado, here we go!

# 10 – Just Cause 3

I love Just Cause 3. Say what you will about the game’s performance issues (which I didn’t find too bad, despite playing it on the PS4) or its repetitive nature (I play Dynasty Warriors games… clearly that isn’t a problem for me), at its core, Just Cause 3 is a game about taking the tools the game gives you and using them in creative ways to blow up a lot of stuff. How repetitive the game actually is depends on you. One base, you can try destroying everything without touching the ground, another time you could try and liberate a city using only your grappling hook. The game gives you so many toys to play with, and such a huge world in which to play, that I find myself always looking for new ways to approach a problem. Do a lot of the bases and cities end up becoming a scavenger hunt for the same things to destroy every time? Yes. Is the story pretty forgettable? Yes. But does any of that matter when you’re dodging missiles being fired at you by a helicopter while soaring through the air in your wingsuit before using your grappling hook to attach yourself to said helicopter, hijack it, and then use it to destroy the base below you? No. No it doesn’t. Because that’s just inherently fun.

# 9 – Xenoblade Chronicles X

The original Xenoblade Chronicles was probably my favorite JRPG from the last generation of consoles. I loved almost everything about it. Especially the story, which took typical tropes and managed to tweak them or use them in ways that eventually subverted expectation. In its sequel, I quickly realized I wasn’t going to be getting anything like that. While the story was passable, it was almost completely unengaging. It’s characters were fairly bland. I was disappointed. It still had the gameplay I loved, and an incredibly huge and interesting world, but something felt missing. I never got that amazing story. Instead, I got a giant robot. The Skell transforms Xenoblade Chronicles X in a way that I had never seen a game do. It changed the scale of the world. The areas that I had been exploring for the last 30 hours suddenly became completely different to me. The way I approached problems changed. And I suddenly fell in love with the game. The end of the game stumbled, and required more grinding than was probably necessary, but I loved the journey there. While X is a disappointment compared to its predecessor, I still had a blast playing it. And I can’t fault a game for that.

#8 – Life is Strange

Life is Strange is the first game on this list that was truly a surprise to me, and also represents what I think the theme for me this year was: the unexpected. I had heard of this game a good while before it started. The premise sounded intriguing: a girl returns to her home town and helps her old best friend find a missing person with the use of the mysterious ability to rewind time. It sounded different, and so I wanted to check it out. So glad I did. Life is Strange is flawed, with inconsistent and occasionally annoying dialogue and some slight pacing issues. It also has so much damn heart that, at some point, you just stop caring. You grow to love much of the cast, and most of them are written as real people, and not just friends or enemies. The choices that you make in the game have real consequences for much of the run-time of the game, and you really feel like you’re shaping your story. The game may not end as strong as it could have, but I still found it to be an experience I  greatly appreciated and one I would definitely recommend.

# 7 – Fallout 4

It pains me to put Fallout 4 so low up on this list, but that’s part of the reason this year was so unexpected for me. Fallout 4 is a great game. It really is. I loved the world, the story was interesting, the gunplay was a huge improvement over the previous games in the series, and I loved the new crafting mechanics. But, in the end, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Fallout was, at one time, a series of RPG’s. Even with the modern reimagining of the franchise with 3 and New Vegas, the games felt like role playing games with first-person-shooter mechanics. Fallout 4 feels like a shooter with RPG mechanics. And, in my opinion, it’s worse for it. The characterization options for your character are disappointing, and the entire dialogue system became far too streamlined. The level-up mechanics oversimplified the systems that worked perfectly well before. While the world was full and varied, it had balance issues. And the story conclusions that I experienced were disappointing and hurried. I enjoyed my time with the game immensely. But it wasn’t what I was hoping it would be.

#6 – Until Dawn

Another huge surprise. When Until Dawn was announced as a move game for the PS3, it looked interesting but forgettable. When it reemerged as a PS4 exclusive, it looked like a fun little Quantric Dream- inspired adventure. When it got into people’s hands, well… it was a bit of an upset. Until Dawn is way better than it has any right to be. It is a B-Horror Movie in video game form, with the stereotypical characters, the bad one-liners, and the ridiculous situations. Except you’re in control of the adventure. The power of choice in Until Dawn is very impressive, even if some of those choices end up proving false in the end. The fact, though, that your choices can end up leading to the survival or death of all eight of the playable characters is such a fantastic and fun idea. The performances are great, in a purposeful so-bad-it’s-good sort of way, and the fun twists and turns the story takes you on are all entertaining. And if you have friends, bring them along. While the game may be single-player, like any good horror movie, it’s better with more people.

#5 – Metal Gear Solid 5

This is another game I expected to place much higher on this list. And, thirty hours into this game, it would have. The gameplay is so tight and fun, and all of its systems link together in such wonderful way so that every factor of the game feeds into the other systems. It’s a masterwork of game design at its core. The problem? It does feel like a Metal Gear game. And it isn’t finished. The first of those two problems is a personal one, and something I can definitely get past when it comes to appreciating a game. Still, the story is so secondary to this game that it just feels wrong. And the decision to make Snake a borderline silent protagonist is a poor choice, in my opinion. It just feels wrong. More than anything, though, is the fact that the game clearly wasn’t finished, and ends in such a way that screeches the momentum the game had to a halt. The repeat missions, and countless lose threads, and the non-conclusion make MGSV a disappointing end to Kojima’s tenure as the overlord of the franchise. If only the game could have been what Kojima had envisioned. That would have been an amazing ride.

#4 – Tales from the Borderlands

When TellTale announced that their next two games were based off of Game of Thrones and Borderlands, the more exciting of those two games was clearly the former. The thought of TellTale making a game about Borderlands, a game series that always considered story a tertiary concern, seemed odd. Now that both series are done, the better game, far and away, proved itself to be the latter. Tales from the Borderlands is my favorite TellTale game since the first season of The Walking Dead. It’s characters are fantastic, the setpieces are incredible, and the story is constantly surprising. It’s also one of the most hilarious games I’ve ever played in my life. The humor is consistently on point through-out all five episodes, and all of the characters grow more endearing and fleshed out as the journey progressed. I was so pleasently surprised by this series, and couldn’t help raving about it to anyone who would listen. Trust me when I say not to pass up on this game. You’ll regret it.

#3 – The Witcher 3

I knew, going into this list, what my top 3 games of the year would be. It was easy, actually. Deciding what slots each of those games would go in, though? Far harder. The thing is, The Witcher 3 is a masterpiece. The problem is, in my mind, so are the next two games too. This game shows how to create a magnificent modern open-world RPG without sacrificing an incredible story, a thing most gamers and developers seemed to believe just wasn’t quite possible. The climax of the story of Geralt of Rivia is emotional and moving and dynamic, and each of its main cast is given wonderful moments to shine as the story progresses. More than the main game, though, is how impressive the side quests are. Each side quest is far more than just a diversion, and fleshes out the world if you’re willing to give them the focus they deserve. Many of the major side quests, too, tell amazing self-contained stories of their own, with difficult choices to ponder and terrible consequences. The world of the Witcher is one in which there are no happy endings, and the choices you make have far-reaching consequences that you could never have predicted. And all of that makes a world that feels alive and dynamic and tragic, all at once. It’s a game that I won’t forget for quite a while, and has a lot to teach the community of creators as a whole.

#2 – Rocket League

Cars playing soccer. Somehow, it’s brilliant. Rocket League is the definition of a surprise success. On the radar of essentially nobody, it came out free on PS+ and became an overnight phenomenon. The game is deep, with an extremely high skill ceiling that allows competitive play to thrive. More than that, though, it is stupidly fun. Get some friends together and you’ll find yourself playing for hours, especially with the free patch adding in the modifier system. It’s an addicting game, thriving on you wanting to play one more match all the way until sunrise. Get some friends, make a team, and have a blast. Rocket League is the game I keep coming back to, over and over again, and that is the definition of an incredible game to me. For anyone that hasn’t hopped on board this train, you’re really missing out. It’s the most fun you’ll probably have this year.

#1 – Bloodborne

I’m what one would probably call a casual Souls Series fan. I played Demon’s Souls when it first came out, but never actually ended up beating it. The same was true for Dark Souls. I loved those games immensely, and played them a lot, but couldn’t quite conquer them. Dark Souls 2 is probably my least favorite of the games, but it was also the first one I ever ended up beating. When Bloodborne came out, it was an obvious fit for me. It was also a revelation. Everything about Bloodborne, in my opinion, places it a step above its spiritual predecessors. The reworked battle system, encouraging bold moves and well-timed dodges, was the exact opposite of how I played Dark Souls. But as I adjusted to how the game worked, I found myself getting better and better, faster and faster, and loving it more and more. And then I started getting farther into the game, and fell in love with its incredible world and atmosphere. As the story takes a few twists and turns, the game develops into something much more than you’d ever expect. Bloodborne challenged me, it scared me, it filled me with elation, and it beat me bloody. And I loved every single minute of it. Bloodborne is a truly unique and incredible experience, and a master class in how to do an action game right. It was, in my opinion, the best game I played in 2015. I just hope something comes out next year that can top it.

 

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