Games Of My Year 2015

Here’s my year end “Best Of” list, because if you’re on the Internet, you have to do a year-end list of some kind. It’s the law.

2015 Contenders

After studying my Steam purchase history and searching my memory, I’ve come up with the following list of new games that I purchased and played in 2015. These are only games that were released in 2015, not every single game that I purchased or played in 2015. In other words, this is the pool from which I’m going to pick my games of the year.

  • ARK: Survival Evolved
  • Besiege
  • Fallout 4
  • FFXIV: Heavensward
  • Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns
  • GRAV
  • The Park
  • Rocket League
  • Savage Lands
  • Shelter 2
  • Skyforge
  • TOXIKK
  • The Witcher 3

Not a huge list, very few AAA titles, and of course they are all PC games. I should also say that my controversial definition for the “release date” of a game is the time at which anyone can purchase or download a playable game. So, for example, Trove, which “launched” in 2015, does not appear on the above list because I purchased and played a substantially similar version before 2015. And Prison Architect, which I bought in 2015 and Steam lists with a launch date in 2015, does not appear because its Early Access release was before 2015. (Steam overwrites the Early Access launch date with the Release launch date, but the Internet remembers.) Similarly the Early Access titles ARK, GRAV, and Savage Lands appear on the above list because they became available to buy in Early Access in 2015.

So yes, in a way, I’m punishing developers for releasing games too early.

Game of the Year

The Witcher 3. Not much of a contest, really.

witcher3 2015-06-28 07-09-32-09

Biggest Disappointment Of The Year

ARK: Survival Evolved. Why do people buy this broken piece of unplayable crap? Why don’t the developers fix it instead of putting out new dinosaurs and holiday events? Do they not have any programmers working there? Are they all artists and modelers? I simply cannot understand why the Internet hasn’t lost their minds with rage over this game.

Standing on a turtle, the most fun thing I did in ShooterGame. I mean ARK.

Most Emotionally Devastating Game Of The Year

Shelter 2. A unique, beautifully atmospheric game, but if you fail at this game, it feels like your heart is torn out and stomped on. You must be an unfeeling robot to actually play this game more than once.

And because this is mostly an MMORPG blog…

New MMORPG Of The Year

Skyforge … but only because there is literally no other choice.

Polo shirt dude is going to defeat the world.

MMORPG Expansion Of The Year

FFXIV: Heavensward, because even though it’s a bit of a slog, I keep going back to it, whereas I have no desire to go back to the new zones in Heart of Thorns. I didn’t include Knights of the Fallen Empire here because, while I technically “bought” it (having a subscription) and have access to it, I don’t have any characters high enough in level to actually see it yet.

Heavensward

Now for some other categories.

Best Game That I Played in 2015

Dark Souls. Along with Dark Souls II, it completely took over my summer.

The Depths

Most Consistently Played MMORPG In 2015

I’m going to have to go with Star Wars: The Old Republic. I’ve played it a decent amount in six of the twelve months in 2015, and leveled a Jedi Knight from around level 13 in January up to (as of this writing) level 56.

SWTOR Screenshot_2015-12-18_15_33_11_000300

Best Game With Art From People I Used To Play Quake With

GRAV. A nifty survival/building game, check it out. Or not, because I’m totally biased.

 

Skyforge – Sound Design Matters

I duck into Skyforge now and then but it’s rapidly losing its appeal for me. Part of it is because Dark Souls demands my attention right now, but I think I figured out another reason yesterday: The sound effects, or lack thereof.

On my 2-Hour Scorecard for Skyforge I marked the Sound as “Okay.” Now after five hours I’m going to downgrade it to “Bad.” When my Cryomancer is out in the world defeating bad guys and such, throwing out these huge AoE whirlwind spells and dropping comets from the sky (or whatever that ability is), you would think that my speakers would shake and rattle everything on the desk with the sheer magnitude of it.

Skyforge Comet

Not so much. It almost feels like I’m playing with the sound turned off. The sound effects are really subtle. I even double-checked my sound settings to make sure I hadn’t turned them down for some reason, but no, they were up there at full. (Sometimes I deliberately turn down sound effects because they get a little too noisy.)

It’s impressing on me the importance of sound design in a game–for me, at least. The better the sound design, the better the immersion. By comparison, Dark Souls sound effects are huge and visceral and attention-getting. Skyforge sound effects are puny and forgettable and I can barely focus on what’s happening when I’m playing. (This is not helped by the fact that it doesn’t matter which abilities I press–whatever I’m fighting in Skyforge is going to die eventually no matter what.)

I also think I’m going to downgrade the Performance category from “Good” to “Okay.” I’m finding that it runs considerably slower in fullscreen windowed mode, which is my preferred setting for most games if it’s available.

Posted on Blaugust Day 8. Read all of my Blaugust posts here.

Progression Report – July 2015

Blaugust Day 2

Dark Souls Elite Knight

July was a quiet gaming month for me. Work continues to be hectic, and I’ve also gotten it into my head that I might try to take a Microsoft exam so I spent a lot of time reading and studying.

It was around the end of July last year that I lost my job–not from anything I did, but from a contract changing hands to a different company. Fortunately nothing like that is going to happen this year. I’ve since resumed working on that project, but everything is different and more chaotic now as the ripple effects from the contract change continue to permeate everything and everybody.

But I digress. I spent by far the most time playing Dark Souls in July (51 hours), reaching level 40 on my Knight. I defeated the Taurus Demon and the Bell Garygoles, rang the first bell, then defeated the Capra Demon and the Gaping Dragon on my way toward the second bell. I’m currently mired in Blighttown.

The Witcher 3 took second place for the month (11 hours) as I finished off the story and put it away, probably for good. I didn’t complete all of the side stories, but since I’m now into Dark Souls I don’t see myself going back. It was a great RPG, as was The Witcher 2. (The Witcher 1 was… well, different.)

Farewell Witcher 3
Farewell Ciri and Geralt

In FFXIV, I puttered around for about 5 hours of questing, gaining a whopping one level to reach 53. I have to admit it’s pretty nice to be back in the leveling phase and not have to “worry” about endgame for a while. As you can tell I’m not the type to race to the endgame in MMOs so it’ll probably be a while before I get to 60. I’m enjoying logging in, running a handful of quests, and then logging out again.

The only other MMORPG I played was Skyforge for about 4 hours. I honestly don’t know what level I am. Does it even have levels? Anyway I’m playing the Cryomancer class. I don’t really love the class, but I don’t want to play a tank or healer.

Skyforge 2-Hour Scorecard

I spent a few hours with Skyforge. I didn’t buy any of the founder’s packs or anything so this is the totally free-to-play experience.

Business casual is the way to go in Skyforge.
Business casual is the way to go in Skyforge.
  • Character Creation: Okay
  • Lore: Meh
  • Dialog: Meh
  • Visuals: Good
  • Performance: Good
  • Sound: Okay
  • Music: Meh
  • Voice Acting: Okay
  • UI: Fantastic
  • Customization Settings: Minimal
  • Ads: Subtle, except for the launch window
  • Free-to-play disadvantages: Less “sparks” so I guess you advance slower
  • Classes: Okay (3 to pick from initially)
  • Combat Style: Action, Button Mashing
  • Difficulty: Surprisingly challenging for a game these days
  • Progression Style: Skill Tree, Gear Upgrades
  • Crafting: Unknown
  • Endgame: I doubt I’ll ever see it
  • World: Small zones and instances that you travel to from a hub, like Neverwinter
  • Costumes: Plentiful
  • Appearance: Change anything at will (only the first one is free)

Things that stood out:

  • You can select your running animation and idle stance in Skyforge’s character creation, that was pretty cool.
  • Because Skyforge locks you into mouselook mode, I couldn’t figure out how to activate a mouse pointer to minimize or hide general chat, or dismiss the help tooltips. (In other games it’s Alt or Z or something like that.)

Overall, Skyforge is fun in short bursts, but there’s not a lot of depth to it for an MMORPG. It’s more of a video game than a virtual world, if that makes sense–the kind of game you play, beat, and put away.

UPDATE: Some edits made based on the advice of this spiffy new Yoast SEO plugin I got.

On The Radar For 2015

Last time I did this.

Note that some games aren’t on the following list because I have either a) forgotten about them, or b) never heard of them.

MMORPGs I’m Looking Forward To

These are games that I’m still anxiously awaiting the opportunity to play, because I haven’t yet seen or heard anything to wreck my enthusiasm.

Black Desert. I keep seeing good things.

Skyforge. I keep hearing good things.

Otherland. I have enjoyed some Tad Williams books in the past, so surely a game based on some of his books I haven’t read would be good.

MMORPGs I’m Ambivalent About

I’m not excited about these games per se, but I’ll probably buy or try them because of hype and/or boredom and/or peer pressure.

GW2: Heart of Thorns. I’ll play it, but because it’s GW2 aka. The One RPG Without Meaningful Rewards I’m anticipating that I’ll get bored quickly.

Crowfall. To me, this isn’t even an MMORPG, and I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed by that after the hype wears off. My latest concern is that the ambitious class customization plans will result in PvP balance issues that will ruin the game. (Everyone will keep chasing that one overlooked combination that is bugged and overpowered, resulting in an endless cycle of nerfing disappointment and forum rage.)

EQNext. I’m not burdened by EQ nostalgia, plus I have no reason to think this game will be good. (Where is ACNext Turbine??)

Pathfinder Online*. I’ve never played the tabletop version, and the gameplay appears uninteresting (and the animations are terrible), and it’s open world PvP. When will they learn?

Camelot Unchained*. I hear a lot of buzz about this game but it doesn’t look that great to me. That YouTube video honestly makes it look like the most boring thing in the entire universe. Given the way the devs talk about it, I get the impression that this game is more about being a game engine technology demo than a game.

MMORPGs I’m Undecided About

These are games that are on my radar, but I don’t know enough yet to form an opinion about how much I’d be willing to spend on them.

Shroud of the Avatar*. Seems to be flying under the radar. I hear little or nothing about it, but the gameplay looks tolerable.

Gloria Victis*. I like the look of this game but, you know, it’s open world PvP so it will mostly be a game of staying in town or hiding from people.

Wander. Saw it on Steam. It looks cool. It’s not clear to me if this is a PC game or not though.

MMORPGs I’ve Lost Interest In

These would probably have to be free or sold at a deep discount for me to even try them, unless I start to see a lot more positive buzz.

Star Citizen*. Honestly I’m not sure what this game is right now, but anything targeted at EVE players probably isn’t for me, plus we all know this is vaporware, right? (Just kidding! Don’t freak out!) But seriously, I think the smart money is on this game self-destructing from too much ambition.

Life is Feudal*. I thought there might be something to this game, but so far it looks like a plain old survival building game, and the models and animation need serious work.

Das Tal* and Albion Online*. Overhead views plus open world PvP. Why, god, why?

Pantheon: Something of Something*. Seems unlikely this will ever see the light of day, but if it does, only those handful of people who backed it will delude themselves into thinking it’s fun to replicate late-1990s mechanics. Sorry but this game looks awful right now.

H1Z1*. I don’t even consider this an MMORPG.

Pre-Launch MMORPGs I’ve Already Bought

Trove*. (I think it’s still technically beta.) I like it. Good casual game.

Landmark*. Meh. Just meh. Do we really need a game that’s a thinly-disguised 3D modelling program with a 1980s-style UI font?

The Repopulation*. I haven’t played enough to know what to think of it. But I feel like it’s probably trying to do too much and it’ll never capture that SWG feeling.

Advice To Game Developers

Please perfect your basic artwork assets, models, and animations before releasing anything to the public. It’s a huge turn-off to see placeholder models and animations that make your game look like a high school project. It’s literally the first thing I evaluate to determine if your development effort is serious business or you’re just a bunch of kids messing around in somebody’s basement. Great results can and do come from people’s basements, but honestly not very often.

* These games can be bought and played now in some early access form or another. (I think. Don’t hold me to it.)