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.

 

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.

Progression Report – June 2015

There were only two games I played any significant amount in June: Final Fantasy XIV (28 hours) and The Witcher 3 (18 hours). The latter is not an MMORPG, but since it feels exactly like an MMORPG I’m going to count it in my progression report.

In FFXIV I started in on Heavensward, but to be honest I’m still a bit burned out from all the catching up I did in May, so I haven’t played that much into the expansion. I’ve only managed to level my Bard class from 50 to 53 52, and completed the first dungeon Dusk Vigil. It’s a great expansion…

… but it’s not as great as The Witcher 3, where I reached level 23 and played to the point in the story where the curse was lifted from Uma. I’m really glad I stuck with the hard difficulty. Once I got to level 12 or so, I no longer had any trouble with it. The main thing to keep in mind is that you have to be patient and fight defensively until you get stronger and get the hang of the controls. I don’t know how much more story is left in this game, but I’ve seen swords and armor that require at least level 37, and I still have a crap ton of question marks left to explore on the maps.

Dabbling In The Witcher 3

I’ve been dabbling with The Witcher 3 off and on since it came out, as I’m sure almost everyone who plays RPGs has. After playing The Witcher 2 there was no possibility that I wasn’t going to get the third installment. Anyone who has even a slight interest in single-player, story-based RPGs should get it without hesitation.

That said, I haven’t yet been wowed or completely absorbed by it, but I’m enjoying it. I’ve only been playing in small chunks, which is made possible because it’s a very quick-loading and quick-exiting game, which is one of those small touches in a game that I really appreciate. Quite often I decide on the spur of the moment to start or stop playing a game, and it’s annoying to have to wait for them to load or shut down.

As a PC gamer, the biggest barrier to entry for The Witcher 3 (again) is the controller. (Don’t even bother trying to play it with the mouse and keyboard. The key mapping support is an absolute joke. You can’t even change the WASD movement keys.) I don’t fully understand why, but I find it awkward to control Geralt. I’m always overshooting things and having to turn back around, like when trying to gather herbs. I think it’s because the transition between walking and running with the left stick is so strange to me. It’s like you only have to barely move the stick before you’re running. It seems to me you should be walking until you push the stick all the way forward. Maybe that’s adjustable somewhere.

Those kinds of controller issues didn’t matter to me in the last game because I was only playing to see the story unfold. The mechanics of the game itself were secondary or even a hindrance to the story progress. I pretty much just button-mashed through all the combat. This time, however, I’m trying to play the game on the Difficult setting, so getting a handle on the controls is pretty important to me. They aren’t kidding around when they call it difficult, either, and button-mashing tends to kill you pretty quick.

Speaking of story, one of my favorite things about the Witcher games is how you seem to start somewhere in the middle of the story, as if you’ve missed the beginning, and you’re filled in on backstory details as you go. It’s very unusual for a game. It makes me want to keep playing just to find out what is going on.

The Witcher 2: Skip the Tutorial

It seems like years ago that I bought The Witcher 1 & 2 in one of those deep-discount Steam sales. I spent about 15 minutes playing The Witcher 1 (enough time to watch the opening movie and then get to where I could feel the intense pain of the combat controls), and then never played it again.

The Witcher has a comet!

Lately I’ve started to see some buzz about The Witcher 3, and I see that it’s now available for pre-order on Steam. To my mild surprise, among the blogs I read, the announcement of a third Witcher game has been roughly akin to an announcement about the return of Firefly to television. People seem to love these games, and they are dying for the next one.

So I decided to take another look at The Witcher series. Since I had such a bad experience with the first one, and knowing that the second one had better controls, I just skipped ahead to The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.

But still, I hated it.

I started with the tutorial, and I tried to play with the mouse and keyboard as I usually do with PC games. It was awful. The interface appeared to be hopelessly complicated. I put it away for a while. Then I tried it another day with an Xbox controller, and found it marginally better, though I still found the tutorial to be awful. I put it away again.

Then I tried it one last time with the controller, but this time I skipped the tutorial.

Suddenly The Witcher 2 turned into a real game!

Despite the ridiculous trope of starting out a prisoner, I found myself drawn into the story almost immediately. And that right there is why I think people love The Witcher: The story. It’s another one of those games where the “game” part kind of gets in the way of the story. I played it on Easy, so I could get through the gaming as fast as possible, because the real meat of the game is in the cut scenes, as far as I’m concerned.

And there are a lot of cut scenes; long, long cut scenes. This is not a game you can play while watching television. It is television. Have a bowl of popcorn handy.

The only down side to The Witcher 2 is that it isn’t long enough. I played for 32 hours and felt like the main story ended rather abruptly.

Anyway, the point is that now I’m a Witcher fanboy too, and anxiously awaiting The Witcher 3 along with everyone else (that trailer is awesome). But if you’re having trouble getting started in The Witcher 2 like I did, I heartily recommend that you skip the tutorial. There is nothing fun about it.

P.S. I went back and tried The Witcher 1 again too. I’ve only made it to Chapter 2, but I’m able to tolerate the horrible interface a little better now that I know there is a good story to see. Also, some of the story in Witcher 2 makes more sense after you play Witcher 1. (Like the whole memory loss thing.)