As always, these games are games I played in 2015, not that necessarily came out in 2015. This list is not intended to be exhaustive, merely representative. I am also including only games I finished or played a lot of (for games that can’t be finished). I’ve written about some of these before. There’s a search function, use it. I’m going to use each category for some quick hits.
The Expectedly Good
Fallout: New Vegas, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Arkham Knight (PS4), Madden 15, The Witcher 2, Shadow of Mordor, GTA 5, WWE 2k16, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Infamous: Second Son, OOTP 16, The Hitman Series (played all of them in 2015, including the ones I never played before)
New Vegas is an oldie, but I finally had some time to play it through. It’s officially my favorite Fallout game ever, but only because of the DLC Old World Blues. Without the DLC, it’s too dark and depressing to be quite as good as Fallout 3.
Syndicate was tremendous; the Jack the Ripper DLC is one of the best I’ve ever played and the main story was excellent. Evie was a much better character than Jacob, and there was disappointingly little interaction between the twins (not in a gameplay sense, but in a narrative sense), but most importantly, the game was stable. Good job, Ubisoft.
I liked the Witcher 2 much better than the Witcher 1. It was smaller, but tighter, with much better combat and a branching storyline. I hated the fucking swamp area in the Witcher 1. It’s not as bad as Orzammar, but still pretty awful. Ugh.
The Unexpectedly Good
Prison Architect, The Stanley Parable, Banished, Door Kickers, Tropico 5, Grow Home, Grim Fandango
Prison Architect is the most brilliant game I’ve ever played, from a simulation standpoint. It’s surprisingly deep, relatively easy to understand (with the appropriate wikis), but fiendishly difficult to master. Plus, it gets regular updates that add even more to the game. Tropico 5 and Banished are also village/city builders that have their own perks. Tropico 5 is legitimately laugh out loud funny. The economy is less complex than past editions, and best of all there’s less micromanagement. Banished is subtly complex. There aren’t as many moving parts, so to speak, but they interact in interesting ways.
Grim Fandango reminded me how much I love point and click adventure games. Door Kickers reminded me how much I loved SWAT II. Stanley Parable reminded me how much I love unexpected surprises. Grow Home is a wonderful palate cleanser, a game about exploration that’s rarely frustrating (but occasionally is, in a good way.)
The Unexpectedly Poor
Watch_Dogs: Bad Blood, Just Cause 1, The Witcher: Enhanced Edition
None of these are bad games, but there are parts to them that leave them feeling unsatisfying in some way.
Watch_Dogs (which I finally finished) has awful vehicle physics. In the original game, that was irritating but not game breaking. Basically, every car handles like it’s on an icy road. All the time. The AI doesn’t have that problem, which makes police escapes extremely frustrating. Bad Blood, the DLC, takes all of that to a whole new level of irritation by taking away your ability to hack the environment in certain car chases. The escort missions make you want to tear your hair out.
Just Cause 1 has not aged well. That’s sad, because the game came out in 2006. Four years after GTA San Andreas. Which was much better. The problem with Just Cause is that it feels like a late 90s shooter. Infinite enemies (no, seriously), no headshots, pointless side missions, etc. I finished the story, but I can’t honestly say I recommend it. It’s not clever enough to justify the never-ending horror. However, there is the somersaulting tank, which almost makes up for everything else.
The Witcher is a genuinely good game, worth playing, and different enough from your standard RPG to be entertaining. The storyline is somewhere between a Bioware RPG and an Elder Scrolls RPG; it’s a good story, and there’s flavor, but it’s not as well developed as, say, Dragon Age: Inquisition. However, what kills the Witcher is the swamp. It’s a maze with invisible walls. Oh, you want to go here? You can’t. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why. You have to go there a bunch of times, and it never gets better. You have to play the game at least once because there’s stuff in the Witcher 2 that won’t make sense without it. The good bits are fun enough that you’ll have a great time playing it, and once you get to Act IV, you leave behind the swamp forever. (Yay!)
Works in Progress
Just Cause 2, Shadowrun: Dragonfall, Shadowrun Returns, Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void, Homeworld: Remastered
These are all games I’ve started (or will start soon) in 2015 but won’t get to properly until 2016.
Just Cause 2 takes all the good parts of Just Cause (explosions, cheesy 80s plot) and adds a much better engine, a surprisingly fun grappling hook, lots of stuff to do, and a game that does less to cheat blatantly. There are a finite number of enemies!
The two Shadowrun games fill the void left when XCOM 2 didn’t come out in 2015. I played Dragonfall for a bit, loved it, bought Hong Kong, then found out that Shadowrun Returns was on sale and is a better reintroduction to the series than Dragonfall. I’ll go back to Dragonfall once I finish Shadowrun Returns. It’s a wonderful sci-fi/fantasy mix (elves with assault rifles, for example) with satisfying tactical combat. Very enjoyable.
Morrowind and I have a history. I played it once around ten years ago and didn’t care for it. Then I played Skyrim and noticed that I actually really like the Elder Scrolls franchise. The Steam winter sale picked me up Morrowind and Oblivion. I hope to enjoy both of them.
Starcraft II (like Diablo III) is a game I fully expect to love when I get around to it. However, I keep getting distracted by other games. Diablo III is a longer term project because it’s such a huge game.
I know little about Homeworld except the hype, but it was cheap and I think I’ll really like it.
Games in 2016 I want
XCOM II, Uncharted 4, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Fallout 4, The Witcher 3 (waiting for Game of the Year editions for the previous two), possibly Dishonored II (I have the first one but never played it), Hitman (the new one), Stellaris, Hearts of Iron IV (new Paradox games, both of them), Mass Effect: Andromeda, No Man’s Sky, whatever Assassin’s Creed comes out, probably Madden, probably the new WWE game
These are all games I look forward to. I don’t know if I will have the time to play any of them or the money to buy them, but I strongly suspect the latter, at the very least.