Dwid Hellion was right when he said that “humanity is the devil“, but what he was probably also thinking was “mind you, videogames are pretty good“. Here are You Died’s favourite games that came out in the year 2015.
What more can be said about this game? An absolute masterpiece if there ever was one. No game this year has dominated my thoughts when not playing it as much as this. The gothic spires of Yarnham haunting my dreams, boss strategies forming as I sat at work and the hints of lore being pieced together from those oh-so-vague item descriptions as I spent time playing with my children. Everything about the game consumed me, but none more so than the Chalice Dungeons.
These ‘extra’ dungeons are more than mere filler; the challenge presented in them is far and above anything in the main game: new bosses, horrendously aggressive versions of familiar faces and some crazy-high level loot to keep you pushing on into those dark, horror-filled corners.
And none of them got to me more than the Defiled Chalice. This delightful dungeon takes your health bar down by 50% and decreases your resistances to certain damage types. It also features 3 super aggressive bosses than can easily one-shot you… leading to a *lot* of deaths, frustration, anger and plenty of tears. I think I spent 3-4 days repeatedly bouncing off a particular boss fight, if it wasn’t for my buddy over here getting through the horrors before me and dropping a few hints my way, I’m pretty sure I’d still be down there.
It’s also the only game where I’ve hit that Platinum trophy. Can’t tell you how proud this makes me. GW
The Witcher 3 : Wild Hunt
There’s a lot to love about The Witcher 3- returning lead character Geralt remains a fascinating and hugely likeable avatar; the richness and detail of the world is mind boggling; the combat (and the in-game preparation for the combat) has a unique and thrilling flow to it; there’s a sex scene on a unicorn. The attitudes of Developers CD Projekt Red also deserves a mention, from the thank-you note included with every boxed copy of the game to the free DLC they provided in the weeks after release and just recently with the generously sized and reasonably priced expansion Hearts of Stone. There’s no big-league dev quite like them.
But it’s the stories that are woven throughout the whole experience that are the big stand out. Compared to the usual throwaway shite that fills up the quest logs of similar western RPG’s, The Witcher 3’s quests are The Godfather part II. Set in a world filled with undead witches, hulking golems and amphibious zombies it may be, but there’s an often devastating and entirely relatable human element at work. One needs to only think about the bleak, harrowing Bloody Baron quest to see that The Witcher 3 is an RPG like no other, really. GR
Destiny: The Taken King
Last years most disappointing game turned into one of my most played games of this year, crazy huh? After intially bouncing off Destiny last year, I was pretty cautious to go back in. But after hearing all the good things about Destiny 2.0, I knew I’d be double-dipping sooner or later. The changes made with the Taken King expansion finally give that excellent shoot-the-man gameplay the game it deserves to be part of.
Gone is the baffling end-game levelling system and in its place a system that not only makes sense but also removes the mind-numbingly dull grind that came with it. The lack of story has been addressed and now we have more Nathan Fillion playing Nathan Fillion that anyone could every need; giving missions purpose and dosing you with a pretty satisfying series of boss fights. And of course- finally getting a 6 person Fireteam together to do the Year 1 Raids was an incredible experience. I’d only had vague chats on Twitter with most of the members of the team that we assembled but now thanks to the countless hours spent chatting away to them while shooting aliens we’re totally BFF’s. Destiny: Improving my social life without me having to leave my house!
But no really, it’s a good game now. GW
XENOBLADE CHRONICLES X
I really can’t be arsed with JRPG’s anymore. Too big. Too weird. But somehow, despite the Bravely Default demo leaving me feeling scared and confused a couple of years ago, I thought I’d give Xenoblade Chronicles X a go. And boy oh boy, am I glad I did. It’s still too big for me too feasibly play enough. And it’s certainly weird as hell. But it is fucking wonderful.
It looks incredible, too. I’m pretty sure my Wii U is on the verge of melting into the carpet while I’m playing it. Sure, there’s a bit of pop-in as you’re roaming about but the fact that you can run from the central hub city of NLA all the way over to a separate continent (a trek that will take you around 10 minutes if you don’t fast travel) is one hell of an achievement for a console that half the world doesn’t even seem to know exists.
The combat, while a literal nightmare to work out at first, is among the most exhilarating things I’ve experienced this year (and I shop at Waitrose sometimes). Dancing around an enormous dinosaur/turtle thing, executing special moves (or, Arts, as the game calls them) at the perfect time to be in sync with the rest of your party depending on what they’re doing is a real thrill, leaving you to momentarily stand still and watch as the hapless dino-turtle is showered in a MIASMA OF DEATH. Good times. GR
Hotline Miami 2
Right, lets get this elephant right out of the room: No, this is not as good as the first Hotline Miami. How could it be? Where that game was a frantic, violent score attack, this is a narrative led action game, with score attack elements thrown in. It is a little cheap in places, but it is still an unrelenting violent whirlwind that can lock you in to retrying and retrying a stage until you beat it. The different play styles of the characters was great too as it forced you to learn tactics that you might not have previously bothered with; I’ve still not quite got my head around the twins with their gun and chainsaw combo. And of course, the soundtrack is full of hypnotic beats that perfectly match the violence you’re committing on screen. A fine sequel to one of my favorite games ever.
Oh, and contains the greatest final level and ending of any game in 2015. Fact. GW
Super Mario Maker
Imagine if your dad said to you one day “hey son, even though you’re unqualified for it, have the keys to my <insert cool car> and take it out for a spin“. Pretty rad, huh? But imagine, right, if your dad was Nintendo and what he actually said was “hey son, even though you’re unqualified for it, have some tools to make some Mario levels of your own and upload them to the World Wide Web!” Even rad-er, huh?!
But then imagine that he also said “son, make sure you only upload levels that auto-play themselves or somehow play the Zelda theme tune when you run along the screen and ensure that they get a 5 star rating so that it kinda fucks the level searching algorithm, ok?” Cause that’s a problem with Super Mario Maker. But it doesn’t matter too much, I guess.
Super Mario Maker is lovely. I thought that I’d get the most out of it by playing other people’s levels but in actual fact it was the designing and tweaking of my own stages that held the most pleasure and kept me thinking about it all day long; plotting where to put a fireball or the funniest way I could drop a Bowser onto an unsuspecting player’s head.
Two other points: 1) I’m not as good as Miyamoto and 2) when I placed my Splatoon amiibo onto the gamepad while designing a level and the squid appeared in game, complete with Splatoon sound effects, I nearly did a jizz. GR
Life is Strange
Autumn is both at once my favourite time of year and one that leaves me with an odd, nostalgic dread. I often see it as a season that heralds change thanks to it falling just as a new school term would begin and, oddly, pretty much every job I’ve started has been towards the beginning of Autumn. So within the low lying sun and the red-hued horizon lies a sadness for what has gone before and a fear of what’s up ahead. Life Is Strange absolutely nailed that feeling for me.
The story of Max, starting a new school totally unsure of whether she’s made the right choice or not, always thinking of what she left behind made me think of all those times of insecurity in my life. The music – all whimsical guitar-led indie pondering and, to a larger degree, the art style play a large part in this. It has this incredible textured paint style that borders somewhere between stylised realism and a William Turner painting with visible brush strokes on every surface, leading to a sense or a hope that you might be dreaming and everything will be back to normality when you wake.
It never does, of course, and Max’s tale took many dark, soul destroying changes that on more than one occasion made me stop playing just so I could deal with the bleak outcome that the game had just thrown at me. Much like another game I’ll chat about later, your choices actually do matter. I found myself rewinding to re-do my choice multiple times, always with a sense of thinking I did the right thing…but knowing that with helping one person out, I’d probably just broke apart a family, or doomed someone to a life of bullying.
Much like real life, you just don’t know what ripple effect your choices have caused until you see the consequences unfold in front of you. A total gem of a game. GW
Dark Souls II : Scholar of the First Sin
Hahaha, yesss, loophole! From Software’s sequel to one of The Greatest Games of All Time™ came out in 2014, sure, but it’s this deluxe, DLC-included, remix edition which was released earlier this year that sees it slip into our 2015 list like a Falchion through the skin. To save a lengthy deconstruction I’ll simply say this – yes, Dark Souls II was a bit ropey when it first came out but Scholar fixes it. That’s that. Is it an unforgivable crime that From likely released it, under release-date pressure, before they were happy with it? No, of course not. It’s only a computer game we are talking about.
A big factor in it’s inclusion here is the remarkable Lost Crowns DLC; consisting of 3 super-sized new chapters that supplement and arguably improve the main story. Director Yui Tanimura really shines here, seemingly unshackled from the development strains that reportedly plagued the main game. Each area is enormous, with incredible interlocking level design and some of the best bosses seen across the whole series. Hello, Fume Knight, I’m talking to you, you ultra-hard cunt. GR
I got sucked into this one after everyone and their pet hamster talking about how great it was. Glad to say they were not lying, though a hamster talking is a bit weird now I think about it. Essentially a horror movie trope-fest, I figured I wouldn’t like it due to the ‘Heavy Rain’ interactive-movie-style. But a David Cage-alike exercise in disappearing up your own arse this is not.
It actually, for the most part, plays a lot like Resident Evil, with fixed cameras expertly framing your character in just the right way so that each camera switch causes a little rise in the tension. And my, my sir…what great tension it does cause. This game had me firmly on edge throughout, throwing up some well timed jump scares in-between what seems like eons of glorious tense atmosphere.
Characters are well written and rounded, with a few who I initially penned as being ‘total fucking arseholes’ really growing on me so that I ended up being torn with my choices in case someone died at my hands.
Thats the other neat thing – death matters. Make a poor choice and that character is gone for the rest of your game. I’m yet to replay it again to see what these choices really do, but it seems like there’s plenty of scope for a few different outcomes. Oh, and it looks absolutely stunning too. A genuine surprise all round. GW
Your first few tumbles down the well in … ah … Downwell are an absolute sensory overload. Sort of like dropping acid and being thrown into a ball pool at a 6 year old’s birthday party. Frogs, bats and weird jelly-like organisms throw themselves at you as you plummet down a narrow chasm, with the bullets that fire from your feet your only means of controlling your descent and defending yourself. Your boots reload their ammo once your feet touch something, whether that’s an enemies head, a rocky outcrop on the side of the screen or a floating platform and as you fall you can gather a number of different power ups that buff your feet-guns, including (but not limited to) granting them the ability to shoot a mile wide laser that kicks like a cannon or a shotgun that rivals DOOM for its ignorant level of raw power.
Downwell is essentially about falling down an endless hole in the floor with guns for shoes. Have you downloaded it yet? GR