Welcome to my Five5 series, in which to celebrate the launch of 2015 in Gaming I will be posting 5 articles over 5 days, each with my top 5 games of a particular topic. I'm also giving away a Star Wars PS4 bundle to one random person who buys the AU$3 book - which you can grab by clicking the button below. Enjoy!
For the final article in our Five5 lineup, I present to you my Top 5 games of the year.
The Beginners Guide
When it comes to The Beginners Guide, I don’t know if I would say I enjoyed playing it as such. But by god, if it wasn’t the most emotionally charged 90 minutes I’ve spent with a game this year - maybe ever.
As a creator of content that I put out into the world and hope people enjoy,I know just how hard to even find an audience is - let alone actually succeed. After being pretty crushed by the response to my attempted Kickstarter campaign and then being in the middle of pushing myself every second of every day working on the PPG magazine, playing this game was like a release of a build up I didn’t know was there. Playing this helped me see things from a better perspective, and helped me move on from that. Now I’ve written a book about 2015 in Gaming, and I have no idea if even another single person will read it - but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished regardless. Before playing this game, I would have been internally stressing about the entire thing for weeks, if not months.
But that is just my perspective, what I took from this short game by the creator of The Stanley Parable. The game works because it can be interpreted a whole bunch of different ways, depending on your perspective. While I don’t think this game is for everyone - for those that simply use games to unwind, for example, this will be boring - but for those that go a little deeper, for those that do create things instead of just simply consuming them, this is definitely worth a play.
Pillars of Eternity
RPG’s have always been my schtick - Dragon Age: Origins is one of my favourite games of all time - but I’d never really dove into any of those old school CRPG’s that are always lauded as “the best of all time”. So when I heard that Pillars of Eternity was a faithful recreation yet modernised version of those best ever games, and that it was made by the developers of one of my other favourite games of all time (Fallout: New Vegas), I was keen to check it out.
As it turns out, yep, this game is god damn fantastic. The writing in this story is top notch, building out the world's lore and the amazing characters in ways that few other games do. Being a strategy focused player, the combat here is everything I could’ve wanted - with the pause system allowing the juggling of 6 different party members (all with insanely deep skill trees and dozens of abilities), sometimes I’d just want to head out into the world and fight creatures.
Two particular things this game managed to pull off so well is the challenge and the progression. Throughout the entire 80 or so hours I put into this game, I never felt like I couldn’t handle a fight, nor did I feel overpowered. Every battle was hard, but in a completely satisfying way. There were a few major battles I went through at least 20 times, trying out an array of tactics and combinations of abilities, learning more and more all the way through the game. The final battle was one of the toughest I’ve ever faced in any game, but coming out the other side after hours of attempting was oh so satisfying.
Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
At first, I didn’t like this game. It was slow, I didn’t understand what was going on, I even thought it was a little pretentious. I played through the first “act” Jeremy, not really getting it much at all, until the end of Jeremy’s part. That ending caught me a little, and got me intrigued to push through. By the time I made it towards the end of act 2 (Wendy), I was super invested.
Not everyone like’s Walk-em-ups. Even those that do found frustration in the slow pace of this game. But by god, did I love this game by the end. I’ll often comment on how a game might look amazing, but this one is simply beautiful. The world is so meticulously built, it’s astounding. I’ve never, ever been one for classical music, but the sound design in this game was affecting in a way I didn’t think it could be. The acting by every single character in the game is unreal - especially considering every character is simply a ball of light. Then there’s the story… One which was insanely deep and clever, I could spend days discussing it.
I very much believe this game is an under appreciated gem. This game is an amazing amalgamation of every important aspect of game design - the visuals, the story, the acting, the music, the world building. Every individual part is so well done, all coming together to make a near perfect interactive experience. I do believe that this is the type of game that could be used as an example of fantastic game design 100 years from now, and should be studied in the same way that we study great literature now. Again, this game isn’t for everyone, but if you have a love for deep narrative and an appreciation for a piece of work as it stands, this is an amazing and must play experience.
Oh, Rocket League. Though I’ve never really enjoyed a sports or racing game in my life (Burnout 3 notwithstanding) this game was basically the reason I bought into PS+. For the first week or two I kept seeing these stories come up on video game websites raving about how much fun it was to play, eventually pushing me over the edge into purchasing it. Definitely no regrets here.
You wouldn’t think it, but the mashup of soccer and cars works perfectly. The game finds the perfect balance of chaos/unpredictability with finesse/skill, making the game insanely fun for pros and newcomers alike. Months after release, I continue to come back to this game at least once a week - more often for several hours at a time. This is truly a “just one more” type of game.
Even after putting over 100 hours into this game, I’m still learning and fine tuning my skills. For months I’ve been happy to simply stay on ground of the arena, utilising double jumps and boost - only recently have I been learning to better control myself on the walls and in the air. Pulling off a successful flying maneuver is so god damn satisfying.
As a bonus, this game has the best eSports grand final you will ever see in your life. (link)
Undertale has to be my favourite game of the year, and was my biggest surprise - even after hearing the immense wave of positivity from the game’s hardcore fans. This game sets out to make you smile, is a delight to experience and goes places I’ve never seen a game go before.
Undertale is like an onion. There are so many different layers to this game that you would not expect, yet even if you never make it to the core, the game is still fantastic. On the surface, this game is an insanely well written short RPG with a clever story, a distinctive art style and a unique battle system. Under that lies some truly clever twists and turns in the story and mechanics that are hinted at during your time playing, hinting at the fact that this game is completely different dependant on how you play through it. Even further below that, the game hides some insanely clever secrets and an extremely deep, expansive lore that goes all kinds of unexpected places should you choose to explore them.
Even after reading claims such as “this game made me actually laugh out loud in ways other games don’t” and “you simply have to play this game, it’s so good!”, the game surpassed my artificially high expectations. If I had to pick only one game from 2015 to tell others to play, I’d say forget The Witcher 3, forget Metal Gear Solid 5, forget Fallout 4 (which sounds insane coming from me), my first pick every time would be Undertale.