Yes, you read that right. Below is my list of top 10 games from 2015 (with the article itself being written in 2015, too, for another blog). I am reposting this now so that at the end of the year, when reviewing 2016, we can compare this year’s games relative to last year. It should be fun!
As I alluded to above, if you have followed me since prior to Devin Rogers Gaming, this list may look a bit familiar to you. However, I did adjust Rocket League and Heroes of the Storm’s scores and therefore their places in the rankings. They had been docked points for not having a story, but we don’t roll that way at Devin Rogers Gaming. Please enjoy, and if you haven’t yet, play some of these games!
#10 – Rock Band 4 (PS4) – 5.8
Rock Band 4 was a disappointment to me for multiple reasons. For starters, it launched with bare-bones features in order to get those Black Friday sales (though funnily enough, Guitar Hero seemed to be the one in the BF spotlight). There just weren’t many reasons for me to want to play this game solo. Yes, its supposed to be a party game, but I was addicted to Guitar Hero 1 and 2 and the first Rock Band. I played those games by myself for many, many hours. Rock Band 4 needed to do something new to keep things fresh, and in that it failed.
The campaign mode in this is terrible. There is so much potential for an RPG-like campaign system, but after four Rock Band attempts Harmonix still can’t figure it out. I’d almost prefer the old Guitar Hero set-list progression system over the flimsy excuse of a “rock tour” campaign they’ve come up with.
The guitar has issues out-of-the-box when playing fast notes. It has a problem registering fast strums, though they released a firmware upgrade to fix the issue. However, it can only be done via Bluetooth (for the PS4 version), and I don’t have easy access to that. For this reason more than anything else, Rock Band 4 sits unplayed.
How could a game like this be in my top 10? Well, it is fun to play songs on plastic instruments. As a casual party game it really is one of the best, but for the hardcore gamer this iteration of Rock Band falls flat in many ways.
Oh, and the B-list selection of songs didn’t help matters much, either.
#9 – Dark Souls II – Scholar of the First Sin (PS4) – 6.0
Like Until Dawn, I haven’t put too much time into Dark Souls II – Scholar of the First Sin. However, I did put a few hours into it, and was able to form enough of an opinion that it found a spot towards the bottom of the list. That said, I think it will rank higher by the time I finish it.
Dark Souls II is a sort of RPG action game, and one that is not at all easy. It takes place in a dark and (seemingly) medieval fantasy world filled with witches, zombies, ogres and other grotesque creatures. It is a game that punishes the player heavily for mistakes, but greatly rewards them for patience and attentiveness.
I haven’t understood much of the story so far. The Souls games aren’t known for in-your-face storytelling, instead relying on passing NPC comments and the layout of the world to inform you about what is going on or what happened in the past.
The gameplay is okay. Having played better, similar games, it’s hard for me to really get into the Dark Souls II’s slower system. It is a game from the last generation brought forward, and it shows. However, I am still intrigued by what this game has to offer, and I hope to complete it before Dark Souls III arrives in April. These games are all about the journey, and my journey with this game is only just beginning.
#8 – Star Wars: Battlefront (PS4) – 7.0
I regret purchasing Star Wars: Battlefront on day one. The biggest criticism thrown at this game is that it is relatively light on content, and that is very true. Because it was developed by the makers of the Battlefield games, I had higher expectations for this game’s gameplay, but unfortunately the spent most of their time on other things.
Those other things shine extremely strong, however. This is the best looking game on the PS4 next to The Order: 1886. However, whereas The Order is a single-player experience, Star Wars: Battlefront manages to showcase extremely beautiful worlds ripped right from the movies with 40 players running around. That is quite an impressive feat.
The music and sound effects are also more or less straight from the movies. It really helps sell the world. You really do feel like you are taking part in a battle in the Star Wars universe. The immersion that the audio in this game brings is top-notch.
It is definitely a fun game to play, but like Rocket League it doesn’t have lasting appeal (though it certainly has more than Rocket League). There is a laughable set of single-player “story” missions which might as well have been cut from the game. The time spent on these missions was sorely needed in making additional multiplayer levels or adding other gameplay systems to keep the multiplayer from feeling a bit bare-bones.
The Force isn’t too strong with this one, but it is still fun to play, especially if you are a Star Wars fan. If you were looking for something with complex gameplay or ranking systems like Battlefield or Call of Duty, you’re best looking elsewhere.
#7 – Dragonball Xenoverse – 7.0
Outside of Super Smash Bros., I do not care much for fighting games. However, I’d seen lots of positive reaction to Dragonball Xenoverse, and as a huge fan of the show back in high school I thought I’d give this game a chance.
If only this game had come out when I was in high school. It is everything I ever wanted from a Dragonball game.
The story of this game deals with a time-altering villain that is changing how events from the Dragonball Z series happened. Because of this, you the player are summoned by the dragonballs to figure out what is going on and correct the timeline.
There is something so great about helping Goku and friends in all of their major fights and have them talk to you like you’re part of the gang. It was a childhood fantasy come true.
The gameplay in this is brilliant. All of the different moves from the show are here and customizable for your character. You fly around beating the daylights out of classic Dragonball Z villains and getting knocked across stages if you are too under-leveled. It feels like you are watching the show. Every animation was ripped right out of the anime and it just looks so damn good!
All of that said, the game isn’t without its problems. I was never a fan of the English dub, and from what I can tell most of those voice actors reprise their roles. The game does offer Japanese subtitles, but when fighting hectic battles its hard to read their chatter and not get blown away at the same time.
Other than the Cha-La intro, most of the music doesn’t seem to be from the show as far as I can tell. Instead we get some pretty ear-piercing tunes, especially the awful main lobby theme.
The story isn’t much to write home about, either. The time-traveling plot device is only there so they can retell the major pieces of story from the show. Still, its enough to keep me going, and I can’t wait to have a maxed out character that I can use to destroy other players in multiplayer.
#6 – The Elder Scrolls Online (PS4) – 7.0
The Elder Scrolls Online was a bit of a surprise for me. I did not expect it to be very good after a rather tumultuous launch on PC, which I did not participate in. However, after a fantastic summer deal and a Skyrim itch that The Witcher 3 couldn’t scratch, I decided to give this game a go.
Right off the bat I was impressed with the gameplay. This is an MMO RPG, so I didn’t expect the normal Elder Scrolls gameplay to map one for one. But somehow it does. This is literally multiplayer Skyrim, albeit with more fetch quests and not-as-good graphics.
I have not played this game in a few months, nor do I believe I will ever finish it, but it was a positively huge and interesting world that I found very enjoyable. The dynamically changing areas and varied locations helped me find that sense of adventure I felt was missing in The Witcher 3.
Unfortunately, the story in this game was also pretty average. I should have expected as much, but games like World of Warcraft really spin beautiful tales despite your character being one of millions. The Elder Scrolls never came close to reaching those lofty heights.
I do understand that because I have three games experience with the world of Tamriel that this game was easier for me to get immersed in. If I hadn’t had any experience with previous Elder Scrolls games, I don’t know that I would have ranked this game as highly. But The Elder Scrolls Online was better than the adventure than I thought it would provide, and because of that I had a great time.
It’s hard to match slaying enemies while listening to the blissful Elder Scrolls theme.
#5 – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PS4) – 7.2
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was supposed to be the best game of the year, and for many outlets it was. I’d only dabbled in one of the previous Witcher games, but in preparation for Witcher 3 I read up on both of its predecessors and watched numerous lore videos in anticipation. This game looked to be the next Skyrim.
For me, it was not. And that isn’t to say I was expecting it to play like Skyrim, but rather I was expecting to be invested in an expansive fantasy world.
There are two main gripes I have with this game. The first is that, for me, the gameplay is just average. I played on the hardest difficulty setting, and even then I mostly only needed to resort to my sword. Using signs, grenades, or potions just wasn’t necessary outside of a few enemies that were resistant to physical attacks. I can’t imagine how worthless those systems would have been on easier settings where you could one shot enemies with your sword.
The other issue I took with the game was its story. This game has received almost universal acclaim for its story, particularly the smaller stories you come across in each location. And while it is true that the writing in this game is rarely, if ever, seen in a game of this scope, I honestly just didn’t care.
I had very little connection to Geralt, the main character. He’s as deadpan as can be, and I understand that is part of his story. But its a story I didn’t grow with him in, despite trying to catch up on Witchers 1 and 2. And because I couldn’t get over the hump of caring about the character I was playing as, I couldn’t care about anyone he met. There were no stakes for me at all in this world, and once I realized that it just became another game to me.
I did care about what happened in Skyrim in part because I was role-playing a nameless character that I could imprint part of myself into, but also because I went on a journey with that character. I couldn’t imprint myself into Geralt, who was already mid-adventure when The Witcher 3 began.
That isn’t to say nameless characters are better. Final Fantasy 7, one of my all-time favorite games, is an RPG with named characters that you follow on a journey. And when you first take control of Cloud, the main character, he is already mid-journey. But somehow they made me care about Cloud from the beginning. After 25+ hours I did not care about Geralt.
The scenery in this game is wonderful to look at, though the trees are very basic once you get up close to them. An awkward comment, I know, but it removed some of the immersion for me. The creatures I encountered were awesome, though, and the music was superb. It is a very vibrant and alive world, and one that I’m disappointed couldn’t deliver, for me, a journey I could be invested in taking. When I turned off the story and just rode around in the world, I felt like I had a taste of what I had hoped for this game.
The Gwent mini-card-game is addicting as hell. I would buy it as a stand-alone game if they spiced it up a bit.
#4 – Fallout 4 (PS4) – 7.4
Overall, I’d say Fallout 4 was slightly disappointing. This is a game by the makers of Skyrim. Fallout 3 was known by some as “Elder Scrolls with guns,” and that isn’t too far from the truth, generally speaking.
My biggest issue with Fallout 4 is, again, the story. This game is weird in that its a sort of combination of The Witcher and Skyrim styles of story-telling. Its like Skyrim in that you make your own character and go on an adventure with them, but it’s also like The Witcher in that your character has a very specific background that is important to the adventure before it begins (though it’s no where near as epic).
Spoilers for beginning of the game, but after you get down to the Vault with your family, your significant other is murdered and your son is kidnapped. The main story thread involves your character traversing the Fallout wasteland in search of your missing son.
And I didn’t care about him in the slightest.
I had no reason to care about my family in this game as I barely had any time to get to know them. Sure, seeing a family get torn apart like that is saddening, but if I’m supposed to enjoy a 40+ hour adventure with the main goal being to find my son, I need to care. And I didn’t. It felt like a rushed excuse of a plot.
The game itself is lots of fun to play and this completely satisfied my thirst for adventure in the unknown wilderness to a degree that The Witcher wouldn’t have been able to provide, even if I had enjoyed that story. There is always something to find in a location that will benefit you in some way, whether it be a better piece or armor, a better weapon, or an enhancement to your stats and abilities.
However, this isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, and Fallout’s laughable attempt at being a creation tool was not enough to keep the formula feeling fresh. In fact, it felt like they dumbed the game down from its previous incarnations.
#3 – Rocket League (PS4) – 8.0
Rocket League flips into my top three because of its perfect gameplay. This game is so much fun to play. The objective is simple: drive your car across a soccer field to knock the ball into the opposing team’s goal. It sounds silly, but it is a very intense and addicting system. Your cars are very fast, especially when picking up boosts. They can jump and double jump into the air and even drive up walls. The ball at times feels like a deflated balloon slowly falling to the ground, which adds to the insanity as up to 8 different players are flying towards it trying to push it in the direction they want it to go.
Because of the different physics at play, when you finally do score a goal amidst flipping, flying opponents, it is a thrill. And to help boost your self-esteem, the game will show an automatic replay for everyone to watch.
I appreciate that no matter what happens at the end of a match, win or lose, you unlock a customization for your vehicle. It’s all cosmetic, but it makes for some fun matches seeing a bunch of cars zooming around with different kinds of dust trails shooting out behind them.
Rocket League eventually succumbs to its own glorious repetition. It’s a fantastic game, though, and deserves attention from everyone.
#2 – Heroes of the Storm (PC) – 8.6
Heroes of the Storm is yet another multiplayer-only game, one that is free-to-play, but this one has that Blizzard polish that the other games don’t have.
Though there is a very flimsy story here (really only mentioned in the tutorials), everything else about this game is pretty awesome. This game is a MOBA-style game similar to League of Legends or DOTA2. I’ve never played a MOBA, so Heroes of the Storm was a fun diversion for me. The idea is for your team to march across the map and destroy the opponents base while protecting your own. The team that destroys their opponents base first wins.
There are dozens of characters to choose from, all from various Blizzard properties like Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. However, each character must be purchased either with real money or in-game currency. I appreciate games that are free-to-play as I see it as another progression system to unlock new characters. They also offer a free character rotation, so even if you haven’t purchased a character there will always be some to choose from.
Each character has their own set of abilities and specialties, making for a diverse match every time you play. Each of the stages are varied and fun, though if the scales tip to quickly to one side then it is pretty obvious who is going to win.
Though I don’t play this game too often, like Hearthstone it is a fun game to jump in for a few matches in between other things.
#1 – Bloodborne (PS4) – 10.3 (Full Review)
Looking back at the rest of the games on my list, you would think this wasn’t a slam dunk year for gaming. The other games in my top three barely made it with a score in the 8s, with everything else falling flat. However, despite the relative mediocrity, there just happened to be one very rare game that came out this year that made up for every missed opportunity.
Prior to Bloodborne, I was not a fan of the Souls series of games. I’d played through three or four bosses in Demon’s Souls and a couple more in Dark Souls, but I just didn’t enjoy the punishment of those games. I picked up Bloodborne on a whim due to the general hype surrounding it, and I had no expectation that I would like it.
Boy was I wrong. I do not say this lightly, but this is an example of a perfect game.
The first thing that struck me when playing Bloodborne was the tone and atmosphere. This is a dark, Victorian-gothic horror game and it is done brilliantly. From the minute I stepped out into the world I was scared into being very cautious and deliberate with every step I took.
And that’s why this game clicked for me when the other Souls games didn’t. The style and tone of the game forced me to be patient, and the game rewarded me for it. I’d been told patience was the key to the other games, but I didn’t want to play that way, and that’s why I dismissed those games while falling in love with this one.
Bloodborne also plays that balance really well, unlike the other games, by rewarding aggressiveness, too. If you take damage, jumping back into the fray immediately can reward you with recovery to your health. You have to make a split-second decision to get some health back, putting yourself at higher risk of death, or rolling away to use precious resources and leaving yourself momentarily vulnerable.
The level design in this game is insane. I’ve heard some Souls fans say that Dark Souls is better, but level design to me is more than just how the paths intertwine. The unique look and feel to these areas is so well done.
Hell, everything in this game looks amazing. The enemies, the bosses, the characters, the weapons, the skyboxes. Character animations when adjusting trick weapons are squeal-inducing glee.
The story is surprisingly unique, yet at the same time I can’t believe no one has written a similar story before (although I’m sure someone has in some form). The citizens of Yharnam became infatuated with blood, drinking it to heal themselves from injury or illness, only to find that the blood they were consuming was tainted, slowly transforming the entire populace into beasts. It is up to a band of mercenaries called Hunters to move in and destroy the beasts.
That is the story at a top-level, but it dives into different factions, specific characters and even god-like creatures along the way. It is a story hard to appreciate without the journey, and that’s what games are all about. Experiencing stories in this medium is all about the journey, and Bloodborne’s was a perfect one.
And the music. When you are battling an enormous, hideous boss, and you are barely alive, rolling away just in time to avoid a death-blow, all while a fully orchestrated and vocalized composition of gothic death is swelling in the background, you will find you are at Bloodborne’s greatest point.
This game is a masterpiece, and has become my second favorite game of all time. Thank you, From Software, for an experience like no other and the saving grace of 2015 in gaming.
What were your favorite games from 2015? Let me know in the comments!