Telltales’ Game of Thrones
Multiple times while playing Game of Thrones, I found myself forgetting I was playing a game, and wondering why the characters were taking so long to answer questions. The writing is on par with the TV show, and Telltale really excelled at making you feel like you were in the same universe as the HBO series. While there were some technical hiccups, and not every episode was a standout, I was still excited to play the next portion of the story when it was released.
A simple premise really propels this game forward, making it easy to pick up but still fun to play. You have to move a red cube through a maze of black and white, while avoiding other red objects. It doesn’t sound thrilling, but all the separate pieces of the puzzle fit together to make a fun 2 hour experience. The soundtrack really stands out, moving from gentle piano to more techno-inspired sounds as you progress through the game and the puzzles get more challenging.
Lara Croft Go
After the success of Hitman Go, it makes sense that Square Enix would try to adapt more of their properties to this board game inspired genre. Lara Croft Go manages to keep the spirit of Tomb Raider while still changing the game play to be more focused on puzzles than combat. Collectibles encourage multiple playthroughs, although it would be nice if it was more challenging towards the end of the game.
One of the most anticipated games of the year ended up not quite living up to expectations, although it is still a blast to play. Exploring post-apocalyptic Boston after nuclear bombs have dropped brings everything you would expect from a Fallout game: freedom to do anything, mutated creatures to fight, and a seemingly endless number of quests. A feeling of familiarity and poor writing in the main quest meant I didn’t play it as much as I thought I would, but the time I spent with it was filled with funny stories to tell and great memories.
You have never played a game like Her Story. You take control of an individual sifting through various interviews with a mystery woman who claims her husband has been murdered. While searching these interviews, you uncover more of the story behind who this woman is, and what really happened that night. An engaging story and great acting by Viva Seifert keeps you playing until you have learnt enough about her story to satisfy your curiosity. This is definitely the most unique game to come out this year.
Batman: Arkham Knight
Another game that didn’t quite live up to expectations, although it was because they changed too much instead of not changing enough. The core gameplay is still as fun as ever, with the combat feeling fluid and the stealth sections making you feel like Batman. The Batmobile, unfortunately, is where the game loses a little bit of momentum. There is still a fascinating open world to explore, and the story is strong, but it seems like a case of the developer trying too much to make their game feel different to previous iterations.
This is probably the game I have spent the most time with this year. I usually don’t like racing games or soccer games, but it turns out when you put the two together, it creates an amazingly fun game that I keep coming back to again and again. Cars hitting an oversized ball until it goes into a goal doesn’t sound that impressive on paper, but the combination of strategy and sheer luck make you feel like you were never at fault when something goes against your team, but make you feel talented when you do something right. Regular free updates make the content feel fresh and ensure that there is always something new to try out.
Ori and the Blind Forest
After 10 minutes with Ori and the Blind Forest, I was on the verge of tears. The fact that this is such a challenging game had nothing to do with it. After 10 minutes with two characters that don’t speak, I felt such a connection to them that when something went wrong, I felt their pain. The rest of the game doesn’t ever reach those heights again in terms of storytelling, but the gameplay is the right mix of challenging and rewarding. Once you learn how the game wants you to play, including saving often, you see that this is the best platforming experience this year.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
As a fan of the Metal Gear Solid series, I have come to expect many things from a Metal Gear game: linear gameplay, a fascinating, if convoluted, story, and wacky Easter eggs. While The Phantom Pain gets rid of the first two of those things in favour of an open world, it more than makes up for it in the multitude of ways you can complete a mission. You can ride in and mow everyone down with a helicopter, stealthily mark every enemy on the map and take them out one by one, or a mixture of these, plus many other, approaches. The wackiness is still there as well, with Kojima’s hand being felt throughout the game. Base building is fun, but unnecessary in the long run, and the story isn’t as strong as past games in the series, but overall, The Phantom Pain is still a blast to play.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3 made me care about its characters. Not just Geralt and Ciri, and their quest to stop the Wild Hunt, but many of the little, insignificant players I met along the way. The writing is some of the best seen in video games in recent memory, and the world is full of many things you can do to pass your time when you need a break from the epic main story. I even got addicted to a card collecting game I’m sure the developers only intended to be a distraction, but had me traversing far and wide looking for better cards. The gameplay has been improved from recent entries, and makes exploring the world and battling monsters even more fun. It looks amazing as well, with the many different environments all different enough to be interesting but similar enough to convince you that it all takes place in the same world. The Witcher 3 does a lot of things that many other games wouldn’t dare to even try, and more often than not it accomplishes what it set out to achieve, making it the best game of this year.