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Dec
30
2015

Scott Ellison II’s Top 10 Games of 2015

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Myst would be Scott’s #1 game every year, but there’s new games to play instead. Scott is the Editor-in-Chief of this very site in which you are looking at. Between a full-time job and his family, it’s honestly a wonder he has time for the games he plays and reviews. Here’s what Scott found to be his favorite games of 2015, with an honorable mention thrown in, too.

Honorable MentionGuitar Hero Live
I never expected that I would be back into plastic instruments again, but here we are in 2015 and I’m loving what has been done to Guitar Hero. From the full-motion video to the song selection of the campaign to GHTV, the streaming music video service – Guitar Hero Live is a revelation of evolving the genre in new and exciting ways. The new controller makes some fantastic strides in delivering a unique experience that’s no longer color driven (save for the white and black theme), but eschews the traditional colored buttons for something a bit more subdued and and challenging by having split buttons, forcing your fingers to learn a whole new way to play Guitar Hero. It takes some risks, and they pay off in spades.

 

Alright, let’s kick off this list proper…

10. Batman: Arkham Knight

Quite possibly the best and worst feeling of being Batman ever assembled into a videogame form. While I have enjoyed all three prior Batman: Arkham [Blank] games (yes, even the oft-forgotten Origins), there’s always been a missing component to playing as Batman, and that was the Batmobile. Now with Gotham City as the central focus of Arkham Knight, that missing piece was added in, with some big caveats. The major one being the overuse of the Batmobile in “Tank Mode”, others being its involvement in trying to apprehend The Riddler. That said, Batman: Arkham Knight is the best controlling, most gorgeous, content-filled, and fan-service driven game of the series that gives Rocksteady a proper send-off in spectacular fashion.

9. Rocket League

I played an Alpha of this game on PC, and due to the lower player count and wishy-washy times of being able to play it, I only got a glimpse at its greatness. Then came the beta on PS4, and then I got to see that this game was something special. A game where you drive around as cars and hit a soccer ball in futuristic arenas? It was something I had seen in other games, but it didn’t quite take off. And when Rocket League released proper onto PlayStation 4, the magic began. It was all my friends would talk about: posting GIFs, scheduling games together, and talking personal highlights. This game brought out exuberance from everyone, even me, as it got me to yell at my TV and team-mates over mistakes and victories. Rocket League is one-of-a-kind, and should not be missed. Take note those who own an Xbox One, you will need to have this game when it releases in 2016.

8. Cities: Skylines

I actually enjoyed SimCity back in 2013, it was different and not all that I wanted from it, but it worked well enough to satisfy my cravings. Colossal Order however, delivered the ultimate city builder that I never thought I would see. Cities: Skylines does just about everything right, and imbues no limits on your expansion or creativity. With adding in of a day/night cycle and Steam Workshop support, Cities: Skylines is a game where you spend far too much time make sure the distances between your roads are even, and you’ve zoned areas correctly to maintain happiness among your citizens. When the dev team only consists of less than ten people, Cities: Skylines is more of an amazing feat on what it delivers for the price and scale it offers.

7. Pillars of Eternity

My gaming habits in the late 90s and early 2000s did not consist of RPGs. So I missed out on the Baldur’s Gates, the Icewind Dales, and even the original Fallouts. They just weren’t in my wheelhouse at the time. But when I saw Obsidian’s Pillars of Eternity, being made in the vein of those games, I knew I had to have it – so I backed it. The delivery of the storytelling is intriguing and interactive. A simple task like scaling a wall brings forth decisions to be made, and sometimes those decisions lead to failure. Extensive dialogue trees have you deep in conversation with strangers and foes. The combat and active-pause system delivers great control in what and how you strategize an encounter, and is easily one of my favorite systems. Pillars of Eternity has given me a one-of-a-kind RPG experiences from 1999 in 2015.

6. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

My only experience with the Metal Gear franchise was watching my friend play Metal Gear Solid 2 on PlayStation 2, and then I played Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance on PC. That’s not a lot of history when diving into something called Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Thankfully the prologue standalone Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes got me invested with what was going to happen. MGSV: The Phantom Pain is not perfect, but the gameplay freedom it delivers is unparalleled, and is likely never to be duplicated again. While you’re revisit locations as you take on Side Ops or even Main Missions, you’ll never feel the repetition as each encounter is unique and wholly satisfying that is deserving of being a stealth game.

5. DiRT Rally

I’ve been a fan of the series when it was known as Colin McRae, but as the series evolved, it was a great rally game that lost a bit of itself against the simulation of racing in the dirt, mud, and snow. Codemasters did a stealth drop of DiRT Rally onto Steam Early Access and has been improving the game since then. The result of its incubation on Steam Early Access has yielded the best rally game to come from Codemasters yet. While DiRT 3 is one of my all-time racing games, DiRT Rally‘s focus on simulation and the sport of rally is authentic and genuine. There’s nothing more horrific than in the last stage of a rally event at night, in the snow, with both headlights busted and knowing that any wrong turn could destroy your vehicle.

4. Forza Motorsport 6

The tagline for Turn 10 Studios’ simulation racing series is “This is what we’ve been racing towards”, and those words have never rang truer. This is by all accounts the game that I’ve been personally waiting for. While Forza Motorsport has always delivered 60fps (a technical achievement other racing games fail to achieve on consoles), it never gave me weather or night racing, until now. Its inclusion in Forza Motorsport 6 is nothing short of glorious. The way puddles form on the track, catch one side of tires in them and it tugs you off the track, or at night if you bust your headlights, some portions of the track are not lit enough to keep you informed on the turns. This is very much the game Forza Motorsport 5 should have been, but it so, so much more that’s deserving of being on your Xbox One hard drive.

3. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege

A late entry for 2015, but it has no doubt made a huge impact on me. It is my favorite multiplayer game and shooter of the year. I’m playing this game every day while there are no games for me to review. This is a multiplayer only game, but is deserving of the Tom Clancy name. Now that I’ve got enough time with it, I’ve begun streaming it. This amazingly feels like the first few Rainbow Six games, where you make strategies and plan your entry for an attacking round, then work together to fortify and defend an objective in the next. It’s tense as you wait for the enemy team to breach their way in, and often times they are too quiet to get an indication of where they might be going until they’re right on top of you and all the walls are exploding simultaneously. The sound design is horrific at times, but excellent all the same. With only one life to live, every bullet counts. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege will set your heart racing with every match played.

2. Fallout 4

When Bethesda took over the franchise and released Fallout 3, it is then when I fell in love with the series. This love has been unrequited in the time between me completing Fallout 3 to 100% and for Fallout 4 to come out (Fallout: New Vegas didn’t quite have the same effect on me). The wait has been long, but the payoff has been fantastic. While I primarily have played the PS4 version, its bugs and choppiness is not anything special. What makes it SPECIAL is in its environment, sense of place, and the thrill of discovery. The quests are interesting, if not basic in design. The major changes to armor, weapons, and crafting has made for a game that provides a use for all the junk you find in the world and makes it work for you. Being able to repair your own power armor or make modifications to weapons gives a sense of ownership to the game that you never had before. The same goes for settlements, while defending them can be tiresome, building them up is much more satisfying than I thought it could be. Fallout 4 may not be perfect, but it is the best Fallout game I’ve played.

1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

CD Projekt RED has been pushing the quality of The Witcher series (for which it is a game based on a book series), to its very limits. While I refrain from ever calling games perfect, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the closest thing to it. With intricate and detailed quests that are not just relegated to the main story, but the side quests also have this level of quality. This makes for everything you do, every conversation you have, to be something meaningful, and for it to have long-term consequences or changes from your actions. Geralt of Rivia is a fantastic character, but interspersing playing as the lost Ciri during this adventure helps changing things up. The combat, animations, visuals, soundtrack, and overall scope that this game delivers is so finely tuned that it was easily my favorite and absolute best game of the year.