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Dec 28, 2015

Matthew Rex Downham’s Top 10 Games of 2015


Being a UX designer for mobile games makes Rex passionate about UI and UX in every game. From that, Rex is enthusiastic and emotionally invested about all the games that he plays. Here are the Top 10 games that Rex found to be the best 2015. [Oh, and beware of a spoiler or two ahead.]

10 – Rocket League

I actually scored a goal once

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of Rocket League, and if you haven’t, go play Rocket League. It came out of nowhere, and from a ridiculously small and extremely talented team. It’s a soccer game with giant balls and cars with rockets on them, which comes together like a beautiful hurricane of absurdity. I genuinely feel bad for my neighbors when I play, because I scream like a crazy person the entire time. Rocket League does a great job of making you feel on top of the world when you win, and angrier than you’ve ever been when you lose. Also there are hats for your cars.


9 – Grow Home

Most adorable Robot-walking-and-climbing-on-giant-green-plants game ever

This is a small, silly game from one of Ubisoft’s prototype/exploration studios, and it’s incredibly charming. You play a procedurally animated red robot that needs to re-populate an island with huge amounts of plant-life. Using your freshly-planted flora, you climb higher in the world and continue your landscaping. It’s a cute, bite-sized experience with a ton of charm.


8 – Disney Infinity 3.0

Oh shit more Star Wars toys to buy

I’ve been a big fan of the “toys to life” genre since Skylanders debuted in 2011. When Disney introduced its own venture into the genre in 2013, I was excited because it was a much more exciting world to play in than Activision’s Skylanders. Despite the first Disney Infinity being very rough around the edges, it showed tons of promise. Disney did a great job raising the bar with Disney Infinity 2.0 and the Marvel license, but it still wasn’t as good as it could be. With Infinity 3.0 and the Star Wars license, Disney has finally gotten into the groove. The Star Wars playsets are easily the best content they’ve created yet, and despite being aimed at children, provide tons of entertainment with the difficulty settings ramped up. The character upgrade trees are great, the visuals are great, and overall, Disney has really found a good place to grow with these games. I look forward to seeing where they go from here.


7 – LEGO Dimensions

Gandalf driving the Batmobile inside the TARDIS Simulator 2015

Like Disney Infinity, LEGO Dimensions is another “toys to life” game. This felt like a no-brainer for LEGO, and they did a great job with it. I’ve loved a lot of the LEGO games previously, so I was super excited to see how this went. Thankfully, it went great! There is a wealth of content, and TONS of things to do. Between all the different IPs that seem practically targeted to people my age, the experience has been a lot of fun, especially while playing with a friend. I found myself playing the free-roam “worlds” for hours without even playing its main story mode. The pricing for the sets are overly aggressive, but I think they will learn and get better with future iterations.


6 – Destiny: The Taken King

The rollercoaster that is Destiny

I have a love/hate relationship with Destiny. Sadly, after the greatness that was the first two months of The Taken King, I am back in the kinda-hate category. The Taken King was a massive step in the right direction for Destiny, and Bungie did a lot to improve the experiences in Destiny that didn’t work so well before. We got cutscenes that made sense, characters interacting with each other, HUGE quality of life improvements with UI/UX and its design, and interesting new content that was satisfying to tackle with a fireteam of friends. Unfortunately, after only a month or two, the nasty shortcomings of Destiny’s core design reared their ugly heads yet again. There are some foundational problems with Destiny’s design and goals, and they seem deeper than any expansion pack can really go. I’m nervous about the game’s future, but I know the people at Bungie are smart, so hopefully they can continue to improve Destiny’s issues.


5 – The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

I have a polar bear that I ride around and also magic shoots out of me

When Elder Scrolls Online launched last year, I ignored it for the most part because I wasn’t interested in another subscription-based MMO. When ESO re-launched this year without a subscription, I decided to jump in once it went on sale. I am really blown away by how fun and interesting ESO is, especially as a fan of the Elder Scrolls universe. There are some definite MMO tropes, but the fun I’ve had with the story, characters and multiplayer has far outshined any of them. This is the first MMO I’ve played on a console, and it plays great with a controller. At its best times it feels like another classic Elder Scrolls; At its worst, it feels like a really solid MMO.


4 – Batman: Arkham Knight

I knew it was Jason Todd the whole time

Okay, honestly, Arkham Knight has some huge issues. There are segments of Arkham Knight that I legitimately consider crimes against game design, things that people responsible should be punished for… That being said, there are some incredible moments here. Playing this, in a lot of ways, felt as Batman as it could get. Some sequences were like watching the best Batman and Robin stories unfold right in front of me; it was awesome stuff. The work done with the narrative was unparalleled; some of it is better than anything I’ve ever played. The highs make this absolutely worth playing in spite of its lows.


3 – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

I had a cameo in this game

Okay, so I didn’t actually have a cameo in The Witcher 3- but there was a heavyset NPC that looked pretty much exactly like me. That gave me enough of a reason to love it on its own, but amazingly, CD Projekt Red did even more to make this an incredible experience. From the visuals, to the music, to the questlines, to the characters, to the acting, to the combat, to the crafting, to the card game Gwent, to the sex scenes, to the music, to the quest- I’m repeating myself, sorry. The Witcher 3 excels at so damn much, it’s hard to talk about it without gushing. The Bloody Baron’s quest line is one of the most memorable quests in any RPG ever, something that will stick with me forever. I can’t really praise it enough, it’s top notch shit. It does more than most AAA studios and publishers can pull off, which is saying a whole lot of something for the smaller sized team that made it.


2 – Star Wars: Battlefront

Best Star Wars Game Since Jedi Power Battles

I’m a huge Star Wars fan- it’s kind of my favorite thing in the whole world. I’ve always loved playing games in the Star Wars universe because they give me the opportunity to live in that world, even for a little bit. No matter the fidelity of the graphics or the type of gameplay, I’ve always been able to lose myself in them and have an amazing time. What’s incredible about Battlefront is how authentic EA has managed to make it- it’s absolutely insane. The first time I played I was in awe- I couldn’t stop laughing, it was the closest I’d ever felt to really experiencing things in the Star Wars universe. The visuals, the sound design, the music- it’s like you’re there. There’s been some complaints about the depth (or lack thereof), but I think there’s plenty of room for an accessible, low-pressure shooter set in the Star Wars universe, especially when it looks, sounds and plays this good. I can’t wait for more.


1- Fallout 4

Where else can I hurl a nuke at a dude in close quarters

Rex woke up 200 years after the nukes went off. His wife was dead, his son was kidnapped, and all he had was two vault suits, a gun and a dog to his name. From there, he joined the Brotherhood of Steel, he saved countless settlements, constructed supply chains, punched mutants, blew up monsters, sniped raiders, hacked robots and even ate a bear. These things had a profound effect on Rex- his life couldn’t be more different than it once was. When looking at Piper, the women he met at the city nearby, she almost looked like his wife- especially while she wore the very same kind of vault suit his wife died wearing. Was he going crazy? Was he trying to fill in the gaps? Did eating a bear really fuck him up? That’s between him and the Wasteland.