04 January, 2016

Kyle's Top 10 Videogames Of 2015

Join me as I see out the holiday season the only way I know how, by talking about videogames, specifically my favourite ones. Not at all like the website’s nominees, my list contains games that aren’t really games and significantly more JRPGS!

Kyle's Top 10 Videogames Of 2015 banner

Personal games of the year are quite different from our ‘formal’ website game of the year, for me anyway; there are considerations and wider contexts that have to be taken into account while dealing the site’s ‘official’ picks; in other words, reasoning. By contrast this list contains the games that made me most excited or offered my favourite experiences, it’s really that simple. 

Honourable Mention – Midnight Star

Midnight Star hit pretty early in the year, it’s a game that I really wanted to recognise somewhere, but alas, 2015 yielded too many other great titles to fit it on here properly. Star is a first-person shooter on iOS that understands the limitations of the touchscreen, and succeeds in walking a fine line between gameplay complexity and combat rhythm. Coincidently it released early enough and was developed by Ex-Bungie staff, that I couldn’t help but compare it to 2014’s Destiny – Midnight Star has a far more intriguing narrative, which actually goes to some lengths, or rather places to justify its structure.

kyle top 10 videogames 2015 midnight star

Most Played – Star Wars Thrawn’s Revenge Imperial Civil War

While not actually a game and certainly not a 2015 release, Thrawn’s Revenge was with little doubt the thing I played most of this year. It’s the huge ‘legends’ (the old Star Wars canon) mod for Star Wars: Empire At War, Forces of Corruption that I wrote about a while back. Excitingly, it looks like the next update will a add new campaign scenario that will see specific Imperial Warlord factions facing off. I wait with bated breath.

kyle top 10 videogames 2015 thrawns revenge imperial civil war

10 – Toukiden: Kiwami

Kiwami is really the beefed-up cousin of Toukiden: Age of Daemons, the original PS Vita game that I never played. In a sense, it was my first real introduction to the Monster Hunter-genre, save perhaps Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. So one might call the fifty or so hours I spent feverishly playing that game transformative – that it was the title I turned to between frustrating bouts of Bloodborne probably helped my opinion, it really did act like a kind of salve.

Toukiden is about hunting towering Oni (daemons) and literally turning them into coats, or indeed other items of apparel. The hunting and learning of the different Oni’s moves, patterns, and innate strengths and weaknesses is a compelling loop.

kyle top 10 videogames 2015 toukiden kiwami

9 – Total War: Attila

Attila is to Total War: Rome II, what Windows 7 was to Vista – a cleaner iteration, making good on its predecessor’s promise. Attila bolstered Rome II’s mechanics; it shored up the breaches in its technical defences. While it didn’t introduce a wealth of wild new features, it made good on those it did; the redesigned politics system and enhanced horde mechanics specifically. I’ve never felt so beleaguered, so beaten down in a videogame, yet still possessed the capacity and will to rise up and retaliate, as I have when commanding the besieged Roman Empire in the West. Attila’s got it where it counts.

kyle top 10 videogames 2015 total war attila

8 – Fallout 4

Traditionally, I part ways with Bethesda role-playing games a few hours after main quest completion and am left utterly flaccid – in every sense of the word. Fallout 4 surprised me though, despite its holistic similarities to Fallout 3. Although all were clunky to some degree or another, the voiced character, gear modification, and settlement mechanics all contributed to a tangible sense of identity that I actually continue to care about.

I role played that goddamn game, I role play almost no games, not really, I tend to indulge my creative side only with strategy games where there’s a natural disconnect between me and the action. RPG’s usually don’t elicit that reaction from me, but my lady had enough of her own witty personality and genuine motivations to complement my own feelings and desires. I really like that game.

kyle top 10 videogames 2015 fallout 4

7 – Bloodborne

Bloodborne and I rarely saw eye to eye on anything, so much so that no amount of prior meditation would keep me calm and composed during play sessions. That said my appreciation for Bloodborne has only ever increased since completion and that’s not the result of some sense of accomplishment kicking in either – the ending was too weak for that. It’s really the world and its mysteries that From Software, the developer, crafted that I find intoxicating, and inspiring.

I believe the best stories, at least ones focused on a world rather than a handful of ‘heroic’ characters, are those that raise questions and don’t necessarily feel compelled to answer them. That’s Bloodborne’s world to a tee, whenever I found, usually online, an answer I came away with a new question, or a mental vignette created by my imagination to explain that thread of lore. Bloodborne has stuck in my head all year, and I’m too damned scared to play it again.

kyle top 10 videogames 2015 bloodborne

6 – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear’s got issues, numerous issues that have actually increased as a result of post release support. That doesn’t change the fact though that Metal Gear Solid V debuted a new breed of open world action, which brought flexible stealth and pitched battles together in a form I found to be unmatched. It is also the closest thing yet to my dream military/private military role-playing game – not to mention it’s got menus for days!

The back half of the game left me profoundly disappointed and no matter how many times I try to return to it, I just can’t stick, but that doesn’t diminish the awesome time I did have with it.

kyle top 10 videogames 2015 Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

5 – Splatoon

For whatever reason I looked forward to Splatoon, but never truly expected all that much from it – it was new and weird, but I imagined little more than novelty, a neat gimmick. Splatoon is novel yes, but it’s paint-based ‘combat’, if you can call it that, is legitimately unique and awesome.

It’s another multiplayer shooter in a world filled with great multiplayer shooters, yet Splatoon stands out, it carved out a space of its own, which isn’t I admit particularly difficult on the Wii U, but Nintendo’s post release support mixed with the game’s pervasive style ensured it has a real community. That sense of style and identity is strong; the pounding soundtrack – which is better than I gave it credit for in our BestSoundtrack award – and gaudy visuals goes places few games do. The tight balance and tuned mechanics are naturally what elevate Splatoon from cool to fantastic, matches are bite-sized globules of inky fun devoid of frustration and the other negative emotions that usually surround my experiences with competitive multiplayer games – even the ones I’m good at… yes there are a few. Splatoon also features my favourite sequence of any game this year in the form of the final boss fight, give our Best Soundtrack deliberations a listen if you want that spoiled.

kyle top 10 videogames 2015  splatoon

4 – Star Wars: Battlefront

Like Splatoon, Battlefront is a great casual shooter, the likes of which the typical ‘hardcore’ gamer wouldn’t recognise let alone enjoy, I don’t believe. And it’s fine that these hypothetical people don’t, but for me it fills a very real need; to be playable and enjoyable at any time, in any game type, with any loadout. The gameplay is fluid, maps have a mix of intense chokepoints and wide open plains, and offered more varied combat experiences than any other multiplayer shooter I played this year. Oh and it’s a vehicle for Star Wars, a visual and auditory masterpiece of a vehicle.

Battlefront is in my mind a skilful evolution of its ancestors; they weren’t complex, they were far more repetitive, but also fun. Battlefront packs everything I need where it counts, and enjoying it requires minimal effort on my behalf.

kyle top 10 videogames 2015 star wars battlefront

3 – Xenoblade Chronicles X

Stylish, subversive, and very much self-aware, Xenoblade is the game I most wish I’d played before recording our game of the year discussions, because it would have doubtless appeared in several categories. Whether or not it would have won anything I can’t guess, honestly I haven’t played enough – an odd thing to say sinking some estimated forty hours into it.

It’s a game of exploration and scale, an open world title built in a manner unlike its Western counterparts, which goes a long way in my mind, though it’s by no means as radical as Metal Gear Solid V. Since acquiring a Skell, a transforming mech, the game has evolved and been injected with a fresh lease of life. The systems keep layering, new elements are slapped across the already saturated HUD, and I won’t pretend to understand them all, but damn it’s fun to try.

kyle top 10 videogames 2015 xenoblade chronicles X

2 – Rise of the Tomb Raider

In a parallel universe this game took my number one spot, Rise of the Tomb Raider makes good on the questionable foundation laid down by its predecessor. For the record I only played 2013 Tomb Raider to completion a week or two before playing Rise of the Tomb Raider and loved it for what it was. In this title though, Lara’s frailty and vulnerability is swept aside and not simply because of her mastery of firearms; the storytelling and cutscenes represent her ably, confidently, she’s a genuinely compelling character as opposed to a shallow caricature.

Rise of the Tomb Raider built an authentic Tomb Raider experience using 2013’s gameplay as a jumping off point. The expanded open world and smart puzzle tombs make great use of the new mechanics as well as the old. Interesting lore, fun characters, and just sublime visuals, it’s really quite excellent.

kyle top 10 videogames 2015 rise of the tomb raider

1 – Star Wars: The Old Republic, Knights of the Fallen Empire

Knights of the Fallen Empire is a breath of fresh air for The Old Republic, for solo and more story-oriented players at least, and it promises to continue to be so well into next year as future chapters are added. Much like the recent movie Episode VII The Force Awakens, Knights of the Fallen Empire pays homage to the trilogy of old whilst also creating something new, entirely so in this case.

An expansion, it is effectively a game of its own that just happens to run in the same engine; combat takes the back seat by and large, storytelling and bespoke cutscenes step up in its place. The result is a more traditional Bioware experience than an MMO, with quite possibly a greater density and higher quality of choreographed story than in any of their other titles. After completion of the nine currently available chapters, the MMO begins to trickle back in, but not as it was before, rather in a quite different manner through the Alliance system.

Not all of the Alliance mechanics are all that exciting to me, but the unfolding main story and the characters within it are.  Now more than ever I’m invested in the plot, my character’s story, where previously it was the Bioware take on the Star Wars universe I played for above all else. Here’s hoping for another year of master class adventuring in the coming episodes!

kyle top 10 videogames 2015 Star Wars: The Old Republic, Knights of the Fallen Empire

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