My Top Five Games of the Year (So Far)

I rank my top five games from the first half of 2015, and also list my five most anticipated games for the second half.

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Why wait until the end of the year to rank my favorite games? I want to talk about great games now!

I’ve done a Top Ten list at the end of each year for the last four years, but this is my very first Top Five for the first half of a year. It’ll be a fun way to highlight some games that may be pushed out by year’s end, as well as reminding me of their greatness when it comes time for the final ranking. I’ll also list My Most Anticipated Games for the second half of 2015.

For reference, read my Most Anticipated Games of 2015 (written in January 2015).

 

My Top Five Games of the First Half of 2015

 

5) Evolve

evolve

I’ll admit that overall Evolve was a disappointment in total staying power, but for a good month when it came out it was all my friends and I played and talked about. Made by the Left 4 Dead developers, it was the closest game I’ve played that emulated that great co-op and survival aspect of those classic zombie games. Unfortunately the emphasis this time was on PvP, and the asymmetrical style and game modes made the experience grow a bit repetitive.

 

4) MASSIVE CHALICE

massive chalice wallpaper

I was a big fan (and backer) of MASSIVE CHALICE’s Kickstarter campaign, and absolutely loved how Brad Muir and Double Fine handled production. Bi-monthly live streams were fantastic and the Early Access beta was superb. Now I’m finally playing the final release and couldn’t be happier with this unique XCOM meets Rogue Legacy’s Traits. The breeding metagame is fun and challenging and the tactical combat scratches all the right itches. A real treat that perfectly delivered on its promise.

 

3) Splatoon

splatoon

Splatoon wasn’t even on my Most Anticipated list and really came out of nowhere for me. I’d only just recently aquired a Wii U and wasn’t sure about this quirky team shooter from Nintendo. Fear not, as Nintendo really struck gold with an amazingly simple but brilliant concept of covering arenas in paint. The short three minute matches ensure a steady stream of fun, and the post-game free additions and updates have been impressive. The only thing keeping this one from being nearer the top is the terrible local co-op mode, where it loses out big time to last year’s Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros.

 

2) Heroes of the Storm

heroes of the storm

Another game that sprung onto my radar. I’ve hated MOBAs for as long as they existed. Even when my friends were super into DOTA 2 I just couldn’t get into it. Leave it to Blizzard to draw me in with their streamlined gameplay, much shorter match lengths, and awesomely familiar characters. I’m super addicted to HotS and my friends and I practically play every evening. I easily see it as becoming this year’s Hearthstone (which I sunk over 140 hours into last year).

 

1) Pillars of Eternity

pillars of eternity

It took me 70 hours and two and a half months but I finally completed Obsidian’s latest Mangum Opus. I’ve always been a huge fan of computer RPGs but only just played and finished the highly revered Baldur’s Gate II last Summer. Pillars of Eternity is both a lovely spiritual successor to the golden age of cRPGS (late 90’s/Early 2000’s) and a great game with tons of wonderful innovations in its own right.

The intricate yet accessible combat system is wonderful, and the writing is absolutely top notch. For someone that went back to back to back with 70+ hour RPGs (Divinity: Original Sin, Dragon Age: Inquisition), Pillars still managed to completely enthrall me. Another title I was super proud and satisfied to have backed on Kickstarter, and a tough one to dethrone in the second half of the year.

 

Both Batman: Arkham Knight and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt were on My Most Anticipated List, but I still haven’t played them. Neither was probably going to be a Day One purchase; my gaming plate is consistently full and I have the luxury of waiting for most games to be deeply discounted before jumping in (and patches/updates to fix the game).

I definitely see myself playing both games before the end of the year when I have a bit more time. I’ve heard great things about both games. I’ve also recently acquired a few indie darlings in the last Steam Summer Sale, such as Crypt of the Necrodancer and Ori and the Blind Forest that I still need to play.

 

My Top Five Most Anticipated Games of the Second Half of 2015

(alphabetical order)

 

Cosmic Star Heroine

cosmic star heroine

The only game on here without a definite release date, Cosmic Star Heroine is another Kickstarter game being made by a developer I love (Zeboyd). Zeboyd understands old school JRPGs like no one else, and crafting a game in that SNES-era style using their subversive and funny writing and innovative mechanics sounds just peachy. Everything I’ve read and watched looks like it’s shaping up wonderfully and I hope we get a chance to play it this year.

 

Fallout 4

fallout 4 dog

Fallout 2 is one of my all time favorite games, and the franchise in general is one of my most beloved in gaming. Fallout 4 was an inevitability but that doesn’t make it any less exciting. I already know I’m going to love it and drop dozens (hundreds?) of hours into exploring another post-apocalyptic wasteland.

 

Just Cause 3

just cause 3

Just Cause 2 was an amazingly fun open world action game that eschewed any real characters or story-telling for pure mayhem and freedom of destruction. I especially loved the fun ways Rico could traverse the world, using his infinite grappling hooks and parachutes. If JC3 is just JC2 but more, I’m totally on board with that.

 

Super Mario Maker

super mario maker

This one has kept me attention for a while but it wasn’t until E3 and the Nintendo World Championship that I really set up and said, “Whoa.” My wife said we had to get this game and I swiftly agreed. The ability to make your own Mario levels sounds simple on the surface, but the incredible amount of tools and freedom to manipulate each object looks astonishing. I trust Nintendo to make it incredibly user-friendly and fun. As long as the online and sharing components are up to snuff, this could be a huge hit.

 

XCOM 2

xcom2 announcement

Despite being a big fan of tactical strategy games, I was late to the party with XCOM. I jumped on with Firaxis’ excellent remake back in 2012 (my #4 game of that year). Since then I’ve put 150 hours into XCOM over several playthroughs. I adore XCOM: its brutality, its emergent story-telling, its trend-setting UI and turn-based combat. My wife even bought me the XCOM board game for an anniversary present. To say I’m super excited for XCOM 2 would be a pretty big understatement. GIVE ME MORE XCOM!

 

There you have it! Can’t wait to revisit this list when it’s time to make my final top ten list at the end of the year. Will my anticipated predictions hold up? Will these Top Five make it to the final round? Stay tuned!

Rogue’s Adventures Season Five Recap

From Portal 2 to Assassin’s Creed IV I recap another awesome Season of backlog gaming.

Follow @RoguesAdventure for live tweeting and screenshots, join the Rogue’s Adventures Steam group for updates, and Follow me on Twitch and Subscribe on YouTube for videos.

Read my Season One Recap
Read my Season Two Recap
Read my Season Three Recap
Read my Season Four Recap

Rogues Adventure Season Five collageWelcome to my bi-annual Recap for a full Season of Rogue’s Adventures! If you’re new, Rogue’s Adventures is what I call the organized playthrough of my never-ending backlog of games. Started back in 2012, I schedule a collection of games to be played over the course of five to six months. I live tweet my reactions and screenshots, occasionally live stream and record video, and always write a full retro-review of the title under my Final Thoughts banner.

Season Five encompassed the first half of 2015. Continuing the trend from Season Four, I mostly played more recent titles released in the last few years that had become deeply discounted. Both Shadowrun: Dragonfall and South Park: The Stick of Truth released just last year. The oldest title on Season Five’s schedule was Cthulhu Saves the World (Dec 2010).

If there was an unexpected trend in this Season’s crop, it was humor. Six of the Nine total games I played were crafted with a humorous bent, and all of them hit the mark superbly. Portal 2 lived up to its beloved hype, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon fully embraced its over-the-top 80s ridiculousness, and South Park: The Stick of Truth perfectly captured the irreverent but clever tone and jokes of the show. Humor is a very tricky thing to pull off but all of them tickled my funny bone in their own unique ways.

This Season was also about trying new things. I’d never before played a Far Cry, Call of Juarez, or Assassin’s Creed game. The first two were silly, short, and enjoyable spin-off games that let me play around with the gameplay without having to devote dozens of hours. With Assassin’s Creed I finally saw one that had a theme and setting I just couldn’t resist – pirates!

I’m also pleased that for the first time ever in a Season of Rogue’s Adventures, I really didn’t have any major disappointments. Every single one of these games was fun to play and a positive experience, though some certainly more than others. Ranking them proved to be quite difficult.  Continue reading “Rogue’s Adventures Season Five Recap”

Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag

An amazingly fun open world pirate adventure that would better served without the Assassin’s Creed franchise trappings.

I have finished another backlogged game via Rogue’s Adventures. You can read my latest Final Thoughts below and also on my gaming blog on Game Informer.

AC 4 Black FlagDeveloper: Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher: Ubisoft

Release Date: October 29, 2013

 

Assassin’s Creed is one of many major game franchises that I have never played, and never had much interest in (see also Metal Gear Solid, and any horror franchise). I didn’t have anything particularly against it (other than Ubisoft’s terrible treatment of the PC) but the historical settings didn’t really excite me, and the themes seemed a bit dour and serious for my taste.

Enter Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, my first Assassin’s Creed game. Black Flag takes place in the early 18th century, during the height of merchant trade, colonization, and pirates along the new world and the Caribbean. I adore the pirate theme – the ships that act as your mobile command center, the unique combination of swords and pistols, the dichotomy of lawlessness and imperialism. It translates so well to gaming it’s a shame we haven’t seen more pirate games. I still count Sid Meier’s Pirates! as one of the best, and the remake is over 10 years old.

Thus I finally decided to give an Assassin’s Creed game a chance, after a hefty Steam sale of course. Black Flag immediately immersed me into its fun world of pirate assassins, naval combat, and the open world of the Caribbean sea. In many ways it embodies the modern AAA video game – dumb story, cliché characters, incredible production values and tons of collectibles and modern gaming conveniences.  Continue reading “Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag”

New Article – LEGO Worlds Early Access Preview

LEGO Worlds expertly captures the feel of playing and building with LEGO bricks with the addictive open-ended exploration and building of Minecraft.

Read the full Preview on Pixelkin

lego worlds

The biggest and most obvious inspiration for Minecraft is LEGO. Those venerable little stacking bricks rose from humble Danish beginnings to become one of the most popular toys in the world. Over the last decade, the brand has successfully expanded into video games using its incredibly lucrative licensing deals, making games of popular franchises like Star Wars and Batman. The focus on kid-friendly, cooperative gaming has made these games hugely popular for families.

Now we have finally come full circle, as LEGO returns to its block-building roots by lifting core gameplay from Minecraft. LEGO Worlds was recently released in Early Access on Steam, meaning the game is still in active development, but can be purchased and played right now. Despite a current lack of major features like multiplayer, LEGO Worlds expertly captures the feel of playing and building with LEGO bricks with the addictive open-ended exploration and building of Minecraft.

Read the full Preview on Pixelkin

New Article – Technobabylon Review

Despite the aging Adventure Game Studio engine, Technobabylon succeeds thanks to an intriguing story, diverse cast, and satisfying puzzles.

Read the full review on CGMagazine

Technobabylon review

Wadjet Eye Studios have quietly been carving out a stalwart niche among traditional Point and Click Adventure game fans. In recent years, the genre has grown and segmented to include more narrative-rich, dialogue-heavy adventures, spear-headed largely by Telltale’s successful licensed Episodic Adventure games. Fans of old-school Adventure games, however, ones full of complex puzzles and creative worlds, can still turn to studios like Wadjet Eye and their latest release, Technobabylon. Despite the aging Adventure Game Studio engine, Technobabylon succeeds thanks to an intriguing story, diverse cast, and satisfying puzzles.

The story opens with Latha, an orphaned young woman living in poverty. Like many people in 2087 she’s addicted to the Trance – Technobabylon’s equivalent of a virtual internet of the future. Escaping her apartment after a power surge serves to act as a tutorial as you learn how to manipulate the game’s most unique gameplay hook – downloading and rearranging programs of the various electronic devices around her.

Read the full review on CGMagazine

New Article – 5 Great Wii U Games for Toddlers

A list of fun, downloadable Nintendo eShop games for the Wii U that can be enjoyed by younger children and toddlers.

Read the full list on Pixelkin.org

games for toddlers

There comes a time in every gaming parent’s life when your young child is no longer content to sit there with an unplugged (or unconnected) controller, happily mashing buttons along with parents or older siblings. They know the controller is supposed to light up. They know the on-screen characters should respond to their inputs. 

When your young child begins to express an interest in games, there are sadly too few console games for toddlers they can explore. While the mobile market and tablets in particular have made leaps and bounds toward kid-friendly gaming, the big consoles still lag behind.

Nintendo is a bastion of family-friendly gaming. But for decades they’ve had a limited selection of games that very young children can operate and enjoy. I probed the depths of the Nintendo eShop and found several fun games for toddlers and younger children for the Wii U—all kid-approved by my own 3-year-old daughter….

Read the full list on Pixelkin.org

New Article – Survival Games Without the Horror

Exploring a new genre on the rise – single player Survival Games that emphasize exploration and crafting instead of hordes of monsters or other players.

Read my full article on Pixelkin.org >>

2015-04-05_00002

Minecraft’s incredible popularity and unique gameplay mechanics have spawned entirely new genres of games. Some games, like Terraria and Starbound, take the world-crafting and multiplayer aspects of Minecraft in new directions. Others focus more on surviving against the world by discovering resources and building your own tools.

Survival games rarely explore the human vs. nature conflict. Most first-person games pit you against hordes of zombies, aliens, or the occasionally terrifying zombie alien. Your survival is directly proportional to the floating gun in front of you. Thankfully the genre has grown and expanded to include a variety of experiences. All use gameplay mechanics and concepts birthed from Minecraft. One quick glance at Steam’s store reveals dozens of options that rely more on surviving against nature than hordes of undead.

I’ve found two that are particularly intriguing. Stranded Deep and Subnautica are indie games that are part of the Early Access program.

Read my full article on Pixelkin.org >>