2015: My Year In Gaming

I recap a full year’s worth of gaming in 2015, including new games and my backlog progress.

2015

I should really cut down on all these annual blog posts. The holidays are busy enough, and in 2015 I expanded my Top Ten list into ten separate posts, followed by my full Game of the Year awards and Most Anticipated Games of 2016 lists.

It’s all done in self-indulgent fun. My annual Year In Gaming post is probably the most navel-gazing thing I write on here. Part journal entries and part gaming calendar, I recap what I played on a month-to-month basis, and what really stood out.

2015 was the first full year of being a part-time freelance writer, and most of that was spent writing about video games. I maintained my blog both here and on Game Informer, appeared on podcasts, and can now say I’ve been published on Playboy. I also played lots of great games!

2015 backloggery

Though not as many as last year. I mentioned in my last recap of Rogue’s Adventures that I generally have less game time these days.

Since I enjoy recording my play times and my game library, it has helped me cut down on buying new games – which is painfully easy when you primarily play on PC thanks to rampant Steam sales. I played less games in 2015 but overall my “Progress Index” improved this year, so I’m pretty satisfied.

Progress Index is how Backloggery.com measures your finished-to-unfinished games ratio. Currently I maintain a Beaten ratio of about 63%, which has held fairly steady all year.

On to the monthly breakdown! Continue reading “2015: My Year In Gaming”

My Top Ten Games of 2015: Full List and Awards

My annual Game of the Year list ranks my favorite games of 2015, as well as other fun awards and categories.

ori and the blind forest kuro

This year I wanted to do something a bit more fun with my annual Top Ten Games list. I wanted to give each game their proper due, with their own blog post for each of the 10 days leading up to Christmas. I barely kept pace but it was a lot of fun.

So if you’ve been following my blog you already know my Top Ten Games of the Year. This final list is important for other reasons: I directly compare the results of last year’s Most Anticipated list and 2015’s Mid-Year Top Five list, as well as assign various fun awards and rankings at the end.  Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2015: Full List and Awards”

My Top Ten Games of 2015: #1

Obsidian’s delightfully old-school RPG Pillars of Eternity is my #1 Game of the Year for 2015!

My Top Ten Games of 2015

#10 MASSIVE CHALICE

#9 Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

#8 Tales from the Borderlands

#7 Ori and the Blind Forest

#6 Super Mario Maker

#5 Yo-Kai Watch

#4 Fallout 4

#3 Xenoblade Chronicles X

#2 Heroes of the Storm

#1 Pillars of Eternity

pillars of eternity

My #1 Game of the Mid-Year remained on top despite some truly excellent games released in the Fall. Obsidian’s record-breaking (at the time) Kickstarter project recalled the computer RPG nostalgia of the late 90s and early 2000s, such as Baldur’s Gate and Fallout. Needless to say, I jumped all over the chance for one of my favorite RPG developers to tackle a wholly original project.

I’m pleased to report that Pillars of Eternity is a smashing success. It manages to invoke all the best mechanics and themes of the classic isometric, tactical role-playing game while infusing lots of modern designs and philosophy. All of that plus Obsidian’s trademark superior writing create a wonderfully immersive new fantasy world that I spent over two months and 70s hours getting lost in. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2015: #1”

My Top Ten Games of 2015: #2

My #2 Game of the Year is by far my most played: Blizzard’s all-star MOBA, Heroes of the Storm.

My Top Ten Games of 2015

#10 MASSIVE CHALICE

#9 Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

#8 Tales from the Borderlands

#7 Ori and the Blind Forest

#6 Super Mario Maker

#5 Yo-Kai Watch

#4 Fallout 4

#3 Xenoblade Chronicles X

#2 Heroes of the Storm

heroes of the storm

If you follow me on twitter you’ve seen my automated Daily Play reports courtesy of Raptr. You’ve probably noticed that a day rarely passes that I haven’t played Heroes of the Storm.

There’s usually a few games a year that I settle in as my primary multiplayer outlet with friends. This year it started with Evolve in February, which we were all excited about. Like most it fizzled out after a few weeks. Things were dire for a few months until Blizzard emerged onto the crowded MOBA market with their own take on the genre, starring all the heroes and champions of Diablo, Starcraft, Warcraft, and even the Lost Vikings.

Long have I disliked the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre, which has all but supplanted my beloved Real-Time Strategy. I tried DotA 2 for a few hours and it just didn’t click, despite my friends really enjoying it. Games were too long and the learning curve too steep, leading to endless frustration.

Leave it to Blizzard to finally craft a MOBA experience I could get behind. By shortening matches, streamlining leveling, and offering multiple levels and objectives, Heroes of the Storm is the easy to play, hard to master MOBA that I’d apparently been waiting for. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2015: #2”

My Top Ten Games of 2015: #3

The astonishingly gigantic open-world RPG Xenoblade Chronicles X is my #3 Game of the Year for 2015!

My Top Ten Games of 2015

#10 MASSIVE CHALICE

#9 Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

#8 Tales from the Borderlands

#7 Ori and the Blind Forest

#6 Super Mario Maker

#5 Yo-Kai Watch

#4 Fallout 4

#3 Xenoblade Chronicles X

xenoblade-chronicles-x

I’ve gained a real cynicism and disdain for Japanese games over the last decade. JRPGs were and are among some of my all time favorite games – back in the 90s.

Since then I’ve largely fallen out of love with them. Their storytelling goes in increasingly bizarre and goofy directions, and my distaste for anime is exemplified by grating cutscenes, voice-work, and writing that was previously the marquee of cutesy pixels and simple text.

So, it’s a pretty damn big deal that not only did I enjoy Xenoblade Chronicles X, but that I’ve ranked it so high on my Game of the Year list. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2015: #3”

My Top Ten Games of 2015: #4

Bethesda’s giant open-world RPG sequel Fallout 4 is my #4 Game of the Year in 2015.

My Top Ten Games of 2015

#10 MASSIVE CHALICE

#9 Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

#8 Tales from the Borderlands

#7 Ori and the Blind Forest

#6 Super Mario Maker

#5 Yo-Kai Watch

#4 Fallout 4

Fallout 4

Fallout is among my favorite gaming franchises, with Fallout 2 one of my favorite games of all time. Though I ultimately prefer my RPGs in old-school tactical format (a tease for my #1 Game of the Year), I’ve always enjoyed Bethesda’s massive open-world RPGs. Nothing excites me more than exploring a big world, and Fallout 4‘s post-apocalyptic Boston is satisfyingly gigantic.

More important than just being large is density of content, something that Bethesda has really improved upon with each entry in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout games. You can hardly walk anywhere without finding something interesting, whether it’s a full-on dungeon location or a simple truck with some loot. The world is full of stuff yet still feels appropriately desolate, and most importantly, dangerous. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2015: #4”

My Top Ten Games of 2015: #5

The surprisingly awesome 3DS monster battler Yo-Kai Watch comes in at #5 on my Game of the Year list.

My Top Ten Games of 2015

#10 MASSIVE CHALICE

#9 Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

#8 Tales from the Borderlands

#7 Ori and the Blind Forest

#6 Super Mario Maker

#5 Yo-Kai Watch

yo-kai watch

Yeah, I’m as surprised as you are.

On the surface Yo-Kai Watch is another monster-collecting Pokémon clone aimed at kids. It has already become a massive franchise hit in Japan in the last few years, from toys and comics to movies and anime.

The Nintendo 3DS game really stands out thanks to some unique gameplay that owes more to Dragon Quest Monsters than Pokémon. The semi-open world, modern urban setting is a huge breath of fresh air in a stale JRPG genre. I also really respected the theme of helping people with their various problems rather than just trying to be the best, like no one ever was.

Pokémon Y made #3 on my 2013 list, and I’ve been playing and enjoying those games for well over a decade. I jumped into Yo-Kai Watch with all the skepticism and eye scrutiny, and came away with one of my favorite games of the year.  Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2015: #5”

My Top Ten Games of 2015: #6

My #6 Game of the Year is a must-play if you’ve ever enjoyed a 2D Mario game – Super Mario Maker!

My Top Ten Games of 2015

#10 MASSIVE CHALICE

#9 Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

#8 Tales from the Borderlands

#7 Ori and the Blind Forest

#6 Super Mario Maker

super-mario-maker

Super Mario Maker is such an obvious winning formula it’s amazing we’re only just now playing it in 2015. Super Mario Maker lets Mario fans craft their own original levels using most of the props and objects from multiple generations and decades of classic Mario games.

Nintendo has always been the king of accessibility. Their Mario level editing software is a brilliant mix of freedom of tools with a structured interface. Built-in sharing tools and a ranking system help players find and share an infinite amount of content.

A campaign mode of sorts lets you shuffle a random selection of levels together, creating a gameplay experience that can be just as fun as building new levels. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2015: #6”

My Top Ten Games of 2015: #7

Beautiful and challenging action-platformer Ori and the Blind Forest is #7 on my Top Ten Games of 2015.

My Top Ten Games of 2015

#10 MASSIVE CHALICE

#9 Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

#8 Tales from the Borderlands

#7 Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori-and-the-Blind-Forest banner

Read my Final Thoughts on Ori and the Blind Forest

When you first see screenshots or videos of Ori and the Blind Forest your initial reaction is probably, “ohh, pretty.” Your second reaction might be, “oh, another indie metroidvania.” Stylistic action-platformers have become all the rage in the indie gaming scene, and Ori isn’t even technically an indie game, having been published by Microsoft Studios.

I dismissed it at first but readily admit to my terrible mistake. Ori and the Blind Forest is indeed beautifully drawn and emotionally engaging. Cute characters in peril tear at your heart strings. But the hidden depth and challenging difficulty are what really make Ori stand out as one of the shining examples of the genre. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2015: #7”

My Top Ten Games of 2015: #8

My #8 Game of the Year is Tales from the Borderlands, a brilliantly written episodic adventure in one of my favorite gaming worlds.

My Top Ten Games of 2015

#10 MASSIVE CHALICE

#9 Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void

#8 Tales from the Borderlands

tales-from-the-borderlands-banner

I, along with everyone else in the gaming world got utterly sucked into 2012’s The Walking Dead video game by Telltale Games. This narrative-focused adventure game centered more on making important choices and leveraging relationships rather than traditional inventory puzzles. It was also harrowing and dramatic. It came in at #6 on My Top Ten Games of 2012 list.

Since then Telltale has exploded in popularity, snatching up several licenses to create more episodic adventure games along the same vein as The Walking Dead.

I’ve mostly stayed away. I watched a friend play the first two episodes of The Walking Dead Season 2, and I tried the first episode of The Wolf Among Us, but neither really grabbed me. I’ve also heard worryingly bad things about their Game of Thrones adventure, which also just recently wrapped up.

With Tales from the Borderlands, however, it was nothing but excitement and praise, even from folks who didn’t care about Gearbox’s quirky, goofy shooter world. I happen to be a big fan of the Borderlands games: Borderlands 2 was #2 on that 2012 list, while I gave Best Cooperative Game to the Pre-Sequel last year.

Tales from the Borderlands expertly weaves an action-packed tale among thieves and con artists on the zany world of Pandora. Dual protagonists Fiona and Rhys let the story split up and rejoin at key moments, while an expanding cast of excellent, well-written characters makes even the slowest dialogue moments a joy to play out. Continue reading “My Top Ten Games of 2015: #8”