2015 has been a great year for gaming and picking just one or two outstanding entries has been more challenging than any year before it. After hours of painful deliberation I managed to narrow my Game of the Year list down to a mere four titles before finally, somehow, managing to refine it down to two. In any other year Bloodborne and Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward would have made the cut but in 2015 there were two other surprise titles that grabbed my attention and managed to revitalise two genres that had worn me down over the years.
WINNER: After spending years of my life dedicated to competitive online shooters it was around 2013 when fatigue began to set in. Every game started to blend into one and the perceived importance of stats and ratios began to slowly suffocate the enjoyment I got from these games. By late 2013 I had moved away from the genre altogether and I didn’t touch another one until this May. I don’t know if it was the simple pleasure of being a kid or perhaps that of being a squid, but Splatoon was the “freshest” shooter I’d played in years. It was simple, accessible and fun. While it drew criticism for having a limited amount of content at launch Nintendo were true to their word and regular free content upgrades meant there was always something to come back to.
From the very match I was hooked. The fast paced and frantic gameplay saw me playing well into the night, every night, for a week. The simple concept of a shooter that didn’t determine your value based on twitch reactions and kill/death was extremely refreshing. Splatoon keeps you in your seat by offering incredibly fast paced, fluid gameplay and a scoring system that always left room for a dramatic comeback. All it ever took to turn the tide was 10 seconds and a flash of tactical brilliance.
Although Splatoon is primarily an online shooter with a difference it also deserves a mention for its single-player campaign mode. Designed in many ways to act as an enjoyable tutorial this mode is not one to be ignored. It does in fact offer one of the best final boss fights of any Nintendo game I have played. I’d hate to spoil it though so if you have the game and haven’t completed the single-player… well I can think of worse ways to spend your Christmas.
Runner-Up: Picking a winner this year proved quite easy but picking a runner-up was the real challenge. People may be wondering what on Earth could possibly beat out Bloodborne in my list of 2015 titles. It’s true that I’m a big From Software fan. It’s also true that I consider Bloodborne to be one of the greatest horror games of this decade. Despite all of that there was another game that gripped me from its launch and had me eagerly awaiting more all the way through 2015. Yes, my runner-up was an episodic title that I sincerely hope we see more of in years to come. Episodic gaming was something that never really took off for me. I always started playing and I always eagerly waited to see how my decisions would come shape the story but by the end I felt a little disappointed and underwhelmed when it became abundantly clear that they would have little or no impact in the overarching story.
Then one day I heard about an upcoming game from the developer’s of Remember Me, a game I thought had great potential but sadly just didn’t quite no where to go with it. My curiosity had peaked so I decided I’d put aside my reservations about the episodic structure and what I discovered was a well crafted narrative story whose characters boasted hidden depth. Life is Strange is the game that won me over to the episodic format. Finally I found an episodic game that made me think long and hard about my decisions and when they came back to haunt me later the emotional impact was staggering. Subsequent replays turned up a wealth of new information and foreshadowing that I never would have picked up on first time round just helping to highlight the planning that went into the game’s execution. Throughout the year I was worried that the game might start to unravel on itself but Dontnod nailed the ending and in doing so have guaranteed they have my attention with their future projects.
Check out our Splatoon review here