Sunday, January 01, 2017

The Best Games I played in 2015

The best games I played for the first time in 2015. (posted on Facebook last year, archived here for permanent reference)

Weird story driven games:
  1. The Talos Principle and the Road to Gehenna. Unusual, philosophically complex, and beautiful. Most of your actual time is spent solving 3D puzzles that aren’t quite as slick as Portal’s in their mechanics, but the whole experience of clever puzzles combined with the drip-feed of story is exactly the kind of thing I wish there was more of. 
  2. The Beginner’s Guide. Not really a game by a lot of definitions, it’s a narrated journey through a series of experimental games in an attempt to understand their creator. Not something you play to have fun in the same the way that you play a lot of games. But it was an experience I’m glad to have had.
  3. Undertale. This is another game that is fundamentally about games themselves: it's an RPG where you don't have to kill anyone, and the core of the game is how you handle the challenge of radical pacifism in a world of monsters trying to kill you. I could believe the game started as an Earthbound mod, it’s missing a lot of the polish of some other games that attempt similar things, but it's short and has a long of interesting stuff.
  4. SOMA. An interesting reflection on the nature of existence and the future of humanity split up by moments of pure unwelcome terror.
The mainstream:
  1. Arkham Knight. This game surprised me in a number of ways, and it might be my favorite Batman story at this point, speaking as someone who has been over Batman for a while. It has some really clever parts to it that I wouldn’t want to spoil. As good as the gameplay is, I played it for the story.
  2. Shadow of Mordor. The only good thing that’s been done with the Lord of the Rings franchise in the last 12 years. It has an excellent deep combat system, and it manages to make Tolkien's world interesting again.
  3. Fallout 4. While I have my gripes about the simplified dialog and character interactions, it’s still an interesting and well-fleshed out world, with a number of quality gameplay mechanics.
  1. Concept. A clever take on communication games, where you convey information by interacting with a grid of “concept” icons and showing relationships between them.
  2. Tales of the Arabian Knights. A really weird choose your own adventure like experience. You have random encounters you pick how to respond to (the game asks if you want to hire a wandering magician, rob him, fight him, etc), each of which leads to their own story outcome that varies depending upon attributes of your character. 
  3. Pandemic Legacy. A story based campaign in board game form, that forces you to adapt your strategy and figure out a new system several times over as the game changes. It didn’t surprise me in quite the same way Risk Legacy did the first time I played it, but it’s a stronger/more balanced game, and I’m happy to see this style of game thrive.

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