Due to some rather unfortunate scheduling conflicts, we here at the Joy of Geek were not able to record our Game of the Year episode. This is a huge bummer since this is arguably one of my favorite episodes to take part in. I love looking back on the year and picking out some of my favorite titles and sharing them with you guys. So, since we weren’t able to give you our opinions, we decided to share our thoughts on the site. Below are my top five favorite titles of 2015!
5. Mad Max
I know picking this game is probably a little out of left field. I’m not the biggest Mad Max fan; I sadly haven’t seen the original trilogy and only became aware of this game because of the hype around Mad Max: Fury Road. I will admit that I was rather disappointed when I learned more about the game and how little it had to do with the movie plot which I was absolutely obsessed with at the time. I honestly probably wouldn’t have even picked up this game had it not been for my brother who, rather self-servingly, bought it for me for my birthday, but boy, am I glad he did.
From the word go, I was in love with this game. From the beautiful setting, to the violent, fast-paced combat, this game was my cup of tea. Whether it was the meaty ‘thunks’ of the rough and tumble combat, or the satisfying clangs from harpooning another car and dragging it off the road, everything had such a pleasing and distinctive note to it. Even the game’s landscape, though primarily desert, had elements that broke up the monotony of sand and made each location a new, distinct area. I spent hours exploring the post-apocalyptic wasteland, scavenging for scrap to upgrade my Magnum Opus and stumbling across pictures that gave insight to what the world was like before all the mayhem and destruction. This game was absolutely engrossing, even with the few flaws that reared their heads every once in a while.
While I loved Mad Max, there were times where it did seem a bit repetitive. The quests start to blur together once you leave the first area, and you find yourself doing the same things over and over again, just with a few new enemies or a new arena to fight in. It was very reminiscent of the first Assassin’s Creed, where all the fact-finding missions and assassinations were the same. Scrap collecting also became tedious at times, especially when there was a stubborn piece hidden somewhere in the area that was impossible to find, or seemed out of reach due to Max’s rather lacking vertical leap or climbing ability. While I do understand why this would turn some people off, I’d still highly recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of the Mad Max world and would like to play in that toy box.
4. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Much like my co-host Jordan, the one bright side of coming out with a game of the year article so late in the year is that it did allow us to play games that we wouldn’t have played otherwise. My number four pick falls squarely into this category, and honestly, my past self would be pretty surprised it made this list. I bought The Witcher 3 when it came out in May and played a few hours of it before throwing it to the wayside. I couldn’t seem to truly dive into this game and become immersed like so many others and became rather frustrated. I wanted to understand the hype around it, which is why earlier this year I finally came back to Geralt and tried immersing myself in this world once again.
The first few hours of this game can really feel like a slog. I will admit that I get a huge sense of wanderlust when playing games like this, so having the game handcuff you to the story early on was a major negative. What drew me to this game was the open world and, admittedly, that rather awesome E3 demo of the Witcher Contracts. That’s what I wanted from the game, and after pushing through White Orchard, that’s what I was allowed to do. Once the world opens up and you’re allowed to choose your own path and how you shape your story, I finally got all the hype surrounding this game. Whether you’re tracking down mythical beasts or playing a few rounds of Gwent, the game has a rich, healthy diversity of quests and a cast of characters I loved interacting with, especially a certain godling named Johnny.
3. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
I was never much of a Call of Duty fan and, prior to this title, I hadn’t played a Call of Duty game since the first Black Ops. When it came to shooters, I always gravitated towards Halo or Gears of War as my go-to games, but when Jordan showed me the Shadows of Evil trailer I knew I had to get it. Being able to play as Neal McDonough as a cantankerous 1940’s cop in a Lovecraftian-esque zombie arena? Could this game actually get any better? The answer is actually yes since, surprisingly, Black Ops 3 didn’t just manage to pull off not just one or two great gameplay modes; the folks over at Treyarch managed to offer up five fun and unique game modes in one package.
This game is chock-full of fun and sometimes-ludicrous content. To quickly touch on the other modes, before diving more into the story of the game, the multiplayer is a solid Call of Duty experience, allowing you to pick a “Specialist” with unique weapons and abilities which allows you to change-up your style of play depending on which soldier they pick. There’s also a mode called Nightmares which has the player running through the game’s campaign with a new storyline about a virus that turns people and robots into zombie-like creatures. Lastly, there’s a hidden twin-stick top-down shooter called Dead Ops 2: Cyber’s Avengening that you can find by going to the Data Vault on the main screen.
Without spoiling too much of the main storyline of the campaign, you play as a rookie who was on the brink of death and brought back by the implementation of cybernetics, called a DNI (direct neural interface), and set on a team to figure out what happened to Commander Taylor, portrayed by Christopher Meloni, and his team. While jet-setting around the world, you start to become aware of the shadier, underhanded dealings that went into the creation of the DNI and how it’s affecting people who underwent the surgery. The story spirals into both psychological and body horror as you start to question what is real and what isn’t when the “glitch” in the system catches up to you. It is a beautifully done narrative that I believe one must experience first-hand in order to truly understand and enjoy it.
2. Life is Strange
This episodic masterpiece by Dontnod Entertainment will stick with me as one of the best gaming experiences of my life. I became so engrossed in this game that I spoke of the characters as if they were real people. While there are fun, light moments in this game, there are also some of the most emotionally devastating moments I have ever experienced in gaming. The ending to “Out of Time,” the game’s second episode, still affects me whenever I think back on it.
Each episode sends you on an emotional rollercoaster as you navigate through the life of Max Caulfield, a girl who acquires the power to manipulate time when she returns to her hometown of Arcadia Bay. While the main aspect of the game is Max’s relationship with her childhood best friend Chloe, you also help out with the mystery of Rachel, a girl who went missing who happens to be a friend of Chloe’s. You deal with the trials of bullying and the ever looming danger what Max’s new power does to the fabric of time.
1. Tales from the Borderlands
Borderlands is easily one of my favorite gaming franchises. I love the fun, quirky cast of characters, the absolutely ludicrous guns, and the world of Pandora itself, a playground I love to play around in. So when Telltale Games announced they were making an episodic adventure based on a series I loved, I was all ears.
I will admit that I was a little skeptical at first about how this franchise would feel in an adventure-style game. I was worried a lot of the ridiculous aspects of the game wouldn’t translate into an episodic adventure, but after playing the game for a few hours, I knew my concerns were unfounded. This game is a fun, goofy romp across Pandora with a new cast of characters who will steal your hearts. Unlike the other games, which focus on the Vault Hunters, Rhys and Fiona are just average people. Rhys is a Hyperion worker who idolizes Handsome Jack and Fiona is a con-woman down on the surface of Pandora who embarks on an adventure to find a vault.
Overall, this game is just pure fun. With countless cameos from characters from previous games, to the over-the-top moments you expect from the Borderlands series, I can guarantee you will bust a gut while playing this title. Also, as with most Telltale games, there is so much replay value based on the decisions you make in the branching story. All this added together, plus the tease of more to come in the future, makes this an easy pick for my favorite game of last year.