Over the next few days, Entertainium’s editors will be showing off their top picks for the very best (and possibly a few of the worst) games of 2015. Starting off proceedings is Gareth Brading, our PC game reviewer and long-standing Senior British Editor.
Portal Stories: Mel: Portal Stories often feels like a proper, professional release. Its high quality of world-building and voice-acting, alongside some incredibly fiendish puzzles, make it a must-play for anyone who loved Portal and Portal 2. The story has you arriving at Aperture during its heyday in the 1950s, before you’re sealed in a Long-Term Relaxation Vault and awake possibly a hundred years later. From there you’re guided by a personality sphere named Virgil who ushers you through the ruins of Aperture in order to escape. With a combination of very challenging puzzles and behind the scenes segments, it is highly recommended.
Best Action-Adventure Game
Grand Theft Auto V (PC): We waited, it came, and it was good. Grand Theft Auto V finally launched on PC this year, over two years after the original release on Xbox 360/PS3 and more than six months after the Xbox One/PS4 launch. And thankfully, Rockstar Games did their due. The PC version runs excellently, looks fantastic and is certainly the paramount version of the game. The Online has sadly been extensively hacked, but if you can get a heist crew of some friends together, it offers one of the most in-depth and interesting multiplayer experiences in years. Los Santos is a detailed living world almost second to none, and with a lengthy single player story and plenty of side activities, there’s a lot to keep you entertained for a good while.
Most Important Game
The Beginner’s Guide: The Beginner’s Guide is a walk-‘em-up to challenge all walk-‘em-ups. It is one of the most meta games ever created, and is barely even a game at all. Clocking in at just 90 minutes, The Beginner’s Guide is most certainly not for everyone, but for those brave enough to give it a go it can stimulate emotions rarely piqued in gaming. It’s a singular tale of a video game developer and his friend, depression, expression, and much else besides. You don’t do anything except walk through some pretty bare-bones levels, but it nonetheless left me feeling very confused and emotional by the end. Read our Review.
2015’s 2014 Game of the Year
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor: Shadow of Mordor is a little of Assassin’s Creed, and a little of Batman: Arkham Asylum. As Talion, Ranger of Gondor, you explore Mordor during Lord Sauron’s rise to power, and try to disrupt the creation of his Orc army by slaying as many of their members as possible. The game manages to rise above its inspirations to become more than the sum of its parts thanks to the delightful Nemesis system, which makes you invested in taking down war chiefs or Orc captains who stalk the land by giving them unique strengths and weaknesses. The main plot is so-so, but the gorgeous world and good voice acting help to keep you invested. Read our Review.
Most Innovative Game
Her Story: Her Story is very, very special. There is certainly nothing else like it I can think of. The game involves searching through a computer archive of old police video clips, piecing together the story of a woman and a murder, from twenty years previously. However, the computer only allows you to see limited clips at once, meaning you have to refine your searches in order to find new clips. The storyline will be what you make it and is very open to differing interpretations, and after a few hours you’ll have watched all the clips and thus exhausted the game’s content, but as an experiment of non-linear gameplay, Her Story is in a class of its own.
Biggest Missed Opportunity
Submerged: I really liked Submerged, but it could have been so much better. A game set in a flooded city where you can captain your little boat through the former streets and thoroughfares as whales meander through the ruined skyscrapers sounds amazing. Submerged does offer this, but sadly it doesn’t offer anything else. The world-building is incredibly shallow, offering precious little backstory of how the city came to be flooded, or making the buildings feel more than just set dressing. Climbing buildings is a tiresome chore and once you’ve collected everything, there’s nothing bringing you back. I’d like to see what the developers can do in the future to create a world which is not just superficially pretty, but has the depth of a story behind it. Read our Review.
Best Adventure Game
Life is Strange: There have been a lot of episodic adventure games over the last few years, but Life is Strange rises above quite a few of them. With a glorious cast of teenagers, teachers and parents set at a private high school in coastal Oregon, Life is Strange takes inspiration from sci-fi and time travel films by having the main character, Max Caulfield, be able to rewind time. Using this skill, you control Max as you chat to your classmates, catch up with old friends and solve strange mysteries, all whilst witnesses visions of a massive tornado destroying the town at the end of the week. The game has some superb voice acting alongside a great plot which you can affect in several important ways, which will stick with you for long after.
Grim Fandango Remastered: Grim Fandango was originally released in 1998, and from around the year 2000 until fifteen years later, the game was commercially unavailable and there was no legitimate method for playing it. Thankfully, this was rectified in January with Grim Fandango Remastered. The characters are still excellent, the remastered soundtrack superb and the setting divine. Yes, the puzzles are as obtuse as ever, but as before this can be overlooked. With a remastered version of Day of the Tentacle coming next year, and Full Throttle after that, we only really need The Curse of Monkey Island remastered in order to complete the classic LucasArts set. Read our Review.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft: I feel that I’m allowed to include Hearthstone again on this list, given that lots of new content for it has been released and the mobile port was released this year. Hearthstone is still just as addicting as it was last year, with regular batches of new cards being rolled out to help reinvigorate the experience. True some cards continue to trump others (the less said about the “perfectly balanced” Dr. Boom the better) but generally Hearthstone is still a fun, competitive experience for novices and masters alike, made even more remarkable by the fact it remains completely free-to-play if you desire. Its future requires continued development to keep it fresh, but hopefully Blizzard is in for the long-haul. Read our Review.
Gareth’s Game of the Year
Fallout 4: Fallout 4 is not a good RPG. It could even be argued that it’s not a great Fallout game. Indeed, it’s barely an RPG at all these days, and much more of an open-world first person shooter with RPG elements. That said, Fallout 4 is still a massively fun game, and feels different enough from Fallout 3/New Vegas to stand apart. The shooting is the best the series has ever been, the world is still enormous and full of stuff to do, people to meet and monsters to kill. There are still the typical open world bugs, which are disappointing, but the game itself is thankfully is pretty stable. With some interesting additional features such as base-building and crafting, the Bethesda formula has changed a bit but the core experience remains the same. For their next game (The Elder Scrolls VI?), I believe will need to reinvent the formula significantly if it is to succeed, but for now Fallout 4 is still a monumentally entertaining and accessible game that will see you sink literally days into it.