Game of the Year 2015: 3-1
Our Game of the Year coverage concludes with our top three games of 2015:
Aside from a short-lived foray into Dark Souls at a 2011 Expo, Bloodborne was my first true foray into From Software’s ‘uniquely inhospitable’ and punishing realms. I actually believed I wouldn’t die that much. This absurd hubris was justly rended asunder within Bloodborne‘s opening minutes as I was felled in a pathetic display. Further to this, my first few nights trying to sleep after dodging and slashing through Yharnam’s gothic streets were plagued with nightmares of screaming beasts. It began taking over, occupying my waking thoughts. The challenges of Destiny were laughable in comparison – this was serious, hardcore.
The combat mechanics caused retreat or gung-ho tactics to be punished and rewarded only focused aggression. And what a brilliant onslaught of enemies to face-down against. Bloodborne‘s foes are the most memorable and best designed out of any videogame I’ve ever played.
One of the more pleasant suprises of Bloodborne (especially to an inexperienced Souls player) was the way the Lovecraftian narrative was revealed solely through exposition. Picking over item descriptions, trying to decipher the mumblings of NPCs and slowly progressing through the horrifying world still never gave a clear indication of what was actually going on. It was easy to miss entire NPC quests and even bosses should you not follow a particular path or collect a specific item. After being generally mollycoddled and gently eased on a strict path over a variety of other titles, I found this detail massively refreshing.
Bloodborne is an incredibly deep title, from its cinematic score, exquisite art direction, level design and shrouded narrative – its status as, not just one of the best of 2015, but as a modern masterpiece is undeniable.
2nd. Rocket League
Rocket League has reminded me of something I’ve deeply missed in gaming: real, honest to god progression. In a time when we’re constantly watching experience fill meters, Rocket League instead relies on the lessons you learn from one game to the next – though it does have its own requisite experience meter! But it’s the vocabulary you build that lets you understand why things happen on a moment-to-moment basis. How was that goal scored? Why did I end up hitting the ball backwards? These are questions you’ll have in the early going, but in time you’ll recognize moments, then plays, and finally, opportunity. In time you’ll react and execute, or fail miserably trying.
What makes Rocket League special compared to other sports games is its ability to convey the feeling of playing soccer – a truly remarkable feat given the addition of rocket-powered cars. You know the old saying you’ve got to learn to walk before you can run? Well, it applies here, in a way. It’s hard to play sports, but in most sports games you’re dunking minutes after you’re dribbling. In Rocket League you really have to learn how to play soccer, in addition to learn how to get around the pitch. You have to learn how to conserve energy (boost management); learn to move off the ball (ball tracking camera); learn where the ball is headed (know the trajectories). But above all else, you have to learn that you’re part of a team, and Rocket League can be quickly humbling when you don’t learn proper positioning.
But what’s remarkable about Rocket League is how it scales and remains immensely satisfying even when you ignore everything I’ve mentioned. Its ability to cater to all ends of the skill spectrum make it a joy in ranked play or even in a room full of randoms. There’s just something dumb/hilarious/amazing in 3v3 games where every car is in a continuous scrum for control of the ball. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying that version of Rocket Leauge; it’s no less valid. Or, you can build a team of veterans who spend as much time driving on the walls as they do the pitch, making the sorts of passes and shots we can only hope to some day pull off.
Rocket League is as serious or silly as you want it to be. It’s an incredibly simple and yet deeply rich game that runs on all cylinders. It nails that feeling of learning and participating in a new sport, and for that, along with the manic kaleidoscope of nitro boosts and exploding goals, it’s Thunderbolt’s Game of the Year Runner-Up.
1st. Fallout 4
Bethesda has become known for creating worlds that act as a black hole, sucking up people’s lives for months, or even years on end, and Fallout 4 is no different. We’ve only had our hands on Fallout 4 since November 10th, and people are still finding new and interesting things everyday. Combine that with a vibrant modding community, upcoming DLC, and pursuing different game routes, this Fallout has the potential to keep us playing for years to come.
Fallout 4 is a shining example of a game developer listening to the people. Some of the biggest issues with the previous Fallout games have stemmed from difficult first-person shooter controls, poor enemy AI, awkward looking conversations, and dozens of other flaws. Fallout 4 not only fixes those problems, but was able to improve upon them, setting the bar for future games even higher. It also introduced new elements, as well as refined those from the rest of the series, like weapon crafting and modifications, building and maintaining settlements, a new level system, and a story line that relies on which faction you side with.
The atmosphere is one that fills the player with both a sense of despair and hope. You see the accomplishments of the past in ruin, with the landscape filled with rubble, enemies and sickly looking plants. You meet people who have given up on life, find bodies of innocents killed by raiders, and encounter people who are ruled by rage, greed and fanaticism. But there is beauty in this same world. Taking a moment to admire a rising sun over the commonwealth, hearing the gratitude from some farmers you saved from an attack, and working with various groups to improve the future of this world brings a measure of hope to the player.
Fallout 4 is deserving of its title as Thunderbolt’s Game of the Year. It may have a flaw here or there, but the experience as a whole is incredible. It’s a game with something for everybody and it all ties together seamlessly. It’s a welcome addition to the Fallout series and will remain a standard of excellence for decades to come.