It's always hard to do a GOTY discussion right at the end of the year, because it is near impossible to play everything, and while I have taken these last few days to fill in and try a couple of the gaps in my repertoire, I do, first and foremost, remain a PlayStation guy, so XB1 exclusives will obviously not appear on here.
I'm going to give a bit of a break down in a few different categories, and then wrap up with a 'Game of the Year'. Of course you will probably disagree with me, but hey, it's the internet right? Yell at me on twitter:
I figure I might as well get this out of the way now: there are big games this year that did not click with me, or that I know are not my bag, so I did not include them, so rather than having to answer questions, I'll just knock the few I would expect to hear about not making my list out now.
I hate the VATS system. It literally makes me not want to play a game that, by all other accounts, and from what everyone tells me, I should love (my kind of story, I like big RPGs, Elder Scrolls is a series I adore). But I cannot get past VATS; I couldn't do it with Fallout 3 and hearing that (and seeing that) 4 was just a big, next-gen 3 pretty much sealed the fact that there was no way I was going to dig it.
There are those who tell me that it is completely playable (and good) without VATS, but I do not see it; it is not a good enough shooter on its' own to stand against big, fun, open world shooters (a Borderlands) and there are those parts where you really should use VATS.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
I have never gotten into these games, as Hitman is my stealth-game jam (and I do not need to spread that...jam...on...look I'm lost in the analogy; I do not have a strong need to play stealth games often) and the tactical 3rd-person shooter pieces seem like it could be entertaining, but as I have no (zero) connection to anything Metal Gear, there was literally nothing that made me go "oh man, this is amazing".
I'm glad the fans got one more Kojima Metal Gear, but I'm more looking forward to seeing what he does next...and for Konami to make the Metal Gear match-3 puzzle game we all totally want.
Best Narrative: Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
This little game from The Chinese Room, and SCE Santa Monica Studio really blew me away this year. The entire game is wandering around an English village, Yaughton (which is totally made up, but sounds like a place in England), where everyone has mysteriously disappeared. This is not the most 'game-y' game you will find, as your job is to walk around the village and interact with lights that reveal the story. The thing is, as you go, and are introduced to several key characters, you get this delicate and emotional unfurling of a story that, if you were rushing, or looking for some puzzle-adventure game, you would be disappointed by, but if you put the time and/or thought in to it, you were given a quiet, intriguing story.
With one of the best soundtracks in any game, ever. Emotionally moving, poignant...I would try and make music cues last as long as they could, so I could just enjoy myself, listening to the gorgeous choral and orchestral tones while walking through a field of lights...
I don't often cry during video games, but this one had me a couple of times because it is one of the few narrative style games that I actually found myself invested in, and wanting to see how everything worked out, even though I spent most of the 'game' looking at tables, and walking through fields. It clicked for me, in a big way, and I hope that a few, whiny reviewers (calling it 'walking simulator' and junk) don't discourage The Chinese Room from making more of these beautiful little games.
My PS4 theme is still the windmill and soft soundtrack of Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, and I do not know if I will change it anytime soon.
Biggest Surprise: Rocket League
Rocket powered RC cars play football (soccer).
That's it. There's online matches (1v1 to 4v4), there's a solid offline season mode (same deal), and a bunch of customization possible. To be honest, it was a PlayStation Plus game that I picked up and, as someone who is not big on multiplayer games, thought I would check it out for a couple hours and then move on.
Well that couple of hours turned into most of a month, as I just could not get enough--it's easy to learn, impossible to master, games are quick (5 minutes) and it's always insane and fun. Now eventually (around the time that I could not get an online game that wasn't filled with assholes) I did stop playing it, but every once in an while I still go back and play a few games, and still have fun with it (especially with friends).
Best 'New to Me' Game: Dragon Age: Inquisition
It was in my backlog, because I knew I was going to end up sinking like 60-70 hours into it, and I did not want to do that when I had a big break (travel, holidays) to break it up.
Well...I put 110+ hours into it and had a really great time with it, during a time when I was having a really difficult time personally. I had not been a bit fan of the second Dragon Age game, and was a bit concerned heading into it, but all of the great reviews (and GOTY wins) brought me around, and I had an absolute blast. The best thing that I think Inquisition did, outside of nailing the story and gameplay, was it seemed to know when it need to shift pace. There is usually a time in long RPGs where I find myself needing to take a break, get a new tone, new pace, what have you, which usually means I play a sports game for a bit, or a little indie title, then jump back in.
Inquisition suddenly gave me a section of the game that was about court politics and intrigue...and dancing, at the perfect time to keep me hooked. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a politics junkie, PLUS I studied European History in University--it felt that DA:I literally had been constructed to keep me entertained through a rough patch. And it worked, and I am very thankful for it.
It's also just a great RPG.
Honorable Mention GOTY: The Witcher 3
What an acheivement The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is. This game is so dense with things to do, and such a beautiful, gritty, believable world that I lost piles and piles of gaming hours wandering around, looking for gear, fighting random beasts, dying, swearing about dying, and going back out into the world. The lighting in this game is spectacular, and there was just so much to do that it was a little overwhelming. As I was playing it, I immediately got the books onto my Amazon wishlist, excited to learn more about the world, and spend more time in it. This was a game and a half that I loved my time with.
Why is it not my GOTY then?
Well a couple of things: having not played the first two Witcher games, there seemed to be chunks of the story that really did not matter to me, at all. Which is not really a good thing as, unfortunately, the story did not keep me coming back to it (as the main story was often quite bland and repetitive, especially when compared with some of the side-quests). Also, and this is a minor quibble I'm sure, I found bits of the combat to be a bit clunky, and took a lot of getting used to to get the balancing right (more-so than most games of this ilk for me). In the end, I actually did not even finish the main story, because I just could not keep bringing myself back to do another fetch quest for another random character in order to push the story forward anymore. I still sunk a giant amount of hours in, so I feel good about it, but...
Oh and I could not care less about Gwent (the collectible card game inside the video game--I'm also a board gamer, so if I'm going to play a card game, it's going to be a a game with cards)
The Guys GOTY 2016: Bloodborne
This is a game that I am still playing now, and a game that I needed to play before I was willing to write this article, and I am glad I did: Bloodborne is spellbinding. I had not played a game of this ilk since Demon's Souls, but hearing that the combat was a little faster, but the game was still going to be difficult, dark. and set in a Lovecraftian sort of gothic world, I could not wait to get a good chunk of time sunk into it.
The story is obtuse and tricky, but it's a rewarding challenge to figure it out. The world is amazing (and is scarier than most of the horror games out there), the combat, once you get used to it, feels excellent, and the fact that I have played for...I do not even know how many hours, and I still think about it (where I need to go, places I need to try, strategies to try and take out a monster) while I'm doing other things, yeah. Bloodborne is my game of the year.
I like not having my hand held, I like that I actually feel victories in the game (you beat your prey for the first time and it's hard not to celebrate after dying 9 other times), and I love the aesthetic.
If you are a PS4 gamer, and you at all have an inkling of giving Bloodborne a shot, do: it is my best game of 2015, hands down.
That's it! Let me know what your GOTY was (especially if you are into the other consoles), or, like I said, just tell me I'm crazy, I'm all ears.