Yes, it’s that time again, folks! The time when we come together to ring in the new year, make merry and discuss the most important issue of the last twelve months: which one of the games we played was our favourite? So without further ado, we present our three Game of the Year awards for 2015, as chosen by the Level-Clear team!
Editor’s Choice – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
To say that I picked up The Witcher 3 with some trepidation earlier this year, would be a massive understatement. Past experiences with the franchise left me a little sceptical of the monster-slaying RPG’s third outing. But the universal praise that Wild Hunt received at launch gave me cause to reconsider, and boy am I glad I did.
For me, the biggest draw of The Witcher 3 has been the game-world itself. From the claustrophobic streets of Novigrad to the mountainous vistas of Skellige, The Northern Realms have been a joy to explore, offering a sense of adventure into an unknown land the likes of which I haven’t felt since 2011’s Skyrim. It subverted my expectations at every turn, providing dark and twisted alternatives to traditional fantasy tropes, and brilliantly designed enemies that left me both delighted and terrified.
Morally grey NPCs like the Bloody Baron and the DLC’s Olgierd Von Everec, provided some brilliant story arcs and rich characters, but I couldn’t possibly justify my love for Wild Hunt without acknowledging its grizzled, silver-haired protagonist, Geralt of Rivia. A world-weary cross between Big Boss, the Master Chief and Red Dead Redemption’s John Marston, Geralt is arrogantly confident in his abilities, yet irresistibly charming and always ready with a snappy retort. He’s been an absolute joy to play as and utterly impossible to dislike.
The 70+ hours I’ve sunk into The Witcher 3 this year, have been some of the most enjoyable in my entire gaming history. Brilliantly written, gorgeous to look at and thrilling to play, it’s set an extraordinary new benchmark for future RPGs to strive for.
Honourable Mentions – Bloodborne, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Staff Pick – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
This year has been an emotional one, filled with disappointment, surprises and some unexpected delights. But no other game has caused more controversy than my Game of the Year, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Just like the plot of the series itself, the tale of MGSV’s release was filled with twists and turns, resulting in mixed opinions and a heavily divided fan community. In the end though, I had to look at what mattered most to me: what I took away from the experience.
TPP is the final piece of an incredibly large puzzle; filling in the series’ remaining plot holes while offering one of the finest action experiences in gaming history. Was it the best Metal Gear game ever? That‘s a question I just can’t answer. Was the story dragged out longer than it should have been? Perhaps. The point is, what story there was in MGSV, was exceptionally good. Regardless of whether it was delivered through cutscenes or audiotapes, TPP provided answers to 25-year-old questions, some brilliant backstory for old characters, and some fresh faces we’ve all grown to either love or hate.
Could the game have been bigger? Probably. Pressure, budgetary issues and a production company hell-bent on destroying their most iconic licences, unfortunately stopped MGSV from being the best game in its series. It wasn’t perfect, but it was still great. It’s certainly the most talked about game of the year and will continue to be a talking point for years to come.
Forget the game being padded out for length’s sake for a moment. It could have been half the size, and I still would have happily paid full price for it. That is why I love it!
Honourable Mentions – Bloodborne, Until Dawn.
Staff Pick – Mad Max
Regular listeners of The Level-Clear Podcast might have expected me to choose Batman: Arkham Knight for my GotY 2015. But instead, my pick is the game that surprised me the most and one that I think is a terribly underrated and almost forgotten title, Mad Max.
I wasn’t a particularly big fan of Mad Max: Fury Road, the movie was just a little too crazy for me. But the game paints a much better picture of that universe’s desolate wasteland, with its colourful characters and Max’s internal struggle to come to terms with himself, his surroundings and his desperate race for some sort of redemption and peace.
The game was released on the same day as Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and as such, was somewhat ‘pushed aside’ by a lot of gamers. Which is a real shame, as I genuinely believe Mad Max is a far more rewarding open-world experience with a strong narrative that doesn’t try to be too clever or overcomplicated.
It boasts the same level of freedom and modification for your Magnum Opus as the Need for Speed games of old, as well as the free-flow combat mechanics of the (good) Batman: Arkham games. It’s a great overall package that I’d highly recommend.
Honourable Mentions – Transformers: Devastation, Bloodborne.