You’re probably sick to the back teeth of “best” lists this year, so these personal ‘games of 2015’ picks we do at the end to the year are based more on our individual enjoyment. They may not always ‘objectively’ be the “best” (whatever that actually means), but they are ones each of us has appreciated in one way or another.
I’ll quickly mention that SimCity was a let-down and that is one of the main reasons I was so excited by Cities: Skylines. Prior to the game’s release, it looked like Colossal Order were understanding exactly what city building fans wanted. This was a good, early sign that the team knew what they were doing.
When did arrive, Cities: Skylines delivered on everything. It was a sandbox city builder with fewer limitations than other previously released games in the genre. Colossal Order understood that creative PC gamers always want to have access to any and all available development tools, in order to build on the base release and make the game better. Or, in a few cases, horrifyingly worse. The point is being given the freedom to try.
Thanks to the extensive Steam Workshop support, Cities: Skylines modders went into creative overdrive; a fantastic boon for the game’s longevity. Colossal Order now had what amounted to an extra development team cranking out new content for free, and if, like me, you like to tweak or enhance an element of the game, the chances are there was a mod to do it.
It was the mods which kept me experimenting with the game long after the basic gameplay loop had been mastered. Cities: Skylines’ only downside is that there are no real challenge missions to tackle, so once you’ve got the mechanics all figured out you have to turn to mods for a further fix.
For now, the game is nestling on my HD, waiting for the moment I get another building urge.
Act of Aggression
I loved Act of Aggression. It’s a return to the old-school RTS gameplay: three factions, a campaign and, most importantly, a fun multiplayer mode.
The campaign takes you on a journey of experimentation with each faction, it chops and changes between group, and it had a good amount of cheesy dialogue. It reminded me a lot of Command & Conquer, but (sadly) without the excellent Joe Kucan.
I did feel a bit like I was playing the game backwards, having started with the multiplayer (during beta), then waiting for the game to be fully released before taking on the campaign. This did ruin the campaign for me somewhat, because an RTS campaign should really be teaching you each faction; but at this point I already knew exactly what everything did from many hours spent in multiplayer.
It was a small price to pay though, because I had already spent many a happy hour in the multiplayer.
Multiplayer is usually the make or break of any RTS, and Eugen did a good job with Act of Aggression’s competitive side. It’s a game I go back to from time to time, whenever I feel the need to get my arse kicked.
Just Cause 3
I wasn’t especially looking forward to Just Cause 3. In fact I hadn’t paid much attention to the pre-release details at all; so when I did fire it up for the first time, I knew little about it. I had tinkered with Just Cause 2 briefly, but that was about it as far as my JC knowledge was concerned.
I did know there was some kind of plot, but I don’t think anyone plays JC for its deep and meaningful story. I am actually still working my way through the game between playing other things, and what I’ve mainly learned so far is that EXPLOSIONS can be a great deal of fun.
The fact that I think Rico is a bit of dick doesn’t really matter. I can get over that, because there are glorious, multi-coloured EXPLOSIONS. The ability to fly, leap about like Spider-man, and just blow shit up without even having to worry too much about whether all the missions are done is a breath of fresh air. Especially after spending all year plowing through loads of games with much more rigorous structures.
Just Cause 3 is the go-to game right now when I have time to spare. It’s quite simply stupid. And there are EXPLOSIONS. Lots of them.
Fallout was another franchise I delved properly into for the first time this year. There was so much hype surrounding the game, but fortunately I didn’t feel the urge to get sucked in. I picked it up on release with little to no expectations.
First of all, I want to say that the interface is really crap on the PC. Managing inventory is just a pain, and could have been made so much simpler. Town building is cumbersome, and it’s also a game that doesn’t exactly go all-out in the graphics department. It looks okay, but it’s nothing outstanding.
What Fallout 4 does exceptionally well is pull you in to the world and keep you there for vast periods of time. It also has a satisfying sense of progression, without putting too much emphasis on it.
Even with its flaws, it’s just such a compelling game to play – thanks, in no small part, to its open world nature. It could have been better, that’s obvious, but with plenty to explore, and a collection of interesting characters, it just has that certain something about it that keeps me playing and wanting to explore every nook and cranny.
Like Cities: Skylines, Fallout 4 is another game that’s slowly but surely benefiting from mods. The game can only get better as some of the more annoying aspects are tweaked and fixed. Bethesda shouldn’t be let off the hook here, because expecting the modding community to polish the game up is not a great look for a professional developer.
What Bethesda did do, however, was create a solid core game and an engrossing experience. I think everyone should give this a go.
You can read Peter’s picks here.