Games That Defined My 2016

2016 was a year where I often found myself in situations I never would have been in before. From a weekend retreat to Panama City Beach in January to a summer spent in a barbed wire laden, open-aired church in Guatemala.

The latter part of the year I found myself biting my tongue, surrounded by political talk, opinion, and upheaval.

What I’m getting at is maaaaan, I’m glad I have video games. 

Video games helped keep me grounded in who I am in the midst of doing things radically uncharacteristic of who I have previously been. It served as the escape that I felt like I near-desperately needed when I began to miss home or when the political arguments became too much.

Last year was packed with big AAA releases, one after another. I found myself quickly jumping from one game to the next. This year was much different as I played fewer games, but spent more time with those I did play. Unfortunately I did not get around to playing Hitman or Dark Souls III, but I am still really excited to eventually dive into.

Honorable Mentions:

Gone Home Console Edition

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While Gone Home will not make my top 10, I feel like I need to mention it. Gone Home is such an interesting game. In the best way, the developers do nothing. It is up to you, the player, to take what you want from Gone Home. I watched my girlfriend, who is not an avid gamer, get sucked into the game. She explored every cabinet, dresser, and closet to try and unravel the mystery of what happened in this home. The self-induced fear of roaming this dark and lonely home kept us on edge. Mysterious doors, secret passages, and lurking shadows created the feeling that the house was not as empty as it appeared to be. This culminated in the closing moments when we finally gain access to the attic. When she finished it, we almost immediately went online and looked up theories from other players. Player narrative is intended to drive Gone Home, and it is done so spectacularly.

Madden Mobile

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I do not play games on my phone. I do not spend money on micro-transactions. Madden Mobile changed that.

Top 10:

10.) Tharsis

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You are on a space mission to an unknown planet. Things go array. Your food cabinet is destroyed. Your artificial crops are destroyed. You have no food and are starving. Do you resort to cannibalism and sacrifice your colleague along with your mental well-being in order to finish the expedition and progress the human race? Tharsis lets you make that decision.

9.) Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

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I was not a big fan of Deus Ex: Human Revolution in 2011, but Mankind Divided came out when I did not have much else going on, so I decided to give it a shot. It was a pleasant surprise. The game play mechanics work great and allow the player to tackle a mission in a number of different ways. What Mankind Divided does so well is the atmosphere and world that surrounds you. It is gritty and touches on several present-day issues, but with a futuristic guise. Cyber-implemented humans are found responsible for a terrorist attack and have been segregated as a result. Seeing how towns and citizens treat the implemented humans serves as a weird reminder of lessons learned in American history classes.

8.) Titanfall 2

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I did not get to spend enough time with Titanfall 2, which is why it is so low on this list. I feel if I would have spent more time with it and gotten to dive into the multiplayer more, it would probably finish closer to the top. Titanfall 2 manages to do something that a video game has not done since 2009’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – care about a first-person shooter campaign. Instead of just being a shooter, it was a clever platformer. Few things were more satisfying in gaming this year than wall running back and forth on two walls and then landing on top of an enemy soldier and burying your knife into him.

7.) Digimon: Cyber Sleuth

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I did not expect to pour 40 hours into a Digimon game in 2016. It is not perfect, in fact, the dungeons are quite boring and get stale quickly. But boy did it dig its claws into me. I have not had much exposure to Digimon since my initial obsession with it as a 10-year-old, so maybe it was the nostalgia itch that this game scratched. It was nice to see Greymon, Garurumon, and Angemon again, fighting for me. Leveling up and digivolving my monsters served as a good enough carrot in my face to keep me rolling. I hit a wall where it took way too long to digivolve my monsters and fell off of the game pretty hard, but I am interested in seeing what developer Media.Vision does next.

 

6.) Pokémon Sun/Moon

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My love for Pokémon games has dwindled somewhat with the last few installments. Sun/Moon fixes most of the reasons why. My beloved generation one Pokémon are present but brand new creatures are brought into the mix that have that same charm that I feel has been absent in the later generations of the games. The game features what is the best attempt at a story seem in the series. They do away with several of the mainstays that led to the series growing dull, and consequently, it leads to this installment feeling like a much needed breath of fresh air. I have not finished the game, but I do have this giant muscular wrestling cat guy that has a flaming title belt and does a 450-splash on my team. So that’s pretty cool.

 

5.) Stardew Valley

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“Delightful” is the word that immediately comes to mind when thinking about Stardew Valley. Essentially, it is a modern, fleshed out version of Harvest Moon, which is a series I have never really dabbled in. Watching the weather, managing my crops, clearing out my land, fishing, and making friends with the townsfolk sums up most of my time with Stardew Valley. There is no one thing to point out about Stardew Valley. It is just an addicting experience that eerily simulates life. I look forward to playing much more of Stardew Valley in 2017.

4.) SteamWorld Heist

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SteamWorld Heist initially came out last year on December 10 for Nintendo 3DS. However, it was not until June that it came to PS4 and Playstation Vita, which is where I played it. For that sake, I believe it qualifies as a 2016 game.

SteamWorld Heist feels like a perfect blend of XCOM and Worms: Armageddon. The game play is fantastic. The difficulty forces you to think logically and strategically, and when a mission was failed, it had me questioning what I did wrong as opposed to feeling cheated. Loot hidden around the levels served as an extra personal challenge when I was in the middle of a mission, as the loot would often contain something that would prove immediately useful. The few times I had to abandon the loot were in situations where it was a race against the clock or when I was being chased by enemies and had to escape as soon as possible. The writing is sharp and clever. I genuinely enjoyed reading the dialogue and banter between characters as opposed to button mashing my way through it. I do not consider myself a big fan of the steampunk aesthetic, but in this game it works great. The design of the robots were clever and helped give them personality. The only possible negative about the game is that there is somewhat of a difficulty spike in the latter portion that causes you to grind a little bit, but the game was such a joy to play that grinding was no real inconvenience for me.

3.) Final Fantasy XV

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This does not feel like a Final Fantasy game. That might be why I enjoy it so much. At first glance I was not sure if it would be my type of game, and I was even somewhat put off by how the main characters looked like a Japanese version of One Direction. Somehow the game made me develop a relationship with those characters and actually care about them. The dialogue between the guys feels like conversations I would have with my buddies. It all comes off as authentic. “Bro-trip Simulator 2016” would be an appropriate subtitle for Final Fantasy XV. The combat took some getting used to, and was such a bizarre departure from the traditional Final Fantasy combat, but I learned to love it. The animations during the combat steal the show. I love getting into battles just to see what team up moves the guys will show next. The combat is fluid and gorgeous. The environment is huge and offers disparity as you progress. Most of the traveling is done in your royal vehicle, the Regalia. The game exceeds expectations when it comes to the customization of the Regalia. Like naming a puppy, installing a cream interior helped me feel attached to the car. To add, the game features soundtracks of almost all other Final Fantasy games as tapes you can purchase and listen to as you make your way around in the Regalia. The story takes an interesting, albeit predictable twist and I am curious to see how it plays out. For the first time since Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, I want to seek out and get all of the trophies for a game. I am not much of a trophy or achievement hunter, so for a game to interest me enough to do that is something else.

2.) Darkest Dungeon

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Darkest Dungeon is unrelentingly Lovecraftian and I adore it. The first thing that grabbed me is the style it exudes. It has the best style of any game that I have played this year, and one of the best I have ever played. Everything from the characters, to the weapons, to the backgrounds are gorgeously detailed, and despite being a dark, Gothic game, it features a lot of interesting uses of color. I would immediately spend real, American dollars for an art book of this game. The game is incredibly deep from a game play standpoint, and at first seemed a little overwhelming. But it is all explained in a clear and straightforward way during the tutorial that helped me grasp it. At times, I loved my squad like children and would do anything to protect them physically and mentally. At other times, I knew I was leading my squad into a meat grinder and not all of them would make it out alive, or sane. That leads to another interesting and unique feature of Darkest Dungeon- sanity. As you explore the plagued ruins, the darker it gets, the more mentally unstable your characters become. When they reach a certain threshold, they snap, and become insane, which gives them certain characteristics like masochism, greed, paranoia, or many more that debuff your character and can make them unwieldy. Going insane could also have the inverse affect for certain characters, powering them up instead. New characters are constantly arriving, wanting to join your team, so losing a group does not mean “game over,” but it could be a huge setback depending on how much you have invested into the characters. My favorite moments of Darkest Dungeon are when I am in no man’s land. Out of food, torches, and about to go insane. Seemingly nothing is going in my favor, but somehow, after losing a character or two, there is at least one survivor who makes it to the end of the dungeon and is able to return back to the village. Darkest Dungeon is full of major losses, but it makes those little victories taste even sweeter.

1.) Overwatch

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Overwatch is the best competitive first-person shooter I have ever played. It fixed everything I did not like about the genre. It is a game that does not care about your K/D ratio, which is a welcome change. I got so tired of hearing people obsess over their K/D in other games. Every character has a role they play to help each other achieve the goal of the team. It is not mindless rushing around the map trying to collect the most kills. You are working together to secure a point, push cargo, or defend. The game is incredibly balanced and Blizzard is constantly pushing out updates and fixes to maintain that balance. It is colorful, witty, and fun. The lively characters are all unique and possess their own set of skills. They are so different from one another that it feels like they came from different games entirely. A cowboy, a robot, the grim reaper, an e-sports sensation, a DJ, and so on, the cast is incredibly varied. Overwatch does everything to near-perfection, and with Blizzard supporting it (with free DLC to boot), it looks like it will be a pinnacle in competitive gaming for a long time to come.

Also, Junkrat is the best character.

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E3 2016 Predictions

Despite being thousands of miles from home, in a developing country, and having most of the beans spilled already, I’m still incredibly excited for E3 this year. I did some quick reading of previous E3 events in hopes to find which was my first. I can’t exactly remember. I think it may have been 2007. Regardless, E3 has been a big part of my life for the last several years. It’s a fun holiday where I take just about everything with a grain of salt and see the “future” of the industry that I have grown up loving. Also, my first post on this blog was my “E3 2015 predictions,” so it’s kind of cool to have a years worth on content already. I loved doing the “Let’s laugh at my E3 2015 predictions,” and can’t wait to do it again this year.

Last year I was able to break apart and analyze all the conferences independently. I am not ruling that out, I may have a short post or two detailing some of my thoughts, but I don’t expect them to be as in-depth as last year due to all of what’s going on here.

As I already mentioned, it feels like this E3 has much more leaks than any E3 that I can remember. Which I’m somewhat thankful for, because I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep up with the event as closely as I normally would this year.

Speaking of being in Guatemala, I just got out of a lukewarm shower, so bear with me if I have any typos/overlooks/mistakes.

I don’t have many predictions, seeing as how much of it is leaked, but I do have hopes. Let’s dive in, going in order of conference showing.


 

EA

I think this is the first EA conference I’ve had some hype for in a long time. I am really interested to learn more about Battlefield 1 and see what direction that is going in. I love the idea of it, at this point, I’m theirs to lose.

Titanfall 2 will probably be their bread and butter of this conference. I’m optimistic for it. I never played the first one, but always wanted to. It seemed like a good game with smart ideas, just no legs. I have faith that the developers have learned from their mistakes and really look forward to seeing what they have planned.

I’d love for some actual news on Mass Effect. I’d really love for a surprise announcement of the Mass Effect trilogy heading to current gen.

Maybe something to do with Star Wars? I feel like that’s obligatory at this point. They have to have something Star Wars related right?

Overall I’m excited for EA. I think there is room for a few surprises, nothing that is going to shock me, but it’ll be fun either way.


 

Bethesda

Oh man, I’m really looking forward to this conference and I don’t even consider myself a fan of Bethesda.

This conference probably holds the most speculation and has circulated the rumor mill more than any other conference, other than Nintendo.

Skyrim Remastered? I did not enjoy the original game and forced myself to play it. It was just a technical disaster for me on my 360. Maybe the performance of a current gen console is what the game needed. I’d love to return to it again and see if my initial feelings still hold true. My bold prediction for this, not only will it be remastered for current gen, but it will have the mod support that Fallout 4 does.

The Evil Within 2 is rumored. It is going to take A LOT for me to care about that game after being burned so badly by the first one. Very few games have rubbed me the wrong way so quickly as The Evil Within.

It’d be cool if they showed/reannounced Prey 2. I wouldn’t be surprised if that ended up being one of the games of the show.

They’ll show a lot of Dishonored 2. I still need to play the first one, so I don’t have much to say.

This is a conference that I think will be a must-see. It’s going to leave people talking and will be a great way to lead people into the first official day of E3 on Monday.


 

Microsoft

Please, please, please, please be a good conference! I’m at the point where I would like an Xbox One now. Just sell me on it! The back catalog is good enough, now I just want some assurance on the direction it is going. I’m really excited to see what they have to say about the new version of the Xbox One. I already want one, just help me justify that decision, Microsoft.

Dead Rising 4! It was rumored and today some screenshots were leaked featuring Frank West. I love the Dead Rising games but Dead Rising 3 was not enough to sell me on an Xbox One. It looked like it was trying to go a direction I didn’t want to. However, I’m hopeful for the newest installment.

Halo Wars 2 will be there, but I’m not sure about any other Halo related games.

Gears of War 5 will be there. After seeing the first footage from the game, I wasn’t very excited. I really enjoy the Gears of War games, but what I’ve seen of Gears of War 5 hasn’t left me wanting more. Hopefully they can change that.

I hope to see more of ReCore. That little teaser last year was very intriguing, but featured no gameplay and no real details.

I think that Microsoft is in prime position to “win” E3 this year. With Sony focusing on VR and Nintendo focusing on NX, they can steal the current gamer. I hope they capitalize. I hope they sell me an Xbox One.

Oh and show me more Cuphead!


 

Ubisoft

Blech. Ubisoft has really gotten on my bad side as of late. I really liked The Division, but it wasn’t what it was made out to be. Same with Watch Dogs. It’s hard to trust them at this point.

I don’t know, man. Watch Dogs 2 is confirmed and I really don’t care. That new Tom Clancy game they announced last year will be there. I got nothing, guys. And I’m ok with that.


 

Sony

I consider myself a Playstation gamer, so I’m hopeful for this conference. I know that VR is going to be an emphasis, I feel like that’s why they elected to not show the new PS4 console at E3 this year. I don’t know how to feel about VR. If it’s cheap and it works, sure, I’ll try it. I’ll expect to get a price and release date out of the conference.

I’m not getting my hopes up, but I’d love to see Kojima on stage for Sony talking about his newest game. I doubt we get any footage, I’d be surprised if there’s even a teaser trailer. I’d just expect him to talk about what he’s doing.

The Last Guardian will be there with a release date (FINALLY).

Please give us PS1 play on PS4.

Possibly a new announcement from Naughty Dog? I wouldn’t be surprised if they wanted until PSX for that, though.

We’ll probably see more God of War stuff, based on those leaks that featured him in the Norse setting.

If there is to be Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts stuff shown, I’d expect it to show up here.

Shenmue gameplay?

I’m really not sure what to expect. Last year was such a monumental year for Sony at E3, how do they follow that up? Surely not with a conference dedicated to VR.


 

Nintendo

Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, Nintendo.

What is there to even say?

I suspect it’ll focus almost entirely on the NX and Zelda.

I’m interested to see what the NX has to offer, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I still feel burned by Nintendo for getting a Wii U. I hope it blows me away, but I have my doubts. I’m thinking it will be both a home console and portable console. A hybrid of the two. I suspect they’ll give it an official name and release window. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if they drop the bomb and give an exact date and price. That’s a ballsy move that Nintendo would make.

The parts not talking about NX will talk about Zelda. Yes, Zelda will lead the Nintendo E3 discussion for the umpteenth year in a row. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am so Zelda-fatigued. It’s as bad as annual releases to me. Sure, there isn’t a Zelda game every year, but they advertise and market it as so. I’ve never been a huge fan of the franchise.

Not much to say here, hopefully they do something awesome, but it’d take something extremely awesome to win me over.


Other

Maybe we’ll see Rockstar announce something Red Dead related.

More Deus Ex stuff will be shown, speaking of which, for a game that’s already announced, that’s been pretty quiet as of late.

I’d love to see Rocksteady announce something now that they’re done with Batman.

Something Resident Evil related may show up. Hopefully it’s something different because what they’ve been doing as of late…well it’s just not working.


 

More or less, that’s it. I wish I could dive in more and really hash out my predictions, but I just haven’t had the time to sit and brainstorm about it. I’m even writing this blog the morning of. It’s been a crazy summer away from home and everything I find comforting, but it will bring me some peace being able to unwind with a favorite tradition of mine this week. Happy E3 everybody!

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Spoiler Free Review

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is a good Batman movie, a decent Superman movie and a befuddling Justice League movie.

This film is the first to star the caped crusader since 2012’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” by Christopher Nolan. Despite being only four years removed, this new Batman chronology is completely isolated from the Nolan trilogy.

Noted comic book aficionado Ben Affleck has picked up the cape and cowl to play this iteration of Batman and he steals the show.

Affleck’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne and Batman tell a story from the first time you see his character.

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He is older, with wisdom spots in his hair, much larger, the biggest Batman we have seen in film to date and his face is full of anguish and pain, which Affleck accentuates perfectly.

Batman is a much more violent, he does not shy away from maiming his enemies and in some cases, leaving them more or less, dead.

Despite being told his origin story for the umpteenth time. I’m curious about what happened to this Bruce Wayne that has made him so cold and bitter to the world around him.

Ben Affleck’s performance is met hand in hand by the performance of his costar, Henry Cavill, who plays Clark Kent and Superman.

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Cavill does an excellent job at showing emotion despite being an omnipotent alien. This is extremely evident in one particular scene close to the midway point of the film.

In this scene Cavill’s acting shines as we find Superman in his most emotionally vulnerable state yet.

Director Scott Snyder has garnered my attention with Clark Kent since “Man of Steel” in 2013.

“Dawn of Justice” is no exception, the scenes with Kent and Amy Adam’s Lois Lane did not come off forced and were genuinely charming.

Unfortunately, when Kent switched into the cape everything changed for their relationship and this movie.

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Lane was relegated to nothing more than a damsel in distress. I understand that’s how it works, Lane gets in trouble and Superman saves her, but she was seconds away from death from what I counted, three times in this movie.

Instead of building their relationship, which they did perfectly in the Kent scenes, it just came off as a lazy way to explain why Superman was or was not here.

Other than these three, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor had the most screen time.

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Eisenberg was trying a different approach as the villainous Luthor and it did not work. It felt like Eisenberg watched “The Dark Knight” and took notes on Heath Ledger’s method of playing a villain.

There’s nothing wrong with that, as Ledger’s Joker is one of the most iconic villains ever, but I don’t feel like it hit the right notes with Eisenberg and just came across as a poor duplicate.

Eisenberg stammered and fumbled through a lot of his dialogue, which helped get Luthor’s kookiness across, but it quickly got old, especially when his dialogue resulted in nothing worthwhile.

The starting and stopping of Luthor’s dialogue was matched by the editing of the film as a whole.

Too many cuts and fades to black made this two and a half hour watch feel even longer.

This was matched with a soundtrack that rose and sharply cut, which built great suspense and great cliffhangers. The unfortunate thing is that this happened way too many times and by the end of the movie it almost felt comical as it continued.

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The diverse soundtrack added to the jarring effect, especially when Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman took the screen. Her Amazonian theme did not match that of the movie and felt pasted together, which can be said about the role of Wonder Woman in this movie altogether.

While watching “Dawn of Justice,” I began to wonder how much better it would be as a television series. The cliffhangers would actually have weight and a full season would be able to give all the storylines adequate time to make them feel important.

Ultimately, that is the biggest offender in this film: It has too much going on.

“Dawn of Justice” is the groundwork for a franchise that is already confirmed to have nine movies released in the next four years, including two direct sequels.

It felt like Warner Brothers wanted to throw small teasers in this movie to promote all of those upcoming releases.

In the end I exited the theater with a lot of unanswered questions.

The teases and implications “Dawn of Justice” rolled out left me excited to get more but disappointed with what I got. It’s a solid movie that is carried by its strong lead performances and interesting characters but once you get past the two main attractions, there is very little there for the time being.

Games That Defined My 2015

2015 was one of the strongest years in gaming that I can remember. There were a ton of surprises, AAA games that lived up to the hype, and older games that were revitalized.

I sat down and tried to compile a list of my favorite games of the year, and in previous years, I always felt confident that those were my ten favorite games of that year, but this year was different. I felt bad for leaving certain games off my top ten, but there was simply no room. I guess that’s a good problem to have…?

When considering which game I enjoyed the most, a ton of factors came into play, and those factors would change the results. Which game gave me a story that I’m still thinking about? Well, this game did. Which game had the most memorable moment that I’ll always remember? Well, that goes to this other game. Which game had the most fun gameplay that I keep wanting to return to? Well, that’s this game. So on, so on.

I tried to narrow it down as much as I could. Two.

Two games that combine everything I loved about gaming in 2015 into two masterpieces. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and Bloodborne.

Before we dive into that, check out some of the highlights from my year in gaming, as captured by my PS4.

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METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN

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The above scene was one of the most memorable, and haunting moments I’ve witnessed in a game.

Metal Gear Solid is my favorite franchise, not just in gaming, but in any type of media, ever. So it’s no surprise that the swan song of the series was my favorite game this year.

The Phantom Pain is the best Metal Gear game and it feels like series creator Hideo Kojima was finally able to accomplish what he set out to do nearly 30 years ago.

The gameplay is the smoothest I have ever played. It’s remarkable how easy it is to transition your plans and ideas into the game. It doesn’t handcuff you or hinder you in any way.

Metal Gear has gotten bad slack in the past for being heavily story driven, and taking control away from the player too much. The Phantom Pain is the antithesis of the typical Metal Gear game.

There are few moments of story where gameplay is stripped from you, which made the story moments feel important, and heavy.

And they were, as The Phantom Pain did things and went places that I have never seen a mainstream video game go. There were moments in that game that left me dumbfounded and others that left me flat out disturbed.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is an achievement in gaming. It transcends the barrier between game and gamer and gave me feelings a video game has never done before.


BLOODBORNE

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Bloodborne always looks this great.

I was nervous about Bloodborne. I had tried From Software’s previous titles, and could never get attached to them.

From Software is known for making some of the most difficult and unforgiving video games. That’s always turned me off to them.

I’m not into gaming for the difficulty or frustration.

Then I realized why people play these games… It’s rewarding.

When I finally figured out Bloodborne, I reached a certain boss who I was hung up on for two days. I had to take a break from the game for a week, and when I returned I was finally able to defeat the boss. The satisfaction I felt defeating that boss is what gaming is all about.

I’m *probably* never going to kill a giant deformed wolf monster in real life, but doing it in Bloodborne felt satisfactory enough.

My favorite thing about Bloodborne was the world, the creatures, and the lore.

Everything is very Lovecraftian, and the creatures are disgustingly fun to look at.

The story of the game revolves around the moon, which is just about always in sight and creates for beautiful landmarks, juxtaposed by a giant tentacle Elder God crawling on a building.

Bloodborne had the best style of any game I played this year, and the interesting world left me thirsty to learn more.


Maybe one day I’ll dive more into the other games that made this year so great, but for now, these are the two I felt like I took the most from.

Here’s my entire Top 10 of 2015. The rankings aren’t very strict, any of these games could by my number one on a certain day. They’re all great and all deserved to be checked out.

1.) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

2.) Bloodborne

3.) Shovel Knight

4.) Super Mario Maker

5.) Xenoblade Chronicles X

6.) Project CARS

7.) Rocket League

8.) Batman: Arkham Knight

9.) Until Dawn

10.) Her Story

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See you in 2016

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (Spoiler Free) Review

Let me begin by saying that I have never been a huge Star Wars fan. I never gave in to the culture and fandom it spawned. Sure, lightsabers are cool, Darth Vader is legendary, Yoda is pretty neat, but overall, the movies just never did anything for me.

The announcement of the new movie and hype leading up to its release I met with indifference.

Since I knew I would watch it when it came out with my friends, I decided to try and make the most of it… So I did not watch any trailers or teasers and tried my best to avoid any type of information about the film until I went and watched it (great idea by the way, you should try it).

That said…

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a spectacle.

Seeing “STAR WARS” blast on the theater screen with the trademark theme blasting made me feel like I was witnessing something special.

I’ll keep this somewhat brief, because I don’t want to give away too much.

The Force Awakens is a true space adventure, unlike any space movie I’ve seen in recent years. The worlds and creatures are imaginative and fun to witness.

The main characters in the film are all interesting and each offer a story that left me wanting to know more.

The performances are all spot on, as well. Which is remarkable considering I’ve never heard of a large majority of this cast.

My complaint about The Force Awakens is that is a bit too parallel to Episode IV: A New Hope.

I want to call The Force Awakens formulaic, and in the grand scheme of things, it very well may be, but it throws enough monkey wrenches to make things feel fresh.

The formulaic nature makes it feel predictable, then 1/3 through the movie this happens, which left me saying “Oh… okay.”

The Force Awakens is the introductory movie in a brand new trilogy in every sense. You’re gonna meet a lot of people. You’re gonna have a lot of unanswered questions. 

I am concerned that with two more movies in this trilogy already confirmed, and a spin off movie coming next year, this special feeling will stop being special, and become commonplace.

Regardless, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens lays foundation for what is to come, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Quick note: If you’ve had the movie “spoiled” for you, don’t worry. There is no one, end all, be all spoiler for this movie. The only way I could see a spoiler ruining the movie is if you were told the entire plot. So go see it anyways.

Your Stories Will Always Remain… As Will Your Valiant Hearts

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is something special.  Developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, Valiant Hearts is, at its core, a puzzle game.  Now I’m not huge on puzzle games, mainly because I like to turn off my brain when I play games, but Valiant Hearts isn’t just a puzzle game.  It’s an adventure, a family story, a message, and a history lesson all blended together into one endearing experience.

As the title indicates, Valiant Hearts takes place during World War I.  Gameplay is split between 4 characters, but I’d like to focus on Emile, who is French, and his German son-in-law, Karl.  Both of these men are forced into war after Karl gets deported from his family in France.  Gameplay alternates between serving the French army, as Emile, and the German army, as Karl.  It’s an interesting take on the war.  The game keeps an objective tone and doesn’t favor either side.  Instead, it focuses on the men themselves, and their personal lives.  The game isn’t about fighting or winning, it’s about surviving to be reunited with your loved ones.

Valiant Hearts has my favorite instance of collectibles in a game to date.  Each level has a set amount of hidden collectibles and it’s up to the player to dig them out, same old routine.  However, the collectibles are mini-history lessons.  All the items are artifacts and relics from World War I.  Collecting the item will give you a brief summary on what it is, or what it was used for.  For instance, I found a urine soaked handkerchief outside of an abandoned trench.  I learned that soldiers used this to protect themselves from mustard gas when a gas mask wasn’t available.   Some collectibles are actual real-life letters written to and from loved ones, and pictures as well.  It’s all incredibly powerful and eye-opening to the hell these people went through.

The entire game has a somber, somewhat futile tone to it.  War is painful for soldiers, families, civilians, anyone and everyone.  Valiant Hearts does a great job of reminding the player this.  It isn’t just a puzzle game, it’s a beautiful memorial to all of those affected by a terrible tragedy.

Favorite Cover Art from the Dreamcast and PS1

I didn’t expect there to be many from either of these systems.  I didn’t have a Dreamcast until recently, and while my brother had a PS1 growing up, I never really played it.  I guess the PS1 aisle being opposite of the N64 aisle at the rental store was good enough, because seeing some of these covers brought back all sorts of memories.

I didn’t play a ton of PS1 during its lifespan.  Honestly, I feel like I have played more PS1 in the last year or so due to the PS Classic store on the Vita.  Nonetheless, the system had a huge library with great cover art that stands out.

Last post I noted how surprised I was by the amount of GBC/N64 ported games.  That issue popped up again here.  For some reason I don’t remember there being a ton of cross-platform games during this time, but I was definitely wrong.

The Dreamcast has more than one game, so that’s something.


Dreamcast

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PS1

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