Can you feel the anticipation in the air? The excitement? That general tension and jostling for position and prestige which comes along with the Annual MMGaming Awards. Arguably the most prestigious award scheme in existence (because nobody else quite gets it right half the time). As before this post is liable to be a bit late but I personally have always thought it makes more sense to actually post it after the year is over, to give everyone a fair chance. Also, admittedly last year we did not provide an Awards post (and we received several angry letters from EA who thought they had it in the bag for Dragon Age: Inquisition) but this was actually primarily due to my own reluctance to write an awards post for a year in which I had played practically none of the big releases. At the time this was due to my lack of a machine which could play any of the newest games, however, now with a new gaming rig AND a PS4 I suddenly find myself in a position where I can once again start to know what I am talking about.
So while 2014 was a bust, let us speak of it no further and immediately dive into the MMGaming Awards for 2015!
Game of the Year
Seb: I think it is worth saying right off the bat, 2015 was an absolutely fucking outstanding year for video games. I mean, the competition for the top spot was hotly contested from practically day one, and frankly the drop in quality between the top spot and second place and even then down to third place was really rather small because of just how bloody tip-top the standard was. The hype that had been built up in the lead-up to this year alone is a testament to how big some of the releases were, not forgetting hype which built up during the year, and honestly I can’t say I particularly recall any release which truly let down the hype leading into it.
So, to say that choosing my Game of the Year for 2015 was difficult would be to be lying. You see, despite the absolutely outstanding nature of its competitors, there was really only one choice I felt I could legitimately make for Game of the Year. It looks fabulous, more so than any other game on the list, its story and world is incredible with truly excellent characters and plot allowing you to explore a deep and absolutely massive world. It showed world-building on an epic scale and let us not forget the core tenant, that it was just an absolute blast to play, explore, live, love and die in. I speak no exaggeration when I say that the Witcher 3 may not even just be the best game of 2015 but also one of the best I have ever played.
Tim: I agree that 2015 has been a fantastic year for games. In fact, I would say 2015 has rekindled my love for games, to the extend of taking a day off work and getting up at the crack of dawn to play my Game of the Year. Something that I haven’t felt the desire to do for many years (growing up and becoming an adult is an influencing factor). Witcher 3 has the most engaging, gritty and believable fantasy story of any game I have ever played. The characters are excellently portrayed and have the ability to evoke a wide range of emotions in me as I played. The world is stunningly beautiful and well built which is even more impressive considering how well the game runs. While the combat can be a little repetitive (difficulty depending), the story, characters and world make this by far the most enjoyable game of the year.
Also of note, the first expansion Heart of Stone is an excellent addition to the game. It provides a great set of side missions of the same top quality as the main game… It’s just more of the Witcher 3!
Runner-Up Game of the Year
Seb: While I may have picked Witcher 3 as simply the best game of the year by a fair stretch one should still try to remember that those which lost out to it, only lost because of its outstanding nature. Truly several of the games on mine and Tim’s top five could actually have topped the charts any other year, they just happened to be up against something truly indomitable. Tim’s order of games ended up being slightly different to mine, but I don’t expect too much argument when I say that Fallout 4 was our Runner-Up Game of the Year. Any other year a Bethesda RPG would be top of the charts for the same reasons we always love them. The scope, the scale, the breadth of a massive world you are entirely free to explore with massive amounts of awesome lore to discover, fun characters to interact with and a more than enjoyable story to complete. Couple this with the fact that Fallout 4 saw some serious gameplay upgrades from Fallout 3 and actually is now a genuinely fun shooter in its own right, even without the RPG elements, and it was absolutely crackalacking.
Despite this, it was let down here and there by a few minor bits and pieces. The usual gripe of the lack of impact one can have on such a broad world and the whole new irritation that was the actually simply BAD dialogue system. What truly sunk the game for me though was more of a principle rather than the game itself. You see, CDPR had a budget of ~$53 million for The Witcher 3 and it is seems likely that the budget for Fallout 4 was double that. So with all the advantages in the world, Fallout 4 still used the same engine Bethesda have been using for years, it didn’t look as good as it could have and didn’t have quite the depth one would have hoped. Essentially, the biggest nail in the coffin of its GotY chances (for me at least), is that while it is incredible, one kind of thinks it could have been even MORE so.
Tim: Now my choice for Runner-Up was definitely far easier than I thought it would be. Fallout 4, MGS:V and Rocket League were all in the running. All providing enjoyable times throughout the year. However my second in line to the throne has to be Bloodborne. The PS4 exclusive frankly blew me away with the love, care and attention to detail the developers put into making that game. All of the systems are elegantly designed, yet brutal at the same time. It may have a similar formula to Dark Souls, but the Lovecraftian theme just ticks all of my boxes. The crazy bosses, excellent world building and difficult but rewarding gameplay propels Bloodborne to one of my favourite games of all time.
Best Looking Award for the Sexiest Game
This is a category I don’t often include for two reasons which tend to reoccur every year. First up is that one has to try and uphold the, admittedly slightly pretentious, notion that games should be judged almost entirely on their gameplay, with graphics only the icing on the cake and not the sponge itself. And this is definitely a reason which always holds water (at least if some of this year’s most popular games are to be taken into account). The other reason though is that usually the games which look the best I tend to give other awards to, and I see no reason to rave about a game more than once (can’t let it go to the Dev’s heads you understand). However, this year I feel compelled to include the category because the game which won it for me is nowhere CLOSE to the Game of the Year for me (and yes I am saying that it looks prettier than the stunning Witcher 3).
You see the game which I think is the best looking of 2015 is none other than Dice’s revamp of Battlefront. I will continue to maintain my dislike of the motivations behind the game, my opinion that the gameplay is little more than average and my staunch belief that it could have been so much better. But godammit if it doesn’t just look absolutely glorious. No game has ever quite captured my attention in a way like even the beta of Battlefront did. Add to this the fact that it perfectly captures the spirit of Star Wars in its fabulous looks and you can understand why I feel it more than deserves SOME mention for this.
P.s. If you don’t believe me then you might be shocked to know that none other than Total Biscuit agrees with me on this (if you can survive him saying “fidelity” literally a million times then you are a braver man than me).
Often one of the categories I invest most heavily in, because I love a good narrative in my games. In fact a bad story can often kill a game stone-cold dead for me. This year however I find myself in a difficult position with no game which seems to really leap out into my mind as being fabulous in terms of story. The issue here is that in the Witcher 3 I am barely into the main story at all and only know enough about the game to give my overall impressions, in Fallout 4 I am many hours into the game but have hardly touched the main story and in Pillars of Eternity and Bloodborne I’ve barely started scratching the surface. In short, the games which tend towards the top of everyone’s lists for best story are games I just haven’t played enough to make that judgement yet.
On the other hand, I there were a few games which I count as released this year by Telltale Games, which is usually a good shout for best story, but honestly neither of the finished Games of Thrones or Tales from the Borderlands actually properly seemed to strike a chord with me.
And lets not get me started on our lord and saviour Undertale…
Okay, I’m clearly just making excuses, but this is in part to excuse myself if I at a later date decide “wow the story in this game is WAY better” and also in part to say that this was another category with extremely staunch competition.
However, at the end of the day my choice for best story goes to: Life is Strange. The game itself started to drag on a bit in its final chapters and a lot of its delving into mystifying and supernatural phenomena ran a bit hollow. It’s also a game which has a very slow start, has rather difficult character and it takes a while for the former to get going and the latter to become enjoyable. For all its many faults though, I kept playing it simply because of how gripped I was by the narrative. It was a plot which kept surprising me and kept me entertained with the very brief exception of the end and despite this excellence it does not seem particularly well known. While Telltale tend to hog the spotlight for this particular style of game Dontnod Entertainment really do deserve some credit for what they have achieved here.
The Best Shooter of 2015 is Call of Dut-pahahahahahah! No. Can you imagine?
Actually the best shooter we played in 2015 is not really a full game but instead an expansion for one. Destiny: The Taken King is the most recent, and largest, expansion for the MMOFPS released by Bungie back in 2014. As I say in my review, Destiny has impressed me with its longevity, and for that alone it really probably deserves some acclaim (even though it isn’t the best shooter from 2014). It is a games company which has been making first person shooters since practically around the time I was born, and it really shows. Destiny’s combat is fast-paced, dynamic and simply great fun. The various powers allowing a surprisingly diverse experience and it is an absolute blast to play with people or against them or without them whatsoever. As well as this, The Taken King itself adds a great new storyline onto an already rather great game and some of the best raids that have been seen in MMOs full stop!
Best Indie Game
Perhaps surprisingly, this was another area of contention for me and Tim, both of us with rather different views on who should get the award and why. My immediate preference was for Pillars of Eternity by Obsidian Entertainment and Paradox due to its focus on story-telling, roleplaying and hardcore RPG gameplay. Tim on the other hand was adamant that not only was the best indie game Rocket League by Psyonix the best indie game of the year but was also in his top five games overall (putting it on par with games like Metal Gear Solid V and Fallout 4). “Why?” I hear you ask, incredulous as I was.
Well, there is one thing to consider with Rocket League. It may not be fancy. It may not be thought-provoking. There may not really be any kind of narrative depth to it at all… But frankly it’s just a fucking crack-a-lacking time driving a big rocket car about and flinging yourself at a gigantic bouncy ball.
Who even cares if it goes in the goal, amirite?
The No-Monies Award for the Game which neither of us played but both of us were interested in
Every year there are lots of games. It is a fact of life. This means that every year me and Timbo have to prioritise. We have to say “this game shall be bought and played, this game shall be bought and left to gather dust on Steam, and this game we have no monies left to buy…” Where this differs is that some years what one of us doesn’t get the other makes up for, meaning that between us we manage to get most of the major releases. But this is not always the case…
This year there was a game which has earned absolutely unreal critical acclaim considering its humble backgrounds, minimalist style and ridiculous retro graphics. Yes, I am indeed talking about Undertale. It’s a bit of a crazy situation that one of the BIGGEST gaming phenomena of 2015 completely bypassed both me and Tim, despite us both being aware of its existence. Do you know, it was so popular it even held the envy-inducing title of being one of the most pirated games of the year.
Good news though, this wee rant is probably almost entirely superfluous given that the game’s price exists somewhere in region of the GDP of Nigeria, so I’m sure that at least I will definitely end up playing it. I just wanted to make it clear that we were aware its supposed to be awesome, but neither of us actually played it despite that.
Best Trailer Award for Something which means Absolutely Nothing
You know, I fucking love my vidya trailers. I do, god help me I do. I know that they pretty much always have absolutely no baring on how good the final game will be, but damned if they can’t just be so FUCKING cool! Know what I’m saying?
Anyway, as happens every year I really struggle to pick out any absolutely defining trailer. There are numerous gameplay trailers for Star Citizen and No Man’s Sky, both of which look absolutely phenomenal. The trailers for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Dishonored 2 both remind me exactly why I liked their predecessors so damned much and have made the hype absolutely REAL.
Despite these, and numerous other excellent entries (I mean, heck, there was a new World of Warcraft cinematic, which are always fucking epic) there was one trailer that stood out in my mind, both for graphical excellence and for the simple sombre and dark style of it. It’s a game we’ve already mentioned so perhaps it is good that the best game of the year also had one of the best trailers: The Witcher 3 launch trailer:
The “Reason Crowdfunding is Good” Award for Games which Wouldn’t have Otherwise Happened
Recent years have seen a huge surge in crowdfunding, there’s no secret in this. There’s also no real secret in the fact that the new format of crowdfunding has led to some horror stories in the industry and thus led to no small amount of debate about whether it is the way forward in games or whether it is actually some kind of stumbling block which will only serve to damage things in the long run.
Creating games which seem to be entirely average, but are released powered by pure nostalgia and trust in the parent companies is only the start of possible gripes one can have. And everyone could likely name some examples of crowdfunding gone wrong! There have been numerous examples of games being funded on which development stopped rapidly and developers vanished. There have also been examples of people putting forward their hard-earned money to small projects and then feel cheated out of any meaningful contribution (with the buyout of Oculus Rift by Facebook 2 years back being one of the prime examples).
HOWEVER, things are not always bad in this part of the world. It is simple fact that without crowdfunding there are games which simply would never have seen the light of day. One genre which has particularly benefited from this is the old-school, hardcore RPG. There have been a couple of games along the lines of the ancient, but much loved, Baldur’s Gate in the past years and I wanted to briefly just mention that this has not passed us by.
There are two big names right now: Pillars of Eternity, by Obsidian Entertainment, an absolutely fabulous game which I have slowly been working my way through and last year’s Divinity: Original Sin, by Larian Studios. I have been remarkably quiet on the latter as I am STILL not finished with it, despite having owned it for so long, and so you could be forgiven for thinking I had not heard of either of these. However, trust me when I say that both games are entirely worth your time, with D:OS actually being my Game of the Year from 2014.
The “Reason Crowdfunding is Scary” Award for Jesus what are you doing with your money?
There is a flip-side of course. Hell, there always is.
While we may get some lovely games like the above because of the contributions of people around the world, we also get some behemoths like Star Citizen. Late in 2015 Star Citizen actually managed to pass the $100 million USD mark. 100 MILLION DOLLARS!
Just to put it in perspective for you, the Witcher 3, arguably one of the best games ever made, had a total budget of around $81 million. And that’s from start to finish. Right now Star Citizen is gradually working towards an “Alpha 2.0” release, so if I understand correctly, it’s not even reached the Beta stage yet and it already had a budget which would make a major Triple-A title absolutely green with envy. Plus, of course, let us not forget that they are probably still promising more and more features.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that what they’ve undertaken here is both incredible and admirable and if they pull it off there will be no doubt in my mind that the completed game WILL be a true giant. But I also think its ambitious. Massively ambitious. And they were always the first to say so. I also think that having a bunch of separate components does not a completed game make. And the feature creep we’ve seen with Star Citizen is probably the most outrageous anyone has ever seen (beyond even the ravings of Peter Molyneux). And lets not forget that this money that has been spent, has been spent on an as-yet unfinished game.
In a few years, perhaps I will look back on this as being too pessimistic and too stingy. But part of me just worries about games companies being able to get this much money without actually even having any finished product. Worst of all, this is a game that has been in development since 2012 and so if we start adding many more years on here we will quickly be entering development hell. And that’s even if the whole thing with the Escapist is to be ignored.
The “Gamers aren’t really people” Award for those who Pissed Us Off
2015 was actually a rather mild year in comparison to some previously. The launch of Batman: Arkham Knight deserves some mention as probably being one of the spottiest releases of this year, made immeasurably worse by the fact that this was a triple-A developer (Rocksteady) and with a massive triple-A game. So some hate can be directed their way.
Beyond this though, in terms of meeting promises, as far as I can make out 2015 was actually a fairly quiet year. Even Ubisoft and EA managed to get through the year without too much shit being slung their way. Perhaps the simple integrity of CD Projekt Red who, despite their huge game, continued to address fan concerns and bugs, somehow managed to bleed out into the rest of the industry this year.
Sure we’ve still got problems with “feminists” and SJWs who won’t stop until there isn’t anything resembling a decent story and decent characters in any video game anywhere (because this game has a male character, therefore it’s bad, and this female character has human flaws and therefore it’s bad). But even they’ve been fairly quiet this past year, with the whole GamerGate furore dying down somewhere around February. The biggest thing which comes up with a bit of Googling is that there were complaints about the new Doom being overly gore-y (I mean, c’mon, really?). I mean, perhaps it shouldn’t have just “gone away”, but I suppose it is a bit better for my sanity that I don’t have to be angry about it all the time now.
So, yeah. While the real world gears up for World War 3 with Russia and ISIS continues to bomb the shit out of all the good-guys, I guess video games have been pretty cool recently…
The “Gamers are our bestest pals” Award for People we Liked
Yeah, CD Projekt Red deserves another, specific mention. Everybody liked those guys.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t have any dealings with the company myself (lol, as if I have any dealings with any company) so I have to admit it’s something of a confusing thing that CDPR are being so lauded. I suppose it might be their humble origins or it might simply be that they are just nicer than all of the other big boys out there.
Whatever the case, you done good boys (apparently)!
The “Looking good bro” Award for things we are looking forward to
Well, perhaps 2016 isn’t really gearing up to be quite as fantabulous as 2015, but there are numerous things coming along with the potential to be absolutely tippity-top. Top of my list is Paradox’s Stellaris, while Paradox 4X Strategies (along the lines of Crusader Kings 2) often have the big issue of being overly complex and difficult to play, Stellaris is coming with an absolute metric fuck-tonne of potential in that it seems like you will LITERALLY be able to command your own Space Age Empire with all of the various aspects that go along with that… Which… I mean… Who doesn’t want that? However, there are other big names on their way. The Division (fuck you I’m not calling it Tom Clancy’s *hrrrk* The Division every bloody time), Dishonored 2, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided are three games with the potential to be next year’s GotY. And then there is No Man’s Sky which could be just fabulous and Star Citizen (like that’s EVER going to be released) both of which have so much hype associated with them it’s practically unfair.
All of this, of course, doesn’t even slightly touch the fact that we potentially have got Mass Effect: Andromeda coming out next year. So, y’know, there’s really no point in releasing anything else until 2017.
OH well… Guess, that’s times up.
Let’s do this.