2015 turned out to be a pretty good year for video games. As we approach the end of the year, it's natural to reflect back on all the games we played over the past 12 calendar months. This week, we are going to do just that. Here's a list of our coverage:
Monday – The Disappointing Games of 2015
Tuesday – The Games We Wish We Played
Wednesday – The Surprises of 2015
Thursday – Our Favorite Games of 2015
First, let's start with our disappointments. Every year there are games that get a lot of hype ahead of their release—and then fail to meet expectations. This can happen for a million different reasons: The game could have technical setbacks, or perhaps the gap between expectation and reality was simply too big. Disappointment is something that can be localized to a writer; one man's game of the year is another man's biggest disappointment. And you'll see that reflected in some of our choices. Some games that appear today among our list of disappointments may also show up on our best games of the year lists. Embrace the chaos of subjective opinions and a varied staff that exercises those opinions vocally.
Broken Age - After the fiscal fiasco that was Broken Age’s rather broken development, I wanted nothing more than to have the finished product actually vindicate Tim Schafer and his Double Fine studio. I wanted Broken Age to be brilliant. Artistically it was. But it’s possible that Schafer’s best stories may be behind him. That’s pretty harsh of me. I take it back. But boy oh boy was I bored with Broken Age.
The Deer God - The Deer God is what happens when a wonderful pixel artist conjures wonderful pixel art, but doesn’t have any story to tell. The game has a single idea—what if a deer is reincarnated by a deer god?—but that’s as deep as it gets, and it's just not that deep, bro. There’s nothing more to tell, and, after a few minutes, there’s even less to do.
Grow Home - I’m not disappointed with Grow Home. I’m disappointed in the voting tendencies of the PlayStation collective. When Grow Home became one of three PS Plus games on the voting docket (to see which game would be free for PS Plus members), I threw my hat in the ring with Armello. Not Grow Home. I wanted to get my hands on Armello’s hexagonal, Redwall-inspired strategy makings. Anyway, sure, Grow Home's left-right left-right trigger-pulling climb-'em-up was fun for a minute, but yeah.
Fallout 4 - I am sure to get hate for this, but stick with me here. When I'm playing the Fallout games, I usually go the route of the "bad karma, destroy everything for my amusement" type of adventurer. I'm the guy that blew up Megaton in Fallout 3 because it was something to do and it got me a nice apartment and a ton of caps. I don't care about your good karma nor do I care about saving someone's child. The main story of Fallout 4 is not a good one for me and I hate that every single answer, no matter how nice or sarcastic you are, all leads to the same end. This game has fallen flat for me and I was done playing it within a week. It's a shame.
Evolve - I played a lot of the beta. I enjoyed it, even though it felt repetitive. Then, when the main title came out, I played it for a very short period of time and called it a day. There was nothing that really gripped me in the beta, other than trying to wipe out everything I could as a monster. While the premise of the game was initially fun, it had no staying power. It's a shame because there could have been so much more added to make this disappointing title great.
Tony Hawk: Pro Skater 5 - I'm a veteran of the THPS series, so when I heard that a new title was coming out, I had high hopes that I would get a game like THPS 3 or 4, or even Underground. Instead, what we received was a glitchy mess that somewhat resembled the THPS games. It's a shame what's happened to this series. It firmly belongs on the disappointment list simply because I think it's time to kill this IP.
Super Mario Maker - I hate to call this a disappointment because it really isn’t a bad game, but…I was honestly disappointed by Super Mario Maker. It’s a staggeringly simple level editor, flush with a surprising number of options, and has a deep toolset. Yet it didn’t let me, personally, do what I wanted to do with a Mario level editor. Mario Maker is focused on creating individual levels and then sharing them/posting them to YouTube.
I don’t want to build goofy stages made entirely out of coins, or crazy Rube Goldberg contraptions that play themselves. I want to make world maps. I want to connect levels. I want to make a sequel to Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. I know PewDiePie is all the rage with the kids these days, but Mario Maker feels like an inordinately complicated way to break into the Let’s Play scene. Hopefully Mario Maker will get more robust with DLC packs, but for now it makes me feel really hamstrung.
This War of Mine - I finally got around to picking it up on sale. I know everyone was raving about it last year but I just can’t get into it. At least to me, the game doesn’t exactly portray the desperation everyone else seems to see in it. It’s just frustrating. As far as survival games go I’ve honestly had a lot more fun just replaying State of Decay. In This War of Mine, there are never enough supplies to make headway on much of anything, and when I go out to get more supplies, there’s always some irritating obstacle blocking the path to exactly what I need. First you need a saw, then you need an axe, then you need a radio and lockpicks and geez these survivors are mopey and useless. The gameplay isn’t tense, it’s just obstinate, contradictory and annoying—what I like to call "Catch-22 gameplay." It reminded me of those cheapo free-to-play mobile game where you just run up against a bunch of paywalls. Oh look, the bearded guy is sick again and the lady is still hungry. Snore.
Fallout 4 - Yeah, I said it. I must be up front and honest: I am not a huge fan of the franchise to begin with. However, I let all of the hoopla and talk prior to the game’s release, particularly by other members of the staff, draw me into the frenzy of the game’s launch and convince me to join the masses in picking it up. After about 10 hours into the game, I think that my time in the Wasteland officially ended with little or no desire to return.
Star Wars Battlefront - The beta test of Battlefront sucked me into the franchise. I loved what I played and couldn’t wait to see what else they had to offer in the full game. Little did I know that there really wasn’t going to be anything else. It was a lot of fun as a free beta, but not so much as a full retail purchase.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 - I have traditionally been a casual CoD fan, actually enjoying the campaigns more than the multiplayer experience. There is just something about its over-the-top scenarios that entertain me like a B-level summer action film. But this year’s edition just didn’t do it for me. I found the campaign to be confusing and lackluster, leading me away from the game before I could even make it to the end.
Mortal Kombat X - The actual fighting is fine but everything else was just so disappointing. Some of the new characters hardly get any time to shine at all in the story—which was all over the place and filled with loose ends. Characters show up in the story mode and then disappear to wherever. Characters who should have been on the playable roster are making "cameo" appearances, while characters like Jax, Kano, Kung Lao, Kitana, Liu Kang and such get in. Absolutely atrocious netcode. Seriously, in MK9 I have, like, 2000+ online games played. In MKX I have maybe 100, because I just couldn't take it anymore. Mortal Kombat X was supposed to be the "next generation" of Mortal Kombat, and yet all of the classic MK characters got tons of DLC and unlockable skins. How many new skins, total, did the brand new characters get? Zero. Now we get the news of Kombat Pack 2 with more guest characters and only two Mortal Kombat characters.
Batman: Arkham Knight - Too much Batmobile, needing to find all of the Riddler Trophies to get the best ending, and bugs all over the place. This time around I think the scope of what Rocksteady wanted to accomplish was too much in too short of a time frame. This is one of those games that eventually became a chore to play. I was interested enough in the story to see where it was going, but even that wound up disappointing. Then you've got the lackluster DLC on top of everything.
Hatred - I looked past the controversy when Hatred was announced, thinking there might be something beyond the surface of pointless killing. Well, I admit to being wrong on this one as, midway through the campaign, I had lost all interest in what could barely be described as a coherent narrative. Not to mention the game was plagued by severe performance issues upon launch and other issues such as difficulty spikes. Fortunately, later patches have fixed some of these issues.
Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited - I am a huge Elder Scrolls fan. I had heard all the mixed reviews about ESO, but I was confident my love for the series and the world would pull me through and I would love it anyway. I was wrong. I couldn't be bothered to get more than a few hours into the game. This is something I plan on revisiting, for sure, but the fact that it didn't immediately pull me in like every other Elder Scrolls was disappointment into and of itself.
Mortal Kombat X - Admittedly, I'm not really a huge fan of fighting games in general. I am, however, a huge fan of Mortal Kombat 9 and Injustice, which was basically Mortal Kombat 9.5. I'm not really even sure what it is I didn't like about Mortal Kombat X. Maybe the great story of Mortal Kombat 9, which took me all throughout the history of the series—and the superhero sweater worn by Injustice—was what was needed to get me interested. But with those things missing in Mortal Kombat X, I just couldn't quite find it in me to keep playing.
Neverwinter - Maybe this should have tempered my expectations for ESO, but it didn't. I was so excited about the prospect of massively multiplayer games coming to consoles, but Neverwinter didn't seem to have anything interesting about it except the massively multiplayer component, which was disappointing.
Batman Arkham Knight - For the first few hours, this was a Batman game I really enjoyed. As a fan of all the Arkham games—except for Origins—Knight was supposed to be the grand finale for Rocksteady. Instead, it turned into a bug-filled, Batmobile-heavy disappointment, especially after you defeat Scarecrow. There were some truly great moments in the game, like the scenes with Barbara Gordon and Man-Bat. But then they make these awful decisions, such as making you collect every single Riddler clue to get the special ending, and having you fight Deathstroke in a tank battle. PC folks found the game unplayable and it's still having issues now. Arkham Knight, for me, went from being Game of the Year to one of my most disappointing games, and I can't remember the last game that did that to me.
Dragon Age: Inquisition - For most, this was a 2014 game, but it was 2015 by the time I picked it up. After playing for 20 minutes, however, I put it back down and haven't turned it back on. I've heard such great things, and maybe my character creation was off, but as soon as I got into the action I was so disillusioned by the combat mechanics and lack of depth I perceived early on that I just couldn't give it another go.
Evolve - I think there were some solid ideas that went into this one. I really applaud Turtle Rock for many of their design decisions. But ultimately it's a one-trick pony that had some outrageous DLC prices attached to elements that didn't really offer any depth but seemed to concentrate on adding new skins to an already-tired experience. If you rolled all the DLC into one $20 season pass, I'd probably just move on. But to try and eke out multiple "Season Passes" without really providing the content bumps in this present day and age (where DLC is justifiably getting a bad reputation as means for a publisher to put the squeeze on its own fan base) is a step too far for me to ignore.
FIFA 16 - I adore the FIFA series more than other, and I really like this year's gameplay improvements, but there are two things about the current iteration that have soured me. The first is semingly no fault of the game, but when UC Dublin was relegated last year in real life, I found myself with no go-to team to start my career mode. What that really revealed, however, is the lack of lower-league depth in the FIFA series. Yeah, there are four flights of English Leagues, but after that, the pickings of squads available—to truly start at the bottom and work your way to greatness—are slim. The other object of my ire is the ridiculous "The Invincibles" trophy which requires you to win four matches with a FUT Online Draft team. It's disheartening to know when a game releases that I may never be good enough to get the platinum trophy, because winning four games in a row online is possibly above my skill level, and to add to the fact that it costs 15,000 coins just to enter is well beyond my means to get enough attempts to succeed. So now, without career mode, with a FUT mode that laughs in my face, and just not being skilled enough to derive the requisite pleasure from online competition consistently, what am I left with?
Star Wars Battlefront - Part of me really wants to overlook the shallowness of Battlefront because of how pretty the game is and how perfectly it recreates the Star Wars universe. That part is overruled, though, by the part that asks why I'm not playing more of the game and why it's already collecting dust.
What do you think? Be sure to leave us a comment and check back tomorrow when we look back at the games we wish we had played this year.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.