2015 was a year in which the triple-A offerings of the industry were as underwhelming as they have ever been. It was a good year for you to make progress on your backlog, and that’s exactly what I did. I finally got around to playing games that I have heard about for years like Deadly Premonition, Hotline Miami and Fez. My Playstation 4 mostly collected dust for the second straight year as Sony failed to release a compelling exclusive for the console once again. I finished about 30 games, less than half of which were released in 2015. Most of what I played that was new was – okay I guess. I won’t remember 2015 as a banner year in gaming, but I will remember it for providing the best isometric RPG of the past 15 years. Quality over quantity, I suppose.
Favorite game released before 2015, played in 2015: The Cat Lady
I bought this depression-themed horror/adventure game on a whim. If I never play any of the other games that I have impulse purchased for $1.99, then it was still worth buying all of them just to find this one gem. The game’s memorable story hits home by taking you on a journey through just about every emotion that you can feel. It is funny and depressing. It is uplifting and disgusting. It is charming and horrifying. And, it has just enough traditional gameplay to make it a legitimate adventure game. The Cat Lady is a game that I won’t soon forget.
5. The Talos Principle: The Road to Gehenna
This game was a bit of a letdown from The Talos Principle, but it still had enough philosophy and quality puzzle solving to make it worthwhile. It offered some interesting twists in its storytelling, although its gameplay could have used more variety. It was still a worthy expansion to what I think is the best game in years.
Technobabylon had my favorite story for 2015. It combined traditional cyberpunk dystopian fiction with some very interesting takes on genetic engineering. It also featured solid point and click gameplay, proving that you can still deliver story in an adventure game without sacrificing what actually makes it a game.
3. Her Story
I went into Her Story with a lot of skepticism. It was this year’s “art game” that got everyone all excited. But unlike past years’ “art games”, Her Story was actually still a game, albeit one with barebones mechanics. Its intriguing story easily made up for its simplicity. Her Story is a game for people who, when they see a complex or a confusing movie, love to get onto internet message boards to swap theories about it.
2. Age of Wonders III – The Eternal Lords
Thanks to a couple of very good expansions, Age of Wonders III has developed into a great turn-based strategy game. The second expansion, The Eternal Lords, added the usual expansion features like new races and abilities. But it also added a new way to play the game with the Necromancer class. The Necromancer is an excellent class for this game and the undead were implemented very cleverly. Thanks to this game, I sunk another huge chunk of time into Age of Wonders III this year.
1. Pillars of Eternity
This game could have easily occupied more than one slot on this list, because it was so far and away my favorite game of the year. It took every bad trend that has hit PC RPGs in the past decade and wiped them away in one swift stroke. In place of those bad trends, it implemented all kinds of clever solutions to old problems. It was a great game made by people who are just really good at nuts and bolts game design. It was a great value too, offering a huge world with 60+ hours of gameplay that didn’t involve a lot of repetition. Pillars of Eternity is a shining testament to the power of crowd funding and a great example of what an indie developer can accomplish when they are well funded, but not overburdened by publisher oversight.
Honorable Mention: Tormentum: Dark Sorrow, Sorcerer King