2015 was full of interesting releases, so many in fact that it was impossible to review them all. Covering the individual release news would take up a lot of space and time, but I’ll still try to find a structure here. Disregarding the articles featuring games which were later reviewed, there are still enough left. In order not to bombard you with too many, it’s maybe best to first cover the GOG releases, i.e. games that aren’t available in digital form anywhere else.
Afterlife was a long forgotten sim gem with dark humor from LucasArts who would later become famous for their point-and-click adventure and Star Wars games. Starship Titanic, written by sci-fi humorist Douglas Adams, served as another example of how Good Old Games brought back very rare and quirky titles. Al-Qadim: The Genie’s Curse was an alternative action-RPG experience, set in the Arabian Nights, while Toonstruck showed that Christopher Lloyd wasn’t only able to travel in time, but also in a great FMV comic adventure that had some great puzzles (and the release had a very cool put-yourself-in-a-game-environment contest).
These titles already hinted at the companies joining forces with the DRM-free revolution, namely Bethesda Softworks which also meant that Quake and Wolfenstein were now available (even if not completely in Germany), Forgotten Realms, Lucasfilm (or LucasArts, a bit more Lucasfilm (with the unrelated DRM-free release of Syberia and Supreme League of Patriots) and obviously loads of Star Wars games and sales. Telltale Games adventures and even more Telltale Games releases with a contest and a big sale also joined forces with the DRM-free revolution. Another big publisher offering some (even if not all, looking at the Lego games) DRM-free love was Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. GOG knew how to promote the release of their non-exclusives with contests, as seen with the Broken Age – Act 2 creative writing contest, the Dead Synchronicity fiction contest, and the Grim Fandango Remastered fan art project.
Of course these games were also available on other platforms (including consoles), but it’s always nice to have DRM-free copies. So some titles which were old news for Steam owners came into their own, with card battling adventure Card City Nights, dystopian point-and-clicker The Moment of Silence, cultural adventure-platformer Never Alone – Arctic Collection, JRPGs Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale and Chantelise: A Tale of Two Sisters, shoot-’em-up REVOLVER360 RE:ACTOR, colorful platformer Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – Director’s Cut, artful adventure The Void and wonderfully weird brain-teaser World of Goo.
The highest number of articles was focused on games which weren’t only DRM-free, but were released simultaneously in various online distribution stores, with a few even making their debut on consoles. Albedo: Eyes from Outer Space was a throwback to campy 50ies sci-fi in an adventure environment. Apotheon went even so far back that it had the aesthetics of a Greek urn and with action-platformer gameplay. Armello looked like a cute but brutal boardgame with animal warring factions. Armikrog was even weirder with its claymation and strange characters, even if puzzles didn’t look that great. Speaking of not so great, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 seemed a good game, but after reviewing it, the end result wasn’t that accomplished.
Episodic gaming was still strong in 2015, and with so many releases, predominantly from Telltale Games, it was easy to lose touch with all the episodes, as can be seen with Game of Thrones – Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness and Minecraft: Story Mode – Ep. 1: The Order of the Stone, the former having already been concluded at the end of the year and the latter soon following suit. Dreamfall Chapters – Book 2: Rebels was another example of how long The Longest Journey‘s sequel series could take, although the third and fourth instalments have been released since then. The same held true for Life is Strange – Episode 2, another episodic game I’m eager to play and review this year, if possible. Once in a while it’s also possible to release a complete season, as the quirky QTE-heavy adventure D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die – Season One showed. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Hearts of Stone was different way of doing value-for-money DLC without the typical costume, snippets of story missions cut from the original practice so many companies rely on these days.
There were also a few ports, either from consoles or iOS to PC or the other way around, e.g. with the action-adventure Darksiders II – Deathinitive Edition, strategy adventure 80 Days and RPG on the go QuestRun.
Bringing old games up to date or at least in a playable form had become a standard. But that’s okay if these were some landmark titles like JRPG Grandia II Anniversary Edition, action-adventure Little Big Adventure – Enhanced Edition, platformer Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty and FPS with RPG elements System Shock in its Enhanced Edition, now also available on Steam. The same happened with DNA-mutation RTS Impossible Creatures which would take years to finally materialize on Valve’s platform and then later on GOG as well.
Before bringing this long article to a close with all the other releases, it’s easier to mention those games that were only available on mobile platforms. These were Pokémon Rumble World on 3DS, a fun free-to-play action-RPG that is only let down by its monetary concept, and Rockfest on iOS that has great potential for bands and artists to promote their music in this quirky festival sim.
Finally, there was a wide variety of different genres. Adventure games were very prominent, although they turned out to be more experimental, as in the hacker experience Else Heart.Break(), metroidvania-platformer-adventure hybrid Hot Tin Roof – The Cat That Wore A Fedora. Obviously some played the genre safe with sci-fi first-person adventure Morning Star – Descent to Deadrock, retro Read Only Memories, although survival horror White Night surely had a very interesting black-and-white look to it.
Pixel art was still the way to go for some indie developers, and while the violent arcade murder simulation with an ironic touch Hotline Miami 2 – Wrong Number couldn’t be distinguished from the first game, Western shooter A Fistful of Gun at least tried something different, although not much. Hard West used the same setting, but in a post-apocalyptic world with turn-based strategy elements.
Dungeons 2: A Game of Winter was a winter make-up add-on for the spiritual Dungeon Keeper sequel. Exploration adventure Kholat had even more snow with strange proceedings at the Devil’s Pass. Pillars of Eternity and Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut were very old-school RPGs, but seemed to tick all the right boxes, the latter improving on the first release version. Oceanhorn – Monster of Uncharted Seas looked and played like Zelda.
Bullet hell shooter Solar Shifter EX was a blast visually, Sublevel Zero evoked memories of 360-degree-shooter Descent, while Valhalla Hills brought back the classic RTS building genre so prominent in the Cultures series.
But it wasn’t all rehashed ideas or reinvented franchises, as some titles either looked fantastic, like platformer Ori and the Blind Forest, told rich stories in an unusual environment, like physics-based puzzler Mushroom 11 or maritime exploration game Sunless Sea. Some even took everyday work and made fun of it, as Human Resource Machine played with office tasks and Mini Metro with subway lines puzzling.
All in all, there were expected and unexpected releases in gaming last year, so did you like any in particular or know of titles which haven’t been featured here and you’d like to see covered? Let me know!
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