As you may have surmised from last week’s post, internet, I didn’t think this was a great year for individual games. I thought it was great for platforms, with the PS4 and Xbox One delivering so much more than I would have every expected, but for AAA game development, it was kind of a wash. Dragon Age Inquisition seems to be winning a lot of Game of the Years from sites, and notably, the VGXs. Inquisition is probably the best Dragon Age game made, and it’s a fine game, but I was never blow away by it. It is paint-by-numbers Bioware, even if those numbers add up to a really great game. For me, you really need to be impressed to give a Game of the Year win. There has to be a wow factor. Not many games this year even came close to this. So, without any further explanation, let’s look at my two runner-ups before hitting the winner.
Second Runner-up – The Binding of Isaac Rebirth
I know that the original Binding of Isaac is not a new game, but I’m counting Rebirth as a new entry this year because of the sheer amount of content it added, including completely revamped graphics. I was hesitant about giving this slot to Rebirth. There were a few other games I kicked around for the second runner-up slot, but, in the end, replayability won out for me. The Binding of Isaac is possibly the most replayable game I’ve every played. Every run can be completed in about an hour, and every run is utterly unique.
And there’s something really empowering about a game that is half skill and half luck. A skilled player doesn’t need to worry as much about the random items they get in each playthrough, but everyone, whether they’re newbies or veterans, loves to get a totally broken combination of items that makes the very challenging game a cakewalk. Trust me, when you get your first really great combo, you’ll be hopelessly hooked, and be playing this game for months on end.
First Runner-up – Bayonetta 2
The original Bayonetta is one of the best action games ever made. When Platinum first announced its Wii U exclusivity, many people balked at the idea, confident that it would be a weak cash-in. Well, time has certainly proved them wrong. Bayonetta 2 was released to near-universal acclaim. Though I’m not sure I would say Bayonetta 2 is better than the original, it certainly brings all of the good from its predecessor, which is exactly what fans wanted.
What separates Bayonetta 2 from the winner of the Game of the Year accomplishment this year is that Bayonetta 2 does almost nothing different from the original. It’s a wonderful game, but entirely derivative. While some sequels such as Dark Souls elevate the concepts behind the original, Bayonetta 2 plays more like a modded version of Bayonetta 1. Of course, the action is dialled up quite a bit, and there’s tons of new content to fall in love with, but it’s the lack of real evolution in its gameplay that stop this excellent game from claiming the top prize.
Game of the Year
This has been kind of a dud year, which is why it’s so surprising that a game so stuffed with charm and content would exist alongside the likes of the bankrupt Assassin’s Creed Unity. As I stated in my review, Shovel Knight is a modern classic. I didn’t say that hyperbolically. This is a platformer built on solid foundations that takes everything to a completely new level in charm. Even a single one of the bosses has more personality than every character combined in Skyrim, or every character combined across Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, God of War, and Halo. Though Shovel Knight takes a lot of queues from classics such as Castlevania, Mega Man, Super Mario Bros., Metroid, and Duck Tales, it manages to be something that really stands shoulder-to-shoulder with these greats.
At first glance, it would be easy to write off Shovel Knight as another retro platformer. To do so, however, would be a mistake. Yacht Club Games had a vision, and knew exactly how to make the most fun, accessible and downright charming platformer they could. I praised Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze for bringing back the series to excellence, but Shovel Knight is on another level. There is a big difference between making an excellent game, and making one that people will remember years into the future. With Shovel Knight now coming to Sony systems, I’m hoping that more people get a chance to play this gem.
Dishonourable Mention – Destiny
Destiny is the worst AAA game to come out this year. It’s not about disappointment. Destiny is an objectively bad game. The core shooting mechanics are, in fact, the only thing about Destiny that actually works, which has convinced some people that it’s fine, when they’d actually be way better off going back to Halo. Destiny is a game with so little content that it should have been sold for $15 at most. It is a game with a story and lore so absent from the main game itself that the entire thing is a lost mess. It is a game where the developers promised 10 years of support, which means they will sell very tiny updates to games for $20 a piece in a display of unacceptable selling of content that should have been in the original game. Oh, and Bungie has already started talking about a sequel despite this “10 year plan”.
Destiny is a game where everything is made as unnecessary as possible in order to hide how bad every single facet of the game is. Leveling is stilted and unrewarding. Gearing up is a complete mess – grinding of the very worst nature in that it tricks compulsive people into thinking they’re accomplishing something. Destiny is a terrible game. It is irredeemable in my eyes, and I feel bad for every person who gets suckered into it when every single good Destiny experience (playing with others) can be replicated in dozens of games, cheaper and better.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer