As 2015 wraps up, I’ve decided to write up a quick post that’s a small reflection on this years’ titles. Nothing major, because I haven’t even played some of the biggest contenders (such as The Witcher 3, I don’t have the equipment for it). Therefore, I’ve got a much more personal, unexpected candidate, similar to how Terraria was my game of the year in 2013. It’s a choice from the “indie” pool again.
Grim Dawn is a game that I’ve poured nearly 150 hours since around October. Today, I even started a new character just because I feel so inspired to try out new class combinations.
An action RPG in the vein of Diablo, Grim Dawn features a post-apocalyptic steampunk universe invaded by Aetherial and chaotic, Chtonic creatures. The hero awakes after being possessed by a monster and finds himself or herself with newfound powers, such as using riftgates (basically town portals and waypoints between zones). With a large collection of rifles, swords, axes, magical scepters and hordes of monsters to slay, Grim Dawn delivers a fairly traditional yet refined theory-crafting-focused RPG with lots of replayability.
My best summation for the game is “it’s what Diablo 3 would be if it were more like Diablo 2.” Grim Dawn keeps some of the better design choices that made Diablo 2 a timeless game, like the ability to trade items between players, better focus on single-player gameplay, and a lack of endlessly scalable, random dungeons, instead sticking additional difficulty levels on the same campaign.
The combat feels visceral, there are so many build combinations, and lots of interesting items that open up build possibilities rather than limit them. The six available classes can be paired up, giving access to two skill trees simultaneously. While it’s plenty intimidating at first, it offers for lots of freedom and flexibility, the kind when you get more and more excited as you read each skill. Tack onto that a Devotion system where you unlock bonuses on a star constellation and you can serve up a character just the way you like.
With a bit of polish and balance, the game has so much potential to become really big in 2016. Having received over $500,000 in Kickstarter money, I have high hopes for the small team. I only wish it had even more funding and resources to get the polish it needs. Sound and graphics could use a bit more oomph and polish. Hopefully, things will get even better when Grim Dawn graduates from Early Access in February 2016.
Close runner-up: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
I love MGS, and I was extremely impressed by Ground Zeroes. That game was an hour long, but it tore into me more than most games I’ve played in recent months. The Phantom Pain didn’t deliver such emotion, at least not in short bursts, but over a prolonged campaign. Gameplay-wise, it’s almost perfect. If only its world was more alive. I’m mainly disappointed by the farming-like aspects of the base and online play, but even more so by the lackluster, unfinished second chapter. It’s mainly doing the same missions as before but with more demanding conditions. It’s ironic how many people complain that MGS has too much story and cutscenes, and in this one MGS, there’s a definite lack of them, and that is what I am craving.
Definite not game of the year: Fallout 4
I bought it to try it, got hooked a bit, and the game feels somewhat hollow ultimately. It doesn’t have as much roleplaying potential as the older games. It feels like it wants to preoccupy you more with meticulous crafting, scrap collecting, and settlement building. Ultimately, no matter how much time I can pour into it, the houses will stay just as shanty as ever. I recommend Skyrim.