As part of our ongoing Theme Week for January of 2016, we are looking back at some of the good and bad things about 2015. This time we asked our writers what they thought some of the bigger surprising games were in 2015, as well as giving them the opportunity to talk on the biggest disappointments. Here's what some of them thought.
Fulfilling Saturday Morning Dreams by Alex Santa Maria
You’d think that it wouldn’t be hard for developers to do right by the Transformers name. Despite being horrible films, the Transformers movie franchise has ensured that the Transformers name has never been more relevant outside of its initial boom period. Putting aside that, little boys of all ages are predisposed to appreciate the subtle joy of watching giant truck men punch each other. Activision has tried before with High Moon’s Cybertron games, which were well made shooters that decided to forge their own timeline and eventually link up with the movies.
When the franchise transferred into Platinum’s hands, everyone immediately remembered The Legend of Korra and ran for the hills. Thankfully, it seemed that Korra was only a temporary mistake, and Platinum brought their A game to Transformers Devastation. A fully interactive version of the 80s cartoon, Devastation is an amazing treat for fans which came out of nowhere. It managed to satisfy Transformers diehards and the Character Action junkies that follow Platinum’s releases, and felt like that mythical B-Tier game that dropped away for so many years. Here’s hoping that Platinum’s TMNT game can live up to these same expectations.
Of course, not every attempt to bring back the cartoon classics can be so successful. After several excellent releases, Signal Studios had seemingly struck upon the perfect way to expand their Toy Soldiers franchise. They licensed the He-Man and GI Joe names, lovingly modeled their toy counterparts, mixed in a few original themes, and Toy Soldiers: War Chest was born. To this day, I can load up that game and just go through the various models of H.I.S.S. tanks and Eternian guards and find enjoyment.
Sadly, doing anything but looking at models reveals the game to be a lesser version of its former self. The campaign is overlong, the graphics stutter in motion, the animations seem off, and the times when you get to wreck shop as He-Man and Duke are few and far between. It also doesn’t help that Ubisoft insisted on cramming Assassin’s Creed in as the fourth faction, replacing the Skeletor faction that should have been there. Truly a missed opportunity, and one of my biggest disappointments of the last year.
Renowned Explorers: International Society and Fallout 4 by Don Parsons
My biggest surprise of 2015 was one of the best games I've played in a good while, and that I've spoken about some in the past. I'm speaking of course of TechRaptor's PC Exclusive of 2015, Renowned Explorers: International Society—of which I was a proud part of the nomination lobby for it. It was a game that I literally saw just one video on that sold me some on it but hadn't seen at all before despite the fact as News Editor I follow a ton of releases and keep my pulse on everything I can. What I found when I played it was one of the most engrossing games I've played, with fun characters, innovative mechanics, and great thematic work. For a game I went into with almost no expectations, I've spent over 200 hours, and it's become one of my prime games to go to when I want to relax or just have a little bit of fun. You probably haven't played it given its relatively low sales, but it is definitely worth your time and was one of the biggest and best surprises I had last year.
I didn't go into Fallout 4 with high expectations – I didn't like Fallout 3 and I warned against hype going in. Still, I had some hopes that they had learned from Obsidian's Fallout New Vegas more about the spirit of Fallout and on writing. I ... was disappointed by what I played. The game attempts to ape some of the aspects but fails to grasp many of the setting's core tenents still, such as the idea that the world goes on on its own, not just revolving entirely around you. There's a lot more but parts like that—a poorly conceived and written story, a giant mess of a dialogue system, and a failure to decide between an undefined and defined protagonist—made Fallout 4 a very hollow experience for me. It's big, it's explosive with sales, and popular, but so are Michael Bay films and they aren't anything I like to see either.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse by Andrew Otton
There are few games that can immediately grab my attention through nostalgia alone like games based on Dragon Ball Z. It's a ridiculous show that makes little to no sense, but it was the coolest thing I had ever seen way back when I was nine or ten years old. Now, your telling me I can create my own character, added in some RPG stuff, and I get to interact with/play characters from the franchise all in one spot? The excitement was through the roof.
The first few hours are great, going through and defeating Raditz and then eventually on to Nappa and Vegeta. Then you start to get a little bored. Is the gameplay all that exciting in the first place? Or is it just flashy things cool to see sometimes that gets very repetitive, very quickly. It is certainly the latter.
Then the realization hits you, again, that pretty much every Dragon Ball Z game just takes you through the main story beats of the show, over and over again. There's not thing new here. No new ground, no new characters, no new stories. It's all the stuff we know we like already just in yet another different form. We can only be excited defeating Cell and Frieza so many times.
So while those first few hours of Dragon Ball Xenoverse are oh so sweet ... it goes downhill very quickly soon after.