This year was especially good to PC gamers, with a ton of great games in genres specifically designed for play on the PC like Cities: Skylines. This was also a pretty good year for games that finally made their way out of early access with games like Kerbal Space Program. The nominees this year were incredibly diverse, creating a list that should have at least one game everyone should enjoy. Here's what we thought were the best of the year.
This was probably the most contested category of all our rewards in terms of voting. Ultimately, our winner came out one vote ahead of two games tied for second, and only two votes ahead of three games tied for fourth (the two tied for second are 2nd and 3rd). Here's a reminder of what our nominees were (find out how we chose our nominees here):
- Renowned Explorers: International Society
- Kerbal Space Program
- Cities: Skyline
- Pillars of Eternity
(Tied) Runner Up – Cities: Skylines
By Robert N Adams
2013's Simcity was viewed as a failure by many people for a variety of reasons. Always online DRM, smaller building area, and lack of single player gameplay were all contributing factors to a disappointing entry in the franchise. One good thing did come out of that terrible mess;the failures of Simcity contributed to Cities: Skylines being greenlit by publisher Paradox Interactive.
Some of the usual mechanics of a city-building game have been streamlined or simplified, but the overall core gameplay is solid. Players are afforded a generous amount of space at the beginning, and this can be expanded eight more times through growing the city. The amount of available real estate at hand is an important part of any city builder simply for the freedom it allows the player in deciding how to plan out their city—this has been emphasized by the amount of criticism leveled at Simcity for its comparatively tiny plots of land. There's not really one “perfect” strategy for doing anything, and players have a lot of room to explore (both figuratively and literally).
Perhaps most importantly, the ability to mod the game significantly enhances the experience. Whether you'd just like a bit more building room, or you'd prefer to have some additional variety with your buildings, having modding from the get-go was a brilliant decision on Colossal Order's part.
Cities: Skylines hasn't been without its problems. Traffic remains the greatest challenge for newer players, “death waves” can temporarily overload a city's infrastructure, and the in-game simulacrum of Twitter has annoyed some players. It's by no means perfect, but Colossal Order has breathed new life into a genre that was thought to have been killed by Simcity. It doesn't hurt that it costs a very reasonable $30, either.
(Tied) Runner Up – Undertale
By Alex Santa Maria
It has truly been an exciting time to be playing games on a personal computer. The PC market has become an incubator for small games, games that never would have been created otherwise. One man projects that harken back to the glory days of the Atari were once again being played by people the world over. Each breakthrough game bringing its own quirks to bear and changing the market in its own way. No game has done more to change the landscape of games in 2015 than Undertale.
An emotional journey into a real world filled with humor and joy, Undertale moved players both as gamers and as human beings. Seemingly everyone who gave the game a chance couldn’t stop talking about how inventive and inspiring it was. I personally will never forget the time I spent with this game, mining out its secrets, listening to every bit of dialogue, and finally bidding a fond farewell to my new friends, knowing that I could never return. This is a game that easily ranks among the classics, a game that will be talked about for years to come, and a game that could only really be made and distributed on PC.
Winner – Renowned Explorers: International Society
By Don Parsons
Renowned Explorers: International Society is the one game on this list you probably haven't heard of and we still need to finish our review on it, because it is a hard game to really capture in a review. Renowned Explorers is a game that is far more than the sum of its parts, and those parts are nothing less then excellent, with good art and great animations, an innovative mood based combat system, stand out writing, and great usage of theme. Alone that would make a very good game, but the way the various elements of the game and little bits of character add up and come together makes some excellent parts all that much better.
While some games these days aim for a large but ultimately shallow pool of options, Renowned Explorers goes the opposite direction, with a small, focused pool that instead has a ton of options for almost everything. While there are only 11 expeditions, each of them has a ton of depth with various special encounters, layouts, stories, and things that happen depending on what party members and perks you have on this run.
Overall, with Renowned Explorers we can point out things that worked, but that fails to capture how it is a perfect mixture of beautifully selected mechanics, systems, and theme that tie in all together, making this our best PC Exclusive of 2015 ... and the best game you probably haven't played.
Readers' Choice – Pillars of Eternity
This was certainly an excellent year for PC exclusives, as you can see by the breakdown of votes before the discussion of who won what. Pillars of Eternity was something we certainly nominated and it, even though it doesn't show up on our top three, was only two votes behind Renowned Explorers. Pillars of Eternity is an excellent game that overcame some controversy and continues to deliver content into 2016.
What other PC-only games are worth a mention? How did we do on our voting? Have you played Renowned Explorers yet (you should)?