This time of year, I’m sure you’re tired of reading about the year in games, so I’ll get right to the point. We took polls, set up a voting system, debated, and argued to come to a final decision on what the best game was this year. We managed to avoid any formal duels, though there may have been a knife fight or two. To keep things easy, you don’t even have to scan this far down the page to know what we chose. But I appreciate that you made it this far!
The dust has settled. The blood scrubbed out of the carpet. This is it. The Escapist‘s Editor’s Choice Game of the Year 2015!
Game of the Year 2015 Winner – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Ron says: In many cases, games that release early in a given year can be overlooked when it comes to end-of-year awards. After all, the holiday releases are fresh in your mind, and it can difficult to believe that those games from back in the spring actually came out this year. That’s not the case with our pick for Game of the Year 2015, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
Hugely anticipated prior to its release in May, The Witcher 3 lived up to almost every expectation. It made the transition from mostly linear RPG (in previous games in the series) to a huge open-world RPG with very few hiccups, and it actually raised the bar for games in the genre.
One of the most obvious ways it did this was in its quest system. We’re used to RPGs that have a series of main story quests supplemented by various (often skippable) side quests. The Witcher 3 turned this on its ear by making every quest matter, or at least by making them feel like they mattered. These aren’t are not one-off “go kill 10 boar” type side quests. Many of them are fully fleshed-out quests with their own mini story arcs. More importantly, they feel like they have weight and meaning the game world, and that they’re things that Geralt would undertake.
These quests fill the massive open world with things to do, and then CD Projekt RED adds in hunting, crafting, alchemy, and other activities to keep you busy. They even went so far as to make Gwent, a CCG that actually exists within the game as something Geralt can play. With a little tweaking and fleshing out, Gwent could be a game all its own, so don’t be surprised if your playthrough gets a bit sidetracked by it.
Combat in The Witcher 3 feels much more approachable than it did in the previous two games, and it’s rewarding, as pretty much all the character customization you get to with Geralt (apart from choosing a hairstyle and shaving his ever-growing beard) is in the form of new gear that you loot or craft along the way. Monsters are varied and challenging, and they’re all well-designed. Shooting a wyvern from the air and then finishing it off is but one example of how Geralt can spend his monster hunting day.
All of these things make The Witcher 3 a good game, but it becomes a great game when you consider its well-crafted story. It doesn’t skimp on characterization like its forbears. Instead, it crafts a narrative in which Geralt has intimate connections with many of the people he encounters, and the player’s choices can have far-reaching effects. Sometimes you’ll see the effects immediately, and sometimes you don’t realize them until much later, but the repercussions to your choices are still there, working beneath the surface.
Most importantly, The Witcher 3 manages to make side quests and other distractions feel like a natural part of the game world, and not something that you do because you need more experience points before you go fight the big boss, or something that it artificially required by the game. Instead, everything in its massive world feels meaningful, and that’s a huge accomplishment in and of itself.
When you consider how The Witcher 3 managed to meet and exceed the expectations gamers set for it, and also raised the bar for every RPG that comes after it, it’s no surprise that we chose it as our Game of the Year for 2015.
Game of the Year 2015 Honorable Mention – Bloodborne
Mitch says: It’s fair to say that 2015 was the year of the open world. You’ve got the Northern Kingdoms of Witcher 3, the Commonwealth of Fallout 4, the alien world of Mira in Xenoblade Chronicles X, the island nation of Medici in Just Cause 3, not to mention Afghanistan and the Angola-Zaire region from Metal Gear Solid 5. But if you were to ask what game world of 2015 was the most utterly engrossing to explore, it would have to be Bloodborne‘s, without question.
There’s an amazing sense of progression in all aspects of Bloodborne, right down to the exploration of its world. Players start out in a relatively normal looking town, and sure, there may be a few lycans roaming around, and the villagers themselves may have a rather beastly look to them, but at the beginning, Yarnham doesn’t seem all that far removed from reality. As you delve deeper into the nightmare, however, the monsters become progressively more horrific, more ferocious, the environments themselves more twisted, and suddenly each step you take through an unexplored region is met with equal parts excitement and trepidation.
The world of Yarnham unforgettable, but equally so are the moments of gameplay in Bloodborne when you’re up against a boss in its final and hardest phase, desperately dodging to stay alive with only a few more blood vials to spare, and manage to land that sweet and oh-so-satisfying final hit. Or that that time you intentionally triggered that trap in the forest, and then shrieked in horror as the spiked log flew off its swing and then rolled back to flatten you. Individual stories may vary, but almost everyone who plays Bloodborne is sure to have some sort of story of either extraordinary triumph or soul crushing defeat.
The best video games are the ones that create moments that stick with you long after the game is over, and when it comes to those moments, few games are better at creating them than Bloodborne.
For those of you who agree, we’d love to hear your thoughts on why in the forums. For those who don’t – with so many great games, there’s bound to be some contention – hop into the forums to make the case for your Game of the Year pick!
I think that’s a good way to close out 2015. We at The Escapist wish you all a fantastic New Year, and we can’t wait to see what surprises 2016 has in store!