December 30, 2015 | by Devin
Devin’s Top 5 Games of the Year
The Musings of a Maestro

Looking back on this year-or more succinctly this past few months-I had set out some goals for myself. The simplest task, and the most pertinent to this list, was to review games well out my wheelhouse. While I have only written about games for a year, I wanted to branch out of my JRPG rabbit hole and cover the popular, the AAA, the talk of the town. I want to use this list not as some award ceremony for game developers who are busy collecting slightly more important podiums, but to discuss what the games I played did for me. Because I’m selfish like that.

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5. Fallout 4

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Ahh, Boston. Not even a nuclear winter can wipe away the charisma you ooze. I was harsh in my review of Fallout 4 because I wanted to sink hours into this wealthy wasteland, but around every corner-especially near Trinity Tower-things were troublesome. And it was the kind of trouble I wasn’t looking for. For every vast landscape and deep weapon customization the game tauted, the sheer lack of performance on the console version hindered my enjoyment. But it equaled out to a positive experience; I kept coming back for more vignettes despite the jank. The little moments like Nick Valentine and Strong the Shakespearean Super Mutant exchanging pleasantries while a helicopter exploded just off frame left a positive impression. I got to dress up like a silver age comic book character and spout comic book inspired lines about justice to a crowd of unimpressed ghouls. I found my bliss inbetween the 14 or so frames per second. I’m glad I stepped out of that Vault and stuck it out for the few good shining moments that sprung up.

4. NBA 2K16

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You ever buy something because the box advertises some flashy new feature you just can’t live without? That was NBA 2K16 this year with Spike Lee’s “Livin’ da Dream” career, which ended up being as useful and interesting as that combination money clip/Swiss army knife I alluded to. At its core, 2K can still make some of the best simulation basketball, and stuff it with features. The only reason I kept my job as long as I did was because my boss would play online with me; if that’s not a testament to the power of online gaming, I don’t know what is. As soon as the credits rolled on Frequency Vibration’s overdramatic entrance to professional ball, the career mode was an excellent time sink. I wanted to see a championship and MVP podium, and with hard work and skill, by God I got it.

3. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Hosscelot

Beyond the tight mechanics and systems, the self-serious and delirious plot, and Ocelot’s sweet midlife moustache, this game highlighted the exodus of Kojima and his merry crew. Outside of the melodrama, this is one of the tightest feeling and performing open world games I’ve seen in almost a decade. I haven’t felt this in control of chaos since Mercenaries let loose the dogs of war. I can praise this game for its immersive and adaptive gameplay, but what really kept my finger on the pulse was the tragedy that surrounded Kojima Productions’ exeunt; the incendiary news cycle surrounding this game would have made W.R. Hearst spin in his grave. It’s no small task to create something in a harsh and detrimental environment, and the fact that The Phantom Pain became one of the best games of the year is an earmark in the “Kojima might be a crazed demigod” theory I’ve been crafting.

2. Borderlands: The Handsome Collection

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Upon writing the notes for this list, I realized “the Handsome Collection” spelled “THC”, passed this info to my roommates, and had a nice chuckle. That was the funniest moment involving a main series Borderlands game. I’m not here for the humor or writing; I’m here to watch the world burn. This game can be broken in ways you don’t normally get to see in first person shooters. The original release of this game saw a plethora of gun and gear combinations that felt like cheats, up until you unlocked Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode (New Game Plus Plus); then they became essential. Most loot games pass right by me because the feedback loop doesn’t scratch the right itches for me. However, making a slapdash FPSRPG did it for me; 200 hours later, I still want to see how broken this game can get. This remake gets particularly high marks for doing what most enhanced edition should do- make the game run better. I never had the chance to play Borderlands 2 at 1080p, 60 frames until this remake, and as soon as I booted it up, I understood why people spout those numbers at major releases. I looked upon the past console version I had endeared and endured and wept; it was a husk of its former glory. Then I solo’d a raid boss with n’ery a dropped frame or crash and felt at peace again. I was back on Pandora, and I was home.

1. Tales from the Borderlands

My sweet, metal child.

My sweet, metal child.

Remember when I bagged on the Borderlands story like, two lines ago? That was a fun time. You know what else was fun? Tales from the Borderlands. I was surprised at how many times I laughed at the dialogue in this game. I was more surprised at how many friends and colleagues liked this game. I can safely say this game surprised everyone, and in an industry of jaded and cynical critics, that’s a surprise itself. Leave it to TellTale to use a tried and true formula on an established universe to make their best outing yet. This was greater than the sum of its own parts on a scale normally only seen in alchemical magic. The story not only rose to one of my favorite climactic battles, but brought a series of increasingly heart wrenching and rewarding endings. This brought me back to my childhood when a great story would captivate me with every cliffhanger and punchline; I had to drop all pretense and irony just to have a solid laugh. Any game setting out to be comedic should feel as great as this did, chapter after chapter. Loaderbot forever.

Devin

Devin can neither confirm nor deny if he is the result of a massive experiment gone horribly right. Master of the Wu-Tang sword style.

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