by Matthew Thompson
The first quarter of 2015 in gaming has been, in a word, lackluster. I remain a little surprised about how positive the impressions of Dying Light were as my time with the title left me unimpressed. Sure there was some fun to be had in free-running around the fictional city of Harran. But as is generally the case with open-world platforming of this ilk, the fun simply doesn’t last. Then you are left with a completely forgettable story, unimaginative mission design, and melee combat that ranges from boring and repetitive when fighting zombies to flat-out annoying when tussling with humans. My time with Dying Light didn’t last long, so there may have been some quality locked away behind a myriad of upgrades and level-ups (that grappling hook seemed pretty cool), but with such a mundane start, I’ll probably never find out.
I can’t say I was as disappointed with The Order 1886. Don’t get me wrong, it was bad, but the last year of media for the title had me expecting just that. A lot was made of the short length, but I think that would have been forgivable if the game was better or actually let you play more. The Order simply takes control out of your hands too much. When it does give you the reins, rote encounter and level design along with a botched melee system bring down the otherwise solid shooting mechanics and great-feeling guns. The same goes for the unique setting that incorporates things like Knights of the Round Table and Jack the Ripper with supernatural twists, but is dragged down by a plot that feels cobbled together and unfinished. Like Dying Light, The Order wasn’t without its merits. The production values are sky-high and it has a great score to match, but the game simply isn’t good and I was hoping for better when I first heard the talented Ready at Dawn was working on a new IP for the PS4.
Despite some poor showings from these more high-profile releases, I have found some bright spots sprinkled around so far this year. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse was solid if not necessarily my kind of platformer. I enjoyed revisiting a couple favorites from the past two years in Resogun and Far Cry 4 whose DLC each delivered some excellent new content for fans of those games.
The highlight of my gaming year thus far came from an unexpected source. While I was intrigued by Life is Strange due to similarities between it and the memory remixes in developer Dontnod’s previous game Remember Me, I didn’t expect to be so taken with it. These types of adventure games aren’t exactly my thing. Comparisons to Telltale games seem fair, but I feel LiS improves on the formula used in TT’s recent efforts a lot. The setting feels really fresh for gaming and I just love the soundtrack to death. I have a hard time imagining the game remaining my favorite at the end of 2015, but the soundtrack will be tough to beat. I don’t think Episode 2 quite matched the first overall, but the ending was definitely powerful and has me excited to see where they take the story as it continues to unfold in future episodes.
Admittedly there does seem to be a couple more real gems so far this year. Bloodborne seems to have delivered and then some, but it is a bit out of my wheelhouse. Ori and the Blind Forest is the one game from my list of most anticipated titles that has released and it looks to have lived up to the hype. It will have to wait until I break down and buy an Xbox One later this year, but I’m happy to hear it turned out so well and it looks like something I will really enjoy.
But about that list I just linked to… it seems to be disappearing into 2016 more and more each day. So not only has this first quarter left a lot to be desired, but the rest of the year is looking worse and worse for me. I can’t say I was too surprised by any of the recent delays. The little we have seen of Zelda didn’t look too hot and console Zeldas tend to get delayed these days. Same goes for Remedy games, so Quantum Break being pushed back isn’t a shock either. I was a little more surprised by Uncharted 4, but a shake-up last year in the directors’ spots might explain that. Surely all these games will be better for being delayed, but Uncharted and Zelda moving into 2016 means I’m left with Mirror’s Edge as my most anticipated game, a worthy candidate, but one I never really believed would release in 2015 and still don’t imagine will.
To be fair, there is plenty still coming this year, but I miss having that big game to be really excited for in 2015. For some it will be Metal Gear Solid 5. For some it may have been Bloodborne. I’m not sure I have one on that level anymore. From a series standpoint, it’d certainly be Ratchet & Clank or Tomb Raider, but the former being a remake brings my hype down quite a bit and I wasn’t the biggest fan of the latter’s recent reboot, so that makes me less enthused about the follow-up.
I’m hoping when E3 rolls around I will find more to look forward to. This time last year I didn’t know about Far Cry 4, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris or LittleBigPlanet 3, so here’s to hoping there are still some quality holiday titles hidden away just waiting to be revealed. The next few months certainly have their share of promising titles. The Wolfenstein prequel, The Old Blood, will hit in early May while Nintendo’s most interesting new IP in years, Splatoon, will land late that month. Rocksteady is back at the helm of the next Batman game and the Arkham series’ debut on the new generation of consoles looks to be shaping up well. And I’m probably more excited for the new Mario Kart DLC than any of them. The Animal Crossing track looks like great fun and I can’t wait to see what other tracks await us at the sooner than expected release date of April 23rd.
I am hoping things pick up in gaming for me throughout the rest of the year as it isn’t off to an auspicious start. How did the first three months of the year treat you in gaming? What were the highlights? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!