2014 was a very controversial year for video games; while we were graced with a collection of memorable games that pushed both next generation technology along with narrative story telling, we were also met with a variety of issues. (Click here for my Top 10 video games from 2014.) For every game that pushed the medium to new heights there was another release which crashed and burned. Games like Destiny and Dragon Age Inquisition pushed the new technologies with innovative and impressive new game engines, while Driveclub and Halo: The Master Chief Collection were unplayable for weeks after launch.
Most of these post launch performance issues can be chalked up to how foreign this new technology is. For the most part, all of the large scale releases this year were either met with disappointment or technological issues. Games like Destiny, Titanfall and Watchdogs were built up to be major innovative releases but were surprisingly hallow, and were considered disappointing once reviews came out. On a similar note, games like Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Assassins Creed Unity and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare all featured glitches or server issues making them unplayable. As it is only the first year after release, companies are still becoming acquainted with the new technology in the next generation of consoles; as a result of this unfamiliarity, we see major bugs and online issues in games trying to push the technology, and then we see empty and unfinished games that decided to cut content in order to get their games out on time. Games that are looking to push the technology without cutting content were delayed into 2015.
With all of that in mind, we enter 2015 — a year filled with promise but with the shadow of 2014 still pressing close behind. (Perhaps a microcosm for the frustrating social and cultural year we had everywhere else.) 2015 may very well be the biggest year in gaming this decade with large scale releases from both a plethora of first and third party studios. After going through over 50 games scheduled to release this year, I identified the 10 games I am most excited for.
Before diving into the list, it is important to note a few games that missed the cut. A group of games coming out look exceptional but just aren’t for me. Bloodbourne has been impressive at every showing so far, but I’m not a fan of its Dark Souls-esq gameplay style. On the same note, Mortal Kombat X shows great promise but I have never enjoyed the 2-player fighting genre. Dying Light, Dead Island 2, Quantum Break and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture were all close cuts on the list but didn’t do enough to grab me.
There are also a list of games that I have hope for, but am worried about. Final Fantasy Type 0 sounds like the Final Fantasy game I have wanted since Final Fantasy X — and, as an added bonus, Sony says a demo for Final Fantasy XV is coming out with Type 0 — but the gameplay shown off at TGS (Tokyo Game Show) was rough and unpolished. The Order 1886 also hasn’t previewed very well, though its looks breathtaking and the narrative is unique and captivating.
Similarly I also have concerns over how Battlefield Hardline and Fable Legends will play given their limited showing. Finally games like Rise of the Tomb Raider, Scalebound, Star Wars Battlefront and Assassins Creed Victory could all make my list, but we haven’t seen anything but concept photos and trailers, nothing solid enough to warrant a top 10 spot.
Without further ado, these are the 10 most anticipated video games of 2015, based upon all of the preview information shown throughout the year.
- The Division
The Division stole the show at E3 2013 but after the release of Destiny and Watchdogs I became more skeptical about this game. Watchdogs, like The Division, promised a truly next generation experience but only managed to deliver a fun open world 3rd-person shooter; Watchdogs previewed very well but wasn’t the next generation innovation that we were expecting. Destiny showcases a very similar always connected massive multiplayer gameplay style as The Division, but showed us that the lack of content and well told narrative can drastically take away from this type of game. With all of this being said, The Division is still one my most anticipated games of 2015. It shows a detailed and breathtaking open world post-apocalyptic New York City with fine-tuned 3rd-person shooting. The most tantalizing features of this new IP though are its open world RPG like features and leveling system coupled with its competitive and cooperative always online functionality. If The Division is not only a large game but a dense game filled with content, then it has the potential to be the 2015 Game of the Year.
- Broken Age
Broken Age Part 1 was met with piles of critical success from across the industry, but as with the Telltale games I save myself from playing episodic adventures until I can play them all the way through. Broken Age Part 2 promises to expand upon and improve the first act while continuing to deliver the awarded narrative experience. If the second act of this game can even match the puzzle solving, character relationships, and unique narrative that was introduced in the first game then this will be the sleeper choice for 2015 Game of the Year.
While I eliminated Bloodbourne from my list due to its Dark Soul-esq gameplay, Below follows a similar formula but with enough differences to actual gameplay to grab my attention. Below has almost no chance at the Game of the Year awards, but its unique gameplay has the attention of many. Below is an animated dungeon crawler with unforgiving combat. When the character is wounded, it demands medical attention or the player will bleed out. While Below is a fantasy RPG filled with monsters and magic, it brings with it a new sense of realism and difficulty rarely seen in the industry. Below looks fun and creative, and promises unique and dynamic dungeons with realistic and engaging combat.
- Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Uncharted always delivers a memorable experience, but after four iterations there is little the new title can do to surprise me. I am very optimistic and eager to get my hands on the game, but I doubt there is anything Naughty Dog can do to set this game apart from what the series has already accomplished. Those are the reasons that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is so low on the list, but initial trailers still have me uncontrollably excited to get my hands on the game. Saying the game looks beautiful is a disservice, Uncharted is always a gorgeous game that sets industry standards and this new title is no exception. What differentiates this new game is that the environments appear to be more than just a pretty background; the game now introduces stealth environments, interactive and dynamic but unscripted set pieces and open sandboxes that allow for multiple gameplay styles. With a heavy improvement to graphics and gameplay Naughty Dog appears to be taking an already great franchise to the next level for the next generation.
- Rainbow Six: Siege
Ubisoft has stolen the show three years in a row with surprise last minute announcements at E3, and 2014 was no different. The transition of the Rainbow Six franchise to a multiplayer only shooter may be a bit jarring for some hardcore fans, but if the gameplay shown off so far is any indication of the potential this new title has then fans have nothing to worry about. The single life hostage game mode shown off looks to be a breath of fresh air in the multiplayer shooting genre. The game appears to be adding a level of depth and complexity that we rarely see in modern shooters; fully destructible houses allow for dynamic combat that will alter environments, matches will never be played the same way twice. The graphics and shooting mechanics both look impressive, but it’s the destructibility and hostage gameplay that look to be a breath of fresh air in an overcrowded genre.
When talking about bringing new life to an overcrowded genre, you have to talk about how Evolve is almost fundamentally changing the way multiplayer shooters can be played. A first person class based multiplayer shooter Evolve features 12 unique playable characters. Each character comes with a different set of weapons and abilities, and each fits a different role on the four man team. The fifth player in Evolve takes the role of the monster; the monster starts off small and vulnerable but hunts down both players and wildlife in order to evolve, growing in size and strength as the match progresses. Evolve also brings the promise that no match will be the same; the game features a collection of large open worlds each featuring different weather/terrain hazards, 12 different hunters, and 3 different monsters to face. To go along with all of this content there are also a collection of new game modes such as nest, hunt, evacuation each one unique to the industry. Evolve is the most original and truly innovative shooter we are going to see next year, and I can’t wait to explore everything that it has to offer.
- No Man’s Sky
No game offers a more open and original world then No Man’s Sky. Every planet, down to the wildlife, nature and resources that can be found on it, is randomly generated. It is almost impossible for any two individuals to have the same experience while playing this game, and that excites me. While No Man’s Sky lacks the graphical prowess of some of its competition, it more than makes up for it with its innovations to world creation. No Man’s Sky will offer a truly unique and individual experience and is a game that someone could play for the entire year without ever needing another game. I have concerns about the combat and the narrative experience that the game promises, but those concerns are calmed after looking at the space combat/exploration, unique world creation and deep levels of customization and personalization that the game offers.
- Halo 5: Guardians
When considering which multiplayer shooter was my favorite of the year, I almost chose the Halo 5: Guardians beta. The game definitely has issues it has to work out still, but for a beta that is a year away nothing impressed me or kept me playing like Halo 5: Guardians. The game is fresh and innovative with a variety of new features but returns to the roots of the series that made it so great. Halo 5: Guardians is a welcome return to the methodical combat style that made the series the industry standard; the beta shows that 343 learned from its mistakes in Halo 4 and has moved the series forward while simultaneously returning to what made it great. To go along with the new improvements that multiplayer boast, the campaign looks to improve upon the great narrative developed in Halo 4. Once more focused on the more personal struggle of Master Chief as he exists without Cortana, Halo 5: Guardians promises to deliver one of the greatest narrative campaigns by a first person shooter on the console.
- Batman Arkham Knight
It is almost a given in the video game industry that titles created off of existing properties will be to a lower level of quality compared to other games in the industry; Batman Arkham Asylum not only surprised critics and players, but it demonstrated how you can take a beloved franchise and make it into a video game without doing a cheesy movie tie in. Batman Arkham Knight is the final game in the Arkham trilogy, and looks to be even more revolutionary then Batman Arkham City. The game brings back a variety of villains while continuing to add more and even create new ones. Additionally the game allows players to control the Batmobile for the first time, in the process giving players a larger and denser Gotham city. The gameplay and cut scenes use the same engine creating a level of immersion unprecedented in a game. All of this is brought together by the artfully crafted city of Gotham filled with crime and violence empowering players to become the Dark Knight. The two Arkham games are not only my favorite superhero video games, they are some of my favorite open world action adventure games; I not only expect Batman Arkham Knight to deliver the series to new heights, I expect it to be one of the greatest games in the last decade.
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
No game has ever promised the scope and density to the level of quality that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt promises the player. While it has been delayed a couple times already, this is to ensure that the world is dense and populated with well-crafted content for players to explore for up to 200 hours. From the little shown of the game so far (cut scenes and side quests in the game) it is already on the short list for many for game of the year 2015. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is leagues above the other games on this list and may very well be my most anticipated game of the generation so far. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings delivered one of my favorite fantasy RPG narratives of any game; it has crafted an engaging world that captivates the player with fantasy lore and political intrigue. The combat of the Witcher is slower and methodical in nature; it requires more from the player than the average hack and slash RPG and is more rewarding as a result. There is a weight in the sword combat the Witcher brings, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt brings this gameplay, with plenty of improvements to make it faster and more fluid, to hours of countless side quests against various mythical creatures. Along with the combat improvements and the hundreds of hours of polished content and side adventures, the game promises to bring an epic conclusions to Geralt’s adventure with a character driven narrative that spans an open world larger and denser than Skyrims. Like No Man’s Sky, The Witcher is offering a game that can keep a player busy for the entire year and is on my short list for 2015 game of the year because of its established franchise quality and hours of content that it promises.
Elliott Altland (@ea_gamesnvrdie) is a contributor for The High Screen. He attends SUNY Oswego.