Games Of 2015: February

The latter months of 2014 was marked by a string of big-name releases being delayed, and February was the month when they started to drop. But as it turned out, some of them dropped more than just a release date.

Evolve (PC, PS4, XB1)

All the positive impressions and previews couldn't get people past Evolve's high barrier of entry

There's been a lot of discussion lately about the value of multiplayer-only games, and perhaps the worst offender of all was Turtle Rock and 2K's Evolve, which went from being one of the most anticipated games of 2015 to being a symbol of poor pricing.

It's not as if the game was atrocious out of the gate. The core loop of chasing a monster, co-ordinating your attacks and treating the whole experience like a boss fight is a lot of fun. It's been improved as well (the dome coming down instantly, instead of being delayed, for instance). But the hordes of people who enjoyed the asymmetrical monster hunter at conventions and during the open beta weren't lying or making it up to spare 2K's feelings. The game was genuinely fun.

Sitting down and enjoying a session chasing around the Kraken or the Goliath is one thing, however. Being asked to choose from several DLC bundles and not being entirely sure what you're getting is another entirely.

The stigma around free-to-play was already subsiding before Evolve — it'd successfully worked for many MMOs, including The Old Republic and Lord of the Rings Online, and Dota 2/Path of Exile enjoyed great success with their model — but the launch of Evolve was when I started seeing people en masse recommend games be free-to-play out of the gate. It certainly would have made Evolve a lot more palatable at launch, and I hope that 2K/Turtle Rock will revive the 1v4 multiplayer title next year.

Grow Home (PC, PS4, Linux, SteamOS)

Ubisoft's track record with passion projects continues to impress

If you look at the list of "indie" projects, or small ideas that Ubisoft has been happy to throw money at, it's remarkably impressive. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Child of Light. Valiant Hearts. Grow Home.

Compare those against the last four AAA titles from Ubi: Assassin's Creed Syndicate, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege, AC: Unity, Far Cry 4. It's not a bad mix, granted, but not as consistently good as the four above.

Most people will have gotten a taste of Grow Home these days thanks to the game winning the public vote for the September PS+ games, where Ubisoft Reflections' platformer pipped the Aussie-made Armello. I've heard some refer to Grow Home as the evolution of the 3D platformer, and while I think that's a stretch too far (no pun intended), the fact that the most interesting evolution in platformers is coming from something tagged with the Ubisoft name is certainly something to smile at.

After all, this is a conglomerate roundly criticised for homogenising the open-world experience. And yet that same conglomerate is continuing to push a variety of smaller passion projects with great success. That's good news for the developers within major studios, it's good news for gamers and if more games like Grow Home come out that don't require UPlay, then it gets two thumbs up from me.

The Order: 1886 (PS4)

Let black borders never be a thing, ever again

Much has been made of Sony's weak lineup of first party games this year, and The Order: 1886 certainly didn't help proceedings with a final act that ended without any closure whatsoever, a story that barely lasted six hours and the presence of black bars, one of the most frustrating inclusions to video games in the last few years.

Kirk wrote described The Order as one of the more depressing games he's played, and that was one of the nicer points. "It’s a brief, drab adventure starring a group of characters who all seem to dislike their lives and one another, and if it managed a single new gameplay idea over the course of its runtime, I didn’t catch it," he wrote.

The game's since gone on sale for around $30 online and in stores, a far more palatable asking price than what was initially demanded. I'd still venture that there are plenty of other games worth your money first, but if you're after a simple, narrative experience that works for a fan of shooters ... no, there's still better options. (Like Wolfenstein: The Old Blood.)

Hand of Fate (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

Hand of Fate marked the beginning of a great year for Australian games

It probably says everything about how good a year Australian indies have had that one of them appeared in a special, Australian only, bundle for the Xbox One. It didn't gain as much traction with the public as some of Target's absurd bundles towards the end of the year, but the prospect of an Aussie game getting in a position like that is something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

Aussie games, after all, simply weren't held in that high a regard. But it's been a fantastic 12 months and it began with the February release of Hand of Fate, a wonderful hybrid roguelike that was voiced by one of the best narrators since Bastion or Transistor.

The story behind Defiant Development itself is great, but that would amount to nought if Hand of Fate wasn't fun to play. But fortunately the mix of genres and styles that make it such a difficult game to describe is also what makes it work.

Dragonball Xenoverse (PC, PS4, XB1)

I can't go through February without dropping a mention for this one

My girlfriend and I were sitting on the couch the other weekend; she was playing Hearthstone, and I was pondering what to play. After a moment of indecision, I said, "Sorry, but I'm going to play something really, really stupid."

So, naturally, I fired up Dragonball Xenoverse.

I've spoken before about how I've been steadily enjoying Xenoverse as the year has gone on, and my appeal for the game is largely rooted in the same place that lets me enjoy games like the Naruto Shippuden Ninja Storm series or One Piece Pirate Warriors 3. It helps that Xenoverse has a fairly robust fighting system, and as it turns out the game's time-travelling nature is also the best way of parsing a universe with as much content as Dragonball.

It gets even better if you treat the entire game like Dragonball Z: Abridged, running around taunting Krillin and watching Yamcha get punched mercilessly. I remember one Steam review described the game as a bad Dragonball fanfic that made you the writer, and that's a fantastic way to think about it. I can't speak to the quality of the online play — being from Australia, it probably wouldn't turn out that great — but the campaign has been (quite literally) a blast.


Other games from February that come to mind: the Homeworld Remastered Collection (which I wrote about yesterday), Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, Cities XXL, Frozen Cortex, Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball, Total War: Atilla and Pokemon Shuffle. What games from February stuck with you the most?


Comments

    I don't understand the hate for The Order 1886. It might not be the best game but it has a good story and decent enough gameplay to be improved. Saying the order is shit, is like saying Gears of War 1 is shit.

      Except that Gears of War came out nine years ago and reinvented the third person shooter genre by nailing the cover mechanic. Also it still plays better than The Order.

      Last edited 15/12/15 1:53 pm

        Um sorry but no. Kill.Switch was the one that innovated third person shooter with cover mechanic. Gears of War was merely inspired by the mechanics and built the game entirely focused on cover mechanic.

        What do you mean by play better? As in, better controls?

          I'm aware of Killswitch, why is why I mentioned Gears "nailing" the mechanic as opposed to coming up with it, but I should have been clearer about that.

          Yeah, I think it just feels better to play. The controls are tight, the weapons are impactful, the enemy encounters are dynamic, and the simple act of snapping into cover is such a tactile joy. After a bit of getting used to the controls you can ninja your way between cover points like a boss, despite the character initially feeling like an immovable tank.

          The Order just kind of feels mushy to me. Granted it looks utterly incredible, but gameplay-wise it only adds QTEs to the mix, which are very much an acquired taste.

      is like saying Gears of War 1 is shit.There's a problem with that? :P

    I enjoyed the hell out of DB Xenoverse. Makes me want to play it again actually, there was plenty to unlock.

    I really didn't like Grow Home when I played it on PS+. I may not have given it enough time to prove itself, but I'm wondering - what did I miss?
    Should I persevere and play for another hour or so?

      I have the game too and I'm not a big fan. I heard rave reviews and eventually bought it but it feels like another title in the overhyped indie train. Could be argued that it was published and developed by Ubi but it is an title made with little to no budget.

      I was very disappointed with it and wished I had voted for Armello after playing Grow Home for a few hours. Great premise but the controls very very frustrating.

      For me, it was all about movement and the jetpack. The more crystals you can find, the better your jetpack gets. The climbing is fun, but the game is more fun when you can power from leaf to leaf climbing into the sky. Then you launch off with a glider leaf or parachute flower and try to spot interesting things on the way down. Eventually you can fly anywhere you like ;)

      It's really a collectible game though. Find all the crystals. Find all the seeds. Find all the creatures. If you're not into collectible hunting, it's probably never going to grab you.

      My three-year old also loved it when I showed him. He just likes picking up and feeding the sheep though :D

      Same here. Don't blame me - I voted for Armello! :P

    I wonder how many people are still playing Evolve (same story with Titanfall, especially after all its hype). Transientmind (who now seems to be going by the name 'Grand Moff Transient') couldn't have put it any better when he wrote this in response to an article on Battlefront:

    "That migratory audience IS the only content in a multiplayer-only game, and when it's gone, the game is useless. Even at the best of times, that content is limited by time of day or geography."

    He is 100% right, and that is why I will never buy a multiplayer only game. At least if you have a decent single player campaign, you have something to show for the game that you bought only a couple of years prior, instead of empty lobbies where tumbleweeds blow through.

    Yes, there are some exceptions to the rule with games like Counter Strike and Team Fortress that seem to endure for all time, but for the most part it's pretty hard for a company to enter and then retain an appearance on that stage. It's the same place Battlefront will end up.

    I still enjoyed the Order. I only didn't like when you went into cover while up high and you couldn't look over the cover due to the widescreen. Everything else was cool, like a bbc miniseries

    Worth picking this game up with it's cheaper price

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