Games Of 2015: September

September marks the beginning of the AAA season in most years, and 2015 certainly didn’t disappoint with some big finales, much-needed expansions and some odd releases.

PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist (Android, iOS)

September was full of big-budget games, but there were some odd surprises throughout the month. PewDiePie’s own mobile platformer was one of them, but as an actual game it was less of a surprise and more of referential love-letter to YouTubers, as Patricia found.

“I can’t really get into the “lol so random” aspect of the game — instead of being funny, it just falls flat for me. Legend of the Brofist is a tryhard of a game,” she wrote, although she added that the platforming felt quite good on iOS and it wasn’t without its merits.

World of Warships (PC)

A return to form for Wargaming

It’s still surprising to me how entranced some people became with World of Warships. It helps that Warships is a massive, massive improvement from the smashed plate that is World of Warplanes. In many ways, I found Warships more immediately appealing than World of Tanks (there’s something about naval battles) although it wasn’t something I spent a great deal of time with.

The game’s eventual release helped paper over some of the anger lingering from Wargaming’s Humble Bundle snafu earlier in the year. Back in July, the developer sent out conflicting messages that led consumers to think they’d be getting a Soviet warship for the game’s closed beta. They eventually fixed up the messaging, although not without souring a lot of gamers along the way.

Pro Evolution Soccer 16 (PC, PS3, PS4, XBO, 360)

Is it wrong that I still really want to play this

I’ve held off playing PES 2016 until now purely on principle. Despite Luke finding that PES 2016 was clearly the superior game in this year’s battle of the balls, choosing not to give Konami any more money is a fairly understandable and reasonable position to take.

The fact that the PC port is trash compared to consoles helps too. Konami aren’t the first ones to use higher quality screenshots to advertise a PC port that’s actually spitting out last-gen version graphics — One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 comes to mind — but it certainly makes it a lot easier to hold off on an impulse purchase.

It’s a pity; I really like the PES/Winning Eleven series. PES 4 and PES 2008 are two of my favourite sports games of all time, even if they’re not the best games in the franchise by a mile.

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain (PS3, PS4)

More like MGS/awww

What more needs to be said about Kojima’s final production under the wing of Konami? It was one of Mark’s favourite games of last year, despite the weird points when the game falls apart (like the final chapter). But it has so many remarkable moments, sequences of gameplay that were simply unmatched — moments typical of a Hideo Kojima production.

Imagine what this game could have been like if life within Konami was so much better. I still find it remarkable that, given what came out about the working conditions for the developers, MGS 5 was as solid as it was. I wonder how much of an impact Kojima had on that on a day-to-day basis — maybe we’ll find out one day.

In any case, MGS 5 turned out to be a marvel. Kojima said he’d like to see the game ported to PC’s eventually, although that’s now out of his hands.

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (PC, Mac, Linux, XBO)

Gotta save those space rabbits

September had plenty of indie releases as well though, and one of the ones that stood out to me was the two-player colourful co-op experience that is Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. You and a friend are tasked with floating around the galaxy retrieving space bunnies so you can restore love to the galaxy (no, really). There’s a lot of hearts on the screen, an awful lot of pink, and plenty of communicating.

Each player can only control one of the ship’s modules at any one time, involving a lot of decision making as to what the most efficient solution is. Should you focus on having someone drive while another controls the shields? Or should the driver get off the wheel and man the turret, leaving the ship isolated, so you can clear out the enemies ahead?

There’s a great balance between charm and challenge, although it’s best played with a partner.

Act of Aggression (PC)

The RTS market continues to shrink

Part of me hopes that in a few years the RTS genre will enjoy a crowdfunded resurgence the way space games have. I can understand why that’s not the case now, but as a long time fan of the C&C series, Starcraft and Warcraft, it’s a little heartbreaking to see such a dearth of RTS titles. (Particularly if you lived through the wave of RTS clones in the 1990’s.)

Perhaps the fairest comparison for Act of Aggression is C&C Generals. C&C Generals wasn’t quite my cup of tea because I went down the Blizzard hole instead. That’s heresy, I know. But what hurt Age of Aggression for some more were the bugs and the lack of polish typical of a strategy game from a smaller studio, similar issues that beset Grey Goo when it launched.

Pokemon Shuffle (Android, iOS)

More Pokemon is never a bad thing, right

The world of Pokemon on non-Nintendo platforms continued to grow in September with the release of Pokemon Shuffle, a Pokemon-themed take on the match-3 genre. It reminded me a little of the Evolve tie-in mobile game that came out in January, although this undoubtedly had more legs.

It’s perfectly competent on the surface, but the pervasiveness of the microtransactions and timers ended up creating an experience that Patricia utterly hated.

“I’m not super keen on Pokémon Shuffle, even though it’s free, and it’s a perfectly competent match-3 game with some neat mechanics. But when you consider that you can purchase Pokémon Battle Trozei for $US7.99 on the eShop, and get the same experience without the hassles that come with a free-to-play game, why would you bother with Pokémon Shuffle,” she asked.

A good question, indeed. Bring on Pokemon Go.

Armello (PC, Mac, Linux, PS4)

The artistry of Armello is still a joy to behold

Only days after one of Australia’s biggest Kickstarter successes — Satellite Reign — left Early Access, the second followed. I think Armello might have struck a greater chord with people simply because the genre and aesthetic of gorgeous board games is more widespread. Most Aussies would have loved Armello to beat out Grow Home for the PS+ lineup in September as well, although the more important milestone will undoubtedly be Armello’s release on Android and iOS later this year.

I jumped in on Armello towards the start of 2015 and while the game’s mechanics and depth changed markedly during its time in the Early Access wilderness, its charm did not. It’s still a treat to behold and hopefully League of Geeks get a nice second wind this year. Armello was your favourite Aussie release of 2015, after all, and it’d be nice to see it get more international love.

Assault Android Cactus (PC, Mac, SteamOS, Linux, PS4, PS Vita)

The bullets are many

Among all the great Aussie releases this year, Assault Android Cactus was the one that I felt was the most refined and most polished. I’ve been playing various builds of the game for the last two years — it’s first round of press happened at the AVCon before PAX Australia 2013 — and AAC only grew in leaps and bounds from there.

Witch Beam’s twin-stick shooter got a strong reception from the public, and as an added bonus it also works wonderfully with the Steam controller. I still find that it can be a touch difficult to keep track of your character and all the bullets when three or four players team up, although it’s far from the worst offender in this regard and still highly playable. Lots of fun.

Mad Max (PC, PS4, XBO, Linux)

A surprise for some

Mad Max might be worth picking up these days on console now that you can get a copy for less than $50. It’s still filled with endless amounts of busy work that infests every modern open-world game, and it doesn’t borrow from the excellently outlandish blockbuster movie as much as some hoped.

It does look pretty, mind, and the PC port was better than many anticipated given Warner Bros’ track record with Mortal Kombat X and Batman: Arkham Knight.

Blood Bowl 2 (PC, PS4, XBO)

There’s still nothing quite like a Dwarven cage

There’s still no rewind feature and the latest patch broke the game so I couldn’t even launch it. I’m still waiting for Cyanide to patch Blood Bowl 2 into a state where it’ll be brilliant, but that could take quite a while. More frustrations can be found here.

SOMA (PC, PS4, Mac, Linux)

Frictional Games

For many, Frictional’s take on underwater horror proved to be one of the winners of 2015. Despite the disappointing monster sequences — which, if you’re playing on PC, you can negate entirely with this mod — the storyline and atmosphere proved to be gripping. It was one of Patrick’s favourite games of the year, Kirk loved it (although not quite enough for his list), and I saw SOMA take pride of place among many comments throughout December.

Unfortunately for me, I’m in the same boat as Luke — I have no constitution for horror games whatsoever, although fortunately the office has a resident horror expert in Hayley. Although maybe that’s something I should conquer in 2016.

Destiny: The Taken King (PS3, PS4, XBO, 360)

The game Destiny should have been at launch

The best description for The Taken King was that it was the game Destiny should have been at launch. The 18GB 2.0 update that launched a week before The Taken King launched came with a significant interface overhaul and a sorely needed boost to the Destiny’s general reward loop. Drops were more frequent. Quests were less convoluted. Level progression made more sense.

Raygun wrote that since the release of The Taken King, Destiny has validated the always online nature that the PS4 and Xbox One ushered in for consoles. “There’s more ‘games-as-platforms’ on the horizon for the console market and any fears for their quality are significantly lessened because The Taken King exists,” he said.

The success or failure of major releases — games, technology, film — often influences the development of what follows. I don’t believe that users are entirely sold on the always-on future gaming is headed towards, even though it’s an irreversible path. But The Taken King has certainly made a lot of Destiny fans feel a lot more secure about the game’s future, and it’s won over plenty of sceptics in the process.

Undertale (PC, Mac)

Last, but definitely not least

It would be remiss to say anything more about Undertale other than the fact that it might be one of the most surprising games released all year. It became an instant hit on Steam and was featured in top 10 lists across the board for gamers and press alike.

I don’t want to spoil things for you, but if you haven’t played Undertale — and don’t mind being spoiled — then you can find plenty of coverage here. It’s a special game.

That’s it for the month of September, although there were many, many other games that came out (too many to list, really). What caught your eye in September — and what are you still playing?

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