Chasing GOTY 2015: Soma, Dying Light

Man, in a year like 2015 even picking the runners-up to Game of the Year is tough! Still, a blog's gotta do what a blog's gotta do. After pouring over the release list and replaying a whole bunch of stuff from throughout the year, I've chosen two of the best of the rest. One's a spectacular title that probably flew under everyone's radar, and one from aaaaaall the way back in January you might have forgotten to check out.

First and foremost, we absolutely need to discuss Soma. Well, we're actually gonna talk around Soma. The less you know going in, the better the experience. This game tops our Chasing GOTY feature almost exclusively due to its story. Soma begins with a quote from famed cyberpunk author Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (ie. Blade Runner), We Can Remember It For You Wholesale (ie. Total Recall), A Scanner Darkly, The Minority Report, etc). That should speak volumes about the developer's intent right there. And, while I admit the whole 'What does it mean to be human' cyberpunk theme is my favorite fictional foil of all time, Soma's author has constructed what I feel to be one of the greatest stories ever told in the science fiction genre. In any medium, not just video games. From the setting, to the characters, to the very pacing of the narrative, Soma's story nails nearly everything it tries to accomplish (and, man, does it try to accomplish a lot!). Although a linear experience, there are a few choices to be made. While none of these alter the game's outcome, they will drastically favor your own personal experience The Mrs. & I argued about what's 'right' in this game for weeks!

Growing Up Otaku Game of the Year 2015: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Naming Game of the Year in a year filled with no less than six top-notch releases, each of which is an easy GOTY nod in any normal time frame, is no easy task. Sure, we can go down the list and check off a bunch for boxes such as Best Graphics, Best Art Style, Best Writing, Best Voice Acting, Best Digital Actor (The Bloody Baron is the closest thing we've had to a Charles Foster Kane in Gaming!), and Best Music and still have ended up at The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but your title needs to do more than just check off boxes to be awarded the Golden, Giant, Fire-Breathing, Robot Baby for a year. The Witcher 3 certainly goes above and beyond on a number of fronts.

Most obviously, Witcher 3 redefines the level of quality possible in a video game, let alone an open-world RPG. Every corner of this 200+ hour monster's three world maps is crammed full of interesting characters, creatures, and situations painted with lavishly choreographed sequences on a quality level you only expect to find in linear titles that run a fraction of the length. Even many of the more mundane "Go kill this monster in my cellar" side-quests are showered with scads wonderfully composed conversations, investigative opportunities, and, quite often. an unexpected plot twist. Couple this with strong writing and moral dilemmas, some of which my have consequences a dozen gameplay hours down the road, and recent offerings from powerhouses like Bioware and Bethesda appear positively 1998 by comparison. At one point I found myself listening to a double-crossing scumbag's stereotypical 'bad guy' speech and thought to myself, "Ya know... This guy is totally right!" I then walked away and left two of my companions be executed. It wasn't until the post-game wrap-up that I felt justified in my decision. It wasn't that things turned out right or wrong, but they did turn out for what I felt was the better. It almost made up for that Ancient Evil that duped me and went on to each a bunch of villages.

Witcher 3 also does its best to make defacto RPG chores a little less cumbersome. Crafting components are sorted separately in the inventory and do not add to your carry weight, potions are automatically refilled using standard alcohol after being mixed for the first time, and subsequent patches have added a number of helper functions to trying to minimize the menu management tedium inherent in this genre. It doesn't entirely succeed, but it sure as heck tried hard.

Then there's the game's outstanding encyclopedia of the world's friends and fiends, delightfully written by your character's bard buddy. And, boy, are you going to need that encyclopedia! Firstly, combat in The Witcher rewards research and preparation just as much as well timed button presses. Discovering a wyvern is susceptible to applying a draconid poison to your sword and can be knocked out of the air with a well timed 'force push' is going to get you a just as far a being skilled with Geralt's ballet-like combat maneuvers. It's also a great source for keeping up with the dozens of main characters as this game positively wallows in its source material. Witcher 3 doesn't just return to characters and events of the two previous games, but is even so bold as to tackle questionable events from the very first Witcher short story penned by Andrzej Sapkowski. While the game can be enjoyed on its own merits, lore hounds will find an endless well from which to drink. Witcher 3 brings more dramatic baggage to the table than all of your exes put together. And, unlike a gathering of how your former loves would end, it all pays off spectacularly!