The Best of What I Actually Played 2015

As a grown adult with an unconquerable gaming backlog, I’m actually quite impressed at managing to complete 6 whole new games this year, as pictured in the header image, so frankly all 6 deserve praise for being good enough to jump ahead of my backlog. Chances are I would have loved MGS5, but that one got bumped into backlog by Fallout 4.

So, without further ado, I’ve narrowed the games which I most enjoyed this year down to two incomparable runners up in no particular order, and one definitive game of my year.

Runner Up A:

Bloodborne – FromSoftware – PS4

As I wrote back in August, Bloodborne is a game I was genuinely afraid just wouldn’t be for me, having never enjoyed hack and slash games in the past, but it quickly won me over with its atmosphere, sense of accomplishment and, above all, the respect with which it treats the player.

Runner Up 1:

Undertale – Toby Fox – PC

Check out my review from August if you want to see me gush about Toby Fox’s indie masterwork. A perfect combination of a singular artist making the game that he wanted to play, coupled with the unique craft of a musician turned programmer. That such a concise, emotional, coherent piece of work can come from a single developer is deeply inspiring to my inner indie dev.

Game of the Year:

Splatoon – Nintendo – WiiU

Splatoon is the triumphant emergence of Nintendo’s next generation of developers, bringing with them the boldest, freshest new gaming franchise in years. Equal parts platformer and third person shooter, yet also incorporating unexpected inspirations from MOBAs and puzzle games, Splatoon is compulsive, joyfully presented and polished to an impossibly precise degree in terms of fundamental control and game design.

The longest I’ve ever stuck with an online shooter before boredom from repetition kicked in was probably about a week, so the fact that I still find myself jumping back into Splatoon 7 months on speaks volumes, and is of course helped along by the charming online community, whose graffiti is splattered all over the lobby and arenas for all to see, and Nintendo’s unprecedented decision to offer 8 months of free map and weapon packs for a £30 game.

Perfection in a mad squiddy package, and I’m so excited to see where this series can develop after such a confident start.

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Fallout over Game’s farce with the Pipboy Release

Today is the big release day for Fallout 4. Months ago I made a quick post about how my fiancé and I, like many of our friends, had pre-ordered the Pip Boy edition, exclusively sold in the UK by Game.

What we didn’t realise was that we would be entering essentially a Lucky Dip as to whether or not we would get it, and at the price we expected.

Straight away I feel like I should point out that luckily we have received our confirmation email that our copy will be delivered this afternoon, so a tiny part of me feels a little unqualified to comment on this farce that is Game’s exclusive. However, this morning I had a conversation with a very good friend of mine who had gone so far as to book a week’s holiday in order to immerse herself and enjoy the game she pre-ordered 5 months ago. She was charged by Game not for 1, but 2 copies of the game (despite not ordering that many), and today she was heartbroken to find out that despite this, and despite so many phonecalls to their ‘customer service’, she would not be receiving a copy of her game on time, and possibly not at all due to their incompetence at recording her address.

Unsurprisingly she’s pissed, and I would be too if I were in her position. And infuriatingly she isn’t alone. If you search the hashtag #pipboyedition on Twitter you’ll find complaints from upset gamers wondering why their orders got cancelled. Accusations of trickery, incompetence, downright theft – and yet amongst all of this you also see tweets and pictures of Game selling copies of the sold out Pipboy edition in store as part of the midnight release. No wonder #BoycottGameUk is also on Twitter.

Rubbing salt in the wound
Rubbing salt in the wound

So is this Game’s first attempt at a massive UK exclusive and it just happens to have gone wrong? Sadly no – its not even as if they have a good history of these kind of releases and this is just the first one to fail this year. Just a few months ago there was the colossal cock-up with people that pre-ordered copies of Mario Maker getting double-charged. Further back in 2012 with the release of ME 3, there was the blunder of Game not sorting out their stock ready for the release day – resulting in them being unable to fulfil orders that were made months in advance (Reference: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-02-29-game-not-stocking-mass-effect-3-or-ea-games-past-ssx)

Game Rage

So what can people do if they’ve been shafted? Going back to the story of my friend, she was gutted to realise she wouldn’t be receiving her game. She had tried getting into contact with them to sort things out but felt like she was going nowhere. I suggested she contacted the ombudsman to get it resolved, and she had never heard about them so I felt like it was something I should share with you guys.

So what is an ombudsman? Here is the definition taken from Ombudsman Services:

“Ombudsman Services is here to give independent and impartial decisions on complaints. Our service is free for consumers to use. We operate under appropriate legislation and with the approval of regulatory authorities and trade bodies. We are not a watchdog or a regulator – our job is to resolve complaints, not punish the companies we resolve complaints about. We are independent so we do not take sides.” 

Essentially – if you have made a complaint to the company and you are not happy with their attempt to resolve it, the ombudsman is there to provide an impartial ruling for both sides. They investigate your case and find out whether or not you are due additional compensation, or if there is anything that can be done to resolve your problem another way.

Below is the link for the Consumer Ombudsman. I highly recommend contacting them if you have been on the receiving end of this epic screw-up, and feel like Game are not taking your complaint seriously. You will need to make a formal complaint to Game first, so I suggest writing a letter and making sure you keep copies of any communications you send/receive.

http://www.consumer-ombudsman.org/

People are also setting up petitions to stop Game getting exclusives on game content, creating essentially a monopoly. If you feel strongly about this I recommend finding and signing one of these petitions. Search on places like change.org. If you want to voice your frustrations but don’t wish to sign petitions, use social media! Hashtags such as the ones I’ve already mentioned are in full use – join in with your experiences!

Let us stop retailers having sole exclusives on major game releases, because it’s becoming clear that they are just not up to the job.

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Imaginary Hype: Beware the Fake Trailer

When Bethesda revealed Fallout 4 at e3 this year they did something shockingly refreshing. They debuted a largely finished game, only a few months away from release, with a fully in-engine trailer. It worked wonders on me, being the decisive step in convincing me to finally upgrade to a newer console.

It’s a shame that this sort of approach is a rarity. Instead we live in the age of empty hype and announcement trailers.

The same e3 brought us SquareEnix’s announcement of the Final Fantasy VII remake, and fans promptly lost their shit imagining how wonderful such a game was going to be. Imagining is the key word here, as frankly we have nothing to go on apart from a cinematic CG tease. No gameplay. No in-game graphics. It’s an empty promise, and handing this sort of blank cheque to players to pre-imagine their dream games in their heads is dangerous for everyone, especially the developers, when the time comes to actually deliver something.

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I’ve been accused on negativity over this announcement in the past, but I truly hope that it’s amazing when the time comes to play it. Until then, however, we need to temper our expectations over how the huge, profit oriented teams that spent 5 years crafting the exciting corridors of Final Fantasy XIII can fully comprehend and reproduce a past masterpiece that took a smaller artistically-minded team 2 years to make.

But when it comes to fake trailers and imaginary hype there’s a new heavy hitter on the scene.

Did you see that? We’ll be finding Pikachus scurrying around in our bushes, and summoning tangible Poké Ball’s out of thin air to throw at them and, and, and, no. No. No. No. None of this will happen. I truly wish we lived in the tangible augmented world of Dennou Coil but we don’t. Has anybody been looking at the one actual screenshot that exists and getting excited?

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All of the hype has come from that fake trailer, meaning that once again we have another game that will probably be a whole lot of fun to play, but it won’t even come close to matching the imaginary game we all see after watching the trailer.

dennou_coil_goggles

And now I’m just sad that we don’t yet live in the world of Dennou Coil… Boo.

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