It has been a good year of gaming for me, and as we close in on the new year I’d like to pen some thoughts about the top 3 of my most played games in 2015.
- The Lord of the Rings Online
Not surprising that I spent most of my gaming this year in Middle Earth, my primary MMO with which the foundations of this site was built upon. I’ve accomplished a great deal over the past five years so 2015 brought me back in three major ways: Nostalgia to be online with my Lotro friends, New Gondor content and updates to the game, and finally PvMP. Since the former is a given that will continue to pull me back year on year, I’ll zoom in on the latter two.
2015 saw two major content updates for Lotro in Update 16: Ashes of Osgiliath and Update 17: The Siege of Minas Tirith. Both updates offered excellent PVE content and in my humble opinion, worthy of a singular titan expansion that could have done this game much good. The addition of instances in Update 16 were fresh and much needed, but the design of its poor loot reward system has let many of us down. The new big battles that came with Update 17 are superior to their Helms Deep counterparts, and it seems like Turbine can only improve on the system going forward. At the end of the year, here we are at Minas Tirith and I am already feeling bittersweet. The end of the story that we have all known and love is approaching. What 2016 brings for PVE will be one for all Lotro players to watch closely.
PVP has seen better years. I came back to it in May this year with the sole objective of hitting Rank 12, Third Marshal. It was a fantastic journey, especially doing it on my new home server of Landroval, making new friendships and partnerships along the way. After hitting rank in May, I dropped in and out of PvMP, focusing on PVE and other games. PvMP balance changes this year have been questionable, and the rationale behind what the dev team continues to do is still anyone’s guess. 2016 may be the year I give this up entirely, if I’m not having fun out there with my new Minstrel. There are other games out there that does PVP way better than Lotro, I hate to admit.
Finally, a huge update to the game this year were the server closures. So many servers shut its doors, including my home server of Riddermark, and we are now left with 10 remaining servers. Sad, but the mergers will work great for building new thriving communities for the remainder of the game’s life. We are still yet to see the new data centers in effect, which is said to reduce lag and what not.
Good year for Lotro overall? I feel so, but there’s still this gaping hole that only my best memories of this game can fill. I’ll need to dig deep come the new year to justify renewing my sub in 2016. What I’d like to see in 2016 for Lotro may be things that are beyond the devs now. But there’s still some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.
2. Dragon Age: Inquisition
Surprise! DAI has been pretty high on my gaming rotation this year and I’ve never written about it on my blog, leaving that RPG tab up top, bare. It has consumed me fully to a point that I’d rather spend all my time enjoying the stories in Thedas rather than writing about it.
Admittedly, I joined the DAI party pretty late. DAI was released in 2014 and I bought it shortly after release. IT has been sitting comfortably in my Origin library for over a year. Sometime in August I decided to fire it up and start my canon play through, after setting up the events of the previous two games through an online website called the Dragon Age Keep, which is pretty cool.
To stop this from being a draggy essay, I’ll summarize my experience the best I can. The overall story in DAI, with the addition of its 3 DLCs, is extremely satisfying and leaves me craving for the next installment already. You just know you’re playing a Bioware game when the narrative moves you emotionally. Every decision matters. There are consequences. I had goosebumps, I felt love, anger and shock at numerous points in the game, involving everyone from the well crafted companions to the NPC advisers. The voice acting takes the storytelling to another dimension.
The size of the game’s regions is something that caught me off guard. It’s not open world, but I could forgive the deception. And for the record, Trevor Morris’s soundtrack for DAI is not to be missed. It has literally become a staple playlist that I listen to on a daily basis.
The gameplay is an improvement from the past I feel, especially concerning combat. It incorporates both the overhead tactical combat view and the third person action style seen in DA2. It’s fair to say that I often use both depending on the fight, and I like them both. Another huge plus for me is customization, and DAI impressed me with the amount of options it offered to players. Character creation is great, and I was able to replicate a close enough doppleganger of Haffleheim, my Lotro main. I even made a Daenerys Targaryen for a second playthrough, with the help of a guide. Crafting was also something I enjoyed, being able to outfit my Inquisitor and the companions and even dye their stuff. Neat addition!
I think I completed my first play through in just under 100 hours, and that’s including most of the side missions without the DLC. There’s quite a number of things to do in DAI, and because of how well it was put together, I never once felt like it was a grind. It’s no Skyrim, where immersion is scaled on a whole other level, and I put that down to your Inquisitior having a voice, either an American or British accent. Now if you’re neither, you may have issues.
One aspect of DAI I did not touch is its multiplayer. From what I’ve seen, the multiplayer is a dungeon crawl with three other players, and you select one of a few hero characters from a roster which levels with you through your dungeon crawls. Chests at the end awards loot, but it’s only restricted to use within multiplayer. This sounds interesting, and maybe I’ll give this a shot in the new year when I’ve completely burned out the single player.
Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of the best games I’ve played this year. It has everything I love in an RPG, and that’s going to keep me coming back I reckon. So many story choices left unexplored..and I haven’t even touched the DLCs yet!
3. The Secret World
Plenty of hours were spent in this hugely underrated MMO this year, which saw a great many updates. Firstly, was the New Player Enhanced Experience (NPEE) that was introduced in February. The update completely revamped the beginning for newer players, enhancing the tutorials and gameplay, including huge number of quality of life changes. This sparked interest in me to re-roll a new Illuminati character, but I didn’t do it alone. I dragged my sister along for the ride this time, and for a couple of months the both of us made our way through the game and recently hit Tokyo, the current end-game continent in TSW.
The new enhanced player experience is definitely an improvement, but so many things changed for the better in TSW 2015. All currencies were consolidated into Black Bullions (BB), which was a smart move. Everything in game now awards BB – from questing, PVP and challenges – which doesn’t omit the casual players from attaining good gear in the game.
The big one for me has to be the release of Issue 11: Reaping the Whirlwind. I got to raise hell in the Orochi Tower, experiencing the end of the main story line, which began so long ago in Kingsmouth. As I expected, more twists and turns in the plot!
My main, Gradinko has been slowly chipping away at Nightmare dungeons in Q4, gearing up for the next zone. I also managed to find myself a great Cabal, with a good mix of players from all over the globe. 2016 is shaping up to be a great year for TSW, and I’m looking forward to where the story is heading next.
- Ark: Survival Evolved
I’ve covered Ark a good amount on my blog, and I have said that this was my ideal survival game. The crazy thing is, I bought this game mid-year and it’s still in Alpha. It’s too damn good to be in Alpha! There are content releases every other week, adding more craftable items, more dinosaurs and more of everything. With the amount of money thanks to the coverage this game is getting, kudos must be given to devs for sticking it through to try and make the best dino survival game out on the market today.
My friends and I have escaped to Ark more often than I care to admit, and I think we’re all rather fatigued by the sheer amount of hours required to invest in order to achieve great things on the island. In the last month or so, I didn’t have the will to log in and dedicate X amount of hours into the game. I don’t want this to become a chore, so take a break I must..and hope my beloved dinosaurs survive the hiatus.
2. Company of Heroes 2
COH2 has always been there to take care of my war/blowing stuff up itches, and this year I’ve put about 200 hours in, playing matches with my friends whenever we get the chance. A standalone army expansion was released this year, The British Forces, which gave me the perfect reason to spend more time in this great strategy game.
As for the British army, there were many similarities with it’s COH1 brethren and for the most part are easy to play. The meta this time around is more on the army’s flexibility, being able to change to either offensive or defensive tactics late on in the game. The units are decent, but there are balance issues at launch that I’m not sure got fixed.
Oh and added this year was the Pershing heavy tank for the Allies. Rejoice!