Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2015's Award Winners

Avant-garde Award:
Originally a side project of a five man indie development team based in Italy, this third person medieval combat dungeon crawler has an unconventional control scheme and physics-based combat system that accounts not just for armor and weapons, but also the height and weight of the combatants, along with things like distance, momentum, positioning and the angel of impact all to calculate the effectiveness of each attack.  In practice, fights tend to look like drunken brawls, but underneath all the clumsy swings, dodges and parries there is a rhythm that can be mastered with a little skill and a lot of perseverance.

Backlash Award:
A lot of the post-launch flak Bloodborne suffered was, in part, due to spillover from Bandai-Namco's clumsy handling of Dark Souls 2.  That said, being a single-platform exclusive didn't help either.  Because of these tangential issues, Hidetaka Miyazaki's latest effort (despite being well-made production) ended up the target of some rather intense criticism mostly pertaining to a lack of variety and overtaxing of the PS4's processing power.

Brutality Award:
From Software games have a reputation for being unforgiving and Dark Souls 2 is no exception.  That being the case, the definitive version (subtitled Scholar of the First Sin) received a significant boost to the overall difficulty.  Not only do more powerful enemies appear earlier in the game, but improvements to the AI mean that foes will pursue the player relentlessly, attacking in greater ferocity and numbers than before.

Canvas Award:
Ori and the Blind Forest is one of those rare gems that is made from painstakingly hand drawn sprites, meticulously rendered animation, and richly detailed backgrounds.  On top of all that the use of color to convey moods (ranging from sadness, mystery, fear, anger and joy) is also carefully arranged into a distinctly varied of pallets.  Virtually every location in this game is worthy of a screensaver or desktop wallpaper.

Ecology Award:
Hot off the heels of 2013's award winner, Space Hulk, comes Warhammer Quest.  Another adaptation of a Games Workshop board game that makes no attempt to streamline or improve on the original mechanics, nor does it add anything new in terms of character classes, enemies, spells or treasure.  The entire game is a cut-and-paste job right down to the exact same dungeon tile sets and text-based scenarios.  So basically, it's a slightly cheaper digital version of a two-decade-old board game except without actual dice, figurines or a way to play with friends.  

"Engrish" Award:
Using translation software is, generally speaking, not a good idea.  It goes without saying that video game localization efforts are no exception.  Case in point, Darkness Assault is the result of a direct word-for-word translation from Russian to English.  Iconic examples include patrolling guards who yell, "Here are you!" and a player character that comments, "Batteries in such a hole?  Well...I'll do find a use for them," while scavenging for supplies.

Esoteric Award:
At first glance Axiom Verge seems to bill itself as side-scroller with a pixel art style and retro-themed soundtrack.  This rather obvious nostalgia grab though is actually an illusion which quickly fades once you pick up the controller and start playing.  A number of refinements make the game inconceivable on an 8 or even 16-bit console.  Strangest of all is certain gameplay features which do not adhere to the to the Metroidvania formula, most noticeably the "glitch" gun.  In essence it allows the player to hack various entities in the game to his or her advantage in ways similar to a Game Genie or GameShark.

Lemon Award:
Mortal Kombat X for the PC was divided into no less that twenty separate pieces of DLC so players could enjoy the game without waiting for the entire entire roster of fighters and modes to download.  It pretty much didn't work at launch though, and in fact neither did the online store that handles micro-transactions.  You know a game is truly busted when even the software responsible for taking your money doesn't function properly.

Testosterone Award:
This might seem to be an odd choice given the plethora of violent games to come out this year, but unlike Hotline Miami 2 or The Witcher 3, Apotheon has you literally wading through rivers of blood.  Gory violence aside, the amount of full frontal nudity in this game is also impressive.  Mortals tend to be pretty modest (excluding that one bathhouse area...), but Nymphs and Satyrs let it all hang out.  The gods aren't shy either, especially Zeus - whose rivalry with the player culminates in a sword thrusting duel between hugely enlarged version of the both of them!

Underdog Award:
Grow Home is a Ubisoft production, but you wouldn't know it by playing it.  A Uplay-free side project done by a small research and development team, this quirky little sci-fi platformer takes a simple premise (get to the top of the level) and turns it into a surprisingly fun exploration/adventure title.  Some of the gameplay features feel mildly innovative to boot, such as the procedurally generated movements of the robot.  The climbing mechanic also feels a lot more tactile than anything found in the Assassin's Creed series.

No comments:

Post a Comment