Discovering things in Rise of the Tomb Raider is wonderful. Games have often delivered large areas to explore (often in bigger playscapes than here), but what makes this aspect of Lara’s latest so brilliant is the journey and how incredible everything looks.
The game’s Challenge Tombs are home to most of what I love. After looking around to find an entrance, Lara slowly makes her way through a series of underground tunnels, adding to the sense that what you’re going to see at the end will be rather special – and it always is. One of the classic phrases people like to parrot about video games is that graphics aren’t as important as gameplay, and it’s generally true, but the sheer awesomeness of the vast expanses you find are only so incredible thanks to the technical and artistic prowess on display. Each time I found a new area to explore it was a genuine delight.
While the core story campaign takes you through some wonderful locations and is action packed in the extreme, the quieter moments, when you have time to take in the surroundings and explore every nook and cranny, are superb. Seeing what was at the end of another cave system never grew old, and I’d have continued seeking them out if there had been more to find.
Few games have grabbed me like Rise of the Tomb Raider did. I generally don’t care about collectibles, but for days following the end credits I was going back to find all the relics, notes, and other items. One of my favourite moments came during this second phase of play, as I rummaged about in an area I’d moved through pretty quickly during the campaign. In it is a single Challenge Tomb, and it was home to one of the best gaming moments of the generation so far.
Don’t take this to mean I don’t enjoy the combat in Rise of the Tomb Raider (I think it’s excellent and some of the most frenetic around); it just plays second fiddle to what I think the game will be remembered for.
I wish more people would play Rise of the Tomb Raider. Ignoring the console politics Crystal Dynamics’ game has sadly got caught up in, this is without doubt my favourite game of 2015.
It’s a massive surprise to me that in an article about my favourite games of 2015 I’m about to talk about a Bethesda RPG, but Fallout 4 is a jolly good game. And that’s despite a lot of it being utter bollocks. Having bought the game on whim thanks to an Amazon Prime Now voucher and Jim (a massive Bethesda RPG fan) saying how great it is, I expected to have a similar experience to my time with Oblivion and Skyrim: play for 10 hours and then get bored. I was wrong.
I’m now many, many hours into Fallout 4 and I’m completely hooked. In some ways I like it for the same reasons I do Tomb Raider, namely the exploration. I’ve grown to kind of like (but mostly tolerate) the combat, I hate the inventory management and despise my inability to find Fusion Cores, but Bethesda has absolutely nailed the feeling that you’re always moments from stumbling into something cool.
Thanks to the size of the game world, even more so than in Rise of the Tomb Raider, there’s a great sense that you and only you are discovering things (despite the fact that millions of people are doing the same). I’ll set off towards a target location to continue a quest, only to get attacked by a group of wild mutated beasts, lose all sense of direction as I attempt to fire a peashooter carrying the deadly force of flea, then find myself inside a random school, only to go down a staircase and find it’s actually a FUCKING SECRET VAULT OMG!
I could have written about Halo 5, Tearaway Unfolded, Until Dawn or Axiom Verge, all games I’ve really enjoyed for a multitude of reasons, but I think Ori and the Blind Forest deserves a special mention. Released near the start of 2015 it would have been easy to forget about had it not been such a memorable experience. Combining the best kind of twitch skill-based platforming, lovely Metroidvania mechanics and genre-leading presentation, Ori is a wonderful game packed with thrilling sequences and touching moments. I can’t wait to see what the team at Moon Studios can do next.