Game of the Month: August 2015

Well, that was a great month. While it’s not uncommon for fantastic games to come out of August, the sheer amount coming out one after another (or at the same time) was staggering. This had to be the most difficult month for us to figure out what was worthy. We had a great visual novel in Amnesia: Memories, anything but despair in Danganronpa Another Episode and a remake of Zombi U for some reason (OK that last one was not in consideration…). But after much deliberation, we’ve come up with the best five games to emerge from the month, all of which are strong contenders for awards come December.

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition

When Gears of War was released in 2006, it was a revolution for its genre, popularizing cover based shooting for the masses. It helped establish a winning formula and its mechanics still hold up. While the pacing and combat scenarios are  straightforward and some of the newer abilities that helped the series evolve in the later iterations failed to make their way into this package, Gears of War is a game worth revisiting. You will have to be dedicated to the multiplayer component as, while the main campaign is still solid, it’s shotguning your friends in the face that’s the most satisfying component to this package. It will be interesting to see how The Coalition handles their own Gears of War title next year, but until then, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition will poke at your nostalgia.

Madden NFL 16

Madden is great year in and year out, but 2016′ entry is even more special. While there’s not a ton of changes this year, what’s there makes this fun to pick up and play for newcomers and veterans alike. The centerpiece is the new Draft Champions mode, however, which does a fantastic job taking what’s fun about Fantasy Football and adapting it into an incredibly smooth experience. The tweaks to Madden Ultimate Team and Connected Franchise are noticeable and most importantly, Madden NFL 16 marks the (long overdue) return of EA Trax. Thank goodness.

Disney Infinity 3.0

Disney Infinity has been quickly growing into a remarkable cross-medium experience, but it was hard to anticipate just how good its third iteration would be. Disney Infinity 3.0 takes everything enjoyable from the last two editions and refines them to make everything easily accessible and not overwhelming for the first time in the franchise. More still, Disney has done justice with its Star Wars IP here, producing two fantastic Star Wars games that could stand on their own. Hopefully the house of mouse keeps striving for perfection with its franchise, but it will be hard to top this year’s offering.

Shadowrun: Hong Kong

There’s a lot to like about Shadowrun: Hong Kong. It’s a tactical roleplaying experience heavy on story and player choice that can be just as compelling for non-fans as it is the most ardent Shadowrun enthusiasts out there. As the third installment in developer Harebrained Schemes Shadowrun series, it is by far the most complete and the most polished — and that’s saying something considering the two that came before it were already classics in their own right. Our hope with Hong Kong is that is acts as something of a benchmark for all strategy RPGs that come after it, because it has made the genre better simply by existing — and we can only hope it can inspire future developers to make games that are just as compelling.

Winner: Galak-Z

Galak-Z is a roguelike paradise. Brutally difficulty, utterly beautiful, and completely addictive, 17-Bit’s latest creation is a game that never stops giving. No matter how many times you blast off into the depths of space, each mission feels completely unique thanks to the increasingly intelligent enemies and procedurally generated levels. Galak-Z promotes creativity, improvisation and exploration, surrounding players with tactical possibilities and secrets waiting to be discovered, rewarding pilots brave enough to take risks and learn from their mistakes. It’s one of the most immersive and replayable experiences on any console, let alone PS4, and undoubtedly one of the best games released this year.

As an added bonus, select staff named their personal favorites:

  • Steve: Disney Infinity 3.0
  • Beck: Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
  • Matt: Galak-Z
  • Kevin: Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
  • Thomas: Galak-Z
  • Dermot: Galak-Z
  • Adnan: Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
  • Marcus: Amnesia: Memories
  • Natalie: Amnesia: Memories