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2015 Game of the Year Awards

2015 was just full of surprises, most of them pleasant. Last year, we weren’t expecting 2015 to be a spectacular year for gaming, but much to our surprise it turned out to be one of the best ever. No, it didn’t have as many noteworthy games as 2007 or 1998, but remember: quality over quantity. Even with just two of this year’s releases, which we’ll mention later, it would have been an excellent year.

So let’s continue with the ceremony. Some of you may notice the absence of the Mod of the Year – Overhaul award this year. This is because we didn’t find new any overhaul mods for any game that really blew us away. In addition, there is no “Biggest Letdown” award this year, since truth be told, we weren’t really let down by any game. This doesn’t mean we liked every game this year, it just means every game either met or exceeded our expectations, even if those expectations were initially extremely low.

Without further ado, the awards start on the next page!

Mod of the Year – Overhaul

 

Mod of the Year – Overhaul

An overhaul mod is a mod that is installed on top of a game and is designed to simply improve the base game. It has minimal new content, meant to preserve the original game and just enhance it. Few overhaul mods are as impressive as this year’s winner, GMDX 8.0 for Deus Ex.

This mod includes several other mods, like New Vision and Project HDTP which are both graphics overhauls, the former adding a DX9 renderer to the 2000 FPS classic while Project HDTP replaces all world textures with high resolution ones. It adds new gameplay mechanics like mantling (climbing any edge), variable scope zoom, and rebalances the gameplay. Realistic difficulty showcases the best balance.

One of the biggest features of this mod is tweaked, improved level design which focuses on authenticity and added details. You see, Deus Ex without mods has rather bare levels with a good layout but lots of missing details like props of all kinds and decals. It does not have as much level design detail of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, contrary to what some of its most hardcore fans claim and this is just a fact. But GMDX succeeds at bridging the gap between the two, adding lots of props that perfectly belong in the setting like overflowing garbage piles on the streets of New York City, personal details in the offices and personal spaces of characters that sheds light on their personality and more.

Like every other overhaul mod that has won this award, we do suggest it to first time players of the game. The only reason to play the unmodded one is if your curiosity drives you to understand just how much this mod improves the game.

Interestingly enough, another nominee for this award was Deus Ex: Revision, a very similar mod for the same game that also includes Project HDTP and New Vision. GMDX wins because it fine tunes the gameplay slightly more and does not need more severe gameplay changing mods to add mantling, like Revision does. But both mods are superb.

Other Nominees

  • Deus Ex: Revision

 

Mod of the Year – Total Conversion

 

Mod of the Year – Total Conversion

A total conversion mod can be described as a user made campaign or multiplayer game mode, complete with its own story or game mode, and levels and more. Sometimes, such mods actually belong to different genres than the base game. However, this year’s winner is The Temple of Elemental Evil Unlocked, built for Neverwinter Nights 2 which is a PC exclusive tactical fantasy RPG.

The Temple of Elemental Evil Unlocked is a strange thing—it is a remake of another mod for Neverwinter Nights 2, that original mod being called The Temple of Elemental Evil Revisited. Both are video game adaptations of The Temple of Elemental Evil which is a 1985 pen and paper RPG module built on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons ruleset, taking place in the Greyhawk campaign setting.

The Temple of Elemental Evil Unlocked maintains the D&D 3.5 ruleset of Neverwinter Nights 2, much like Troika’s own version of the game. This is for the best. It is however a distinct setting, as Neverwinter Nights 2 (as well as its predecessor, and also the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale franchises) takes place in the Forgotten Realms setting (a bigger, more complete setting).

The original pen and paper version is one of the highest rated RPGs of all time. This video game adaptation is also very good, offering more role-playing than the likes of Baldur’s Gate, as well as some of the best battles in any RPG. Neverwinter Nights 2’s more exotic races are not supported however; playing as one will result in no companions, but you’re supposed to have companions and the dialogue addresses you and your companions, so this should be avoided.

Troika’s intro cinematic to their version of The Temple of Elemental Evil, a 2003 D&D 3.5 video game. This makes you hope for epic battles in any version of this RPG, and they all succeed.

While it isn’t a sprawling masterpiece like Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, The Temple of Elemental Evil Unlocked is one of the better campaigns you can find for this game, and it is a much better RPG and overall game than most modern day RPGs, thanks to its higher levels of role-playing and far more in-depth, feature rich, and content rich gameplay. You play as a party of six people, your party being prenamed characters that auto-generate based on your race (they copy your race save for unsupported ones like Yuan-Ti) and based on dialogue prompts with a Dungeon Master type character (who is actually a part of the game’s story). So they can be one of several class options, which you choose at the beginning.

It is a decent length campaign of about 15 hours or perhaps slightly more. You start at level 8, and end at about level 13. This mod is a must play for anyone who is a big fan of fantasy RPGs, as The Temple of Elemental Evil is a living legend and this is a faithful adaptation on the best fantasy video game RPG platform in Neverwinter Nights 2!

Best Soundtrack, Original Score

 

Best Soundtrack, Original Score

This award is for the entirety of a game’s soundtrack. We had some amazing soundtracks this year, but we had to give the nod to Tales from the Borderlands. It has a strong mix of licensed music and original music, and all of it is used perfectly, especially early in Episode 5. This is a game that delivers a huge array from emotions, seamlessly transitioning from hilariously outrageous to seriously involving. The game does this perfectly and the soundtrack is a big reason for that.

Other Nominees

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  • SOMA
  • Fallout 4

 

Best Soundtrack, Original Song

 

Best Soundtrack, Original Song

This soundtrack award goes to one particular song or track from a game’s soundtrack. It was a close call, but Tales from the Borderlands picks up another win with its orchestral Main Theme.

Other Nominees

  • Fallout 4 – Main Theme
  • SOMA – SOMA Theme by Mikko Tarmia
  • SOMA – End Credits Theme by Mikko Tarmia
  • Tales from the Borderlands – The Galatarium

 

Best Voice Acting

 

Best Voice Acting

Voice acting is crucial for storytelling, and can improve on the emotional connection players make to characters. Numerous games this year had great voice acting, but we had to give the nod to Tales from the Borderlands. The cast includes well known video game voice actors in Troy Baker and Laura Bailey, and even Chris Hardwick has a significant role. All of them were firing on all cylinders for this game.

Other Nominees

  • Game of Thrones
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

 

Best Sound Effects

 

Best Sound Effects

Sound effects can strongly affect immersion. This year we saw the release of the game with perhaps the best sound effects of all time, and that game is SOMA. We made note of its incredible sound effects in our review. Practically every object and every surface make a unique sound. Dropping a marker on a wooden desk makes a different sound than dropping it on tile floor, and then dropping a pencil on the same two surfaces each makes a unique sound as well. It includes wonderful dynamic reverb and excellent surround support. Unfortunately it does lack 3D HRTF support (something present in its predecessors), but the excellent surround support almost makes up for it.

Other Nominees

  • Fallout 4

 

Best Graphics, Visual Quality

 

Best Graphics, Visual Quality

Graphics fidelity are overrated in general, with many people focusing on them before gameplay and story. Regardless, an award is needed here, and some games utilize beautifully stylized graphics to build immersion and more. The award goes to Star Wars: Battlefront this year, the best looking game in terms of fidelity with hardly any weaknesses in this category. Sure, much of the lighting and shadows are not dynamic, but they look incredibly convincing anyway. Mesh/model detail and textures are off the charts excellent.

Best Level Design, Set Detail

 

Best Level Design, Set Detail

This award goes to the game that brings the most extraordinarily detailed and unique level design. This was one of the easiest awards to choose this year. Fallout 4 takes home more gold with its open world post-apocalyptic Massachusetts. Every single game made by Bethesda Game Studios raised the bar with open world level design, and every single one would have won this award for us had we been around longer, and Fallout 4 is no exception. It is the most authentic open world ever made. When playing it, we feel as if we stepped into a portal into a real world post-apocalyptic Massachusetts.

The massive cities such as Lexington, Cambridge, and The Fens, the liveliness and unpredictability, the unprecedented detail in every square inch are jaw-dropping. Its world is on a different level than their previous games since it was designed for significantly more powerful hardware (PS4/XBOX One opposed to PS3/XBOX 360). Bethesda did things they never could have done before. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is worth far more than that. So here are two:

Other Nominees

  • SOMA

 

Best Multiplayer

 

Best Multiplayer

Multiplayer games are overrated and rarely provide more than repetitive mindless entertainment. However, one multiplayer game from 2015 does stand out as being more fun than others. Killing Floor 2 is this year’s winner, despite still being in early access. It is a co-op shooter with some of the best shooting mechanics of all time, as well as awesome weaponry and classes, potentially brutal difficulty that really requires good coordination, and some really cool maps. Content is continuously being added for free.

Other Nominees

  • Total War: Attila

 

Best Story, Writing

 

Best Story, Writing

The writing of a game can be one of its strongest, most memorable attributes. As a whole, the writing quality in the video game industry is quite low, but this year one game reminded us that video games can be a breathtaking storytelling medium. That game, which is also the recipient of our Best Writing/Story award, is SOMA, which has won several other awards already.

We wrote all about SOMA in our review, but be sure to avoid the spoilers if you haven’t yet played it. The story asks big questions like “What is consciousness?” and “What does it mean to be human?” and tackles them in a distinct way. The story has two very interesting characters that create a memorable dynamic, and the quality writing is integrated into the gameplay in the most amazing way possible. Everyone, gamer or no, should play SOMA.

Best Shooter of the Year

 

Best Shooter of the Year

The shooter genre is perhaps the most overrated, with most of them being nothing more than repetitive, mindless entertainment. However, and this may surprise some people, this year we are giving this award to a game that is not primarily a shooter. This year’s winner is Fallout 4, which is an RPG first and foremost, but it doubles as one of the best shooters of all time.

Fallout 4 consists of many guns, and they can all be customized with a groundbreaking weapon upgrading system that’s both the most fleshed out and also the most realistic we’ve ever seen in a game. The result is an unparalleled amount of weapon diversity.

Furthermore, the shooting mechanics are very smooth. Guns have a fairly realistic representation of aim sway and recoil, shooting has excellent animations, the game at least has an auto leaning feature, and it allows the player to play in either first person or third person at a whim.

Other Nominees

  • Killing Floor 2

 

Best Strategy Game of the Year

 

Best Strategy Game of the Year

The best strategy game of 2015 in our eyes is clearly Total War: Attila. Thankfully XCOM 2 got pushed back to 2016, since it probably would have made this award a very hard decision. Then again, it looks like it will be a hard decision next year since Total War: Warhammer is due in 2016 as well.

Attila is another RTS game in the award winning, PC exclusive Total War franchise. It adds new features that weren’t in Rome II, such as the family tree and survival mechanics, and the amount of detail on the levels (ground view) is stunning for an RTS. As usual the game is loaded with content; all kinds of factions and campaigns.

Best Adventure Game of the Year

 

Best Adventure Game of the Year

Telltale games snags this award for the third year in a row, this time with Tales from the Borderlands. Both this game and their own Game of Thrones were completed this year (or rather the first season of Game of Thrones). Both are deserving of this award but Tales from the Borderlands is so close to perfect. It may very well be the best game Telltale Games has ever created.

Telltale’s other recent games (The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Game of Thrones) are all very serious and quite dark. Tales from the Borderlands is quite the opposite. One would expect it to be filled with humor as it carries the Borderlands name, but it’s not the same immature humor seen in other Borderlands games. Tales from the Borderlands has class and style. It is a delightful experience with an amazing finale which offers a surprisingly strong choice-consequence design.

Other Nominees

  • Game of Thrones

 

Best RPG of the Year

 

Best RPG of the Year

RPGs are the most beloved games by the GND-Tech gaming staff, so you know this award means a lot to us. Ultimately Pillars of Eternity is the winner for Best RPG of 2015. It features far more classes and spell schools than every other modern RPG, with the one partial exception being Divinity: Original Sin – Enhanced Edition which is comparable in classes but not overall gameplay diversity. However, it only has five skills. Pillars of Eternity may win this award, but it is not a clean win considering that it is not a particularly strong RPG in general, partially illustrated below.

Other Nominees

  • Fallout 4

 

Best Studio of the Year

 

Best Studio of the Year

This year we are giving the award to Creative Assembly. They’ve been very transparent with the community, they continue to support mods for Total War: Attila which they released this year, and they’ve released some impressive DLC for it and have an even more impressive expansion. Nothing groundbreaking, but some studios didn’t really have a chance to shine this year.

Other Nominees

  • Larian Studios

 

Game of the Year

 

Game of the Year

Much to our surprise, 2015 turned out to be a strong year, just because of how exceptional a few games are. That’s not to say there were only a few great games this year, only that a specific few was all that was needed to make this year outstanding. One of these three is of course the winner, and that game has to be SOMA.

SOMA has earned so much praise from us, for its distinguished story focus and integration of storytelling with gameplay. It is so incredibly crafted, with almost every single enemy encounter having a unique enemy with distinct AI programming and behavior, the incredibly detailed and interactive level design, the non-repetitive gameplay that makes use of its object interaction but always presents itself in different ways, the terror it inspires, the questions it asks. SOMA is most deserving of Game of the Year undoubtedly.

Other Nominees

  • Fallout 4
  • Tales from the Borderlands
  • Total War: Attila

 

Most Anticipated Game of Next Year

 

Most Anticipated Game of Next Year

Last year we chose Torment: Tides of Numenera for Most Anticipated Game of 2015, but it didn’t even come out in 2015! Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again. Our choice for Most Anticipated Game of 2016 is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s writing quality is far better than most other games. The gameplay videos of Mankind Divided look incredibly promising; if everything else is equal to Human Revolution, but gameplay much more enjoyable, then it will be exactly what we want and so far it is apparently going in this direction.

Other Nominees

  • XCOM 2
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda
  • Divinity: Original Sin 2

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[…] wasn’t too long ago that we saw the release of Fallout 4, which was our pick for Game of the Year and Best RPG of the Year. But the game wasn’t flawless, far from it actually. Despite it winning Game of the Year we […]

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[…] developers of Neverwinter Nights 2, Obsidian Entertainment, released Pillars of Eternity which won Best RPG of 2015. Neverwinter Nights 2 would have won Best RPG of 2006 had GND-Tech been around then. Let’s […]