*This review originally appeared at wizarddojo.com*
An inspirational climb to greater heights.
January has never been a heavy hitting month for video game releases – it functions as a relative calm before the storm. However contemporary showcases have proven to be a delightful exception to the rule, transcending January into a mainstay of quality. January 2013 saw the release of one of the best modern JRPGs in recent memory, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and January 2017 introduced the franchise resurrecting Resident Evil 7: biohazard, a franchise reviver and one of the best games of 2017. This past January also had a masterpiece simmering under the radar, the independent platformer with tremendous heart, Celeste. While its sense of scale is rather diminutive compared to the previously mentioned January entries, its level of quality never faltered, making it an undeniable front-runner for game of the year. Plated with its impeccable level design, brilliantly simple mechanics, and slew of deviating paths and hidden goodies, Celeste transcends into a remarkably defined staple of the modern 2D platformer. Its pitch perfect gameplay and refined mechanics are enhanced by its impeccably crafted pace and gameplay implementation, introducing new twists and turns at every corner, significantly upping the ante with each new chapter. Aside from its mechanical prowess, Celeste boasts one of the most beautifully crafted narratives to ever grace the gaming sphere, a creative element typically undermined or absent in mainstays of the genre. Celeste’s inspiring coming of age story is a breath of fresh air to the expanding portfolio of 2D platformers. While these two fundamental structures of Celeste are inherently separate, both exude an unparalleled level of quality, becoming prime examples of their craft and are seamlessly harmonized as a result. Celeste is not only a remarkable start to the new year, it is arguably the best modern 2D platformer, standing tall amongst the meteoric heights of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Ori and the Blind Forest.
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Now that E3 2016 is over, we can all take a deep breath and take the time to analyze the enthralling goodness that enraptured our captivation for the past week. While I felt the overall showcase was rather underwhelming in comparison to last year’s E3, there were specific highlights that acted as this year’s saving grace and Sony in particular definitely brought the momentum back as they undoubtedly knocked it out of the park with their press conference. Aside from the excellent re-imagining of the Resident Evil series with Resident Evil VII, the invigorating multiplayer showcase of Battlefield 1, the intriguing permutations of Detroit: Become Human, the melancholic tranquility of The Last Guardian, and the visceral, albeit familiar, gameplay of Gears of War 4, these next five games were my personal favourite showcases at this year’s E3.
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Slightly Improved warfare…
Call of Duty is an infamous series renowned for its heavy emphasis on action, slick 60fps gunplay, and its revolutionary multiplayer that arguably pioneered the modern online competitive front, but it is also, however, heavily criticized for its archetypal execution and painful unoriginality. Call of Duty’s first, and arguably only, colossal step into the world of gaming was achieved back in 2007 with the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Whether you like it or not, there is no denying the fact that it became the staple of the modern online multiplayer, with the competition either replicating and/or improving on its formula. The sole act of gaining experience points in order to rank up, unlocking new weapons, gear, and perks catered to a fantastic Role-Playing mentality. However, these accomplishments were achieved nearly a decade ago, and currently, Call of Duty is arguably stuck in some form of limbo. Its gameplay, mission structure, level variety, and core online execution have remained fairly stagnant for the past 8 years. With 7 titles released since its initial success, something new or innovative is desperately needed to reinvigorate the Call of Duty formula, since each annual title is more or less the same, and playing the same game for 8 years can be tiresome. Enter Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the most recent entry in the series. Activision and newest COD developer Sledgehammer Games wanted to address the endless criticism on their beloved franchise and decided to add some spice to the aging formula. Advanced Warfare is by far the most innovative Call of Duty in recent memory, and is also one of the most fun entries in the series, but unfortunately, as previously mentioned, there are some significant problems that have plagued the COD series for years and Advanced Warfare is no exception.
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As we come to the end of the first quarter of 2015, a moment of reflection is in order. I’ll primarily be focusing on Sony and their current lineup and affairs. After the recent announcement of Uncharted 4’s delay to Spring 2016, the first thought that came to mind was: “is Sony in trouble?”
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2014, which was a decent year for gaming, is long gone. I’ll be uploading my top 10 games of 2014 shortly but I still have to complete a couple of games and contemplate their placement on my list. So, in the meantime, I decided to compose a list of my most anticipated games of 2015, a year that shows more promise than its predecessor. The list of 2015 releases is insurmountable, since many 2014 titles were delayed to the following year, and a lot of them have potential to be something amazing. I could have made a list of 20 or more games, but I decided to keep it short and simple; this means that there will be honorable mentions. Along with my 10 most anticipated games of 2015, I look forward to The Division, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Until Dawn, Evolve, No Man’s Sky, Halo 5 Guardians, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, and Yoshi’s Wooly World. But these next 10 games, ordered alphabetically, have got me extremely pumped for 2015, and I look forward to seeing how they are received both critically and commercially, and come next year, how many of them will land on my Top Games of 2015 list.
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