My Top 5 Video Games of 2015

Every year, I reflect on what entertainment from the previous year I enjoyed the most. I do this so that others may find something they didn’t previous know about or wasn’t sure it would be worth their time. I, of course, didn’t see every movie, watch every TV show, or read every comic. What that disclaimer in mind, here are my favorite video games from 2015.

Until Dawn (Developer: Supermassive Games) – This game came out of nowhere and took over Twitch in September. A modern day “choose your own adventure,” Until Dawn takes the troupes of horror films and uses them to makes a campy, fun story. Unlike other similar games, choices and actions change the outcome of the story and who survives in the end. Starring such Hollywood actors as Hayden Panettiere as Sam and Brett Dalton (Agents of S.H.I.E.LD) as Mike, the actors not only lend their voices but also their acting ability through motion capture. Until Dawn was such a fun experience to play and would be a great party game to play with others.

Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture (Developer: The Chinese Room) – Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture was a breath of fresh air. Its sole purpose is to tell a story through interactive narrative and did not feature a single gun or combat scene. By focusing on the story, the developer, Chinese Room, found ways to tell the story through interacting with the world and a beautiful soundtrack (which I still listen to today). And what a stunning world it is. With its spectacular first-person visuals, you feel like you are in this town, trying to figure out what happened. This is the type of game that I would show someone to demonstrate how video games can tell a narrative story like no other medium.

Life is Strange (Developer: Dontnod Entertainment– Another game that featured no guns or combat, Life is Strange, is an episodic narrative adventure game that tells the story of a young girl in high school named Max. She discovers she has the ability to rewind time, and the player determines how she uses this power to adjust what happens in different situations. The game’s best attribute is its characters which you truly care about. You’ll do some brief puzzle solving but most of your interactions are through dialogue with other characters. What you choose to say to them can change your relationship with that character. By the end, I felt a real connection to Max’s best friend and Max herself. It was another example of a story that wouldn’t be as affective in any other medium.

Destiny: The Taken King (Developer: Bungie) – Destiny was the game that I put the most hours into this year. It has many features in a game that I love the most like, playing for better items for your character, a real sense of community among players, and a gorgeous environment. The Taken King expansion fixed many of the problems from the original game. The inventory system was improved and the way to “level up” your character became more straight-forward. The Taken King’s biggest improvement was to its story. The story related content and the motivations of your character were clear throughout and featured the best raid to date. If you have ever wanted to give Destiny a chance or didn’t enjoy it when it first came out, I would suggest you give it another chance.

Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Developer: CD Projekt Red) – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was one of my most anticipated games since seeing a preview at Comic-Con in 2014 and it didn’t disappoint. This game was the best value of any game released this year featuring over 100 hours of content. Not only does Witcher 3 have quantity but quality in spades. Its side missions are better than most main missions in other games and the characters you meet are both layered and memorable. I’ll never forget many of these characters and can’t wait to see them again. The developer, CD Projekt Red, created a more detailed world than I’ve ever seen in a video game. It felt like it existed before I arrived and continues after I leave. This attention to detail created an experience like none I’ve ever had.

I also wanted to give a nod to Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, which I played in 2015 but came out in 2014. If it was released in 2015, it would be on this list. Blizzard knows how to make polished, fun games and Diablo III: RoS was so addictive. It always has you looking for better loot to put on your character and that drive for loot propels you through the game. The cut scenes that relay the story are second to none and the art design on the world feels lived in and creepy.

Thank you for reading this and my other favorites of 2015. Stay tuned for more features coming soon.

My Favorite Comics of 2015

Every year, I reflect on what entertainment from the previous year I enjoyed the most. I do this so that others may find something they didn’t previous know about or wasn’t sure it would be worth their time. I, of course, didn’t see every movie, watch every TV show, or read every comic. What that disclaimer in mind, here are my favorite comics from 2015.

Alex + Ada (Image) – Wrapping up its 15 issue run in 2015, Alex + Ada tells a story of Alex, a young, lonely man, who was recently left by his girlfriend. His grandmother buys him a relationship droid to help make him happy.. The series delves human fear of technology but focuses on the relationship that develops between Alex and the droid, Ada. Beautifully drawn by Jonathan Luna, the art is detailed and more realistic than cartoonish. I love how he uses multiple panels without dialogue to display the emotion of the scene. You can pick up the entire series in three trade paperbacks.

Nailbiter (Image) – Nailbiter takes place in the town of Buckeroo, a small town in Oregon. An abnormal amount of gruesome serial killers come from Buckeroo. What is connection? Why this town? Written by Joshua Williamson and drawn by Mike Henderson, Nailbiter feels like a mix between Twin Peaks and Hannibal. They both do a great job of making Buckeroo creepy and real. It is an ongoing series with the first three trade paperbacks available now.

Outcast (Image) – Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead, started this new series in 2014 and continues its fantastic run. With artist Paul Azaceta using a dark, haunting style, Outcast has already left its mark and is about to get a bigger fan base as it’s being picked up as a TV show on Cinemax this spring. Nailbiter chronicles the story of Kyle Barnes, who has loved ones affected by demonic possession and Reverend Anderson, who seeks out Kyle’s help banishing these demons from his family and others. Barnes is also searching within himself to figure out why this is happening to him and why he has the ability to help Anderson. Outcast is an ongoing series with two trade paperbacks currently available.

Wytches (Image) – A new series in 2015, Wytches follows the Rook family, who has to move away from their hometown because their daughter Sailor was bullied and the bully mysteriously disappears. Sailor is suspected to be involved in the disappearance, so the Rook family moves in search of a fresh start only to find the new town has some supernatural secrets. Created by Scott Snyder, of Batman fame, and Jock, Wytches asks how far would you go to protect the ones you love? Jock’s style really lends itself to the horror genre. Wytches has also been optioned for a theatrical release, but no other information has been discussed. The first six issues are currently available in trade paperback.

Descender (Image) – A sci-fi tale about a young robot’s struggle to find his place and stay alive in the universe, Descender is a new series from famed writer Jeff Lemire and art by Dustin Nguyen. Nguyen is the standout with his beautiful watercolor and pencil style. Every time I read this book, I am astounded by how stunning the art looks. Lemire is able to focus the story on Tim-21, the young robot, while also feeling like the universe Descender takes place in is infinte. The first six issues are available in the first trade paperback and is an ongoing series.

Southern Bastards would be on this list as well, as it would be every year, since it is still my favorite comic; however, I wanted to highlight some new series that I started reading in 2015. This is the same reason why Saga isn’t on the list. As you can see, all these books are from Image Comics and therefore creator-owned. They are really bringing stories out that speak to me and are original and new. The big two, DC and Marvel, have some good books but nothing that I feel is as good as the series I highlighted.

Come back next week for the final best of list in which I feature video games from 2015.

Favorite Movies of 2015

Every year, I reflect on what entertainment from the previous year I enjoyed the most. I do this so that others may find something they didn’t previous know about or wasn’t sure it would be worth their time. I, of course, didn’t see every movie, watch every TV show, or read every comic. With that disclaimer in mind, here are my favorite movies from 2015.

(5) It Follows – I’m not a big horror movie fan. In fact, I see very few a year. I typically find them formulaic to a fault or just after shock value. It Follows is a movie that feels new and what the horror genre strives to become. It kept me guessing throughout and I never knew where it was going. More than anything, for me, horror movies need to leave a mark on the viewer. The most successful horror movies are ones that, after watching, make the viewer think about it long after the credits roll. It Follows made me look over my shoulder for days!

(4) Ex Machina–Half sci-fi and half horror, Ex Machina takes a look at the future of artificial intelligence technology and asks the question,“Are we going too far?” It examines what it really means to be human and the human trait of selfishness. Oscar Issac, who seems to play a role in all the top movies this year, stars as a Steve Jobs type who is pushing the limits of A.I. Alicia Vikander stars, in her breakout role, as Ava the A.I. droid. Both are fantastic along with Domhnall Gleeson (yes, Bill Weasley himself for you Potterheads...10 points to Gryffindor!), as Caleb, a young man who visits Issac’s character at his compound after winning a “contest.” Ex Machina is a visually remarkable movie for its low budget and one I would highly recommend checking out but don’t read too much about it prior.

(3) The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, The Hateful Eight, is one of his best. For this film, Tarantino used Panavision anamorphic lenses with an aspect ratio of 2.76:1, a very widescreen image that was used on some films in the 1950s and 1960s. The Hateful Eight was the first movie with a wide release on 70mm since 1992. This crates gorgeous, wider-than-normal shots. The visuals are not the real standout though; it’s the verbal sparring. Tarantino is known for his great use of dialogue and it is on full display here. I highly recommend checking this movie out in a theatre so you can get the full benefit of the visual format, as we may never see another release like it again.

(2) Inside Out – When I first heard about the concept for Inside Out, I didn’t think Pixar would be able to pull it off but, thankfully, I was so wrong. After Cars 2 and Brave, I was worried Pixar had lost its magic but they are back in full force. Inside Out was heartwarming, hilarious, and imaginative. It had the most adult underlying themes since Up. It really focuses on parents and the mark they leave on their kids. I was brought to tears multiple times and laughed out loud throughout. In my opinion, Inside Out is one of two masterpieces released this year.

(1) Mad Max: Fury Road – Mad Max: Fury Road is the other masterpiece. I was completely gob smacked and in awe throughout this film.  George Miller is one of the great directors of our time and Mad Max: Fury Road is a master class in how to make an action film. He used little dialogue and narrative to explain the world, but instead visually displays and explains the post-apocalyptic environment on the screen. Charlize Theron shines as Imperator Furiosa. It is a travesty she hasn’t received more accolades for her performance. Mad Max: Fury Road is one memorable scene after another. It set a new bar for action films and we will be referencing it for years to come.

You’ll notice there is no Star Wars on this list. I do think it was one of my top 5 movies of 2015; however, I didn’t put it on the list because all of the world has seen it already. I would rather highlight some films that didn’t get the same level of publicity.

Come back next week, as I turn my focus to comics from 2015.