It’s years end again; the days get shorter, the night gets longer, small gods the world over brace themselves for eternal night that’ll never come. It’s in the darkest part of the year, a grim reminder of why so many ancient religious picture the world falling to snow and ice rather than fire. As that snow falls and the world itself seems to die around us, we’re filled with that most human of needs: the need to blindly fantasize about the past and figure out which five games are adorning the bloodstained spike I call my Christmas tree this year. Without any real ado, here they are.

wayofthesamurai4-01 #5 WAY OF THE SAMURAI 4
Developer: Acquire
Released: July 23rd, 2015
Website: Official
Original Review HERE

While a little odd and slightly clumsy, It’s definitely one of the most inventive and open games I’ve ever played. Despite being strictly story based the replayability kept me coming back, testing different routes and blindly assaulting different government officials to see just what would change. Admittedly, often the thing that would change is that there would suddenly be a unlimited amount of furious samurai, but, as the old saying goes, we do not assassinate government officials because it is easy, we do it because it is hard.

apotheon-01 #4 APOTHEON
Developer: Alien Trap Games
Released: Febuary 3rd, 2015
Website: Official
Original Review HERE

Not even Castlevania games do the metroidvania thing any more, so Apotheon was a breath of the same dank Tomb air that was desperately missed. Despite a slightly predictable plot, the cut and thrust of the combat and expansive world deliver everything you could be missing from the classics, and the uniquely interesting art style is merely gilding the urn.

And, as though a gift from Prometheus, there’s a free multiplayer expansion now, which I didn’t even realize it needed.

witcher3 #3 THE WITCHER 3
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Released: May 19th, 2015
Website: Official
Original Review HERE

One of the few AAA games released this year that didn’t begin to feel like a mugging, The Witcher 3 is destined for more game of the year awards than a horse can possibly carry. Huge, complex and thoroughly, comprehensively intelligent, its success is entirely deserved, containing sweet highs, bitter lows, and brutal maiming. While the old powerhouses like the elder scrolls and fallout do their best to remain inoffensive and predictable, The Witcher 3 was one of the very few games I played this year that made me stop and think, overturning my videogame assumptions and forcing me to play cautiously, predicting the challenges I would face ahead of time and preparing appropriately. And the DLC has one of the best villains in all of videogames.

jotun #2 JOTUN
Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
Released: September 29th, 2015
Website: Official
Original Review HERE

Jotun is exactly what an Indie game should be, with a short but compelling story, gorgeous art design and a consistent difficulty curve that encouraged exploration and experimentation. Jotun lasts exactly as long as it needs to, providing the player with almost incomparable value, both for their buck and their time. Too often games boast about hundred hour playtimes as though that’s a useful metric, while offering about ten hours of compelling content spread out by needless open worlds. Jotun does things differently, giving me every ounce of enjoyment possible and disappearing, leaving me longing for more. Few games understand the value of a player’s time better, and playing through Jotun is one of the best ways to spend a Sunday. Nothing less than a short, triumphant and beautiful saga and, importantly, nothing more.

vermintide #1 WARHAMMER – The End Times: Vermintide
Developer: Fatshark
Released: October 23th, 2015
Website: Official
Original Review HERE

With new, free DLC and more on the way, Vermintide takes itself from good to great, and the meaty, moreish combat is enough to ensure I’m going to stick around and play all of it. Usually I’ll find myself abandoning games after only two weeks, but Vermintide is one I simply can’t forget. With meaty, interesting combat, constant developer attention and the promise of expansive new content, it’s difficult to forget and impossible to leave. And, like an understanding spouse, it’s always there at 3 in the morning when I’m bored of its replacement, willing to entertain me and some friends for a couple of frantic hours before I pass out.

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This post was written by Luke