It’s Loresworn Games of the Year Week! Today, we count down our Most Improved Games of the Year. These are the games that we felt, through expansions, patches, and DLC, exited 2015 as better experiences than they entered it.
Tuesday: Most Overrated/Underrated Game of the Year
Wednesday: Games We Didn’t Get To (But Wish We Had)
Thursday: GAME OF THE YEAR
Friday: Most Anticipated Games of 2016
I already had a dozens of hours sunk into Dark Souls II, and it’s a testament both to the series’ replayability and the overall improvements made in Scholar of the First Sin that I was more or less willing to buy the same game a second time and give it another 70. The DLC areas are varied, well-designed, and present some of the greatest challenges in the entire Souls universe. But it’s really the graphical, balance, and quality-of-life improvements to the core game, plus 64-bit optimization, that make Scholar of the First Sin one of the best re-releases I’ve played.
Crusader Kings II only got one major expansion this year, but it was an exciting one. Adding nomadic hordes and the ability to raze Paris and return the French countryside to pasture land further expanded the horizons of what was once a pretty focused feudalism simulator. The engine and core mechanics are starting to show the strain of all the extra gameplay avenues being added, but it’s undeniably still a lot of fun to charge across the steppe and make the settled people fear your name.
Attila already might be my favorite Total War game of all time, and the Charlemagne expansion continued the theme of rethinking what a Total War campaign can be. Creative Assembly gave us the reigns to essentially usher in the middle ages and watch the changes that come about as a result unfold before our eyes. New mechanics like War Weariness have also started to steer the series toward a historical simulation that’s not just about the battles anymore.
White March Part 1 has almost all of the hallmarks of an excellent RPG expansion. It takes you to a far away land that feels fresh and distinct from the main campaign. It introduces some interesting, new companions with complex backstories. And the jewel in the crown is Durgan’s Battery: a mega dungeon with tough fights, great voice acting, and a layered, intriguing plot to uncover. It also does a fantastic job of making you feel you’ve completed a full, self-contained adventure, while still leaving loose ends you want to eagerly follow into Part 2.
I have a saying about Paradox Development Studio games these days—and it’s not just, “I will play this so long, I will forget to eat.” With Hearts of Iron IV and Stellaris on the horizon, I often find myself thinking that I’m even more excited about what these games will look like in three years than I am for what they will be at launch. And a huge reason for that is Europa Universalis IV, which continues to evolve and reinvent itself in genre-defining, clever, exciting ways.
This year alone, we got the ability to create Custom Nations, unique mechanics for South and Central American empires, parliaments, overhauled Protestant and Buddhist mechanics, imperial free cities, Tengrism, Zoroastrianism, an absolutely game changing rework of fortifications, provincial development, reworked hordes and looting, a massive improvement to internal politics with the Estates system, improved Random New World… and those are just the major bullet points. Europa Universalis is like a fine whisky that gets better with age, and I can’t wait to see what new flavors 2016 will bring.