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Best Products of 2015: Gaming

The Witcher 3 slays the competition in a year of enormously epic games

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

2015 was the year massive, open worlds became the norm for AAA gaming. A few years in to the latest generation of consoles, developers were ready to flex the new hardware with game worlds that were immersive, dynamic, and beautifully rendered. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt tamed its immense scale with a narrative that felt both epic and personal. Its ending called back to notable choices that players made throughout the story, solidifying a cohesive sense of agency that is hard to pull off for a game where you can spend this much time aimlessly wandering around and slaying monsters.

The game leading up to that satisfying conclusion is a challenging blast, as well. Warsaw-based developer CD Projekt RED has been working on the series non-stop since the first game in 2007, and all of that passion is reflected in this refined culmination of the trilogy. The basic experience remains the same: you are Geralt of Rivia, a professional monster hunter who slays beasts and seduces sorceresses in a medieval high fantasy world with Slavic inclinations. The main story revolves around Geralt’s daughter-figure Ciri being pursued by a band of inter-dimensional elves for her immense power. Its side quests range from standard fantasy RPG fare to grittier territory involving abuse, serial killers, and genocide. That emotional gravity is balanced out by the right amount of humor, and a lot of good old-fashioned monster slaying.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt tamed its immense scale with a narrative that felt both epic and personal.

The character progression system is the most flexible and intuitive yet for the series. Combat is fun and challenging, replacing the flashy sword heroics of other RPGs with a tense, positional dance that puts your timing and tactics to the test in any fight against more than a handful of grunts. High-level monster contracts can be especially tough, giving you more incentive to do your research and prepare with the appropriate oils, spells, and weapons for the extra edge they afford you. Inventory management can be clunky, but that’s a common and mostly forgivable sin for the genre.

While no one element of Wild Hunt stands out as particularly innovative, CD Projekt RED has put together a stunningly large, studied, and cohesive RPG that sets a high watermark for modern fantasy.

Runners up

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Image used with permission by copyright holder

In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain you can approach any objective from any angle, with any combination of equipment and support you want. Stealth is encouraged, but you can still come in guns blazing. Trouble behind the scenes rears its ugly head in some of the game’s structural elements, unfortunately, likely due to the abrupt departure of series creator Hideo Kojima during development. The game is a delight, but still feels like a missed opportunity for true greatness.

Fallout 4

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Fallout 4 is the most refined Bethesda RPG. Boston is the setting, full colorful characters and interesting details that compel you to aimlessly explore. The new leveling system is simpler and more flexible than previous versions, allowing for a great degree of control in how you want to play. New item-modding, crafting, and base-building systems—features are also a perfect fit. Fallout 4 has a bright future ahead of it too, with no level cap and the promise of mods and DLC.

Editors' Recommendations

Will Fulton
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Will Fulton is a New York-based writer and theater-maker. In 2011 he co-founded mythic theater company AntiMatter Collective…
The best video games of July 2022
A character in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 looks ahead.

July proved to be a surprisingly solid month for the gaming industry, even if it didn't seem like it on paper. While there was only one really significant AAA release, a wide range of experimental titles from lots of different genres stepped into the spotlight throughout the month. From a remake of a game that never got a western release to a short, immersive experience about cats, some of the most distinct and unconventional games of 2022 dropped during the month of July. 
As a result, there are quite a few games we recommend players check out this month ahead of the rush of releases this fall. In particular, the following seven games really spoke to us. 
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 - Direct Teaser Trailer
One of the month's last releases was also its best. Nintendo and Monolith Soft released Xenoblade Chronicles 3 on July 28, and it serves as a culmination of what the series has built toward since the first Xenoblade Chronicles title was released. While its combat system is pretty complicated, with MMO-like structure and character fusion, its standout story and faithfulness to the series' formula should please JRPG fans who are now getting a third Xenoblade Chronicles game on Nintendo Switch.
"If you get emotionally attached to characters, especially passionate ones who don’t want to hurt people and are just trying their best, then it’s a must-play," Jess Reyes wrote in Digital Trends four-star review of Xenoblade Chronicles 3. "You just have to be ready for an action RPG that isn’t always the picture of elegance -- and be prepared to live with those quirks through a long, long adventure."
One of the year's best video game narratives is packed inside one of its longest RPGs. But if you're a fan of Monolith Soft's RPG formula, there doesn't seem to be any reason not the check out this game. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is now available exclusively for Nintendo Switch. 
Stray - Gameplay Walkthrough | PS5, PS4
One of the other biggest games this month is Stray, an indie title from BlueTwelve Studio and publisher Annapurna Interactive about a cat exploring a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk city. For cat owners, Stray is a dream come true as it gamifies all the weird behaviors adorable cats are known for. Stray is a beautiful-looking game with a compelling story that only lasts five hours, so you should fit it into your gaming schedule if you can. 
"Much has been made about the game’s adorable feline lead since the game was first announced, but Stray isn’t just a cute gimmick; it’s a forward-thinking science-fiction game about our increasingly complicated connection with technology," Giovanni Colantonio wrote in his four-star review of Stray. "Between its clever (though limited) gameplay ideas and weighty social commentary, Stray is a special experience that works best as a futuristic mood piece. And a really darn cute one at that."
If you love cats, then it seems like it's impossible to not fall in love with some parts of Stray. Just don't ask me what I think of the cat's actions in the game; I'm a dog person. Stray is available now for PC, PS4, and PS5. It's available with a PlayStation Plus Extra or PlayStation Plus Premium subscription, too, making it the first game to launch on day one of Sony's new subscription service. 
Live A Live

The other big JRPG to release in July was Live A Live. This Nintendo Switch exclusive from Square Enix is actually a remake of Super Famicom RPG that never made it stateside. It's rare that games in this situation ever get a western release, let alone get remade, so this is a notable game just for that. Still, it manages to stand out even further thanks to its HD-2D makeover and its unique structure where players go through several separate adventures before they all come together in the end.
"Live A Live mostly accomplishes what it’s supposed to do: tell a serviceable story and back it up with engaging gameplay," George Yang wrote in Digital Trends' three-and-a-half star review of Live A Live. "However, the game takes too long to get to the best part, which is the final chapter when all of the characters are available to join a single party. Until then, a few of the character chapters can be slogs to get through. The visual presentation and music are great, though, making the journey to the end a treat for both eyes and ears."
The developers who worked on Live A Live in the 90s went on to influence titles like Chrono Trigger and Octopath Traveler. If you want to see a modernized version of where those ideas originated, then Live A Live is a fantastic game to check out. Currently, Live A Live is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch. 
As Dusk Falls

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The Witcher 3’s long-delayed upgrade is finally coming
Geralt from The Witcher 3 promo material.

The current-gen edition of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which will upgrade the game on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, will now launch in the fourth quarter of 2022 according to a tweet from developer CD Projekt Red.

This comes on the seventh anniversary of the original game's release in May 2015. It's still unclear when the current-gen version will launch, but we can expect it by the end of the year -- hopefully in time for the holidays.

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The Witcher 3’s current-gen port has been delayed yet again
Geralt looks at a tower in the distance in The Witcher 3.

CD Projekt Red has announced that its current-gen port of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt will not be releasing any time soon. In a post on the game's Twitter account, the developer said that the game's port, which was supposed to come out during the second fiscal quarter of this year, has been postponed "until further notice." The game had earlier been delayed to this year.

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