EGMR Awards 2015: Best New IP
In an industry where sequelitis and franchising is the norm, and we’re currently dealing with an entrenched evil in unnecessary remakes, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to and honour the newcomers, and the fresh experiences that genuinely try to be their own games. In amongst the wealth of excellence in existing franchises there were some gems that stood out as not only fresh but excellent at what they were doing.
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In a world where sequels are the norm, and we’re now currently dealing with unnecessary remakes *cough* Final fantasy VII *cough*, newcomers and new IPs get us extremely excited. It’s a great thing when developers decide to pursue new ideas, concepts, gameplay mechanics and attempt to create something entirely new. It’s never an easy thing, as starting something new can be a daunting challenge. Everyone loves seeing something completely new or something that has never been done before. There is often so much riding on a new game. With a sequel, generally, and this is a very basic outlook, you use the tools and gameplay structure from the first or previous game(s) and upgrade – not to mention you always have a pretty good idea of what to expect from a sequel without hearing anything about it. When it comes to new games, you’re starting from scratch and building it all up. Sure you’ll borrow some gameplay ideas or popular mechanics and often base your game on another, but somewhere down the line you’ll have to craft your own identity and this is where the fun is. In a nutshell this award is given to a newcomer that excelled, managed to make the most of its concept and delivered an exciting and better gaming experience overall than the rest of the competition.
Few could have predicted just how prolific Rocket League would be upon release let alone that it would leave such an indelible mark on gaming. Not only did Rocket League appear with a bang but Psyonix sustained that fire with a constant stream of content. It’s got room for improvement and expansion but Rocket League is an incredibly simple, incredibly fun experience if you want it to be or a tensely competitive battle of teamwork if that’s more your speed.
Wait. Is this really a new IP? We kid. From Software had the unenviable task of making Bloodborne not only stand out from Dark Souls 2 but also stand above it. They managed it with no small amount of effort. Bloodborne scarcely puts a foot wrong from its Gothic visuals to the eerie atmosphere that creeps through Yarnham like an encroaching fog. With sharp combat, transforming weapons and a healthy amount of freedom Bloodborne feels special. However, it’s Yarnham that makes Bloodborne so memorable. On top of the core mechanics it draws players in with its aesthetics and intriguingly grotesque character designs. Bloodborne is truly uniquely nightmarish and masterful at the same time.
Life is Strange
Life is Strange is not much to look at and even playing it doesn’t feel like anything special with it’s simple point-and-click façade but it’s once you dig into it that the magic happens. The game’s core time rewinding mechanic seems like a gimmick at first but quickly evolves into something integral to the story and the protagonist’s character development. Life is Strange delivers a complex, relatable and rich story reminiscent of Donnie Darko. The game not only feels unique in its story but also in its use of time-travel as a means of empowering players to make twists feel like that much more of a gut-punch. The five episode experience is engrossing and excellent.
Splatoon gets maximum points for concept because “squid kids duking it out in a battle arena” makes Octodad look normal. It’s the type of game where one may simply dismiss it as a whimsical feeder-game for future CoD tweens. Instead, Splatoon squirted ink in all our faces with gameplay that elevated its wacky concept into something memorable that stands out from the crowd. Where most shooters are grey-brown snarls, Splatoon is a rainbow verson of that emoji with its tongue out. You know the one. The kicker is that it plays buttery smooth with high-energy gameplay that offers depth to player who want it and has scope for plenty of competition.
Ori and the Blind Forest
Platformers are a dime a dozen. It takes a lot then for one to leave an impression and so Ori did with much aplomb. Ori and the Blind Forest excels at just about everything it does. Gorgeous visual design? Check. Excellent metroidvania gameplay mechanics? Check. Compelling story? Check. On top of all that it exudes an effervescent exuberance. Ori manages to balance all its elements in a way that many struggle to accomplish and does so with ease and finesse.
Not Splatoon. While it offers a great deal of fun and some incredibly solid gameplay, it proved to be a little rough around the edges and could certainly have stood to benefit from some polish.
Life is Strange didn’t quite make the cut either. Despite its complex story, engrossing narrative and lovable characters it suffers from a number of technical issues and an underwhelming visual style. We’d certainly love to see more of it but it simply didn’t excel in enough areas.
In truth any of the final three nominees could win depending on who you are. Ultimately we shafted Rocket League because, while it has proven to have longevity, it just couldn’t measure up to our winner in quality. Similarly, Ori and the Blind Forest didn’t end up taking home the award. There’s almost nothing to fault the game for, truly, but our winner offered us that special something that gave us too many reasons to admire it.
In the end Bloodborne was almost destined to take it. We could find precious little to fault the game for and throughout the year it has remained in the fore of our minds as one of this year’s best offerings.Not only did it do plenty to set itself apart from Dark Souls but it even managed to appeal to a wider audience with its attack-focused, more aggressive combat system. Bloodborne is steeped in atmosphere, gorgeous visual design and offers a world that many a player has found themselves lost in. Bloodborne is truly special and has left an indelible mark upon those who’ve played it (they’re the ones who wake up at night, screaming in terror). Bloodborne is a near-perfect experience and one that has us eager to return to Yarnham and its surrounds. That is why it walks way with our award for Best New IP.