EGMR Awards 2015: Best Story
The secret to a good story is in its telling, and given the quality on offer, it’s telling that the story on offer in 2015 was sublime. We got stories that would rival anything written literature has to offer. Plots that would rival even the best in cinema. Narratives so good, you would be forgiven for thinking they were a fully-fledged social movement. 2015 was quality, and the games we have to talk about today really speak for themselves. But don’t let us spoil the good stuff for you.
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This is always an interesting award to hand out. Many people believe that best story is all about the story itself, in terms of how good, interesting or deep it is. However, there is a lot more to it than that. Stories need to be paced well, they need to have solid settings and accuracy, they need characters and events that drive the plot forward and they need to be told well so that you can become engrossed in them and understand and relate to them. One of the largest factors that make up a good story, which is incidentally also the most challenging, is the ability to keep people hooked until the end. Not many games, books or even movies manage to successfully pull this off all the time, and the mark of a great story is ultimately its ability to capture an audience and keep them compelled until the very end.
War? War never changes. Coincidentally neither does someone playing Fallout 4, because that would take away from their time actually playing Fallout 4. Bethesda’s latest title in the massively successful and popular series that had its roots in the world of isometrics delves into new paradigms of storytelling by not only adding a voiced character complete, but also giving your character creation tool some purpose this time around. There’s also some stuff about the pure concept of humanism, the question of morality, the quandary of ethical treatment of humanoid forms that are not strictly human, and the dilemma of choosing between ultimately disagreeable factions that all want your help but refuse to get along. Also: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. You’ll see. On the subject of Vaults…
Tales from the Borderlands
You weren’t expecting this one, were you? How far the Borderlands series has come since the walls of text that populated the first game. Tales from the Borderlands is a Telltale Games offering, so naturally it makes this list by default. Doubly so because it follows the excellent Borderlands 2, and continues the story from the point when [SPOILERS] was killed, leading to the revelation that many [SPOILERS] could be found throughout the [SPOILERS]. Tales from the Borderlands took things a step further, with drastically altered events based on your choices, and some of the best storytelling Telltale Games have ever produced. Golf claps all round!
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series
Winter is coming. And once you’ve played Telltale’s telling of Game of Thrones, it won’t be the only thing coming. Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series follows the exploits of House Forrester, a little-known, briefly mentioned northern-Westerosi family that holds the valuable Ironwood forest. But most importantly, this being Game of Thrones, there are twists. Twists everywhere. And cameos too, with a bunch of your favourite characters from the TV show making an appearance. George R. R. Martin’s award-winning series mixed with Telltale Games and their penchant for storytelling prowess? Now that’s a wedding made in, well, hopefully not Westeros.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
On the topic of books that became TV series that became games, nothing has done it quite so good as The Witcher series from CD Projekt RED. Continuing in this fashion is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which concludes Geralt’s epic story by filling in the massive missing chunk of his past, as well as setting the scene for his present. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a textbook example of how to conclude a story, closing so many threads that you’d think CD Projekt RED were a forum moderator. Not only is Geralt finally reunited with his lost love, but he is also reunited with his slightly less lost love, and his apparent lost daughter, and also his other lost friends from the first game. From start to finish, The Witcher 3 offered tough choices, gruellingly complex situations, and some of the best writing we have ever had the pleasure of experiencing in digital format. Also: Realistic beard growth. Take that, every other game in the world.
Life is Strange
Last but most certainly not least we come to Life is Strange. And Life really is Strange if you consider that this game, for all intents and purposes, looks and feels like something from Telltale Games. It’s actually from Dontnod Entertainment, and published by Square Enix (!). Life is Strange blew the concept of powerful storytelling wide open, taking it to the absolute next level by presenting some of the most brutal choices available to you. But don’t worry, you can just go back and fix things! Or can you? The beauty of Life is Strange came in never knowing if your choices would lead to their desired outcomes, and in that way it perfectly mimicked real life, where sometimes telling someone the truth isn’t the best idea, and sometimes when you rewind time and fix something, you actually end up breaking a hundred other things. Don’t you just hate when that happens? Life is Sad, guys.
It isn’t Life is Strange because although it was brutal and real and made you feel things you never thought you’d feel for teenage girls, it was mostly a contained experience, and wasn’t quite as memorable as it tried to be.
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series didn’t take the award either, because while it seemed like the ideal marriage of storytellers, it didn’t do enough to compete with the books or even the series that it borrowed from, and while certainly entertaining, failed to really stand out.
Our winner isn’t Fallout 4 because most of this story has been seen before, and Fallout 4 doesn’t go particularly far out of its way to present something entirely new. Plus the myriad ways in which the story could effectively be “game”d led to a feeling of detachment, and dissonance. Why care about any of it when you can just stay in Sanctuary and cultivate crops?
It was a tough call but Tales from the Borderlands didn’t take it either, despite presenting some of the best storytelling Telltale Games have given us, making this a close second place.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The best part about sex is the release. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was that release, in gaming form. We endured two full games worth of content to get to this point, and we were going to get our conclusion or so help us. CD Projekt RED came through for us, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt delivered in spades. Offering us not just a satisfactory conclusion, but a rollercoaster ride of twists and turns, with some of the most gut-wrenching revelations along the way. And that wasn’t even the best part. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s greatest victory came not in telling its story, but in mirroring our personalities through Geralt, and other characters. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt taught us as much about ourselves, as it did about the land of Temeria. Effortlessly. Testament to just how far outclassed every other game was, this year, in the storytelling department. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt made storytelling not just an art, but a masterclass. Plus, that beard man. Wow.