We're another month into the fall season of 2015, and the barrage of good games hasn't slowed down. October housed a diverse array of stellar titles, from hand-drawn Norse adventures to unforgiving platformers.
It was also a great month for expansions. CD Projekt Red released the first major addition to its masterful RPG The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, giving us a variety of new quests to tackle in Hearts of Stone. Meanwhile, Firaxis Games completely reimagined several facets of its sci-fi strategy game with Civilization: Beyond Earth –– Rising Tide. In this expansion, you establish floating cities that can move, substantially changing the way you can play.
Downwell, on the other hand, exemplified focused design. There are only three buttons and one clear objective: get to the bottom of a randomly generated vertical drop. Despite its simplicity, we sank hours into this difficult scroller, acquiring new abilities and besting our old scores. Then there's Jotun, a game with influences ranging from Shadow of the Colossus to Dark Souls, but its hand-sketched world makes ample use of Norse mythology, and its fantastic boss battles set it apart.
Later in October, Telltale Games completed the narrative arc of Tales from the Borderlands. Although the series' episodes ranged from fantastic to just fine, the finale brought everything full circle, wrapping up characters' journeys in satisfying ways, and making us care about a ragged group of misfits.
Speaking of misfits, the new Assassin's Creed Syndicate centers on not one, but two assassins in the alleys of London during the Industrial Revolution. With a believable open world, a plethora of side missions to pursue, and two of our favorite protagonists in the perennial series, Syndicate more than made up for the lackluster Assassin's Creed Unity. Jacob and Evie may be the newest in a long line of leading assassins, but their endearing relationship and dynamic personalities make for some of the better characters in the longrunning series.
But when all is said and done, it was Halo 5: Guardians that captivated us as October came to a close. 343 has fine-tuned player movement and level design with its newest entry, making Spartan abilities fluid and dynamic. The cooperative campaign is also compelling, with eight total super soldiers to choose from.
As for the multiplayer--this is Halo near its peak. Maps are balanced, and differing elevations make battles as vertical as they are expansive. Halo 5 also ditches the Call of Duty-inspired loadout system of Halo 4, opting instead to return to the classic Halo formula, weapon pickups and all.
But it's the new Warzone multiplayer mode that truly sets Guardians apart. Drawing clear inspiration from MOBAs, Warzone pits two teams against each other on massive battlefields and a variety of mini-bosses to change up the player-vs.-player skirmishes. With each team racing to 1000 points and the new requisition system fueling weapon and vehicle possibilities, Warzone is the mode that kept us playing despite a slew of excellent fall releases. It not only makes Halo 5 worth returning to often, but clears a promising path for innovation in the shooter genre.