Game of the Year 2017

Honourable Mention:

Yakuza Kiwami (PS4)

Taken from http://gimmegimmegames.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/F30AB73B-5A28-4D3C-AE1F-2A3D2D2086BF-22364-00000A15D39A382D_tmp.jpg

NANI?!

An honourable mention only because I just haven’t played enough of it yet, otherwise it might have made the list.

Runner up (for similar reasons): Dishonoured 2 (PC)

 

Most Disappointing:

Dawn of War III (PC)

Taken from https://static1.gamespot.com/uploads/original/43/434805/3057640-1.jpg

Nowhere near as cool as it looks

Somehow Creative Assembly took the worst parts of the two games preceding this one and created something that was very pretty, but ultimately kind of shallow and not particularly enjoyable to play.

 

Top Ten:

10. Persona 5 (PS4)

Taken from https://d17omnzavs9b58.cloudfront.net/assets/article/2017/04/03/persona5_feature.jpg

Styyyyyyyyyle

A contender for most disappointing game, Persona 5 makes an incredible first impression through amazing music and presentation that oozes style.  However as the game goes on, the flaws become more apparent: companions are shallow with only a couple being interesting at all; dungeon design goes from being quite cool to utterly abysmal; and, worst of all, the translation into English is garbage, robbing a lot of the dialogue of any charm it may have originally possessed.

Persona 5 is still a good game, but it pales in comparison to Persona 4 on every level except the presentation, which is a real damn shame.

9. Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4)

Taken from https://media.playstation.com/is/image/SCEA/horizon-zero-dawn-impact-poster-ps4-us-07feb17?$twoColumn_Image$

Go on, kid, climb the robo-giraffe, make yourself famous!

I’m not a big open world guy, but Horizon managed to capture my attention through a combination of a really well-realised setting and an excellent protagonist.  The story moved well, and the gameplay was pretty satisfying and presented a nice challenge.  Horizon was an entertaining and extremely pretty game and I look forward to seeing where the inevitable sequel goes.

8. Sonic Mania (PS4)

Taken from https://cdn.wccftech.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Sonic-Mania.png

Not pictured: Big the Cat or any of the other post-Megadrive bullshit

I grew up as a Sega kid and Sonics 1 through & Knuckles hold a special place in my heart.  Mania represents a return to form for Sonic games after literally decades of utter shit, and was a great and surprisingly challenging nostalgia trip.

7. XCOM 2: War of the Chosen / Long War 2 (PC)

Taken from https://cdn.2kgames.com/web/xcom.com/images/overview/xxvy3598yt/x2woc_screen_newfactions.jpg

Look at these miscreants

I’m going to cheat here and use place two major pieces of content for XCOM2 under the same heading.

Long War 2 is a massive mod that fundamentally alters the way XCOM2 plays, adding in a tonne of new content and complexity that makes the fun but flawed original game substantially more interesting, not to mention challenging.

War of the Chosen is a massive official expansion that fundamentally alters the way XCOM2 plays, adding in a tonne of new content and complexity that makes the fun but flawed original game substantially more interesting, not to mention challenging.

Of the two, LW2 was definitely the more complex and interesting, but I really liked the additions that War of the Chosen made.  It’s a real shame that it seems the the two expansions will never be truly integrated with each other.

6. Hand of Fate 2 (PC)

Taken from https://www.defiantdev.com/img/screenshots/4.jpg

I love-hate this bastard

Hand of Fate 1 was a great concept, combining rogue-like facets with a mix of collectable card game, RPG, and arena combat.  Hand of Fate 2 expands and improves on this in every way and is a fantastic game to sit down with for a half hour burst or for several hours as you try to conquer the various challenges.  Even losing doesn’t feel too bad, as every run will see you unlocking new cards to ensure that things go differently next time.

5. Pyre (PC)

Taken from https://i.gadgets360cdn.com/large/pyre_characters_1499320697424.jpg

That dog has a moustache. You can make him shave it. This should be in first place.

SuperGiant continues to hit it out of the park by creating weird genre mixes and adding in their unique style.  Similar to Persona 5, Pyre has a unique and gorgeous graphical style, matched by incredibly good music by Darren Korb.  Unlike Persona, however, the writing is as good as the presentation.  The gameplay is no slouch either, mixing visual novel aspects with a surprisingly deep religious rite version of basketball…kind of?  It’s hard to explain, but Pyre is definitely worth dipping into and finding out first hand.

4. Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)

Taken from https://cdn.wccftech.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Super-Mario-Odyssey-gameplay.jpg

Sleazy mustachioed bastard

This game was worth buying a Switch for.

Super Mario Odyssey plays the way you remember Mario 64 playing, and combines the best parts of that game (and mediocre sequel Sunshine) with bits and pieces of the rest of the franchise, and then tops it off with a bunch of changes and that Nintendo polish to make what is easily the best 3D Mario game.  The possession mechanic is heaps of fun, the worlds are all unique and mostly interesting, and the game oozes charm.

3. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (PC)

Taken from https://cdn.wccftech.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Wolfenstein-2-Review-02-Censored.jpg

This is a good game

Wolfenstein: The New Order was an amazing game and the sequel continues literally minutes from where the first left off, leaving the fight against the world-conquering Nazis behind in Europe to instead take the fight to an America that has capitulated and collaborated.  What follows is a game that is both surprisingly emotional and, sadly enough in these times, rather cathartic in unabashedly portraying Nazis as evil and worth fighting against.

Thankfully, Wolfenstein II has the chops to let you mangle Nazis with dual shotguns while also just-about-perfectly walking the line between poignant examination of how American society could embrace Nazism and an absurd, darkly humourous alt-history 1960s where the Nazis won and built a space station on Venus.

2. PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PC)

Taken from me, meeeeeee!

Couldn’t resist using a personal screenshot for this one

Mr Unknown loves his all-caps apparently.

What is there to say about PUBG, really?  The game is a phenomenon that does nothing original, instead cribbing parts from a bunch of older games and mods (ARMA, DayZ, etc). What it does do is put those disparate influences together pretty much perfectly.  Everything in PUBG feels just right – the maps are incredibly well designed and memorable, the guns feel good to shoot, the vehicles are just the right type of shitty, and the game covers everything from horror game in Solo as you know you’re being stalked by someone, through to a fun hang out with a group of friends in Squad. You can take it as seriously or as lackadaisically as you like, and no matter what you’ll have fun.

No multiplayer FPS has grabbed me like this since probably Team Fortress 2.  I’ve put hundreds of hours in already, and I’ll be putting in hundreds more getting murdered with my crew.

1. Yakuza 0 (PS4)

Taken from http://cdn.gamer-network.net/2016/usgamer/Yakuza-Zero-Shot-03.jpg

Sorry Kuze 😦

Like many Westerners, I’d heard about the Yakuza series over the years, but had never imagined playing one.  That all changed when Giant Bomb began playing through Yakuza 0 in their excellent Beast in the East series.

It took me maybe three episodes before I decided to buy the game and I am so happy that I did.  Yakuza 0 is simply incredible. It tells a fantastic crime story, has a great combat system, and there’s so much to do that it kept me going for more than 30 hours.

Yakuza 0 isn’t just my game of the year for 2017 – it’s legitimately one of the best games I’ve ever played, and is the reason I’ve picked up Kiwami, will be picking up Kiwami 2 and Yakuza 6, and will continue to play each new remake and original game.

What I’ve Been…Doing?

Hello, hello!

It’s been a while, but for once I actually have some pretty good, real life reasons for it being all quiet on the blogging front:

We bought an apartment, had to move into said apartment, discovered we could not get internet connected at said apartment, and have to wait until the NBN is available in said apartment at some point between July 1 and September 30 (and I’ll believe that timetable when I see it).

This, combined with being pretty busy with the whole moving into a whole new place thing and actually turning it into a home (with furniture and everything!, has meant that my capacity to sit at a PC and type up a blog post has been…limited, shall we say?

All of that is going to change now, however, as I am filled with resolve to use the limited data on my mobile phone for something other than downloading Giant Bomb videos and streaming iZombie and American Gods.

Coming up, I’ll be talking about the following (in no particular order):

  • More details on my two upcoming short story publications;
  • Some details on my renewed focus on the novel I’m currently working on (by working on, I mean thinking about without actually writing anything down);
  • What I’ve been reading, playing, and watching; and
  • Something a bit more experimental, in which I detail the process of writing and submitting a short story from scratch through to the submission and acceptance stage.  This will be my first new story submission in a number of years, which should make it even more interesting/frustrating/infuriating to work on, yay!

I don’t know what the exact schedule of all of this will be, but it will at least be kinda regular by my standards.

Thanks for reading.

 

What I’ve Been…Playing: Persona 4: Golden

I love games based around story – some of my earliest memories of gaming are of sitting down to play Karateka on an old system (Apple II I want to say?) with my uncle, and only wanting to know about the motivation behind what was going.  Forget the controls, why is that guy hitting that other guy? What’s the deal with that bird?

It’s something that has persisted with me all these years.  Gaming has informed my interest in being a writer, and I have developed an appreciation for the unique opportunities and limitations games bring when it comes to storytelling.

RPGs have always been a key part of this interest in story; specifically Western RPGs.  For whatever reason – and I’m honestly not sure what it is – I’ve bounced very hard off of Japanese RPGs, or games in general. Hell – and I feel like I should probably hand in my nerd credentials just saying this – the only anime I’ve ever really enjoyed was Macross/Robotech and Dragonball Z, and I’m pretty sure that last one was more ironic enjoyment than anything.

I appreciate from afar, but generally Japanese media hasn’t done it for me.

And yet, Persona 4.

This strange mix of dungeon crawler with Pokemon-esque turn-based combat, high school relationship simulator, and examination of the human psyche, is simply amazing.  I spent 80ish hours over a few weeks absolutely absorbed in the Golden edition of this game on my Vita, marvelling at every twist and turn of the story.  I grew to love the characters and the relationships you build with them, and incredible soundtrack, solid voice acting, and unique visual style – particularly the creature designs – kept me going back. I even learnt a bit about Japan along the way that led to me doing some additional reading and research.

Not since Mass Effect has a game sunk its claws into me and refused to let go like Persona 4: Golden did.  Not only has it made Persona 5 a guaranteed sale for me, but it also has me trying to source a copy of the previous game in the series, and even watching the (gasp) anime based upon the game!

If you have a system capable of playing Persona 4, you owe it to yourself to try it.  It starts out a little slow, but it quickly strikes that perfect balance between tension and bouts of goofy shit that makes it the most charming game I’ve played in years.

What I’ve Been… Playing: GOTY 2016

In one format or another, I’ve done a Game of the Year list each year for quite a long time now, so why should 2016 be an exception?

Without further ado:

Game of the Year 2016

10. Total War: Warhammer

The game that finally made Total War click for me, Total Warhammer (because, seriously, how is that not the actual name?) combines the massive scale of Total War with the hilariously grim and over-the-top fantasy setting of Warhammer in a way that was great.  Nothing quite matches the sight of a Vampire riding a zombie dragon massacring hordes of terrified goblins.

9. Stellaris

Combing a space-based 4X strategy game with the storytelling of Crusader Kings II was an inspired choice. Stellaris is an easy game to pick up, and lends itself well to guiding your newly space-faring civilisation to an end that is more about the journey than it is the victory conditions.  This game is at its best when you’re focusing more on playing peacekeeping in the civil war between factions of sentient clouds than it does deploying massive fleets (although that is fun too).  Well worth picking up, especially with the most recent expansion adding in some additional scenarios to discover.

8. XCOM 2

Apparently the entire bottom half of my list consists of strategy games.  XCOM 2 was not quite everything I had hoped it would be as a sequel to XCOM (and especially after the amazing experience that was the Long War mod), but it was still a phenomenal game that addressed many of the flaws in the first game.  The idea that you were playing as the resistance against an alien occupation force and their human allies/thralls was an inspired one, and the gameplay almost always matched up.

7. Superhot

SUPERHOT IS THE MOST INNOVATIVE SHOOTER I’VE PLAYED IN YEARS!

SUPER! HOT! SUPER! HOT! SUPER! HOT! SUPER! HOT! SUPER! HOT! SUPER! HOT!

6. Gears of War 4

More Gears of War.  Honestly, there isn’t a great deal else to say – the Coalition have begun a new trilogy that looks great, plays like the old games (which I have generally loved playing through with my wife), and includes plenty of fun nods to the old story and characters while trying to walk its own path…even if that path is super derivative of the previous games.

5. Hitman

This came a shock.  I’d never enjoyed playing the previous games, but the consistent stream of entertaining videos of Giant Bomb playing the new episodic Hitman game convinced me to give this a shot, and I was not disappointed. It hits the perfect mix between robust, serious open-world stealth assassination game and being goofy as hell, and I love it to bits.  Probably the best example of episodic game content ever as well.

4. Hyper Light Drifter

Probably the most stylish game on this list, as well as the one with the best soundtrack, what truly captured me was how sublime the gameplay is, effortlessly combining the exploration of an old, top-down adventure like A Link to the Past with Dark Souls-esque combat built around pattern memory, reflexes, and an understanding of exactly when and how to strike.  I was obsessed by Hyper Light Drifter when it came out in a way that few games ever capture me these days, and the new 60fps patch has sent me back in for New Game+.

3. The Banner Saga 2

The original Banner Saga is one of my favourite games of all time, and its successor is more than worthy as a sequel.  Gorgeous to look at, challenging to play, and featuring a wonderfully hopeless tale of the end of the world as experienced by travelling caravans of fantasy vikings and their immortal, giant allies, the Banner Saga 2 is every bit as good as the original game.  I would have liked it to push the envelope a little bit more than it did, but the familiarity doesn’t take away from the immense quality of the experience.

2. Titanfall 2

Titanfall was a very cool game that sadly never achieved the popularity it probably deserved, another promising FPS put in the way of the Call of Duty steamroller and promptly flattened.  The sequel…actually appears to be suffering the same fate, which is a real damn shame because this game is so damn good! Not only does it feature a single-player campaign that is legitimately one of the best I’ve played in years (not since Half-Life 2 I’ve I come across a story mode as innovative, though Titanfall 2 is a much shorter game), but the multiplayer takes all the free running, pilot and giant robot tag team action of the original and amps it all up. Titanfall 2 would easily have been the best FPS I’d played in a very long time, except, well…

1. DOOM

Who the hell (hah!) saw this one coming?  Not I.  Doom 3 was, in my opinion, a garbage fire of a game.  The last good thing id had put out was probably Quake III.  Wolfenstein: The New Order was great, but also not actually made by them.  When all the rumours came out about Doom 4 being this story-based, Call of Duty-esque tale of marines fighting a demonic invasion force on Earth, I was completely ready to write it off.

Apparently, so were id.

Going back to the drawing board, they got back to what made Doom DOOM, and in the process may well have started a paradigm shift for the genre.  Fast, stupidly violent, incredibly satisfying to play, and possessed of a wicked sense of humour, DOOM is everything I had ever hoped for as a fan of the old games, and something I never would have expected.  Also, there’s a multiplayer mode, but who gives a crap about that?

 

The rest…

So that just about does it for my top 10 games of 2016.  However, there are a few other mentions I’d like to give as well:

Honourable Mentions

Pony Island – great, dumb concept and a fun little experience

Darkest Dungeon – Fun game, but never quite hooked me the way I expected.

Furi – Really like this one, but just haven’t had time to sink my teeth in.

Tyranny – Promising concept, but failed to hook me after the first act.  May go back to it.

House of the Dying Sun – Very fun, X-wing-esque gameplay, but not a lot of meat to it.

Enter the Gungeon – Super enjoyable rogue-lite shooter, but just a little bit too hard.

 

Dishonourable Mentions

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – Honestly, perhaps the most disappointed I’ve been with a game since – funnily enough – Deus Ex 2: Invisible War.  Feels like the same game as Human Revolution, only somehow less fun and with a much worse story.  The more open hub area was a great idea in theory, but in practice just made the game tedious, an impression that was only reinforced by the rest of it.

 

Mentions

(for the games where my opinion is not overly positive or negative, but just a long, drawn out sigh)

Brigador – has everything I like in games, except actually being fun to play.

Kentucky Route Zero: Act 4 – Acts 1 – 3 were each very cool and unique. 4 was certainly unique, but did not capture me at all.

The Division – great concept, fun for a few hours, boring and samey from then on.

Rise of the Tomb Raider – I really enjoyed the reboot, but the sequel has left me cold.  Decent to play, but not at all engaging.

 

May have made my Top 10 if I’d played them for long enough before writing this

Civilisation VI – I really like all the Civ games, and this is meant to be a good one. No brainer.

Dishonoured 2 – The first game was great, and I have a feeling this could scratch the itch that Deus Ex so spectacularly failed to reach.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun – I can pretty much guarantee that, barring a catastrophic failing in the second half of the game, that this would have scored highly indeed.  A Commandos-style real-time stealth puzzle game, Shadow Tactics is amazing and should hopefully serve to revive what has been a dead genre.

Battlefield 1 – stupid name aside, I’ve liked the Battlefield series in the past and WWI (or the weird, fantasy interpretation of WW1 here) is a really unique setting for a game that I’d like to dive into.

 

No idea if I’d actually like it but really want to play it anyway

Thumper – Rhythm violence seems a perfectly apt way to describe this game.  I get weirdly tense just watching and listening to it – playing it seems harrowing in a way I can totally get behind.

 

Most played old game

Rainbow Six: Siege – Got me back into playing multiplayer shooters after a long absence and has kept its hooks in me.  The varied character classes, slow, methodical gameplay, and extreme tension all make it a very unique game to play, although it is one I can only handle in small doses.

 

Most time spent watching someone else play a game

Hitman – Giant Bomb’s pretty much constant coverage of every new Hitman episode (and many of the Elusive Targets) is what finally got me to pull the trigger on this awesome game.

Shenmue – I finally got to experience this hot piece of garbage again after watching the Giant Bomb Endurance Run.  It was every bit as terrible as I remembered it being from playing it when it first came out, although I can definitely appreciate just how revolutionary some of its concepts were back then.