So most of my articles and videos have been critiques of the games I’ve been playing. Probably because things that piss me off are easier to explain than things that don’t. But in the holiday spirit I’ve compiled a very quick look at the very best games I’ve played this year as well as a brief explanation of why they worked so well for me. Here we go in no particular order until the last 3.
I love permadeath rogue like lite games so much that several will appear on this list. I love them so much that I’ll spend as much time with an only good one like Tower of Guns or Ziggurat as I will with most AAA games in any given year. First up on this years list is one of my very favorites of the year. And it’s not even out of early access. Dead Cells has everything I love. The combat is fluid, it’s based upon animation recognition and like all great Rogue Like’s it’s got combinations that mean almost certain victory for me. Recent updates have
significantly polished an already fantastic game. Defeated enemies explode into bits of currency, XP and gore and the game combines the deliberate combat of a Soulsbourne with the particle effects of Risk of Rain to produce a deeply satisfying combat experience.
The pixel art is absolutely gorgeous with level back drops, enemy variety and design and attack animations all weighty, beautiful and convincing. Bloodborne+Risk Of Rain/Castlevania=Dead Cells. I can’t possibly recommend it enough.
It was in my backlog. And there it stayed despite hearing of it’s excellence from the periphery of my consciousness. Art design matters an awful lot to me and you won’t find better art design than what Team Cherry accomplished with this game.
The ultimate compliment I can pay to a game is to say that I would continue buying and playing levels indefinitely or that I’d take a sequel that was the exact same thing. And I would. I can tell when a games difficulty works for me when I get so angry and frustrated that my wife tells me to stop playing and my answer is “Fuck this game,” but then I just keep playing.
There is just enough depth in the builds and strategy that bosses and areas can be tackled in different ways if something is failing. The game has set rules but enough charms and skills to bend them just enough to get by.
Challenging combat and platforming, wonderful level design, perfect art and sound design and captivating atmosphere combine to make one of the best Metroidvania’s ever created. Know what? Fuck it. This is the best Metroidvania ever.
Listen. The way the story is doled out can be frustratingly slow at times. And I bough it on PS4 only to realize that every fucking menu is designed for a mouse. And the game constantly puts you into dialogue trees that don’t matter all that much and ultimately probably weren’t needed.
But at the end of the day the story is fantastic and along with Rocket League it’s one of two games that have finally re-imagined the sports genre enough to make it playable again. The game is just damn fun. Local Co-op is so good that I’m convinced a larger studio could have made a very successful online mode. A must play.
Believe it or not THIS is the game that got me writing and making videos about games. This is the game that drove me to get this started. And while that video never happened and probably wont ever now that Prey has faded into obscurity I think it’s important that I recognize this game and briefly explain why it made me start writing about games.
I’ve never had a game change my mind so much. This game was so, SO, so, soooo annoying to start. The early enemies are so very frustrating, the wrench combat so very annoying and the pace so very slow that I was convinced I’d bought a terrible game.
But about 6 hours in Prey opens up. Powers and weapons that become available turn the game from a chore to a sandbox and deliver on the usual Arkane Studios promise of play your way. Art design, as always with Arkane, is fantastic and the space station is simply a pleasure to explore and exist in. Text and audio logs are interesting and moving, environmental story telling is off the charts and even combat is fun once enough options are given to the player.
The ability to recycle almost everything in the levels, from the usual crafting materials, to couches and drum sets means nothing in the environment is pointless. And although the narrative hits some problems ultimately it ends up quite intriguing if not ground breaking.
I honestly think 3 changes would have made this game a masterpiece. If the player character started the game with a full suite of weapons and neuromods and then lost them an hour in, if there was a larger variety in enemy types, and if the art design of those enemies was more interesting the game would have been a significantly better experience.
You need to absolutely nail the creature design in your horror game and Prey did not. But all of it’s problems aside the game ended up criminally underrated and it breaks my heart when a new interesting game fails. If you haven’t played it I implore you to go in knowing that the first several hours won’t impress. But once the game hits it’s stride it works wonderfully.
Ok. SO.... I don’t generally replay games. And even if I do start playing a game again I almost never finish it. I’ve played Bloodborne and it’s DLC 8 times through. I’m on my 11th Dark Souls 1 run across 3 platforms and I’m on NG+5 on DS3. I would pay From Software a $15 a month subscription for life if they would give me one Soulsborne level every 4 weeks. Soulsborne, in my opinion, is a near perfect experience.
Wonderful art direction and perfect animations mean even the first game looks great to this day. The gameplay is just addictive and the amount of build and combat variety on offer with only 2 attacks and a dodge is a mystifying triumph of design. Level and world design are quite literally as good as any game ever. I will never stop playing these games. Except Dark Souls 2 which I’ve only played twice. I hate that game. It’s ugly, stupid, annoying and should be forgotten.
Oh EA. My god you suck. I’m not going to go into much detail here. Titanfall 2's campaign is the best AAA multi player shooter campaign in years and the multiplayer got me addicted for several months. Titanfall 2 is not a game one can pick up and play however. The multiplayer gameplay is extremely deep, nuanced and difficult. In fact back when I was playing TF2 regularly I almost always finished in the top 2 or 3 of each match I played, often finishing first. Then I booted up to get some footage for a video and literally had to play half a match to get a kill.
I was mercilessly punished by folks who’d kept playing the game all this time. Between a movement system that’s a weapon all it’s own and player speeds that border on absurd in the hands of a skilled player Titanfall 2 asks allot of the people who play it. But it’s good enough that getting good is it’s own reward. I look forward to unlocking new powerful titan chassis’ in random loot-boxes sometime in 2019. You suck so bad EA.
Everything that pisses me off about Cuphead is present in Furi. Ridiculous difficulty? Check. Insanely long boss fights that you’ll have to play over and over to beat? Check. An “easy mode” that simply removes phases of the fight? Check.
But Furi is one of the best games I played this year. I’ll be having an entire piece examining these two games against one another and explaining why I love one and am annoyed by the other soon enough. For now it’s enough to simply say Furi offers a new and interesting gameplay experience, beautiful graphics, enough of a story to keep me playing, fantastic music and great art design. The boss fights are such a spectacle that just watching videos of them is enough to put me into a trance like state. A must play for anyone who doesn’t mind difficulty or has roommates/family who will put up with screamed curse words.
I can’t even explain this game. It’s a rogue lite like. It offers a silly amount of player freedom and a ridiculous group of characters and skills. It looks great. It makes me laugh and it’s a helluva a good time. I’ll be making a video about this one too. It’s probably not for everyone but if you like rogue lite’s man this one is different enough that it’s a must buy.
Listen you probably hate Destiny. I’m not going to try and convince you otherwise because if you hate Destiny it’s likely the game just wasn’t for you. But if you like grinding, loot based games like Diablo, complex co-op raids like an MMO and really tight shooters then you loved Destiny 1. A game that appealed to a very specific group of players that was then marketed to everyone. I played 1600 hours of Destiny over 3 years.
It’s RPG elements were too shallow and it’s loot pool too small and it had so many stupid self inflicted wounds I don’t have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain them.
But at it’s core...man this game was a fucking blast to play with 5 other people in a raid.
I’ve got another video explaining why I fucking hate Destiny 2. BTW I hate Destiny 2.
Amazingly I never got around to playing the Witcher 3's DLC until January of this year. This game is one of the greatest games ever made and features writing and characters better than the vast majority of films.
A game that is “mature” not because you play as a bikini clad paratrooper lopping off the heads of brown people but because it deals with things like love, hope, betrayal, guilt, fear and loss. It’s mature because it requires maturity to fully appreciate it’s beauty. The DLC alone is worth $60. If games were sold by value and COD is a $60 game then the Witcher would be a priceless work of art. I ended up playing the whole thing again making it the rarest of games in my library.
I’ve bought this game on 3 platforms because fuck it it’s just that good. It’s an all time classic. It handles it’s difficulty so very well because at any time a run can go from a near impossible grind to a ridiculous, insane synergy of destruction. Rare is the modern game that you don’t play to finish but just play to play. I play Isaac just to play Isaac. Honorable mention to Nuclear Throne and Enter The Gungeon games that do the same thing for me but just not quite as well.
I got FFXV for Christmas last year. I’m not sure why I liked it as much as I did. The side quests were absolutely ridiculously stupid. The combat was extremely repetitive. The story actually feels like crucial parts were accidentally deleted from the download and the overall narrative barely made sense. It’s twist was literally not a twist. The villainous villain was so villainy I assumed he was actually not a villain but... nope. The twist is he totally was the villain.
So...yeah I really loved this game. I have no idea why and I don’t recommend the game at all. My analysis is that there is something wrong with me. Moving on.
The three best games released in 2017 that I played.
Listen. Is this a game? I don’t know. I do know that most of the “play” we do is either simulated fighting, flighting or loving and that once in awhile I’m in the mood for something different. And those who insist that this is not a game have to deal with the fact that this is still interactive in a way that film and fiction are not. There’s just enough gameplay here to keep the player invested and it immerses the player in a world as well as any other game you’ll play. In fact I’d say one of the triumphs of the design is the nearly perfect balance Edith Finch strikes.
Long cut scenes in other games have me putting the controller down. When those cut scenes are good I don’t mind, when they’re bad I’m annoyed but either way those are long periods of no interactivity at all. You are playing Edith Finch all the way through. You’re very rarely passively watching the narrative and it’s a huge accomplishment to have figured out so many clever ways to engage the player. So what kind of game is it? It’s more interactive than just a walking simulator but it’s not mechanically complex enough to really call it a puzzle game.
Edith Finch is it’s own genre of game. Several of these vignettes moved me more than any other piece of art I engaged with this year. It’s a masterpiece of story telling and art design and watching these vignettes simply wouldn’t have been as powerful as playing these stories ended up being. I really can’t give examples without spoiling what makes this game great. Play it yourself if you haven’t. It’s a work of art first and a game second. It’s beautiful, funny, moving, tragic and it features the best score in a video game I’ve ever heard.
Letter :Nier Automata
My next video/article will be my longest yet. This game actually requires you to play through 3 times and I’m left wondering how many people saw the credits roll at around 20 hours and thought, “Wow. Yeah that was pretty fucking good!” and then never turned it on again. If you did that Platinum failed you. The second and third play-throughs absolutely hammer home the themes of the first hour until you’re buried beneath a mountain of existential crises.
Nier is a game about perspective that literally switches the players perspective constantly. Nier is a game that’s a lesson about what’s actually important because by modern AAA gaming standards it’s not up to snuff. Invisible walls, reused assets, dated character models, lip syncing issues (in that no lips actually move outside of cut scenes) are all present. And all of these things piss me off when they pop up in a Ubisoft game because without the spectacle of cutting edge graphics and resolution those games fall apart. But Nier Automata demonstrates that those things are just icing. Would I love the next Nier game to look like Assassins Creed when it comes to character models and lip syncing and invisible walls and resolution? Sure. But not if the trade off is in art design, writing, combat mechanics and animations.
Nier goes from fun, to good, to great to all time classic as it moves along and by the end you won’t give two shits about the invisible walls or PS1 style character models. That’s how good the game is.
Number T: Number Horizon Zero Dawn
If Nier Automata is how to do a AAA game on a budget Horizon is how to do a AAA game with a AAA budget. I’ve got a 17 minute video detailing everything this game does well. Which is everything. This game does everything well.
Combat is absolutely perfect. Player movement is engaging, the map and art design are so stunning I took to calling it “Screen Shot The Game.” The story is a simple hero’s journey that engaged and enraptured my 11 year old daughter while the deeper themes found just beneath the surface and in the fantastic audio and text logs means the narrative works for a pretentious dude like me as much as for any 11 year old girl or dude bro gamer. Guerrilla Games deserves a mountain of praise for it’s ability to craft a story that works for such a large audience. It takes serious craft to weave the narrative threads together to work like that.
Most of all, the game feels like every single thing in it is there for a purpose. An open world game that feels meticulously crafted and laboriously designed is a rare gem. It takes the open world genre, keeps everything great, eliminates everything annoying and polishes it to a mirror sheen. An instant all time classic and a game good enough to justify buying a PS4.
That’s it. Those are the games that came to mind when I sat down thinking about what I most enjoyed playing this year. I’m sure I missed a few. My memory is going. We’ll see how much you remember when you’re old. If you have some I didn’t mention comment down below. Either I’ll tell you why I disagree (Persona 5) or I’ll realize I forgot something or, hopefully, you’ll turn me on to something I should play. They don’t have to be games released this year. Just games you played this year.
Up next! My outrageously long Nier analysis followed by my piece dealing with Valve’s removal of You Must Be Eighteen Or Older To Enter from the Steam Store. Hope to see you next time.
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