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drahkon

Your GotY 2017

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Just now, Glen-i said:

I'm not angry

You are a bit though aren't you? Let's be real bruh.

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Just now, dwarf said:

You are a bit though aren't you? Let's be real bruh.

Nah, not really. Far more important things to be mad about than what other people think of a game that I didn't particularly enjoy.

Stuff like why the local chicken shop recently upped it's prices, the scummy practices we've seen involving Loot Boxes and most importantly, how Kecleon didn't get a Mega Evolution in OR/AS.

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Opened the first door of my Pokemon advent calendar today @Glen-i. It was Meowth. So good.

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1 hour ago, drahkon said:

Pokémon Red and Blue are the best games of the series.

 

8 minutes ago, bob said:

Opened the first door of my Pokemon advent calendar today @Glen-i. It was Meowth. So good.

I hope you both burn your house down this Christmas.

Edited by Glen-i

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35 minutes ago, Glen-i said:

I hope you both burn your house down this Christmas.

That's a bit of an overreaction, don't you think?

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1 minute ago, drahkon said:

That's a bit of an overreaction, don't you think?

Yes, that's precisely why you shouldn't take me seriously when I say stuff like that.

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1 minute ago, Glen-i said:

Yes, that's precisely why you shouldn't take me seriously when I say stuff like that.

I don't. Ever :p

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I've gone through my memory to remember what games from 2017 I've played/completed. There aren't many, but here's one:

 

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After Resogun and Alienation Housemarque returned with Nex Machina. It's quite possibly the perfect arcade twin-stick-shooter. Spot on gameplay, beautiful graphics and a soundtrack that is so good, I still have it blasting through my system from time to time.

It's a shame Housemarque is moving away from arcade games. I will miss them. But I trust the devs to come up with something equally enticing because:

Quote

Looking ahead to our next projects, we are exploring something totally different than what you might expect of us, but we believe this will lead to the creation of even more engaging gaming experiences. Our core values remain the same – gameplay first with first class execution. We are really excited about our new projects and look forward to unveiling our first game from the new era of Housemarque.

(A quote from one of their blog posts.). That sentence...it describes what the team can do perfectly. "Gameplay first with first class execution." There aren't many developers these days to which this quote applies. Sadly...

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I'm going to select two. The best game that I've played that has actually come out this year is Horizon: Zero Dawn. Lots of reasons really, including the combat and soundtrack. The story stood out for me. It contains an interesting premise and it just becomes more and more satisfying as it progresses. Looking forward to playing the DLC.

My other game of the year is Overwatch. It wasn't released this year, but it's probably my favourite at the moment. Just waaaay to satisfying to play. When you change your character, it definitely does feel like you are playing a different game. The new, recent addition of Moira is also too good. Even when you have a bad match and play shit, it's still fucking good fun. Will hopefully still be playing it this time next year as the events help to keep it fresh and there are always changes and new additions being added to it. :D

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Although there are two more games that I'm likely to start this year which may have been up for an inclusion in the list, I've put together my Top 20 Games for 2017. I'm posting the first half of the list, entries 20 - 11, today mainly as I haven't had time to finish writing up the little blurbs I want to for the rest. I've kind of written the blurbs up quite quickly but I think they more or less capture my thoughts on the games.

Spoiler

The first title from Cliff Bleszinski’s new Boss Key Production studio, Lawbreakers aimed to bring back the good old days of the arcade shooter and more or less achieved this, mixing in a healthy dose of some Overwatch/Paladin-esque roster that allowed you to play a class that suited your play style. While not as visually distinct and lacking somewhat on the content side of things, Lawbreakers was a fast paced shooter that sadly went unnoticed by many despite being a solid experience.

Spoiler

Announced several years ago and finally coming to fruition at the start of the year, Ubisoft’s For Honor placed itself as another of the games as a service model of playing but with a difference: a killer control system that was simple and smooth in execution and provided a considerable amount of depth to combat. While online play was the focus, a solid campaign gave you an all too brief, and at times shallow, look into a world where peace for Vikings, Samurai and Knights was shattered by a nefarious legion hoping to bring chaos to the world. Its single player could have benefitted from some heavy expansion but the online battles were enjoyable and presented something of a difference from the litany of online shooters.

Spoiler

Situated at the crossroads between cinema and gaming, Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier looked to bring the cinematic experience to consoles in a way that even the likes of TellTale Games hadn’t been able to achieve. With incredible production values, thanks to Andy Serkis’ The Imaginarium and use of motion capture for every ape and human within as well as an incredible soundtrack by Steve Coltart, the game eventually achieves its goal by closing with a story that gathers pace in the second half. The slow start and lack of player agency, however, show that this foray doesn’t quite come off without a hitch. That said, there are plenty of positives to take away and the scope for progressing the narrative focused experience along these lines is there for refinement.

Spoiler

The year off appears to have benefitted the franchise significantly as Assassin’s Creed Origins provides an incredibly strong experience that is more accessible than ever for newbies to the franchise as well as offering the quality of life changes to make it a more engaging experience for those familiar. The move to a more action role playing progression system doesn’t quite take off as well as it could, with some clear hesitancy on the developers’ part in whether they should go the full hog or not, but the overarching experience is engrossing, Egypt is realised in phenomenal detail and the story definitely feels like a step up over previous entries.

Spoiler

A storied past which has seen us robbed of a Blade Runner-esque title did nothing to dampen Arkane Studios’ reboot of the IP. Allowing for an open ended experience for the player, where they could tackle the game however they saw fit, Prey deftly captured the claustrophobic and isolationist feeling that games like the original Bioshock and Soma have managed to achieve in recent years. The space station was as much an adversary as the alien’s that had taken over, making resource management as well as whether you embrace the alien biological skills or not key to your survival.

Spoiler

A reimagining of the Master System’s third entry in the Wonder Boy series, the game presents not only a beautiful visual front (with the option to change to retro styled pixel visuals at the press of a button) but also a hefty challenge that’ll punish small mistakes and reward inquisitiveness. The deference paid to the original here shows how much of a passion project the game must have been and even with the challenge, the sense of reward and accomplishment for simply making it through a section, let alone a boss, is hugely satisfying.

Spoiler

What should have been a fresh start for the franchise has inadvertently become its death knell with the IP now on ice till as such time as EA decides what to do with it. A casualty of ambitious blue sky thinking, the end result might not quite hold a candle to some of the stronger points of the original trilogy but the end game was far from the mess that many made out. Strong gameplay made Mass Effect more action packed than it had ever been and though the story sagged with some poor writing and characters not fully realised, the scope for expansion and some of the smaller moments made this an otherwise enjoyable experience. It’s just a shame that we’re unlikely to see the mistakes improved and the loose plot ends resolved any time soon or at all.

Spoiler

Coming in the aftermath of Gone Home, Fullbright’s most recent game was always going to have a hard task comparing to that game and while the end result may not be as impactful as the narrative of that game, Tacoma creates a narrative that pulls you in and allows you to experience a series of events by playing and rewinding remnants of holographic footage right in front of your eyes, many of which hold larger meaning than their initial unveil prove. Portraying some superbly written characters and relationships and creating a strong air of intrigue surrounding the theme of deceit all wrapped in a race for survival, it’s an incredible journey as you uncover the truth behind what’s happening.

Spoiler

Whether a game has ever been able to capture the look and feel of a particular epoch in time prior to and as well as Cuphead is up for debate but the game ended up being much more than a beautiful realisation of 1930’s animation. Tight and challenging gameplay requiring pixel perfect platforming, timing and execution of shots and a tremendous amount of patience made Cuphead not only an infuriatingly difficult game but also one that struck a “Just one more go” mentality and drew you in with the hope you’d see victory. You gave yourself to the game to progress but the end results were oh so satisfying.

Spoiler

In looking ahead, Nintendo appeared to look back at what had come before and gave us a Mario title that took more inspiration from Banjo Kazooie, and titles of that ilk, than it did its own franchise and while the first half of the game was light on challenge (and platforming), the open ended nature of gameplay and being able to make your way through levels collecting moons as you went while not being restricted to a set path made for a bold and fresh take on the tried and true formula. The later challenge perhaps showed a missed opportunity to make for a more tight platforming experience throughout the game but the end result was a fresh take on what had come before.

 

I'll hopefully get time to finish up the rest for 10 - 1 tomorrow, although I've already made clear what my number 1 pick is. Some titles that didn't make it but are worth a mention: Tooth and Tail, Observer, Human Fall Flat, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider and Rime.

Edited by Ganepark32
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Of the games that I've played this year that have come out this year:

Breath of the Wild - My GOTY. Not much else to say that's already been said, it's just such a stunning return to form for a series that had began to stagnate. It's been a long time since I was so invested in a non story-driven single player game because Nintendo have managed to pull off such a compelling open world experience. I can easily forgive some of its minor flaws because how ambitious it is in its scope and execution. After playing it safe for so long with most of their franchises, it's so nice to see Nintendo take a big risk.

Persona 5 - I'm only about 30 hours in, but have really enjoyed what I've played so far. Just like P4 it has a compelling story and fantastic presentation. I really like the improvements they have made to the battle system and dungeon system, which was the weakest aspect of P4. I prefer P4 though, probably because it was my first Persona game so it has a special place in my heart. Still, a must play for JRPG fans.

Destiny 2 - I've made my thoughts clear on Destiny 2 in the D2 thread. In my mind it is the inverse of D1 regarding is strengths and flaws: strong story mode and vanilla content, lacking endgame and PvP experience. Newcomers to the series may not understand what the fuss is about, but it is a massive letdown to veteran fans. I personally don't think the game is shit, just thoroughly disappointing. Funnily enough, D1 was panned by critics whilst D2 was praised.

Super Mario Odyssey - I've just managed to complete the main story and currently sitting at around 300 moons. The game is great in many ways and is full of charm, but not the 10/10 people are making it out to be. I've heard that is picks up more post-game but strangely the game doesn't seem to offer that much incentive to keep collecting moons beyond being a completionist. I think I've also heard that there are extra levels that get unlocked once you hit particular milestones, but the game doesn't make this obvious. Still, I'm having fun and will keep playing until I finish or get bored.

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I haven't actually bought many new games this year, so I may as well list them all, starting with the best.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: An absolute joy to play, I really liked the open world nature and I do plan on actually fully completing everything (including all the seeds). Easily my game of the year.

Mass Effect: Andromeda: The best combat in the series, the Nomad was great and the characters got a great introduction. Not quite as good as Mass Effect 2 and 3, but still better than the first.

Yooka-Laylee: Like a new Banjo-Kazooie. Things could have been smoother (it's a shame the patched version wasn't the original version), but I still absolutely loved it. Really like the characters and I hope there's a sequel.

Sonic Mania: Like a new original Sonic game, really great level design, awesome music and it felt just right (unlike Sonic CD and 4). 

Sonic Forces: I was quite surprised that this was actually really good, especially after reviews. It's a solid 3D Sonic game and, while short, has plenty to encourage you to replay missions.

Metroid: Samus Returns: A decent Metroid game. I still have quite a lot to do with it though, and is the only one of these I haven't completed.

A Hat in Time: Lowest on the list, but I still really enjoyed it. Modding support is great, so that's something to look forward to.

 

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Next one on my list:

 

Call-of-Duty-WWII.jpg

Yeah, chastise me all you want for liking one of the most hated franchises (at least for some) :p

It's actually a very good game. And an extremely good Call of Duty. It suffered from a horrible launch (i.e. servers were busted, certain features had to be disabled, etc.) and both Activision and Sledgehammer Games were rightly criticised but the experience is stable now. Some issues still have to be ironed out, but I'm sure the devs are working on it.

Why is it one of my GotY? My answer is threefold:

  1. The campaign. Emotional, action-packed, fun. Nothing special but highly entertaining.
  2. The multiplayer experience. My best mate and I completed the Zombies map and it was a blast from start to finish. Figuring out what to do and how to succeed was one of the best experiences I've ever had in gaming. We still have to do the hardcore easter egg, but we're working on it.
    Then there's the "regular" multiplayer. The gunplay is awesome. Playing Hardcore modes is where it's at and it's fun. And what more could you want?
  3. Audiovisually it's very impressive. Especially the sound is incredible.

I tend to ignore the loot box problem, because I'm not affected by it and to be honest I don't really care, aside from the whole enabling gambling to kids aspect (which I've covered numerous times).

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I've only played a handful of games that were actually released this year and I would echo what most have said about The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and Super Mario Odyssey being my games of the year among the big releases. I am only a few away from getting every moon in Odyssey which should speak to the quality of the game in itself but I haven't felt so much joy in a long time than I had during several moments in Odyssey. BOTW offered similar reward but was more engrossing, leading to longer play sessions and although it didn't contain those typical Zelda dungeons what it did have was executed expertly, both Zelda and Mario this year made exploration and curiosity a key part of their design which made spending time in their worlds a real pleasure. It's hard to choose between the two really, they are both exceptional games but I've spent more time with Zelda so will probably plump for that as number one at this moment, especially with the DLC on the horizon.

In terms of other games I have to mention What Remains Of Edith Finch and Little Nightmares. Both games featured fascinating and surreal worlds to explore but where Edith Finch told a haunting and emotional narrative, Little Nightmares offered up a terrifying journey through a monstrous passenger ship; one was a fresh and unique spin on the 'walking simulator' the other a straightforward platformer in a twisted world. In my eyes both games achieved perfection in what they were trying to do and the presentation in each title was flawless. 

Honourable mentions go to Metroid: Samus Returns and Rime. Unfortunately I haven't been able to get around to playing the likes of Horizon, Nier, Bye-Bye BoxBoy, Mario + Rabbids, Splatoon 2, Nioh, Persona, Xenoblade, Wolfenstein, Hellblade, Resident Evil 7 and doubt i'll be able to get through any of them by the end of the year but definitely plan on playing them all as soon as I can.

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I've not quite had time to finish writing up the rest of my top 20 as I've ended up writing more about the next lot of games, so entries 10 - 6 will have to suffice for now :grin: the rest will hopefully coming tomorrow. Entry 10 will no doubt draw some snorts of derision but these are all games that have left their mark on me and I stand by my inclusion of it.

Spoiler

Everything

Few games subvert the notion of what it is to be a game more so than 2017’s Everything. The fevered dream of artist David O’Reilly, Everything is both a game about everything and about nothing at the same time.

Jumping from being a tree to a cow to a beetle to sub atomic particular to pulsar and any name of objects, organisms or structures in between in a matter of seconds, the end goal is never explicitly laid bare to the player. The game instead hopes that the player will find their own goal.

It’s in the experience, then, of watching the thousands of purposefully poorly animated objects roll around, the gathering of thought bubbles and the collecting of snippets of lectures by philosopher Alan Watts that the game finds its place. For the couple of hours it takes to hear the collected works of Watts on the subject of existence and interconnectivity, the game simply asks you to be, to just enter into the procedurally generated worlds populated by all kinds of objects and experience them, relax within them and begin to ponder the very questions that Watts and the game seeks to ask.

As an experience which ponders the bigger, metaphysical questions of life, many of which aren’t entirely new to the medium, it all coalesces in a way that it shouldn’t. It’s a game about being rather than doing and for that, it’s an experience that manages to do more with less than perhaps any other game this year.

Spoiler

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

The collision of one of gaming’s greatest icons and one of gaming’s most divisive characters of recent years could and should have easily been a complete disaster. However, the game that came to market was anything but, providing the Switch one of its must have titles for its first year on the market.

A humorous romp through the Mushroom Kingdom, Rabbids in tow, it’s a game that acts as the complete antithesis of any other game from either franchise represented here and yet it all comes together perfectly. Taking cues from the likes of XCOM and Ubisoft’s own Ghost Recon Shadow Wars, Kingdom Battle presents a surprisingly deep strategy game that doesn’t shy away from offering up a hefty challenge that can easily overwhelm should you make a mistake or fail to learn the game’s inner workings. It slowly ramps up, introducing new components, characters and enemy variations right to the end and all along the way, you’ll laugh at the humour and some of the most memorable moments in the gaming this year.

In a year when a traditional Mario title has landed on the same console, this collaborative effect between Ubisoft and Nintendo has paid dividends, showing a huge deference to its source material and expanding the Mario brand beyond the previous Mario and Luigi titles. What’s more, it’s incredible to think that the trepidation rising from the initial leak has dissipated and leaving Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle as not only one of the Switch’s must have titles but also one of the best strategy games of the year.

Spoiler

Little Nightmares

Indie puzzle platformers titles aren’t exactly a new addition to the industry and it’s a genre that has seen many great titles crop up over the last decade or so and be held in high esteem, with the likes of Limbo, Braid and Inside just some of the names new contenders have to vie with. Tarsier Studios’ title Little Nightmares suitably reaches the mantle set by those games.

It’s a game designed to highlight and shine a bright light on your childhood fears and capably achieves this. As you wander through the Maw, a dank and dreary passenger vessel crammed full of rooms, its twisted inhabitants are pitted against you as foes to impede your escape from its depths. The fear instilled by encounters with these being and the swell of music as you’re chased by them, the unimaginable is brought to mind and you develop a bond with Six in her bid for survival and escape.

Dark imagery is abound as your crawl through rooms, ducts and vents, every room presented in a stark level of detail that’s paradoxically creepy and inviting matching both the initial innocence of Six and the fall from grace that occurs as her environment twists around her. The visuals and audio burrow under your skin, with sharp plinks and plonks that punctuate meetings and encounters with the Janitor, the Chefs and the Lady and the areas surrounding these burrow into those childhood fears of deep water, things hiding under the bed and the Hansel and Gretel story of being eaten alive. The gameplay at times, specifically the platforming, doesn’t fully gel with the game but it becomes a moot point as your scramble for survival.

Little Nightmares creates a lasting impression and the continued support by Tarsier Studios, through additional story DLC, makes it one of the strongest games this year.

Spoiler

Pyre

Supergiant Games has managed to carve out a reputation as one of the best indie developers going on the back of the superb Bastion and the even better Transistor. Their newest game, Pyre, diverts from the tried and tested action oriented role playing mould somewhat but it’s no worse off for it with the game sharing many of the hallmark qualities that have endeared many to Supergiant Games library over the years.

The game took many by surprise as a result of the change in gameplay, mixing basketball with a strategy role playing elements, but to dismiss the game based solely on this change would be to dismiss another fantastic title in Supergiant’s arsenal.

The Rites, where the main crux of the gameplay changes occurs, are fast and frantic sections that hide a deep and satisfying experience which requires a keen eye to be paid to the game’s finer details. Team composition, making use of all of your team’s skills, using the playing field to your advantage and equipping the right talismans are all key components that draw you in to the build up to each of these sections of gameplay and you find yourself investing time into developing the skills of each of your characters and making sure that you’ve the right mix for the match ahead. As the game moves steadily towards its conclusion, you’ll have to master all of these aspects to achieve your goal.

The consistent hallmarks of high production values, with a beautiful art style and another exquisite soundtrack, and superb writing help to flesh out one of the most interesting gaming experiences. Strong narrative and characterisations pull you into a world that’s steeped in mythology and makes you want to see more.

Does it top Transistor or Bastion? Well it doesn’t have to because it stands ably as another excellent title from a smaller development and carves its own path and can proudly sit alongside those another other indie titles as another great game.

Spoiler

Hollow Knight

The market is now littered with Metroidvania style games as many seek to replicate the excitement, wonder and joy that came with exploring the depths of Zebes achieved in the original Metroid title released more than 30 years ago. While games in the genre come along and have their 15 minutes in the spot light, many fall away and that may have been the case for some, especially so this year as a result of the release of the first Metroid title, a reimagining of the GameBoy title, after a lengthy hiatus.

Not so for Team Cherry’s excellent Hollow Knight game, which manages to expertly replicate that Metroid feeling and even surpass this year’s title in many ways. A bold visual art style belies an otherwise challenging venture into the genre, with inspiration clearly being taken from arguably the modern interpretation of the Metroidvania ethos, the Souls franchise. Pixel perfect platforming, open ended exploration of a gothic inspired underworld and challenging encounters with larger than life bosses make Hollow Knight stand out from the crowd.

The challenge in slicing your way through enemies extends to simply exploring the world and figuring out where to go, capturing the exact feeling that Metroid 2 did all those years ago, yet it never becomes a chore with enemies and hazards keeping you on your toes. Death hangs over the game’s world and it’s more a matter of when rather than if it will come, with the game asking you whether you’ll attempt the perilous trek to reclaim the lost goods on your body or take another route and try again at a later point.

It’s a perfect blend of the two gameplay styles, showing progression within the genre. As said, the beautiful visual style is a treat to behold and is coupled with a fantastically haunting soundtrack which perfectly matches the tone and atmosphere that the game tries to convey. It helps to further establish the efforts of the developers and the deference they pay to their ilk. And it helps to firmly plant Hollow Knight as not just one of the best and most enjoyable Metroidvania titles of the year but also as one of the most enjoyable and engaging ever. And with next year seeing the title expanding to multiple platforms, it’s a game that really shouldn’t be ignored.

 

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I think breath of the wild and Mario odyssey are two of the greatest games ever made. Both out this year.  Why lucky. Very difficult to pick. Personally, subjectively, I think I enjoy Mario more, pure and utter joy like very few things give me. However, Zelda was so mind blowing, so impressive, had so many wow moments, is so incredibly designed that it probably deserves all the accolades it will inevitably get. 

Its also harder for Zelda to be that impressive, there are loads of action adventure games constantly developing the genre, plus Zelda needs to create its world rules and be confined by them. So to do what it did is quite unbelievable. 

No oke is really making platform games anymore. So it’s easier to bring loads of new ideas and feel fresh, plus Nintendo can do pretty much anything in Mario and it’ll work so again, in some ways easier to just be mental, unreasoned fun. 

Ultimately, two masterpieces, hindsight will probably say they are my two favourite games of all time. So......

Mario. 

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Finally finished up my top 5 for the year so here they are. I was sitting for ages last night figuring whether or not my GotY would change as I was writing these and despite some strong thoughts on it, I kept my decision. These games probably represent how gaming has changed for me in recent years and what I look for and enjoy most in playing.

Spoiler

Night in the Woods

Narrative in games has progressed substantially in the last decade or so and we now have experiences which can stand toe to toe with and even surpass big budget TV and cinema going experiences in terms of their capability to captivate and move the player. One such example released this year that acted as one of the most impactful experiences was without a doubt Infinite Fall’s Night in the Woods which places you in the shoes of college dropout Mae and portrays the experience of returning to the place once called home and trying to figure your place in the world.

It’s cutesy and anthropomorphic presentation of a town inhabited by walking, talking animals beautifully juxtaposes an undercurrent of darkness, with mystery pervading every aspect of the town you live within. Heavy themes of coping with mental illness, dealing with the loss of a close friend and the depression and death of the traditional middle American town bubble up to the surface and place themselves at the heart of the narrative and your interactions in the game. Dark humour pokes its head around every corner as you wander the streets of Possum Falls and the surrounding areas, putting you on the back foot at times and lightening the mood at others strengthening the emotional impact of events as they transpire.

The heavy hearted narrative never oversteps its bounds though and you begin to empathise with Mae and friends as you go about your daily cycle of exploring the town and hearing the townsfolks’ tales of woe and worry. It pulls you in to the game world and makes you feel part of the cast of characters and as the days pass by in game, the efforts to brooch conversation with some inhabitants, such as a beat poet just starting out or a hobbyist astronomer, pay dividends in realistic ways that any burgeoning friendship would.

It helps to lend realism to the characters you encounter and the strife and struggle they feel. Quiet moments allow you to collect your thoughts and ruminate on the many themes at play while offering up opportunities to step away from the everyday routine. Guitar Hero-esque mini games and a rogue-like PC game that can be played at your parents’ house give a chance to breathe and recompose and allow great insight into the characters around Mae and Mae herself.

Fantastic visuals and an eerie soundtrack help to paint a living and breathing world that hides dark secrets just beneath the surface waiting to be uncovered.

Night in the Woods is a beautifully poignant game, presenting a perfect microcosm of Middle American life, strife and struggle to simply make it in the world. It’s a game that’ll have you laughing one moment while simultaneously pulling at your heart strings in another and is definitely a game that shouldn’t be missed.

Spoiler

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Two years since Dontnod surprised many with the original, Life is Strange returned though this time helmed by a new developer, Deck Nine. Trepidation over whether the qualities which made the original such a captivating experience would be lost in the transition between developers was understandable. While cheesy dialogue was a hallmark of that game, the strong characterisations, interesting gimmick in being able to rewind time, a strong narrative and of course the beautifully realised relationship between Max and Chloe made for one of 2015’s most special experiences.

Expectations were duly tempered but thankfully, any trepidation has been misguided and Deck Nine’s foray into Arcadia Bay has remained true to many of the aspects which made the original the experience it was. They’ve offered their own take on events, characters and relationships giving insight in some we’d only glimpsed at briefly and the end result is a game that stands strong alongside the original.

Acting as a prequel, Before the Storm focuses on the story of Chloe in the aftermath of the death of her dad, how she copes with the changes in her life and the relationship she has with Rachel Amber, the original’s lingering shadow who is at the centre of so much of the hurt for Chloe. While the writing is very much on the walls for the friendship and for Rachel, if you’re familiar with the original, knowing the inevitable outcome does little to dampening the strength of the friendship portrayed between the two. Seeing the burgeoning friendship ebb and flow as they deal with the troubles in their own lives is both heart-warming and soul crushing in equal quantities, the two struggling to open up to one another and slowly being able to feel comfortable in their own skins.

It’s been fantastic to see this friendship that always hung in the air in the original and while the dialogue still borders on the cheesy and cringey side of things, the strength of the narrative and overarching writing is once again a high point for the game. Though she hasn’t been able to reprise her role this time around (though this will change for the bonus episode coming next year, closing the chapter of Max and Chloe’s friendship), Ashly Burch’s touch can be felt in the writing and in the strong characterisation of Chloe on display as well as in the relationships we see. And while it does initially feel wrong to not have her voice in the game, the quality of the voice work is still high and delivered well.

Though there is still an episode to go to finish out the story of Chloe and Rachel, being back in Arcadia Bay is a fantastic experience. Seeing it through a different set of eyes and getting to see a character only alluded to in posters and through Chloe’s rants and experiencing the turmoil of the character’s worlds crashing down before them is a heart wrenching and highly evocative experience that’s every bit as good as the original. Closed off by another brilliant soundtrack, headed up by Daughter, and the bright visual palette to reflect the turmoil off of, Deck Nine’s prequel is a worthy addition to a burgeoning IP.

Spoiler

What Remains of Edith Finch

Announced in the infancy of the PS4’s life, What Remains of Edith Finch showed early promise in wanting to chronicle the events of the Finch family and the untimely, and often mysterious, demise of its members. Coming off of the back of The Unfinished Swan, anticipation for Giant Sparrow’s next game was high but a lengthy wait was in store with the game finally seeing release earlier this year. And thankfully, that wait was well worth it in helping to produce on the best story driven games of this year.

Where The Unfinished Swan used a simple aesthetic and gameplay hook, throwing ink to uncover the world around you, What Remains of Edith Finch gave you the world in a tremendous amount of detail in part to make the house of the Finch family, where the game is centred, feel lived in by the generations of Finchs. However, the detail served an additional purpose in giving the house and each room a character of their own; each room became a character in and of itself, conveying the story of its occupant and beautifully delivering the emotionality of their downfall. To personify a house, of all objects, is by no means an easy task but Giant Sparrow have managed to expertly craft and design it to expressively hit home the significance, as well as the mystery, of what has happened to each branch of the family.

Each room and location takes on a meaning and significance of its own and portrays a series of dream-like events that get to the heart of who each member of the family is. Though we never meet any of them, you come away from each sequence as though you had them in front of you telling their story. It’s an incredible blend of narration and visual story telling that hits the nail on the head with almost all of the sequences, bar one or two though given the underlying meaning of all that you encounter these act as a welcome reprieve from the intensity of some of the game’s more affective moments.

The sequences showing the events leading up to each family members end vary wildly, from soaring over frozen fields as an old searching for rabbits to crawling across the deck of a ship as an octopus to a hefty nod to The Unfinished Swan, but each effectively conveys the emotion of each event, hitting home hard and leaving a lasting impression. The story of Lewis, in particular, is a brilliant and thought provoking portrayal of mental health illness with the developers using a deft hand to ensure the whimsy of the sequence never overshadows the tragedy and severity at its base.

What Remains of Edith Finch is a beautiful example of the progression of visual story telling in the medium and shows how games can provide an evocative and impactful interactive experience to enhance this in only the way games can. It’s a gut wrenching tale at times but one that’s brilliantly executed and an incredible experience from start to finish.

Spoiler

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Without a doubt the most impactful and emotionally charged game of the year, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice stands out for a multitude of reasons. An experiment in creating and recapturing the AA mid-price game market with a small development team and a smaller budget, but no compromise to the quality of the game, the end result of Ninja Theory’s efforts was mind blowing with the team crafting an experience unlike anything else previously.

A tale of life, death and madness, you guide Pictish warrior outcast Senua through the outer and inner realms of Helheim in her pursuit to be reunited with her lover Dillion, killed at the hands of the Norsemen and displayed blood eagled before her eyes. The journey to face Hela and be reunited with Dillion is an especially personal one as it mirrors the internal conflict of Senua and the dark rot, her psychosis, as it begins to take hold in amongst the turmoil. The game is therefore as much an exploration and journey into the mind of Senua and her attempts to confront her illness as it is about entering Helheim.

Though some of the tricks and tropes used to progress the story have been used in other games, the power and impact of them are heightened here by an incredibly performance by Melina Juergen and some of the best sound design in a game to date. Motion capture performance creates a believable character whose struggle is conveyed in excruciating detail, at times making you uncomfortable with just how realistic the performance is. This is by no means a drawback but rather something which adds realism and purpose to the events. The binaural sound design swirls around your character, placing you in the game and giving you a taste of the struggle that it takes just to simply move and just be in an environment for someone with the condition.

The portrayal of psychosis, with help and advice from leading academics and those suffering from the illness, is handled in a way few other forms of media have managed and the gameplay elements that hold this at their centre, the seeing patterns where none otherwise exist and the hallucinations, add a depth and meaning to each action and sequence that many games could only hope to possess these days. It’s much more than a unique wrapper surrounding the game, it asks you to journey with Senua into Helheim, into her mind with her, experiencing the symptoms worsening for yourself first hand, and begin to understand her plight and the desire to achieve her goal much more as a result.

Few games ask as much of the player as Hellblade does in casting you as Senua, but the game benefits greatly from doing this. The experience for the player becomes more personal, it becomes your tale, your trial to overcome.

The game’s setting and time period make the impact of events, such as escaping a burning house, the pursuit of Senua by the darkness in another and the fight with Garmr in absolute darkness, even more powerful and show a deference paid to a subject matter that is so difficult to portray.

Ninja Theory created an experience which can be emotionally draining but the impact of what’s shown and what you experience cannot be understated. Whether you’ve experienced mental health issues of not, the profundity of the game, its story and its character as the battle she faces are ultimately universal and will leave an indelible mark not only on the player but also the industry. Few games can carry that mantel but after experiencing it and its lasting effects, the industry is better off as a result of Hellblade’s existence.

Spoiler

Horizon Zero Dawn

It was always going to be the case that eyebrows were raised at Guerrilla Games’ efforts to create an open world, action adventure game. Plagued by claims that past games were more a show for graphical capabilities than gameplay, it was a big shift for a developer that cut their teeth and earned their crust on the back of first person shooters. And reading any synopsis of the game they were to make, a post-apocalyptic world where humans live in tribes and hunt for survival amongst robot animals and dinosaurs, gave the impression of something that should have been left on the drawing room floor. Yet, 9 months on from release, Horizon Zero Dawn showed not only a maturity for their developer but presented itself as one of the best new IPs to launch on any console this generation and one of the greatest games of recent years.

Though initially sounding silly, the world building and writing gels the far flung ideas present in that synopsis together in a way that few games have managed let alone as well as Horizon does it. The world around feels lived in, it feels alive and steeped in history and helps to capture the mind of the player and completely envelop them in the world. You quickly stop questioning why there are robots and assume the role of Aloy on her quest to understand her place in the world, why she is so special and just how humans have come to be able to control the machines.

What could have been a significant hurdle is cast aside easily thanks to the world that’s created and presented to you, open to explore at your own peril and giving you a narrative that weaves the stories of the past into the present in a meaningful way. Finding audio and data-logs becomes a reward and hearing about the struggles of the past and the relationships of characters long since gone shows Horizon to be not just a one off but an experience that has its own stories, its own histories to tell.

The beautifully crafted world may not grant the freedom that another big franchise title might but the openness to explore the regions, to meet and talk with characters of different backgrounds and become involved not only in smaller, more meaningful side quests but in something larger than any of the people you meet, in uncovering the truth about your existence and the way the world is, is handled so well. Going out of your way to explore and engage with the side missions rewards you with interesting tales of the new world and even at times provides you with insight into the old one.

Part of what makes Horizon so good is the characterisation of its lead character. A strong willed female lead in Aloy gives a naivety to exploring the world and encountering new machines and people; you experience them for the first time just as she does and the way the game and its writing achieves that is superb. You’re placed in her shoes and her fight becomes your own.

The moment to moment gameplay only adds to this, with the best and most visceral bow and arrow gameplay in any game. The weight of the bow, the tension as you draw back and the question of whether to release early to fire off more arrows or to hold for a more damaging shot create an exhilarating experience. Identifying weaknesses in the robots and their constant variants that come your way and exploiting them has never felt as good in a game. Seeing fuel tanks and pieces of armour ripped off by your bow, or by any of the other weapons, is hugely satisfying and landing that killing blow on the biggest robots of them all is a rush that is unparalleled.

The gameplay may be top tier but the visual and audio presentation really is the icing on the cake. Gorgeous visuals for as far as the eye can see and an attention to detail that is borderline compulsive and a soundtrack that swells and up tempos when it needs to and takes a quieter route in others add hugely to making it a believable world and engaging experience. And the performances of both Ashly Burch and Lance Reddick are two of the best in any game this year.

No game since The Witcher 3 has managed to make me feel part as much a part of the world as Horizon Zero Dawn. As a first attempt at open world gaming from a first person shooter developers, it’s not only amazing it’s positively mind blowing that the game has coalesced into the engrossing and incredible experience it is. It’s a flagship title and a new start for Guerrilla Games but for gamers, it’s an experience not to be missed.

And there we have it. I realise it's a lot of lengthy, wordy rambling so if you do read it, I do appreciate the time taken to do that. I've done it more for myself to get back into writing about games for possibly taking that somewhere in the new year and beyond. It's been an interesting year in games, a lot of great games and a lot of variety regardless of platform. Some games just haven't clicked with me when I thought they would (Breath of the Wild for instance. 15 hours of play and it just doesn't click with me and what I want from a game of this size. That's partly on me, partly on Nintendo but that's all I'll say on that), others surprisingly so.

The full list, so that it's in one place:

Spoiler

20. Lawbreakers

19. For Honor

18. Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier

17. Assassin's Creed Origins

16. Prey

15. Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap

14. Mass Effect Andromeda

13. Tacoma

12. Cuphead

11. Super Mario Odyssey

10. Everything

9. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

8. Little Nightmares

7. Pyre

6. Hollow Knight

5. Night in the Woods

4. Life is Strange: Before the Storm

3. What Remains of Edith Finch

2. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

1. Horizon Zero Dawn

 

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Cracking lists/write ups @Ganepark32

I still have yet to play Hellblade and LiS ( waiting for the physical release of this ) so I skipped those sections in case of spoilers.

Pyre is another game that has slipped through the cracks, so thanks for the reminder.

 

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18 hours ago, Hero-of-Time said:

Cracking lists/write ups @Ganepark32

I still have yet to play Hellblade and LiS ( waiting for the physical release of this ) so I skipped those sections in case of spoilers.

Pyre is another game that has slipped through the cracks, so thanks for the reminder.

 

Thanks, maybe got a bit carried away but potentially looking at going back into games journalism or starting my own site next year so kind of wanted to get the rust off of the wheels.

Pyre is a great little game and would work so well on the Switch, not sure why Supergiant Games haven't put it out yet. Even if you only had 5-10 minutes, you'd be able to boot it up, play a Rite, speak to the other characters in your Caravan, etc. and then turn off without really missing much. It definitely lends itself to that way of play so hopefully they'll consider it as even I'd pick it up again just for that play style. I think if you go in to it and completely empty your mind of Bastion and Transistor, it'll click far better. I hadn't seen much of it, purposefully, and loved it as a result. Of course, it's hard not to compare to their other games but it's definitely another quality game by them.

I tried to stay away from spoilers for LiS but the bottom line for it is that it's still LiS and doesn't feel worse off for a change of developer. You'll either love or hate the insult mechanic but it's still up there with the original game. I bought the deluxe version but I'll most likely be double dipping again if a physical release comes along. With the final episode of the 3 out on the 20th this month, hopefully they'll announce the physical early in the new year, around the time of the release of the bonus episode.

As for Hellblade, it's one of those games where it can be frustrating, with some of the combat through some of the longer sections, but I felt the journey to the end was incredible. I played half of it with headphones and the other half without and I'd say you don't lose much without them but the depth of the sound design with them on is terrifying at times but takes the experience to another level.

I have loved that there's been a steady stream of quality digital only/indie games this year. It's where I've found myself enjoying games the most this year, and for much of last, so I'm really interested to see what next year brings with that regard.

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On 28/11/2017 at 1:58 PM, Kav said:

Zelda: Breath of the Wild

(will add more later)

It was better than everything else.

(I was going to add more but it’s more or less all been said now, haha)

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2017 has been a particularly good year for games. Played some really great ones and there are other highly regarded ones I need to catch up on too. From what I've played, think my top 3 would be:

1. Horizon Zero Dawn - it has the open world production values of The Witcher 3 and shares a surprising amount of similarities with Breath of the Wild. But I think it does a lot of things better, and my weapons don't break after a few hits.
2. Yakuza 0 - It surprised me how good the story was, so many cool characters and locations. Very strange and quirky but in a good way.
3. Breath of the Wild - Mostly lived up the the hype, but has a few shortcomings that knock it down a bit.

I've not even got Mario Odyssey yet, maybe it'll knock Zelda off my top 3?
 

Edited by Mandalore

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Here are my top three! Enjoy :)

 

1st: Breath of the Wild

Nintendo have always had the nack of creating believable, atmospheric worlds but this is their zenith. Mixing their 3D Zelda template with the delicate nature found in Animal Crossing and a ton of Skyrim; the world of Hyrule was the real story.

The best thing about the game is how it empowers you. Finally they went back to the pure, original vision for a Zelda game and gamers fell in love with Nintendo all over again.

2nd: Mario Odyssey

‘Mr Videogame’ returned with his latest batch of pure kiddie cocaine. The majesty of the music, the wonder of each new world, the developed 3D move-set, Cappy and the capture mechanics...the fresh story with THAT superb ending and post-game content. Odyssey was everything I wanted and more. 

3rd: Sonic Mania

If you’d have told me in the 90’s that in 2017 I’d be making my way through a re-tooled and rejuvenated 16-Bit Sonic game (on Nintendo hardware!) I’d have choked on my Pop-tarts!

Mania was just that. Giving me the childhood mania for Sonic all over again. Whitehead et al. are preservation Gods and SEGA finally cut them loose. Radical indeed (in the 90’s sense)!

Edited by tapedeck

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Horizon Zero Dawn

Incredible game, nothing comes close for me and yes, I played and finished Breath of the Wild.

Playing the DLC recently reminded me how good this game is and that I need to play through it again.

Too many games though!

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On 28/11/2017 at 7:16 PM, Jonnas said:

The only games of 2017 I played were Fire Emblem Heroes (which took the majority of my gaming time this year, and for good reason, as it turned out to be a very well made game), Sonic Mania (one of the finest 2D Platformers ever made), and Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia (a superb game which turned out to be one of the best-ever entries in my favourite franchise)

All of them excellent games, but my personal 2017 GOTY has to be Sonic Mania, as it's as close to perfection as any of these games get. It managed to surpass the expectations of my rose-tinted nostalgia glasses, and I mean that.

As it turns out, in December I played two more games from 2017: Doki Doki Literature Club (a very... unique dating sim) and Finding Paradise (a very heartwarming story-driven game). While I still think Sonic Mania is my game of the year, I think these two are both absolutely worthy of being mentioned in this thread.

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