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Jens Matthies' Top 10 Games of 2017

Wolfenstein II director and noted vapor enthusiast Jens Matthies takes us through his favorite games of the year.

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Jens Matthies is the Creative Director and co-founder of MachineGames. He is a 20 year veteran in games development, having begun his professional career at Starbreeze Studios.

His titles include Enclave (2002), The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (2004), The Darkness (2007), Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014), and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (2017).

Horizon Zero Dawn

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I loved exploring Horizon’s breathtaking valleys and the ruins of our future world. The game is a lovely marriage of vast possibilities and strong narrative cohesion. I found it fascinating to dig into the archeological storytelling and uncovering bits of information about the past events that led to the state of the world. A special nod goes out to the art direction of the mechanical fauna which is simultaneously awe inspiring and terrifying.

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

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A high-risk concept, executed at an incredibly high level. The craftsmanship on display here is truly outstanding, highlighted in the way the game seamlessly transitions through different states. The voices Senua hears throughout her journey are both endearing and disturbing. It’s a clever way of using the unreliable narrator concept effectively while also playing with the player’s expectations of how games use voice as guidance tools.

Monument Valley II

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As a kid I had a profound fascination with Escher’s drawings. It's amazing to me how USTWO turned the concept of impossible architecture into functional (and fun!) game play. The first game hooked me immediately, and this sequel is a grand follow up. It's also gorgeous to look at.


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Navigating the Talos 1 space station feels more like being in a coherent, believable space than a game space. You get the sense that actual people lived and worked there. Even if most of them were dead or incapacitated in some fashion when you arrived, you could feel their actual absence. But above all, it is the deep gameplay possibilities that makes Prey so fun and interesting to experiment with. Always surprising, always rewarding. One of the greats of 2017.

The Evil Within 2

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I’m always intrigued by horror fiction that fucks with your mind, creating this terrifying tension that destabilizes you as you progress through the experience. Every major story beat is punctuated by inventive encounters, and the combat gameplay is augmented by a rewarding progression system. I also loved how it handled violence in a way that reminded me of Hong Kong blood operas where the gore is elevated to a higher artistic level. This is a game that pushes the limits of the genre.

PLAYERUNKNOWN's Battlegrounds

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Even though it’s still in early access, Battlegrounds is a game with the right priorities and the right attitude. Essentially built on the concept of “griefing” but elevated to the ultimate goal of the game, Battlegrounds gives you an adrenaline rush from its competitive gameplay that is very hard to match. It’s a game of high stakes without being overly punishing. A game that rewards team play and cooperation, with an uncertainty factor added to create tension. The feeling of coming out on top after beating 99 other people is nothing but powerful.


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NieR:Automata is to me one of those rare games that dares to experiment with the native mechanics of games as a story-telling device to create a really sophisticated meta-game narrative. Its philosophical examination of human nature creates a surprisingly emotional connection to the androids that populate the world. To top it off, the daring marriage between Ikaruga-style bullet-hell action with extremely fluid 3D hack and slash controls, amplified by an electrifying soundtrack, makes this one a classic.

Divinity: Original Sin II

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Growing up rolling D20s, Divinity II is the game that most closely emulates the true pen-and-paper RPG experience for me. With high production values, it manages to break free from the mold to deliver that authentic pen-and-paper feel with an indie edge. I especially liked its open and freeform gameplay that encourages player engagement and creative problem solving. Playing the game with friends adds unexpected twists and intrigues to the excellent player-created narrative.

Resident Evil 7 VR

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This is VR leveraged to its full potential, dropping you straight into the ultimate haunted house experience. With great level design that truly makes you feel like you’re trapped inside a cursed mansion, the game fashions the journey around unlocking new areas in a non-linear fashion that gives you a great sense of freedom while retaining that crucial feeling of claustrophobia. It also sports great combat gameplay in the context of a horror game where every bullet counts and each encounter feels like a life and death situation, and its tense, layered horror narrative always keeps you questioning what you’re seeing.

Thimbleweed Park

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This sure was a surprise. Thimbleweed Park is a genre revival that boasts soulful pixel art and a Twin Peaks-esque story where it always feels like something is off, and it tickled my nostalgic glands to an embarrassing degree. The game makes great use of character switching to shape its narrative puzzle, and like a good music album, you find your own personal favorite among its colorful cast. Smart humor and punchy dialogue, intuitive puzzle solving that keeps the sense of frustration at bay, and beautiful old school graphics without the technical limits, this game is a great celebration of the kind of games I grew up playing.