Matthew Rorie has been working in the games industry in some fashion for nearly twenty years. He lives in Oakland, can be found enjoying the company of friendly dogs on Twitter, and can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As is per usual, I played a fairly decent number of games in 2016, but managed to finish just a few of them. It’s been a busy year, and most of the games that I was looking forward to came in the fall months, which happened to coincide with a move to my girlfriend’s house in Oakland. It’s been tougher to find the time to play games in the evening with two dogs and cats all trying to climb into my lap more or less constantly; but I did manage to put some time into some stuff, so here’s a quick recap of the games I thought were most noteworthy.
I was effectively locked into playing this well before it came out, when I cashed in all of the gold on my account to buy game time tokens; I’m able to play through April or so without a subscription fee, which is nice. It seems to have done well pretty well for Blizzard, too, with reports of their subscription count heading back north of 10 million players, which is still a baffling number to hear applied to a subscription-based MMO.
I talk about WoW a bunch since it’s something I play fairly often, but I should qualify that and say that I’m still a fairly casual player, at least by WoW standards. I only have one max-level character so far, and even he is still fairly far from being fully-experienced, as I’ve only done a couple of LFR bosses and only a few Mythics here and there. Still, the sheer ease of throwing it up windowed on my main monitor while watching Netflix or something on the second often makes it the default gaming choice when I have 20 minutes to spend at my keyboard.
So, WoW is basically a beer-and-pizza kind of game. There’s better-tasting stuff out there that’s nice as a special occasion, but you can give me a beer and some pizza any day of the week and I won’t turn it down.
I didn’t play Titanfall, and I haven’t played a minute of Titanfall 2’s multiplayer, but damn is that single-player campaign ever sweet. It seems a little weird that you’re going up against a bunch of mercenaries instead of the enemies that you’re actually supposed to be fighting against in the universe’s fiction, but at least that let Respawn throw in a bunch of fairly interesting boss fights after some amazingly cool levels. The shooting’s fun, the movement systems are rad, and your robot is refreshingly fun to play along with without going for the easy comic relief element that a lot of game sidekicks tend to get saddled with.
I could’ve stood to have a slightly longer campaign, and I kind of found myself wishing for separate difficulty slider for bosses and the rest of the game (I’m bad at boss fights), but it’s clear that Respawn knows their setpieces, so hopefully they’ll get a chance to make another one of things.
I didn’t have any great hopes for Doom when I heard it was coming down the pipe. I liked Doom 3 more than most, but given the distance in time from then until now, it was pretty clear that this was going to be a different beast. That it wound up being a magical opera of metal and gore is more than anyone could’ve expected, but we’re all the better for its eventual arrival. Again, I never touched the multiplayer, but the single-player campaign was a super-enjoyable romp.
I can’t recall the last shooter game that I enjoyed as much for its campaign as Doom; it’s certainly been a few years. The story has some cool beats, sure, but the sheer speed of the action and the pretty great level design are really what made this thing click. Retro touches like being able to hold more than two weapons at a time were just the icing on the cake. It might not have been trying to be anything more than a fun time, but it’s a hell of an example of being that.
I got a couple hours into this before I stumbled onto the realization that my lateral-thinking skills have atrophied well past the point where I could honestly hope to tackle a modern puzzle game. My lateral-thinking skills are more on the “might be able to solve a TV Guide crossword puzzle” level than “can play The Witness for more than 20 minutes without getting frustrated and Alt-F4ing” at this point in my life.
My biggest peeve here was probably the habit of finding puzzles with arcane symbols on them that were never really explained. I would find a puzzle with a bunch of black and white cubes on it, say, and trial-and-error my way past the first few easy ones without understanding what logic underlay the pattern that finally unlocked the puzzle. By the time I found harder puzzles in the same strain, I had no idea how to “really” solve them, and often couldn’t track down the easier puzzles to try and suss out whatever pattern I was missing.
That’s entirely a symptom of my weak-ass cerebellum not keeping up with my AARP brain training, but my other major annoyance was purely one of design. After finding an audio log early on that seemed like it was going to shed some light on the game’s story, I would click on the others that I found around, only to find that a lot of them were incredibly long literary readings that couldn’t be interrupted. After listening to some lady reading a rambling story about an astronaut’s trip to the moon for what must’ve been almost five straight minutes, I quit to the desktop to take a breather. I came back the next day only to find that she was still blathering on until the entire reading was done.
Still, this is a nice mellow game to play when my ladyfriend is trying to sleep, so I might keep poking around at it. Maybe I’ll get better at it, but then, I never beat Braid or The Talos Principle either. (I did manage to beat Antichamber, though, which gives me a glimmer of hope here. Note: more people should play Antichamber.)
I have really, really liked the Uncharted series, which makes me sad that I trailed off of Uncharted 4 during what felt like the middle of the game. It’s a technical marvel of a game, for sure, but after you’ve climbed up the inside of your Nth clocktower, it seemed like there was only so much novel stuff that Naughty Dog wound up being able to throw at a player. I genuinely dig the shooting sections of these games, but I think I’ve hit my limit on crumbling cliff faces that I want to climb up before they inevitably fall into the freezing water far below, etc., etc. I’ll finish it at some point, but I don’t exactly feel compelled to boot it up anytime soon.
This is another one of those games that I’ve only spent a couple of hours in. It’s a romp of a sandbox but the learning curve seems steep enough to encourage me to hold off on it until I have a good chunk of time to dedicate to it.
I mentioned on the Bombcast recently that I’m having some weird mouse-drift issue with this game, where my POV will just drift off to the left or right after I’m done moving my mouse around. Maybe I’ll switch to a gamepad at some point, but at the moment there’s enough other stuff to occupy me that I’d rather just wait until that gets fixed.
Although I had to wait a couple of weeks for the copy of this that I got packed in with an SSD to unlock, it seems like the PC port was worth the wait; you can tell that the development team really wanted to ensure that it was a technical showpiece. It looks and runs great on my 970GTX, and there’s enough headroom in the settings to make it seem fairly futureproof if I ever decide to upgrade my GPU. The only drawback to that is that I almost feel like I want to hold off on playing it until I nab something that’ll let me max out all the settings without making my framerate dip below 60.
The arrival of this on Steam was one of the weirdest surprises of the year, considering that the original game was a 2012 PS3 release. I got through a bunch of that back when the Dark Arisen expansion went free on PlayStation Plus a while back, and liked it enough to give it a whirl on the PC as well. I got pretty lucky when someone checked out one of my pawns for a few weeks and gave me back a bunch of pawn points to spend on new followers, but then I remembered that competing in the DLC dungeon almost requires some weird leveling strategies that I haven’t been following. I’ll come back to this at some point, since I never did manage to get to the bottom of that DLC dungeon when I first started playing.
I really, really dug Terraria, so it’s weird that this hasn’t really clicked with me yet. Part of that is no doubt the thought of yet again starting with super-weak gear and digging tools. I’ve restarted Terraria a few times, but always with the benefit of dropping a nice drill for the new character from one of old saves; I have no such luxury in Starbound, and the early process of digging up enough dirt and wood to start crafting stuff is still painfully slow. Hopefully I’ll come around on this, as it’d be nice to have another main-monitor game to play alongside Netflix.
And that’s my year in gaming! There’s plenty of other stuff that I still have or want to tackle, like Dark Souls III, Inside, Final Fantasy XV. I did get a terabyte SSD for Christmas, though, so hopefully that will facilitate some more installations.