The Moosies: Part IX.

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MooseyMcMan

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Hello everybody, it's that time of year again! That's right, it's...

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Though it felt like a decade of slogging through a swamp of burning ash, 2017 is finally over, and we're onto likely an even boggier swamp in 2018. But hey, at least the games were good, right? They were so good, I came up with this revolutionary new idea: What if I wrote a list of my top ten games of the year, and also had some awards for other noteworthy games (by which I mean the other games I played because I only played like, thirteen games total)? What's that you say? This is the ninth time I've done something like this, and everyone else has been making lists forever? Nonsense!

And, as I've done for the last year or so, I'm starting with my predictions for 2017, that I wrote way back at the last Moosies. Let's see how wrong I was this time!

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9th Moosies Game of the Year Prediction 2017: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Hm, what an interesting prediction this was. Who can say if it was false or true?

Knack 2 is good enough that we all eat our words and play it.

While I will say that Knack 2 seems like a totally fine game from afar, this prediction was wrong, as we did not all eat our words, or play it.

Persona 5 gets delayed one more time before its western release.

This one was true! Bit of an easy one to predict, in retrospect, but I'll take my correct guesses where I can get them.

Nintendo Switch sells only marginally better than the Wii U, is yet another system owned only for Nintendo developed games.

I guess I sure was wrong, huh? Isn't the Switch already almost at Wii U's lifetime sales, in less than a year? Never mind that it seems to be replacing the 3DS as people's gaming handheld of choice, and many really want games on the Switch specifically to play them on the go. That's actually why I've come to think of it as more of a handheld than a console. Seems like that's the real draw of the thing, isn't it?

In a move that defies all logic, Nintendo announces the Newer 3DS, ruining our dreams of them unifying development behind one system.

Well, Nintendo did begin selling the New Nintendo 2DS XL this year, and they are still releasing noteworthy games on 3DS/2DS. Like that Metroid game. Will that continue to be the case? For a little while, sure, but with the Switch selling so well, I think they'll put all their money behind Switch, and fade 3DS out eventually.

Still no more F-Zero or Metroid.

Of all my predictions, I can't believe I got this one (half) wrong! Not only was a new Metroid (remake) released this year, but another was announced! All we got was a logo, but a logo is more than Nintendo's given people in a long time.

F-Zero, though? My heart still weeps...

Half-Life 3 gets released. It's a new character for Dota 2 instead of a game.

They did make the Portal Companion Cube a skin or something for one of the characters, right? That's in the Half-Life universe, so I'll say this one was...one third right?

New Splinter Cell game is announced.

Much like Metal Gear, and seemingly Deus Ex, it sounds like Splinter Cell won't be back any time soon. Though I'd still put money on this returning before MGS, and probably Deus Ex. (Cue another prediction gone wrong).

Xbox Scorpio is fueled by actual scorpions.

No, but it is cooled by Vape, which is something I doubt any of us saw coming. Okay, someone did. BUT, there is a cute little picture of Master Chief riding a scorpion inside each Xbox One X, so there is a little scorpion in there.

Red Dead Redemption 2 gets delayed to 2018.

Like Persona 5, this was another really easy one to predict. Even though RockStar, in 2016, was airing ads on television for this game, saying fall 2017.

Second Kickstarter for Shenmue III.

I'm happy this one wasn't true. I don't mind them taking their time, especially since a new Shenmue probably won't be great anyway (most of my enjoyment from the original came from the bad voice acting). But, if they came out asking for more money, that probably wouldn't have helped their cause.

So, that's it for predictions. As is usual, I was wrong far more than I was right, but it's still fun to do. Now, onto the core of The Moosies: The Awards! Same format as always, with a top ten list, and awards for other games in between (some of) the numbered entries. I know I could just make a list larger than ten, but then I couldn't do things like point out high profile games I didn't play, or do Old Game of the Year! Anyway, enough dawdling!

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X. Best Action Set Pieces: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.

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Of all the years I've done The Moosies Awards, two of them had an Uncharted as game of the year, and another had it as either second or third, overall. That might have been before I did a numbered list, actually. Either way, Lost Legacy ending up at number ten on this list is the lowest an Uncharted has ever ranked for me at the end of the year. But that's not a mark against the game's quality, just more how this side story is exactly that. It's another Uncharted game, re-using a lot of the tech, and other things from A Thief's End to give Chloe some extra screen time.

It's a smaller, leaner Uncharted experience that probably benefits overall from tighter pacing, and more focused design but ultimately isn't as memorable as the main entries. But it's hard to follow up a game that was specifically tugging at the nostalgia strings in key parts, especially when it's a side story. Even this game's big action set piece at the end, which I genuinely think is the best finale of the entire series, feels like a greatest hits of prior Uncharted set pieces. But like just about everything The Lost Legacy does, it shows that it knows how to be just as good as what came before, if not better.

All that said, even an Uncharted game that is merely "more Uncharted," rather than pushing the franchise forward in some substantial way, is still all right in my book. More than all right, because it's a great game, and definitely deserving of a spot on my top ten list. Also, maybe a controversial statement, but I think I like Chloe better as a protagonist than Nathan Drake, in retrospect. So, Naughty Dog, if you're reading this (and obviously they are), maybe make Uncharted 5 about her? Don't try to tell me Uncharted is over, we all know it's not, not while you're owned by a big corporation!

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy also wins:

  • Best Elephant.

  • Best Use of Monkeys.

  • Best Pizza.

  • Best Train.

Game I Most Wish I Played: Super Mario Odyssey.

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In a year where I couldn't afford to buy the new Nintendo, and thus couldn't buy its flagship exclusive, this award was an easy choice. A new Mario game, widely beloved, and probably topping a lot of people's game of the year lists. And here all I can do is write about how I should have played it. Oh well, that's what I get for not having a spare three hundred and sixty dollars lying around to pay for just one game (and even more if I wanted to shell out the money for a better controller).

Alas, such is the way the world is. Hopefully it won't take too long for the price to go down enough for me to join in the fun...Then barely ever use the Switch because I don't like playing games on handhelds, and without that there's no reason to play anything other than Switch exclusives on there. It's going to be a while before the price gets low enough for me, isn't it?

Just as an addendum, between my writing those paragraphs, and coming back to proof-read this, I realized, between years of birthdays and Christmases, I've saved up enough money for a Switch, and I almost impulse bought one on Amazon one day. So who knows, maybe I'll have one sooner than later. Still not in time for this, though!

Runners Up: Hollow Knight, Night in the Woods, What Remains of Edith Finch, Tacoma, Heat Signature, many others, probably.

IX. Spookiest Game: The Evil Within 2.

I wish I could take the cat.
I wish I could take the cat.

Something about The Evil Within 2, even when it was just announced, grabbed me in a way I wasn't expecting. Especially as I haven't played the first one, nor heard anyone articulate a solid argument for why I should. This one, however, is a pretty great mix of survival horror and stealth game mechanics that I really enjoyed. It's been long enough since the last survival horror game I played (does The Last of Us count?) that I was really itching for one to play this year. And, naturally, I didn't play Resident Evil VII, so instead I played a sequel to a (probably) bad game!

I think probably The Evil Within 2's greatest strength is that its premise, it being set in a computer simulation, allows the game to do basically anything at all. One minute ex-detective Sebastian Castellanos (great name) might be sneaking down a suburban street, hiding behind bushes, and the next he might be running away from an invincible ghost, or any number of ghastly ghouls or mutant monstrosities. Yes, most of the game's enemies are pretty zombie-ish looking, and acting, but everything around them is imaginative, and keeps the game fresh and exciting through most of its run (it's drags a little by the end). And even if they are zombie-ish, they are at least slightly smarter than the average zombie, and fun to deal with.

Besides, how many games have a spooky yogurt monster in them, after all?

While the story or characters might not be anything to write home about, The Evil Within 2 is still a great overall experience, and one I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy as much as I did. It was everything I wanted from a new survival horror game, at just the right time (a month after Halloween because I waited for a sale because capitalism is bad).

The Evil Within 2 also wins:

  • Best Use of Yogurt.

  • Best Use of (temporary) Letterboxing.

  • Best Cat with a Ribbon.

  • Big Bo Presents Year of the Bow Crossbow of the Year: Warden Crossbow.

  • Best Sneaking.

  • Best Easter Egg (Evil Within Too).

Best Digging: SteamWorld Dig 2.

Movement in games is so focused on either lateral movement across flat plains, or upward movement over and around things, that going down is often overlooked. In the real world, digging is a slow, laborious process that isn't the least bit enjoyable. But in SteamWorld, Digging is a fun challenge. Yes, the game does have plenty of abilities focused on getting back up out of the tunnels, but still. It's called SteamWorld Dig (2), not SteamWorld Jump!

In all seriousness, though, Dig 2 is a really good game. The digging is as fun, if not more so than in the original, and the game built around that feels even more like a Castlevania, or even Metroid game than before. I believe there's a mash-up word for that...Castletroid. Challenge rooms, secrets all around, and plenty of mystery. But, at the end of the day, it couldn't quite make the cut for the top ten list.

Steamworld Dig 2 also wins:

  • Best Castletroid Game.

  • Best Grappling Hook.

  • Best Jetpack.

VIII. Multiplayer Game of the Year: Destiny 2.

I think this image encapsulates the Destiny 2 highlights.
I think this image encapsulates the Destiny 2 highlights.

Destiny 2 has managed what Destiny 1 never could: To get onto my top ten list for a year. All it had to do was have a coherent (if ultimately forgettable) story, and not be so grindy it led me to stop playing the game out of spite. Really, that's all it took, because outside of a new ability for each class, there really isn't that much different between this game and the first. Sure, there's new subclasses, new weapons, minor things like that all around, but as a whole? It's just more Destiny.

And like Destiny 1, I found myself pretty quickly drawn into playing a lot of Destiny 2. Like the first one, Destiny 2 is built around playing with other people, and that's where it shines the brightest. Whether it's just there to be something to talk over, or a legitimately difficult mission that requires a level of coordination and focus my associates and I couldn't usually achieve due to our lackadaisical attitudes, Destiny 2 is a fantastic game to play with other people. Even the player vs. player stuff is fun, under the right circumstances.

It's not perfect. The three player Fireteam limits for Strikes, and Patrol/public quests is still frustrating. Especially for public quests, given those often involved more than four people when passersby are factored in. And given my Destiny 2 associates and I numbered four in total, that led to a lot of switching out a person. Worked for the PvP, though, given that's arbitrarily a four vs. four mode (I'm sure it's not actually arbitrary in terms of what Bungie wants, I'm just saying).

I was never able to coordinate well enough with a group to even get enough people together at once to attempt the Raid, which may or may not be a good thing, from what I've heard about the current one. But all that said, I had a whole heck of a lot of fun playing Destiny 2 too much this year. I got one character up to the Power cap, and two others almost to it! Well, at least what the cap was before the DLC.

Like Destiny 1, I've Fallen off of this one, though I think for a less Vexing reason than last time. While Destiny 2 has Taken more of my time than the first, it doesn't feel like it has, because it's not a horrific grind like that game was. The first game got me stuck on his horrible loop, and I left that game feeling so bad I might as well have had Hives. And, I'll admit some of the things I've heard about Destiny 2 as of late make it sound like it's being run by a microtransaction Cabal, so it's probably for the best that I left Destiny 2 when I did. I'm still glad this time I left the game because it wasn't grindy enough, rather than too grindy.

Too grindy, or not grindy enough. I'm so fickle, aren't I?

Destiny 2 also wins:

  • Best Use of Colored Lighting.

  • Best Skyboxes.

  • Best Dancing.

  • Also Worst Dancing.

  • Vibrating-est Bird.

  • Best Multiplayer Announcer: Lord Shaxx.

  • Most Unintentionally Funny line of Dialog: "And I have become legend!"

"The Dark Souls of Awards" Award: Nioh.

Nioh is a game that I simultaneously really like, but also think falls very short of its potential. The combat is great. It starts with the same core as something like Dark Souls. Similar lock-on and stamina mechanics, and a moderately high level of difficulty with similarly designed levels. But from there, it goes in another direction, with a focus on fighting stances, customizing moves, and even a way to "active reload" stamina. It's a ton of fun, and deep enough to allow for a lot of different strategies.

The thing that holds Nioh back is the rest of the game around that great core is...mediocre. There's some fun charm in the game, like the eyepatch wearing ghost cat that gives advice to Anime Geralt (or William, whatever his actual name is). For as fun as the combat is, the game is too grindy for its own good, and doesn't have nearly enough enemy variety for as long as it is. And even most of the enemies in the game are some variation on "dudes with swords." Some are just skeleton dudes, demon dudes, or bird demon dudes. They're not all just guys with swords, but a handful of spiders or malevolent umbrellas weren't quite enough.

It did, however, get me to go look up some stuff about the era it's set in, and I learned a few things about Sengoku period of Japan. Despite all the demons and stuff, the game is weirdly historically accurate in some ways?

Overall, Nioh is a solid, fun game, that wasn't quite good enough to get onto my top ten. Even if it doesn't have a big interconnected world like the better Dark Souls and Bloodbornes of the world, the combat was enough to scratch that itch, and keep me satisfied for another year. Now let's just wait and see if that From Software trailer was them teasing their own take on this period of Japan.

Nioh also wins:

  • Best Sword Combat.

  • Most Malevolent Umbrellas.

  • Best Ghost Cat.

VII. Best Punching and Kicking Simulator: Yakuza 0.

I'm still fascinated by these giant cones.
I'm still fascinated by these giant cones.

Yakuza 0 is a game of incredibly high highs, and incredibly low lows. At its pinnacle, it's fun beat'em up with a great story, incredible characters, absurd humor, and some of the best moments of the year. It tells a sometimes heart wrenching story of two men fighting against a Yakuza plot so convoluted it would make Hideo Kojima wake in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. It's a tale of brotherhood, of loyalty, and of how far people would go to prove, or disprove, said loyalty. It's hilarious, strange, and chock full of things I'll remember for years to come.

I went back and forth on whether to bring this up again or not, but ultimately it's the thing holding this game back from being higher on the list. At its worst, Yakuza 0 has some of the worst transmisogyny in any game I've played. It's also not great toward cisgender woman, and the series really never has been. There's probably an unhealthy dose of homophobia in there too, I just missed it, or don't remember it. It's so disappointing because it has so much genuine heart in so much of the rest of the game, that I don't want to be bringing this up. And yet.

Conversely, as much as I want to take a stand against games with awful stuff like that, it's still number VII on my list. Despite all its issues (which it has a fair number game related ones too), it's still a great game. I only have so much willpower, and it turns out Japanese men yelling at and beating up each other, if it's done sufficiently well, wins out.

I'm weak.

But I love Kiryu and Majima so much. I love the new fight styles, and being able to switch between them on the fly. I love that this game runs at a much better framerate than the PS3 Yakuza games ever did. I love that this game is focused on a good story, and only ramps up the pace as it continues to the end, rather than getting bogged down in too many characters and unnecessary baseball subplots like Yakuza 5 did. The game gets so much right.

There might be an alternate universe where this game doesn't have any anti-LGBT+ jokes in it, and one where it treats women better. And maybe in that universe this game is higher on my list. But if we're talking hypothetical universes where games that I want to be better are better, this is a much different list, haha.

Yakuza 0 also wins:

  • Best Chicken: Nugget.

  • Best Melee Special Moves.

  • Funniest Game.

  • Best Packaging/Extra Goodies: Business Cards and Metal Business Card Holder Inside a Bigger Box.

  • Most Minigames.

  • Best Suits.

Most Improved Game from 2016: No Man's Sky.

I actually ended up playing quite a bit of this game in 2017. Definitely more than I did in 2016. While not all of that is due to improvements made to the game (it was a good podcast game after I was recovering from a few days in the hospital), it has, overall, improved a good amount this year. I still don't think all the changes were for the best (particularly finding crashed ships and needing to repair their inventory slots), but the addition of an actual Story goes a long way to make No Man's Sky a pretty enjoyable time spender. The added ground vehicles are fun to use too, even if (like many things in the game) the resources required to make and upgrade them are too prohibitive for what doesn't have many real advantages over just flying.

Still though, it's better, and I like it. Even if one of the patches turned the planet I built my base on from a lovely world of blue grass to being all yucky and acidic.

VI. Best Looking Game of the Year: Horizon Zero Dawn.

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Months after finishing Horizon, two things about it immediately jump to my mind. The first, is how gorgeous the game is. There's plenty of people out there that (often rightfully) decry games that emphasize raw visual fidelity and chasing after realism over more stylized looks. And sure, maybe a decade from now we'll look back on Horizon and wonder how we ever thought it looked good, but right now? It's gorgeous, and I think a lot of that is as much from great art, and design as it is from raw technical prowess.

From dusty deserts to jaw-dropping jungles, this game wowed me almost every step of the way with how perfectly it captures the natural beauty of its world. I'm a sucker for sunsets, and good lighting in general, and this game probably has the best I've ever seen. One image I just cannot get out of my head is Aloy wandering through a misty jungle at night, the ground covered in foliage, and shafts of moonlight sifting through the trees, and...making the mist look...good Look, I don't know what the technical terms are, but it looks good! And the human world built around this, with its ancient metal husks of skyscrapers contrasted against the modest constructions of the new civilizations are equally beautiful.

Aside from, you know, all the cultural appropriation. That's a blemish on an otherwise beautiful game. Okay, that's not the right way to word it. The appropriation isn't a problem because of how it looks, it's a problem because when tasked with "how would people in this situation dress, build their homes, culture, etc," Guerrilla Games' answer was to just steal things from cultures without putting in the work to properly justify it, or do whatever would be needed to not have it be appropriation. I'm not really sure what that would be, frankly. They probably should have just gone for something a little more original.

The other thing that jumps to my mind is the combat. Specifically fighting the robots, as I had all but forgotten that there were humans to fight too. The enemies in this game are built to be ripped and torn apart, the tools given to deal with them meld perfectly with this, and the result is a game that I still think plays like little else out there. There's snares to set, elemental types to keep in mind, arrows and bows suited for attacking specific pieces of enemies, and even a weapon that attaches cables between enemies and the ground, letting you tie them down for a short while. Combined with a lot of enemy variety, and a fast pace, it's an exhilarating time.

It's not all for show, either. Knocking pieces off enemies changes how they fight. A big robo-cat with a gun on its back is a lot less threatening if you can shoot the gun off, especially when you can then pick up that gun and use it against itself! There's less obvious uses for dismantling enemies too, like stopping robo-turkeys from using their big air blasts by rupturing their air sacs, or preventing giant mecha-salamanders from burrowing by doing enough damage to the right parts. Or stealing extra resources from large crab foes by targeting the clamps on the storage units they're carrying before killing them. Or even not killing them at all once the goodies are gotten.

Even just writing about it now makes me wish I'd played the DLC for the game, because I could go for more of that. There's no reason why I can't still do that at some point, of course. I think I'll do that! Eventually.

As much as even thinking about fighting the huge robots in this game still excites me, the story hasn't stuck with me like I expected it to. I still like Aloy as a protagonist (thanks in no small part to Ashly Burch's performance), plus there's certain aspects of the back story and world as a whole that I appreciate. But when I think about the actual narrative of the game, it just feels like yet another video game story, especially after other games that I've played since in the year. Not bad by any means, but I'd say that's the part of the game holding it back in my mind. That, and fighting against humans, which to be frank, was bad. Less of that in the sequel, please.

And if I'm nitpicking, then this was the game that finally broke me on hunting as a means to find crafting parts in games. I love fighting giant robots, but running after a defenseless jungle turkey and killing it to get some feathers so I can hold a few more arrows is not fun, and it makes me feel bad. Sure, I've eaten many a turkey in my life, but there's a difference in taking part in gruesome capitalist slaughter of animals for food and shooting a digital bird.

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Wait.

Horizon Zero Dawn also wins:

  • Big Bo Presents Year of the Bow Bows of the Year.

  • Best Robot Designs.

  • Most Hair (Aloy has so much hair, but I think she pulls it off).

  • Best Turkeys.

  • Best Lighting.

  • Best Photo Mode: Aloy can make a heart with her hands.

Best Animal Petting: Assassin's Creed Origins.

Good bird.
Good bird.

Assassin's Creed as a franchise has been all over the place. The first game had a lot of interesting ideas, but wasted them on a game where progressing often involved little more than sitting on a bench and eavesdropping on a meaningless conversation. II and Brotherhood tied everything together, but the series has been kind of coasting ever since. Even the best ones after that, Black Flag and Syndicate, feel like they were still grasping at the series' former glory, even if they were technically better games in a lot of ways.

And then we have Origins, a game that throws out most of the good things from Assassin's Creed, keeps some of the good (like looking at beautiful vistas on top of tall things), and a lot of the bad (all the present day stuff). Then it replaces all the removed Assassin's Creed with what is really just another open world action game with loot and light leveling. That doesn't mean it's bad, I've enjoyed playing it, and plan on going back to do more of the side stuff I never got around to. But that also doesn't mean it's great.

The thing that salvages what would otherwise be a very forgettable game for me ends up being the main character, Bayek. The best games in the series have had charismatic protagonists. Ezio and Edward Kenway had that classic swagger, and Evie was great in Syndicate (Jacob not so much, but he wasn't bad). But Bayek feels like the first one in any of these games to feel more like a real person, and not some video game archetype. I mean, he's still a video game dad on a vengeance quest, and he kills hundreds of bandits and solves everyone's problems across all of Egypt.

But when Bayek mourns the loss of his son, that loss feels real. When he's furious at the people who have been ravaging his country, I feel that anger. When he and Aya meet up, and get all romantic, it seems as real to me as any hetero romance ever has. When his smile at meeting an old friend fades right before the camera cuts back to game play, I know that feeling of just putting on an act, because they haven't changed in the years since, but I have. When he's overjoyed at realizing his wonderful bird friend is alive and well, I too felt that joy, because games almost never get that feeling of a person and their animal friends so right. More than anything, I attribute this to Abubakar Salim's performance, as I'm not going to sit here and try to argue that the writing is anything special. It's fine, but a case where a good performance turns it into something memorable.

And like Horizon Zero Dawn, it can be a really gorgeous game. I don't think that presentation holds up as consistently as Horizon does, even if this game has some truly extraordinary vistas. It's also got a lot of video game looking rock textures, and rough looking NPCs walking around streets.

Also when Senu lands on Bayek's arm, you can hit the interact button to pet her. And Bayek will pet cats if he crouches near them. Sadly no dog petting, but this isn't the only open world game with dogs that should be pet but aren't, so I won't hold it against this game. Too much.

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Assassin's Creed Origins also wins:

  • Best Bird: Senu.

  • Best Beard: Bayek.

  • Best Cats.

  • Best Secret(?) Option: Giving Bayek his Hair and Beard Back.

  • "Most Historically Accurate Game."

  • Most Pyramids.

  • Camels.

The Moosies 2017 "Retro" Game of the Year: Life is Strange.

Despite having already watched Giant Bomb East play through Life is Strange back in 2015, I didn't actually play it until 2017, when it was free with PlayStation Plus. Whether because of the strength of Life is Strange, or (more likely) the relative weakness of the rest of the older games I played in 2017, Life is Strange still stood out as the one. It's rife with issues, which would require much more space and time than I'm willing to go into, but the parts that work still work. Even with the context of me knowing what's going to happen, I still really enjoyed spending time with Chloe and Max this year.

Even if it wasn't the best Chloe game I played this year.

Runners Up: Downwell, Abzu.

Now, is when the list gets serious. It's easy to say these sorts of things, but I really mean it this year: Despite some flaws and issues that the following games have, in a lot of other years, any one of these could have been my game of the year. And I don't mean like, "Oh if this was another 2014, this would be game of the year." I mean that each of the following games really are something special, in their own way. But, at the end of the day, I had to settle on an order for them, and I did. Even if numbers V through III I probably could've ordered in any way and felt good about it.

V. Best Moose Riding Simulator: NieR:Automata.

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Of all the games in 2017, I think this is the one that left me most...unsure. There are things in Automata that I think are fantastic. Parts of this game reminded me of the best parts of the MGS games, in that they made me think, "no one else would do this in a game." It's a very strange game that is unafraid to be exactly what it wants to be, even if it would probably be a better game if it wasn't as stubborn about some of those things.

It's also a game that many people adore in a way that I never could, and sometimes it feels like I missed something. It certainly doesn't help that the "discourse" around this game got so heated that at one point anyone mentioning the game at all, regardless of context, started to get on my nerves. Not that it made me angry, I just wanted to get away from the game, and stop thinking about it before people's obsession over it made me forget the things that I liked about it.

I like how weird it is. I like how the game does it what it wants to do. There are very specific things in the story that I, well, like isn't exactly the right word for them. Pascal's arc, for example. I'm not going to spoil anything, but if you've finished the game, you know what I mean. Few games, and basically no games in the bigger, "Triple A" space are willing to do the things that Automata does, and I really appreciate that it does these things.

Months later, this game still baffles me. Originally I had a paragraph here about how I never grew attached to the characters, but then I went back to look at the snippet I wrote about the game months ago, where I said, "Even the characters grew on me to the point that by the time the game wanted me to be attached to them, I was attached to them." Is this a case for the game not sticking with me like I thought it would, or a case of my memory just being awful? I DON'T KNOW.

It's a game made by Platinum, with the same fluid, responsive combat that I've come to expect from them...just without interesting enemies or encounters to use it in. Or, rather, that same fluid combat for most, but not all, of the game. Some characters are more fun to play as than others, is what I'll say. Even beside that, it bounces around between game types to keep things fresh, but none of them are fun or challenging in the ways I want a Platinum game to be. And even if it gets hard, by fighting enemies that are too high level, the only real difficulty is in how much damage they do relative to how much health you have. The ship shooter sequences are neat, but again, not ever difficult in a way to make them a challenge, unless it's a sequence specifically designed to be impossibly hard.

Then there's the music, which is impeccable. I still find myself wanting to shout BECOME AS GODS whenever I think about it. It sweeps the gamut between silly/goofy, touching, and pulse-pounding intensity. And basically all of it is phenomenal. I might make some arguments for other games this year having better "use of music," but this game's soundtrack really does top all others.

I'm still not exactly sure what I think about Automata as a whole. I liked it? I liked it. Part of me wanted to not include it on the list at all because I kind of don't like it? But also I kind of love it? The more time I've spent thinking about it this past week as I've been working on writing this, thinking about the year's games, and listening to Giant Bomb's short and concise GOTY podcasts, the higher this game kept getting on this list.

It's something special.

It's also really weird.

Also I wish the camera didn't focus on 2B's butt every time she dashes/runs and her weird 3/4 skirt didn't flap up in the wind. Kinda pervy Japanese game design is something I wish this game didn't remind me of MGS.

One last thing, I'm going to leave another quote from what I previously wrote about Automata. A good reminder of why it was that I liked the game when I played it, and summation of why this game does deserve (at least) the number V spot on my list.

"Then, the machine has a revelation: The bodies of animals, while inconvenient, have something the machines don't: Warmth.

And I've never empathized with a fetch quest more in my entire life."

NieR Automata also wins:

  • Best Boar Riding Simulator.

  • Best Late Title Card.

  • Best Fishing.

  • Best Robot Friends.

  • Best Late Title Card.

  • Nakedest Bio-Mechanical(?) Men.

  • Best butts.

  • Most Original Music.

  • Best Mech-Suits.

  • Big Bo Presents Year of the Bow Hair Bow of the Year.

IV. Best Game that's so Good it'll make you forget it's technically a reboot: Prey.

Second best title card of the year.
Second best title card of the year.

I wrote so much about Prey earlier in the year that I don't think there's much more I can say about it now. But what I can say that I couldn't then is how much the game has still, months and months later, stuck with me. Not every game I played this year did that. Horizon certainly didn't, not as much as I expected it to. But Prey? Prey earned its spot in my memory, and it's going to stay nuzzled in my brain for a long time.

Of course, maybe saying a game heavily featuring brain implants, and memory wipes is stuck in my head isn't the best way to word it. Or maybe it is, actually. Only fitting, right?

Sure, Prey has issues, especially on console. Even after patching it a whole lot, the game still doesn't run as smoothly as it should, and the load times are too long. The combat isn't great, but you know what is? The world they created. The mimics, which are still one of my all time favorite game enemies. The characters, the writing, the way the game got me to play right into exactly what it wanted me to do all along, without me being wise to it at all. But also the way that even after I realized it, I wasn't mad that the game "tricked me." I was happy, because even if Prey is a game that likes playing tricks on you, they're not mean tricks. Well, in universe they are, sure.

But thematically? I'll take games that place more importance on empathy than anything else any day of the week. And Prey, above all else, wants to stress how important empathy is, and I believe even more strongly now than when I first played it: More empathy is something we need in this world right now. Or, at the very least, empathy for the people who deserve it.

Prey also wins:

  • Best Use of Eels.

  • Best Enemy: Mimics.

  • Best Space Lesbians.

  • Best "Snowman."

  • Best "Weapon:" The Gloo Gun.

  • Best Plot Twists.

  • Best Use of (Outer) Space.

III. Most Cathartic Game: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.

Good pig.
Good pig.

Because you know who don't deserve empathy? Nazis. You know what Wolfenstein II has a whole hell of a lot of? Killing Nazis. And oh golly, what a good Nazi killing game it is. Sure, there are a lot of people out there that don't care for the combat in this game, and I'm not saying they're wrong when they say that's the worst part of the game. I was just better able to look past its flaws (which are there), and found the high difficulty to be a fun challenge, rather than an impediment. All that said, they should adjust that for the next one.

In 2017, more so than any year of my life, I needed this game, and for what I needed, it delivered. What I wanted was carnage against Nazis, and it delivered. Wolfenstein II revels in it. BJ storms through this game raining bullets, buckshot, shrapnel, diesel, and hatchets upon his foes, tearing them into shreds of bloody pulp and rent metal. Sure, the stealth barely works because the game doesn't do anything to make up for the lack of awareness the first person perspective gives you. The levels aren't well designed, which often leads to spending time after fights figuring out where to go. The game doesn't do enough to let you know when you're being flanked, or attacked from behind, which can lead to quick deaths. Solutions to other, smaller issues the combat has for little or no reason are fixed with optional gadgets that can't be found until late in the game.

But none of that got in the way for me. The guns in this game feel powerful, and so does BJ when he gets the ability TO RUN INTO NAZIS AND MAKE THEM EXPLODE. All I'm saying is that it's unfortunate that not everyone got as much enjoyment from playing the game as I did. Hopefully next time around they can make it even better.

Then there's the story, which left me speechless multiple times, for wildly different reasons. One moment there's an emotional confrontation with someone from BJ's past, then an over the top action sequence, and then, after a while, a scene that I literally could not believe as it was happening. It was so out there I thought I'd lost my head, and was just simply speechless. None of what this game does story wise would work in the slightest if the writing and performances weren't as strong as they are, and despite being the prototypical generic white guy protagonist on paper, BJ is without a doubt one of the best characters of the year. I like to credit where credit is due, and Brian Bloom deserves it for his performance.

As much absurd bombast as it has, it's the quiet moments that glue it all together. Returning to the submarine between missions, to check in on friends, and keep feeding that pig. I fed that pig every single chance I could, and while I don't regret it, because I want Rosa to find every bit of happiness she can, I was a little disappointed there wasn't any payoff. Or maybe the payoff was knowing I went out of my way to help a nice animal friend. Because, you see, the real Wolfenstein II was the friends we-

Wolfenstein II runs the gamut from bizarre and hilarious to serious and grim, nailing it almost every step of the way. And despite being made in Sweden, it understands white America better than most white Americans do. It shows not only how easily people can submit to a fascist regime, but how willingly they'll do it. Its vision of Nazi America is not one of a bitter fight to the very end, but one of a bitterly racist, hateful country selling out anyone it could at the first opportunity it got.

Makes you think about where we're at now, doesn't it? Not that different from where we've always been, in a lot of ways. At least it made me think about that.

I do think the game feels a bit rushed toward the end, and the ending itself felt flat compared to the bombastic heights this game reaches earlier. However, a lackluster ending, and bizarre choice of credits song don't come close to ruining The New Colossus. It's a wild ride that I at least needed this year, and its message of hope, and needing to fight back against the forces oppressing us is one that I hope many take to heart.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus also wins:

  • Best Pig: Rosa.

  • Best New Weapon: Dieselkraftwerk.

  • Best Use of Axes.

  • Best Dual-Wielding.

  • Most Ridiculous Game.

  • Most Jaw-Dropping Moments.

  • Best Cutscene Direction.

  • Button Prompt of the Year: Boot to the Face.

II. Most Heartwarming Game: Life is Strange: Before the Storm.

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Of all the games I've written about here, this is the most surprising one. It had everything going against it. An "unnecessary" prequel to a mostly beloved, but heavily flawed game that no one was asking for, that was to fill in gaps no one thought needed to be filled. The main character's voice actress was replaced not because they felt she needed to be recast, but because of the voice acting strike. The original developers weren't working on this one, because they've been busy with their vampire game.

But the end product? Without a doubt the most emotionally affecting game I've played in years. I think it surpasses original Life is Strange in every way. It's better written, the performances are more consistently good, it's more explicitly queer (even if you play wrong and don't go down that route, there is at least ONE openly queer character in the game, which is an improvement (though just one is hardly enough)), and more than anything else, it just feels more focused on finding joy in life, rather than dealing with misery.

It's a game about love, about discovering one's self, and about queerness. It embraces and understands queerness in ways I've never seen a game before. At least not in one published by a big publisher. It's not afraid to let you spend lots of time just sitting and thinking, or playing off-brand D&D with friends before school. It's a game that understands grief, and how much the loss of a loved one can deeply change a person, but it never makes that pain the focus, unlike so many other things that treat suffering as the ultimate form of art. It understands that pain and grief should be stepping stones to overcome, not weights to drag you down.

Or...at least it's two thirds of that game. The first two episodes of Before the Storm are incredible, and will stick with me for a very long time. Episode three, well...I won't spoil it, and you can read how it changed my thoughts on the game as a whole here (be warned of spoilers). But let me stress that if episode three was as good as the first one, Before the Storm would have had a strong shot at being my game of the year. At this point I'm sure anyone reading this who knows me already knows what my game of the year is, and knowing how much I love that game, I can't overstate how much Before the Storm impacted me. It came so, so close.

In a year that honestly felt more dystopian than many dystopian works of fiction, having a brief flash of joy and warmth in Before the Storm had a deeper effect on me than I ever imagined it would. I bought this game on a lark, because it was accidentally six dollars one day, and here I am, thinking about my wonderful lesbians Chloe and Rachel, and just wishing they could have the happiness they deserve.

I guess it's true what they say, huh? Representation really does matter, because I doubt I'd have gotten as much out of it if it was about two straights! Here's to more queerness in games.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm also wins:

  • Best Performances: Rhianna DeVries as Chloe Price, and Kylie Brown as Rachel Amber.

  • Best Writing.

  • Queerest Game.

  • Best Earth Lesbians.

  • Best Stage Performance.

  • Best Off-Brand D&D use.

And, finally, here it is. What you've been waiting for! I'm sure you'll all be surprised, and this wasn't 100% the game anyone who knows me was predicting to be my Game of the Year, it's...

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I. The Ninth Annual Moosies Video Game Awards Game of the Year: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

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Breath of the Wild embraces a sense of adventure in a way that I don't think I've felt in a game since I was a kid. The funny part being that games back then were tiny compared to what they are now. Back then all you needed was adventurous music and a copious amount of N64 fog to make a world feel vast. These days, the worlds have to actually span miles to feel that big, and no game this year felt big in the way Breath of the Wild did. No game made me feel a since of wonder at what would be at the crest of a hill, the bottom of a valley, tucked away in a cave, anywhere and anything was a new adventure. A new surprise around every corner.

Whenever I saw a Shrine in the distance, I had to stop and make note of it. In each one, a new challenge to solve. Mostly puzzles, sometimes repetitive combat "challenges," but usually rewarding. Bite sized chunks of Zelda puzzle solving, my biggest complaint of which being I just wish there was more, and they lasted longer. Some didn't even have any puzzles inside, and are built around solving a puzzle in the world itself. It just adds to this feeling that anything in the game can be something significant, something important, if only I can figure it out.

It made me stop and think about how to deal with problems in the world. How can I cross this river without drowning? Do I sail on a raft, chop down a tree and ride that across, or find some other way? If I see an encampment of enemies, do I rush in and fight, or try to find a way to make the environment do the fighting for me? In no other game have I opted for the latter, and then had the latter involve cutting down a tree, and rolling it down a hill to smoosh enemies to death. Of course I could just avoid most enemies, but then I wouldn't get what was in the treasure chest!

Not only is there an incredible amount of different ways to interact with the world, but it feels like everything interacts with everything else, and anything is possible. After many months of watching videos of people pushing this game's systems to its breaking points, it's clear that even at my wildest ideas, I wasn't close to the limits of what's possible. One of my favorite examples being the speedrun strategy that involves cutting down a tree, using the time stop power to build its momentum, then riding it through the air across most of the map, to get to the final dungeon.

Even engaging in the combat through normal means is a thrill like never before in the series. I still see people complain about weapons breaking, but those breaks are what makes the combat work for me. That "oh crap" moment when my sword breaks, and I need to scramble to find a replacement was tenser and more exciting than almost any other combat in any game I've played this year. The first time I saw one of the bigger enemies pick up a smaller one, and throw it at me as an attack, I was cackling with laughter, because anything felt like it was possible, and I was loving every second of it.

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It's a game where the simple act of discovering a village for the first time, hearing those faint notes of music grow louder as I approach, until it becomes the full song as I enter it, walking about, seeing people going about their lives, just made something swell up in me. It's such a charming, wonderful game. So much personality wrapped up in the people, in the towns, in almost every corner of the world. Like Kass, the bird man who has an odd habit of playing his accordion right around the areas with Shrine puzzles to solve. Like hearing the faint music of a town start to play, hearing him serves a purpose in directing you toward the puzzle, but does so in an organic, charming way.

I mentioned vistas when talking about other games this year, but none of them made vistas important like Breath of the Wild did. Not only are the views breathtaking, but they're vital for traversing the world. Every mountaintop, every tower, even every little hill, feels like it's placed exactly so you'll spot something in the distance. Another Shrine, a suspicious collection of rocks, a stable, or maybe a monster camp.

And yet, while all this was engineered with exact sight lines in mind, it never feels like an artificial world. It feels real. It feels like a real world ravaged by war, but also one that is trying to regrow. The hills, mountains, and forests all feel like places that could really be in this world. But not just a real world, a mysterious world. What happened at this wall to cause all these robotic Guardians to break down? How was this village destroyed? What happened to split this mountain in two, directly down the middle?

The game doesn't even try to answer all of these questions, but that's not important. It's the questions that matter. I've spent hundreds of hours exploring plenty of open world games over the years, but none have made me feel so much wonder as this one has. None have felt so organic, so magical, or so real.

The mark of a truly great game, one that left an impact on me like few have, is that while I've been writing and thinking about it again, I just want to go back in and play it all again. The whole thing. Even all those times it rained, as it feels like I'm the only person on the planet that didn't mind the rain (I know I'm not actually alone, but still). I'm just saying, sitting in one spot waiting for it to stop instead of going around and searching for an alternate route up, which I almost always found, was a better way to deal with it.

Breath of the Wild certainly has issues. Like Yakuza 0, it ain't great with LGBT related stuff, specifically the "man disguised as a woman" bit around getting the Gerudo outfit. The dungeons are repetitive, and too short. There are multiple stealth sequences that brutally punish detection, and they're terrible. The story, even by Zelda standards, isn't great, and the voice acting often can't even manage to be laughably bad. But most of those things (aside from that awful stealth) don't detract from sense of wonder and amazement the game gave me. It made me feel like a kid again, even though I know the games back then weren't a fraction of what this game is in scope, or to be frank, quality.

And part of me fears it'll be a long time before we get another game like this. I don't mean literally like this, as I wouldn't be surprised if Nintendo was literally making "Breath of the Wild 2." I mean a game that unlocks this sense of wonder that I haven't felt in so long. I don't think a straight sequel doing more of the same could do that again. But who knows! I've certainly been wrong before.

All I do know, is that I loved Breath of the Wild, with all of my heart. No game could topple it from my number one spot. And it was well deserved, too.

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild also wins:

  • Best Dogs.

  • Best Bear and Deer Riding Simulation.

  • Big Bo Presents Year of the Bow Bow Slow Motion of the Year.

  • Best Adventuring.

  • Best World.

  • Best Art/Visual Design.

  • Best Sound Design.

  • Best Puzzling.

  • Best Do Rag.

  • Best Use of Music.

  • Best Mountains that I Could See and then Go To.

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With the awards out of the way, let me just take a moment to probably be very wrong yet again! It's a silly thing, but I like writing out predictions for the following year, and here they are!

10th Annual Moosies Game of the Year Prediction: Red Dead Redemption 2.

2018 doesn't really have anything that jumps out at me as an obvious game of the year pick for me, at least not like 2017 did with Breath of the Wild. But of what I know of coming out next year, this one seems like a plausible choice. Speaking of...

Red Dead Redemption 2 gets delayed to Fall 2018.

Have they even given a tentative time frame beyond the year? Am I just assuming they said Spring? Early summer is probably most likely, but sometimes I like to aim high with my predictions.

Still no F-Zero. Somewhere a literal falcon dies of sadness over this.

Rest in peace, Falcon.

From Software's new game is Tenchu in name, but plays more like Dark Souls than anything else. Is still fantastic.

This one I actually don't want to be true, because I'm not exactly thrilled with From making a new Tenchu, of all things. Give me Samurai Bloodborne. Actually, I'd probably rather they do something entirely new instead, I dunno.

EA learns nothing from this year, and its games only have more microtransactions. Anthem's commercial failure because of them leads to BioWare's closing.

Another I hope is wrong.

Many governments attempt to regulate loot boxes, but loopholes persist.

The early inklings of this are starting to happen already, at least outside of China, where there's already some rule in place (with loopholes). Anyone's guess as to if anything will come of it.

Yet another Death Stranding trailer, this time with actual game play. It just looks like MGSV, but strange and with chords.

Listen, even if we'll never get another proper MGS game that pushes what (2015 Moosies GOTY, and "almost the greatest game ever made" according to Brad Shoemaker) MGSV did in terms of mission design, and all that, can't I just have a little hope Death Stranding might attempt it? Actually, since I still think this game won't release before 2020, the biggest reason I'd have to doubt this prediction would be them actually showing any game play next year.

Destiny 2 has a big expansion that everyone loves, but it requires you own the bad ones, so I end up missing it out of spite, just like with Destiny 1.

If we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. That's a quote someone said once, right? Something like that?

Nintendo continues to make bizarre blunders, but sells exceptionally well.

Two questions stick in my head regarding the Switch. The first is how long can they maintain these sales. The Wii sold phenomenally well too, remember. But that eventually fell off a cliff (granted after many more than what Switch has now), and now we just look back at that as a weird gimmick (even if VR seems to be revolving around the latest evolution of what Nintendo started with motion controls).

The other question is if they'll do hardware revisions of the Switch. That's something they usually don't do with consoles, but do almost constantly with handhelds. And I don't know if that'd be a smart move or not. Nintendo's weird.

Shenmue III still not released.

Listen, I needed one easy prediction here so I would have at least ONE I got right.

Vib-Ribbon and Spyro become the next PS1 games to get inexplicable PS4 remasters.

Crash remake sold really well. Just saying!

Thank you for reading! I know I don't write on here as often as I used to, but I'm glad to have people read it when I do. Can't guarantee I'll have anything else to write any time soon, but this ended up longer than I expected, so hopefully that's enough for you! And, hopefully, you all have a wonderful day.

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Claude

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#1  Edited By Claude

Great write up! I too have not bought a Switch. But alas, I was able to play Breath of the Wild on my Wii U. Loved it and my personal game of the year. We have a lot of the same tastes in games it seems. I adored Life is Strange. I should get Before the Storm and check it out. Again, great write up, have a wonderful New year.

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CJduke

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#2  Edited By CJduke

Another great Moosies.

I wish I played Uncharted Lost Legacy but I had to draw the line of buying games somewhere and because I already played Uncharted4 and loved it so recently, I decided I didn't need to play Lost Legacy right away.

Destiny 2, ugh.

Your complaints about Yakuza's treatment of women and LGBT communities is something that I think is a problem with a lot of Japanese games. Nier had its weird obsession with a robot girls skirt flying up, and Persona 5 is incredibly sexist, to the point where it just weirded me out. That game seems to go completely out of its way on many occasion to show you "attractive" female video game characters, who are still kids, and its very very creepy. I know this has been a thing for a while with JRPGs but it's still surprising. And creepy.

Horizon is great.

Should I play Prey?

Nier is something.

I wished I liked the gameplay in Wolfenstein II as much as you did.

Life is Strange in any form is great.

Breath of the Wild is a good goty choice. That game still baffles me with how much there is to do. Like 60+ hours and im barely over half the shrines? I can hardly even find any at this point!

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MooseyMcMan

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@cjduke: I know I told you this elsewhere, but yes, you should play Prey. Especially with how cheap it is.