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GOTY 2016

2016 was a strange year for me. It was filled with moments and experiences that will probably stick with me for the rest of my life. I moved out of the suburbs of Cleveland to the actual city and was here to celebrate the Cavs first championship. I spent the Summer at Jacobs Field, watching my favorite team in my favorite sport put together a magical season that came oh-so-close to another championship. I was fortunate enough to get tickets to the International and got to spend a week in Seattle with my Dota friends from all over North America. It honestly was one of the best weeks of my life.

But, 2016 was also a year where I struggled through bouts of deep depression. There were times where I wasn't sure if it was worth it to keep going. I hated my job and moving to the city didn't suddenly ignite my social life the way that I had hoped it would. I felt hopeless that anything would ever change and there were more than a few days where I couldn't make myself get out of bed.

I haven't talked about this with anyone really which probably just made it worse. Why am I bringing it up in a Game of the Year blog? Well, writing about it is much easier for me than trying to find the words to say to someone in person. I can spend hours putting together my thoughts into something that is hopefully coherent instead of mumbling words that might turn into full sentences. Writing is cathartic for me and I haven't done nearly enough of it over the last few years. Mainly because I'm afraid of criticism (from myself and from other people) and because I just didn't make time to do it.

That's going to change. One of the things that I saw artists doing on Twitter and Patreon is drawing something every single day. It seems to be the best way to practice and improve and even though writing and drawing isn't exactly the same thing, the idea is the same. Starting with this list of my favorite games of 2016, I will be writing something on my blog on this site every single day. I'm probably going to keep it mostly about games, whether it be thoughts on a game I'm currently playing (for example, tomorrow's blog will be on Dishonored, Deus Ex, and Hitman) or why I'm looking forward to a specific game or something else. There probably won't be any fiction writing, at least not right away. Non-fiction, reporting style writing was always what I was better at (I was even a Journalism major at one point; maybe one of blogs will be about how I ended up switching majors if I can't think of a games story).

Oh, right, this is supposed to be a Game of the Year list. My Top 10 list, with my thoughts on each game, is below. There's a bit of a surprise at the top of the list if you happened to see any of my posts on various sites about what my top games of the year were. I swapped the order of a couple games while putting this whole thing together because the process of doing this reminded me of just how much I loved Tokyo Mirage Sessions. Whoops, spoilers.

List items

  • I was excited for TMS from the first time it was announced as SMT x Fire Emblem and even though the Japanese popstar, anime aesthetic isn't normally my thing, I absolutely fell in love with the game. Throughout most of the year, I've steered clear of media that was too happy. With my depression, the last thing I wanted to see was other people having a great time doing the stuff that I wished I could be doing. But, while playing TMS it didn't feel like I was just an observer. The writing and characterization of your party members made me feel like an actual participant in the story. As weird as it is to say, they felt like real people, real friends even. The reason for that was the individual side quests for each of the characters (similar to the loyalty missions from Mass Effect 2). In these sequences, you got to see the faults and the fears of the characters, many of which were extremely relatable to what I was going through. Thinking back to all of those moments and sequences while putting this list together pushed me to move TMS to the top of my list.

    And that's all without mentioning the battle system which was somehow able to make a standard turn-based system feel fresh and exciting. Battles moved at a fast pace and the flashy cinematics that played for special attacks were always fun to watch.

  • Limbo was one of my favorite games from last generation and as the spiritual successor to that game, Inside somehow rises out Limbo's shadow. From start to finish, I was enthralled by Inside's world. I love weird sci-fi mysteries, especially when they surprise me. Well, the last 30 minutes of Inside surprised me so much that my mouth hung agape in shock the entire time. Seriously, if you haven't played it and you don't know what happens, go play it right now.

  • By a lot of measurements, XCOM 2 is a mess. At launch, the game was buggy. It crashed, saves wouldn't always work, and even when it was running ok, it always felt it was on the verge of falling apart at the seams. But, I still loved it - flaws and all. Overcoming the seemingly overwhelming odds of what is thrown at you is just so satisfying and I liked the perspective of being a ragtag group of rebels. XCOM's brand of turn-based strategy is just unmatched.

  • Coming off the disappointment of Forza Horizon 2, I didn't have the highest of hopes for 3. But, the E3 trailer made me optimistic that Playground and Turn 10 learned from their mistakes in 2. The final release proved that they had. Forza Horizon 3 had what 2 was missing. It was fun. It was fun to drive around the fake Australia they had created. Building out the Horizon festival was fun. Creating events and bucket list challenges to send to friends was fun. The game just wants to have fun with whatever you're doing moment to moment. It's hard to play this game without a big dumb smile on your face. (AI quirks aside).

    It's also absolutely gorgeous. I especially love the way the first DLC content, Blizzard Mountain, looks. The blizzard conditions that the game throws at you legitimately looks like an actual blizzard.

  • I love weird sci-fi and Oxenfree's ghost island setting is right up my alley. Uncovering the mystery of what was happening on the island was more than enough to make me like the game but it was the characters and unique conversation system that made me love it. In Oxenfree, dialogue flows like actual conversations instead of the stilted back-and-forths in most games. Characters will interrupt each other, talk over each other, and you won't always know exactly what was said and what to say in response. It's an evolution to the typical dialogue trees of a Telltale or Bioware game that is incredibly effective.

    Oxenfree also has a cool radio system that I wish I would have played around with more. You carry around an old radio throughout the game that you can tune to different frequencies. Some frequencies will have a tour guide explaining the history of the island, some will have strange music playing, and some frequencies will cause strange things to happen in the environment.

    Oxenfree was short but it was an absolute joy to play.

  • DOOM (2016) is actually my first hands-on experience with the series. The first two games came out a little too early for me to actually play and DOOM 3 was never really appealing to me. On top of that, I've really fallen off FPS's in general. I was ready to ignore this release until I heard all of the raving from the guys on the Bombcast. And boy am I glad I listened to them. DOOM's campaign is the most fun I've had with an FPS in a long time. The glory kill system keeps things moving quickly and I liked the system for upgrading the different guns.

  • Late last year, Pokemon Picross absolutely consumed my freetime. I had never played a Picross game before and I couldn't stop playing until every last puzzle was completed. Picross 3D is a little different from 2D Picross but it got its hooks in me just as deep. There were more than a few nights where I was literally dreaming about Picross puzzles.

  • I didn't play the first Dishonored until earlier this year when I picked up the HD remake. I was a little worried that playing the first game so close to the sequel would dampen my enjoyment but after working through some frustration in the first couple of hours, I started enjoying the sequel even more than the original. The new powers at Emily's disposal are what really makes the game fun and I wish you could access all of them quicker. Using the shadow walk to move between enemies unnoticed, linking them together with Domino along the way, and then taking them all out at once with one takedown is extremely satisfying. Unfortunately, I didn't really love the story and the Outsider's voice change is one of the bigger downgrades in voice acting changes that I've ever heard. It probably didn't help that I had just played the original game so his original voice was pretty fresh in my mind.

  • I bounced off of the first Titanfall pretty fast. Like I said earlier, FPS's haven't really been my genre of choice for a while. But, like DOOM, Titanfall 2 kept my attention. The campaign may have been a little short but it was packed full of memorable moments and the different Titan models actually felt unique and were fun to switch between.

    Also, like DOOM, I didn't touch the multiplayer. I played one match of the beta which was enough to let me know that it wasn't for me.

  • Like I said in the TMS writeup, I tried to stay away from overly happy media this year. Darkest Dungeon is a lot of things and overly happy is definitely not one of them. It's dark, twisted, and extremely unforgiving. Failure is always one wrong move away. And I loved it for that. On top of the difficulty, I also loved the Lovecraftian aesthetic of the game. The character and monster designs were great and the narrator is one of the best narrators in gaming, period.