By IVDAMKE 0 Comments
I played 13 games this year, 2 of which weren’t released in 2017 and 3 others which just weren’t good enough for me to justify putting in a top 10. So here I present my top 8 games for 2017 with the other 5 games getting their own recognition.
As per usual I gotta start with the side awards:
Best Old Games I Played For the First Time or Replayed This Year
I’m only a few hours in because it just released early December but I can tell this game is something special. After the initial hurdle of disabling some of the less than desirable post processing effects (motion blur and ink shader ghosting) I really started to enjoy this game in the same way I do Zelda games. I will say however that of all the things I wish it didn’t take from Zelda the biggest one would be the bloody long winded introduction.
I absolutely adore this game and as soon as it appeared on PC as a re-release for $20 I snapped that up right away. I was one of the poor sods who was stuck with the PS3 version, yet this game was so damn good I pushed through the constantly fluctuating framerate and long loading screens to platinum Infinite Climax difficulty. It was totally worth it, but man playing this game as originally intended with good technical performance is a treat.
Most Disappointing Games
Nier is one of the biggest disappointments because it’s also one of the games to have the most potential. I loved the art direction, the soundtrack, what it was trying to do with narrative in general and how it leveraged interactivity within its narrative. In the end however Niers ultimate failing for me was that it simply wasn’t engaging to interact with. I found the combat to be floaty and lacked any satisfying mechanical loop, the RPG systems were cool ideas with incredibly half-baked execution and the open world’s existence only served up a dish of tedium.
I appreciate what this game has done for the industry and the people it has affected most, I’m also very happy for its success. I just simply didn’t feel like the time I invested was at all worth it in the end.
Yes I got endings ABCDE+ Others, I also completed 80% of the side quests.
Mass Effect Andromeda
I’m not the biggest fan of Mass Effect, I’ve always found the main story thread to be uninteresting ancient evil tripe but I have always enjoyed the universe and varied cast of characters within franchise. Despite all signs pointing to disappointment I decided to go ahead and grab this game anyway.
It wasn’t offensively bad for me, but it certainly was an odd egg that didn’t live up to its predecessors. The combat and visuals (animation aside) were improved on but the rest of the games facets were of much lesser quality. It also suffered from what appeared to be a Bioware bubble that prevented them from seeing advancements in the industry outside of their own games.
Everyone knows why this game was disappointing, some consider it a terrible game. I just think it’s supremely mediocre.
The Evil Within 2
I played the first Evil Within last year, if it had released in 2016 it would’ve easily made my top 10, this sequel didn’t even come close. The biggest offenders in Evil Within 2 stem (heh) from a series of currently popular design and narrative methods in Western game development. Linear Skill Tree Character Progression, Open World Design Structure and Video Game Dad Syndrome.
The Evil Within 1’s upgrade system was totally non-linear in that you could actively choose to focus fire your upgrades however you saw fit. It allowed for a lot of flexibility and fun ways to approach each scenario the game put you through. This games systems hamper that potential and ultimately make character progression less exciting to engage with.
The change to open world design structure added nothing worthwhile. Gone are the tightly knit areas that create suspense and interesting challenges only to be replaced by your typical Hodge podge of throw away collect-athon side quests and side character stories.
The final big knock to how this sequel turned out was how up its own arse it was about its Dad narrative. Sebastian went from being a vessel for the player to experience fucked up survival horror, to being an insufferable wankstain of a father who wouldn’t shut the fuck up about his daughter in this overly contrived story premise. It’s incredibly obvious they didn’t intend to make a sequel to The Evil Within but they did it anyway and it was a really bad idea.
TOP 8 2017
What a game, this is something truly special. A labour of love for something of the past and a demonstration to other developers out there that there’s a lot more that can be done with games artistically and to branch out in how you present your game.
I’m not a huge fan of Shoot em’ Ups/Contra style games but I managed to eek enjoyment out of this game. It’s a great experience for the most part excluding the run ‘n’ gun missions and a few stinker bosses (Bee, Robot, and Rat.)
They wisely kept the game short and simple so there’s not much to say about it mechanically but it achieved exactly what it was aiming to do and they did it well. I’m very interested to see what Studio MDHR does next.
7. Resident Evil 7
The general consensus seems to be that Resident Evil 7 is a return to form. While I think it’s a good game I don’t think it’s reached the highs of its predecessors, rather it’s just dramatically better than 6. That being said, it’s still a fun experience with good pacing, nice presentation and a more focused game structure. My biggest issues with this game coming out of it and now reflecting back on it nearly a year later is the characters are quite unmemorable outside of Jack Baker.
Resident Evil to me is more campy loveable characters like Jill, Barry and Leon than anything else. Whoever the new characters are (I forgot their names) they have been wiped from my brain. I hope the franchise tries to retain the presentation and structure of 7 in future releases but bring back the more memorable characters from its past. Also, go back to third person perspective.
6. Hellblade: Senuas Sacrifice
I had been following the development of Hellblade on and off since its announcement. What Ninja Theory aimed to do with this game in both the narrative and the larger game industry market space was bold and I respect them all the more for it. Hellblade has some of the best character performance in games, the fact that Senua was brought to life by an internal video editor at Ninja Theory with no experience in acting is astounding.
The game isn’t without its issues, the vision puzzles and combat both wear out their welcome and at times feel like they were added purely to remind you this is a video game. For the most part I thought they were serviceable, the combat felt fine but it wasn’t mechanically engaging. The same argument can be levelled at the vision puzzles.
Where this game excels is in how well it weaves a narrative about mental illness, how earnest it is about it and how compelling the conclusion they come to is. This game treats its subject matter with a lot of respect and I think Team Ninja deserves that respect in return. Despite its issues I think this is one of the most important games for the industry in a very long time.
A curious game that seems to have been overlooked by many, Prey left a lasting impact on me in a similar way that Bioshock did for most in 2008. The beginnings of Prey set a precedent that you should never take anything at face value, it launches you into the full experience questioning anything anyone says or does even on a raw gameplay level you’re questioning whether that pot plant is an enemy or not.
This continues throughout the 20-30 hour experience of Prey with subtle hints that indicate the true nature of the space station and what your characters role is. I’m not usually overly into twist based narratives. Most of the time to me the authors spend more time on the twist itself rather than creating interesting characters or compelling story beats throughout. Prey managed to avoid this for me, I found all the interpersonal stories of the Talos I staff engaging and varied. There was love stories, bitter jealousy and fun light-hearted interactions. Some of these were intergrated into the gameplay itself.
It’s a shame this game did so poorly sales wise as I feel after Dishonored 2s poor sales this will be the last game of its type for quite some time.
4. Player Unknowns: Battlegrounds
I originally picked this game up pretty close to when it became available in Early Access. I’ve played the ARMA mods and have a few friends who are super into ARMA as well, so we liked the idea of this games pitch. Funnily enough only a couple hours after it had downloaded I found myself taking out a refund ticket because it was constantly blue screening my PC with memory leaks and chewing up 100% CPU usage causing heat issues.
I gave it a few months then returned to it once I had heard these primary issues had been fixed. I’m very glad I gave it another shot because this game is popularizing a lot of old systems from games that I liked that were phased out due to accessibility reasons. Things like permanent death adding a lot more weight to your successes and failures, the player choice driven experience, do you want spice? Drop school, Pochinki or Military. Do you want to gear up and go in for the long haul? Strategize the plane direction and determine your loot:players ratio.
There’s a lot going on in this game and I can understand how looking at it from the outside can make you think ‘this looks like a janky piece of shit’ which it can be at times. The point of contention to that argument is that this game, despite its jank is still one of the most compelling multiplayer shooters to have come out in very long time. Not because it’s a fad, but because it’s mechanically sound and unique.
3. Tekken 7
I’ve almost got no history with the Tekken franchise. I got into fighting games with Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition in 2014 and have been in love with the 2D side of fighting games since. With 3D fighters however every time I dabbled into the two biggest franchises Tekken and Soul Calibur they always felt off to me. Whether it was input response (fastest attacks in Tekken are around 3 times slower than in Street Fighter) or incredibly obtuse but essential movement mechanics involved in them (back dash cancelling, wave dashing) I never really enjoyed the feel of them enough to put in the time to adapt.
The other main drawback to the Tekken franchise for me is every time I looked at the PS3/360 generation games (Tekken 6 through Tag 2) I always thought they were visually unappealing, the lighting was flat and there was an over use of motion blur.
Then along came Tekken 7, riding on the wave of backlash that Street Fighter V received it gained a lot of traction outside of its usual fan base. I was one of those people, they got my initial attention with the announcement of Akuma’s guest appearance but they held my attention when I saw the game in motion and it looked absolutely stunning. The lighting, the particle effects, the sound design they had all received a massive overhaul compared to the previous games. That went a long way into making the game a lot more interesting on a presentation level.
When I finally got my hands on the game in early 2017 I immediately found a character I connected with and thus began my dive into 3D fighters. Tekken 7 is a phenomenal game, it has such a depth of mechanics forcing you to constantly learn, adapt and think outside the box. That’s what I want from a fighting game I want to feel overwhelmed with stuff to learn.
They did so much right with Tekken 7, I would’ve loved to put this game at number 1 but sadly there were a few major flaws. You couldn’t rematch in player hosted lobbies, the PS4 version was plagued with high input delay and the loading screens across all versions were excessively long. They’ve subsequently fixed the PS4 version and the lobby rematch problems but it took far too long for things that shouldn’t have been issues to begin with. That’s why it’s been knocked down to number 3.
No one will remember, but last year I put Nioh’s Alpha and Beta at 4th place in my top 10 list. Needless to say the full release definitely made good on the excitement I had for it. I’m not usually someone who likes randomised colour coded loot and the loot grind associated with that type of loot system. Nioh however managed to prove to me that the issue isn’t the colour coded loot rather it’s when games hang their hat entirely on the Skinner box loop without anything else to dig into mechanically.
What Nioh did was add a dense combat system that felt incredibly satisfying to engage with. Most loot grind games have combat systems that are like beating on a brick wall until your opponents health bar vanishes. Where Nioh differs is its combat system is skill based and its loot and min-max RPG systems are ancillary to it. Bringing over their experience from Ninja Gaiden engaging in combat was an active affair. Reading enemy patterns, well timed blocks, parries and dodges were the core of the combat, but layered on top was stats, power creep and special passive effects gained from gear beyond defense.
I could write thousands of words about the intricacies of this games combat design but I’ll just say it’s among the best combat systems in video games.
I can’t wait to see what Team Ninja plans to do in their future, with the news of Nioh being the most successful game Koei Tecmo has published I feel like Nioh is From Softwares Demons Souls, we’ve only seen the beginning.
1. Divinity: Original Sin 2
This game blew me away, the improvements over the first game are large in quantity and incredibly well thought out. The first Original Sin was a lot of fun, but its general narrative and characters were wholly uninteresting. If you were playing the first game you were playing it for the gameplay. The improvement to the writing in Original Sin 2 is night and day, the characters are endearing despite being a little trope-y and the overall narrative manages to straddle the line of whimsical and serious far more successfully than the first game too.
The improvements with the narrative are also reflected in every other aspect of the game. Art direction, RPG Systems, World Design, Feature Set, Pacing have all been improved to the nth degree. The only parts where this game falls short are it has some interface issues and the base combat armour system limits character combat dynamics. Outside of that Original Sin 2 has some of the most flexible design allowing for a high degree of player choice in all its facets.
Here’s a mod to fix the armour system that I highly recommend even on first play through: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1157299447
This is a highly engaging (both narratively and mechanically) and a highly polished product, if you’re into whimsy, fantasy and RPGs I cannot recommend it enough.