I play a whole lot of shooters, especially multiplayer shooters, so when Overwatch was announced I figured I'd probably buy it and play it for a dozen hours or so before dropping it, I'm currently sitting at somewhere around 140 hours played and I expect to be playing it for years to come.
Overwatch feels like the perfection of the idea that a number of shooters have been chasing since Call of Duty 4 first took off, the idea that any player should be able to be king for a day, however unlike it's peers Overwatch doesn't muddy it's core mechanics by throwing broken perks or kill-streaks into the mix. Instead it makes the smart choice of not highlighting any negative stats, this small change means that casual players can play without feeling like a spotlight will be shone on their poor play. This in conjunction with ideas like the medal and play of the game system give any player the chance to feel like they did something cool. This not only means that the game has attracted a large player-base, but it also means that the game is actually incredibly satisfying and fun to play without needing to be competitive and worry about what is considered meta.
However this wouldn't work if it wasn't for the fact that at it's core Overwatch is an incredibly well designed game with a tonne of personality, which is a trait that's sorely missing from shooters these days.
The Persona series is my favourite video game series and this has primarily been because of the writing, which makes it surprising that Persona 5 is even on my list given that it was only released in Japan this year and I don't know the first thing about the language.
Persona 5 is quite possibly the most tightly designed RPG I have ever played, every facet of it feels like it was poured over to make it as fast and snappy as possible, while also ensuring that it's still fun to play. I could make a huge list of all the tweaks and improvements that the Persona Team made to the formula they established in Persona 3 and 4, but it's much easier to say that Persona 5 is leaps and bounds above the gameplay offered in those games to the point that P3/4 almost look like a joke, everything is more fleshed out and better designed than it has been in the past.
Then there's the style, the Persona Team is arguably the best in the industry when it comes to designing stylish UI and they went all out for P5, making sure that every single menu and UI element stands out which helps to make P5 one of the more visually striking PS4 games, despite it's PS3 roots. I also need to give a quick nod to the animation work, a lot of care clearly went into ensuring each character has a wide array of unique animations and these animations help establish the personality each character has, there's a lot of little touches that weren't necessary but having them there helps to give the characters more life and it's a nice change from the horrifying dolls of P3/4.
Playing Persona 5 was one of most enjoyable experiences I had throughout all of 2016 and I can't wait to play the English version and get the full experience.
Steins;Gate 0 had a hard job, it's predecessor is often considered by many to be one of the best visual novels ever made. Steins;Gate 0 doesn't manage to top that original but it does an extremely good job of being a sequel that we didn't really need.
0 takes on a much darker tone than the original game while also delving deeper into the time travel conspiracies that were previously established. What makes 0 so impressive is that despite having more focus on these fantastical story elements it still manages to tell strong and engaging personal stories about loss, grief and responsibility.
I was originally sceptical about 0 but having now played it I can't imagine it not existing, what originally seemed like an unnecessary sequel now feels like the other part of the overall Steins;Gate story.
VA-11 HALL-A does a lot right, it's got a phenomenal soundtrack, great art, a strong sense of style, a fascinating world, but what stands out most of all are it's characters.
The majority of the main characters that you talk to throughout the game all come into the bar to escape the more shallow aspects of life and to just be themselves for a change. This results in the player character learning more about the characters as they continue to visit and form a bond with your character, during this you learn their weaknesses, their strengths, their fears, their views on the world, this not only fleshes out the characters but also helps to flesh out the world and give more context to events that happen outside the bar over the course of the game. Eventually the game takes a turn and starts the put the focus on the player character, once the game focuses on the player character it starts to deal with regret, relationships and the potential struggles that can come from them, all of these end up being handled extremely well.
While I did enjoy the goofy elements of the game, it's these moments where the game fleshes out it's characters and tackles more serious themes with a maturity not commonly seen in games that surprised me and stuck with me.
Let's get straight to the point, DOOM is on here for one reason, it's campaign. The lead-up to this games release was rocky to say the least, I'd all but written off any chances of it actually being a good game and was mainly checking it out due to my interest in the series. Thankfully while the multiplayer and snap map offerings were disappointing id managed to deliver one of the best shooter campaigns in recent memory, if not ever. At a glance it looks like nothing more than a brutal and relentless shooter and while it does all of these things extremely well it also happens to be extremely well written, everything about the premise is absurd but the game embraces it and stops to wink at the player just enough to let you know they're in on the joke. DOOM is the perfect example of how to modernise a classic, it embraces it's roots while also feeling like it's own unique game that leaves it's own mark on the shooter genre.
Oh, and the soundtrack is amazing.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions isn't the game I expected when the title was originally announced under the working project name of Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, but I'm very happy that this is what we ended up with instead. TMS is a game a lot of people dismissed either due to it's premise or because they were SMT/FE fans who felt duped, that's a mistake as TMS is a game that easily sits alongside the best JRPGs of the past decade.
A large part of what makes TMS so impressive is it's combat, it takes some minor cues from FE and SMT but it's combat is largely unique and unlike anything I've seen in a JRPG before, it takes the idea of exploiting enemy weaknesses and crosses it with a follow up attack system that makes combat really tactical and satisfying, largely due to the fantastic animations you get alongside every single attack.
However it isn't just the combat that makes TMS so memorable, I really like how much the game commits to the idol part of their premise by creating a soundtrack that has numerous Jpop songs as well as some animated musical performances that are fantastic and really charming.I'm glad that the SMTXFE project didn't just result in a Fire Emblem game with some SMT characters in it and instead resulted in a unique new IP, I hope this isn't the last we see of TMS and it's combat.
Titanfall 2 builds upon the foundation built by the first game by bringing back the fast paced, mech focused multiplayer of the first game with more content which helped to break up the feeling of repetition I got from the first game. While some tweaks were made to the original's core mechanics Titanfall 2 is still one of the most unique multiplayer shooters currently on the market.
But while the multiplayer is great the real star of the show is the campaign. The campaign takes a step back from the linear bombastic set pieces that permeate a number of shooter campaigns these days and instead goes for smaller set pieces that feel more unique, it isn't afraid to introduce one off mechanics or ideas in favour of keeping things varied and surprising. This results in every level of Titanfall 2 being memorable which combined with the relationship you build with your Titan over the course of the game makes Titanfall 2 a fantastic time from start to finish
Watch Dogs 1 is one of the most miserable games I've played in recent years, it was a typical Ubisoft open world with a story about an arrogant sociopath that the writers seemed to think was actually the coolest dude on the planet and not a detestable loser. So when Watch Dogs 2 was announced and seemed to have a far more goofier tone I was immediately interested, there was no guarantee they would be able to nail the tone they were going for but I was ready to go along for the ride.
Thankfully they not only managed to nail that tone but also managed to create a cast of great and memorable characters, an open world that actually feels like a lived in world rather than a collection of mechanics smashing against each other and gameplay that makes use of a wide variety of tools to allow you to complete missions in some fun and unique ways.
I've played plenty of ARPGs in the years since Diablo 2 and none of them have ever come close to scratching the itch left by that game, thankfully Grim Dawn did finally scratch that itch.
Grim Dawn does three things very well, it offers players the opportunity to create a wide variety of different character builds that all feel unique, it has combat that feels satisfying no matter what your character build is, and it does a great job of distributing loot to ensure that players always feel like they're getting stronger without showering them in so much loot that you're constantly halting the action to switch out gear.
Grim Dawn doesn't bring any new ideas to the genre but that doesn't stop it from being one of the most polished and enjoyable ARPGs that I've played since Diablo 2
Thumper is a game that sets out to make you as tense as possible, through it's imagery and it's soundtrack it constantly assaults the player to keep them on edge until they either finish the level or quit. It's also a game that makes every successful player input feel meaningful, the use of audio and visual feedback alongside the controller vibrations make every note you hit feel like a small victory. The combination of the constant assault on the player and the fantastic feedback result in a game that is as gruelling as it is rewarding.