processr's 2017 Games of the Year

2017 ruled for gaming and sucked for basically everything else. So fuck that other shit and let's get into it.

2017's Old Game of the Year

VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action (2016, Sukeban Games)
VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action (2016, Sukeban Games)

VA-11 HALL-A (pronounced 'Valhalla') is ostensibly a bartending simulation game set in 207X A.D. in the cyberpunk dystopia of Glitch City, "a city that shouldn't exist [...] where corporations and criminal empires reign supreme". As Jill Stingray (excellent name), you serve the quirky patrons of a small dive bar (the titular Valhalla), mixing drinks and changing lives. But really this is a game about regrets, about lost love and about millennial angst.

After graduating from college, Jill receives an offer of a job at a prestigious research institute. Her long-term girlfriend, Lenore, pushes her to accept the position, but Jill realises that life has passed her by, and that all her years of study haven't given her a sense of fulfilment. She and Lenore argue and fall out, and neither have seen each other since.

Jill winds up bartending (an interest sparked by Lenore, as it happens), but three years after the breakup that part of her personal history comes back into her life in a big way. All this against the backdrop of a dystopian society, with graphics reminiscent of PC-98 titles and an excellent soundtrack courtesy of Garoad. It's certainly not for everyone, but I enjoyed every moment of VA-11 HALL-A.

Best New Character

Bayek of Siwa (Assassin's Creed: Origins)

Assassin's Creed: Origins (2017, Ubisoft Montreal)
Assassin's Creed: Origins (2017, Ubisoft Montreal)

Bayek could so easily have been an utterly forgettable one-note character. Revenge is an easy trope to drop into a backstory, but poor writing and a faulty vision can turn a potentially-compelling character into a boring cardboard cutout - think Aiden Pearce and his iconic hat. Assassin's Creed: Origins' Bayek is a warm, loving character who, yes, is driven by revenge, but who can enjoy life.

There are so many wonderful moments that Bayek has with other characters, both major and minor. From the obvious love he has for his wife, Aya, to playing along with a precocious child selling fake treasures in a market place, Bayek refuses to let his mission consume him, and Origins is all the better for it.

Best Debut

Night in the Woods

Night in the Woods (2017, Infinite Fall)
Night in the Woods (2017, Infinite Fall)

Night in the Woods is the most hipster game of 2017. It renders its setting so beautifully as to make me nostalgic for somewhere I've never been. Its treatment of mental illness and its handling of social issues from poverty to mistrust of youth make for a powerful video game, and one that will stick with me for a long time. Alec Holowka and Scott Benson created a wonderful thing that has resonated with so many people.

Best Moment or Sequence

Your First Lynel in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017, Nintendo)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017, Nintendo)

Your (probable) first encounter with a Lynel in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a tense affair, a sneaking mission to gather electric arrows for use in an upcoming boss fight. The game is quick to stress that fighting the creature head-on would be extremely difficult. Maybe you ignore that advice and simply rush in? You won't soon do that again after being annihilated by a single swing of its sword. So you play ball and keep it stealthy to collect the arrows, and you move on.

And then you see some more of these creatures around the land of Hyrule. And eventually you think... maybe I can take one of these things on? You prepare your equipment, you stay a way off and wait for it to stand still for a moment. It pauses, you take a deep breath, and you let loose a barrage of arrows directly at the creature's head. "Oh dear, that didn't do nearly as much damage as I'd hoped," you think. It charges. Or if you're really unlucky, it fires arrows of its own and wrecks you in seconds.

You wait for it to make the first move. It swings its sword, you take the full force of it. A fairy revives you. You begin to recognise its patterns. It swings its sword; you deftly jump away and dodge it. Time seems to slow, and you strike. You assault it repeatedly with your blade. You repeat the dance, until finally you take that last sliver of health away. You did it.

Game of the Year

NieR: Automata

NieR: Automata (2017, PlatinumGames)
NieR: Automata (2017, PlatinumGames)

I never played Nier, nor the Drakengard series. My interest in NieR: Automata was piqued by Jason playing the demo on UPF back in January - it was the first I'd seen or heard of the game. I thought "sure, that looks neat, and sure, it comes out literally a week after the Switch and Breath of the Wild, but I'll give it a shot".

I was not prepared.

I had to fit Automata in between Breath of the Wild in March and Persona 5 a month later, which, holy shit, that's a fine few weeks of gaming right there, but luckily my relatively rushed pace didn't affect my enjoyment of the game. Automata is a masterpiece, no matter how much certain members of this here video games dot com will dismiss it (I look forward to being not at all surprised when Automata misses out on top spot in GB's official GOTY).

It may not have matched the joyous highs of Super Mario Odyssey, the satisfying combat of Assassin's Creed: Origins and Horizon Zero Dawn, or the freshness of Breath of the Wild, but as a story that can only be effectively told through the medium of gaming, as an experience, NieR: Automata stands above everything in this terrific year of gaming.

Full GOTY List

  1. NieR: Automata
  2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  3. Assassin's Creed: Origins
  4. Super Mario Odyssey
  5. Night in the Woods
  6. Horizon Zero Dawn
  7. Persona 5
  8. SteamWorld Dig 2
  9. Battle Chef Brigade
  10. Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood
Start the Conversation

Well Boy Howdy I Sure Did Play Some Games This Year (Game of the Year 2016)

2016 is nearly, mercifully over. In this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year, video games occasionally happened to brighten our lives. Let's get started.

2016's Old Game of the Year

Crypt of the Necrodancer (iOS, Linux, macOS, PC, PS4, PS Vita)

When I heard CotN described as a dungeon-crawling rhythm game I knew it would be extremely My Shit, and so it turned out to be. I liked this game so dang much I own it on three different platforms (Mac, PS4 and Vita). Aside: I played with a DualShock 4 on my Mac, remapping the multi-button presses to the face buttons and triggers I thought made sense; these turned out to be completely different to how the PS4/Vita versions play, whoops. If you're reading this during the Steam Winter Sale it's less than $4, go buy it right now ya dingus.

Crypt of the Necrodancer (2015)
Crypt of the Necrodancer (2015)

Best New Character

Prompto (Final Fantasy XV)

"What up YouTube! It's ya boy Prompto, out on the road again with the #SQUAD. We got the big man Gladio back here, how ya feelin' big guy?"

"Is this really necessary?"

"Aww come on, Glad, it's just a bit of fun! Over here's the wheelman, Iggy! What's happenin'?"

"I'm a little busy right now, Prompto."

"Don't be such a downer, man! And here's the main man himself, Noct! Noct look! I'm vlogging!"

"What's 'vlogging'?"

"It's like a video log where I film everyone just doing stuff and--"

"We're being attacked by godsdamned coeurls, will you cut that shit out!"

Ya Boy Prompto
Ya Boy Prompto

Best Music

Furi (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

Holy fucking shit this soundtrack rocks. This soundtrack assembles a veritable supergroup of (mostly) French electronic artists who laid down some pumping original synth beats that perfectly match the high-intensity gameplay of Furi. One of the smartest decisions was to make the soundtrack available on YouTube prior to release; the first thing I did when I saw the guys play this on UPF was go listen to some tracks.

Best Moment or Sequence

Going off-planet for the first time in No Man's Sky

Okay, okay, hear me out. No Man's Sky was if nothing else a game with cool individual elements. Scrambling to survive on a harsh, unforgiving planet; shooting down space pirates who want your ship and your cargo; warping through hyperspace to a new system. Unfortunately, great moments get lost in the sea of infinite (well, 18 quintillion) possibilities; it turns out that the bell curve is still the bell curve, and the chances of breaking through the standard deviations to find a truly outstanding planet are stupidly low. The best moment in NMS by far was, perhaps unsurprisingly, entirely scripted.

No Man's Sky (2016)
No Man's Sky (2016)

Once you fix your broken ship and find enough fuel, you can finally leave your starting planet and start exploring the universe. You lift off for the first time, and a hitherto unseen icon appears on your HUD: "OFFPLANET - SPACE STATION". You point your ship in its direction, and engage your boost. Quick as a flash a huge, pyramidal structure fills your vision, and boom! That 65daysofstatic soundtrack finds its edge and it's all crashing percussion and thunderous guitar. It's the clear high point of a thoroughly disappointing game.

Top 3 Games Still In Their Packaging Because I Bought/Received Them For Christmas And I Don't Have A PS4 At My Parents' House

3. Steep (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

I played the open beta for Steep and it seemed really cool! Wait, shit, I didn't mean to make a pun. I'm sorry. It was cool enough to make me want to play it, but perhaps not enough for me to lay down £40+. So onto the Christmas list it went!

Steep (2016)
Steep (2016)

2. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (PS3, PS4, PS Vita)

I really dug the look of this Odin Sphere remaster when GBEast did a Quick Look for it back in June. I was never even aware of the original PS2 game, so to be so taken by it was a surprise to me.

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (2016)
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (2016)

1. DOOM (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

A post-Christmas purchase (thank you, generous relatives!) to try and rectify one of my biggest blindspots of 2016. I can't fucking wait to play DOOM you guys.

DOOM (2016)
DOOM (2016)

Top 5 Games of 2016

5. Orwell (Linux, macOS, PC)

Can video games provide a critical assessment of real world issues? The Grand Theft Auto series has long been skewering popular culture and the locations, taking on some thorny issues as it went, but it can hardly be considered an actual critique when 99% of the game is spent shooting some bad bastards and running down pedestrians. Can a video game fill the same role as Monty Python's Life of Brian, a Rage Against the Machine record, or, indeed, a George Orwell novel?

Orwell is the first full-fledged video game from Osmotic Studios, a company of three recent university graduates based out of Hamburg in Germany. In the wake of a bomb exploding in a busy square, uou play as an investigator working for The Nation (think Future Britain), scouring documents and personal communications through the Orwell system. Information on target persons is uploaded to Orwell, and your Advisor is forced to act upon the information ('Datachunks') you upload. Advisors see only the information in the Datachunk, shorn of all context, which leads to the first major pause for thought.

Orwell (2016)
Orwell (2016)

The overall picture of Cassandra Watergate, the initial suspect for the bombing, is portrayed through what you upload, and the game allows you to get in a rhythm of uploading any and every Datachunk. In a social media posting by her friend, being baked muffins is sarcastically referred to as "torture and cruelty". You upload this information, and your Advisor immediately concludes that Cassandra has engaged in torture. "But no, that's not what I meant!" you might protest, but to no avail: the Orwell system only allows text communication from Advisor to Investigator, never the other way around.

Osmotic's About page proclaims that they produce games that make you think; boy did they hit the mark with Orwell. Your actions - i.e. the information you choose to share on the people you are investigating (read: spying on) - directly affect the fates of certain characters, and it all leads up to a thrilling final sequence. Orwell nails the criticism of both the over-the-top invasion of privacy that intensive surveillance breeds and the threats to security that arise from being under-vigilant, without impaling itself on the fence and going too far up its own ass with "well on the one hand this, but on the other hand..." bullshit.

4. Overwatch (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

I mean, it's Overwatch, what else do you want me to say? I played on PS4, where the standard of Quick Play is so poor and so rife with griefing that by the time season 2 was wrapping up I was exclusively playing Competitive. I fell off right around when Sombra was released, weirdly enough. After a good while where I was playing almost every night, I took a week off after Sombra to let everyone get her out of their systems and return to normality. And then... I just never got back into it. Final Fantasy XV came out a couple of weeks later and that disc is the one that ended up staying in my PS4.

Overwatch (2016)
Overwatch (2016)

Playing on PS4 and therefore being hamstrung with a controller, and also having played about three hours cumulatively of multiplayer shooters ever, I gravitated towards Lúcio. His passive speed boost/healing appealed to me greatly, and hey, maybe I wasn't too shabby either. Top 15% for KDR according to MasterOverwatch.com, at least. Before I stopped playing I had a lot of time in D.Va and Hanzo also, and I'd begun to play significant amounts of Zenyatta, which lead to my personal Moment I Felt Most Like A Badass of 2016 after our Lúcio had contributed nearly nothing to the match:

3. SUPERHOT (Linux, macOS, PC, Rift, Xbox One)

SUPER

HOT

SUPER

HOT

SUPERHOT (2016)
SUPERHOT (2016)

It's the most innovative shooter I've played in years!

A late entry to my list, having been received as a gift from an old housemate at university for Christmas, but god DAMN is this game good. Enough has been said at this point about the time mechanics, so I shan't dwell on it for too long, but SUPERHOT is so good at making you feel like the raddest, baddest dude from even the first few levels.

2. Pocket Card Jockey (3DS, Android, iOS)

Another game I fell in love with after watching the Quick Look. Solitaire and horse racing should not mix. Pocket Card Jockey shouldn't work even a fraction of how well it does, and yet the number of times I found myself lying in bed at 2 a.m. furiously rubbing the giddyap button (if you know what I mean hurr hurr) was too many to count.

Pocket Card Jockey (2016)
Pocket Card Jockey (2016)

I won't even try to go through all the mechanics that are in play in Pocket Card Jockey - go watch the Quick Look to hear Dan's attempt - but it all comes together in such a tight package. The most surprising part for me was that this was developed by Game Freak, almost exclusively known for developing the Pokémon games. This was one of the surprises of the year for me, coming from a developer who are practically the textbook definition of resting on one's laurels. Just, maybe overlook the fact that it originally came out in 2013.

1. Hitman (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

No game has received more coverage on Giant Bomb this year than IO Interactive's Hitman, and its spot at #1 on my list has been cemented for a while now. I haven't gotten into it quite as deeply as, say, Brad has - I'm yet to reach 20/20 mastery on even Paris - but hey, working a full time job will do that. Prior to release, the piecemeal schedule seemed tailor-made to put people off the game, yet instead it has maintained interest in the game over time like the traditional TV broadcast model. Just like how for ten weeks out of every year Game of Thrones dominates discussion, Hitman has continued to be relevant for months and months.

Hitman (2016)
Hitman (2016)

Would my interest in this game even have piqued my interest if Brad hadn't choked a chef out on Dan's urging? Perhaps not. Watching all the hashtag-content GB has produced from this wonderful, surreal murder simulator has been a joy, and so has playing it myself. The hardest I've laughed all year was just the other day playing the Christmas-themed Paris reskin, seeing Santa spawn right in front of me as I hid in a wardrobe and being compelled to bust out of my hiding place and pop a bullet in his brain. Did I care that I was immediately gunned down by a guard I didn't know was in the same room? Fuck no.

1 Comments