By processr 0 Comments
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 (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)
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.
Night in the Woods
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
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
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.