Best of 2016

Relevant platforms I have access to:

  • Android phone
  • Apple tablet
  • Nintendo 3DS
  • Nintendo Wii U
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4 Slim
  • PlayStation Vita
  • Xbox One

Notable pre-released games and add-ons of 2016 I’ve played this year:

  • Besiege
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider’s “Blood Ties”
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s “Blood & Wine”

Games that didn’t make the cut:

  • BOXBOXBOY!
  • Deus Ex Go
  • Pokemon Go
  • Rhythm Heaven Megamix
  • XCOM 2

Games I meant to get to but couldn’t:

  • Let It Die - I've been using this as a mindless podcast game and haven't progressed too far outside the sewers. Seems okay for what it is.

“Oversights”:

  • Dark Souls III - With this being touted as the last of a trilogy, I’m hoping to be excited for what From puts this formula into next.
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided - While I enjoyed most of the last Deus Ex game, I can wait for a discount.
  • Dishonored 2 - Felt like the first Dishonored was more than enough for this universe.
  • Final Fantasy XV - I can wait for a PC version even if it takes a decade to happen.
  • Forza Horizon 3 - I know I’ll like this but I can wait for a discount.
  • Inside - What is unfortunately the case for most years is since I'm already so frugal with money and can expect games to get discounted so quickly these days, especially during this year, I'm even harsher with smaller games like this as I expect them to get a relatively heavy discount. With that said, I am more privy to shorter games nowadays and even base what I play next according to average players' playtime. Paying full price for Limbo was a bit of a sore point then for how quickly it took me, but like Vinny has said "this is the best time to be playing video games."
  • The Last Guardian - I should at least play through one of their earlier games before I touch this.
  • Mirror’s Edge Catalyst - Seems like it sold poorly so I wouldn’t be surprised to pick it up for super cheap down the line.
  • Pokemon Sun/Moon - For the first time ever, I have no desire to pick up a proper Pokemon game. Even after hearing very good things and how they’ve mixed it up, I found that I just don’t care anymore.
  • Sid Meier’s Civilization VI - I vowed to beat Civilization V with each leader before I would pick this up and I will do it.
  • Street Fighter V - It’s best for me to wait on a fighting game since I barely spend enough time with any to get good at them.
  • SUPERHOT - Seems overpriced for how long it can take to finish, but I’ll get it someday.
  • Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE - Rather than pick up another JRPG, I’ll play one of the many I’ve purchased throughout the years before I get this.
  • The Witness - I find it difficult to invest time into simple-form puzzle games not available on a handheld device.

DISCLAIMER: It should be noted that every entry below is written mere moments to even days after reaching the credits of the game listed or after getting my fill, and thus doesn’t perfectly reflect whatever arbitrary reasons that determine their final ranking. To put it simply, they’re solely historical context for my own benefit while their order is based on my greatest impressions of each at the end of the year, even if for some it means many months of me defamiliarizing myself with them.

FINAL LIST

List items

  • Without a doubt, Picross 3D Round 2 became my most anticipated game since my full completion of the first game. “Full completion” as in completing each puzzle with the allotted four profiles, 369 puzzles four times perfectly with no mistakes and within given time limits. Its logical simplicity demanded my attention and consumed my life hours at a time.

    Before picking this up, not only was I excited to finally play it but I was actually a little scared too. While I’d praise this game to no end, the nature of the game, like the last one, can lead to some stupidly infuriating mistakes. Not the kind where logic gets away from you and leaves you wondering where things went wrong, but the kind caused by simple control issues. And it feels as though that problem has increased two-fold thanks to the addition of another color paint to keep track of.

    It took me a few hours for me to “get it,” and forget what tricks I would frequently use in the first to quicken the pace. To be honest, I think this game is easier thanks to what I’d call “cross blocks.” It’s not a term the game uses, but, basically, when two colors are confirmed on one block, remove it. However, that doesn’t exactly make things go more smoothly to get to the solution.

    With two colors in play, the game encourages more cautious thinking. Staring at not only the numbers but the colors as well to confirm my tool selection makes for some rather intense sitdowns. I’d say ninety percent of my mistakes are due to my use of the wrong color to paint something, with the rest being simple guessing mistakes.

    Complaints aside, if the game were simply “more Picross 3D,” I’d be disappointed. With more to pay attention to, and be careful of, the sequel to a game I love couldn’t be more perfect.

    5/5

  • Despite my tendency to avoid multiplayer of any regard, Overwatch somehow got its hooks into me. The last time a multiplayer component of any game appealed to me was Mass Effect 3’s in 2012. However, that was against enemy AI in wave-based combat which rewarded teamwork against the predictable, not against others of varying skill and classes that may completely outmatch your own. Unfortunately, due to my inexperience with competitive multiplayer in general, stress can easily take over and force me to take a breather, and yet I want to play more.

    Rather than stick to classes that I feel competent with, I’ve been reaching out to those I’m uncomfortable playing as, or even find daunting, and eventually finding the strengths and weaknesses of each. Finding out what each class can potentially bring to a team and their inherent inadequacies has not only been a part of the learning process but fun to comprehend and counter in the field.

    What has left the greatest impression on me since the open beta was how players are recognized for how well they played their class rather than everyone’s kill/death ratio. This not only emphasizes how important playing your class is but it motivates me to be a better player in spite of the hefty losses I’ve taken. No matter how proficient I am, teamwork usually triumphs, but even then it’s still fun to play.

    4/5

  • From the onset, this game knows what it is, down to the aesthetics and its heritage. It being a Minecraft clone isn’t too far off however, in addition, it comes with what I assume is the Dragon Quest charm that glues it all together. While I have plans in the future to play a proper Dragon Quest game, this spin-off is my very first exposure to the franchise and if the writing is as sharp and witty as it is in Builders, then color me excited.

    When I finished the game, even after a weeks-long hiatus upon beginning the final chapter, I had a wide grin on my face. The thin premise had a colorful cast of characters to back it and saying goodbye to them was surprisingly bittersweet. Among the slew of insults thrown toward the appearance of my character, the self-conscious writing was what drew me in and gave me a chuckle from time to time.

    Crafting isn’t as deep or exact as Minecraft’s which led to many small interface issues that are largely passable but annoying to deal with. Instead there is a focus on what you build and explore for the inhabitants of the bases you can build from whatever ruins given or from the ground up. At first, it’s a daunting task especially with how it typically goes with this type of game but since you’re given a set area, you get the idea of how to set up your foundation and defenses thanks to blueprints and the fact that you reconfigure your base’s core fundamentals with each chapter.

    It’s a bit jarring at first to know that the effort you put into your ever-growing stronghold is in vain after defeating the big boss of each chapter. It makes sense narratively but even when boiled down to the basics, you get better and better (read: less time wasted) getting things just right. Gathering materials and the combat go hand in hand with their simplicity where higher grade equipment merely means greater efficiency and what can be taken from the environment.

    When it comes to combat, this aspect isn’t anything special for the most part. Further in, combat begins to ramp up but never truly shines until the end when building during a fight is foisted upon you. Usually, when given the chance, I would do my best to lessen the amount of times I would have to swing a sword by the use of traps and the like. Hopefully, they continue to marry these two concepts together should they revisit this spin-off down the line.

    4/5

  • As a newcomer to the series, Fire Emblem Awakening’s addictive hold over me frightened me enough to step back and realize that there was going to be another one of these games that would make my time spent with it moot. And so that time came, three times over. It should come as no surprise considering the popularity of the support conversations that I assume were just added in the last entry, for better or worse, but it may be the series’ saving grace and likely mainstay for sequels to come. Its inclusion this time around, however, feels a little shoveled in.

    In Awakening, children were not only a player’s way of creating overpowered characters for use in battles but their presence made sense in its world while Fates has parents throwing their kids into what are basically hyperbolic time chambers before they join in on fighting for a unified future in a world they have no stake in up to that point. In short, it’s fan service to the highest degree. Not only that, and this may be something already expected of the series, many characters feel plucked out of the previous game, sometimes even literally, and thrown into the vernacular of whatever respective path they’re in.

    At the time of this writing, I’ve only completed Birthright and am very early into Conquest but still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. Not in the way in that the game is so complex that fifty hours isn’t enough to do it justice but because I want to play it so much. The fact that there are differing paths makes my time spent playing one game easier to swallow due to the foci of each. With Birthright, objectives typically range from kill everyone to kill this one person which requires little to no strategy but allowed me to make mistakes to learn the importance of the different pair up stances.

    While it took me over halfway through Birthright to realize that the attack stance was only active when there were two units adjacent to each other and subsequently ignoring it in favor of what I had been familiar with since Awakening, pairing units for useful stat boosts, which was renamed and balanced into what is now guard stance, I found the attack stance to be immediately essential in Conquest. Compared to Birthright, Conquest feels like an uphill battle with such sparse forces to utilize. Map objectives may as well range from defend this area to survive. In a way, it plays like a puzzle where you’re trying to figure out how to keep everyone alive versus deciding exactly how you want to neutralize everyone who isn’t you.

    Hinoka best waifu 5/5

  • Despite only just undergoing a reboot with the last game of this long-standing series, its sequel already feels like a known quantity. Certain aspects lauded and criticized in the last game have been improved and then some, especially in regards to what the series has been known for since the beginning: its tombs. While their expanded inclusion is welcome, that wasn’t what made me enamored with the reboot in the first place.

    Most of what I enjoyed of this game could be said for the last game. The shooting and the expanded arsenal Lara Croft gains to dispose of humans, animals, and supernatural enemies feels great, especially when it allows for a completely stealthy approach. The intertwining of traversal and collectibles is, as always, something that makes certain I take in the beautiful scenery and details of my surroundings. And like the last game, the characters and story are so-so.

    However, almost immediately after completing the story, it reminded me of how Uncharted turned out after the second game for me. A known, expected quantity turning sour when seen the third time. While I see the two as completely different entities when it comes to focus, Tomb Raider for gameplay and Uncharted for a well-told worn story and character interaction, what Tomb Raider has going for it next, I’m cautiously optimistic if the same formula with slightly improved gameplay will be enough.

    4/5

  • My history with first-person shooters began with Half-Life so I started a bit on the slow side when survival came down to peeking around corners and standing your ground, a strategy which has served me well in Halo, Overwatch, Battlefield, and so on. Doom, however, brings it back to the basics where movement and accuracy are your only weapons against the mass of demons running straight toward you. Combat encounters escalate in a way that is manageable all the way throughout and when new enemies are introduced, the game makes sure to throw in extras to make sure you got them down without being too overbearing.

    Prior to my playthrough, I had only heard good things surprisingly. I don’t think anyone expected to want to play a Doom game in 2016 when shooters in general were growing stale and predictable, yet here came Doom, the long-awaited scarcely-seen package of heavy metal and demonic imagery but given a basic story backed with hilarious audio logs, collectibles that I sought out and actually froze in place to listen to. To literally place Doomguy on a pedestal by way of holograms and meanwhile demonize his combat prowess through what are basically audio logs, his background could’ve been the most throwaway concept to even put any effort into but they nailed it without going too far.

    5/5

  • What held me off from getting Hitman for so long was its staggered, albeit beneficial, release schedule and the fact that I intended to complete Hitman: Blood Money before the right price came along. Despite already watching many others play through various levels to completion, shadowing targets and planning accidental assassinations is an experience no other stealth game does as well as this series.

    After playing a few levels of Hitman, I decided to go back and play Hitman: Blood Money to completion. Unsurprisingly, the similarities were obvious so by playing them in tandem they highlighted how much of a return to form Hitman was. With Absolution, the first Hitman game I played through, it was easy to just shoot enemies and get away with whatever petty crime you committed. In a way, half-baked shooting mechanics accentuated the importance of keeping a low profile to navigate through a level.

    The scope of each level and opportunities within wouldn’t be nearly as fun without knowing, or given a hint really, of what else you can do by the listing of every challenge and the like for every level for my perusal. To be able to come back to these levels with even more gear, or even the bare minimum, with what intel I gathered previously and set up a death trap to watch it unfold right under everyone’s noses and get away, it’s a unique feeling seldom seen elsewhere.

    4/5

  • As is the case with most Ace Attorney games, I’m left with a lingering emptiness after going through what seems like an endless roller coaster of emotions and unpredictable revelations that defines this franchise. Suffice it to say, the final case; the crown jewel for each of these games, is no different and provides closure for the unique setting and revolutionary tone it’s going for.

    Thrown into an oppressive culture for the accused and defenders alike, Phoenix Wright & Co. plunge into a despotic regime to fan the flames of rebellion to seek the truth behind the passing of a law that effectively abolishes the need for a lawyer in the courtroom. This not only introduces a new legal system to bluff through, it expands what’s been confined, not that it has felt that way in the past, in whatever legal battles Japan imagined taking place in their pseudo-America with visions of a victim’s final moments to interpret and the embracement of the supernatural element of spirit channeling used in early games to great effect.

    It wasn’t until this game when I finally appreciated the motive and thought put behind the main prosecutors of previous installments. For a large majority of the game, the ever ephemeral Nahyuta Sahmahdhi presides over the prosecution of our clients and rebuts with insults ranging from reincarnating into a vegetable or cockroach to complete silence (and all those ellipses, just in general... wow). It was never fulfilling to contradict anything Sahdmahdhi put forth nor was it satisfying to finally get one up on him. When someone who could easily pass as the sister of Final Fantasy X’s Seymour did a formidable prosecutor finally reveal themselves and actually make a great and memorable antagonist to finally point fingers at, even though it doesn't last long.

    In any case, it’s always a treat to play through these games. How they string along the player to the possibilities of another suspect or how the crime was committed are usually easy to believe, thanks to the mass of text you have to button through, for better or worse. It helps that despite the virtual novel presentation of characters, what little animations there are still add a ton of character and perfectly illustrate whatever disposition they’re in, whether it be in regards to their social standing or their state of how close they are to being sent to the slammer, it’s hard not to crack a smile when a character shows up.

    4/5

  • By setting the difficulty to as low as can be, my only gripe with the entire franchise becomes the least of my concerns and thus allows me to focus on what I’ve perceived as the only thing worth seeing: the characters and their interactions with each other. It shouldn’t be a surprise that this implies how beautiful and realistic these games can look. When the music starts playing or the camera pulls back, you know the game wants your attention so you can take in the scenery and marvel at mountains of greenery from afar or even the smoldering ruins that exploded splendidly just moments before.

    Treating this game as a run-and-gun romp allowed me to set aside my annoyances with the typical Uncharted combat, encounters taking far too long with enemies taking far too many bullets to die for my liking. While I appreciated the opportunities to use stealth, all I wanted to see was the next story beat unfold. Watching trailers or seeing images of the game doesn’t give enough justice to the graphics as playing through the game itself, I was in awe throughout.

    Aside from the rote villainy and their being a step ahead every step of the way, Nathan Drake & co. wouldn’t be fully realized without how realistic they look, even mentioning their graphic quality does the game a huge disservice as watching conversations between the characters are amazing to look at and engrossing. There isn’t a second thought to the realism of what I’m seeing since the actors behind them are in full display and, dare I say, bring them to life. It’s even more fitting as this is supposedly his final outing, on official terms, and unlike their last attempt this is the perfect way to go out on.

    “Realistic” “graphics” 4/5

  • With Max Payne and Alan Wake, I enjoyed Remedy’s respective forays into different genres of storytelling while maintaining solid gameplay that utilizes slowdown effects that help you clear an encounter or gather your surroundings. This time around, you’re given full reign of time itself to dispose of foes. While that sounds fine and dandy, I feel the developers took the criticism Alan Wake took to heart and lessened the time, ironically, you have to play with the powers given to you.

    It didn’t take long to figure out that staying still would get me killed, so (time) dodging would become a major asset in my offensive as it would break my enemies’ line of sight and allowed me to line up my shots all the way into the endgame. Unfortunately, it never feels like it blossoms or outgrows the playground you’re placed in as it never becomes creative or challenging enough to feel compelled to change things up until the final encounter in which the difficulty suddenly spikes up when previous encounters grew stale and predictable due to the low enemy variety.

    Until this game, I hadn’t realized how much Remedy injected their quirkiness into their games. Perhaps it’s because I look at games with a more critical eye these days, but noir and psychological horror felt like they went hand in hand with whatever sensical oddities they peppered in. While some collectibles clearly poked fun at the naming convention of the time skills, what made sense for their other games didn’t really fit in with what Quantum Break offered: a choice-driven story with a very basic groundwork that aspires to become a bigger universe that feels unearned.

    3/5