Game of the Year 2016 Users Choice

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Here we are again, the end of a year. And just like 2015, there were too many games. I think I found it maybe more difficult to get really deep and addicted into a game this year? I'm not sure if that is my tastes getting more particular, becoming more jaded, or just life, but I did feel like I was constantly looking for that next special game to hook me. Luckily, I did come across a couple surprises in 2016.

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You can't talk about gaming in 2016 though without touching on VR, though. Virtual Reality headsets were a big important element this year with the release of all three headsets: the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, and Playstation VR. It's the beginning of a new era in the way we interact with our ever growing computer focused world, video games or otherwise. I ended up with both the Vive and the Rift, which may have had an affect on me cancelling my PSVR pre-order. It really does just feel like the need the killer app. The hardware certainly proved and validated the experience to me with stuff like Project CARS VR, tiny experiences like Longbow and Xortex in Valve's "The Lab". Still though, I never found myself hooked on VR and my whole life falling apart as people, even I, may have predicted.

Yeap, that's exactly what watching an OLED TV is like.
Yeap, that's exactly what watching an OLED TV is like.

Head mounted displays aren't the only exciting new tech around. OLED, 4k, and HDR TVs are also all the rage. I ended up selling my almost-new 1080p OLED TV after only a few months of use once word got out about Sony releasing some sort of 4k capable PlayStation 4. Once I had sold the other, I picked up a LG 55" EF9500, the 4k/HDR OLED version of my TV, on sale. And after purchasing both an Xbox One S, a PS4 Pro, and a little experimentation with 4k/HDR content via streaming and UHD Blu-ray, if I had give an opinion it would be that the OLED display type itself is way more impressive than what 4k (not too noticeable) and HDR (finicky, varies with TV, settings etc) are currently offering. I would probably suggest a 1080p OLED set over a 4k/HDR LCD set. Do you're own research though.

Back in my day..
Back in my day..

My 2016 wasn't just about all the new tech. Early in the year, my friend and I got into a weird random kick to essentially build year 2000 ish era PCs. The hardware:

  • Dell Dimension 4100
  • Pentium III 1.0 Ghz
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • 3dfx Voodoo 3 Video Card
  • Sound Blaster Live! 5.1 Sound Card
  • NetGear Network Card
  • 120GB HDD
  • Windows 98 SE
  • 19" NEC MultiSync FE791SB 1600x1200 CRT

If the list on the thread linked above is still accurate, then I ended up with 46 games installed. A list I'm very impressed with. Overall, it was really fun walking down memory lane putting it together and setting it all up.

Before moving on, I feel its necessary I touch on a couple games that I couldn't quite find a home for here. I Am Setsuna (PS4) is something I played very briefly, pretty much just the opening sequence, but wasn't quite grabbing me. Impressive music. Maybe I'll revisit it. Absolute Drift (PC) was a neat little race/drifting came that popped up. Very cool looking and felt great. I might purchase it again on PS4 at some point. Total War: Warhammer (PC) was something a little different this year. I only played the Greenskins and for about 50 turns but I had just besieged the Dwarf Stronghold, before I moved on to playing something else. And finally, this page wouldn't be complete without a mention of Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn. I continued to play a lot of the game in 2016 but it remains on the same track I touched on last year, with it's boring character/gear progression and predictable, formulaic content additions. I still hold the game in pretty high regard, and I am excited for the next expansion, Stormblood (expected to be released in 2017), but I really hope they start making more fundamental changes to it's recipe.

Still Unopened/Stuff I Should've Played More

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Bravely Second (3DS) - Someday, when I've got that very particular JRPG itch, I will crack this sucker open.

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Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP) - I keep hearing about it. I finally bought it. I turned it on, looked at the menu, then turned it off. It will happen eventually.

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Ratchet & Clank (PS4) - Oh my god the visuals. It's like I'm playing a Pixar or Dreamworks movie. I just find it so hard to believe. Stuff like this, The Witness, Hyper Light Drifter, or Firewatch for example, look stunning on a OLED TV. I only played the first couple parts of the story so I need to actually sit down and play this. Never played any of the other Ratchet & Clank games (or Jak & Daxter either)

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Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization (PS4) - Randomly picked this up one day out of boredom. I am a bit of a fan of the anime but never played any of the games. What I had seen of them didn't seem to be going for what I liked about the show. Having tried this one though, I ended up rather surprised. They do a decent job of making it feel like you're playing an MMO in that world, but it's still essentially a single player environment. The way the story and dialogue is done as if these were actual people who are aware they are playing a game, use their knowledge of game systems to approach problems, and generally just use the proper jargon, are some of the elements I liked from the show that are integrated well here. I should spend more time with it as my characters had only just reached level 10 but, as with most RPGs, it's a slow and steady ramp up as it starts to become more engaging.

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World of Final Fantasy (PS4) - Not sure how I feel about World of FF. I really like the art design and caricatures of the Summons and various creatures from FF, but the human characters themselves have too much of a Kingdom Hearts/Disney look to them for my taste. A little too kiddie. I'm not sure I'm a fan of the combat system either. Initially, after playing the demo, I was very put off by it and it wasn't making much sense. Later on, I heard someone compare it to Pokemon and had a "Oh.. duh" moment which made it a bit more tolerable.. I just kinda allowed myself to look at it as a Final Fantasy Pokemon game but.. still. Again, I should play more of this but it wasn't particularly engaging. Just felt like I was going through the motions.

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Elder Scrolls Online (PC) - Only up to level 10-15 ish but it seemed okay so far. Everything has been too easy and it seems like you do everything solo (the bane of modern MMOs in my opinion). Combat is maybe a little simplistic? Doesn't feel all that satisfying at times in the same way Oblivion or Skyrim combat is. There are some nice changes compared to FFXIV that are more inline with classic MMOs, I guess, like cave/dungeon areas that are actually free roaming. All NPC dialogue actually has voice over, although it has the same re-used voice actor issue that the single player games do, and I often find myself just skipping all the quest dialogue anyway because.. well the story stuff doesn't seem very interesting, not unlike the single player games as well. Quest type variety is nice and refreshing and pretty much mirrors the single player games. Music is just sort of there.. in the background. Its not bad but it doesn't stand out. Character animations and spell effects are a little janky or dull.

Overall though, as I said, it is a bit refreshing to see something different compared to FFXIV which has been very rigid in its content design and structure.

Plus everything from 2015's "In the Shrink Wrap" section..

The Tomorrow Children
The Tomorrow Children

Maybe I Should've Saved My Money Instead

The Tomorrow Children (PS4) - Weird game. Really like the art style and visuals, except for the weird, super narrow/short depth of field effect which really bothered me for some reason. Because of that, and just overall weirdness and online connectivity flakeyness, I barely played it. Not $20 well spent at this point.

Gears of War 4 (Xbox One) - Fired this game up on two separate occasions now and it is doing nothing to pull me in. I just feel so bored and bleh playing it. It feels so.. old? Contrast that with Titanfall 2 (never played the original) and I was immediately engaged by the look, sound, and feel which propelled me to finish the campaign in a single day. I don't know if this game is going to be played more.. If I do, it's because I feel like I'm obligated to for whatever reason.

Pokken Tournament (Wii U) - Well I guess I spent $60 on that thing.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (PS4) - I haven't bought a CoD game since World at War. And I haven't played one since a friend brought Modern Warfare by and I played it a little bit. It just hasn't been the type of game I'm interested in. But, upon pre-ordering a PS4 Pro via Amazon, I received a $20 discount code and thought "Bleh.. It's $40, I liked the Titanfall 2 campaign, maybe this one will be interesting and I'll have something to sample on the PS4 Pro." I started up the campaign, played the first two scenes I think, and shut it off. I couldn't be bothered. The shooting just didn't feel as nice as Titanfall 2, I wasn't in the mood, whatever whatever, console Rest Mode. I don't know if I'll go back to it. It's not that I actively disliked it, I just didn't want to play it.

Honorable Mentions

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Forza Horizon 3 (XBO) - My feelings on Horizon 3 are mixed. On one hand, it's kinda just the same thing again? On the other, I still somewhat reluctantly played through to the "Final Showcase" event. I enjoyed my time with it but I don't feel compelled to return or it didn't leave me excited for the next Horizon game. There were a couple songs from the soundtrack that I liked which made me go and get them. That is always nice. Forza Horizon 3 was just kinda there.. I played it on and off for a few weeks.. Got to the "End".. and that was that. Lamborghini Countach was my vehicle of choice for the majority of the game, similar to Horizon 1.

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Inside (XBO) - Really cool, intriguing game. Simple but satisfying puzzles. Superb and unique art style. If you wanted, you could really dig into the message that Inside may or may not be talking about in its visual narrative. Probably had my greatest "gaming moment" of the year. Best viewed on an OLED TV /thumbsup

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No Man's Sky (PS4) - The flaws feel very similar to Elite: Dangerous. It was still pulling me along somehow though. Maybe to prove the Atlas Pass v2 or v3 actually exists? I'm still not sure they do in my game. And I want a bigger ship. And maybe to finish whatever this is I hear about having 10 Atlas Stones. Curious to see where updates take this game, and I'll probably revisit it at some point.

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Uncharted 4 (PS4) - It was alright? Briefly played one of the previous Uncharted games as a rental and almost immediately didn't like it. Decided to give this one a shot. Looks jaw droppingly good and is perfect evidence that we don't quite need more powerful console hardware. Top notch production values. Great character modelling and voice overs.

Gameplay is just flat and boring. Enemies take too many hits to kill (had it on lowest difficulty hoping to reduce that.) And the game is just.. Climbing or shoot-out scene.

I would've been okay with just watching this game play itself out in front of me as a movie? Was so close to bailing on this game where you are in the open world section and have to lower that drawbridge to get the jeep across and enemies show up. I quit the first time, came back to it days later to give it another chance and quit almost immediately because shooting stuff is the last thing I want to do in it, and then had all but given up til I gave it one last solid shot some days later on a day off where I just kept pushing and made it through most of the rest of the game in an afternoon. The environments became more interesting as the game progressed.

I also played Rise of the Tomb Raider last year and thought it was decent. It's essentially the opposite to Uncharted 4: the gameplay/combat was better and more interesting in Tomb Raider while the story was a dumb after thought and it might as well have not been there.

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Firewatch (PC) - Firewatch was an interesting game. I didn't quite come out the other end feeling satisfied? It was just a "okay then.. so that's over." Great looking art style obviously. Voice actors were solid. Gameplay was a bit limited in scope for my tastes. Story started going into intriguing, moody suspense for a moment but then retracted and I lost interest. Would've liked it to have kept going in that suspenseful, dark thriller direction.

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XCOM 2 (PC) - Fairly difficult? Cool game. Been awhile since I played it so it's hard to remember details. Fights can turn on a dime at times and murder a bunch of good people out of nowhere. Stuff like that feels like bullshit to me. That one random UFO encounter fight where your ship is grounded and you have to run out, destroy the relay, and run back was the most incredible engagement. Just having sort of unlimited troops felt great.

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Samorost 3 (PC) - Amazing artwork and sound. Cool puzzles. Just haven't finished.

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American Truck Simulator (PC) - Slim content at launch. Not enough new gameplay features over Euro Truck Sim. Just felt like a mod. Still a neat experience but I couldn't help but feel like I need VR to properly enjoy this. I didn't have either of the VR headsets at time of release, but I do now so I just need to find the time to see how this works. They did just complete the rescale patch but it's a far stretch from what I would like. They really need to add more northern states at this point, as the dry, empty deserted areas are definitely bland. And bare minimum they need a few more truck manufacturers.

List items

  • The Souls recipe still holds up for me. Excellent looking world and monster design as usual. Took about 60 hours or something to complete on PS4. As usual with these games, I kind of wanted to immediately jump in and play it again but just didn't. I wish this was fresher in my mind so I could write something more detailed but my thoughts are probably similar to 2015's Bloodborne and 2014's Dark Souls 2.

    It's a little sad that From Software is looking to move on to something different, at least for the time being, but I'm also okay with that and excited.

  • Really fun builder. Only played in the blank scenario mode. Monsters set to neutral so they wouldn't attack. Still spent 49 hours and sort of lost my mojo at the point of building the purple alien research. Haven't checked back in on the game since then. I would very much like to play more of it.

    After having played Transport Fever later in the year, I did start to notice some patterns between Factorio, Transport Fever, and Cities: Skylines from last year. I think I'm really into problem solving systems and trying to make them more efficient. Perhaps this is why I've found most of my jobs so frustrating, dealing with extremely flawed processes and not being in a position to fix them.

  • Fantastic audio and visuals. Eerie and intriguing story. Tricky but engaging combat. Difficult at times. Super cool. Incredible intro video.

    Best viewed on an OLED TV /thumbsup

  • An Ueda game is a bit of a known quantity it seems and The Last Guardian is no different, for better or worse. In a sea of mostly similar or same-old games, the unique aesthetic style and character of this game is exactly what we need more of these days.

    I'm almost certain that your companion, Trico, is the most impressive and realistic creature ever to grace a video game. It's debatable, and somewhat subjective, if you want to chalk up the control and interaction difficulties with Trico as poor A.I. programming or unapologetic in the way it is trying to emulate the behavior of a real animal. As someone who has had a number of pets over the years, I'd like to believe, and perhaps also justify these flaws, as being pretty accurate to real life.

    When I'm barking orders at him with buttons, I almost feel bad. Trico doesn't know exactly what I'm asking him to do. I found myself petting and comforting him thinking it might have some positive effect on my commands, as you would a real animal. Certain small moments in the game even had me tearing up a bit.

    So while I had my own frustrations and battles with the camera/control systems, I still found the game engaging enough to finish it in two sittings. I also found the story to be pretty satisfying in the end.

    The Last Guardian is a beautiful and really cool experience for fans of Ico/Shadow of the Colossus or pet lovers. Just take your time and be patient making your way through it.

  • The Witness looks stunning. I didn't finish it but I played through most of it. Unlocked the mountain but kept completing surrounding puzzles until I just got distracted/bored and moved on. Wasn't really there for the narrative so I don't feel bad about leaving it incomplete as of now. I still did a couple hundred puzzles or crazy amount it is. Lots of hours. Made my brain melt. Loved getting out the pencil and paper to problem solve.

    Best viewed on an OLED TV /thumbsup

  • Interesting game. In some ways it absorbs and pulls me along with the generally linear construction/quest progression, but in other ways it that also prevents me from wanting to invest any amount of time into building and designing something that I'm proud of and feel is impressive.

    It can also feel slow.. I've only completed the first two chapters, but it felt like each of them was 10-20 hours spread out over a week or two. They way pretty much everything resets for each chapter is a bit disappointing but at least they essentially run you through new room designs and items along the way.

    I've also never played a Dragon Quest game before but thought the art style, music, monsters etc were pretty good.

    I'd like to continue playing it but I feel like I have to take another break after finishing chapter 2. Curious to see what other new gameplay elements they will introduce.

  • Finished the campaign on this one mere moments ago. Overall, I had a good experience with it. I purchased it pretty much only expecting to play the single player campaign, and I think I got my money's worth. Never played the original Titanfall either.

    Shooting and movement feels great. Sound is excellent. Looked real nice, even on the PS4. Story wasn't really at the front of my mind as I went through it, but the relatively unique experiences and pacing of each of the missions was good enough for that not to matter IMO.

    If this does indeed get some support for the PS4 Pro, I expect to return to Titanfall 2 then and replay a mission or two.

  • One of the games to swoop in and sink its claws into unknowing, unaware me. I believe Transport Fever was brought up on a recent Idle Thumb's podcast in relation to transport management sims. That then lead me to search for a video of it, out of boredom and curiosity, and I soon realized it appeared to be a somewhat modernized version of classic Railroad Tycoon. I thought, what the heck, I'd been wanting to play something like that for a bit. And next thing you know I'm playing it for just about every available hour I have for a week or two.

    Interestingly enough, and just like Factorio, I immediately found myself disinterested in the "campaign" mode and dove straight into the Free Build, with the "No costs" modifier and the largest map possible. I then began laying out my railway and learning as I went. The gameplay hook for me, which reminds me of both Cities: Skylines last year and Factorio this year, is constructing this elaborate system and crunching my brain to make it more efficient or solve traffic issues.

    There are plenty of improvements they could make to this style of game. I hope it does somewhat well and the developer is motivated and financed enough to make further additions.

  • This is on here purely for the fact that VR essentially renewed my lust for driving/racing sims.

    I had become somewhat jaded on racing games as the experience hadn't quite evolved. After awhile you've driven most of the world's cars on a lot the world's most famous race tracks. Been there, done that.

    Virtual reality gives it a whole new perspective(durhur). It is just that much closer to the real thing. I was spending an hour at a time just doing laps, in a single car, on a single track, and I wanted to just keep going and going, trying to improve. As I had actually begun going to the racetrack in 2016, I wondered if any of these visual indicators or concepts that VR let me get a better understanding of would rub off on me in my real life driving. I'm not sure I can say it did or didn't at the moment as eventually I stopped playing Project CARS VR and moved onto other things, and eventually the track season comes to a close. It feels like so long ago.

    Still, VR and cockpit games were meant for each other. It works so well already, and that is with games that already existed and weren't designed specifically around VR. The one major flaw is the computer horsepower required to run these experiences well, and the clarity of the head mounted display itself. Yes, you can lean way in and see every amazing detail on the instrument cluster, but you shouldn't have to. The displays may not be there quite yet but they are damn close and, even with the flaws, it still might be better than playing any racing game on a standard flat screen display.

  • Very pretty game. Nice music. Easy comparison is Journey but underwater. Neat stuff. I enjoyed it. I'd like a more full fledged game in this art style but like.. more Ecco the Dolphin. Also worth mentioning Endless Ocean here. If you are into marine biology, this game is for you.

    Best viewed on an OLED TV /thumbsup