GOTY 2017 – A good year but not a great one?

It’s this time of the year again, so here comes another GOTY blog.

And what a positive blog full of praises it’s going to be, since this year has been hailed far and wide (from the GB crew to other professional or semi-professional outlets to random guy 1/woman 2 on Twitter) as one of the best years in games. It’s going to be oh so great, right? Right!?

Well, no, because for some reason or other I don’t agree with this year being a particularly spectacular one for games. It was a good year, with some pretty good games, don’t get me wrong, but for me, there just wasn’t anything truly outstanding in it this time around.

The last few years I always had a very clear number 1 game in mind, a game I loved to bits (and bytes) and at least one or two contenders that came quite close to the top spot. This year nothing quite stuck with me like that, at all.

“Tell me: What’s the best game of 2017? Is it Zelda? Mario? Maybe Nier?” “I…I’m sorry…I’ don’t know”
“Tell me: What’s the best game of 2017? Is it Zelda? Mario? Maybe Nier?” “I…I’m sorry…I’ don’t know”

And this is not about me falling out with games or anything, because while I actually did have a lot less time to play games this year (new city, new job, new girlfriend), I still love gaming just as much as ever. I tried to at least touch all major releases that could potentially click for me, but sadly it just never quite happened.

Let’s preface a bit more by saying that currently I don’t own a PC good enough to run any current games (so no PUBG, Divinity 2 or Cuphead) and I also don’t own an Xbox One (again no Cuphead…and…Gears 4, I guess? Not that many good exclusives around this year either), so I did all my gaming on my trusty PS4 Pro (new 4k/HDR television be thanked), my Switch and my 3DS.

Okay, so I couldn’t have played everything I wanted to, which probably could and would have changed my opinion about this year’s games, because I just know I will fall in love with Divinity 2 as much as I did with Divinity 1 (my clear GOTY of 2014), but I played enough to be as happy with 2017 as everyone else, right?

“Shhh…don’t worry baby, I’ll get to you as soon as I find the time to build a decent PC. Until then, no lovestruck turtles for me sadly…”
“Shhh…don’t worry baby, I’ll get to you as soon as I find the time to build a decent PC. Until then, no lovestruck turtles for me sadly…”

I mean there’s “the best” Zelda ever with Breath of the Wild and a Mario that “at least rivals Mario64” with Mario Odyssey. Than there are Nier: Automata, a game about philosophical robots (just up my alley really) a new Assassins’s Creed, that’s also being hailed as “maybe the best one since 2” or great Sequels with Wolfenstein 2, Evil Within 2 or god damn Persona 5 (so stylish, so good, so…unfulfilling), so just what seems to be the damn problem?

Frankly I have no idea. I liked all those games and they (among others) will make up my Top 10, but I still, right up to me writing this very sentence, don’t have any idea about how I’ll end up ranking them. I even thought about doing an unnumbered list this year, but where would be the fun in that? So instead I guess will call this year’s list “kinda in flux” and just get it over with.

Well enough preamble and let’s get this thing started for real, first with a few games I didn’t get to play this year, but who could/would have made the list.

Games that might have made the list had I played them

  • Divinity: Original Sin 2 – I know this would have made the list (based on reviews and some very short Let’s Plays I watched as to not spoil myself to much), it probably even would have changed my whole sentience this year as my clear Number 1. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be just yet.
  • PlayerUnknown’s Battleground – Probably the most discussed game of 2017 and from what I’ve seen rightfully so. I mean, it’s not a new concept whatsoever, but the execution’s the thing to set this apart from other Battle Royale style games.
  • Resident Evil 7 – I’m a big fan of RE1 through 4, not so much of what followed afterwards. RE7 looks like it got enough of the old games’ spirit right while still including some very neat new ideas. I didn’t get this one, since I plan on getting a PS VR sometime next year (my girlfriend constantly bugs me about getting one) and that seems to be the “right” way to play this game.
Will I scream in an equally over the top way as this guy? I certainly hope so.
Will I scream in an equally over the top way as this guy? I certainly hope so.
  • Destiny 2 – From all I’ve seen it’s definitely better than original Destiny (which I didn’t like at all), but since I don’t have any friends, that would give this one a shot (after also being disappointed with Destiny 1) I decided to bench this one indefinitely.
  • Cuphead – I love tough plattformes and games that have a lot of style, this game should be a dream come true for me. And it might, sadly it’s a timed(?) Xbox Exclusive and my PC wouldn’t run it, so I can only guess about all the fun it have constantly dying in this one.
“Who’s going to pollinate whom, suckers?”
“Who’s going to pollinate whom, suckers?”
  • The Surge – A Dark Souls clone in a Sci-Fi setting? That could be great, but for some reason, until creating this list, I had pretty much just forgotten this game even existed. I guess I’ll give this a shot early next year.
  • Hollow Knight – Same thing as with The Surge really. Should be right up my alley, but forgot it even existed until now.

That’s it for games that probably would have made the list, now on to games, I have played only little bits of so far, meaning I don’t have a solid enough opinion yet and decided not to rank them.

Games I didn’t play enough of just yet

  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – With a December release date I guess it’s unsurprising that I just didn’t have the time to play enough of this one yet. I’m about 5 or 6 hours in and so far I really like the world design (it’s on par with Zelda, if not better) and some other things, but as every reviewer in existence has stated, this game is a very slow burn and the combat system just doesn’t deliver early on. Would this have made the list? Ask me again in another 20 hours, I guess.
  • Night in the Woods – I came late to the party on this one (only after the dev was a guest on the Beastcast), because the setting didn’t seem that appealing to me. It’s just looked way to much like the typical “rural American town” experience and I just had a feeling this was I game I might not enjoy as much as, well, an American (I’m Austrian by the way). After a few hours I now know, that I was actually right with that assessment, but I still find the game quite enjoyable overall.
“Now you are speaking my language dude. Let’s throw up some shit!”
“Now you are speaking my language dude. Let’s throw up some shit!”
  • Prey – Got it real cheap in some sale, but only found the time to play maybe 3 or 4 hours. Seems decent so far, but like everything else this year, not really anything special.
  • Yakuza 0 – My first Yakuzo game, which I totally didn’t just buy, because of the GBEast series. I’ve played 8 or so hours doing mostly just side quests and requisition missions and have not found to time to get further into it just yet.

Okay, that’s that, now on to games I decided to skip, but want to comment on real quick.

Games that I decided to skip, but want to comment on real quick. (Yes, I just repeated the last sentence, I know. It’s for effect, ok?)

  • Call of Duty: World War 2 – Going back to the basics and a setting that has been done to death? Not the right move if you ask me. COD: Advanced Warfare was the only COD game in years that I truly enjoyed (it even made 2014’s list), so this is just a disappointing move all around.
  • Star Wars: Battlefront 2 – I liked the first game, but, well, the progression system just seems broke as fuck, so a clear skip.
  • Pyre – I enjoy visual novels, I enjoy games with lots of talking, what I don’t enjoy is having to play “mini games” and other such stuff in games like that. Pyre’s actual gameplay just seems so, so very boring, that I couldn’t bring myself to this a shot.
There’s a lot going on. Well, not really, I think? Basically we just carry a ball around or something? Who knows.
There’s a lot going on. Well, not really, I think? Basically we just carry a ball around or something? Who knows.
  • Fire Emblem Echoes – I’ve always been a huge fan of the Fire Emblem series, but since they are getting pumped out with such a very high frequency right now, I just need a break this year. Also it’s just a remake of 2, which I played in an emulated fashion years ago.
  • Splatoon 2 – Didn’t really like the first one, gave the beta test a shot, didn’t really like the second one either. So yeah, just not my thing.
  • Fortnite – None of my friends were interested in playing this, so I skipped in entirely. The PUBG knock off mode didn’t change anything.

…aaaand we move on to the next category, an interesting one, games that turned out really disappointing.

Games that turned out to be rather disappointing

  • Mass Effect: Andromeda – What a waste of a game’s potential. It saddens me just to think about this one. The Mass Effect trilogy had some of my favourite gaming moments of the last decade in it, so I was really stoked for a new trilogy, in a new universe, with exiting new characters, exciting new alien species and an exciting new story. Except none of it was truly new or exciting at all. Why? That’s the only question I want to pose at EA for this one, just, why?
Oh, is that one of the new species? No, it’s just a broken mess.”
Oh, is that one of the new species? No, it’s just a broken mess.”
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony – Oh my god that ending. That fucking ending. What were they even thinking? I thought nothing would ever top the shittiness of Mass Effect 3 or Assassin’s Creed 3’s endings, but then this game came along. Holy hell. (I’m running out of swear words already.) I mean, I get where the devs are coming from, it’s really not as “complex” or “meta” as the want it to be. What it is though, is a slap in the face of long time series fans. “This is how we want to end it, suck it, if you don’t like it.” Is not something you should say to your fans. Something went truly wrong here, but hey, that’s what happens when you look at Star Ocean 3: Till The End of Time’s ending and go “that’s great, we should do something along those lines”.
You know what also would have been a good ending? The first game’s protagonist's dog falling asleep in a movie theatre and dreaming of other people watching a movie, about people playing a death game. Also the dog's really a turtle. And the turtle ain't real! If you want to use this one, Chunsoft, go right ahead.
You know what also would have been a good ending? The first game’s protagonist's dog falling asleep in a movie theatre and dreaming of other people watching a movie, about people playing a death game. Also the dog's really a turtle. And the turtle ain't real! If you want to use this one, Chunsoft, go right ahead.
  • Dream Daddy – Or as I’d like to call it “Everybody loves each other – The game”. As I’ve already stated I like visual novels, I’m also not over the (very) occasional dating sim. But this just didn’t click with me at all. I get the appeal that some people find in this, namely the whole “everybody loves and respects each other and there’s just no prejudice around”, but that’s not something I want in a game (in real life that would be amazing), since it kinda just makes everything really boring, for me.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of War - What an uninspired sequel to a truly good original game. The nemesis system has been enhanced, true, but most of the additions don't seem all that meaningful (even with me playing on the hardest difficulty), and the novelity has simply worn off considerably. If it was wrapped around a game that was interesting to play, a world that didn't just look like garbage or a story that wasn't complete nonsense, the nemesis system would still be awesome. Sadly this just isn't the case here, and while I didn't quite agree with everyone on the first game, I do so now: The should have gone with an original setting.
"You've cheated a god damn axe that went in your skull? That's some pretty good resliency. Still, sadly you are not a threat whatsoever."

Okay, enough with the disappointing stuff, on to the next category.

Games that didn’t come out this year, but that I played in 2017 and I think deserve a mention

  • Hearthstone – Yes, I’m still playing this game. It’s just so good on the go, if you have 10 to 15 minutes time to lose horribly to someone whose spent hundreds of dollars, to get every single good card and totally crush you while constantly taunting (thank god for the mute option). Why am I still playing this?
If I decided to spend money on this game, I’d get this card for sure. Doesn’t matter if it exists.
If I decided to spend money on this game, I’d get this card for sure. Doesn’t matter if it exists.
  • Overwatch – My GOTY from last year is still getting played on a let’s call it monthly or so basis. They keep introducing enough new stuff (maps, characters) and enough really interesting gameplay changes (Mercy, just what became of you?), to somehow still keep me interested after over 400 hours of gameplay time.

Last category before the actual Top 10:

Games that came close to a Top 10 Spot (I Guess…?)

  • Horizon: Zero Dawn – For me this game fell apart, not because of Zelda releasing at pretty much the same time (such bad release timing), but because the gameplay loop just wasn’t all that great. The setting and the world are great, the story is quite interesting, but everything else is just your typical Open World affair, paired with a combat system that did nothing for me. Shooting an enemies weak points for a minute or so just isn’t fun after the 100th time, the melee is passable at best and the traps take to long to set up. A shame, but not really my thing.
  • Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle – This game is pretty good and even the story/setting turned out to be a lot more fun than I thought (it’s certainly not as stupid, as I’d feared), but the gameplay gets very monotonous, very fast. After reaching the 3rd world I just kinda didn’t want to deal with another block moving puzzle, followed by a combat scenario of me just running for the finish or employing the same tactics over and over again. Also give me the god damn right to switch out Mario, he’s just not as good as some other characters are.
"I'm sorry, Mario, but you are useless in this game. Even your rabbid version is better than you, just look at him playing that banjo."
  • Wolfenstein 2 – A good game, with some outstanding moments, but really just more of the same. Not much more to say here sadly.
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – Another game with a good story and at best passable game play. Why have fights at all, if they are so damn barebones? (It’s the same issue I have with Hand of Fate 2.) This still would have made the list, if the story was just a bit stronger, but at the end, the whole thing fell apart a bit, leaving me very unsatisfied with the entire experience.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us 2 - Honestly I don’t have much to say about this one. The combat system is even better than it was in the first game, the story is still the weakest point of the whole thing (it’s fun while it lasts, though) and the loot box/costume system is ridiculous and pointless. Also the final boss in the story is Sheng-Tsung level bad with attacks that you can’t counter/block that come out of nowhere. No matter, it’s not that great a year for me and I love fighters, so here we are.
“Remind me again why I’m as strong as Superman. Kryptonite? Ah whatever, let’s just beat his face in.”
“Remind me again why I’m as strong as Superman. Kryptonite? Ah whatever, let’s just beat his face in.”

Okay, now that’s it with all the random categories, and here we go with the main event, the Top 10 of 2017.

Oh, and I’d like to state again, that I’m just making the rankings up right now, since I still don’t really know what my actual game of the year should be. Now this should be…fun.

Top 10

10. South Park: The Fractured but Whole

More of the same game like last time, but I just still like South Park and I vastly prefer the superhero setting over the Lord of the Rings one. Also it’s still simply amazing to look at, since it’s really just an overlong episode of the show. Presentation wise they truly nailed this one.

A mini game about a child giving some old dude a lap dance? It’s South Park alright.
A mini game about a child giving some old dude a lap dance? It’s South Park alright.

9. Observer

A very stylish game that nails the aesthetic it’s going for. The aesthetic being Blade Runner. Just to run that fact home they even cast Rutger Hauer as the main protagonist. Sadly he doesn’t seem all that into it. The gameplay is okay at the beginning, but rather bad later on (this really could have done without the chase sequences). Still the setting and story alone are enough for this to land on the list.

“Blade Runner? Never heard of it, we just made this whole thing up from the ground.”
“Blade Runner? Never heard of it, we just made this whole thing up from the ground.”

8. Assassin’s Creed: Origins

Truly a surprise to me is how much I enjoyed the newest Assassin’s Creed game. I used to be a huge fan of the series until AC 3 (which I don’t think was as bad as most people say, except for the ending), but fell of the horse real fast, since nothing ever seemed to change in this series anymore. That’s not the case for Origins. I mean, at it’s core it’s still very much an Assassin’s Creed game, but the combat system improved a lot, the loot system is fun (if limited), the world is well realized with a setting that hasn’t been done to death and the RPG-style progression makes for a fun romp. The side quests are also mostly passable and the main story, while nothing special, still delivers (except for everything concerning the modern times, that part still sucks).

“Don’t be angry, man. I meant no disrespect calling you a giant dog-thing.”
“Don’t be angry, man. I meant no disrespect calling you a giant dog-thing.”

7. Persona 5

A game I’ve waited a very long time for and it mostly delivered on what I’d hoped it would be. Mostly. First of, the game of course just has a ton of styyyyyle. The characters are cool and relatable, the setting for the story makes you angry in just the right ways (damn rich politicians, and teachers, and random art thieves!), the gameplay is as fun as always in the Persona series, but I still felt something was missing. It didn’t quite have the chemistry between the characters that PE4 or PE3 had and the story started to drag sometime after the fourth dungeon. Also why do we have to retread every plot-point dozens of times like complete idiots?

“Anime? We aren’t anime? We are…a boy band…with girls (and some cat creature) or something. Well, not anime at least.”
“Anime? We aren’t anime? We are…a boy band…with girls (and some cat creature) or something. Well, not anime at least.”

6. Super Mario Odyssey

I actually agree with everyone, that this might just be the best 3D Mario game since Super Mario 64 , even though Galaxy continues to be a contender. It’s imaginative (even if it’s not the first game with a body snatch mechanic), it’s beautiful, it’s just a fun time all around. At the other hand, it’s just another Mario game, which is also why things like the retro throwback in New Donk City didn’t blow me away. It was fun, but just that. Also some of the moons are ridiculous to get. I’m at 750+ now, including the one for the finale challenge, but I’ll never get the others, not because they are too hard, but because they are just plain annoying. Repeat levels with the only difference being that you don’t have Cappy? No thank you.

In a slightly racist Italian dialect: “What are you looking at, man? Just a normal human walking by.”
In a slightly racist Italian dialect: “What are you looking at, man? Just a normal human walking by.”

5. The Sexy Brutale

One of the very few games this year, that truly managed to surprise me, The Sexy Brutale, is a neat and short, little puzzle game involving an infinite time loop. Ever since Groundhog Day that’s a premise I’m wholly on board with. The setting is cool, the story isn’t bad either (except maybe some of the finale) and the gameplay loops interesting. Thing is, it’s just way to easy. An adventure game were I’m never stuck for more than 20 minutes or so? Too easy. (Even though I realize that sounds kinda crazy, it’s still true.)

“Remember that great scene from Final Fantasy IV? This is not it, it’s still okay, though.”
“Remember that great scene from Final Fantasy IV? This is not it, it’s still okay, though.”

4. The Evil Within 2

I never finished the first game, because the gameplay was so monotonous, but this sequel pretty much fixes all the problems I had with the original. The story is also amazing by the way. It’s Inception meets Silent Hill meets Resident Evil meets True Detective. Do I need to say more? A very atmospheric game, with an open world that’s not just for show (an exceptional achievement in a survival horror game) and a, let’s call it passable combat system? Good times.

“I told you to tell me the god damn GOTY of 2017!”
“I told you to tell me the god damn GOTY of 2017!”

3. Nioh

Luckily Nioh turned out to not be just another Dark Souls clone, without any real ideas of there own. The mission structure is interesting, the setting is cool and the story is pretty much just a supernatural version of Richard Chamberlain's Shogun, which is fine too.

Where Nioh actually shines though, is it's systems. The loot system could stand to be a bit more robust, especially the honestly very useless crafting component, but at least it all looks very stylish. What's really outstanding ist the combat system itself, featuring very different feeling weapons, with 3 also quite different stances for each one, and the player being able to switch it all up on the fly. Then there's Ki (Stamina) management, and things like Ninjutsu (magic) to think about. It's really just Dark Soul's combat at it's core, but refined in a very neat way and faster than even Bloodborne was.

Also, like Dark Souls, it can be quite challenging, especially some of the optional boss fights, and that's a big plus in my book.

"I'm telling you, I just want to cuddle. Honest. Ribbit."

2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Why is this a Zelda game? No, seriously, why? This has nothing to do with previous games in the series from a pure gameplay perspective, which is not a bad thing (even though I love the core Zelda gameplay loop), but still, why? Did Nintendo just think it wouldn’t sell as well if it didn’t have the Zelda name attached to it? I don’t get it.

Anyway the world is beautiful, huge, well realized and full of little secrets, the Zelda connections are cool (I like the picture hunts for example), the puzzles are really fun and the fighting…well…sucks. Why the hell did the think breakable weapons would be a good idea in this, Zelda, game? Or any game for that matter? I feel hard-pressed to name any other game where weapons break that fast and feel that useless. Even the damn Master Sword turns useless every five seconds. Most of the time I just run by enemies and try to avoid combat altogether. That’s not how this should be. So the question is, why?

The collectibles are also a joke. No really, they are, with your reward being a literal piece of…well…shit. Again, why?

Why, why, why is the theme with this game and so it’s just good game, but a an amazing one for me.

Again? Link would have been better of learning some Martial Arts.
Again? Link would have been better of learning some Martial Arts.

1. Nier: Automata

So what do we have here? Gameplay that’s somewhat akin to Devil May Cry (but not quite as good sadly), a story featuring melancholic robots discussing things like love, god and the meaning of existence itself and ending (or twenty) that’s actually worthwhile? Nice, so, I guess this is our game of the year 2017 then, right? Right.

In all seriousness Nier is a pretty good game. The gameplay is just different enough in the 3 main sections to keep interesting (if it was just the DMC stuff the entire way through, this really wouldn’t have cut it), the characters are likable, if not relatable, the setting is pretty interesting (even with it’s history being as convoluted as it is) and the overall story is enjoyable and hits a good mix of funny, serious and philosophical scenes. Even the ending just nails it, which is something lot’s of games struggle with, and I felt satisfied and like I had no reason to go back to the game at all (which is a good thing here since the game deletes your save) after I was done with it.

Anime aesthetics mixed with Dark Souls boss look alikes, mixed with bullet hell and DMC? I’m in.”
Anime aesthetics mixed with Dark Souls boss look alikes, mixed with bullet hell and DMC? I’m in.”

Okay, now to a short outro. Like I said, it was a good year in gaming, but not as spectacular for me as it seemed to be for mostly everyone else. Still, a good year with some fun games around, so let’s end this on a positive note: Happy holidays to everyone around and on to a new year full of (hopefully) amazing games. There are a few I’m really looking forward to.

“Hey guys is this not the Dragon convention? Dragon Ball? Oh shit, it’s Monster Hunter isn’t it?”
“Hey guys is this not the Dragon convention? Dragon Ball? Oh shit, it’s Monster Hunter isn’t it?”

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