Best of 2017

We are beginning to wrap up 2017, and what a year it has been! The PlayStation 4 has started to really come into its own as console while showcasing that exclusive titles and deals make or break your system. Meanwhile, Nintendo has had possibly one of the best hardware launch with game support to date. Needless to say this year is rife with contenders, and I honestly believe that no "Best of 2017" list will look alike this year as this has probably been one of the if not the best year of gaming in the past decade.

Of course, this year has had some setbacks and some faults. Politics and political awareness is slowly starting to creep into the gaming culture, and we are not just talking about the social aspect, but the aspects of microtransactions and what exactly constitutes as gambling with loot boxes and other types of predatory tactics. I won't bog this "Best of..." list getting into the gritty details as this is something to look towards when we venture into if I do a "Worst of..." which will probably not surprise anyone who has their finger on the pulse of game news.

I am sorry if I end up being a little light on details, and if you are reading this, I tend to be a bit more demanding in what I play, and what I want out of what I play. It can be very hard to assess why I like or hate certain things. Because sometimes it can just come down to a feeling.

Also understand there is a possibility of spoilers.

Best of 2017!

List items

  • There are times in my life that I worry about the fact that I simply cannot write well enough to express my thoughts, my feelings, and most importantly my love for an art form. When I talked about NieR: Automata with my friends after having played it early this year. Every sentence that poured out of me was an expression of wonder and excitement. It wasn't just a game, it was an experience. A roller coaster ride of subverted tropes that play against your expectations, of music that pulls at your heart, and it all culminates into possibly the most singular beautiful moment that exists as an ending to a game I have ever played. I worry, because no matter what words I use to describe the experience I had that it will ultimately not be enough to encapsulate the scope of which I felt. But I will try... I will try.

    NieR: Automata came out of nowhere for me. I wasn't hyped for it, and I wasn't looking forward to it. Like most people I latched onto it because it looked funny, the female protagonist dripped with sexual fantasy and innuendo. I bought it on the name of Platinum Games. I was aware of Yoko Taro's other works, but the only one I played was the original Drakengard more than a decade ago. I was going into this blind, and without expectations other than the nascent whispers of Yoko Taro being a madman. Nonetheless I bought in, and from the opening sequence I was hooked.

    I turned thirty-one this year. I don't really know what that means? To be past thirty? Does it mean anything? I know that I don't have time to play as many games anymore. Between work, managing platonic and romantic relationships, and finishing the final lap of collegiate studies. Who has time to play games all that much anymore? Especially when so many of them rarely exist to touch you in a way that is meaningful. That no longer exist as a work of art to be felt and thought about. Games that exist as mountains to grind, and microtransactions to be bought so you can skip amounts of the game? Who has time for all of that after a certain age?

    The beginning of NieR: Automata hits you quickly. Things ramp up. The music flawlessly encapsulates and draws you into the struggle being displayed before you. I felt like a child again. I felt that sense of magic, wonder, and mystery that nothing has come close to in recent memory. If you took out any one piece of the pie that makes NieR: Automata it would never work. It would be not that great. The flaws (because lets be honest there are some) would run it aground. But taken as a whole piece. When you put the art design, world design, game play, story elements, voice acting, and music all together it formulates something wholly unique that can only be experienced truly as a video game. If we ever wanted to posit video games as a type of art-form to be experienced this would be in the list.

    I honestly believe if by the true ending of the game you are not getting at least a little misty eyed you may as well be dead inside. This game subverted all the expectations you place on it, and some people may meme about how wacky Yoko Taro's writing is, but I think it serves as a back drop to show a very authentic human experience that is rarely felt in any video game today.

  • This was a hard-hard choice to make between the first and second game. My unintended emotional response won out on me in the long run, but that doesn't negate that Divinity: Original Sin 2 is just as deserving if not more in some respects a GOTY title.

    I play pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons/Pathfinder practically once a week, and this is about the closest transference you will ever have as a CRPG. While the story is a little more than a chore, and somewhat boring. The pre-made characters that you can choose to be, or invite to your party are interesting enough, and engaging enough. It seems like the majority theme of the year is rag-tag band of misfits fighting against a central authority or "powers that be", and it has all of that.

    Where this game shines though and how it exactly mimics the possibilities of a pen and paper game are through the combat system. Engage in a fight, but have one of your characters in sneak mode off in the background who can come in at any time? Make the ground hazardous with different types of elemental effects? Teleport that big brute coming to swing his sword at you next to a barrel of oil, and then send a fireball his way? You can combo so many different types of moves together to really do some interesting things.

    As I said it was a hard choice, and perhaps Divinity: Original Sin II deserves the number one spot just as much as NieR: Automata with its amazing production value, world design, game play, and character options.

  • What's this?! A game that has already technically been released since 2012 getting a 2017 spot? Not to mention a F2P game to boot!? Well too bad.

    Grinding Gear Games has created a labor of love with Path of Exile, and with the past summer behind us released enough content (ABSOLUTELY FREE OF CHARGE) to rival expansions that other companies would put a price tag on. I believe this is the closest we'll ever get to having a spiritual successor for Diablo 2. With developer support and loyalty that comes unprecedented in these times, and microtransactions that are benign cosmetics and inventory management related does not outright affect your ability to really play the game. In fact, for most of the time it has been out, I had never given them money up til this year. I'm cheap as hell, I know.

    If you have a love for isometric RPG's, or if you have a love for just destroying vast waves of enemies. This game is for you. It has only ever gotten better since I started playing it a few years ago, and this year was the first year I finally gotten around to giving them some well-deserved money, and let us be honest, they deserved it a long time ago. With over 10 Acts and an Epilogue area, you'll have tons of time to try out differing builds, whatever the meta is, and just mindlessly slaughter hordes of enemies.

  • The Persona series and its history is amazing to look back upon. Something that spun off the more niche Megami Tensei games and still ended up being horrifically niche for the first three games in the series (Persona 1, Persona 2: Innocent Sin & Eternal Punishment) has found a place in western popularity.

    While I don't think the cast of characters are as tightly bound compared to the previous games they still feel like they are a rag-tag group righting wrongs and dishing out justice, and the differing mechanics of each boss’s dungeon is interesting and refreshing. The game never felt particularly hard on its normal mode, and the cast of characters/confidants you can build up your repertoire with felt a bit more lacking and streamlined compared to the past few games. Overall, it is a solid entry with a soundtrack worth its weight in gold and dripping with more style than anything seen before it, and it brings back the Negotiation/Talk feature that has been sorely missing from the past two titles. While I still enjoyed the main cast of characters, I felt like I enjoyed them more for their possible authenticity compared to the more trope laden characters of the past. I just wish they felt more tied together as honest friends, and not a organization working to just bring down the baddies.

    I really hope they make a Golden/FES version of this game as there are certain things they could tighten up and fix (like the massive amounts of forced downtime where you can't do anything) and perhaps balancing out some of the confidants so others are not basically "must picks". Then this game would jump to a way higher rating.

    (Also, you can date your teacher!)

  • This is another game that came out of nowhere for me. But I am glad I played it.

    While the base game play is your average open world type fair with going to an area, climbing something, expanding your map. Running side-quests. The combat was pretty invigorating. The character animations were superb. The story was sort of cliche, but overly enjoyable. Fighting enemies was the most interesting part of the whole entire game, and I wish they put in more enemy variety. The main quest line, and the dungeons or factories that stick out as part of the game were interesting, if a little bit one note. Overall, they put a decent shine over a lot of mechanics and game play that have been used for the past decade and enhanced it in every way.

    Overall, I enjoyed my time in a world filled with dinosaur robots, and for a new and original IP it hit the numbers as best as it could. Also it helps that this game looked amazing on a PS4 Pro, possibly pushing the console close to its limits.

  • It has been awhile since I touched a Resident Evil game. I believe the last one was Resident Evil 4? Either way, it has been a long while. It seemed that Resident Evil 5 and 6 started going in a direction that was less horrifying and more comedic and over the top action orientated to please a different type of audience than myself. I cannot verify it, exactly, since I never played them. But from the outside looking in, that was the gist I got.

    I do like that this is a general return to possible form, and a return to more horrifying roots of the series. The Baker family is acts as a omniscient presence no matter where you are or whatever you are doing throughout the game. Even when you are in a proverbial safe area, they still reflect heavily on your mind.

    There were outright times where I had to take a break parts of it required real mental fortitude and thought. Not that I was scared mind you, it isn't exactly scary in a way that pops at you and yells boo, but a sense of impending dread that you get in some areas as you continue forward like when you go on the ship.

    I feel like the game could have been bigger, overall. Maybe with some differing enemy types as the mold creatures were rather one note. But the dread and the Baker family, it stays stuck on your mind like a piece of mold you just can't remove.

  • There was so many. Just so many unexpected and sleeper hits this year that ended up being amazing. Take Mario + Rabbids for example! Everyone probably saw this a joke junk title, but Ubisoft put in the work, and it shows. Who could every say they wanted an XCOM Lite game with Mario characters? Who would say that, and think of that ever?

    I know I didn't, but now I do, and I would love some more. This game is fun and hilarious while managing to hit most of its marks without relying too hazardously on previous tropes. The closest thing to Rabbids being the Minions. But the Rabbids are a bit more darker, and a bit more aggressive in their characterization which help a more adult player enjoy the subtle nods.

    Overall the gameplay is tight, the strategy battles are engaging and diverse throughout the game teaching you as you go along, and the characters stay true as any first party Nintendo game.

  • I'm a squid, I'm a kid, I'm a squid, I'm a kid.

    This game is just pure fun. It is hard to stay mad at some of the faults it has because Nintendo still isn't as versed in multiplayer type games as other companies and developers are. It is hard to stay mad at a 5 minute game even if you get steamrolled by a group of people who are 20-30 levels higher then you because it lacks any proper matchmaking system.

    But it is fun. Painting the ground. Running with the rainmaker. It is all just pure fun. Splatfests, where it pits a voting system and a shirt system together. Finally, the clothing customization options. This game is just fun, and there is nothing exactly like it anywhere else.

  • I played this game because a friend recommended it to me. I secretly want to kill said friend now. Playing this game is like a lesson in managing existential dread. I mean that is the whole point of it right? It is an experience. It is dark, it is horrifying, and the dread is unpalatable.

    When I first started the game, I could only make it to the first battle before I had to turn it off for a breather. Because if you are playing the game with quality headphones in a dark room by yourself. The walls are going to feel a little closer, and the ceiling a little lower. The shadows are going to look a bit different. You may not trust being in the darkness ever again.

    The game is a little slow, overall, and not for anyone who suffers from any sort of mental illness or anxiety. Speaking of mental illnesses, the developers did a sale on October 10th, 2017 also known as World Mental Health Day and pushed all profits to a UK mental health charity, which I thought was very generous.

    I'm not really bringing up game play because the combat is straight-forward, the puzzles are a bit of an annoyance but are easy, and I believe there was a reason to all of that: this game was meant to be an experience first. The psychological horror and dread that exists in this game. The voices that laugh at you, or torment you every second. It builds into a true experience, and understanding.

  • I'm going to get castrated by putting Super Mario Odyssey in a 10th spot (and probably not even mentioning Breath of the Wild, sorry, it didn't make the cut). But please hear me out.

    Super Mario Odyssey distills a great and wonderful third person Mario game with even some 2D portions that surprise and entertain. Mario is as spry as ever, even if I felt a little hampered by the motion controls which is Nintendo's preferred choice of telling you how to play.

    The game was never outright challenging. It was refreshing meander through the many lands that exists on Mario's Earth, and had some amazingly memorable moments that most anyone who plays this will think of.

    But by the time I finished it, I was ready for it to be over. I'm also not much into 100% completing a game, or collecting everything there is under the sun. I would of rather had less but more meaningful Power Moon puzzles. I have seen what some other people can do with Mario's new set of moves. The type of platforming I still can't get an outright hang of, but hope to some day.

    I don't think this game takes the place of Super Mario 64, or Galaxy 2 as my top contenders of Mario games. It is still a wonderful and well crafted game. The little details are astounding, and Mario feels almost real despite being cartoony as always.

    I felt a rush and exhilaration by the final battle with Bowser and even what happens after you beat him. I think the only part that got me down was Nintendo sticking to the status quo on what happens when you finally "rescue" Princess Peach. In the end, aside from a few factors that got me down. The game design, world building, and Mario himself were amazing to come back to after so many years away. It just felt like something was missing the whole entire time. Something that would of made the game feel more "complete".