By StarvingGamer 8 Comments
Woof. 2016 huh?
I guess this is where I make a joke about making a joke about writing the traditional "year in review" paragraph and what even does that look like in a year like this one? Ok, with that out of the way...
Despite everything else, 2016 was another fantastic year for fans of good-ass video games. A bevy of inventive new IP was released from development teams around the world in all sizes, and favorite franchises that had lost their way managed to reclaim the spirit of what made us love them ten or twenty years ago. Game creators seemed less afraid to take risks and just get weird, and great strides were taken to increase diversity and inclusivity in games, even if we still have a long road to hoe.
Between moving into an actual house and starting my eldest in kindergarten and my youngest in preschool, several experiences deserving of my time had to be passed over. Which isn't to say I didn't play plenty of games (I did), and I'd like to tell you about some of them.
Since then, the gaming landscape has gone through upheaval after upheaval, and after a pathetic attempt at making a DOOM 3 in 2004, most people were convinced that the franchise was simply an artifact of another age, irreconcilably out of place in the modern era of video games. The scant bits of footage and brief beta access people were given to what would become 2016's DOOM, compounded with tales of development hell and the stark reality of an 8+ year development cycle to, painted a dire of picture.
Luckily for us, it turns out developing in hell might not be so bad when you're making a game about murdering hundreds upon hundreds of hellspawn (no but really investing that much time on a product that seems to be going nowhere must have been real rough on everyone involved. Shoutouts to the hard workers at id, I hope you all were able to practice enough self-care and eat dinner with your families on most nights).
To put it plainly, DOOM manages to recapture the essence of my memories of playing the original DOOM in 1993, translated for a modern context. Unlike most modern shooters where you can expect to spend more time hiding than shooting, DOOM forces the player to stay mobile and get right in the thick of it, with a wide array of tools and weapons that allows each encounter to be treated like a frantic tactical puzzle punctuated by screams and explosions.
The story and atmosphere bring together a perfect ratio of attitude and irreverence and gore and metal and metal to make every moment in the game a delight, even as you're punching the eyeball out of your 50th cacodemon. DOOM has reclaimed the throne as the single-player shooter campaign to beat, and if the ending of the game is any indication, the folk at id may already have something in mind. Now that they're back in a groove, I hope it doesn't take them quite as long to release a followup. I think my heart will have stopped trying to pound its way out of my chest by 2018.
I love Street Fighter V. As a person who enjoys fighting in streets I have practically zero complaints about the game, and none of them are about the core gameplay. In the competitive circuit, Street Fighter V is hands-down the biggest game in the scene, now or ever. Entry records have been shattered at event after event since the game released, viewership numbers continue to climb, and the prize-pools have never been more rewarding for the pro players out there.
Evo 2016 Numbers - SFV 5065, Smash 4 - 2637, Melee - 2350, Pokken - 1165, GG:XrdR - 903, UMvC3 - 770, MKX - 707, T7 - 543, KI - 540 #Evo2016— Joey Cuellar (@MrWiz) July 1, 2016
That said, I can't help but think about all the potential for growth that was lost because of the repeated bungling by Capcom and their inability to message anything clearly as their plans changed throughout the year.
Maybe if they had recontextualized the initial release as a "tournament edition" or some kind, made it DLC-only with the proper full-release slated for July, they could have dodged all the criticism for selling what felt to many like a half-baked product at full-price. Then it would have been less a story when Ibuki had to be delayed for a month, and games writers would have been less eager to label future DLC releases as "late" when in fact every other bit of content arrived on time if not early according to their initial roadmap.
Call your "Season Pass" a "Character Pass" (a good lesson they learned for 2017), don't install a fucking rootkit on PC (even if it was gone within a few hours of the update), and who knows how many more casual players could have been brought into the SFV fold, and the fighting game community as a whole.
I guess it's all up to you now Injustice 2 *gag*.
Best Game to Buy at Release and Barely/Never Play
This is a category that usually is more about me facing my buying decisions balanced against my dwindling free time, but 2016 is a special year.
By all accounts That Dragon, Cancer is a brief game, topping out at around 2 hours total play-time. It's the sort of game you can get through in an afternoon or evening, start to finish. I, however, have never even booted it up once (did install it though!).
Through a series of vignettes, the game tells the autobiographical story of a family contending with an infant son diagnosed with terminal cancer, up and through his eventual death. I don't think I can handle playing this game. Between my own issues with mortality and my children and my ability to become intensely immersed in video games, I'm fairly certain this game would ruin me for quite a while. I do want to play it... some day, but probably not any time soon.
Best Moment or Sequence
I don't even play/own Overwatch. Ok I did mess with the free weekend before it released for 20 minutes.
I don't care! I love the characters and how diverse and colorful they are and I especially love the fandom that has sprung up around them. Every character in Overwatch is oozing with personality, but most of the details surrounding them have been left incredibly vague. This has created a perfect storm for the fanart fanfic shippers out there to go to town with their favorite pairings and I eat it all up.
Which isn't to say that these couplings are entirely unearned. For some characters, like my and Waypoint.com's OTP (one true pairing), it's a marriage of mechanics that inspires a deeper imagined relationship, like in the clip below:
For the uninitiated (how did you find this blog?), the game is being played from the perspective of Pharah, a soldier that wears a power-suit capable of flight and specializes in bombarding enemies with explosive rockets from afar. During the battle, Pharah fires a concussive blast from her wrist launcher, propelling her unsuspecting opponent into the pit below. Unfortunately, her target is Roadhog, a particularly tricky foe that manages to use his hooked chain to snag onto Parah's teammate, Mercy, and drag her into the pit alongside him.
Mercy, who serves as the team's combat medic, can float to slow her descent but is incapable of actual flight herself. However, she does have a special ability that allows her to tether herself to a nearby ally and fly directly to them. Seeing Mercy in trouble, Pharah immediately hurls herself down into the pit after her. At the last moment, Mercy turns to find her waiting friend and latches on, as Pharah activates her boosters and lifts both of them back to the relative safety of solid ground.
This small interaction is one of an infinite number of ways the various characters in Overwatch can compliment one-another, both mechanically and narratively, and in my eyes that's Overwatch's greatest gift. It has provided creative people from around the world with a shorthand to celebrate the different ways people can love and care for one another.
StarvingGamer's Top 10 Games of 2016
10. Stardew Valley
What a pleasant surprise this was. I've invested untold amounts of hours into games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing and The Sims and Fantasy Life and Stardew Valley takes elements from all of those and mashes them up into an intensely satisfying busywork experience. Maybe it's a fault of my min-maxing or maybe the numerous updates the game has underwent since I last played it have solved this problem, but I did run out of steam halfway through year 2 when my farm had become a well-honed production machine and I had already explored and looted my way to pretty much everything of note in terms of equipment and crafting materials. Maybe during a slow month I'll start over and see how everything that has changed in the latest version.
9. Rez Infinite
I'm a bit late to the Rez party. I was aware of it (mostly by virtue of urban legends surrounding the trance vibrator) but had never experienced it until my wife bought me a PlayStation VR. The core game is extremely enjoyable, if a little dated. While playing I often found myself wondering how the game was meant to be experienced without VR, and if that was the original intent 15 years ago when it first released. Then I tried Area X. I had the biggest, doofiest grin on my face the entire time. It sold me on the importance and future of VR, and left me wishing there was more of it!
Thanks to the advent of Discord, our little GiantBomb fighting game community has blossomed. This means I have more people to chat about, and more importantly play, fighting games with. Instead of relegating myself to combo trials and training mode, I've actually been able to fight against cool humans and avoid the additional salt that comes from losing to randoms. Lucky for me, I was able to latch on to Leo Whitefang immediately as he's a character that can get results with minimal effort. Yes, I'm a bad player playing a character who just sometimes mauls you and it's fun and no you can't stop me I'll keep doing it also ban I-No.
Read above paragraph, only instead of Leo they added Mai Natsume, a character specifically designed for beginners with a simplified moveset and significantly lower execution requirements than is typical of a character in BlazBlue. The ability to hop in and immediately start getting results made this the first BlazBlue I've been able to play against other people with minimal frustration. Every fighting game should include a character with the same design philosphy as Mai.
Coming in under the wire, I decided that instead of spending a few hours on The Last Guardian and still not forming an opinion, I would dedicate the last day of 2016 to seeing the ways Thumper mixes it up past the first world. Needless to say, I was blown away. The frantic sense of speed afforded by the PSVR, combined with the pounding soundtrack and eerily twisted visuals pushed my senses to the limits as the rhythms became more complicated, the mechanics more dense, and the tempo more frantic. Just sitting here thinking about it, I can almost feel myself hurtling forward toward the screen. Also this is the only game that has made me internalize and sight-read a 5/8 time signature, which was a treat. I'm excited for 7/8.
5. The Witness
I love puzzles. Many of my fondest memories from childhood are of getting comfy on a bed or a couch and reading through a book of logic puzzles. When I heard that all the puzzles in The Witness were going to be line puzzles on grids on panels, I was skeptical about how much depth there could actually be. The prerelease buzz got me, though, and I'm glad it did. The way The Witness takes such a simple concept of moving a line through a maze and turns it on its head, then turns it inside-out, then turns it into a goldfish, then eats the goldfish but really it was a combustion engine all along, is intensely challenging and immensely satisfying. Then you find the secret. Then you find the other secret. Then you realize the secrets have secrets. Then you curl up in a ball because The Witness has bested you.
I've been dedicated to the Ace Attorney series since the beginning, and with every game they build and build on the existing fiction in new and unexpected ways. Spirit of Justice is no different, with an intricately woven series of trials, a slew of cameos, and new hidden truths for all the main characters to discover about themselves and each other. I'm still only about halfway through the final trial as of writing this, but I feel confident in this game's placement on my list. I can't wait to see how it ends!
This game is good! It's sooo good! Unfortunately I had to sacrifice The Last Guardian to "Best Old Game" contention in 2017, but it was worth it. I dove into Final Fantasy XV hard. I hunted every hunt, quested every quest, dungeoned every dungeon, and never once got tired of it (maybe once; you know which dungeon I'm talking about). The game's unique take on action RPG combat gives players the utmost freedom for expression of tactics and skill, with the potential to take down significantly stronger enemies with enough preparation and patience. It's unfortunate that the story can't be properly appreciated without watching a mediocre anime and a middling movie, but the game rewards that effort by spinning a heartfelt tale of brotherhood, camaraderie, love, loss, duty and dedication. I had more than one instance of intense feelings, and as crazy as it sounds I might jump in for a New Game+ to see all the story tweaks they end up doing to help clear up the third act of the game. Also a quick protip, learn Airdance as soon as possible. Trust me.
What to say here? Monster Hunter is the best, and Generations brings drastic but welcome changes to that tried-and-true formula. Most notably, the fact that each weapon can now be wielded in any of four distinct hunter styles effectively quadruples the number of options when tackling a monster, and enables players to more effectively focus on their strengths when they play. Unlike previous games where I had to maintain a wide variety of weapons to deal with different monsters, I was able to overcome almost every creature in Generations using either a hammer or greatsword in the aerial style. Using a monster to boost myself 30-feet in the air, only to come back down on its head with a massive charged slash attack never gets boring.
Surprise surprise, my most disappointing game in 2016 is also my favorite game of 2016.
It's been a rough year for Street Fighter V. The game had a shaky-ass release and never fully recovered, at least in the eyes of the public. Even now, almost a year later, Capcom isn't even close to catching up and repairing their relationship with the casual audience.
As an online warrior, though, none of that matters. That's because with Street Fighter V I have had the more fun playing with people than any other fighting game. Thanks to the numerous small tweaks to lower the execution barrier for people with bad hands like me, I can play the game secure in the knowledge that when something goes wrong, it was my decision making and not my inability to perform finger acrobatics in a satisfactory way that got me. While small, the cast is varied and incredibly well balanced, and even if my preferred strategy of keepaway is somewhat weaker in V than in past iterations, I'm never so disadvantaged that I feel like it's more the game beating me than the other player.
Capcom claims to have plans for the game through 2020, and 2017 will be the first big indication of what exactly that entails. Beyond the recent balance update and some new characters, there are dozens of quality-of-life tweaks that I'm hoping will be made sometime in the next year to bring the game's quality up to a level that is more easily recommendable to fair-weather street fighters.
Maybe you picked up the game on a whim over one of the numerous winter sales, or maybe you've been on the fence ever since you first heard how busted the game was in February. Well, if fighting against other people is what you're looking for, there's no real reason not to jump in now (unless your internet is bad also it sounds rough for Australia?). Our SFV community is going pretty strong. You can find us in a couple places:
Stay safe and stay sane and play some video games in 2017.