2017 -- Finished

Games (from any year) which I finished playing in 2017.

List items

  • 01/02 -- Not for me.

  • 01/04 -- Interesting concept. My first run was pretty fun but the gameplay is slow for repeats.

  • 01/08 -- The 4-player co-op missions with different perk paths seemed promising. Unfortunately, the one-note mission design and glut of DLC options get dull pretty quickly.

    The theme isn't much, unless you love the idea of shooting tons of police and SWAT guys.

  • 01/21 -- I like what Square Enix was going for. The setting and sense of camaraderie are really cool, the active battle and magic systems were fun and the cinematics (not surprisingly) are top-notch. XV's car stereo/mp3 mechanic and photography mechanic were both unique and thematic -- the photography especially so.

    Its execution has flaws, but I'm more optimistic about the future of Final Fantasy now.

  • 01/24 -- Short, with an interesting twist. (The style is also a little nostalgic.)

  • 02/05 -- Not amazing, but the setting is relatively unique.

    This article does a pretty good job of summarizing it: http://www.pcgamer.com/revisiting-alpha-protocol-obsidians-flawed-but-fascinating-spy-rpg/

  • 02/10 -- Who knew that letters could be so evil?

    You'll very likely learn more from a workbook or class, but Hiragana Battle is a fun way to practice Hiragana in a short and light JRPG.

  • 02/17 (five stars) -- CSD! is a blast. The theme meshes incredibly well with rapid-fire gameplay, learning and restaurant progression.

    CSD! suffered some of the Darkest Dungeon syndrome for me. The variety and progression slow down about halfway through the "campaign". Shortening the path to five stars probably would have been the best solution, although more progression points and meta-gameplay elements (menu combinations, restaurant customization, etc.) could have kept it exciting for longer.

  • 02/20 -- a short, visually impressive tale which almost felt like a tech demo. The pseudo co-op gameplay is clever and representative (though it didn't grab me as much as it grabbed others). The storytelling surprised me after the initial parts, in a way similar to Child of Light.

  • 03/06 (Cadence) -- Both this and Cook, Serve, Delicious! are relatively short games that I could see myself playing more of. Moving on for now to work on the backlog.

    I'm not sure I ever imagined a cross between a roguelike and a techno dance party (i.e. rhythm game). They make it work though -- the modern roguelike elements are solid (interesting items, permanent upgrades) and the semi real-time, "turn-based to the rhythm" gameplay is unique and fun.

  • 04/01 -- HoD's combat and loot systems were kind of fun, if somewhat basic. It's a shame that it lacks any sort of supporting content (other than randomly generated kill quests).

  • 04/01 -- In many ways, a faithful successor to the original. Quirky, funny and curiously styled. Online co-op was easy and generally stable -- a huge plus for this kind of game in my book.

    It has a few flaws, partly because of the mold and partly design and polish. Overall, though, I enjoyed it and would recommend it to fans of the original.

  • 04/02 (Android version) -- Not the best Final Fantasy, but it does some pretty cool things for a game made in the 80's. It's worth trying out just for the weapon/spell progression mechanics.

  • 04/06 -- Pretty good, especially for a free game. The creepiness level is higher than expected for this one.

  • 04/07 -- A fun, polished experience with a lot of smart gameplay design. Horizon's writing is also generally good -- its setting is especially unique, and a lot of gameplay elements make sense in the context of this world. The aesthetics are great, from robot designs like the Thunderjaw and Tallneck, to the styles of the tribal towns and clothing, to the winding rivers, back-lit snowy peaks, bright desert mesas and many other features of the open world itself.

    Horizon shares some basic issues with other open world games. Side quests helped fill out the world, but some were simple, blandly written and followed a few gameplay patterns. There are too many collectibles, some encouraging exploration and visiting cool places, but many just randomly placed and unrewarding. Horizon's ending also seemed weak to me.

  • 04/19

  • 05/01 (Normal, AGHW) -- I've petered out in the middle of my second playthrough. "Disappointing" would be a strong word, although the general hype around the game was pretty high. The game is well-polished, combat is generally pretty fun and the weapons and upgrade systems seemed interesting.

    NieR's story, though perhaps clever, really doesn't resonate with me. The setting is interesting enough, if "anime", but the "perspective on humanity" beats often came across as weird or even vulgar. Its open world is also pretty bland and many of its side quests are simply tedious.

  • 05/03 -- Card Crawl is seemingly simple, but ends up being fun, varied and portable.

  • 05/11 -- Fun enough to complete everything, despite the frustrating randomness. I wondered what the developers were thinking... turns out they were feeling spiteful.

  • 06/03 -- The DS remake's new art style initially concerned me (along with the initial characterization of the heroes), but this proves to be a reasonably faithful remake. I find that I still really like some of FF3's story beats and its classes. Its relatively inflexible class system and punishing dungeons do make FF3 feel dated now. (The full translation also probably made some of the weirder story beats more noticeable to me.) Still, it's among my favorite Final Fantasy titles.

    My party was an aggressive build using a Thief, Red Mage, Monk and Fighter, transitioning into Ninja (x2), Black Belt and Knight and experimenting with a Geomancer and Summoner along the way.

  • 06/16 (Steam, Normal mode) -- Simple and kind of relaxing. Feels like a mobile game.

  • 06/20 (Issac Goldenlake) -- Celestian Tales is very... indie. To be fair, I enjoyed it overall. It's reasonably quick for a JRPG, and I liked its themes and plot arc. The experience is unfortunately held back by a general lack of polish. Flat graphics, stiff animations, etc. Perhaps worst of all (for a game carried by its writing), are the not-uncommon grammatical errors.

  • 06/29 -- I enjoyed Endless Legend more than Endless Space, probably because the systems were a little more familiar and accessible. That said, I lean toward lighter strategy games (like Warlock).

    Thematically, it's pretty cool. Set in the same "Endless" universe as Endless Space and Dungeon of the Endless, it's more sci-fi than I expected. Many of the unit and environment designs looks like the kind of unique, elaborate concept art you might find on DeviantArt or similar online social art sites.

  • 07/03 -- Turns out that choose-your-own-adventure books can make fun mobile games.

  • 07/08 -- Having just played Horizon: Zero Dawn, I see a lot of similarities with Shadow of Mordor: both are well-crafted AAA games with somewhat focused worlds and a story through-line. Shadow of Mordor has the stronger core gameplay, while I'd give Horizon the nod for setting with its plethora of unique style decision.

  • 07/10 -- At the end of the day, I wish I had read a plot synopsis rather than playing LIS. It's a slow burn, with the majority of the first three chapters setting the stage: small town corruption, school drama, local bullies, drug dealers and angry stepdads. These are all great things to escape by playing a video game... I guess the Americana setting didn't grab me.

    I do give Dontnod credit for the level of detail and generally not-awful gameplay, in this sometimes-shaky genre. The final segments also played with some great story ideas.

  • [Backed on Kickstarter]

    07/21 -- I've uploaded a Steam review (http://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198066955533/recommended/396750) and a YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJjM0HfX4LE) sharing my thoughts about EVERSPACE.

  • 08/12 -- Torment: Tides of Numenera might not break any new ground, but it's still a story worth playing. It's set in a fantastical sci-fi world of advanced, long-forgotten technology, alien creatures and psychic labyrinths. Your protagonist is literally dropped in the middle of events, with vague recollections of the mysteries and history of the world around him/her.

    ToN's game systems also grew on me, particularly the effort system. Sure, the dice rolls can be gamed, but it allows a lot more dialogue flexibility (and party member participation) than more fixed systems. Require the same stat pools for combat and add in some resting constraints (like story pressure) and it creates an engaging resource management element to your dialogue choices.

    Claiming to be a successor to Planescape: Torment is a tall order -- possibly a damaging one for ToN. By borrowing fanfare and writing elements from P:T, ToN may already lose much of the novelty and uniqueness which helped define P:T as a sleeper hit. For me, ToN stands fine on its own. Those looking for another P:T don't seem happy, though -- I've seen a lot of community complaints on this line. (Many that it's not the same. A few others that it's too similar.)

  • 08/13 -- Whew, Majora's Mask almost lost me more than once. I can see why its reception is so mixed. I bounced back and forth between enjoying it and being ready to quit -- even the ending segment was a bit of a sour note.

    On the positive side, MM explores some really cool ideas. You watch the effects of an impending disaster on Clock Town, and learn the ins and outs of the residents of Termina as you interact with them, resetting time over and over. Even though you can't keep all your items, sometimes learning the right information or time allows you to influence the course of events. Oh, and there's a giant, angry moon.

    On the other hand, MM's core design lends itself to forced repetition, tedious management and an ever-present hanging deadline. MM heavily reuses Ocarina, down to gameplay and art assets. It's been over a decade since I played Ocarina, but MM still felt like a gameplay rehash at many parts. Story-wise, though, Majora's Mask has a level of bizarreness which seemed dissonant for a direct sequel to Ocarina. Ocarina is, at least in parts, a grounded fantasy epic (think Lord of the Rings). Majora's Mask is much more of a dark fairy tale (think Pan's Labyrinth?), or possibly even a shounen manga (think Naruto?).

  • 08/15 -- Disappointing. Cryptark has a lot of interesting components, but it isn't fun to play. Combat is costly and not rewarding, so it's generally best avoided. That leaves rushing around over-sized maps to disable key systems as quickly as possible. Infini-spawns, aggressive physics and other random or punitive effects add to the frustration, in a game which already features tight deadlines and a strict campaign economy.

    The design elements themselves have promise, perhaps separately or balanced together differently (e.g. the tight campaign economy, bouncy shooter gameplay and element of strategy in targeting systems).

    08/16 (UPDATE) -- The Rogue mode is a little better, but the core gameplay is mostly the same.

  • [Backed on Kickstarter]

    08/20 -- Sundered is a decent take on the action-RPG/Metroidvania genre, held back by a few big design flaws. Overall, it was worth playing but with needless frustration along the way.

    On the positive side, Sundered has a unique art style and light Lovecraftian lore. The combat isn't complex, but has some satisfying beat-em-up elements. I also liked elements of the exploration, platforming, enemy designs, progression and the map shuffling mechanic. The boss fights are also pretty great.

    Sundered's issues stem from its combat and progression. Enemies are deigned to be mobile, often able to travel or shoot through platforms. They're sprinkled into the semi-random map sections, with occasional "horde" spawns (and in several unlabeled challenge sections, true infinite spawns). Enemies can pour on-screen in at any time, often while you're exploring or focusing on dangerous (semi-random) environmental hazards. These enemies appear randomly, move freely, can often shoot from any direction and sometimes have push effects, leading to frustrating deaths out of the player's control. (After my experience with both Cryptark and Sundered, I feel like there needs to be an ice-bucket test for any developer considering infini-spawns.) This is probably exacerbated by the game's necessary progression, which is heavily obscured at the beginning of the game. Defeating regular enemies doesn't reward much experience for much of the game, and the nature of the grid system leads to power spikes. Add in unusually long loading times for any PC game (much less a 2D game), and swaths of the game became slow and frustrating. I enjoyed Sundered most at the beginning (when the game was balanced for no upgrades) and toward the end (when the game seemed balanced again, and I had full access to abilities and perks).

  • 08/31 (Hard 1) -- Shadow Dragon is a fairly straightforward take on the Fire Emblem formula. The storytelling is light, although it's neat to see some of the original elements (partly because of the nostalgia, and partly since they're oft-alluded to).

  • 09/08 (SFC) -- Final Fantasy V is big. (It's also the first game I played in full 日本語! ...leaning heavily on an English script and walkthrough.) That may have to do with my pace of play.

    The cast of characters grew on me as I played, from Bartz and Galuf all the way to Gilgamesh. The story has some cool ideas, though many of the individual plot points come across as weird or silly (even for a Final Fantasy). The late-game and ending visuals are pretty amazing.

    FFV borrows a couple of high-level story ideas from FFIII, although FFV's strengths are in its characters and its own unique elements. The class system has some pretty cool ideas and crazy/broken effects. I had some confusion and grinding/pacing issues with it, along with some frustrations around trading off utility effects like Dash and Find Pits.

  • 09/14 -- With a little better execution, OMDU "coulda been a contender" for an all-time co-op favorite. It's still a really fun game, but development and business decisions frustrate the experience at times (sort of like Destiny). Account levels, loot boxes and missing PvE features (like map restarts) all come to mind.

    Some of the things OMD2 did well, OMDU actually does better. There are several heroes now, who are a little less flexible but with unique abilities and playstyles. There are new dynamic challenges, such as mercenary spawns and unstable rifts. The new heroes and enemies also allowed Robot to pour in even more character and hilarious lines (with excellent voice acting).

  • ----- MINOR GAMEPLAY SPOILERS -----

    09/17 -- War of the Chosen takes the base XCOM 2 campaign and layers on a lot of new ideas: some fun, some interesting and some tedious. It's a fun package, if wild and overwhelming at times. War of the Chosen would have benefited from a shorter campaign, or possibly alternate win conditions.

    XCOM 2's campaign. I've already played it. It's long, y'all.

    The new classes are pretty interesting, experimenting with fun mechanics like stealth and melee. I also really like the new Training Center (versus the old AWS), and bonding soldiers created some neat situations (like my Ranger who'd sweep in after her Demolition friend blew the aliens' cover). There isn't much new story to speak of, but the new propaganda touches add a really cool bit of character. The Chosen missions themselves were pretty good (love the new weapons), although randomly throwing Chosen and "Lost" enemies into missions could really draw them out. Managing soldier fatigue and personality quirks was also mildly annoying at times.

  • 09/24 -- Another solid entry in the Fire Emblem franchise. Echoes has a pretty cool story, and does a great job in the moment-to-moment storytelling. (This is a weakness of some Fire Emblem games, like Birthright/Conquest.) The characters and dialogue are still a strength of the game. Echoes tones this back a bit, which is OK -- the dating sim aspect can be fun, but doesn't need to be in every single entry. (I'm sure it also takes a lot of the writers' attention.) The gameplay changes, like the class and promotion mechanics, are also substantial enough to mix up the familiar formula. (It's cool to see how these ideas came from the original Gaiden.) The turnwheel is yet another excellent addition.

    Minor complaints include some of the grinding options, partly due to a little confusion about the mechanics. Mission design also seems to be more thematic than gameplay focused. For example, it's common to see missions filled with mages, or a mix of mages, archers and physical units. This makes classes like Knight and Pegasus Knight very tricky to use.

  • 10/03 -- Hmm. A decent time, but nothing to write home about. I never fell in love with the colorful-yet-grotesque style. Gameplay picks up after a slow start.

  • 10/04 -- I had a good time with Hollow Knight, although I found myself fatigued more than once. I definitely appreciate Hollow Knight's level of polish, including some smart, modern design and mechanics. The size and scope of the game probably push the 2D-exploration genre further than I care to go. Familiar gates and locks, backtracking and traversing the huge map add a lot of travel time to the gameplay. Its atmosphere and lore have their moments, but didn't grab me consistently.

    Overall, I probably enjoyed a "Metroidvania" like Axiom Verge more. The novel and less obvious mechanics, atmosphere and smaller overall package made the exploration a lot more interesting and exciting.

  • [Backed on Kickstarter]

    ----- MINOR SPOILERS -----

    10/11 (New Game, NG+) -- Tokyo Dark didn't turn out quite how I expected, but I still enjoyed the game overall.

    Tokyo Dark's greatest strength might be its atmosphere, created by its aesthetics and audio. Its unique indie anime style worked pretty well for this, and the soundtrack and effects especially set the mood. The story is pretty heavy, but is well-told. (Visiting a cat cafe and maid cafe in Akihabara also felt authentically Tokyo!)

    The story ended up feeling a little more like a supernatural horror story to me, than the detective story or psychological thriller I expected. I appreciated not getting lost in the gameplay, although it feels too restrictive on options at times. Cherrymochi also laid the groundwork for an interesting attribute system, called SPIN. This gives actions interesting consequences -- taking medication, for example, might make you more mentally stable but less focused. It unfortunately wasn't obvious to me in two (fairly similar) playthroughs how the attributes actually affected the story or options.

  • ----- SPOILERS -----

    10/25 -- Breath of the Wild is a really good game with some great discovery and sandbox gameplay, though I had my fair share of open-world tedium and frustrations.

    Nintendo has put their stamp on the open-world genre in a lot of fun and innovative ways. Breath of the Wild looks great, and somehow gives even a technical show-piece like Horizon: Zero Dawn a run for its money. (The screenshot feature -- FINALLY -- is also fun.) Difficulty is engaging but generally unpunishing. Exploration is open and unforced, but maps, sensors, side-quests and plenty of interesting landmarks guide the experience. The game's many systems (like weapons, armor, climate and the weather) are somehow mostly intuitive and not over-complicated. The memory cut-scenes are also a cool open-world storytelling mechanism. (I like Breath of the Wild's Zelda as a frustrated, scholarly princess, and Link as a son of a Hylian knight and renowned, fallen champion.)

    That said, the usual big, open-world game suspects are here, including collectathons (shrines, Koroks, etc.), material hunts (for side quests and armor upgrades), traversal time and loads of inventory management. Sandbox gameplay is a matter of personal taste -- they're fun until they aren't. The longer the game goes, the less novel it is to climb a massive mountain, deal with rain, snow or lightning, motion controls or fiddly physics puzzles. The game's subtle communication style also has its drawbacks -- I never found inventory upgrades, and more than once wasted a frustrating amount of time following a vague hint or side-quest.

  • 10/29 -- Pyre's gameplay has been described to me as a "sports" game, but that's a narrow description with the wrong connotations. I would start by drawing comparisons to the Banner Saga -- you meet companions, learn about them through involved character dialogue, travel as a group and influence your journey through various choices, in addition to winning or failing. There's also a similar RPG layer for developing your companions.

    Overall, I really liked Pyre. Supergiant put some of their familiar style, music and themes in the game, while exploring a much different story with a lot of good writing in another well-developed world. (Transistor's slow ramp also didn't grab me as much as I had hoped, so I'm very happy to see another strong SG game.)

  • 11/01 (FDS version) -- Tougher than I remembered, especially dungeon 6. The FDS differences are kind of neat (although the short controller cables and disk load times probably aren't the best experience). The 8-bit katakana was also surprisingly tough for me to read.

  • 11/02 (FDS version)

  • 11/04 (FDS version) -- It's a bit of a bummer to stop at 8-4 but, after a few hours, my PC ran out of disk space for capturing then my FDS shut itself down. That's probably a good stopping point.

  • 11/12 (Imajin) -- Gameplay-wise, it's nearly identical to how I remember (the American version of) Mario 2. This game is actually really cool for an early platformer -- loads of fanciful creatures and varied mechanics. And Phanto, or at least his mellow older brother.

    It's pretty cool to see a game which, to some degree, shaped the Mario franchise's main characters and common foes. (Seeing Nintendo go all-in on revisiting Mario 2 in a modern 3D title could also be fantastic.)

  • 11/14 (Steam) -- Hmm. Quite a few technical issues with the PC version. Very much in the Mega Man mold. I liked the lock-on system.

  • 11/19 (FDS) -- Compared to Mario, Zelda I and Doki Doki Panic, Zelda II had more gameplay-related text and a number of version differences.

  • 11/26 (FDS) -- Super Metroid may be a gaming hallmark, but the original is flawed. Modest pickups for health and ammo require grinding for refills, and the difficulty curve swings wildly. (A few, well-hidden pickups like the Screw Attack almost break the game.)

    The original doesn't quite have the atmosphere of newer entries, and repeated rooms don't help with exploration.

  • 12/16 -- Prey is a good time overall, but it doesn't execute on all of its ideas.

  • 12/26 (~Day 28) -- At first, Human Resource Machine is kind of a neat puzzle game closely resembling an assembly language. As the puzzles become more complex, though, it feels like something worse. A lack of basic flow control, mathematical operators and even typed labels make trivial problems unnecessarily hard.

    As a software engineer, this is the kind of over-constrained problem-solving I grudgingly practice for obtuse university exams or technical interviews. Solving unusual problems may be a good test of creativity or core knowledge, but I suppose I prefer more realistic, meaningful challenges.

  • 12/29 (300 moons) -- Odyssey is a cool 3D Mario game which (aptly) covers a lot of ground. There's a lot of classic free-roaming and platforming, alongside a varied new mechanic of attacking, controlling enemies or traveling using a mysterious hat. Odyssey has a lot of delightful, cosmetic details, and includes plenty of awesome throwbacks with its new ideas.

    Like Breath of the Wild (and, separately, Hollow Knight) this year, Odyssey is probably just too big. Its main campaign is fairly long and full of mediocre boss fights. Its large number of power moons are locked behind a wide range of challenges -- many fun, but quite a few which are experimental, repetitive or simply frustrating. (Mario 64, for example, probably had more consistent challenges and a generally more satisfying pace.)

    I don't want to be too harsh or critical on Nintendo for going big or being experimental. Odyssey is really good and (for me) streamlining would make it better.

  • 09/07 (multiplayer) -- I had my eye on Armello for a while, although I was hesitant to pick it up. Community feedback was mixed. The criticism isn't wrong -- Armello is full of random elements, which is even worse with AI involved. It's not uncommon to feel limited, while other gameplay mechanics can be too powerful.

    Still, Armello's charm won me over on the first game. My wolf shield-maiden had, thematically, found good defensive combat equipment. After collecting the four spirit stones needed to cure the king, she persevered, successfully entering the castle on her third attempt. Despite being branded a traitor, she held off four attacks by the enraged kings' guards with her tower shield, plus the slings and attacks of the other (more selfish) nobles, finally purifying the rightful king of Armello.

    Armello's unique character and style helped it create games like this which (for me, at least) felt like a story-book tale.

  • 09/20 (multiplayer) -- Fun and reminiscent of the Left 4 Dead franchise. The progression system is painful (though I'm not sure how this helps the game or business model).

  • 12/31 (Operation 003)