We’re only a month and change into 2018. It’s not to late to talk about 2017 still, is it?
2017 has been a fantastic year for video games. You may have come here expecting a purely hobby based blog, however this is not the case. It is a blog for all of my interests and one thing I have made effort this year is to find some balance between my two favourite hobbies: Miniature Wargaming and Video Games. To that end I have endeavored to keep up with some of 2017’s games and do up a Top Ten List for the year.
To start things off I have some honourable mentions.
Night in the Woods – I just started playing this game after picking it up during the Holiday Steam sale. I only wished I had played this earlier in the year so that it could make it on my list. I’m about halfway through the game and it is just magical. Whether it is the haunting recreation of a small rust belt town, or the anamorphic characters who so closely resemble real people in dialogue and action. This story has a sincerity to it, something games rarely accomplish. The aesthetics, though simple, communicate the characters and settings so well. Finally the music of this game wraps it up neatly. There some really catchy tunes in the band practice, and though typically I’m terrible at rhythm games, I find myself practicing so that I don’t disappoint those in game friends I’ve grown to love so much. Be warned though, this is a heavy story. One grounded in reality, a challenge that any number of us might face.
Metroid: Samus Return – I wanted to like this game and get more into it. Metroid 2 on the Game Boy was the first of that series I ever beat without Game Genie or walkthrough. But for some reason I just didn’t have the motivation to go back to this game. I mention it only because I did enjoy what I played and didn’t overly mind the shift to polygonal graphics for a 2D entire of the Metroid series, but it didn’t capture me like previous entries. Still I hope to finish the game in 2018.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Probably the most enjoyable Legend of Zelda in a decade or so, when our family first picked up the Nintendo Switch in January, it was the reason to get it. The first 10 hours or so I found myself getting lost in this living world, beautiful, vibrant and filled numerous encounters and experiences. So why is this game not on my top ten? Well because I bounced off the game. Not for usual reasons. My daughter picked the game up and became obsessed with it. I watch in her the same enchantment I felt when I first played numerous classics on the NES that I had gone on to enjoy and obsessed over. It become more enjoyable for me to watch my daughter experience the highs and lows of Hyrule, and live through her vicariously.
And now for the actual top ten.
10. Destiny 2 – I had fun with Destiny 2, which I can’t say as much with the first Destiny. As a mostly solo player, I actually enjoyed going through the campaign, jumping into World Events, and getting up to the level cap in a relatively quick manner. I did not raid, though watching the Giant Bomb’s incredibly lengthy stream of Leviathan, which did not motivate me to start it. The characters this time around were sufficiently memorable and especially the voice work of Nathan Fillion as “Cayde” worked very well to bring some humour and breviary to what was otherwise a very dour situation for the Guardians of the Light. But at the end of the day, Destiny 2 is about shooting, and that shooting was on point and fun enough to warrant the 10 or so hours that the campaign took.
9. Tacoma – An interesting story driven game where you play the part of investigator trying to determine what happened at a catastrophic accident at Tacoma Space Station. This involves an interesting mechanic in which you are able to replay portions of the computer memories that are displayed as simple holograms representing the people and their conversations. In any given section, there could be several events happening simultaneously in which you must rewind and reposition yourself so that you can see all sides of the story. The story is intriguing and paints a dystopian future (which seems inevitable these days) in which corporations of future more influence of everyday happenings with little government regulation. Another game in which the characters are very relatable.
8. Dead Cells – During the Giant Bomb deliberations, Producer Jason was denied the chance to include Dead Cells as part of the discussion. Still being in early access, is not considered “released” for 2017. Well I have no such misgivings so I’ll happily include the game on my list. This a 2D game, pixel art based, Metroidvania, roguelike. Did I lose you? Seemly this category is chalk full of remarkable and not so remarkable entries. This game does not bring much new to the table, instead polishes the game to being one of the best of its kind. The combat is tight but frantic, never giving you too much down times. There is numerous weapons combinations feel valid, with no one set sticking out as the best. Finally the animations and aesthetics help to back up the gameplay, making a grim world in which you collect souls and use them to purchase upgrades in some sort of pixelated purgatory. And honestly, this early access game has more polish than many full releases.
9. Yakuza 0 – I’m sorry, this game has Stttttyyyyyyllllleeee (deep voice, sound sleezy). The Yakuza series is a brawler RPG out of Japan that started on the PlayStation 2 back in the early 2000s. Yakuza 0 takes a look at its roots, which in this case is Japan in the Eighties. The height of the Japanese Economic bubble, the money and champagne flowed like Dōtonbori Canal in Osaka. You play a rookie Yakuza thug that has the making of someone great, while rival clans fight over a booming real estate. In this environment you are set up as a fall guy to give someone else an advantage but in the process bring down your own family. Thus begins your story of revenge. Both characters that you play have a swagger, cocky youths that aren’t afraid to throw around their weight. But it’s not just the characters, it’s also the setting. Neon lights and numerous night clubs dot questionable neighbourhoods in Urban Japan that never sleep. This game has bravado to it, and it is both earned and deserved.
6. Wolfenstein 2 – This game is not a great shooter, especially on a gamepad. But I was not here for the shooting, I’ll leave that to Destiny 2 and last year’s Doom. I came for the story. Really. Though if you played through all of the first Wolfenstein: The New Order, you already knew that this game went places. An alternative universe in which the Nazis won and now occupy much of the Western World. Much of the game focuses on the US, with most white people choosing to side with Nazis while much of the minorities are not really given the choice. To say that this game may hit a little close to home in the current American climate may be an overstatement, but there is definitely a statement being made here. Nonetheless this is first and foremost a first person shooter power fantasy. At the end of the first game we are left believing that the main protagonist, BJ Blazkowicz, dies in the final encounter. This game opens with a timely rescue of BJ. While still recovering, Nazi’s attack your base of operations, requiring you to once again kick some ass. It is with some humour that the entire first level is done from BJ being in a wheelchair having not fully healed. From there, not even the sky is the limit.
5. Super Mario Odyssey – What a delightful game. It’s wonderful to have something so upbeat and crafted so well. In this strange adventure you try to prevent Princess Peach from being wed to Bowser (stylish sporting a white tux with top hat). The game introduces Cappy, a ghost that takes the form of hat that possess nearly anything, and take Mario with it. Most mobile, and some not so mobile objects, creatures, enemies, and friends can all be possessed by Mario with the help of Cappy. This leads to whatever being possessed donning a red Mario cap and mustache which leads to some great gags and a variety of gameplay situations. The control is tight and many of the worlds are incredibly flavorful. Rather then stars, you’re seeking out Lunas to power your airship so that you can catch bowser. Rather then having a single Luna at the end of a sprawling level, there is many spread everywhere in the world, meaning that exploration is greatly rewarded.
4. What Remains of Edith Finch – A story of a young woman from a curse family, returning home to discover who she is and who her family was. This game is very short, only about two hours long. But it makes up for this in many little vignettes that are incredible emotional. Due to the nature of the Finch’s family curse, most members come to an untimely demise, too young in life. So the subject is definitely heavy. Yet it touches these things in a much more sensitive manner then video games traditional do. But it wasn’t just the stories that held me. The setting of Edith’s family’s home is whimsical. This big beautiful house is eclectic and feels lived in, with every nook and cranny filled with objects of interest. Do not fall trap to those calling this a walking simulator. The game more than makes up for any lack of action.
3. Assassin Creed Origins – This game was a real surprise for me. I’ve never really been a fan of the series, and this game was nowhere on my radar. It was watching a Quick Look that I started seeing the setting, Greek and Roman era Egypt, that my interest was piqued. You play the last “Medjay” a sort of Ancient Egypt cop, that travels around helping people. The who assassination part of the game seems sideline for mainly exploring and doing quests for people. But for me the real pleasure comes in the exploration. Alexandria and the Great Lighthouse. Giza and the Great Pyramids. Memphis, the old capitol. What really makes this shine though is the obvious effort to make to research the setting and make it as accurate as possible. Down to fields of grains being period appropriate (according to my good friend, a Botany Nerd). The main character, Bayek, is sympathetic character and actually a really nice person. He’s friendly with children, respectful of his Elder and willing to give anyone a hand, whether Egyptian, Nubian, or Greek. In other words, completely the opposite to the usual attitude filled assholes who lead Assassin Creed games. Though there are still small parts in which you control a “future person” who’s having this entire experience through the Animus, these parts are very short lived can be almost complete skipped. The Action RPG elements do feel tacked on, but hardly take away from the experience. I’m still happily paying this game into the New Year.
2. Nier: Automata – I love that Japanese games are back. They are my first love. Nintendo, Sega, NEC and the numerous third party Japanese developers that made for those systems. This strange game is the brainchild of Yoko Taro, a bizarre Japanese developer. The game revolves around you playing Androids, built by humans to fight Machines that invaded Earth hundreds of years ago and were built by Aliens. The thing is, no has seen any Humans or Aliens. Much of this games spends its time questioning many basic things about Human emotion, what it means to be alive, to have a soul. Very esoteric stuff. And you do all this while hacking apart machines who are also having the same conversation, denying them the right of existence or self-determination. This game goes places. I can’t even begin to list on all the subjects that are touched on. The combat can seem a little shallow, especially compared to other Platinum entries. I still enjoyed it. Much of the mechanics is a bit obtuse, however the customization of your Android’s “Chip set” is crazy, even allowing you to pull out the OS Chip (which results in your Android crashing and getting a Game Over).
1. Horizon: Zero Dawn – This game seemed sadly overshadowed by the similar play style of Breath of the Wild. This Playstation 4 exclusive is a gorgeous entry from the makers of Killzone. It is very much not like their previous games, a Third Person sweeping adventure where you play the as the female protagonist named Aloy. The world in which you play is fairly large and vast open world, absolutely stunning though it can feel empty at times. The setting is a post apocalyptic one, the reason being a main story point which I will not spoil. In this world, the humans are thrown back to a time equivalent of Medieval times. Much of the world is covered in the ruins of another time. More importantly the world is also home to thousands of robots who tend to mimic animals in look and action. These robots will either flee or fight and through them comes much of the crafting in the game
All the recent tropes of open world games are here, from an unwieldy inventory, leveling and skills, crafting, armour, weapons, and even tower(ing) robots to scale in order to uncover more of the map. What really makes this stand out as my number one game of 2017 is the story, which I found riveting, the setting that supported that setting and its characters. Having some of the best visuals of the year and incredible soundtrack and folley work to back it up (it doesn’t take long to learn the sound of a dangerous attack coming from behind) helps overcome others of this list. Finally what cements its position is the enjoyment of actually playing this game. Whether it be hunting the robots, overcoming some of the larger variants, exploring or complete story driven quests, this game never felt like a chore. It is actually the first game I received the platinum trophy, it was relatively easy thanks to being fun to complete every facet.
If you’re still reading, thank you. If you’re here for miniature painting, don’t worry, an update on the Novamarines and plans for Adepticon are coming.
Until next time,