|This sure was a year for video games, eh?|
Despite still being respectable entries that rightfully earned their salt in the lists of others, I simply have gotten more time or entertainment out of other games this year. Still, here are a few games that just missed making the cut.
Honorable Mentions - ‘Puzzles that confound, fun that remains bound and shadow zombies aboard trains; zounds!’
Jonathan Blow went and did good again, but unfortunately I’m too stupid to find out just how good The Witness could be. I found myself frequently running face first into puzzles that I simply could not parse or figure out, and looking up solutions would only make me feel like a cheater and ruin the splendor of trouncing a real head-scratcher. I never was one much for puzzlers to begin with, but I can certainly appreciate what The Witness tried to do and applaud its cleverness.
Overwatch is a good game that I wish I could refund. Nevermind that it’s a team-based shooter that somehow doesn’t even have a blessed capture the flag mode, but Blizzards’ eagerness to leap into the competitive foray has seemingly bred an incredible amount of salt, ill-will and zealous assault of players with poor skill. It still has a great variety of characters and play styles to pick from that feel grand when in symbiotic harmony, but even in quick play - A mode that should only breed friendly competition - the community is just far too quick to be dismissive and toxic towards anyone who makes even the slightest (arguable) error in judgement when making their hero pick or whiff on an ultimate.
The Final Station
Perhaps the game needed more time in order to produce a better script or iron out translation issues, but The Final Station could’ve been something above subpar in terms of a 2D ‘action’ game. The Final Station goes to some interesting places and can be legitimately creepy, eerie and make you question events, but the incredible weight of the storyline is muted due to how dutiful and robotic your protagonist is. Maybe more choices of ethics would have bogged the game down or may’ve made it better, but it was certainly different and told enough of an interesting story to garner my approval.
2016 hasn’t been the best year in a lot of regards… And then there were these games that stood out in all the wrong ways.
Dishonorable Mentions - ‘Deceit in space, a story by a basket case and a game that delights in eating your face.’
No Man’s Sky
Whatever I say about the game would simply be parroting what has already been said by everyone and their mother - No Man’s Sky has been a master class on hype-trains, poor management, accountability (or the lack thereof) and buyer beware mentality, but despite the deceit and false promises, there’s still something resembling a good product here somewhere. To go around star systems, gather materials and better both my spaceship and myself tickles that certain part of my brain, and the recent Foundation update has been a step in the right direction for HelloGames to right their wrongs. They have a mountain to climb in order to atone for Sean Murray’s colossally big mouth, but if they pull off the impossible, we’ll certainly have a winner.
It’s a shame that an interesting art style and quality soundtrack are lost on the most laughably and infuriatingly worst piece of writing and storytelling I’ve seen in ages - Just because you can get weird, bizarre and ‘totally out there’ doesn’t mean you should, and it takes a legitimately intriguing tale on thrills, disappearances and trust and just dumps it all right into the bin because somehow aliens and time-traveling body-swapping is involved. An absolute train-wreck of ‘art’ this is.
There’s a line between being difficult and oppressive to the player for them to overcome and triumph over hardship, and then there’s downright cheating in order to make the player lose. Nevermind the challenge in simply getting a healthy start to a new game, but the dice rolls and RNG (at least from my experience) seem to be heavily tilted against you - To have a fully lit torch and be ambushed three times in a row in quick succession? Nah. If a game wants to try its damndest to make sure I fail, then it can take its challenge and get stuffed.
And now, the list!
10. Shadow Warrior 2
I wasn’t expecting anymore wang, nevermind a page being taken out of Diablo’s books with loot by the truck load. While I have yet to try out the cooperative play, more exploding gun-bang action never goes astray in my books, even if the menus are hair ripping-ly poor for trying to compare weapon-enhancing gems to find out which has the best benefits. While the open, sandbox-like nature of the levels may irk some ‘purists’, Shadow Warrior 2 is still explosive fun.
I’m really bad at Thumper and can only get As or Bs in level rankings, but it certainly is something when compared to other rhythm games I’ve played in the past. With visual pollution and downright mean obstacle placement being my biggest issues, the dark, metallic soundtrack and visceral pleasure from nailing notes and wall grinds makes Thumper a game that’ll tax your concentration, reflexes and memory.
Ignoring the pretentious story that had little impact or value, Superhot ended up being a very interesting and challenging take on mixing first person shooters and puzzle elements. To pull Matrix-style dodges and room-clearing maneuvers in slow motion only to watch it all play out in real time upon success was never not satisfying. While I was burned out on the game after I finished its main campaign, Superhot delivers good value with other game modes and challenges to keep you busy.
7. Devil Daggers
Such a devious, inexpensive little game; controls that’ve been honed to Quake-like perfection, sounds design that makes your skin crawl in the best way possible, and record-breaking runs that can be cut down by one wayward skull taking a bite out of your shoulder. It’s criminal how much Devil Daggers just works as a creepy time attack shooter, especially considering how cheap it is.
I came for a story on personal discovery, and what I got was a thriller rudely forcing its way in. Firewatch suffered from having two very different stories getting in the way of one another, but when the focus is set on Delilah and Henry’s interactions, the game is at its best. The thriller aspects of the story may have served as an ‘interesting’ or ‘exciting’ way of keeping the plot from becoming stale, but it only gave Firewatch an identity crisis and dragged the enjoyment out of it.
5. Killing Floor 2
After the amount of time I sank into the first Killing Floor, it was a given that I bought into the sequel the very instant Early Access went live for the game. It plays smoother, faster and of course bloodier, but there’s still not as much new content that I was hoping for in terms of a sequel, even upon full release. Future support has been promised to bring more weapons and play style options in the future, but for anyone who even had brief fun with the first game, its sequel is definitely worth getting… If on sale.
4. Pac-Man Championship Edition 2
I’m a sucker for Pac-Man’s neon arcade action after the first game, so of course I got the sequel day one and went to town trying to get those high scoring S ranks. The game plays at a faster, better flowing speed than the original thanks to the new rule sets, and damned if the soundtrack doesn’t pull its weight to dial you in and concentrate while making you groove and bounce in your seat.
3. Civilization 6
Unsurprisingly for a 4X fan as myself, Civilization 6 was a must-buy for me and continues to prove itself as a must-buy for strategy fans. I wasn’t nearly as irked by the gameplay changes and art style as some, but I still grind my teeth when it comes to how picky and swift to temperament the AI can be with little to no reason for their ire to be raised. Regardless, Civilization 6 is still a strategy game that makes an entire day go by with turn after turn passing with brief downtime.
2. Stardew Valley
I’m pretty sure a majority of Stardew Valley players were surprised at how much charm, heart and relaxed fun was to be found in this Harvest Moon-like, but I would argue that it has done plenty to separate itself from its mainstream comparison. While there’s never enough time in a day to maximize your efficiency, the chill nature of the games makes it effortlessly easy to relax while working on your farm, foraging for materials or getting your friendship on with the locals… Did I mention it’s under twenty bucks, too?
I had many reservations about the newest Doom upon its announcement, i.e it being modernized to the point of incredible mediocrity, but thankfully the people behind this iteration of Doom knew full well what kind of game they were making. It’s loud, intense, brutal, satisfying and everything I could ever hope for after the ho-hum nature of Doom 3. While its multiplayer and online components are merely passable at best, Doom delivers one of the best single player campaigns I’ve had the pleasure of stomping through in a long, long time.
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|pickhut - December 22, 2016 (01:26 PM)
Man, it's bizarre to think I haven't touched any of these games on your list. The closest I ever got was Doom, but I only purchased the game because it was on sale for $20 a few months back. For some reason, I keep forgetting about Pac Champ 2, despite being absolutely in love with the original when it first came out. I need to give that a go soon.
If there was one game on your list I was for sure going to play, it would be Shadow Warrior 2... but I'm still waiting for the PS4 port, so it's more of a waiting game.
|Genj - December 23, 2016 (01:25 AM)
DOOM is also on my GOTY list but significantly lower. I wouldn't even say it's the best FPS this year. In fact, I wouldn't even say it had the best single player campaign of an FPS this year. It is really good though.
I wanted to play Virginia because I heard it was like Twin Peaks but just never got around to it. Also really want to try out Killing Floor 2 whenever it's on sale.
|Dinoracha - December 23, 2016 (03:51 AM)
@pickhut - Save for doing comparisons in menus being trash, Shadow Warrior 2 has been real user-friendly in the frequency of their updates and patches. They even released a free DLC recently.
@Genj - For sheer enjoyment per hour, Doom was my best takeaway out of everything else. One may ask why I didn't select Titanfall 2 for example, and the short answer is the lack of funds recently.
I'd say save your money on Virginia - Twin Peaks was entertaining in its apparent lunacy while Virginia is just trying way too hard. And Killing Floor 2 is still good fun with future, promised updates and support to come.
|hastypixels - December 23, 2016 (05:42 AM)
I gotta say I wouldn't have played Stardew Valley if I hadn't received it in my Humble Monthly subscription, but I vouch for its value at full price. I also had to review the darn thing, even though I haven't the time to play it nearly as much as I'd like to.
I'm on the verge of picking up Firewatch, too. It just looks that interesting to me. Every time I read about it I hear something compelling. Dagnabit, how'mi s'pose'ta play all 'em now?
Thanks for your list, Dinoracha.
|Dinoracha - December 27, 2016 (01:24 PM)
@hastypixels - The critic/personal sides of me are at odds with Firewatch, so if it's on sale I'd say go for it.