My Favorite Games This Year

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If you’ve followed gaming news this year, I feel it’s important to tell you that this article comes as is. No micro transactions or Loot boxes to entice you into continue reading. It’s unfortunate that these things have bubbled up to the surface and fans have had enough. It’s a problem I’m supposed to be empathetic too. Games cost more money to make there for I should just accept them and try to ignore them. That being said some games this year have made the ignoring part impossible. Games like NBA 2K, Destiny, Star Wars: Battlefront 2 and strangely Middle Earth: Shadow of War have had some controversy warranted or not it exists, and it follows these games.
I love story games; I love this medium mostly for its interactivity but also for its ability to tell compelling narratives. And considering EA shut down Visceral studios (for probably valid reasons) and shuttered the Mass Effect franchise, Story driven games at the triple-A level are in limbo at the moment. The point of this grim opening is to say that it’s been a strange year in gaming but also maybe the best regarding quality. Now, unfortunately, I don’t own a Nintendo Switch, (Gasp) Yes I know. Blasphemy so two apparent exceptions to my list will be Mario Odyssey and Zelda: Breath Of The Wild two games that would have surely made my list were I an owner of that console. That being said these are the games I enjoyed the most this 2017. But First, let’s continue with the bad.

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This list will contain 10 total games but only the final five will be mentioned in a larger paragraph. But before we get to the top ten some honorable mentions include games like Telltale’s Batman season 2, Life Is Strange: Before The Storm, and Dishonored: Death Of The Outsider, On to the list.

10.) Destiny 2 – Best shooting mechanics available today. Nothing plays quite like it.

9.) Mass Effect: Andromeda – I have a soft spot for Bioware games and this is Bioware lite.

8.) Uncharted: Lost Legacy – Great spin off for the best side character in all of Uncharted.

7.) Injustice 2 – Surprisingly awesome story inside a great fighting game

6.) Assassin’s Creed: Origins – Bayek is the best Assassin character since Ezio.

EF

Walking simulators have dwindled in quantity but certainly not in quality when it comes to What Remains Of Edith Finch, much like Personas art style is a benefit to my love for it. Edith Finch succeeds on its storytelling and heart that it displays over the few hours you play it. It’s the story of a family that has horrible luck, and you are going through old family things trying to piece together how things got to the way they are now. I won’t say any more than that since it’s a game that deserves to be experienced over being told to you. There is no gameplay loop or experience to earn it’s just a great story told very interestingly over time.

divinity

Divinity Original Sin 2 is an oddly paced game. The first act and the last arc are approximately the same lengths at about 4 to 5 hours, but everything in the middle could take you months to complete. I played the predecessor to Divinity: Original Sin on the console and liked it but felt it need more unification. More linearity. Now I’m not saying it needed a hallway to run down and kill orcs to get to the next objective I just needed a bit of a waypoint. And Divinity: OS2 feels like a bigger and better version of the first game. It feels like (and can be played like) a D & D game with your friends. A smooth narration that flows the entire game, beginning to end. I can’t imagine how many lines this man had to read to fill literally every little thing that happens in this game. Along with fully voiced companions that can join your crew on your adventure. It’s these somewhat little things that make this game feel more than its previous incarnation. And all of those things standing next to some incredible turn-based combat and weather dynamics makes this game feel like a contender for Game Of The Year. If you’re a fan of Dragon Age, The Witcher or any sort of Fantasy RPGs, then Divinity Original Sin 2 is the game for you.

persona

My love for the Persona series stems from my PlayStation Vita. Persona 4 Golden was the reason I purchased a Vita, and it was kind of the only game I ever played on my Vita. But now on a much more powerful console with many years of development behind it, Persona 5 brings this fan fevered franchise the spotlight it deserves. The style and art direction of this game are off the charts cool. And as a graphic designer, I absolutely love it because of that. But behind all the glitz and swagger is an entertaining RPG loop that is drenched in a great story. Now while I still feel as though I like P4’s characters more part of me also thinks that’s just nostalgia talking. These kids are real people who find themselves trapped under bureaucracy, contempt, and adults who have taken advantage of the system that built them up. It’s a story that feels larger than life but also has time for moments like going to the library to study for an upcoming test. One day I’ll be grinding through a dungeon to get to the next level only to be talking about summer break plans in the next half hour. It has a charm that most games don’t come close too accomplishing.

wolfenstien

This game is badass. Much like Bethesda’s other series Doom, this game punches you in the face, and your only response is “Yes sir, may I have another?” It’s a strange realization I had about an hour or two into the game where I kept getting my ass kicked but kept wanting to go back for more. And if that scares you away from most games believe me I understand and am usually the same way, But this game is so enjoyable to play once you finally click with it. Towards the end of the game, I became a Nazi killing machine and had a blast doing so while the soundtrack blasted in my ears. But not only is it fun to play; it has a sense of style and direction that most shooters don’t bother with. The story could easily be passed off as a Nazi killing gallery, but it has so much heart and respect for these characters that it’s impossible not to love them by the end of the game. People worry that the single-player experience is dead. Well, Wolfenstein slaps that idea in the face. If you long for the days of no loot boxes or micro-transactions then immediately pick up Wolfenstein 2.

horizon

Since Nathan Drake has officially started retirement and Sony is left without a mascot, unless you count Sack Boy’s corpse as a suitable replacement. Horizon has stepped up to the plate and is more than happy to take on the role left in Uncharted’s wake. Not only is Aloy a remarkable character with pathos and a broad set of beliefs that help you relate to her struggles throughout the game, but She also has some of the most fun game mechanics I’ve played all year. Using a bow and arrow in games is usually my preferred way of playing. Games like Tomb Raider and Farcry are more fun; I think when I use that type of weaponry. But Horizon overcomes the shortcomings of those mechanics by making it quick and fluid something most games don’t use when operating a bow. Sliding, climbing, zip lining and shooting all work in tandem and they work perfectly together.

Not to mention it’s one of the prettiest console games ever made. Everyone used to marvel at skyboxes and lighting effects towards the end of the PS3/360 era, but it’s slowly faded in priority and excitement. Rightfully so most games look similar unless they are going for a unique art style, But Horizon can look like real life. I have several pictures saved on my PS4 of just vistas and lighting effects taken from inside the game. Those are the things Zero Dawn does exceptionally well, but the RPG mechanics and game design are also superb for a team that has never made a role-playing game before. Guerrilla Games has built a franchise that achieved far more in its first game than what other studios produce in their first three games. Horizon: Zero Dawn is special, and it’s without a doubt my favorite game this year.

 

 

 

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Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of a Foundation

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Do you remember the time you tied your shoes for the first time? It was incredible, right? Or how about the moment you could read an Analog clock. Things that seemed impossible as a kid and suddenly became something that you master and never think about again. Batman Vs. Superman or even a Movie involving these two characters has been on my wish list for as long as I can remember. Even the Avengers, which is a fantastic ensemble film, doesn’t have the embedded history that these two characters do for me. Batman and Superman go back to when I was a child and instilled in me a very particular set of values and morals that have stuck with me ever since. Some people have religion, and I have Batman.

 

Batman V. Superman, which will now be referred to as BvS, is a big mess. Almost on every level, Superman is about as dull and stoic as he was in Man Of Steel. But to be fair Superman is a hard role to play. Nobody portrays a boys scout as interestingly. Henry Cavill (Who is a good Superman) is given very little to say in his own sequel. Most of the time he looks sad and angry. Wonder Woman who feels like a loose strand of the overall plot is given even less to do while also not showing us anything to go on regarding backstory. Sure comic book fans know exactly who Diana Prince is but why should anyone else care? And why is she in Gotham at all? Other than to look at fake swords and find old photos.
Batman has some of the high points, but they are few and far between and are dragged down by his questionable moral code. If this Batman is so beaten down by the world and open to killing criminals why is the Joker even alive. Surely the worst of the worst is worth killing if you are open to firing on petty henchmen. Batman’s moral code in the comics for years now has been no killing and no guns. Something that I have grown to love in the character over the years. And in this movie both are thrown out the window. But Batman’s explanation for never using guns or killing has always been because That would take it too far, If he kills someone then it takes him one step closer to being one of them. If he kills the Joker what’s to stop him from killing the Riddler or some other petty crook? The point of Batman never killing is to say that he found a way to be better than the killer that took his parents.
His high points come from a warehouse fight where he takes down a room filled with guards in an incredible fight sequence. Sadly that’s preceded by a fight between Batman and Superman that never really feels earned. In which Batman is clearly in the wrong and because Superman won’t just say “Hey, Lex has my mom and tricked us both.” They end up beating each other up for twenty minutes until the fight is broken up by Bruce having a soft spot for Clark mom because she is named Martha (just like his mom was.) It falls apart once you start to break it down. But my lingering problems don’t come from the performances like the manic Jesse Eisenberg or the Strange CGI creation of Doomsday. It mostly falls at the director’s feet.
Zack Snyder has never made a movie I love. Watchmen was okay, and even Man Of Steel I enjoyed well enough, but that’s the closest I’ve come to the enjoyment. Since it was announced that he would be building up this world and forging its future, I’ve been nervous. This movie feels like too much to handle; It’s a foundation to build something on, but it’s an incredibly weak and messy foundation that could crumble once the tide rolls in. Marvel had the benefit of starting with a compact solid Iron Man movie that had tiny strings tied to a much wider world. Zack Snyder is trying to start with a bloated mess of something that could’ve been cool if it were chopped down and re-edited. Going big out the gate takes a risk in kick starting this world since DC is now ten years behind Marvel. And I think they have the wrong captain aboard the ship.
There is a line on the horizon. It isn’t all bad even though most critics would disagree there is something to build on here. So let’s take the plot and script out of it and just talk about moments. Because BvS has some good moments. Flash is seemingly traveling back in time to warn Bruce about the impending doom that would come if Lois were to die. I’ll be honest I couldn’t hear all that he was saying, but it proved to be a fresh moment that I didn’t see coming. Two of the three Justice League Cameos were also cool. Watching Dr. Stone work on his son trying to figure out how to save him was interesting, and we got our first look at a Mother box from Apokolips. My favorite of the three was getting a good look at Ezra Miller as the Flash saving a convenient store clerk from a mugging. And the most stupid of them all was Aquaman taking a selfie or something with some underwater robot. As I mentioned, previously some of Batman’s fight scenes are great. So while I’d pay good money to see Batman set in the Mad Max world, duster and all. The dream sequences fell a bit flat.
Overall I’m bummed. I’m not Angry because I can just read a comic or watch the animated series to find what I’m looking for, but ultimately it’s a missed opportunity. This could and should have given me goose bumps like when I saw the Avengers assemble for the first time or when I watch Spider-man swing from buildings. But instead, I’m left with an empty hole in my heart which is actually worse than hating it. Because at least if I hated it, I would’ve felt something in the first place.