Game of the Year Lists are always a bit hard to completely flesh out. Trying to determine the actual order or size of the list feels like a futile attempt to quantify an opinion. What is the difference between rank 6 and 5? Is there really something that separates a rank 9 or an 8?
I’d rather have my game of the year lists be about my year in gaming and the surprises along the way. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a game stretch outside of its own preconceived boundaries and become something truly special.
In the upcoming days , I’ll be posting several write ups of some of my favorite games this past year and why I think you should be playing them. Some of them will be unsurprising, but I hope there are a few will blindside you into trying them for the first time.
Right now, I’d like to mention several games that have either not played enough or are just outside of my list.
This is a game that will be on several top ten lists around the web, but while I do like what I played, I simply did not play enough. I do like the game, even though I normally dislike the trial and error aspect of stealth games, Hitman does enough to blunt that edge. The game is very forgiving. The series has always been a little more humorous than something like Splinter Cell, but this latest edition really focuses on being a fun video game first and a stealth game second. I am happy that the developers have manage to find a balance and they are definitely hitting their stride.
The Last Guardian
I would love to try and finish this game before I had to compile my list, but, sadly, it was not to be. As a game ten years in the making and technically canceled, it is remarkable that it is even out in the wild. I have about 90 minutes played, and it feels like a Team Ico game. Is that even enough anymore? I have no idea. But despite it sometimes looking like a HD remake of a PS3 game, the art direction can still reach back and transport you to another world. This is looking like my first big write up of 2017.
As a port of a tabletop card game about the Cold War, Twilight Struggle is about as specific and niche as you can get. But thanks to a computer doing all the calculating and rules-lawyering, games can be completed in a few minutes. I loved how easy it was to learn the basics, but any advance strategy and long-term plans took practice and real skill. Twilight Struggle forces you to make hard decisions on what cards to play and sacrifice, because almost everything you do can also make your opponent stronger. Picking and choosing what battles to fight exudes real tension. Unfortunately, the AI can’t keep up with you after some practice. With a little more tweaking and polish, this could be something truly special.
This is a huge shocker for me. The first Firaxis XCOM is probably one of my favorite games in the last decade. Having played through the campaign and expansion multiple times, my anticipation for the sequel was sky high. After almost 50 hours and a couple of restarts, my attention and devotion started to wane. In almost every way XCOM 2 is superior and an advancement of its predecessor. However, I cannot shake the fact that it has ultimately left me wanting more. Despite the added classes, new maps, and more fleshed out storyline, core gameplay feels as unchanged and unimproved. I still don’t have any indication of the range of my weapons. I still have no way to know how far the aliens can move (even through research). The aliens still get a free move action if you spot them un-stealthed, which can lead to awkward and unfair situations. XCOM 2 also throws so many objectives and side missions that, while not overwhelming, start to feel like busy work. The new stealth mechanic can be useful at times, but there are so many timed missions that becomes more of a novelty rather than evolutionary. XCOM 2 is a great game, undoubtedly, but it feels like more of the same.