“So? Take my advice, brother. The past is the past. And the only direction in life that matters is forward. Never backwards."
―Pop (Luke Cage - Netflix)
Writing about my “favorite” games of the year has always been an interesting exercise, and I’ll admit that I’ve taken inspiration from many sources on how best to tackle the task of reflecting on the best things I’ve played in 2016. From keeping a running list of all the games I’ve played (useful for me since I play games on lots of platforms, not just Steam) to spending the last month or so looking at some games I *should* have played. Then desperately trying to at least play a bit of them to see if anything catches my fancy, but there’s never enough time to look at everything. There are some really standout titles that I just either ignored or didn’t spend enough time with to warrant being on a “best of” list of some kind.
I’m going to start by talking about some of the games I just didn’t spend enough time with as well as a few games I think are worthy of playing no matter their quality. Later this week I plan on covering more of the games I enjoyed the most this year that I think are worth playing.
Games I Wish I had played more of this year
I liked the first game a lot, with a game focused on traversal more than anything, when you got into the “flow” of Faith’s movement you really felt like kind of a parkour badass. I’ve been anticipating the sequel since it was announced back in 2013. There were points during the development of the game where I was worried, such as when the developers said the “combat” of the game would be a focus as well as the movement. When the game came out, I only spent a brief bit of time with it (maybe an hour) and just never got back around to playing it again. Now that the game is free with an EA Access subscription on the Xbox One (becoming a better value all the time with the free vault games alone) I’m hoping to get some more time with it.
The first PC game that I owned was a CD copy of DOOM 2 that was included with our Sound Blaster 16 and CD-Rom drive upgrade kit. I remember looking at that cover for like 2 weeks with anticipation since it took that long for my mom to actually figure out how the hell to install the drive (plug and play was DEFINITELY not a thing back then). But once I finally installed the game (a whopping 20MB on the CD) I was hooked. Cut to 2016, with a bleeding edge PC and beefy video card at my side, I’ve played maybe a third of the campaign, but stopped at one point and never went back. It’s a shame too, since the game is everything I want a DOOM game to be: fast, bloody, simple and gorgeous. I might try and jump back in this next week to see if I can get to the end.
Games worth playing, if only to experience them
Look, I’m not going to try and say this is for everyone, and the fandom/vitriol this game has sprouted is exhausting to be sure. I’m one of the few people who went into the game with managed expectations, and while of course I wish there was more to “do” in the game, I enjoyed my 20 or so hours with the game so far. I haven’t touched the recent update yet, but from what I’ve read it at least looks like the game will continue to expand/grow in the near future so I might go back and give it another chance. There are other games out there doing the same things, but the aesthetic of this game still puts other similar games to shame, plus being able to name planets in the shared universe is pretty cool.
This one’s odd, as the only real coverage I noticed before impulse buying the game was a Kotaku article that discussed the movement and had a video attached. Looking for something lightweight at the time, I played through the entire game in 2 sittings (it’s only about 4-6 hours total). It’s super solid, looks amazing and has satisfying gameplay that makes you feel very cool when you get moving really fast and start taking these “Hulk-like” leaps across the landscape.
What’s this? I thought you only played video games Jon? Not so dear reader, for in my heart of hearts I love rolling dice and pouring over rulebooks with a group of friends on the regular. While the days of marathon 12 hour D&D sessions are long gone (college was fun), I still long for the weekly gathering but sadly even that’s no longer possible. While the most recent version of the D&D was an improvement over the slog that was 4th edition, it still seems like an overcomplicated mess after playing Dungeon World for the past year. The system makes character creation super simple, the mechanics are just as streamlined, and the game encourages the GM/DM to collaborate with the players on creating the world.
It’s honestly been a revelation for our gaming group; we’ve accomplished more in a monthly 4 hour game than we generally accomplished in months of weekly play with a standard group in other systems. One of the highlights of the system is that there is no real “failure” in the game, if you don’t succeed on a roll the GM/DM introduces complications into the encounter and you are awarded with experience, but in general you can always do what you want as a character. This means the action is ever moving forward, you don’t really encounter any “dead-ends” in the campaign as the GM is more of a facilitator of adventure rather than an adversary. This creates a collaborative play session that encourages you to experiment with your character and try to explain how it’s possible for your character to do something rather than worry you don’t have the right power/weapon/item to succeed.
And the best part of the system is that if high fantasy isn’t your jam, the system has been adapted into countless settings so you can almost certainly find a genre that does appeal to you. If you want to see how great the game can be, I can’t recommend this video from Waypoint’s site launch enough, as it shows you how even a pen & paper newbie can jump right in and have an amazing time.