2017 was fucking great.
I say this knowing that every webcomic author on the planet is currently drawing a piece where a scarred and broken earth finally puts the final blow on the Demon 2017, only to look up and see 2018 cackling in the distance.
Beloved people got called out for awful things. A guy people don’t like got sworn into public office. Somebody probably went blind because of the eclipse. Maybe I just don’t leave the house much (and I don’t live in America anyway), but I had a whale of a time.
There were so many good games this year! Too many, actually. I haven’t gotten around to the massive timesinks that are Divinity: Original Sin 2 or Persona 5 yet, so they’re absent here for that reason.
I hate low-poly top down games. I hate games where hitting somebody takes ten years. I hate slow-moving survival horror. I hate games that make you wait around for extended periods of time.
Somehow Darkwood manages to do all of these, and I like it a lot.
If you ain’t heard of it, the nearest I can compare it to is S.T.A.L.K.E.R. For most of the game, you’re in a spooky forest, cowering and later kicking the shit out of monsters and maniacs, scavenging what you can, and bartering with insane Russian men.
At night, the spooky comes to you, and you cower in your little hideout hoping that it’s just a dog rather than somebody with their head split in two and jaws the size of France.
It’s story driven with pseudo-randomisation elements, and it’s forgiving enough that you won’t run out of materials unless you dawdle, but you still feel the scarcity. More scary than I thought top-down could be, but the biggest draw is the atmosphere; anything that scratches the gaping void S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2’s cancellation left, I guess.
A game so full-bloodedly American that the lead designer is named Chad.
If I hear another person praise the art style I might go insane, so let’s just go with it that being obviously good because it is, and call it a damn solid Boss Rush which doesn’t overstay its welcome and manages to do a lot with the concept. There’s even vehicle levels that don’t suck, which is the first time that’s ever happened in a boss based game.
#8: Total War: Warhammer II
Fuck you Queek. You’re fucking dead. I’ll loot your corpse and feed it to my goddamn Carnosaur. Don’t fuck with Kroq-Gar.
Dark Souls Diablo, which manages to take the best and worst parts of both and combine them to be okay I guess. It’s a perfectly acceptable game any way you slice it, but I can’t help but feel like the good bits are the bits it stole, and the bad bits are ones it made up itself.
That said, it steals the right bits enough to matter. Combat is complex but understandable, and level design is impeccable, the boss fights are memorable (and land on the ‘not shit’ part of Soulslikes which nobody seems to manage to pull off), but there’s some really easy ways to either break or hobble your character and a lot of oneshots.
Cutting down on the gigantic amount of largely irrelevant choices and endless micromanagement would have raised this up at least 3-4 places for me: did we really need level ups, weapon skill level ups, two magic skill trees, and two different prestige level ups (that add such wonderful options as ‘0.5% less damage from falling’) on top of a full Diablo loot system, a full inventory of out-of-combat items, two currency systems, weapon ‘levels’, and randomly generated armour bonuses with (largely) very few meaningful differences between them?
#6: Doki Doki Literature Club
Full disclosure: I probably wouldn’t have gotten through this if I hadn’t streamed it.
While the first half is the most tropey, weeb-bait VN ever created, it was pretty funny to give them thick Russian accents and laugh through it with friends, expecting nothing than maybe the protag getting his peepee touched by the end.
If you can stomach three hours of weebery, the rest of the game is a pretty excellent experience. I’m not going to say anything else, but it’s worth it.
#5: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Who the fuck greenlighted this?
Mario XCOM clone with guns and the silly lolrandom rabbit things, developed out of house in the first 6 months of a new Nintendo console release.
It shouldn’t be good but fuck me if it isn’t one of the best things I’ve played this year. Mario has more charm here than in a mainline Mario game, and my only issue with it is being forced to cart around a Rabbid and Mario by default rather than being able to use the Sniper Luigi, Assault Peach, and Heavy Yoshi dream team.
If I have to be completely honest, I’d rate it #3 if I wasn’t scared of putting another Mario game up there.
#4: Hollow Knight
Team Cherry are excellent and you should buy their game because it is a good game and you will enjoy the game. That is my professional opinion, please play Hollow Knight. Thank you.
Hollow Knight is a 2d metroidvania that knows what it’s doing, and doesn’t screw about with too many extra trappings.
The world is a little Souls in world presentation but it’s been done a massive disservice with the endless ‘JUST LIKE DARK SOULS’ remarks. It’s hard to call it similar to anything that’s come out in a very long time just because it excels so well, but there are some clear roots in Castlevania and Metroid that really do a lot to bring it into 2017.
#3: NieR: Automata
Twitter is pretty 50\50 about this game, but both the positive and negative side pretty much boil down to “the robot with big tiddies, right?”
If you haven’t played it, you might mistake it for more JRPG fodder. The gameplay is a Platinum Games Inc. Game, which means that it plays exactly the same as every other Platinum Games Inc. Game.
I absolutely adore the world around the protagonists, featuring a cast of robots discovering their capacity for emotion, ranging from childlike wonder to screaming and suicidal depression. There’s something to be said for a game that has three playthroughs and can still hold your attention, too.
Ultimately the reason to play this is for the story, so play through on whatever difficulty gets you there the fastest with enough hardship to stop yourself getting bored. The combat is engaging and fun, but it plays second fiddle to the trappings if this isn’t your first Platinum venture.
#2: Super Mario Odyssey
Beloved former 2D, nostalgia-bait platformer gets big immersive 3D world experience, where he interacts with real humans and rescues a princess from a maniacal villain in a flying airship.
That’s the plot of both Super Mario Odyssey and Sonic ‘06.
This is the second of the ‘awful on paper’ Mario concepts this year, which lifted straight out of the Sega playbook of awful business decisions to instead make a fantastic and polished, ridiculously-filled-with-content platformer.
Fans were clamouring for it to essentially be a SM64 remaster, and Nintendo approached that with gusto. Mario moves exactly the same and the game functions almost identically, but instead of relying on that they pack so goddamn much extra into it.
Odyssey throws away concepts in five minutes that other games would make the gimmick of an entire level, or a side IP by itself. I actually found myself angry at how little I got to do some of the cool stuff, and it’s the only game this year I true 100%’ed. I haven’t even got 100% completion in Dark Souls, and I have over 10,000 hours in the series.
#1: Zelda: Breath of the Wild
6\10 it’s okay.