As society crumbles around us, our only option is to stay inside and ignore it. Lucky for us it’s been a great year to do so. Here’s our personal favourite games of 2016.
Five of us got together to tell you about the games that did some serious swooning.
I don’t think I’ve ever been as comfortable with the concept of sadomasochism as I’ve been since I found the Dark Souls series. On one side, I don’t recall ever being more angry at a game in my life. On the other, I’m strangely infatuated with chasing the high of coming out the other side of a new fight victorious, if not just barely. Every encounter is a matter of life and death, and fighting more than one enemy at a time is always a cause for alarm. It pulls no punches.
Dark Souls III is a game that is admittedly difficult to get into. Most people don’t really get what makes the series so engrossing. On the surface, it seems very intent on undermining and punishing you at every turn for seemingly no reason. The truth is that if you dig into it a little deeper you’ll find that the game is not particularly unfair, it’s just strict. The mechanics are tight and deliberate, like a fighting game. It is rich with interesting enemies, locations, weapons, armor, and lore. Even the online community and it’s meta is fascinating compared to most. There is an unspoken etiquette that when you see an enemy player and wish to take them on, you both bow in mutual respect before the duel begins. I dare you to try anything like that in any other multiplayer game.
From dragons to dreggs, from Farron Keep to Anor Londo, Dark Souls III is a beautiful, complex, challenging, and rewarding experience from start to finish. Praise the sun!
I know this choice will be controversial. Firewatch’s ending caught its fair share of heat. For coming too soon and not spelling out the plot enough. There were enough people miffed at the conclusion for me do a double take. After a bit of thought, I stand by it. Firewatch’s finale was a fizzer relative to the game’s second act. It doesn’t answer any questions or tie up any loose ends. It felt devoid of closure. Like most players, It left me asking “Is that it?”
It took me a while to figure out that it was a stroke of genius. The ending ties together the underlying narrative thread. The idea that life is not a video game. Important players come without fanfare. plot-lines disappear, unresolved and life isn’t left with a neat little bow. Firewatch succeeds in delivering literary consistency precisely by being so inconsistent. Perhaps it doesn’t spell out the through-line tying all the minor moments together. But I would have felt insulted if The Stone’s ‘You can’t always get what you want’ started playing over the credits.
Sure the game is short, if your only goal is to see the credits roll. It makes up for it in its depth of character. The game’s deceptively simple dialogue system inspires real investment in the characters. Small choices at the start of the game have appreciable effects downstream. The game’s brevity plays to its advantage. Mass Effect might have more choices, but with my schedule, I’m only going to finish a forty hour game once.
This brings me to presentation. I can’t praise Firewatch’s sound and art direction enough. Firewatch pays homage to Team Fortress 2 and DotA 2 but maintains its own uniqueness and charm. Simplicity would usually be a liability in an open world game. Here, it is an asset. Campo Santo has left the heavy lifting to the player’s imagination. Perfect for a game playing to notes of paranoia. The game world drips with personality. The studio’s love and attention is most obvious in the dev commentary. Just another point triple-A developers can take from Campo Santo’s notebook.
Although Ragequit League was released back in July 2015, its continued support by developer Psyonix has been relentless. I’ve spent so many hours in-game. It’s constantly refreshing, never tiresome, and always full of surprises. We’ve been through Snow Day, a take on ice hockey. Hoops, a 2v2 basketball mode. Both added a fresh twist to the simple “car + ball + rockets = fun” formula. Not to mention that these updates have been offered completely free of charge. Other developers could learn a lot from Psyonix.
When Rumble dropped, Psyonix didn’t just shoehorn a new game mode in, they completely revamped many of Rocket League’s features alongside it. Rumble itself is fun, unpredictable, brilliant and holds infinite replayability. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun grappling onto a ball that was being dragged along by a car with spikes jutting out of it’s chassis. Oh, that’s right. I’ve never had that much fun. It’s so new and exciting, yet so simple.
I have my gripes with a few of the power-ups. There are definite balance issues with the “Spike” and the “Plunger”. But all in all the game mode works. It invites players of all skill-levels to compete with the knowledge that anything could happen. I’ve seen Rocketeers that have fallen to Rookies. Accidental aerials. You name it. Rumble delivers a satisfying, exciting and addictive take on Rocket League. Included in the update was the Crates and Keys system, a la CS:GO. A huge number of new items were added that kept me hooked in the vain hope of dropping a crate. Chuck in battle-car pre-sets, new arenas and player-to-player trading? Holy cow! Savage! What a Game! Chat has been disabled for 3 seconds…
Even before its release, Battlefield 1 had become an extra-ordinary game. From its record-breaking trailer, to the fans’ brutal rivalry with CoD: Infinite Warfare, it proved it wasn’t going to be your average shooter.
It has some of the best gameplay I’ve seen this decade. Other than the old WWII Call of Duties, I can’t recall a historical shooter with as diverse of locations or characters. In the introductory level, You’re thrown right into the thick of it with the Harlem Hellfighters struggling to survive in No Man’s Land. Without spoiling anything, it’s full of gut-wrenching yet innovative gameplay.
The other stories like “Through Mud and Blood”, “Avanti Savoia”, and “The Runner” are a blast to play through. Even “Nothing is Written” which puts you in control a Bedouin woman fighting with Lawrence of Arabia is fun and feels like it could’ve happened. The only story that feels too far-fetched to me, is the American pilot’s campaign, but I’ll spare you my grievances.
Obviously, people play Battlefield for the multiplayer and that’s where it truly shines, as Darren found out. Unlike Battlefield 4, BF1’s classes and guns serve distinct functions. Medics heal wounds and revive the injured, Support fire heavy machine guns and mortars, Scouts thin enemy ranks with sniper rifles, and Assault lead the charge. In short, every class give you a reason to play it.
With all the modern-day and sci-fi shooters we’ve been seeing, Battlefield 1 is a nice return to form. It takes the things that everyone loved about the WWII genre and amplifies them. In the coming months, the game is only going to get better with EA promising new maps and factions. Now is the best time to jump in!
*Queue 90’s metal music* Get ready to strap yourselves in for the roller-coaster ride of your life! A demonic horde has invaded a UAC Mars facility and it’s up to you to send those ugly bastards back…*guitar squeal*… to hell! *explosion* Frag your foes with a devastating arsenal of high-tech weaponry and watch the gibs fly. Rocket-jump and strafe your way through 13 highly detailed 3d levels to a full digital stereo soundtrack by Mick Gordon, it will literally melt your face off *screaming*. Will you save humanity from Hell’s army? Or will you let it fall to it’s DOOM?* Cut music*
Whether you’re a fan or not, Doom was a title that was hard to ignore this year. A mediocre multiplayer beta caused some concern for the full game, especially after learning about development troubles. But come release day, all of that trepidation quickly melted away. id Software had nailed it.
They proved that you don’t need a ton of mechanics and systems to make a great game, you just need the foresight and wisdom to know how to best serve an idea. I imagine it’s always tempting for a big developer to flex its muscles and cram every bell and whistle into a game, especially one with such high expectations, and id came real close.
It could be easy to criticise Doom for its simplistic gameplay. With a wealth of shooters offering deeper experiences, we’re spoiled. But in doing so is a failure to recognise stellar game design. I felt overwhelmed at how refreshing Doom was to play and it’s been a long time since a game and I were on the same page. Not only do I feel like it respects your time but it also respects your intelligence. It knows what you’re here to do and it’s not going to go around the houses to give it to you.
While it’s multiplayer may leave some wanting, the singleplayer experience does more than enough to satisfy. It’s fun, it’s utterly ridiculous and it knows it. Doom is about as self aware as they come and it shouldn’t be any other way.