2017 is almost over, and it was a great year for me, and a great year for games, so I figured I’d do a Best Of list for 2017. There are quite a few great games I first played in 2017, but were released earlier, like Guacamelee!, Mini Metro, and the Shadowrun series, but I tried to keep this list to 2017 releases only. What were your top games of the year?
Nier: Automata I only got this game a few weeks ago, since I needed a better computer in order to be able to actually play it, but in that short time, it’s already become my game of the year. The soundtrack is just incredible, I find myself listening to it at work. The game play is really fun, even if my enjoyment does tend to vary between who I’m playing as. I haven’t enjoyed an action game so much in a long time. The bosses are unique, too, and thrilling to fight. The chip system, where you’re able to customize your character to better fit your playstyle, is great, too.
I actually have fun doing the miniquests, too. I love the way that they flesh out the world, imparting little bits of information, from beliefs about machine heaven to androids feeling love, maybe even orgasmic pleasure, from combat, to soldiers planning to defect and having to decide whether to tell their loved ones. There’s even one “moral choice” in the game that made me stop and think for a solid minute. I had to decide whether to kill a character or erase their memories, and it took me a long time to decide which was the best option. No in-game reward either way, no witnesses, just you and them. I decided to kill them.
I haven’t beaten the game yet; I’m still working towards the C Ending. But I can’t wait to see where the game goes. The story’s had me hooked for a while now. After the A Ending, you start to get a lot of backstory and mysteries revealed. I’m sure the ending will be great.
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun I hadn’t played any stealth games prior to Shadow Tactics, but I saw the demo on Reddit, gave it a try, and was hooked. Just the first mission told me I was going to love this game, and I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun doing so awful. It took me a long time to get borderline competent, but the quick save/load feature, and the fact that most fuck ups have very recent causes, kept it being frustrating. I didn’t have to go back ten minutes to fix a problem, just ten seconds, and avoid ninja starring some guy in the throat while his buddies were watching.
I like that the game usually presents you with multiple ways to complete your mission. Snipe the target, or poison his tea. Lethal or non-lethal methods. Various paths to the goal. Granted, my primary MO was murder everyone, no witnesses, but it was nice to know I had a choice. My biggest complaint was pretty much self-inflicted, but I found going for every badge incredibly annoying, especially the speed-runs. I ended up burning myself out going for them and haven’t played the game much since, which is a shame, because I really enjoyed it prior. Like I said, it was a demo that includes the entire first mission and part of the second, so check it out. It’s a great stealth game with a feudal Japan setting. I even bought the art book to support the developers.
Pyre Pyre’s art style and music are the two points that immediately stand out, but as I played, the thrill became the best thing about it. The game centers around various rites, short sports matches between you and another team, and every single time, I was pumped to win or disappointed to lose. In a lot of games, like XCOM or This War of Mine, I became competent enough that battles and looting raids became less engaging, and I started to just rush through them without caring as much. But in Pyre, that never happened, even when I was crushing opponents. When I replayed on True Nightwing difficulty, every match was close, and victory truly felt earned.
The mechanic where you end up picking which team members to never see again was especially hard. I wanted characters to have happy endings, but I also wanted to spend more time with them, learn more about them, interact with them, and use them in the rites to ensure later victories. The game wisely keeps you from sending low-level characters away, too, so you can’t just sacrifice people you don’t care about to keep your dream team together. By the end of the game, I was really struggling, because everyone I was good at using had been sent home and I was using my C Team to try to keep playing.
Tooth and Tail Surprisingly, the only new strategy or management game I got in 2017, which is usually my main genre. It’s a streamlined RTS game. You build units and lead them into battles, but your amount of control is limited, as are your number of unit types. There’s a great variety of units, though, from medic pigeons to strong, stealthy chameleons to suicide bomber frogs to minigun-wielding, maniac badgers. I just wish you got more freedom to select your units in the campaign.
The campaign itself is fun, and I love the game’s sense of dark, cannibalism-centric humor, like a falcon asking the leader what the chef means and he says his wings look crispy today, or a mouse noticing a swine, usually just used as food, admiring art, and asking whether it helps to marble her belly. The art style is really great, too. It’s a shame that the graphics are too pixelated to be nearly as beautiful as the character portraits are, but ah well.
It seems like the game is really focused on multiplayer, which is a shame, because I’m not really much for online multiplayer except in rare cases, and I got absolutely obliterated the first few online games I tried, without much ability to determine what exactly I did so incorrectly. I’ll probably try it out more, though, and see how it goes. But even without multiplayer, the game was worth it for the campaign alone.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild I enjoyed Breath of the Wild a lot, but it just felt like it could have been deeper. Most of the towns felt too small to me. Nier: Automata had an excuse. The world ended millennia ago. But BotW should have had more lively areas, in my opinion, especially since a lot of these places were the capitals of various races, not just dinky, random villages. The Gerudo felt fairly fleshed out, but the other races didn’t feel as real to me; I just didn’t buy that there was a real culture and a real society there.
There’s already been a lot about the switch from dungeons to shrines, and I wish the Divine Beasts were more extensive. I would have gladly taken a massive cut in shrines if those puzzles were instead made rooms in the Divine Beasts. The contiguous nature of a big dungeon just feels more satisfying then doing one room at a time, beating the shrine, and then ten minutes later doing a different room. The combat and quests just didn’t satisfy me the way Nier: Automata’s did, either. Quests like finding bugs as a gift (As I write this I realize how many bug collection quests there were in this game…) or bringing people fruit didn’t flesh out the world the way quests did in Nier: Automata. It was a great game, just not amazing.