It has been an impossibility difficult year this year for me in so many respects. Thankfully I have had this here website and video games to ease the pain. We as a site have come a long way from where we were at this time in 2016. The time and effort we have put into this website is due to just how great a year it has been in video games. There are more games for more people than ever and if this website is anything it is a platform for those people, who often don’t get much of a voice in traditional video games coverage, to have a chance to tell the world why they love the games they love so much. With that in mind here is my chance to tell you about my top ten games of 2016.
It is not often that I really care about music in a video game. Now this is not to say I don’t like video game music it is just that most of the time I do not really notice it. When I was playing Virginia however, I was blown away by the use of music as a part of the narrative. Virginia is a game where there is no dialogue and much of the story is told environmentally and through the gameplay itself. What is so interesting though is the way in which the music becomes almost like the dialogue of the game. The music paints the world of Virginia with emotion and at time meaning, adding the most subtle of details to every scene. Virginia does an amazing job of showing rather than telling you what is happening. You feel more than see the relationship between the two FBI agents grow as the case goes along and it is made all the greater because you can really feel the relationship fall to pieces. I thought about Virginia for many hours after completely the game both trying to figure out what really had happened at the end and trying to piece together what exactly I felt about. I came to the conclusion that any game that can do that is a game that deserve all the praise I can give to it.
I will be honest I really enjoy board games, but I hardly ever get the chance to play them. I had heard about Twilight Struggle for years on various board game related websites, so when I saw that they had made a video game out of it I jumped at the opportunity to play it. It combined three of my loves board games, video games and history into one exciting package. Added on to the game are tons of subtle touches from audio of speeches to more gameplay focused changes like the changing meters to show how much control over a certain region each player has. Twilight Struggle is an extremely complex game even after several hours of play I still have only won once, but during that time I was having a lot of fun figuring out strategies and just enjoying the battle between myself and the computer. It gave me an almost chess like sense of small victories and small defeats building toward an ultimate conclusion. An example of this is when I was attempting to take control of the Middle East from a USSR AI before I had to play a Middle East Scoring Card. He had taken control of Egypt via the Nasser Card a round earlier, but I just so happened to have in my hand both the China Card and Sadat Expels the Soviets Card. I was able to place enough influence with the China Card to stabilize the region and then use the Sadat Card to get Egypt back. This allowed me to pick up just a few victory points, but it felt like an intense duel of who can have the last word. Then the game just went on for I had won a small battle, but the war was still in full swing.
Don’t Starve Together
Are you surprised that I would put this on my list? If you have watched any of the streams Rain, Popcans, and I did of this game you would think I would really hate it. In truth I kind of do hate this game, but in a weird BDSM way where it hurts me and I love it. I’m not good at Don’t Starve Together as Rain or Popcans will tell you, but I have had moments in this game that I will remember for the rest of my life (like that time I set everything on fire or that other time I set everything on fire). Don’t Starve Together is a somewhat grueling experience that requires constant attention and focus. Whether it be when in combat or managing the meters in the game you need to be on top of what is going on. If you don’t have friends that won’t just give up on you are in for a bad time, but if you can find some you will have an amazing time, just try not to burn everything down in the process.
Let it Die
Let it Die is the strangest game I have played this year. As I mentioned on the podcast I’m not a big fan of Dark Souls, which is not to say I didn’t have fun playing it’s more that it was a one and done kind of game for me. At least that is what I thought until I played Let it Die, which has really opened me up to some of the ideas of the “Dark Souls Genre”. The weirdness certainly was the first thing that drew me in, but underneath that the concept of slowly climbing a tower and building out characters made me put many hours into Let it Die. While the combat is nothing to write home about but it has just enough nuances to keep each combat encounter from being a grind. Every time I started getting bored something new would be presented such as the Death Metro Raids where you go and attack another player’s waiting room to steal resources from them or the invasion like system where you can send your fighters out to hunt other players. I want to address one of the biggest concerns with any free to play game which is, how difficult it is to progress without paying money. With Let it Die it feels very fair for what it is allowing you to get the premium currency from quests and anecdotally I have not run up against very many issues in regards to the free to play systems in the game. For a free game there is so much going on in Let it Die that it really does feel like it might have been able to be successful as a twenty or thirty dollar game. As someone that just got a PS4 it was really impressive and has made me feel much better about my purchase of the console. The game feels very hand crafted to be the weirdest possible experience even the bosses are strange in a good way with the first major boss being at the end of a train sequence and just being a giant head. Let it die is just one of those games that when you think back on a year of video games you can’t forget about.
There is a lot of emotion around Stardew Valley for me mainly because of the time in which I played it with my mother. Farming is something that runs deep in my family with just about every member of my family having some kind of background in either farming or agriculture. So I was very excited to share the game with my mother who for the longest time had been wanting to own a farm and had practically turned the front yard of my parents’ house into a sort of mini farm. It was a fun experience to get to ask her about how she would set up and farm and try my best to set it up like she would if it was her farm. Stardew Valley allows for tremendous freedom of creativity in what you want to spend your time doing. It has been a long time since I have been as excited each day to play a video game first thing in the morning. It is not simply creating a farm that draws me in, but also the feeling of exploring a world. Finding the secrets of Stardew Valley for myself was a tremendous amount of fun and I can’t wait to go back at some point to try it all again. That feeling of waking up each day in Stardew and having a laundry list of things you actually want to to do makes this game such a special experience from start to finish.
As a kid I really wanted to be Indiana Jones with his hat and whip. I loved history and more than that I loved adventure. Uncharted 4 really captures that same feeling I would get from watching Indiana Jones. I think that is partially because of how cinematic the game was. It feels like playing a movie and that is something I can say about very few video games. Uncharted 4 is so good it made me buy the Uncharted Bundle even though I owned the first Uncharted game already. There is no bad aspect of Uncharted, everything from gameplay to sound to story all meshes so completely into a beautiful package. Even the multiplayer is fairly enjoyable to poke around in from time to time. If I had finished this game before writing this list it might have been higher on the list than it is. It fills me with a bit of sadness that there won’t be any more uncharted games, but Uncharted 4 is so solid of a product that I’m quite filled with all the action and adventure I can take for quite some time.
Total War Warhammer
I went down a dark hole after I started running a now defunct Dungeons and Dragons group. I bought some Warhammer miniatures and painted them. I feel shame over doing such a nerdy thing, but what I don’t feel shame about is playing Total War Warhammer. I love total war games and when they announced they would be taking on the Warhammer License I was immediately interested. Total War Warhammer does something I didn’t know I wanted which is it redefines and focuses Total War. It is not just a simple fantasy skin on top of a Total War game, but instead it changed Total War into a new form, a better form. It made each faction feel different, allowed for more interactive battles, and really made every aspect of the game more deep. I renamed one of my lord to my own name and went on an epic adventure slowly crushing the Vampire Counts into the ground as the Empire. You really feel for the first time like you can make some characters your own. This total war game is telling a story not just recreating stories. This is not even to mention all the changes to the giant battle system that interact with the Warhammer universe itself. From adding in magic to gigantic creates and hero units this battle system is much more interactive than any previous total war game. I guess there is no greater praise I can give this game than to say that it really does make every battle feel like the tabletop game made real.
What more is there to say about Doom really? It’s, if you will excuse my language, it’s fucking awesome in just about every aspect. This might be the best first person campaign I have ever played and I have played many. The speed of Doom is blistering and it allows for some crazy moments of intense actions. I could almost lose myself in the battle much like some people lose themselves in Tetris. I found myself on several occasions zoning out to the music and tearing through hordes of the demonic forces. I love exploring a level in order to find the secrets and I really love the way each level gives you so many options for how to approach the various fights. Now if only we could get a remake of Chex Quest at a similar quality level my gaming life would be complete.
Overwatch is the game I played the most this year without a doubt. Every day I would get on and play several dozen rounds until I was ready to pass out. I find that Overwatch is a game that is best with friends and thankfully I have many friends who want to play it regularly. The events that Overwatch has done have drawn me back in even when I thought there was no way I would come back after months away. The Halloween Horde mode is certainly for me a highlight of my time with the game as it scratched a horde mode itch that I have had since Gears of War 3. I truly hope they add in a fully featured horde mode at some point ala Mann vs Machine. At the same time as I was loving the various events I began to have a rare experience of wanting to get better at a shooter which I have not had since Modern Warfare 2. I went out and bought a new mouse and keyboard primarily to get better at Overwatch sniping. I think what Overwatch does best is that it makes you want to keep playing. I had several instances where I thought I would quit at one more game, but several hours later I would wander off to bed in a daze. I could never have imagined Overwatch would be take so much of my time this year, but you won’t find me complaining.
Hitman is a rare game that is able to revive a series that had fallen sort of by the wayside in many people’s minds myself included. The idea of an episodic Hitman game too many at first blush seemed insane and perhaps even nefarious. Who could have imagined the Hitman game we got would come out as good as it did. Hitman is an amazing experience that I can’t stop playing. Just about every day now I have booted it up and played either a challenge or an escalation. Each location is so well realized and really feels alive with activity. I still find myself discovering new locations and hidden rooms in every map. Hitman does the core of game design really well giving you fun mechanics in well-designed levels with tons of replayability. I can’t say enough about the amount of content and fun that you can have with Hitman. If one were to ask me what value I would place on the total package I can say it would be well more sixty dollars. The only other thing I can say is that I really want a Hitman Television show now where they focus on one or two assassinations per season someone out there in TV land make it happen.