Thursday, December 08, 2016

2016 Games to Play

The theme with today's news centers around the Best Games of 2016 (don't listen to the Paste Magazine article. No Man's Sky made their Number 7, so you know it's all click bait.) I wish I could contribute to this pile, but I can't. There are too many games out there that to limit the scope feels like it would be doing a disservice to the rest. And there are still a few games that I have played released this year that I haven't finished yet (due to time and/or life restrictions). Such as Dragon Quest Builders. I had fun with it and I still load it up from time to time to work on my sand castle. Yes I'm making a giant sand castle. No you can't have the code until it's completed. But I haven't completed the main story so I can't give it a full, and fair assessment. Same with Dishonored 2. I'm enjoying the change-up in the action and the dynamic landscapes, but it takes a lot of time to play through each stage. I can't pick it up and put it down in an hour. It remains incomplete. Not to mention most of these lists only focus on AAA, big gaming developers. The indie crowd on Steam, XBox Live, and PSN are typically overlooked for the $59.99 Call of Duty titles.

I don't know what the best games of 2016 are. The market is saturated and no one has played all of them. Instead, I want to throw out a few suggestions for 2016 titles to consider and add to your gaming list. Titles that inspire, that shake, that confuse, and are fun for the sake of fun. Here's my list of 2016 Games to Play:

- Firewatch. It's Team Fortress visuals taken up a notch with a hauntingly engaging story that ebbs on the line of dark humor. You play as Henry, a man trying to escape his past in Wyoming while becoming the new watch guard for a forest. Strange events turn up and it's up to you to find out what's going on. The story transforms from this simple premise into a detailed look at his relationship with the radio operator Delilah, who guides you on your adventure. This title is difficult to put down. From the moment you set out on your own, you want to finish the story. The open-world adventure narrative takes a huge step forward with Firewatch.

- The Witness. If you enjoyed Myst as a kid, you have to get this game. Inspired by the game within a game dynamic, The Witness is a puzzle fiend's dream. You wake up on an island by yourself. There are no animals or music to guide you. You have to figure out who or what you are, what happened, and how to leave the island. But of course as you move forward you will find that it's not as simple as solve this puzzle to leave. There is so much more to the story with each task you complete. The visuals are beautiful. Jonathan Blow (Braid) opted to step away from a graphic intensive experience and stripped the landscape down to geometric patterns and colors. Surprisingly this creates a more immersive experience. What I enjoy the most about this game is that the landscape is often used for the puzzles. I don't mean "move rock here to solve." You have to change your camera angles, walk your character into tight corners, and look around until you see tree branches take shape and form a the next puzzle. It looks cooler then I'm making it sound, but it's worth the purchase. Promise.

- Genital Jousting. Warning: Adults Only on this title, because it involves manly parts and jiggly physics. The point of the game is to be a random party title that will produce fits of laughter. You and your friends pick a "character" and you have to prod each other to gain the most points. I have no idea how else to phrase this game without it going into R-rated territory. The graphics are clean for a small title and it's easy for anyone to pick up and play. Great use of saturated colors. What else is there to say but you get to enjoy being a "dick" for 10 minutes...It's not a great game, but it's entertaining as hell.

- Inside. From the crew that gave us Limbo, Inside is a dystopian game where you play as a young boy trying to flee from the terror that is turning people into husks (zombie-like creatures but have the ability to listen and follow to their master's orders). It's 2D platforming done right. Lots of puzzles (all relatively easy) and problem-solving skills that take full advantage of the landscape. The visuals are also quite dynamic for being a black, white, and grey game. No spoilers for the ending, but you will want to settle in for the 4-5 hours to finish. It's trippy.

- DOOM. Bloodbath of yesteryear rendered in today's technology with a kick ass soundtrack. It's a modern Doom expertly crafted.

- Battleborn. I wish more people would have given this game a shot. Sadly the delayed release placed it too closely to Overwatch and it was buried by Blizzard. From Gearbox Software (Borderlands), this game is an online FPS incorporating MOBA elements with more of a co-op feel. You and a team complete map objectives to level up and unlock the story of the game. Unlike Overwatch there are very active story elements throughout the game play. Initially slated with 25 heroes (which has expanded since then) each one has their own history that is ingrained in the universe of Battleborn. That, to me, is the most charming part of this game - being able to see everyone's story and finding that emotional attachment to them. It's not only running and gunning. And I would argue more strategy is involved in completing objectives. Unlike unlocking the golden gun, every time you start a match you move back to Level 1. It's up to the skills of the team to designate how people level up and spend their abilities.

- Clustertruck. This is Mirror's Edge on trucks with all the parkour one would want. Clustertruck is straight foward: get to the finish line without dying. Using your leaping abilities you will jump across trucks as they move to get to the end. As you move forward, levels ratchet up and include more obstacles, fewer trucks, and sometimes require you to leap hundreds of feet below to catch the next vehicle. How you jump and how fast you reach the end nets you points that you can spend on special abilities. What keeps me coming back to this game is that it is constantly being updated. For the small one-time fee, you will see this game evolve. The developers always look at user feedback and change the levels, add more content, and provide new experiences. And there is never one right way to the finish line! Each element and truck has their own AI; aka lots of chaos. The stripped down visuals add to the game by lulling you into a false sense of security that you're going to reach the goal.


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