• My Bestest Games Wot I've Played So Far in 2017

    Half of 2017 has passed, and thus I feel it is my duty, as the Games Master, to talk about a few of my favourite games of the year so far. The releases of 2017 have been stellar, a spooky return to form with Resident Evil 7, a spectacular open worldification in Zelda Breath of the Wild, the moody exploration of youth that Night in the Woods offered and the somewhat revolutionary Snake Pass, with itís familiar collectathon 3d platformer, that managed to feel completely new by making you writhe around on the floor like a snake; due to being a snake. So, with so many fantastic games to pick from, which releases have tickled my fancy the most?

    Night in the Woods
    Night in the Woods released back in February, and tells the story of Mae Borowski, a college dropout who returns to her hometown to find everyone and everything has changed, except herself. Sheís still the moody teen who left home, while her friends have grown up, work hard, make plans for the future. Her parents worry, as parents do, both for her, but also about keeping up with their bills, trying to make ends meet. And worst of all, something bad is going on in the Possum SpringsÖ

    The game is a fantastic exploration of what it is to be young, what it is to be unemployed and how you can never really go back home. Some will dismiss Night in the Woods as Tumblr bait because of its artstyle and lack of guns, but underneath its (frankly beautiful) aesthetic, lies a deep foray into the mind.

    What Remains of Edith Finch
    What Remains of Edith Finch is a first person exploration game similar to the likes of Gone Home or Firewatch. The game puts you in the shoes of the titular Edith Finch, who has gone home (get it? Cos of the other game. Haha) to her ancestral house - a rather ďThe BurrowĒ like affair for those of you who have read or watched Harry Potter - after years away. Here, generations of Finches have been born, lived and died untimely deaths. Edith wanders the house of her fathers, and discovers their fates through small playable segments, where you take the shoes of someone else; each part with itís own spin.

    One part is animated like a comic book, where youíre not entirely sure which parts are true, and which are fiction. In another youíre simply a boy on a swing, trying to go around the swing. In one part youíre a monster, forever hungry and devouring all around you. One is simply a flip book. Then thereís a special one, one most of us as gamers have experienced before. I wonít say more than that, but each of the segments is perfectly crafted, never going on for too long, always feeling new and unique. The game itself is short, I finished in one sitting in less than 3 hours, but it truly is well worth experiencing for yourself, if only for fishery scene.

    Shovel Knight Specter of Torment
    While Shovel Knight itself is a fantastic game, as described in my review (LINK), it is getting a bit old, having been first released in 2014. Luckily, then, it has periodically been updated with full new campaigns, with the second of these (free!) campaigns, Specter of Torment, releasing earlier this year. While Torment could have been the same game as the original, but with a new character sprite, instead the developer Yacht Club Games wrote a new story to fill some of the blanks from the original, made a whole new moveset for the new protagonist, Specter Knight and remade all the old levels to fit that new moveset! And thatís not to mention all the lovely quirks and secrets that fill the levels as well as the new hub area. I really canít stress this enough, Shovel Knight is one of the best games in recent memory.

    Honestly, I would have written about Shovel Knight in this article whether the new campaign came out this year or not, itís just too lovely not to write about.

    Dark Souls
    Alright, so this is a bit of a stretch. Dark Souls came out in 2011. It received no new content this year (except for Dark Souls IIIís Ringed City DLC, which I have not played. 2017 wasnít even the first time I bought, nor played it, itís been in my Steam library for years, with roughly 47 minutes played. However, back in January when life seemed dull and pointless, Dark Souls showed me what pointlessness really looked like. I spent roughly 60 hours beating every boss the game threw at me, without summoning, in what looking back at it was one of my absolute favourite adventures ever told or created. Screw your CS Lewis or Peter Jackson, Iíll take Hidetaki Miyazaki any day.

    Doubtless if you are a gamer, youíve heard of this masterpiece of a game, and know some of the memes that surround it. ďGit gudĒ is a saying as recognizable as ďto be or not to beĒ in our circles, but Dark Soulsí beauty does not lie in its difficulty for me. For me, it is finding and exploring strange a strange new world, seeing a new enemy and wondering how it might behave, trying to overcome a boss on the first attempt and probably failing. Failing not because it is difficult, but because it is new, strange and terrifying. Punishing, yes, one wrong step and youíre dead. But never so punishing as to make you want to quit, every boss is beatable with the right strategy, with or without any weapon, however difficult it might seem at first. Therein lies Dark Soulsí beauty, in uncovering the new and uncharted, mastering it, and then being beaten to a pulp when you get cocky.

    From my favourite developer of my favourite game, Arkane Studios and Dishonored, comes a new game: space Dishonored! Joking aside, Prey is less Dishonored and more akin to the System Shocks, games Iím regrettably too young to have played at their original release. Stranded on space station with a horde of aliens, some of which turn into mugs, others who steal your turrets and use them against you, Prey is something of a resource management game with survival elements, which actually is both fun and terrifying. It wears its inspiration on its sleeve with names such as Looking Glass (the now defunct developer that created Thief the Dark Project and the original Deus Ex, and whose late employees went on to make the likes of Bioshock, Skyrim and indeed Dishonored and Prey) and the famous 0451 code, present in all immersive sims worth their salt.

    Prey, while it has its flaws, is a masterpiece in level design, with the entire space station of Talos 1 being reachable from within, and outside. Thatís not hyperbole, you can go on a spacewalk from one end of the station to the other, and then make that walk again indoors, assuming the alien Typhon donít get you. The setting, being in an alternate universe where JFK wasnít assassinated, and the US and USSR worked together in the space race, is beautifully reminiscent of art deco as well as 60s design. The gameplay is fun, but as with Alien Isolation and SOMA a few years ago, this is a setting Iíd almost prefer get the walking simulation treatment, just so I can see everything there is to see, uninterrupted.

    Zelda Breath of the Wild
    Last but by no means least, the new Zelda, the beautiful, open world Zelda does something I greatly respect in a game; itís a fully systems driven, open world game with amazing design, exploration that feels like youíre actually exploring and not just following a marker on the map (looking at you Bethesda) and some beautiful level design in the Divine Beasts, the equivalents of classic Zelda dungeons. Breath of the Wild is a great game, with a beautiful world that you can just go on a walk in for 15 minutes and feel like youíve achieved something purely by doing it. Or you could go for a real walk I guess, but have you seen the weather? Also real walks donít involve you fighting bokoblins, stealing their spears, gutting them with their own weaponry, ripping their guts out with your bare hands and then making lunch on those guts. So thatís something I guess.

    Breath of the Wild constantly gives you amazing vistas, where every point in the distance is reachable, every hill hiding a secret. Its world would be a joy to explore even if it didn't offer small rewards around every corner, but it does. Not in pointless treasure or a better weapon, but in the grassy fields, the strange buildings, the glorious sunrises, the terrifying storms and the bokoblin eating his own snot. It's simply lovely, and a game I deeply wish I could forget everything about, just so I could go back and start it again, new and fresh.

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. TheDarkKnight's Avatar
      TheDarkKnight -
      I'm glad to see you softening your position on console games, Maisie

      I've been interested in getting the switch but I have yet to see a game worthy of the purchase besides Breath of Wild, though to be fair it's pretty hard to find a console to purchase anyway in some places.
    1. Alwyn's Avatar
      Alwyn -
      A game which explores what it means to be young, aliens who turn into mugs and a beautiful world which is enjoyable simply to walk through and explore (it sounds like some self-defence may be required!) - I'm impressed by the creativity and imagination which went into these games and enjoyed your review.
    1. Gigantus's Avatar
      Gigantus -
      Having just discovered the referenced Dishonored for myself and being a sucker for stealth as well as open world games (Skyrim, Fallout) I am tempted to give Prey and Zelda a spin.
      Thanks for the inspired reviews.