Without a doubt, 2017 has been a stellar year for games. Rather than be bombarded with Primary Gifting Season releases (See: Christmas games), studios from around the world blessed us with the furious release of blockbuster after blockbuster in fierce competition to be the most reputable and loved game of the year. Old favourites Nintendo released their heavily anticipated Switch alongside Breath of the Wild, a firm favourite with new and old Zelda fans, reviving the brand and contributing a new favourite to the ongoing console war. Indie fans were treated to spectacular graphics and terrifying psychodynamic experiences such as those found in Ninja Theory’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice or the seemingly innocent but frighteningly deep Doki Doki Literature Club! from Team Salvato, with everyone else patiently awaiting the plethora of big budget AAA games from the likes of Ubisoft, Bioware and EA.
2017 hasn’t been without controversy, however; negative opinions around the blatant gambling, I mean, endless microtransactions in EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront 2 led to the creation of the most downvoted post in Reddit history and investigations from various governments over the legality of loot boxes in games as some – including Disney – categorised it as gambling. This has led to a plummet in sales for what is a very enjoyable game; I loved cutting about as Darth Maul, ruthlessly hacking down all who stood in my way. There’s also Ubisoft’s endlessly confusing Assassin’s Creed: Origins bundles and varying prices and exclusivity console-to-console, as well as Bioware’s bizarre facial animations and PC-breaking bugs in their new addition to the Mass Effect series, Mass Effect: Andromeda. But enough with the negativity; let’s have a look at my personal top five games of 2017. A few big names will be omitted from this list purely because I haven’t played or completed them, but I will throw in an honorary list at the end of games who almost made it.
5. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
Vicarious Visions and Activision teamed up to bring us the wonderfully remastered original Crash Bandicoot trilogy, paving the way for more demands to see our old favourites reworked and rereleased (big hype for Shadow of the Colossus next year!). The team managed to retain Crash’s light and humorous yet devilishly difficult nature and gave Crash and co. updated looks and voice recording to put him squarely into the 21st Century. Although I nearly broke my controller/ wall/ fiancé playing through some of the later missions in each game and got a bit too obsessed when meticulously trying to collect all the gems and relics, it was great big burst of nostalgia that has been well-thought out and came out at the right time. I wait with baited breath for Crash Team Racing which is the best Crash game and is better than Mario Kart, don’t @ me.
4. Destiny 2
Having finally dived headfirst into Bungie’s progeny, Halo, namely: The Master Chief Collection and gaining some FPS experience I felt prepared for Destiny 2. Having played the original Destiny, I had my doubts about what the experience would be as I found the first instalment to be lonely, boring and lacking any (guilty) spark. The storyline was solid, with a clear, dynamic villain and a handy trope of “let’s get the old gang back together again!” complete with Nathan Fillion and his pet chicken. Destiny 2 is beautiful; the combat is solid, and fluid and it was easy to get to grips with the controls, unlike its predecessor which ultimate just felt confused. Destiny 2 engaged gamers in a way that Destiny didn’t, mostly by having a mini football field at The Farm where you could play the new Fifa 18 with your new online buddies. My only real criticism of this game was the voiceless protagonist; even Master Chief had a few key quips throughout the Halo saga and it seemed a bit backwards to have this silent, Scooby Doo-era individual making faces rather than voicing an opinion.
3. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
This hotly anticipated title from Ninja Theory absolutely blew me away. It’s design and execution were damn near flawless, with stunning facial capture animation and intricately designed villages, landmarks and excellent looking water. Melina Juergens, who also doubles as Ninja Theory’s video produce, brings our heroine Senua to life in this thrilling yet disturbing adventure. Best played with noise-cancelling headphones, the narrator is audible just above a whisper, as the experience transforms into one of multiple senses and considerations. The game is played in third-person and requires a keen sense of concentration as not only must you manipulate Senua’s movements when exploring or in combat, you are aware of Senua or the narrator speaking alongside the cacophony of voices that ceaselessly whisper and berate, doubt and intimidate you. Interestingly, the game opens with a special mention to the mental health teams consulted and to those living with mental illness who contributed to the game, as the game depicts the slow decline into psychosis which, having lived experience of it, is as terrifying as the game conveys it to be. The plot content and pace fits well with the style and genre but I’ve placed it at #3 because I don’t much enjoy puzzle or problem-solving games and some of the puzzles in Hellblade were incredibly trying which sucked some of the fun out of it for me.
2. Mass Effect: Andromeda
I know I wrote a piece on Bioware’s latest instalment to the Mass Effect universe earlier in the year that was rather scathing, but I do place myself firmly in Team “We enjoyed Mass Effect: Andromeda even though it didn’t live up to the hype and wasn’t as good as the originals”. It was a long five years waiting for its release and the hype was palpable. Despite a few facial/ leg animation setbacks on release, the game was stunning; a new galaxy and a wealth of beautiful new planets to scan for Iridium/ other resources and explore as we paved the way for humanity – and the other main council species – to build a future in Andromeda. There was no shortage of quests to do, with many of them being a throwback to the previous trilogy and a nod to its sister, Dragon Age, as well as Easter eggs from many other franchises such as Frozen and Star Wars. At times, it felt too much like the team at Bioware were trying to recreate a new Shepard and co. but we all know that Team Shakarian can never be replaced, loveable though Jaal and Vetra were. The Tempest lacked the overall draw of the Normandy and the pilot, SAM and the Kerry Chambers wannabe were no replacement for Joker and EDI. The voice acting felt flat and unconvincing at times, but the plot was strong, and the combat has been vastly improved since ME3, with players able to switch between “profiles” to adapt their playing style to the task at hand. Fryda Wolff and Tom Taylorson who voiced Sarah/ Scott Ryder do the job well and do justice to the series, as do their crew and even discount Aria and Omega, but they are no match for the voice talents of Mark Meer and our Lord and saviour Jennifer Hale who gave real life to Shepard. Despite rushing the game over the last two years of production, and my seemingly endless criticism of it, Bioware were able to create a one-of-a-kind space game with beautiful words, well-developed characters and lore and a universe that I long to be a part of.
1. Game of the Year: Horizon Zero Dawn
That’s a lie; my GOTY every year is The Witcher 3, but 2017 finally gave me a worthy adversary the give big Geralt of Rivia a run for his money. Essentially a technologically enhances female-version of Geralt, Aloy is the beautiful and poignant protagonist of Guerilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn. Set in a world that’s kind of like Vikings but with mechanical weapons and animals, HZD is a perfect hybrid of the new and an old world as traditional and valour prevail within the Nora tribes with only a basic reliance of technology. The introduction to Aloy’s story reveals the technological obsessed age of their predecessors who were believed to have ultimately fallen victim to their love of and dependency on machines. Available in ultra 4k HDR glory, HZD wins the top spot in the Grass Watch competition. The addition of Photo Mode allows for a truly unique screen grabbing experience as you can manipulate Aloy into a range of poses while editing the landscape to fit all your Instagram needs. The voice acting is superb, along with a dedicated emotional response system to personalise the way you play. The NPC’s have real depth and character and every quest or interaction feels meaningful, even if it is when they call you an outcast or freak, again showing a subtle nod to the abuse hurled at Geralt despite being a hero of sorts. Basically, if you have a PS4/ PS4 Pro and don’t have either The Witcher 3 or HZD, then what the hell are you doing? Put the Switch down and go and buy them.
So that’s my list! As promised, here are a few honourable mentions that I enjoyed but that didn’t quite make the cut:
- Persona 5 (Bet you never seen it cominggggg!)
- Yakuza 0
- The Sims 4: Cats and Dogs
- XCOM 2: War of the Chosen
- Doki Doki Literature Club!
- Gwent: The Witcher Card Game
- Star Wars: Battlefront 2
- All the delicate duplicates
Well, that concludes 2017. There are a few cracking games coming out next year and I can’t wait to see what else appears in 2018. Happy new year!