You can officially refer to me as the “casual gamer” of the group now. In 2016, I didn’t play many games. With a new job and settling into a new home, my downtime was as precious as it’s ever been. Because of this, I would say that I tried to maximize my time and only play games I suspected would turn out great (even you, No Man’s Sky). Making a list of my top ten games would end up turning into nothing more than just a list of what games I played this year so I’ve decided to just focus on my top five games. With that being said, there are a couple of games that didn’t quite crack my top five but still deserve some recognition.
My time with The Division can best be compared to a great summer fling. The time we spent together was fun. I liked the way that it looked and there were no big issues to deal with. Everything was just fine. But ultimately, that spark was missing. Because of this, we parted ways before things got messy in the end. I moved on knowing that there would be better options for me later on in the year. Our time was brief but I’ll remember it fondly.
Firewatch starts off with so much promise. The first moments pose questions you think will have major repercussions later on in the game. Ultimately, that doesn’t happen as the moral choices you’re presented with seem to all add up to the same thing in the end. But the time I spent watching fires in Wyoming still ended up resonating with me. Shoshone National Forest is beautiful and full of wonder but very quiet which can engulf you in a profound sense of isolation; much like life itself, now that I think about it.
Now onto my Top 5 Games of the Year for 2016.
5. Batman – A Telltale Series
Telltale Games did something really brilliant with their first Season of Batman. They put just as much emphasis on the decisions you made while you were in the shoes of Bruce Wayne as they did while you wearing the cape and cowl of The Dark Knight. There are multiple points throughout the series that you can decide to enter a scenario as Bruce Wayne instead of Batman and speak your case. How effective this turns out is based on prior decisions made and the status of your relationship with other characters. The overall story is a fun mixture of familiar characters and not so familiar relationship dynamics. All in all, this first season was an impressive effort and has me looking forward to another season.
4. Gears of War 4
I was extremely worried going into Gears of War 4. With The Coaltion taking over the reigns, I thought maybe Gears of War would go the way Halo did once 343 Industries took over; which in my opinion, was straight down the drain. But I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, I didn’t end up liking the new characters as much as hoped but Gears 4 did a good job of setting them up while mixing in old favorites. With a much more scaled back narrative then what we saw in Gears of War 3, Gears 4 did a great job of telling a more intimate story while setting up pieces for the rest of the trilogy. The revelation at the end was great and even if you saw it coming, it did a fantastic job of teasing where the story would go in the future.
3. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Naughty Dog likes to push a system to its limit with every Uncharted release and Uncharted 4 was no different. Easily the best looking game I’ve played on the system, Uncharted 4 was a return to form for the franchise. Uncharted 3 hurt my soul. The gunplay felt off, the spawning was downright broken in parts and ultimately, most of the game was just….forgettable.
Naughty Dog decided to double down on the story component of the game and focus on Nathan’s relationship with his (not dead) brother Sam and his (still awesome) love, Elena. So while you might get a sense of ‘been there, done that’ on some of the platforming portions of this trek, the personal interactions and relationship obstacles between the characters keep you invested. Naughty Dog also did a great job of ending the Nathan Drake chapters in the franchise while leaving a way to continue the adventures if they wanted to.
What else is there to say about Overwatch? We’ve spent a ton of time talking about it this past year on the podcast. Great characters, great mechanics, perfectly balanced; I find it hilarious that I had low expectations for the game before it was released. I should have known that Blizzard would hit a home run and deliver a quality multiplayer experience. Then you add in their promise of free updates including additional characters, maps, and seasonal events and you have a great recipe for a truly fantastic, and addicting, experience. I foresee myself coming back to dabble in Overwatch every once in a while for the next few years.
1. Titanfall 2
Game companies should take notes on how to make a sequel from Respawn Entertainment. They managed to make a campaign that feels unique and way more than the “training for multiplayer” campaign I expected. I really shouldn’t have been surprised considering this developer is responsible for some of the best campaigns in first person shooters with their work on the Call of Duty series.
Respawn Entertainment listened to player feedback from the first game and integrated it perfectly into the sequel. The pace has been slowed a tad but still feels very much like you’re playing Titanfall. Burn cards have been ditched in favor of timed boosts that you can pick to compliment the match type or your individual play style. They made the Titans fit into specific classes and rebalanced how easily pilots could bring one down. They included the battery mechanic that elevates the sense of teamwork in a match. All of this added up to my favorite game and multiplayer experience of the year.