I like to play video games, but I don’t always get to the latest ones the year they come out. Here’s a list, in no particular order, of my favorite games that I finished this year.
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition
I bought Dark Souls a long time ago when it came out on PC. However, it took me until 2017 to really figure out what Dark Souls was all about. Initially, I thought Dark Souls was just about treating players poorly and giving them a hard time for the sake of masochistic player’s enjoyment. There’s certainly a masochistic element to enjoying Dark Souls, but it’s really about the triumphs you pull from that masochistic experience. Trying again, failing, and finally defeating a really tough boss is a great feeling that I don’t think I’ve had since I beat Nick Bruiser in Super Punch-Out!!! when I was about seven years old. While I didn’t get to experience Dark Souls when it was new, I can definitely see why people loved it so much when it came out in 2010 and there were no guides for it. Discovering all that Dark Souls has to offer would probably have been a really great experience, but I still enjoyed discovering all the things that the Dark Souls community had already discovered for me. Definitely my favorite game that I played this year, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it.
This was a game I binged at the end of 2017 during my Christmas break. Dead Rising originally came out in 2006 on the Xbox 360, but it was only released on modern platforms in 2016. It’s similar to Dark Souls in that it is sort of a puzzle that needs to be solved. The game takes place in a mall over the course of 72 in-game hours, and the influence from games like Majora’s Mask can definitely be felt. For starters, the clock in the game has events scheduled to trigger at certain times that you can completely ignore or fully participate in. Second, the game provides you the ability to keep your level and restart from the beginning of the game. This might sound frustrating, but earlier sections of the game become easier with new unlockable moves and increased character stats. Finally, the game feels like a living and breathing world. Items of varying levels of usefulness are peppered throughout the mall and certain events will cause other items to drop, as well. This adds a feeling of weight to each decision regarding each of the events presented to you during the course of the game. The world design is definitely the star of the show, and other aspects of the game are not so great. The combat can get repetitive and boring, escorting survivors is a dangerous game that can be unforgiving, and the timer by it’s nature doesn’t wait for you to make decisions. Despite all the flaws I still managed to find a place on this list for Dead Rising because of it’s excellent world design and pacing.
Torchlight the First was an awesome podcast game and Torchlight II is no different. Dungeon crawling in Torchlight II is pretty different from Torchlight, though. In Torchlight II you can send your pet to town to buy and sell now, you can go beyond just one dungeon to multiple different dungeons, and it is an all around bigger game than the first Torchlight.
It’s scope increase doesn’t make it feel like the attention to detail suffered. Each enemy mob is an interesting combat encounter with different weaknesses and strengths, there’s some enemies that resurrect other enemies that you might want to kill first, and each ability in the skill tree can be useful if you pump enough points into it. I played as an Embermage and basically coasted through the game using only one or two skills (Prismatic Bolt and Shocking Burst from the Storm branch of the skill tree). I probably could have had an easier time if I diversified my skills, but I wanted to find some combination that would allow me to succeed without having to think too much about what I was doing. If you’re looking for something to mindlessly click through, or you’re looking to get way into a really deep Action-RPG, Torchlight II could probably fit both bills quite nicely. There’s also 4 player co-op that would probably make it a good game to chill out with your buddies and shoot the breeze while you play.
Rogue Legacy came at a great time for me. Throughout 2017 I was working my way through college at Western Governor’s University while working full time, and Rogue Legacy’s brand of rogue-lite really fit well into my schedule. Rogue Legacy has a rogue-like component in its run-based permadeath mechanic, but it also has an overall progression mechanic that let’s you progress long-term by collecting gold on each run. After your run is over, you can use the gold you’ve collected to buy universal upgrades and power ups. You can also buy new classes and you can pick from one of three randomly chosen classes at the start of each run. This is where the legacy part of the game comes in. Each run represents the heir of the previous character you ran as. This character can pass traits along to the next three characters you can choose to play as. These traits range from dyslexia, to foot-numbness, to being bald. I ultimately settled in on using the Lich character class as much as possible. The Lich character class lets you become stronger for each enemy you kill. This allowed the Lich to have almost as much health as the barbarian (a tank class) and almost as much mana as the mage class. If you have a good spell with the Lich character you are almost unstoppable if you’ve had a good run and managed your health and tithes to your mana pool correctly. The fact that I’m going on this much about is a testament to how good it is, and playing it in 30-45 minute chunks is probably the best way to play it. That’s why it worked so well for me this year because I could sandwich it in between getting off of work and starting my coursework for the evening.
Batman: Arkham Knight
I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand this was a way better open world game than Arkham City or Arkham Origins were thanks to the addition of the batmobile. On the other hand I don’t come to the Arkham series for open world games, but for tightly paced narrative driven adventures in the Batman universe. This certainly is a well-paced, narrative-driven game in the Batman universe, but I wouldn’t call it an action-adventure in the strictest sense of the word. The game does a really great job of being an open-world action game a-la Shadow of Mordor, Just Cause 2, or Mad Max, but I play other games to scratch that open-world itch. Nevertheless, the story which plumbs the depths of Batman’s character as a monstrous vigilante is presented in an introspective fashion. Indeed, the story takes place almost entirely in Batman’s mind with the mystery of who the titular Arkham Knight is acting as more of a backdrop than the main story thread. Scarecrow’s plot to turn Batman against his own city using the Arkham Knight’s knowledge of Batman’s tactics provides a justification for the internal, melodramatic conflict Batman experiences as he fights to decide if he is truly trustworthy as Gotham’s dark knight. I won’t spoil much more than to say that Joker, despite being dead, still haunts The Batman and his family.
Grand Theft Auto V
I had never finished a Grand Theft Auto game before I beat this one. I think the best thing about it is the unique story and characters. Sure, tooling around the open world causing destruction and mayhem can be fun. However, I found the heist missions and the decades old conflict between Michael and Trevor to be two of the best parts of the game. I especially enjoy the final mission where Franklin is able to bring the two together for a time to accomplish a common goal. Los Santos is a beautifully rendered open world that tries to bring together several different locales in California. There’s a sort-of hilly wine country analogue, there’s the obvious section of the city modeled after Los Angeles, and then there’s the desert where Trevor and his pals live. All these locales are explored by the game’s three main characters in different ways and each one has specific Strangers and Freaks missions. I especially enjoyed the one where you had to take paparazzi photos for a scumbag journalist. That quest line’s ending is pretty cool.