My Top 10 Games of 2017

Before I get to this list there’s a few things you should be aware of. I only consider games I have played this year (full list) because there’s not much point in trying to rank games I haven’t actually played. Secondly, I never consider games which come out in the last two months of year for the current year’s list. The reason for this is games need to breathe a bit after they launch and for the dust to settle so I can get an accurate feel for how they fit in the scheme of the year; so I wait. Lastly, 2017 was a packed year in terms of wonderful games. I didn’t get to everything I wanted this year, but even so narrowing down to ten games was impossible. As such I have decided to do two honorable mentions this year.

Ok, with all the housekeeping out-of-the-way on to the list!

Honorable Mention: Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana

Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana is a fun and engaging JRPG which not only offers interesting characters and story but also fun and engrossing gameplay. Being able to customize the combat abilities of the party characters and the ability to switch between them during combat kept combat feeling fun and entertaining throughout the game. There’s a ton of areas to explore. Even though some areas are visited multiple times, backtracking still felt fun because I would be going back to get to someplace I couldn’t reach before. Really the only part of the game which had issues had to do with some flawed localization/translation which they are working on fixing. However even with some weird dialogue which doesn’t quite make sense all the time, this game is definitely fun and interesting.

Honorable Mention: Destiny 2

Destiny 2’s rep has gotten a bit marred after the launch of their first “expansion” but the base game is a very well done evolution of Destiny. With interesting story and excellent combat mechanics which feel natural on PC this is a  great game for anyone who is a fan of shooters.

10: Little Nightmares

Little Nightmares is a compelling and enthralling platformer. You play as a small child named Six who awakens on a cruise ship of horror. This game is much less about jump scares and overt horror (though those do exist) than it is about the slow ratcheting up of terror as you discover more and more about the inhabitants of this ship. Little Nightmares filled with interesting puzzles and has some of the best sound design I have ever seen in a game. The only drawback is it’s mostly linear and if you are diligent in exploring the first time through there isn’t much reason to replay.

9: Snake Pass

Snake Pass is a unique platformer where you don’t really jump so much as climb things as an adorable snake named Noodle and he occasionally receives help from his friend Doodle the hummingbird. The controls for Noodle work really well but do take some getting used to. Indeed thinking about how snakes move in the world does actually help in this game. Snake Pass is incredibly fun and cute but also frustrating in the best possible ways.

8: Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth

Etrian Odyssey V is the perfect game for RPG fans who are looking for a bit less hand holding in their RPGs. Not only do you have to create the characters you go adventuring with but you have to create your own maps of the areas you explore. There is a fairly long tutorial so players aren’t just dumped out into the world with no direction. However, it really only covers the basics and you have to discover most of the tips and tricks for yourself.

7: Final Fantasy XV & DLC

Final Fantasy XV is a game which has almost endless layers to it. The story and all of the main characters are deeply thought out and very well realized in game even if you didn’t watch any of the short anime series or Kingsglaive. The combat is the first real action combat which has been in a Final Fantasy game and is both fun and exciting. Add in all of the DLC (both paid and free) over the last year which has expanded on this story this truly is a game for Final Fantasy fans and newcomers.

6: Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire

Picking up where the last Living Story season left off Guild Wars 2’s second expansion Path of Fire continues the tradition of added new and interesting things, in their own unique way. While this expansion did add mounts into the game they are unlike mounts which have been in any other MMO and offer a unique experience. Additionally, new players only need to purchase the latest expansion to jump right into the new content. With a returned focus on the joy of exploring in Path of Fire there’s never been a better time to jump in and enjoy the game.

5: Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

Final Fantasy XIV’s newest expansion Stormblood not only added in two new classes, Red Mage and Samurai, but also brought with it a ton of quality of life changes which have really improved the overall gameplay experience. There was also a massive combat overhaul which has made the experience of playing much better. Additionally PvP was split off into its own mode. This allows players to have PvP specific set-ups. As someone who had lapsed with my sub Stormblood definitely convinced me to return and I don’t regret a second of it.

4: What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch wasn’t even on my radar at the beginning of this year and it delivered an experience I rarely have in video games these days. The narrative voyage presented in this game is frankly unparalleled. Months later I’m still thinking about this game and the various stories told within it. This close examination of death and the stories people not only tell other people but also tell about themselves is one which will resonate with most people. It is often difficult to go through parts because the subject matter is so deep; but it is well worth the experience.

3: Hob

Hob is just an all around excellent game. The exploration, the way the world comes alive and changes as you progress through the game, and well the narrative is expressed without dialogue… It’s unfortunate this is the last game we’ll be seeing from Runic but at least they left on a very high note.

2: Pyre

If you had walked up to me and told me one of my favorite games this year was going to be a RPG mixed with a Sports game I would have thought you were crazy, but Pyre is exactly that. On the sports aspect all of the characters are so well-balanced that what a person finds the most useful often has a lot more to do with the way they tend to play than pure strengths of the individual characters. Additionally as you progress through the story there are choices which have to be made which will alter the outcome of the game. Lastly, the depth and intrigue of all of these characters can’t be overstated. They all are complex and I enjoyed getting to know all of them. In my book Pyre supersedes both Bastion and Transistor.

1: Assassin’s Creed Origins

Assassin’s Creed Origins has breathed new life in a franchise had been growing a bit stale. This time around we got to see how the order started and were treated to a whole new combat system which was far more active than before. The story is compelling with very interesting characters and the entire game is just a beauty to behold. This is clearly the path the series needs to continue into the future and I applaud Ubisoft for taking the risk of changing the core of the game up. I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about an Assassin’s Creed game.

How Weird Is the Assassins Festival?

My first reaction to the news of an Assassins Festival in FFXV was “that sounds awful”. I even thought that perhaps the cross promotion of things in game had gone a bit too far. I wasn’t bothered by the Coleman gear or the hilarious inclusion of the Cup Noodle quest; but this was different. Elements of a completely different and unrelated game franchise being forced into FFXV felt ridiculous. My skepticism regarding this event was so bad I waited until this past weekend to play it. Considering the fact I normally can’t wait to play anything new in FFXV waiting a full six weeks on this was a big departure from the norm. I’m happy to say despite expecting to find a whole lot of awful I found a ton of fun.

I was quite surprised to discover the Assassins Festival has a real storyline included with it. Obviously, the story is very light and has absolutely no impact to the main game, but it was integrated into the world well. The love of the Assassins Creed games is what draws Noctis and Prompto to the festival while Gladio and Ignis are mostly just there because the other two wanted to go. The Festival itself exists because The Assassin is a historical character of legend in Lestallam and is a vigilante hero who fought against oppression in the city long ago. The festival gives the local citizenry (and our boys) the chance to try out their best Assassin moves and attire.

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Looking cool during the festival.

However, before too long the empire shows up with Loqi Tummelt in command and looking for the wayward Prince. If you don’t remember Loqi he was the guy who showed up with a large mech after Noctis helped Cor clear a base. Shenanigans ensue and of course it’s up to Noctis and crew to run them off, though most of the time it is just Prompto and Noctis running around together with the others helping at various parts. The story didn’t take too long to get through but it was fun and entertaining.

Additionally, the integration of AC game mechanics and FFXV game mechanics was done well. There’s a stealth aspect to the whole festival where running around or jumping/warping around will call attention to Noctis if he does these things around the MTs. This wasn’t always quite accurate though because there were a couple of times where I was standing right in front of a MT and warped away but it didn’t trigger a chase. Speaking of chases, after being spotted the only way to get away was to get out of sight of the MT. Then I had to hide in a doorway, haystack, or dumpster until the danger passed. These hiding spots are also use spots to wait and assassinate nearby MTs. Honestly assassinating the MTs in various ways was a ridiculous amount of fun so I did that whenever the opportunity presented itself.

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Assassinating a MT.

One aspect of the Moogle Festival which SquareEnix carried over is having tokens to be earned and traded in for prizes. However, there were a lot more sources of these tokens and as a result I didn’t have to grind out tokens playing the mini games at all. The mini games are pretty much the same as moogle fest so not having to do them again was a fantastic bonus. My main sources of Assassin Tokens was from doing the main story and then doing all of the side quests. I did do a couple of the mini games just to check and see if they still annoyed. They did.

One thing to be aware of is you can only have a max of 99 Assassin Tokens at one time. This seems obvious if you’ve ever played any Final Fantasy game but I was inexplicably surprised by it. So it’s worth buying things as you go instead of trying to hoard all the tokens.

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Looking cool during the main festival story.

Overall, I’d say if you generally like the Assassins Creed games this festival is worth taking part in. If you’ve never played an AC game before don’t worry, everything is explained well and is intuitive. The only people who should really skip this festival are people who really do not generally like playing AC games. SquareEnix did a masterful job of capturing the feel of AC while keeping solid footing on what FFXV is but not liking either of those elements will ruin it for you.. This festival will be running until January 31st2018 and is a free DLC for FFXV.

 

Everything We Officially Know About Path of Fire (updated 8/8/17)

Similar to my previous post for Heart of Thorns this will be a list of things which have been officially released by ArenaNet or have confirmed as true regarding their upcoming expansion Path of Fire. Nothing which has been datamined or “leaked” are included here. I’ll also include links to all sources of information for people’s reference.

Launch Date September 22nd! (Source)

Standard is $29.99, Deluxe $54.99, Ultimate $79.99 (source)

Everyone who buys PoF will get a level 80 boost. Everyone who buys the Deluxe or Ultimate will also get a free character slot. (source)

Buying PoF does not grant access to HoT content. (source)

There will be a beta event 8/11 – 8/13 in which anyone (even if they don’t currently play GW2 or are a f2p account) will be able to participate in. Players will get a taste of the first map and the Raptor Mount. (source)

There will also be a second preview weekend starting 8/18 for players to create demo characters and play WvW or sPvP with the new Elite Specializations. (source)

The last expansion was feature focused, PoF will be content focused. (source)

System Requirements have been slightly increased (source)

Story (source)

  • Looks like we might get the story of what happened to Rytlock in the Mists
  • Kasmeer has a crisis of faith
  • Balthazar seems intent on being the only god
  • Palawa Joko is in charge in the Crystal Desert and has an army of undead (The Awakened)
  • Balthazar also has an army (The Forged)
  • Kralkatorrik is also active with his Branded
  • Will deal with some deep existential questions about our place in the world and if it’s possible to coexist with the Elder Dragons (source)

Crystal Desert Region (source)

  • This region also includes Northern Elona
  • Elona is also in turmoil over the return of Balthazar
  • Players who didn’t play Nightfall won’t feel lost in the story
  • Same region where Glint used to live
  • Area has been cutoff from the rest of the world for 250 years
  • 5 open world zones, will cover all various types of deserts not just sand and flat areas
    • Total area of maps is more than what we got in HoT and the season six maps (source)
  • Variety of events and activities in each maps
  • Returning to some of the core things which made exploration in core GW2 fun
  • First map is Crystal Oasis and it has a major city named Amnoon Oasis (source)
  • Each crafting profession will have access to new recipes (source)

Mounts (source)

  • Brings new ways a traversing maps
  • Mounts have an engage skill to get the player into combat and then will despawn so the player can fight
  • There is no cooldown on the engage skill (source)
  • Can’t mount while in combat (source)
  • Each one will have it own special movement ability
  • Part of the Mastery System
  • Each mount has its own mastery line which gives upgrades to the specific mount (source)
  • Gathering or interacting with NPCs will automatically dismount you (source)
  • Will be usable in open world zones across all of Tyria (source)
  • There will be areas where mounts are unusable (ie jumping puzzles) (source)
  • Different maps will unlock different mounts and after you unlock a new one you can take the mount back and find new areas in the previous maps (source)
  • Raptor
    • Enormous leap
    • Raptor will be unlocked before players finish the first story step (source)
    • First mastery tier for increases the power of the engage skill (source)
    • Second tier adds a pull in for the engage skill (source)
    • Third skill doubles the jump distance (source)
    • Fourth skill shares the first passive upgrade across all the other mounts (source)
  • Springer
    • Looks kind of like a bunny/kangaroo cross
    • Charged High Jump
  • Skimmer
    • Manta like creature
    • Skimms over the top of water/land
  • Jackel
    • is a jackel of living dust
    • Can blink and change directions in air

Elite Specializations (source)

  • Guardian gets the Firebrand
    • Specializes in burning enemies and conjuring tomes to support allies
    • Giving up instant support for casted support
    • Use mantras to charge spells for instant use (source)
    • Virtues replaced by conjured tomes of lore (source)
    • Gains focus support
    • Main Hand Axe
    • Give Guardians a more robust way to fill the support role (source)
  • Necromancer gets the Scourge
    • Gives up Death Shroud to help protect his allies
    • Mare battlefield control and movement options
    • Can raise sand shades to shield allies and torment foes (source)
    • Use their torches to burn and corrupt the ground under their enemy’s feet (source)
    • Off Hand Torch
    • Gives the Necro more of a support and battlefield management role (source)
  • Thief gets the Deadeye
    •  Has a Mercenary flavor to it
    • Gives Thieves greater range to work from
    • Marks targets to harass them with harmful effects (source)
    • Can cast cantrips which gain bonuses when used on marked targets (source)
    • Rifle
    • Wanted to explore the concept of being a ranged Thief (source)
    • Very strong against single targets (source)
  • Mesmer gets the Mirage
    • Focuses on being a deceptive combatant in close melee range
    • New dodge mechanic where they blur to allow attacks to pass through instead of moving out-of-the-way
    • Create constructs which shatter when touched and create mirage cloaks
    • Main Hand Axe (source)
    • Wanted to give another melee weapon (source)
    • Can cast spells while dodging and can dodge while stunned (source)
    • Can be both offensive and defensive at the same time (source)
    • Has ambush attacks (source)
  • Warrior gets the Spellbreaker
    • Focuses on fighting against casters
    • Can stop skills from working and strip boons
    • Use meditations to see past defenses (source)
    • Uses adrenaline to perform “Full Counter” and absorb their enemy’s next attack and damage surrounding foes (source)
    • Daggers
    • Give warriors the ability to play more of a disruption role (source)
    • Breaking the mould of warriors being physical only and not dealing with magic (source)
  • Elementalist gets the Weaver
    • Wields multiple elements at the same time
    • Cycle elements from hand to hand and combine them into a central skill (source)
    • The central skill changes depending on their weapon and elemental attunement (source)
    • Main Hand Sword
    • Designed as a melee bruiser who hunts down their targets and eliminates them (source)
    • Good survivability(source)
    • Sword is a true melee weapon (unlike dagger which is close range but not really melee) (source)
  • Ranger gets the Soulbeast
    • Have stances to take on the aspects of wild creatures (source)
    • When they merge with their pet they gain its unique abilities and the abilities of its archetype (source)
    • Will have new pets to obtain in the Crystal Desert
    • Main Hand Dagger
    • Close combat fight style (source)
    • Wanted to give the ability to play without a pet for a bit without it being a drawback (source)
  • Revenant gets the Renegade
    • The new legend is Kalla Scorchrazor who led the rebellion against the Flame Legion
    • Can summon members of Kalla’s warband (source)
    • Shoots arrows through the mists to blindside enemies (source)
    • Shortbow
    • Uses ambush style empowerment of Kalla’s allies (source)
    • Glass cannon style of play (source)
  • Engineer gets the Holosmith
    • Can project light into a semi-solid form
    • Photon forge mode gives access to powerful new skills which can cause the Holosmith to explode (source)
    • Gain greater power after heat level reaches a certain threshold (source)
    • Allows for a multiweapon attack style
    • Bends light to their will
    • Main Hand Sword (source)
    • High power/Glass cannon archtype (source)
    • Can accidentally kill yourself if you aren’t paying attention (source)
    • Very focused around the core Holosmith mechanic (source)

Guild Hall (source)

  • There will be a new Guild Hall called Windswept Haven
  • Must have Heart of Thorns to claim and fully upgrade the Guild Hall (source)

Links To Articles on Other Sites

MMORPG.com

Game Space

http://www.gamespace.com/author/arlee/

GameBreaker

The GameBreaker site doesn’t exist anymore but I have reposted what I could recover over here including my Bloodborne review, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments review, and my Revolution 60 review.

The Demon Hunter Starting Experience Is Wonderful

Demon Hunter is the newest Hero class in World of Warcraft and their starting experience offers a unique and compelling story experience. In fact I’d say this new starting area story is even better than the Death Knight starting experience. Obviously there will be story spoilers ahead, but I’ll try to keep them at a minimum. It’s pretty impossible to discuss this without any spoilers.

The Demon Hunter story-line picks-up, in the past, as the attack on The Black Temple begins. In fact I think what we see is the fight in the training grounds which leads to Supremus. Illidan sees all of this happening and sends a group of his Illidari off to retrieve a Sargerite Keystone. This keystone is apparently super important to defeating the Legion. I love the concept of this happening while we were raiding The Black Temple.

Desktop 8-10-2016 9-17-28 PM-232We earn our skills from completing various quests and killing specific demons and stealing their power… which is a fantastic mechanic as a Demon Hunter. Previously this system seemed fairly arbitrary and it never really related content of the quest with obtaining abilities before. It’s wonderful to see this concept folded into the story much more smoothly. It also played up how the entire reason Demon Hunters exist is to defeat the Legion.

One of my favorite aspects of the starting zone is the inclusion of a couple of spots where the player has a choice to make. The first one is during the “Enter the Illidari: Shivarra” quest. You need need to either sacrifice yourself or Sevis Brightflame (who you’ve been working with for a bit) to power a portal and bring in some much needed allies. I was quite surprised we could volunteer to die. If you do sacrifice yourself, Illidan will talk about how you are similar to him and have an immortal demon soul. Nice to have an explanation of why the player can’t truly die. Either way the choice isn’t a huge one but it was really nice to be able to make it.

Desktop 8-10-2016 9-22-11 PM-88The second choice will color the rest of the the Demon Hunter experience throughout the expansion. We have to pick either Kayn Sunfury or Altruis the Sufferer as your second in command of the Illidari. This is an interesting choice especially for people who played during Burning Crusade and met Altruis previously. They represent the choice between having faith in someone/something and trusting your own judgement above all else.

Kayn Sunfury, perhaps the more “boring” of the two options, is someone who always stayed loyal to Illidan. We first encounter Kayn right after entering Mardum and he’s the main questgiver. He cares about duty and honor and trusts Illidan implicitly… which is a bit disturbing. He’s an interesting character though and it’d be nice to interact with him more. Also worth noting if you pick Kayn as your second in command you’ll end up with the Shade of Akama, instead of Akama, as part of the Illidari.

Desktop 8-10-2016 9-22-50 PM-849For my money Altruis the Sufferer is much more interesting. Players from the Burning Crusade will remember him from a questline in Nagrand. His story is he felt Illidan had succumbed to the influence of the fel and didn’t trust Illidan’s judgement anymore. He didn’t stop there though. As a direct result of his interactions with us four Illidari are killed. So it’s a pretty extreme example of betrayal. Altruis stands by his choices as he didn’t agree with Illidan at all.

Altruis being the in the jail with me was really surprising. There seemed to be no good reason for him to be locked up. The Wardens just decided to jail him right along with all the other Illidari. I wish I could have a conversation with Maiev about how that happened. It’d probably just be something like “all beings with fel are a danger” which would be super disappointing. It just seems sort of messed up to jail him along with everyone else.

I also have to mention the Pool of Remembrance which starts a fantastic cutscene about what it means to be a Demon Hunter. It’s quite interesting but It also reminded me of why the whole “victory at any cost” mantra is incredibly troubling. Unfortunately, it really did nothing to help me make a choice between Kayn and Altruis. In the end I went with Altruis because the concept of having blind faith in anyone is just disturbing to me.

After losing Gul’Dan, Khadgar shows-up to take us to the appropriate capital city. I expected to arrive right before the Broken Isles Scenario. Instead we arrive right after the events of the Broken Isles and we are the one who informs the leaders about the infiltration of the Legion. I mean how weird would it be if a different Illidari showed-up to say the Horde/Alliance have been infiltrated? It’d be super weird and I’d feel dumb for not using my spectral site to check.

I also need to take a moment to recognize how awesome the voice acting in this entire section is. I was consistently impressed, especially by Gul’Dan’s VO. Everyone sounded authentic and compelling which is just about the best thing.

Overall it’s a fantastic experience with a new class and I honestly couldn’t stop playing once I started because I was enjoying it all so much. World of Warcraft has really up’ed their game with the Demon Hunter starting experience. If you have interest in the story at all you should play through this content at least once.

Celebrate 20 Years Of Tomb Raider With Square Enix

Tomb Raider first came on to the scene in October of 1996 and was an instant success launching multiple sequels, movies, and reboots throughout the years. It’s a game series which has been important to many people in multiple generations who have love not only the for the game, but for Lara Croft as well. Now, 20 years later, Square Enix is celebrating this success and asking the fans to participate directly.

Square Enix is asking fans to consider “What does Tomb Raider mean to you?” and make a video with your response. These videos can cover anything from talking about how the games have influenced your lives to recalling favorite moments in any of the games. Maybe Lara Croft somehow inspired you to do something or sparking an interesting something new and different; this would be a perfect time to share the story. This isn’t a contest but the best submissions will likely be included in something in the future because before submitting your video you have to agree to an image/likeness release. Video submissions can be submitted at this website. No deadline was given on these, but I’d do it sooner rather than later because there will be a cutoff at some point.

For fans who have taken their love of Tomb Raider to another level by creating fan art, Square Enix is running a contest just for you. They are looking for any fan art relating to Tomb Raider both old games and new. Entries could be landscapes, tombs, enemies, or even of Lara herself. The prize for this contest is $1,000 and the art will be featured in a special print offering which will be revealed later this year. There’s no word on how many winners there will be, but it does look like they are looking for more than one. Go to this website to enter the contest, and good luck!

Sherlock Holmes Delves Into The Supernatural

There’s not a whole lot of information available on Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter yet, but I can’t deny the trailer has seriously piqued my interest as it looks like a bit of a  mystical and supernatural story.

After the delight Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments was, I really am excited to see where Frogwares Studio takes things. Sadly Kerry Shale, who was the voice of Sherlock in Crimes & Punishments, will not be reprising the role. As sad as I am about this, it also makes a bit of sense because this will be a wholly different incarnation of Sherlock than what we have had previously. Changing the voice actor up will help to keep the distinction between Sherlocks more firmly in mind.

I’ve also heard the world will be more openly explorable which is a big improvement as the random invisible walls were one of the few things which bothered me with the previous game. I constantly found myself wanting to wander off and see what else was around, but the player was really given a limited amount of area to explore.

Also in Crimes & Punishments there was a background story going on at the same time the player is working on other cases. There were little bits of info dropped throughout the game about this side story, but everything didn’t come together until the last case was done, at which point the side story came to the foreground. I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar was done in this game, but maybe the smaller cases will be more directly pieces of the larger whole?

I also very much hope this new installment will also let the players get things wrong and show consequences of these things. The ability to be wrong, and to have it affect the game directly was one of the best aspects of Crimes & Punishments.

Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter will be released on May 27th for PS4, XB1, and PC.