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SSLF's GOATest GOTY of the Year 2017


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#1 Ocelot

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 08:11 PM

Now I know what you're thinking: "Ocelot, if the rumours about you being the handsomest man alive really are true, how do you manage to be so humble about it? And, also, isn't it only November? Why are we doing this so early?"

 

The short answer is that the rumours are greatly exaggerated, and in truth I'm probably only maybe in the top ten handsomest men on the planet. Maybe only top twelve! No, probably top ten. But, anyway, as to the second question, I just like talking about video games, man. We don't need to hash out the official best game of 2017 right away; there's plenty of time for arguments and squabbling amongst ourselves until we all unanimously decide that it's Horizon Zero Dawn.

 

I feel like 2017 will go down in history as one of the best years we've ever had for this children's hobby we're all hopelessly addicted to; I've been knocking out GOTY contenders every month like clockwork, and even the ones that aren't quite my favourites have still been really good. We've struck a rich vein of quality in the ol' video game mine, and that Texas Tea is a'bubblin'. Timbeeeerrrrrr!

 

I'll start with a cheeky little list of all the amazing games I've played this year before I get started on some longer-form thoughts:

 

Gravity Rush 2

Yakuza 0

Nioh

Horizon: Zero Dawn

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Nier Automata

Persona 5

Prey

Rime

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

Yakuza Kiwami

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider

Metroid: Samus Returns

Assassin's Creed Origins

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus

Super Mario Odyssey

 

And that's just me with my narrow tastes and unwillingness to play anything that seems too scary (Resident Evil 7) or hard (Cuphead). And that's just the games I really liked; if I widened the net to catch everything I didn't love but still enjoyed we'd be here all week.

 

So with that out of the way, tell me about some good video games you played this year! We don't have to hammer out top ten lists or anything, I just thought we'd talk about some games and stuff. You might need Wikipedia's list of games that came out in 2017 if your memory is as bad as mine is.



#2 The Werewolff

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Posted 07 November 2017 - 09:17 PM

Would love to vote on this, but literally the online game I have played all year (that was released this year) was Cuphead...and I did quite poorly, to say the least...


The other one. 


#3 Ocelot

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Posted 10 November 2017 - 09:45 PM

Would love to vote on this, but literally the online game I have played all year (that was released this year) was Cuphead...and I did quite poorly, to say the least...

 

Still counts!

 

Oh no no no, you guys. I'm not letting this one slink away unposted in. I'll discuss GOATees in here all on my own if I have to. IT'LL BE THE BEST GOTY THREAD EVER and you'll all feel really dumb for not having jumped in sooner!

 

The first game I want to talk about is Prey, which is a totally unrelated non-sequel to the other game called Prey from 2006, and is also completely unrelated to the famously canceled-in-development Prey 2. Prey 2017 is a game from Arkane (makers of Dishonored), and I absolutely loved it.

 

If you're struggling to call it to mind (because it was, unfortunately, not especially popular or successful), picture System Shock 2, and then stop picturing things because it's that. You're a feller (or a gal) on a space station overrun by nasty things, and you have to go places and complete tasks by doing all the things that make immersive sims so wonderfully addictive: improvising, combining systems with other systems, hacking doors, reading e-mails. I may have mentioned once or twice that I absolutely adore reading e-mails in games; some day Platinum Games is going to make a stylish, hardcore e-mail-read-'em-up and it'll be the last game I ever need to play.

 

Preyoshock is the true successor to the System Shock games, in a way that Bioshock only ever paid lip service to. It is such a cool game, with so many neat tools to experiment with. It's one of those delightful games that will give you an objective and leave it to you to work out the details, where any given task can be achieved in half a dozen different ways. You have a gun that fires rapidly-hardening blobs of goo, which you can use to stun enemies, to plug up vents, to block doorways, to create impromptu staircases up the sides of walls to reach otherwise inaccessible areas, and even to set speedrun records by shunting your own character model outside the world space and skipping the entire game. There are matter fabricators strewn about the space station that let you break down any items in your inventory into their constituent raw elements, then rebuild those elements into any new toy you happen to have the blueprints for. You can scan the alien bad guys and gradually spec yourself into the alien ability tree to give yourself all kinds of cool powers, but you have to be aware that the more alien DNA you engineer into yourself, the more you run the risk of the stations automated defence systems turning against you.

 

UMPH it's such a neat game! And in proper immersive sim fashion, everything has its own in-game, in-lore explanation if you dig deep enough. There's a Nerf crossbow you can build for yourself, which is near useless in almost every situation, unless you happened to read the lengthy e-mail thread amongst members of the space station's staff about how they all decided to design a toy crossbow with capacitive darts that could set off eachother's touchscreen computers so they could irritate eachother at work. Then you suddenly realise that you can now activate various electronic locks to open doors by firing your toy crossbow darts through open windows at computer screens, and the whole game opens up before you.

 

Even the mission design is impressively open. Prey has main missions and story missions, and a fairly linear progression from one mission to another, but the difference here is that so much of the game seems entirely optional. You can kill anyone you like at any moment, including the people who send you on errands, and the game has to account for it. When the ending rolls around, it's less a 'go here for the good ending and here for the bad one' setup, and more just a series of objectives that you can do if you want to. You can destroy the space station, you can make a thing that'll kill all the aliens, you can brain wash the bad guy into flying you home, you can rescue all the people remaining on the station, or if you want to you can do none of those things. You can kill every single person you meet on the station, or you can just kill some of them and hide their bodies and never tell anyone about it. You can follow a certain side quest path that leads to an alternate escape pod you can take all by yourself like a third of the way through the game, leaving everyone else to die. 

 

The story makes this really interesting, too. Long story short, you're playing as a someone who's had their mind wiped a bunch of times, and you're following orders from a robot one of your previous selves has left behind, programmed with instructions about how to get off this heap. But early on you'll meet another robot, programmed by a different version of yourself, telling you something entirely different. You're constantly meeting new characters who all remember you, but it's never clear exactly which 'you' they knew, and whether that even matters in the grand scheme of things. Reading through different people's e-mails, some of them think you're a saint and some a monster, and all points in between. The game leaves it up to you to decide who to trust, if anyone at all. It's not a game I'd recommend playing for the story itself, but it is a really interesting world to inhabit, if that makes sense. The lore and world-building really add to the game's atmosphere, even if the actual plot isn't the greatest thing. Similar to Dishonored, really; I'm not that interested in the story of a dude taking down a conspiracy plot, but love being in that game and soaking it up.

 

Prey is such a GOTY, you guys. Oh man. If you've ever enjoyed a Deus Ex, a Dishonored, a Thief, a ___ Shock, you're going to feel right at home. It has some sore points, like perhaps a little too much unavoidable combat that isn't especially enjoyable, and the performance and load times weren't great on PS4 (definitely one to play on PC if you can), but nothing that really stood in the way of me adoring the game.



#4 Spark

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Posted 11 November 2017 - 08:14 PM

Prey was the easy shoe-in for GOTY in the early half of the year. Personally Breath of the Wild never stood a chance against it, and definitely doesn't now following Wolfenstein and Mario Odyssey. It'll be lucky to crack the Honorable mentions if Life is Strange: Before the Storm sticks its landing in the final episode.


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#5 Ocelot

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Posted 11 November 2017 - 11:54 PM

Well, on the subject of Breath of the Wild: The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

 

Yeah, it certainly had its problems, and  I can't say it was my favourite Zelda, but I think it's a remarkable game all the same and definitely worth a place amongst the best games of the year. In the grand scheme of things, BotW probably doesn't do anything that hasn't been done before in video games, as an open world game with survival elements, main quests and side quests, a little bit of RPGness, some crafting and puzzle-solving and all that good stuff. What it does do, that sets it well apart from most other games, is combining all that stuff into one and then giving it that ol' Nintendo polish. It's pretty cool.

 

I once saw BotW described as an unusually 'analogue' game, which I thought was pretty solid. It's a real simulation of a world; not an ultra high-fidelity looker, but a world where if you think something should work, it probably does. It's Far Cry 2 made by Nintendo, with a little bit of Metal Gear Solid V thrown in for good measure; a game built upon a thousand interwoven systems governing how everything should work behind the scenes. It's a game where you walk up to a boat moored at the shore, and instead of hitting a context-sensitive INTERACT button to get it moving, you cut the rope with your sword and then pull out your Korok leaf to blow wind onto the sail. A game where you might not have fire arrows in your quiver, but if you have a few moments you can cut down a tree to make firewood, dump a piece of flint on the wood, hit the flint with your sword to start a fire, then nock an arrow, dip the tip of the arrow in the fire, and bamzo, you've just made a fire arrow. A game where they needed to give you two different types of bombs, because the round ones will roll down hills and you need a square one if you want it to stay where you put it.

 

In some ways I enjoyed the fervor around Breath of the Wild more than I enjoyed actually playing it. The enormous internet outpouring of surprise and delight whenever someone discovered that "OMG, if you do this and then this the craziest thing happens!". I don't personally have the creativity or patience necessary to think up or execute some of the ridiculous things I saw people doing in the game, but I loved watching them do it. True to form, Nintendo made the Nintendo-est open world I think there's every been, where there's always something interesting to find or something fun to play with. I played the game for about 90 hours and there's still loads of stuff out there I haven't seen, and I don't think people will ever exhaust the possibilities of what you can do with all the rune powers.

 

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And speaking of that world, what a nice place it was! Remember the whole goofy adventure you had to go on to get into the Gerudo village, where everyone is a seven-foot tall Amazon goddess with a six-pack chiseled from marble and thighs for days, and they won't let you in until you disguise yourself as a pretty girl? Remember the first time you decided to brave Death Mountain and literally burst into flame? Remember Eventide Island, when a simple trip to a mysterious island suddenly turned your Zelda into one of them there Dark Soulses? This game felt like a grand adventure in a way very few games do; few Zelda games, even. My unguided trip through BotW's Hyrule was so much more memorable to me than, say, being led by the nose through the Hyrule of Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword. The perverse joy that comes from knowing the game wants you do go one way and then deliberately going in the opposite direction is here in spades.

 

Although, come to think of it, Breath of the Wild never actually tells you to go here. The game doesn't really do waypoints, as such. Quest design is always a matter of "Go north until you reach ____ geographical marker, then head east", which is a really nice change from the 'follow the glowing dot' design of almost every other game in our current era. Can't let the player get lost, because then they won't meet the next challenge designed to make them want to buy a lootbox, right? Breath of the Wild delights in getting you lost, because that's when you're going to find all the cool stuff. And, on a personal note, that sense of lostness was amplified for me because I decided BotW was going to be the first game I played in full Japanese after I started learning the language late last year. It was a trial by fire of sorts, but it's something I'll probably never forget. The feeling of triumph when I finally solved a cheeky little riddle was at the very least doubled by my self-imposed handicap :P

 

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But onto the complaints, of which there are plenty. Chief among them, for me, would be the absence of so many classic Zelda tropes I loved in the past. While the 120 Shrines might provide more dungeoning than ever before by volume, the quintessential Zelda thing of spending an hour or two working your way through one single dungeon, meeting an ever-increasing challenge as the designers take a given gameplay theme as far as it can go, is gone. I'd hoped the Divine Beasts might provide something like this, but they were like half an hour long at best, and all four were the same thing; manipulating a big machine to alter the level layout was a neat idea, but not one that needed to be repeated four times. Breath of the Wild dips its toe into a huge number of different ideas, but never dives all the way in.

 

Next up would be the much-derided weapon degradation system. I didn't hate this as much as some people did, but I do think it needed a lot of reworking. As a way of pushing the player out of their comfort zone, never letting them get attached to one gameplay style and sticking with it for dozens of hours, it certainly worked, but it also introduced a lot of silly problems. It completely devalues the idea of loot, for one. You simply don't get excited about opening a treasure chest; partly because you're inevitably going to have to close it again because your inventory will always be full and you'll have to dump your least valuable weapon to pick up a new one, but also because even the greatest weapon in the game can only be used for a limited time before it disintegrates. Oh, an ancient glowing light axe that does 60 damage. Great. Can't wait to take out two mini-Guardians with it and then throw it away. It changes the paradigm of Zelda from "Hit everything with your sword, yaaay!" to "There's a Bokoblin base over there, but if I go and kill everyone in it I'm probably going to break all my weapons and not get enough back for it to be worth it, so I'm not going to bother", and I can't imagine that's what Nintendo intended.

 

Then there are the little annoyances, like the fact that you can't climb when it's raining. So much of this game is climbing, and it rains really often, and it's just a pain. You know if you go away it'll be hours before you find yourself back at that cliff you want to climb again, and you know it doesn't take that long for the rain to pass, so more often than not you just stand there like a doofus waiting for the rain to stop. I know Nintendo probably didn't want to just give you some ability like climbing spikes that would essentially 'turn off' that element of the game, but I think they should have done something. There are a lot of pretty drab fetchquests, there's a disappointing lack of enemy variety (with most new areas simply having the same enemies in different colours), the framerate was pretty poor at launch, and the English voice acting was surprisingly bad.

 

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No individual problem is enough to spoil the game, but taken together they do lend a certain feeling of not-quite-there-ness. The kind of thing that makes you hope that Nintendo's next 3D Zelda will take the framework of Breath of the Wild and take it in a different direction. Not all the way back to Skyward Sword territory, but maybe a nice middle ground between your more traditional Ocarina style and the BotW design. Keep the open feel, but replace Shrines and Divine Beasts with real Zelda dungeons. Keep the survival elements, but tweak the weapon degradation values (or maybe dump that element altogether). Keep all the different outfits, and then add even MORE different outfits because Link Dress Up was the best part of the game.

 

I think the unique feel of every Zelda game is one of the series' biggest strengths. Each one of these games is different in its own way, each one has its own list of pros and cons, and Breath of the Wild is no different. But it is also, without a doubt, the biggest shakeup Nintendo's made for the series since Ocarina of Time first popped out into that third dimension, and I think it's pretty admirable just how successful they were. It takes some serious guts to throw a spanner in the works of one of your biggest cash cows, and some serious skill to actually pull it off, so it's lucky for us that the Nintendo of 2017 seems to have both of those.

 

EDIT - Added a few gifs of the game's best character to spice up an otherwise plain wall of text.



#6 Randomman96

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Posted 12 November 2017 - 01:36 AM

I would participate in this since I've played a metric crapton of this years titles.  However, I will be forgoing anything until Mid-December, as I am currently fending off my rage towards my PC for it's constant dying and self-f***cking in the past couple weeks.


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#7 Ocelot

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Posted 12 November 2017 - 03:01 AM

I don't know if you guys have watched Mayor Pauline during the breakdown of Jump Up Super Star, but she does a cute little dance that the internet has identified as her original sprite animation from the Donkey Kong arcade game in 1981:

 

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Which leads me to talk about a little game called Super Mario Odyssey, and how it's so absolutely delightful. You should probably listen to the song while you read this:

 

 

3D Mario games have always been the ultimate in making the simple act of steering a man around with a video game controller endlessly enjoyable, and our favourite plumber feels better than ever in Odyssey. I guess, by some kind of transitive property, that might make Odyssey the best-feeling game ever made? I mean, if you want to make that argument, I don't think I could come up with any kind of compelling rebuttal, so let's go with it. Mario Odyssey feels so wonderful from the instant you pick up the controller, in that perfectly video-game-y "easy to pick up, hard to master" way. Mario games are fun for the most inexperienced players to the pro-est of the pros, and Odyssey takes it a step further than ever in both directions, with the fun hat capturing mechanics to take the edge off some of the more difficult platforming for newcomers, to a more extensive set of advanced manoeuvres than ever for the hardcore. People talk about skill ceilings, and Mario Odyssey probably has one of the highest ever, but it also has a remarkably low skill floor, if that's a thing. You do just run and jump, after all.

 

You don't go ten minutes in this game before the friendly hat man who lives on your head suggests that you might want to be a T-Rex, and that's not a sentence you can write about very many video games. The answer to more or less every quandary in Mario's Odyssey is "throw your hat at it", and the reaction you get is almost always an utter delight. "Can I be that thi- OOOOOOOH I CAN BE THAT THING!" In general, if you can't be a thing, you can at least ride that thing, and if you can't be it or ride it then it's probably at least a nice fellow who'll say something encouraging and give you a Power Moon. Mario's world is such a nice place to be, and every new area you reach on your journey has a whole new race of friendly people to meet. Sometimes they're Fork people, sometimes they're Fish people, sometimes they're talking watering cans, but they all share a lovely sense of supportiveness and amiability... is that a word? They're nice, is what I'm saying. Except that one world that I think accidentally got swapped in from the next Dark Souls game; I don't know what that was about.

 

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I think my time with Odyssey has just about come to an end, after finishing the main story, collecting about 550 Moons and having a couple of attempts at the super hard, super secret final level. There's plenty more out there to do, but I've cleared out all the really fun stuff and it's only the bits that I know are going to make me really stressed out that I have left. Races, crazy hard platforming challenges, and that final looooong level with no checkpoints; I'd like to be able to say I beat the entire game, but these days I just ain't about that life any more. I've had more than my share of fun with a wonderful game, and I'm happy to leave the big boy stuff to the big boys.

 

I do kind of want to start the game over again on a new save file, though. That feeling of just Mario-ing is so addictive, I can't get enough of it. That particular momentum he has, the need to spend a moment getting up to speed from a standstill, or that exact timing of the sideflip; it's like you build up that skill over the course of the game and you don't want to let it slip away through lack of use. It's such a buzz being able to pull off some sneaky tricks that can get you where you aren't supposed to be, brazenly ignoring the designated path in favour of your own harebrained obstacle course full of walljumps, hat throws, side flips and whatever else you can throw in before you inevitably mess it all up. This is one game where I genuinely hope Nintendo releases DLC, not because the base game is lacking in any way, but because it's just so good that I want moar.

 

EDIT - btw, one of the late game kingdoms has these things hanging up all over the place:

 

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And I think it's a cheeky little pun. The bottom two characters say something like 'Sky Kingdom', or 'Rule over the Sky' (which will make sense if you know which kingdom this is), and I believe they're intended to be pronounced 'Koopa' :P






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