It was at about this time last year that I cracked, started typing, gave in to the pressure of the season, and came up with my own ‘Top 5 Games of 2015‘ along with posting a list of everything that I had played that year. If you read that the first time around then thank-you so much for sticking with me for another 12 months!
… erm.. sorry about that 4 month hiatus in the middle there when I got crazy busy…
This year I was a little more prepared, rather than having to rummage around in my steam history or having memory aiding hypnotherapy, I’ve maintained a list of the games that I ventured in to. You may have thought this forward planning has made my 2016 top 5 easier to prepare, but it has just served as a reminder as to what an average 12 months of gaming we’ve been presented with. I’ve spent hefty chunks of time during the year revisiting older games which, due to my self-imposed rules of this annual event, are not eligible to be included. The summer months were absorbed in ‘PayDay 2’, a game that I didn’t really appreciate first time around, but has grown on me to become a favourite of Wednesday evening online gaming. Likewise ‘No More Room in Hell‘ continued to make regular appearances during the early months of the year and, whilst these have both been fun, I can’t help but feel that they’ve stayed on the rotation because we havn’t seen any serious new contenders to satisfy our need for co-op FPS action.
Meanwhile in the single player division; Act IV of ‘Kentucky Route Zero’ reminded me once more how magical that ethereal highway is, but it is not in consideration being neither complete nor new (One day I would like to write about it, but I want to be sure that I can do it justice). In contrast, many of the new titles I had been looking forward to proved to be disappointing. The lackluster ‘Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter’ was a sub-par follow up to its predecessor ‘Crimes and Punishments’. Frogwares shoehorned clunky action sequences into the point-n-click format and were determined to restyle Conan Doyle’s sleuth & surgical sidekick as hipsters; presumably so that, due to the Victorian setting, Holmes could say that he thought it was cool before it was cool. I ventured into the wastelands of ‘Fallout 4’ in one of my longer single player excursions but, despite the vast ingame world, found that it lacked the charm and personality of its predecessors. By about the halfway point I had pretty much dispensed with any formalities and found myself entering & clearing rooms neither wanting to listen to, nor caring about, the plight that the inhabitants. The various factions failed to convince me of their cause, and none of these supposedly exclusive clubs seemed to have any problems with a nobody just wandering in and joining their ranks whilst still running errands for the competition. Even the feeling of being a lone wanderer in a vast unforgiving environment was scuppered at the points where I was micro-managing whole colonies of vacant eyed NPC’s. Finally I failed at avoiding the ‘No Man’s Sky’ hype, pre-ordered it the day before launch and regretted it several days later.
Although these are the isolated few are where I felt the disappointment pangs the hardest, and whilst I have enjoyed many other offerings this year, it is nonetheless unsurprising that I struggled to shortlist 5 “tip-top gold-star headmaster’s commendation” standout titles compared with the endless rounds of whittling I performed 12 months ago*. I’ve posted the full list of “games I’ve played this year” at the end of this post. So now, here it is, “Hundstrasse’s 2016 top 5 games I played this year” :
5: Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments
The failure of its successor to hold my interest made me all the more bitter considering how much I enjoyed ‘Crimes & Punishments’. It is a title that often gets mixed reviews, especially from fans of ‘point’n’click’ as it lacks some of the challenging puzzles that are associated with the genre. As an interactive storytelling experience however, and as a confessed Holmes fan, I think that the detailed Victorian London environments, blend of classic and original plots, and depictions of those legendary characters all fall together to make a thoroughly satisfying experience. The player is left to explore each mystery and see how it unfolds through character dialogue (which can be a little wooden in performance), deduction from physical clues, and the hypothetical recreations based on what has been observed. The deduction system, whilst not affording the player much freedom, does a good job of presenting each fact along with the possible implications; these are built up to form a literal web leading to a final conclusion as more of the case details emerge. At the conclusion of each case the player, as Holmes, must make their final confrontation of the perpetrator and in a ‘Telltale’-esque twist is given the option to punish or absolve – as always, Holmes is given the liberty to pass judgement based on his own set of values. ‘Crimes & Punishments’ is formulaic with red-herrings and twists aplenty, but is entertaining and, admittedly due to my own personal affinity for the source material, I found it captivating.
4: Dying Light
Polish developer ‘Techland’ have quietly been on my radar for a while now, even though I hadn’t until recently joined the dots; I was pleasantly surprised by ‘Call of Juarez: Gunslinger’ and, despite its flaws, liked ‘Dead Island’. ‘Dying light’ (which I posted about earlier this year) is in many ways the spiritual successor to ‘Dead Island’ with the inclusion of free-running to vastly improve the pacing of the game. Being able to merrily skip across the rooftops, drop in through skylights, and generally navigate freely removes much of the drudgery that plagued that previous open-world zombie vacation. Despite wanting to shave certain features from the experience, I thought it was well put together and did exactly what it said on the box. The open world was, crucially, not too daunting giving the feeling of freedom yet being manageable, likewise the ‘old town’ unlock seemed to occur just as the well trodden paths around our highrise-base began to feel a little too familiar.
3: The Flame in the Flood
TFITF is the kind of survival sim that I can handle, being weighted heavily toward exploration and progression rather than base-building and crafting. When I played it earlier this year I was enchanted by the sense of scale it managed to convey without being open world in the traditional sense. The scenery, soundtrack, & decaying ruins dripping with Americana were all beautifully crafted by the veteran team of designers in ‘The Molasses Flood’. If you have yet to check it out then I strongly advise taking a look, but also keep an eye on the future as there have been recent rumblings that the team have regrouped to begin their next project; looking forward to seeing where they go next…
2: Doom ’16
Despite a few flaws (that I mumbled about at the time) and without doing anything particularly clever, Doom’16 was one of the standout titles of the year, not least because it managed to fill the big boots of DOOM; the series that not only arguably introduced the world to the FPS genre, but also has such a monumental impact on PC gaming and network multiplayer gaming. This latest incarnation delivered a solid, action filled single player campaign that tugged at the nostalgia strings of an audience longing for the fast-paced stylings of yesteryear. It also admirably managed to maintain the cranked up violence levels associated with the series in an over the top manner without becoming sordid. It was in many ways the ultimate antithesis to the modern military shooter that we’ve all come to accept is part of the gaming landscape.
Looking back on the list of the year, I can’t pick out a more satisfying evening of gaming than that which I spent with ‘Firewatch’. That hazy summer in Wyoming viewed through the protagonist’s eyes told a captivating story brought to life by, what was in my opinion, the best voice acting of the year. The setting & plot spoke to the part of the player that longed to leave everything behind to wander the world exploring the wilderness…. something I ‘may’ have mentioned that I am partial to, given how much I enjoy similar settings and themes in the games I pick up. It’s not about to win any awards for its replayability (although I havn’t delved into its new free-roaming mode), but as an experience I can thoroughly recommend it.
… as promised, here is the full list of games I played this year:
- Sherlock Holmes : Crimes and Punishments
- Dying Light
- Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
- White Night
- Hotline Miami 2
- Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster
- Concrete Jungle
- Resident Evil 4
- The Flame in the Flood
- Visceral Cleanup Detail
- Lego Indiana Jones
- Soviet City
- DOOM ’16 Beta
- Towerfall Ascension
- Human Resource Machine
- DOOM ’16
- Dangerous Golf
- Overland (Early Access)
- Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter
- Fallout 4
- Golf With Your Friends
- The Land of Eyas
- Stories: The Path of Destinies
- Four Sided Fantasy
- No Man’s Sky
- Sunless Sea – Zubmariner
- Quadrilateral Cowboy
- Dead Rising
- The House Abandon
Do you have any comments on my list? A favourite of yours that I’ve overlooked?… Or have you written your own list this year? Jump into the comments and let me know!
*The ‘rules’ are the same as last year; I’ve tried not to think about the list too much and I have to have played the game for the first time in the past 12 months (sort of).