There were a lot of games I enjoyed in 2016, although I did bounce off a lot of stuff I did enjoy. Part of that is that I just felt like most of the best games this year demanded a lot of time investment from the player. There are times when I want that from games, but in 2016 I just wasn’t looking for that from new games. I also wish there had been more strong narrative experiences in games this year; Undertale for example would have stood out much stronger to me if it had come out this year, distance makes the heart grow fonder with that one for me.
2015 was a year where the breath of game releases meant that there were lots of different games for people to feel strongly about. 2016 was a year of great shooters.
Not quite worth an Honorable Mention to me, these are games that do things I appreciate.
Enter the Gungeon
A roguelike shooter that sits somewhere between The Binding of Isaac and Nuclear Throne, but I don’t like it as much as either of those games. I spent a lot more time watching this game than playing it. What gets it here is that it served as a good baseline for me to think about roguelike game design. It did help me pin down some of the things that makes Issac such a strong game, and I feel like it helped me understand the genre a little better than I did before.
Stellaris is dope, I just can’t dump the time in it requires, I don’t have it in me. I did create a race of extremely xenophobic pacifists that freaked out so hard when they discovered the existence of alien races that a substantial amount of my population snapped and became very aggressive pirates that started attacking me.
So that was cool.
Pokkén Tournament is very good at being a fighting game for people who don’t play fighting games. The inputs are very simple and all built around just straight directions. But the single player offering is pitiful, with just a sliver of a hair of story. I’d play this game with other people that wanted to but playing it by myself just wasn’t that interesting beyond the novelty.
I wish it just played like Tekken.
Stories: The Path of Destinies
A great idea that’s a little shallow in practice. It also uses a combat that’s similar to the one from the Arkham games, which I just don’t enjoy. The process of playing these levels over and over, and the way the enemy types and upgrades work with the combat, didn’t stand up for me even though it was only over the course of the four hours it took me to get to the true ending. But the idea of playing through a story multiple times, making different choices so that you can acquire the necessary knowledge to find a better way is one I really like.
Darkest Dungeon is neat, and I really like the aesthetic and the narrator, but the gameplay loop just doesn’t work for me. The process of finishing a dungeon, going back to town and having to manage the sanity of all your dudes and resupply all over again, just breaks the addictive quality of this kind of game for me.
Also as soon as someone died, I too wanted to die. The game just wasn’t appealing enough for me to have the desire to start again from scratch to get to even the meager point I had worked for already.
Games I Only Watched
A couple games that I never played myself at all that still mattered to me this year.
I actually kind of hated playing Limbo, it just didn’t connect with me at all and the tedium of playing it actually kind of made me angry. So there was no chance I was going to play Playdead’s follow up. And honestly if I had played it I’m not sure I would have been able to stick with it long enough to get to the final sequence, which I think is really cool.
The end of Inside goes for it in a way I appreciate.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
The Xenoverse games honestly seem bad, the core gameplay seems rotten. Like they’re trying to be like a Diablo style loot game, without the loot, and a Monster Hunter game without the dynamic combat and busted online.
But goddamn if I don’t love watch Team Four Star play through them. The fanservice part of allowing players to create their own Dragon Ball character, and the way that ignites the community’s imagination and creativity is something I can’t ignore. It’s led being turned into gold, but it’s a great time I had this year that was built around a video game.
Best 2015 Games
I just want to recognize some games from the previous year that got support in 2016 that kept them fresh and kept me hooked in a way that most 2016 games did not.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
Siege came out late in 2015, and while I did play some of the beta and had some fun, it wasn’t until after I had finished my list of 2015 games that I got into it. Siege is great. I’m terrible at it, and all my normal gaming instincts are at odds with the way it works, which is why I avoided it at first.
Siege gets so many points for being a shooter, that’s not like any other shooter. The way the destructible environments work to make the game way more tactical is pretty special.
Ubisoft has been supporting then game pretty well with additional content, but has been pretty bad at supporting the game as a living ecosystem in need of maintenance. There are plenty quality of life improvements they could make, and there are a bunch that they have, but often they change things around just for what feels like the sake of changing it.
Heroes of the Storm
No video game dominated my 2016 the way Heroes of the Storm did. If I put it on my top ten list this year it would be number one. That has everything to do with Heroes of the Storm being a better game in 2016 than it was in 2015. Blizzard’s done a great job of supporting the game in a bunch of ways. With new heroes that don’t feel like anything I’ve played in a MOBA before. The steady stream of balance updates that finds a great balance between allowing the meta to settle without it stagnating. Improvements to the ranked system. And the addition of weekly Brawls, even though I still think they have a long way to go to get that mode where it needs to be, give me a reason to boot the game up every week.
There are plenty quality of life changes I wish they would make with the game. I even know that they want to, but that the team that can do that work just has too much on their plate to get to everything.
The nature of the time I spent with games this year, and why I wasn’t looking for experiences that required a time sink, was all defined by my obsession with HotS. I’ve played more HotS than I have Dota 2 at this point. It’s more arcadey nature just fits better into my place with games even though Dota 2 is an unquestionably deeper game.
By the end of 2015 I was kind of tired of Heroes of the Storm but in 2016 I fell in love all over again, and I fell even harder the second time around.