As years in video games go, 2017 has been a big one. Loot Crate gambling systems and exploitative tactics are finally being noticed by people outside the game-o-sphere. The whole saga illustrates that the video games industry still views itself as a cultural niche, rather than a multi-billion pound industry. People got away with the uniquely exploitative practices because video games are to an extent ignored by the wider society. Still, it’s not all bad. This year we saw more games recognising LGBT identities with some excellent games and PlayStation sponsoring Pride in London. There was also the addition of Co-pilot on Xbox which makes games far more accessible for people with disabilities. See it isn’t all money grabbing corporations, there is a lot of good in the world of video games. Speaking of good, nay great, here are our best games of 2017.
Video Game: Broforce
I could sit here and tell about this year’s amazing releases. The likes of Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age let me play a game that a younger me ignored, and Yakuza Kiwami transported me back to a vastly superior version of a game I loved. I could even tell you about ‘proper’ new games like the brilliant NieR: Automata or any number of the insanely good indie games I played. I could tell about all of that, but instead, I’m going to focus on a game that didn’t even come out this year and help you to understand why it made 2017 amazing.
I use the term ‘game of the year’ loosely because I’m talking about Broforce which came out back in 2015. That small detail aside, Broforce is a 2D platformer, shoot everything, and explode a lot, game. The thing that made Broforce almost magical, though, was watching my girlfriend fall in love with it. She found it hilarious how the baddies laughed at you when you died and how every character was so insanely stupid. We would always race to jump onto a helicopter ladder at the end of each stage, and the time we learnt that we could both safely escape the level made us fall into bursts of laughter. After playing for close the 10 hours, we noticed that the melee attack animation was slightly different when standing next to each other. After puzzling over it for a few minutes, we discovered that our characters could do a high five. Regardless of how it affects the game, we now do a real-life high five each time it happens, and that was my favourite video game moment of 2017.
Yakuza Kiwami (give podcast Episode 8 a listen for more), Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (tune into Episode 9 or read about the Gambit System for more), NieR: Automata, Kingdom Hearts: The Big PS4 Collection, Until Dawn (read my Best Bits article)
Video Game: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
I’m not a Nintendo guy, or a Zelda guy – the most I’ve played of any Zelda game is a couple of hours of Ocarina of Time on the 3DS. Then I bought a Switch. Breath of the Wild is an open-world game shorn of the many trappings that have accumulated, barnacle-like, on the genre – one which focuses almost entirely on the environment. You can climb anything and with a wide array of physics-related powers the game ties a version of typical Legend of Zelda progression into your expanding options. The game’s parts combine in a way that feels fabulously natural and avoids the arbitrary padding – RPG numerical strangeness and Ubi-esque collectable box-tickery – that clings to many of its peers. It all loops back to exploring this beautiful, sort-of desolate world. The game’s design has a quite amazing way of leading you from place to place based on your own instincts – it takes a little while to get into the groove and get over the initial directionless hump, but once you find purpose it’s quite astounding. People and settlements in the game have weight due to the relative loneliness of the world around you, and these moments of contact and the sweet dialogue give the game a charm that works in tandem with physics-based funniness. Having woken up after 100 years, there’s a pervading melancholy in rescuing the souls of your dead friends to take out the ancient evil once and for all, but the game carries it off with remarkable warmth, making itself stronger for the contrast. It’s quite surprising, then, that the voice acting is very, very bad; stilted and with some properly awkward cardboard emoting (at least voice-acted segments are rare). That aside, Breath of the Wild is a genuine modern classic.
Yakuza Zero, on which my opinions are already floating around – pure magic. Total War: Warhammer II, because it has hoovered up a ridiculous amount of my time over the last couple of months – more than 110 hours already, an amount I rarely spend on any game. All the familiar Total War problems – peculiar AI, weird diplomacy, and so on – but in an entry that fleshes out the Warhammer entries with some of their more outlandish armies and a splash of well-applied colour. Much better than its predecessor. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds is tense, exciting and utterly hilarious in equal measure. RUINER is an aesthetically gorgeous top-down whacky-shooty-fest, whose sensibilities appeal enormously to me. Heat Signature reminded me of what a game can do when it focuses its energies on one very specific thing. Nioh represents someone ripping off Souls in a way that makes sense, with a good dose of challenge and Diablo-ish lootability. NieR: Automata is a game about sexy robots wot fight good, with a (slightly overwrought, at times) deep-thinky edge. There are so many games I didn’t get to play. Persona 5 is fabulous, affecting and painfully stylish – for my money the best Persona yet.
Video Game: South Park: The Fractured But Whole
The best game for me this year was, without a doubt, South Park: The Fractured But Whole. I know there were much more visually impressive and ground-breaking releases this year…but the simple elegance seen in South Park: The Fractured But Whole is just reassuring and familiar to me. As a fan of the show, naturally getting to play Superhero’s with my South Park buddies, as my own South Park character was appealing. How could I not love that? The Fractured But Whole follows the superhero group known as “Coon and Friends” led by Cartman. The group suffers a divide when discussing the order of each hero’s movie or Netflix shows, leading to the split of Coon and friends, leading to “Freedom Pals” led by Timmy. In true South Park fashion, simple situations get out of hand quickly. The entire game is full of profanity, fart jokes and sharp, relevant wit that is all too familiar with fans. The satirical, dark humour, up to date jabs and references never fail to make me laugh making it my favourite game this year!
Yakuza Kiwami, Dishonoured: Death of the Outsider, Final Fantasy IX (PS4)
Video Game: Bomber Crew
In a year that saw new entries some of my favourite series (XCOM, Total War & Mass Effect), how did this project by two chaps from Brighton completely steal my heart? Bomber Crew puts you in command of a Lancaster bomber throughout the Second World War. Despite looking like someone interpreted the war in the skies with Funko POP figures, the game is tense and incredibly stressful. Every mission over Europe is a frantic balancing act as you must prioritise your attention and what your crew are doing. It’s 10 seconds to target but German fighters are diving out of the clouds, and the electrics need repairing. Do you have time to spot the enemy fighters and give repair orders or does that wait until bombs away? It’s unforgiving; little things going wrong can have catastrophic consequences, but the relief you’ll feel as you make it home by the skin of your teeth is intoxicating.
Heat Signature – Become space Santa as you sneak aboard spaceships with a sackful of wrenches to deliver them into the face of those who made the naughty list.
PLAYERUNKNOWN’S: BATTLEGROUNDS: The best game about a stag-do gone wrong ever made. PUBG is also responsible for my favourite video game moment this year – I was hosting a small LAN party, and a few people wanted to try PUBG. Three of us hopped into squads where we were joined by a random 4th person. After pissing about for 20 minutes, we somehow made it to the final 20. In a hectic 4 way battle the three of us were eliminated leaving us spectating our mystery member, Robbo88. Despite being in the crossfire of three other teams he survived. AS the player count ticket down, everyone in the room began to watch the exploits of Robbo88 until all 9 of us where crowded round a monitor willing this stranger on. As he made it into the final 9, it was our hero alone against 2 other teams. As one team eliminated the other, was Robbo88 against four. Like a spectre, he rose from the long grass. We all held our breaths. A few short bursts of gunfire and it was over.
WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER
I’ve never supported a sports team, but this must be what it’s like to see your team win the world cup. All of us erupted into cheers, shattering the 1am silence of my street. That was my favourite moment gaming this year.
Board Game: Inis
Inis, Inis, Inis. Just about every game of Inis I’ve lost (all but one) ended with what felt like victory being ripped from my grasp. Every game seems to end with every player a mere whisker from victory, and it is both exhilarating and infuriating. A round of Inis ends when every player has passed their turn successively. This leads to every player having to look at the winner and through gritted teeth, utter “pass”. Everyone must admit they are helpless to stop the winner and hail them in as the ruler of the land. It’s galling. Technically a 2016 release but I’m the Bren, so…
New Angeles – I’ve never had so much fun manipulating and extorting my friends.
Battle for Rokugan – A satisfying strategy experience with a flexible player count that plays in under two hours!
Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire – The first Games Workshop game that I’ve really connected with. A generous starter box, quick play-time and relatively simple rules make this skirmish game very moreish indeed.
UK Games Expo – Worked on the Devir Games stand as a demonstrator and had a blast, such an amazing atmosphere to be immersed in for 3 days – so much passion and love that goes into the board game community.
Nevi – Chelsea wasn’t able to write a ‘best of’ piece, unfortunately. However, you can check out her Sonic Maina or Final Fantasy Brave Exvius articles which I’m sure were highlights for her this year.
A big thank you from the entire Bits & Pieces team for reading and listening to our things this year. We look forward to seeing you all in 2018.