2016 Arbitrary Game Numbering, for the Internet
By: Joshua Simon
Because does it really matter? And I spent too long trying to actually number the bottom half.
The sole reason Battlefield 1 shows up on my 2016 list is because of what Dice was able to do with a single player campaign set in WWI. The individual War Stories that made up the campaign was a unique approach for a single player portion of an FPS. Each of the stories had its defining moments for me, from running along the top of a burning and broken zeppelin to sneaking through trenches behind enemy lines. I genuinely hope that going forward, this take on storytelling becomes more of a thing.
I was not a huge fan of the first Dishonored, yet for some reason loved my adventure through . While I usually take a pure stealth approach to games that allow it (ie Deus Ex), I found it all the more fun to plow through enemies with Corvo and his arsenal of weapons and abilities. This ended up being the primary appeal to me – Dishonored 2 is just flat out, nonsensical fun. Kicking unaware enemies off edges, sending out a devouring rat swarm, tossing a grenade into a group and watching body parts get sent in every which direction – none of it ever got old. Would I have liked a better story? Of course, but I can say that about a lot of games. In the end, Dishonored 2 was one of my favorite games in a jam packed 2016, and wait to see how Arkane Studio's Prey turns out.
There was a point in time where I played nothing but Overwatch for hours on end. It was a nice change of pace from the typical FPS, as well as the plethora of remasters and sequels that came out in 2016. It has a certain charm to it, one that tends to coincide with Blizzard games. Every character was fun to play around with, even if only for a couple matches. The end round payload standoffs were always nerve wracking. Pulling off an Ult at the perfect moment brought a feeling of euphoria. And although I've fallen out of Overwatch for now, I look back at it with genuine admiration.
Batman: A Telltale Series
No surprise here, Telltale was able to come up with a unique take on both Batman and Bruce Wayne alike. Besides the death of Thomas and Martha (non-spoiler), pretty much every other aspect of the story is completely original, and doesn’t shy away from showing the more adult side of Gotham and the violence stored within. Every episode had some distinguishing factor from the others, which made Batman one of my most memorable Telltale experiences since the first Walking Dead.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Deus Ex: Human Revolution was one of my favorite games on the 360; Mankind Divided was practically the same game with a "current gen" skin - not a complaint as much as it is a compliment. Although I have some gripes with the game (credit balancing, certain lack of repercussions, some emotionless narration), playing it was just flat out fun. Sneaking around as Jensen and taking down enemies, no matter if stealthily or with the plethora of deadly abilities, never got old. Couple gameplay with Eidos Montreal's take on the post "Aug Incident" Prague and you get one hell of a world to lose yourself in.
Id Software did something special with their Doom reboot that was much needed for the FPS genre – they looked to the past (much like Machine Games has done with their soft reboot of Wolfenstein, which showed up on my 2015 list). Frantic, sporadic, over-the-top-demonic-run-and-gunning in a gore-nicopea (I'm proud of myself on that one) version of Hell, with no need to reload. What more could you ask for? Dooms development cycle didn’t start out this way either, it was initially intended to be Doom 4 but was cancelled because it felt "too much like Call of Duty," with just a "Doom skin." Couldn't be thankful enough that took notice of that early on and ended up bestowing upon us one of 2016 best shooters. Here's to you 2016 Doomguy, we hope to see you again soon.
So what the Hell exactly happened again?
3) Final Fantasy XV
I don't like turn based RPG's and most likely never will. Final Fantasy X was the last I almost finished (damn you Sin). So when Versus XIII was announced in 2006 with it's hack-and-slash glory, I was pleasantly surprised. Ten years later, here we are with FFXV. After playing the Platinum demo, my were pretty set. I liked the overall art direction and thought it played in a fairly unique style. I was still a bit worried, however, about the "brofest" (which it totally ) and my dislike of party management (which is pretty minimal). 35ish hours later (still only chapter 4 as of writing this), and I can absolutely say I'm thrilled to continue Nocits' journey through Eos. Having said that, and having watched Kingsglaive (which is absolutely fantastic), the decision to add more story beats to relate to the animated film after having already released the game was a terrible call, since the base game is pretty all over the place narratively. Not watching wouldn’t have taken away from my overall enjoyment, but I think it's a disservice to yourself not to.
2) The Witcher 3: Blood & Wine
The Witcher 3 was my GOTY in 2015, and fortunately enough I was able to make mention of it again for 2016. This second and final expansion by CD Projekt Red could have easily been a standalone game, adding roughly 30 hours to my playtime (which ended up totaling 176 hours). Toussaint was a beautifully realized landscape for the entry, and the arcs involving Regis and Duchess Henrietta were easily on par with Hearts of Stone. It's unlikely we'll see Geralt and his companions anytime soon (if ever again) with CDPR moving to Cyberpunk 2077. Although this saddens me a bit, saying farewell to Geralt and Ciri alike was handled flawlessly, and I'd be lying if I said there wasn’t a tear in my eye as the credits rolled.
Side note: The Witcher 3 is empirically superior to any of the Dark Souls games.
1) Titanfall 2
Over the course of the past few years, first person shooters have gone from my favorite genre to one which I held very low expectations for. This is partially due to my personal change of taste in gaming itself, but also to a cookie-cutter-copy-and-paste effect many shooters have begun to follow. Respawn Entertainment was able to change that for me with Titanfall 2. The multiplayer is addictive and frantic, with a much needed update to their progression system. The campaign was nothing short of a masterpiece, with spot on pacing, a somewhat followable narrative, memorable moments and stages, and most importantly, a BT-7274. Unfortunately, Titanfall 2 was shadowed out by other AAA shooters in the busy Fall release schedule and the future of the franchise is still up in the air. With its critically positive reception, however, I’d love to hear a third installment is in early stages of development. Until then, prepare for titanfall.