With many excellent games that arrived in 2016, it doesn’t need to be stated that 2016 was a strong showing for the video game industry. Here are the opinions of the Gamer Professionals Staff, and what they chose as their own favorite for the year.
Shawn Bird, Contributor: Darkest Dungeon is very Lovecraft-ian with its overall theme, done in a great way that other forms miss. It’s a brutal game, but done in a way much like the XCOM series. By that, I mean it has a lot of respect for the players. Games like this are hard and you will have many members of your team die over time, but if you take your time, plan things out and take the right characters and equipment with you on adventures, it isn’t all that bad. Darkest Dungeon is a side-scroller turn-based game that mixed RPG-style game play, strategy and some very clever core mechanics. This all works out to be a very fulfilling game that is also quite refreshing at the same time.
There is a lot to take in with each outing your team goes on. The characters that you bring in to do cleansing of crypts and dungeons all have things that make them different from one another and also put things in order to help each other out as well. Not only do you have a health bar for each character, but a stress bar as well; if too low, this can affect that character. Each character type has a place best suited for them in the line while out. There is also quirks that can help or hinder each character and if all that isn’t enough, they can contract diseases as well.
Darkest Dungeon is one of those games that is a slow grind to process and get through. However, it is a lot of fun and although much of the scenery is the same, it’s always changing and you never know what lies around the next corner. It’s for sure a game you should checkout. Don’t get too attached to any one character, and basically treat it like Game of Thrones.
Edward Angell, Contributor: I have been a Battlefield fan for a long time, that being said—Battlefield 1 shocked me when it was announced. How would a WWI era shooter do in today’s market that favors future warfare? Dice answered the question with a quality product that I have sunk days into. Satisfying weapons and vehicles along with splendid new game modes and returning classics that got some new paint. Battlefield 1 is a game Dice sorely needed to be good after the disaster that was Battlefield: Hardline and botching Star Wars: Battlefront.
Graphically, the game is amazing, the sense of scale and the sheer amount of action on screen feels cinematic and really sucks you in.
Sure, historically the game may be a bit (greatly) exaggerated, but the gameplay more than makes up for it.
The maps for the game are some of the best Dice has come up with in years, and the newer features such as the massive airship really help to add even more cinematic feeling—especially when they get shot down and the empty husk that once was a massive warship is now laying in the battlefield.
With this new addition to the Battlefield series, if you have two or three friends in a squad then you have the components needed for an entire night of fun.
Paige Lacy, Contributor: World of Warcraft: Legion has to be my pick for Game of the Year. As Warlords of Draenor continued to slog on, Legion felt like the light at the end of a tunnel for many World of Warcraft players. When the day finally came, Blizzard proved from the start they had learned from the mistakes of Warlords. It was the smoothest launch the game has ever seen, and things just got better from there. Old players poured back into the game, drawn by the promise of artifacts, new areas, and an overhauled World Quest system. Additionally, Legion marks a shift in Blizzard’s transparency with regards to class balance, general feedback, and what players want to see in the game. Warlords of Draenor suffered a terrible case of content drought, but now players can’t even catch their breath before the next big thing hits. As with other MMOs, the current product results from an iterative process of community feedback. Blizzard has been in the MMO market for 12 years, and Legion is the apex of what makes an MMO great. After a few months, the shiny new game gloss has worn off, and the remains are still one of the best gaming experiences out there.
Ricky Baranauskas, Contributor: Despite its localization troubles, Fire Emblem: Fates has proven to be one of my most regularly played games of high quality. I would be inclined to agree that some characters have been butchered by characterization, such as Hisame and his obsession with pickles, and Effie going from a gentle giant, to a buff work-out-aholic. Regardless of this, these characters, and many others, are extremely likeable, and I am still replaying this game. The strategy action is still amazingly well implemented, as is expected from the series, and trying to see all of the interactions between all the characters has been exciting. Conquest feels tacked on, honestly, and the story there is the weakest.
A close second for me would be XCOM 2, for the same reasons of compelling gameplay, and the story for each character being almost self-constructed. There’s no real interactions, but to kind of contextualise these actions yourself is extremely satisfying. As a fan of small-scale turn-based strategy, this year has proven to be a real treat. It’s very rare we get two proper triple-A ones in a year, and I’m extremely happy that both
Trevor von Niederhausern, Contributor: Although the Pokemon franchise has had many hits, Pokemon Sun and Moon stand out among the rest and has many fans saying that this could be the best Pokemon game of all time.
The games take place in the beautiful tropical region of Alola, based on Hawaii in real-world geography. By utilizing a new full-3D engine, Game Freak really made this region feel natural and alive, more so than any previous entry. The pathways twist and turn, there are hidden secrets, and interesting NPCs everywhere you go.
The new Pokemon are charming, there are some revamped classics, and they have a great selection of Pokemon from all the previous games so fans of any generation will be satisfied. But some of the best new features are solid quality of life improvements. Now, they give you more info during battle, like move effectiveness, and stat changes. They also streamlined the box system and got rid of HMs which was a surprisingly welcome change.
Overall, an amazing region, great nostalgia, and solid mechanic improvements make this one of the best Pokemon games of all time, and my pick for game of the year.
Jordan Ramee, Contributor: Dark Souls III is both an amazing and fitting conclusion to FromSoftware’s acclaimed trilogy. Combat is faster and more fluid than anything seen in a previous Dark Souls game. The powerful soundtrack, hauntingly beautiful settings, and myriad of new allies, enemies, and (mostly) unique bosses create a vast and lived in open world filled with hidden lore that I never wanted to stop exploring. I will fondly remember my first time attempting the Abyss Watchers’ multi-phase battle of 1v1 to 1v2 to 2v2 to 1v1 again as one of the most epic duels I have ever had in a video game.
I have to give 2nd and 3rd place shout-outs to Respawn’s Titanfall 2 and Playdead’s Inside. Titanfall 2 improved the already addicting multi-player of its predecessor with the addition of the Bounty Hunt game-type and delivered a stellar single-player campaign with several incredibly creative levels (the assembly line in “Into the Abyss,” time travel portion in “Effect and Cause,” and the entirety of “The Fold Weapon” just to name a few). Inside ensnared me in its artistic mystery right from the start and left me intrigued, confused, and begging for more answers even after discovering the game’s hidden ending.
Michael Siegle, Contributor: It comes as no surprise that my vote of 2016’s Game of the Year is Blizzard’s multiplayer shooter, Overwatch. Ever since the game was released back in May, I have barely been able to put it down.
The real beauty behind Overwatch is its diversity. It is a brand new IP from the brilliant minds of Blizzard. A fresh start meant that creators could do essentially anything with the title, and they did just that. At release Overwatch had 16 different heroes to choose from (it has since grown to 18), all of which came with different classes and abilities. Assault, defense, tank, and support classes all have different characters with different personalities. Not only would you see each map differently from one class to another, but you would play differently depending on which character you chose, no two characters played the same way which meant each character required a different skill set and strategy. The best part is, Overwatch is constantly growing and changing. Blizzard is always hard at work creating new characters and maps to expand the ever growing universe of Overwatch. The paradigm is constantly shifting within Overwatch which means players always have to adapt to new challenges.
Ben Hutchings, Associate Writer: Even after pouring hours into Dark Souls 3 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided over multiple play throughs, they were both pipped at the post by a game I never thought I would entertain as my Game of the Year. The Last Guardian was an enchanting journey with a lovable companion through a hostile landscape, and has managed a quick snatch-and-grab of my heart over a 15-hour campaign. It’s a travesty that this game has such niche appeal and as a result was outsold by the widely panned Dead Rising 4 at launch.
Is it perfect? Nowhere near. Is it easy to play? Absolutely not, but life isn’t easy either. After all the struggling and striving and telling your bird/cat/dinosaur companion to please just climb the damn tower so we can get home in time for Christmas, it’s all worth it. You’ll smile, you’ll laugh, you’ll feel. You may even cry, unlike me, who totally didn’t.
The Last Guardian offers an experience wholly distinct from anything you’ve played before, and it needs to be Game of the Year.
Jordan Aslett, Associate Editor: Uncharted 4 is my pick for Game of the Year for 2016. The Uncharted series is full of great games (two of them have been awarded Game of the Year in the past), and A Thieve’s End stands among the greats. Following the clues leading to a pirate treasure across the world, through places such as Scotland and Madagascar, showcased a variety of beautiful locations. The conclusion to the story left long-time fans of the series speechless and was the perfect way to conclude a tale that fans have been passionately following for the past decade. The game play retained the same frantic really run-and-gun action with a few fresh additions that it was familiar but not stale.
My second pick for Game of the Year would be Concerned Ape’s Stardew Valley. 2016 was a really great year for indie developers, and Stardew Valley was the cream of the crop. Unearthing each villagers back-story using trial and error gifting and time management was as rewarding as watching the farm you inherited grow into a a thriving source of income. While it’s not my main pick for Game of the Year, my time spent with Stardew Valley is some of my favorite time spent with any game in recent memory.
Ben Eberle, Senior Editor: No other game floored me this year quite like The Witness. Every moment was filled with a sense of wonder and mystery, as the island’s secrets came to fruition. Its breathtaking mass of land filled with non-corresponding biomes has become one of my all-time favorite video game settings. The island is rich with character, despite being completely devoid of life forms. Each aspect of the game is crafted with care, whether it’s the resonance of a footstep in a cave or the way visual perspective can be altered by standing in specific areas. The Witness feels truly haunting and truly lonely, yet it carries the weight of an unknown history.
The Witness is made up of many significant parts that are all essential to the experience. Ambient sound, aesthetic/art style, level design, and puzzle design each serve as essential parts to a greater whole. The way that the game teaches its puzzle mechanics can be compared to learning a new language, using previous knowledge and building upon it in complicated ways. The sense of exploration and discovery in The Witness is breathtaking, painting a picture of something that may have once existed, but is eternally buried in the past.
John Sands, Managing Editor: There’s a concept in positive psychology called “flow,” a mental state which is often referred to as being “in the zone.” Flow occurs when there is a perfect balance between the estimated challenge of a task and one’s perceived skills. A basketball player might fall into flow during a particularly good game. He’s driven almost by instinct, by the habits formed through years of rote repetition, and by the sheer hormonal rush of draining 3-pointer after 3-pointer effortlessly. Writers, too, can experience flow. We wake up in the morning, slurp our espresso, then savor that short half hour period where last night’s inebriated ramblings collide with a caffeinated brain.
DOOM is “Flow: The Game.” No other shooter campaign I’ve played has been so tightly focused on the task at hand: administering a ruthless brand of country justice to demons. By stripping away external distractions beyond the raw sensory experience of leaping around and blowing away foes, DOOM forces each of us to acknowledge our inner hunter. The demons are big, bad, and scary, but as the DOOM marine, you become a vengeful god. Your skills (ripping and tearing) are perfectly matched to this challenge, resulting in an unforgettable Game of the Year experience.
Drew Hernandez, Associate Writer: Though many games led to disappointment this year for me, one that totally defied all expectations, including my own, was Bethesda and id Software’s reboot of DOOM. I purchased DOOM out of a nostalgic obligation to the series, having grown up playing the first two entries on my grandpa’s computer during summer vacations. I devoted a large chunk of my freshman year in high school to Doom 3, and have been praying for a worthy sequel for over a decade.
This year, my prayers were answered. DOOM boasts one of the most over the top, disgustingly satisfying FPS campaigns in recent memory. Everything I loved about previous Doom games had been brought back to life in stunning fashion. Hoards of challenging enemies, navigating space bases to find colored key cards (though more often than not they were severed limbs), and a blood pumping soundtrack all clicked together to form one hell of a thrill ride.
DOOM is perhaps one of the truest sequels a series has ever received, and I can’t think of a better choice for Game of the Year. Overwatch sucked me in with its unique assortment of characters and TF2-esque gameplay, and Dark Souls 3 brought me back to treasured locations like Anor Londo, but DOOM took me back to my childhood of ripping and tearing.
Brandon Bui, Chief Editor: I had the opportunity to try out some truly incredible games this year on a variety of consoles. The game that stood out to me the most was one of the games that many had been waiting for a long time for. Interestingly enough, my nomination was not even one that I had on my radar until about April of this year.
This game stood out to me in its presentation, its appeal to long-time fans and newcomers, and for creating a whole universe behind it. Even with its flaws that stemmed from a fragmented development cycle, the final product is one that played out as one of the most visually stunning titles I’ve played to date. Combined with the epic soundtrack crafted by Yoko Shimomura, the game will definitely be remembered as one of the stronger entries in the franchise to date. With a full-length CGI feature film and an anime produced by A-1, it’s one of the most in-depth experiences to tie a universe together. It’s my pleasure to nominate Final Fantasy XV as my choice for Game of the Year, 2016. Addicting game play and open-world exploration combined with the charm that has surrounded Final Fantasy for almost three decades, this game has jumped up to my own personal favorite in the franchise, finally taking the crown away from Final Fantasy IV.
Honorable mentions: Overwatch, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, Pokemon Sun and Moon
A note from the Chief Editor: Thanks for joining us here with our little Game of the Year 2016 roundtable. As these choices have shown, this year has been an absolutely incredible year for games, and at the end of it all, we weren’t even able to come to a true consensus! That, to me, goes to show just how diverse gaming has gotten over the last few years with vastly improved technologies. We’re gonna put it to a vote and then post a final choice for our Game of the Year later this week. Here’s to another great year in 2017, and my staff and I wish you all a very prosperous and Happy New Year. Thanks for continuing to stop by.