My Top 5 Games of 2017

Game of the Year Edition!

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2017 was the year of the loot box.  Random chance to get something good in exchange for hard cash started cropping up every other game.  It’s not gambling though because the people making money from them say so.  The thing is though, 2017 was actually an incredible year for games.  You could exchange hard cash for pretty much any box in a game store this year and the chance of getting something good was pretty damn high.  That was a very laboured way of saying “Loot boxes suck” and “Amazing games came out”.

Overwatch
2017 in a single image.  Although this image isn’t actually from 2017…

I played surprisingly few of the big name games this year, so the bulk of the favourite games this year were lower tier releases.  Even then, narrowing it down to just five was very difficult.  At any rate, here are the best gaming experiences I had this year.  I’ve included all the games I’ve played down the bottom, just in case you think I missed something…

Get Even

Get Even

A story driven FPS/walking simulator with a bizarre, horror themed story.  You play Cole Black (he’s a manly man!) on a mission for find out where the hell he is and what happened to the girl with a bomb strapped to her that he was trying to rescue.  Within an hour, you find yourself in an abandoned asylum with a machine that allows you to enter your memories and begin to unravel just what the hell is going on.

Get Even
Most of the game isn’t terribly pretty, but it does have its moments.

Yes, the FPS sections are flawed, and the stealth doesn’t work quite as well as I might hope, but there really isn’t another game that plays like this.  There are events that play out differently depending on your choices without make these choices explicit, the game plays with interconnected memories in interesting ways, and the sound and music is fantastic.  It’s not perfect, but it’s well priced and I doubt you’ll have played anything quite like it before.

Stories Untold

Stories Untold

Damn I loved this one.  Four seemingly unconnected stories told in very different ways, culminating in a final revelation.  I won’t say more from a story standpoint as it really should be experienced with as little prior knowledge as possible on that front.  I will say that it’s a very well put together package.  It starts out as a text adventure that seems to have more power over you than you over it.  A bizarre point and click adventure and puzzle game involving microfilms follow before culminating in a walking simulator of sorts.

Stories Untold Episode 2
Part of the second episode. I will say nothing more about this.

I know, I’m not really selling it at all.  But it’s a great couple of hours for a low price and it’s very unlikely that you’ll have played anything quite like it before.  I have a soft spot for games that mess with your expectations, and this one certainly does that.  Plus, the intro music will stick in your mind for weeks after.

Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey logo

Look, I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon, but this is just a fantastic game.  I’ve never really been a big fan of the 3D Mario games, finding the controls a pain and the hunt for whatever the magic item is this time.  But this was a wonderful experience.  The environments are interesting and creative, it’s utterly beautiful, and the capture mechanic!  Taking over the body of you enemies (as horrifying that may be for a Mario game) was a masterstroke in creative platforming and puzzles.  The caterpillar creatures in the Lost Kingdon are adorable and fun the play as.

Mario Odyssey
Kidnapping Goomba towers is my new favourite thing.

At the time of writing, I haven’t finished the main story, but as I understand it, there’s a lot more high quality content after completing it, which is saying something when the content already there is quite so good.  I can see me spending a lot of time playing this.  I bought a Switch especially for this game, and I don’t for a moment regret that.

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

XCOM 2 Logo

Yes it’s an expansion rather than a new game BUT I DON’T CARE DAMMIT!  I’ve kept it a closely guarded secret, but I’ll tell you anyway.  I really like XCOM.  I’m sure those War Log posts didn’t make it obvious.  Anyway, War of the Chosen is what an expansion should be.  It changes the game in so many ways, adding new ways to play and increasing your power, but also putting dangerous new enemies in your path.  The titular chosen can be a significant thorn in your side if you don’t deal with them, but dealing with them means you have to put off dealing with the greater alien threat.  Deciding what to do when is even more important than ever.

XCOM 2
The new factions give you some very powerful new abilities to play with.

To keep you in the game, you have access to new factions that grant you very powerful soldiers.  The sniper rifle wielding Reapers can detonate explosives at will, whilst the Skirmishers draw enemies in to finish them at close range.  Templars use psychic powers to control the battlefield by putting up new points of cover and making enemies more vulnerable.  The number of new options in this is fantastic, and when coupled with an already impressive base game you have yourself one hell of a package.

Nier: Automata

Nier Automata

I’m not going to pretend this is anything other than a stunning creative success.  Platinum’s trademark fast paced combat combined with the most bonkers yet simultaneously devastating story in a genuinely interesting world is one of the best things I have played this year.  For a couple of weeks all I wanted was to get home from work and play more.

Nier
This boss appears simply as a machine gone insane, but your second playthrough reveals something much darker about her as well as the game’s world as a whole.

I, like many others, had not played the original Nier.  Whilst the story here does tie into the previous game (and a number of others in fact) it isn’t needed in the slightest to enjoy this.  The cast of characters, the world itself, the brilliant combat that changes styles constantly.  And the music!  The music is incredible!  Being told I had to play through the game three times to see the real ending put me off this one for a while, but each playthrough is so utterly different that it makes each one feel like an almost new experience.  If you haven’t played it, play it.

SUPER SPECIAL BONUS MENTION!

Doki Doki Literature Club

Doki Doki

Oooooh if there’s one game this year that I would class as the most memorable, it would be this.  A few paragraphs back I mentioned that I have a soft spot for games that mess with your expectations, and this manages that and then some.  It’s a free visual novel in which you join the school’s literature club and find it run by a number of attractive girls!  This is a visual novel, so obviously you set about trying to impress them with your poetry.  I will say no more than this: I knew it was going to subvert my expectations (thanks to the Steam reviews), but the way it went about it thoroughly surprised me.

Doki Doki
For a free game, this is incredibly well put together.  Hell, for a full priced game this is incredibly well put together.

If you do play it (and you really should), it takes about 3 hours before things start to really happen, so do play through the early stages, even if you find them tiresome (I did).  And carry on playing even after it ends.  There’s a lot of great stuff here and I can’t talk about it without spoiling it!

Below is the list of games that I played this year.  It was stunningly hard to pick out 5 from a list of such stupendous games.  I didn’t want to overlook The Sexy Brutale thanks to its inventive puzzles and memorable music.  Late Shift was a genuinely enjoyable FMV experience.  Everspace combined rogue-lites with a space sim to create something quite unique.  The Evil Within 2 surprised me by not being nearly as bad as the first one and turning out to be a genuinely fun experience.  And that soundtrack!  2017 should go down as another one of those years that should be brought up when anyone asks what the best year in gaming was.

How about you?  What would you suggest for a list like this?  Have I got it utterly wrong?  Obviously I haven’t, but you’re welcome to argue.  Let me know!

The Sexy Brutale

Yooka-Laylee

Nioh

Resident Evil 7

Halo Wars 2

The Surge

Injustice 2

Everspace

Late Shift

Get Even

Little Nightmares

Slime Rancher

Sonic Mania

Stories Untold

Marvel vs Capcom Infinite

Nier: Automata

Torment: Tides of Numenera

Conarium

>Observer_

XCOM 2 WOTC

Doki Doki Literature Club

Ruiner

The Evil Within 2

Super Mario Odyssey

I’m Rob, and Here’s What I’ve Been Playing – 26/11/17

Video games mainly.

Everything in gaming has to be the Dark Souls of something right now, but Ruiner really did remind me of the series. It’s closer to Bloodborne really, as it’s very fast paced, has a huge reliance on stamina management (you have limited dodges), and the bosses are brutally tough.  Even the standard enemies can destroy you if you’re careless.  You really have to learn the bosses tells and set up your build carefully to have a chance.  I found it a little frustrating at times but I absolutely loved the experience.  The final battle was intense and thrilling and made those earlier frustrations melt away.  I finished it on normal mode and it was just on the wrong side of difficult for my liking, but I really enjoyed it.

Ruiner
I couldn’t get any screenshots of when it was all going crazy as you cam’t lose concentration for a split second.

XCOM 2 continues to fill up my PC gaming time.  You can catch up on the ever continuing campaign here if you’re so inclined.  The War of the Chosen expansion really does add a lot of content, with new enemies and different factions changing how you might approach a certain situation.  These changes really compound the challenge of the main game in which you have too many options and not enough time.  Still, more XCOM is always a good thing to my mind.

XCOM 2 Logo
Haven’t seen this image in at least 4 days.

I finished >Observer_ not so long ago.  Coming from the team that made Layers of Fear meant that I had pretty high expectations for this one.  It had certain things in common with it (the controls, the changing environments, and the shonky framerate) but it didn’t have nearly the same impact for some reason.  The story surrounds your character searching for his son in a locked down appartment complex.  You can enter the memories of different characters which leads to some genuinely interesting environments to explore, some of which were very unsettling.  I found the “real world” uninteresting to explore though, and often found myself feeling a little bit lost if only for a short while which broke up the pace for me.  It’s good, just not quite what I’d hoped for.

I also had a go at some of the “free” console games that have come out over the past couple of months.  Trackmania Turbo was fine, although the single player mode in it held very little interest.  There were some interesting tracks to download but I doubt it’ll hold my attention for long.  The same could be said of Just Cause 3.  I’m not a huge fan of open world games that have tons of filler content, and that’s exactly what this was.  Do a race, liberate a town, take over an outpost.  There were some great moments in which I would set off explosives to destroy EVERYTHING whilst escaping using a wing suit.  But with floaty controls, repetative content, and characters I couldn’t give a damn about, I was left with a game I doubt I’ll return to.

TM Turbo
It’s bright and colourful with a good sense of speed. I just didn’t care all that much.

I picked up The Evil Within 2 on the XBox Black Friday deals.  Surprisingly cheap for a game that’s been out barely a month.  I made my feelings on the original game fairly clear but I’ve heard that the follow up addresses most of the problems I had with it.  It’s not a huge loss if I don’t enjoy it, but time will tell on that front.  Here’s hoping for a good, solid, horror experience.

Evil Within 2
Well this looks like a nice friendly game.

Was I wrong about any of these?  More importantly, what have you been playing?  Something awesome no doubt.  Tell me about it!

Resident Evil 7 – It’s Res Jim, but not as we know it!

Zombies and stuff.

No spoilers here!  Read with confidence!

But it’s not Resident Evil!  It’s in first person!  It’s not about zombies!  Where’s Umbrella?  etc.  I know, I’m a couple of months late to the party, but I’m glad I finally turned up because this is the most Resident Evil Resident Evil since Resident Evil.  Yes, that was a real sentence that I wrote.  This is the latest game in the venerated series, and whilst its perspective may be different when compared to most of the games in the series, this is without a doubt a Resident Evil game.  The atmosphere, environment and puzzles call back to the classic and tries to shake off the bad taste left by the more recent entries (I’m looking at you 6!)  You’re running around a mansion and it’s grounds, fighting monsters whilst conserving ammo and searching for keys to bizarre locks.  That’s pretty Resident Evil if you ask me.

Resident Evil 7
The initial walk to the home is similar in style to the opening of a lot of first person horror games. Very pretty to look at but with an edge of foreboding.

You are Ethan, a man who’s wife, Mia, disappeared 3 years ago.  Ethan receives a video message from Mia hinting at her whereabouts and he sets off to find her in a mysterious old manor house on a plantation in the middle of nowhere.  If you’ve played the demos released during the (well put together) marketing campaign, you’ll recognise some of the early locations you travel through before you gain access to the house proper.  Before long you find yourself stalked by the seemingly psychotic members of the family that live there and the “molded” – black slime monsters that grow from the walls and ceiling and seek to pull your limbs off.

Resident Evil 7
At times like these it’s always good to see a friendly face.

You means of defence are severely limited at first, with a knife and handgun being pretty much all you have for a while, along with some healing items that have some interesting properties.  Other weapons can be collected along the way, expanding your defensive options and giving the occasional nod to previous games in the series (particularly the first entry).  Most of the combat is against the molded and tends to be rather slow paced and methodical as you try to keep them a safe distance whilst you chip away, minimising you use of ammunition (or maybe running away from them altogether).  In this regard, the game is very much like the first Resident Evil, with resource conservation and avoiding conflict being essential early on.  The family also stalk the corridors, ready to pursue and attack you if spotted.  They can be fended off for a time, but only if you’re willing to spend your resources to do so; better to avoid them or make a heart-pounding escape through the corridors in most cases.

Resident Evil 7
The now iconic dinner scene that has been all over the promotional material. I would expect VR to be especially effective here.

Boss encounters are great exclamation marks to the growing tension in each area with each one becoming more grotesque.  Compared to being swarmed by regular enemies though, they tend not to be all that challenging.  The only exception was the first proper boss (the second one you confront), and that’s more due to the control scheme not being all that suited to the combat style you end up forced into.  Most bosses requite plenty of ammo and a good few healing items (at least they did for me) and good inventory organisation helps in ensuring you have what you need at any point in time.  Whilst not entirely challenging, they are entertaining and varied with the exception of the final battle which was big in scale but small on interaction.  It was a little disappointing when compared to some of the other encounters.

Resident Evil 7
The shotgun is a bit of a pain to get early in the game, but it a god send if you do.

The only other thing I found really irritating was something that also annoyed me about The Evil Within: traps.  Whilst only in the game occasionally and not as obnoxious, I find tripwire based traps and exploding item boxes an annoyance rather than an increase in challenge.  They make sense being there in the context of the character who places them, but that doesn’t make them any more fun to trip over.  I understand that this is meant to be a slow game (the controls make that obvious fairly early on), but the exploding item boxes are especially aggravating.

Resident Evil 7
I spent about 80% of the game with blood smears on the screen as I never wanted to use my healing items.

I have not sampled the VR mode of this (hey, I’m not made of money) so I can’t really comment on its implementation.  It’s fairly clear when playing where the VR is meant to have its greatest impact though.  There are a number of times involving characters and items being right in front of your character and I imagine it would be quite effective when wearing a headset.  Playing on a TV is fine though, and those moments don’t stand out unless you’re looking for them.  The visuals on the whole are excellent throughout and I noticed very little that wasn’t extremely well polished.

Resident Evil 7
More VR fodder.

Most importantly though, Resident Evil 7 is fun to play.  It’s not terrifying by any stretch, but the atmosphere works very well and creates an unsettling feeling throughout.  It doesn’t rely on jump-scares but gives a feeling of unease through vulnerability and a lack of preparedness for what may come walking around the next corner.  I loved that sense of threat , and found the level of challenge spot on when playing on normal.  I’m not going near any higher difficulty though.

Resident Evil 7
There’s DEFINITELY nothing bad behind that door.

Resident Evil 7 was developed and published by Capcom (using an excellent in house engine I should add).  I played the games on Xbox One and would recommend it to anyone who likes the classic games in the series or someone looking for a solid, well made horror game.  Now here’s hoping Capcom can capitalise and rescue the series long term!

E3 2017 Wrap Up – Games and such

I don’t think I’ll ever go to E3 in person, and that’s just fine by me.

I’ve never been to E3, and I doubt I ever will. That’s mostly because it looks like there are far, far too many people in a big, hot hall. I’m more than content to read about and watch the games in comfort, and not have to go near crowds of humans who may be infected with a dormant form of the zombie plague.

So here are a few thoughts on the bits and pieces from during the event.  I’m sticking to the games and tech mainly, and avoiding the god-awful, cringe worthy presentations.  Stop with the faux YouTuber nonsense!  Anyway, enjoy!

EA

EA Logo

Sports, innit!  Madden has a story mode now, just like most of EA’s other sports franchises.  FIFA will also have a continuation of its story mode, The Journey, which my wife will be fairly happy about.  There’s more content for Battlefield 1 coming, which I don’t really car about much.  Seems to be a lot of night time maps, so if you like that sort of thing then brilliant I suppose.  Need For Speed is back.  PAYBACK in fact.  It’ll have a story mode once again which is the one thing it has over Forza/Horizon.  It looks pretty but I’ve never really been interested in racers for their plots.  If the racing is good then I may take a look, but it seems to be full of scripted sequences which may break the flow of the racing.  I’ll keep an eye one it but I’m not holding my breath.

There’s Battlefront 2 on it’s way as well.  It looks pretty, and there’s a single player campaign now too.  Basically this looks like what the previous game should have been, but then we knew that already.  Then there’s A Way Out, which is the one thing here that actually grabbed me.  A co-op (only) prison escape action adventure.  THAT HAS LOCAL CO-OP!  That last bit alone is enough to interest me, but it looks gorgeous, is from a developer with a good history, and it seems to stand out somewhat from many games.

Verdict: Lots of “Meh” with a little bit of “Oh, now that’s interesting”.

Microsoft

Microsoft logo

Microsoft needed games, and I suppose they had some.  They also needed to show off the Scorpio (or Xbox One X as it’s now called) well, and I’m not so sure about that.  I suppose the new system is powerful, and the Forza 7 trailer certainly looked good running on it, but it’s not really a system seller, and that’s what was really missing.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Forza a lot, but I won’t be buying a new (expensive) machine especially for it.  The original Xbox backwards compatibility was a great thing to show people though!

Anyway, games aplenty here!  A new Metro game, named Exodus (which may be exclusive, I’m not too sure) has me interested.  Dark, scary, and very serious.  It’s a series I like and I’m glad it’s back.  Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, the battle royale style game, is a bit of a Twitch darling right now, and is heading to the console.  The Darwin Project seems to be in a similar vein but more light-hearted.  I’m not too fussed about either.  Skipping a few (seriously, there were a lot),  Dragonball Fighter Z looks fun, The Last Night and The Artful Escape have interesting art styles, Sea of Thieves is something I don’t care about, Cuphead still looks cool but really should get around to coming out and Crackdown 3 still exists.  There were a ton of other indie games, before getting to see Ashen, which seems to be trying to fill the void left by Dark SoulsOri is getting a sequel which is nice, and Shadow of War looks great too.  Then we got to see Anthem, which seems to be EA wanting to take on Destiny, which is pretty brave.  It does look good though!

Verdict:  Xbox One X is a thing now, too many games but very few system sellers.  Microsoft seem to be aiming at current users rather than new ones.

Bethesda

bethesda logo

This was about as safe as they get.  Bethesda took few risks, with VR versions of DOOM and Fallout 4, which will probably be pretty cool, and more Elder Scrolls.  We had Skyrim on Switch (again, and not looking brilliant if you ask me), and extra stuff for Elder Scrolls: Legends, their card game.  DLC for Dishonored 2 (honour has a ‘u’ in it!) is fine for fans of the series I’m sure, and a sequel to The Evil Within (which I didn’t like much) had a pretty great trailer.  Then we got the only bit I was really interested in, Wolfenstein 2, which looks pretty great.  The New Order was excellent so I’m hoping for more of that quality.

Verdict: Safe.  Very few risks here which is a little disappointing.

PC

XCOM 2 content!  Everything else can go home as far as I’m concerned, this wins.  It looks like a sizable expansion too, in the vein of Enemy Within.  Very excited!

I suppose I should mention other things too.  BattleTech seems to be coming along nicely, which is nice considering I backed it on Kickstarter.  Mount & Blade 2 and Total War: Warhammer 2 look fine too.  There were a few VR games too, but I’ll leave those to better qualified people to discuss.  Lawbreakers was mentioned too, offering some serious looking competition in the hero shooter genre.  Wargroove looks quite interesting, seeming to bring back the strategy of the classic Advance Wars.  I’m interested in this one.

Verdict: Go home everyone.  There’s more XCOM 2.  Life complete.

Ubisoft

Ubisoft New Logo

This one surprised me more.  I expected a lot of stuff we already knew, but there were a few unexpectedly interesting games.  So, forgetting about Assassin’s Creed: Origins having a trailer (that looks to be playing it safe with the series), Far Cry 5 still looking interesting, and the bizarre Mario/Rabbids crossover game, there were some cool announcements.  The Crew 2 exists (not interested), South Park has a release date (let’s hope it sticks this time), and Steep has some DLC (did that sell well enough).  Then there was Skull & Bones which is a pirate game!  Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag was great so I’m expecting a top pirate themed adventure here.  I know piracy is often frowned upon in gaming (ZING!), but I’m pretty excited by this.  Transference could be brilliant, terrible, or mad as a bag of cats.  It’s some something to do with VR I think?  There’s Elijah Wood in it which is…good?  Maybe?  It was bizarre enough to get my attention.

We had a game called Starlink, which seems to combine No Man’s Sky style space exploration, with the toys-to-life mechanics seen in Lego Dimensions and co, and an actual story.  I like space shooters so I’ll keep an eye on this one.  Then the one that people have been clamouring for for years: Beyond Good & Evil 2.  It’s been so long since the original that I’m not sure if I’m interested anymore.  Also, it’s a prequel so that trailer from years ago will still go unresolved.  Still, the trailer looks pretty cool so here’s hoping the franchise can finally be resurrected successfully.

Verdict:  Better than I expected!

Sony

Sony Logo

A problem I had here, was just seeing more trailers for games that had had trailers last year.  Spider-Man, God of War 4, Detroit, Days Gone, and so forth had been shown before.  I think this is a problem with E3 generally, showing games way too early leaving me to burn out on them before they get close to release.  Anyway, enough of that.  Gran Turismo is back, which is great although it will need to do well to compete with Forza for my racing attention!  Crash Bandicoot wasn’t really a surprise, but it’s nice to see.  Knack 2 is a thing that exists.  Hidden Agenda looks interesting, from the people behind Until Dawn.  It seems to a similar choice based progression but with multiple players using their phones to progress and interact with the game.  I like the look of this!  Superhot VR is a nice thing to have on the console, but I was very happy to see Undertale on a console.  Such a tremendous game deserves to be played by as many people as possible.

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy had a trailer appearance and looks good (I’m not that into the series though).  A console based Monster Hunter game is a great thing to see.  It feels right at home on a big screen.  I’ll probably pick this one up.  Speaking of ones to buy, Shadow of the Colossus is getting a PS4 remaster (or remake?) which means I may finally get to play this classic that I missed out on.  Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite got a story trailer (and a good one at that), but I’d like to see some gameplay in it.  Call of Duty WWII had a trailer too and very much looks like a Call of Duty game.  I think everyone knows what to expect here.  We got some Destiny 2 as well, which is fine if you’re interested in the series.  I don’t think it’s going to sway me though.

Verdict: A lot of what we’d already seen, but some pretty good stuff all the same.

Nintendo

Nintendo Logo

I haven’t been big on Nintendo for while now.  I feel for every innovation they push, they make 2 boneheaded moves that ignore modern innovations.  Still, the Switch seems to have done well for them!  Most of their stuff gets shown in the Nintendo Direct stuff they do, but they had some nice presentations here.  Xenoblade Chrinicles 2 looks fantastic, pity I haven’t played the series at all.  A new Kirby game is nice, but I suspect a lot of people were very excited to see Metroid Prime 4.  Whilst it’s only a logo for now, it’s a great series to try to bring back.  I think I’d have rather they try to create a new Metroid series, but Prime was an excellent trilogy so I understand their thinking.  Yoshi.  Yay.  Fire Emblem Warriors.  Also yay.

Rocket League is coming to the Switch which is nice.  It has cross play too which makes a lot of sense in this era.  Throwing in Nintendo items is a smart move.  Then, there’s Mario Odyssey.  Damn that trailer is good.  Suitable song, fun looking gameplay (I want to possess a koopa!) and frankly stunning visuals.  This and Breath of the Wild are pushing me towards buying a Switch.

Verdict: Nintendo forever relying on their established franchises.  Still, what they have looks pretty good.

So what did you like most from the show?  Would you rather go there in person?  Let me know!

 

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak Special Gigs – That’s one hell of a title.

I’m pretty confident that Japan does this to troll English speaking audiences.  They get the development team together and name, grab an English dictionary and pick out 5 to 8 random words and tell us that’s the English title for the game.  Let’s break down that title shall we?  So we’re in Tokyo, during twilight probably.  We’ll be hunting ghosts.  Then there’s…daybreak?  Wasn’t it twilight a minute ago?  And what’s a special gig?  Are we a band that fights ghosts?  You know what, forget all that.  A band that fights ghosts sounds like a great idea for a game.  Make it happen Japan!

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
It’s a visual novel, so there’s obviously waifu bait.

I picked this one up on a whim.  I knew it was a visual novel with ghost battles and a supposedly good soundtrack so I grabbed it on sale.  And I tried to like it, I really did.  For a while I’m pretty sure I was into it, but it didn’t last for oh so many reasons.

I don’t mind visual novels at all.  Most have really quirky stories and a gameplay mechanic that is completely absurd (I’m looking at you Danganronpa) in the context of the story.  Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters (I’m just going to avoid writing the full title anymore) fails in the first part and only occasionally hits in the second.  You play as yourself, having transferred to a new school and quickly make friends with a bunch of people who can see ghosts because you can too!  Convenient!  Before long you find they write for an occult magazine who do a secret side business in exorcism under the name Gate Keepers.  You prove yourself by fighting off a ghost in the school and are signed up as a full employee!  Well done you.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
Well done! You’ve been signed up to work in this office with nowhere near enough space for everyone.

The game is split into episodes in which you and your team will find out about a ghost, investigate it and then try to take it down in the actual gameplay section.  Here’s the first problem though, I played through 10 out of the 13 chapters (I gave up, you’ll see why later) and there was seemingly no connection between each of them.  This lack of connection during the story put me off as I felt no particular reason to return after completing a chapter.  There was no drive to discover more.  Sure, your colleagues were interesting and some of the ghosts had back stories to find, but I didn’t feel a sense of curiosity to push me forward.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
Drama! But it doesn’t go anywhere after the chapter ends.

This being a visual novel, the interaction is limited to the ghost battles and the occasional conversation inputs.  The latter is sometimes simple, sometimes utterly confusing.  Some of your interactions will have you select a statement which is fairly standard, but sometimes you need to respond using body language.  This is achieved by selecting an emotion to convey and which of your five senses to use.  Sometimes this was obvious such as aggressive touch being a punch, or a sad look conveying how you feel.  But it’s possible to curiously sniff someone.  Or aggressively taste them.  These are weird enough combinations, but you can’t always be sure what combination will do what.  I could chose curious look, expecting to look for clues in an area, but the game decides I want to look at the person in front of me in a quizzical way.  The player feedback is really rather poor here.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
So, shall I give him a friendly touch? Or perhaps a sad sniff?

The main gameplay is the ghost battle scenes, which play out using a turn based “we go” system.  The map is set up in a grid, with arrows showing your characters and the ghosts, assuming you have located them.  You set each character’s movements and attacks before setting everything into motion with both your movements and the ghost movements happening together.  This means you’ll need to guess the ghost’s movements to ensure you land a hit.  And I do mean guess, more often than not I found myself restarting battles due to the time limit running out as I chased ghosts around trying to land a hit.  You can lay traps before the battle to force ghosts to move in certain ways, but as you don’t know the ghost’s starting location, this ends up being even more guess work.  When I got it right it was satisfying, but for the most part it was just dumb luck.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
This is the battle screen which is a far cry from the style of the rest of the game. It’s also a massive pain to play.

The characters you take with you level up as you use them, but you quickly realise which characters are the most useful.  Characters with wide attacks mean you have a much better chance of hitting a ghost, whilst some can self heal and detect ghosts out of visual range.  Occasionally though, you are forced to take characters on missions, whether they are leveled up or not leading to some truly frustrating battles unless you spend huge amounts of time grinding your under-leveled characters up (assuming you’re even allowed to!).  Then there are the wild difficulty spikes that were the final nail in the coffin for me.  Going from manageable battle to one in which the ghost can take out all of my team when counterattacking was just too much for me to put up with.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
Not ghosts. Just terrifying humans. You won’t forget those expressions any time soon.

On the plus side, the art work is great in the story sections (less so in the battles) and the soundtrack is full of fun J-rock music and has the occasional voice work.  The characters are quirky and interesting to meet and interact with who have different motivations in each chapter.  It’s just a shame the chapters didn’t seem to be building to anything before I finally gave up.  Having said that, if your story isn’t grabbing me after 15 hours then I don’t think it ever will.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters
When you attack a ghost you get a first person view of it which takes far longer than necessary.

Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters was developed by Now Productions and published by NIS America (in Europe anyway).  I played the game on Playstation 4 and wouldn’t recommend this at all.  It’s irritating and dull for the most part, even when you consider the dreaded Staring Man Eating Ambulance ghost.  What the hell Japan?!

5 Games From 2016 That I Regret Missing – Not enough hours in the day.

There’s an expression which has come to mind more and more for me lately.  When you’re young you have the time but not the money; when you’re older you have the money but not the time.  This applies to so many things in life, gaming included.  When I was younger, I missed out on a lot of games simply because I couldn’t afford them.  Whilst disappointing, it made a lot of sense.  Also, it wasn’t difficult to acquire games by *ahem* other means.  Not that I would advocate that (specially not now).  If my younger self could see the number of games I’ve bought and not got around to playing though…

Lol Limewire
This song still make me laugh.

I find myself buying fewer and fewer “epic” games simply because I won’t have the time to enjoy them.  Work, family and life in general are all more important (to varying degrees…screw work!) meaning that hobbies have to give way.  Regardless, it is still disappointing to intend to play a game but never get around to it.  So here are 5 games from last year that I had every intention of playing, but probably never will.  Oh, and Overwatch isn’t here…

Epic Games
No, not this sort of Epic. Their games tended to be of a sensible length.

Rules are different this time!  Obviously these have to be games I haven’t played that were released last year.  I’ve not included games from last year that I’ve bought and not started yet, as I probably will play them.  Onwards!

Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy 15
Final Fantasy XV (2016)

I’ll start with the big one.  I dearly wanted to play this.  It looked gorgeous, had a fun tone, unusual mechanics for the series and a huge world to explore with meaningful content.  Monsters!  Swords!  Magic!  Kick-ass sports car!  Silly hair!  Everything I could want in a Final Fantasy game.  Even an indecipherable story (probably).

Final Fantasy XV
It really is quite pretty.

But the size of it moved it further and further down my wish list.  That ever present issue of time ate away at my desire to finally pick it up.  Even seeing how much reviewers and other bloggers loved it wasn’t enough to save it from the slide.  It’s still on my wish list, so maybe some day.

Super Mario Maker (3DS)

Super Mario Maker 3DS logo
Super Mario Maker 3DS (2016)

I don’t own a Wii U, so Mario Maker was off the table, but the idea of near limitless Mario levels was quite appealing!  Whilst I’m not the most creative of people, seeing and playing the levels other people would make sounded great to me.  So when I heard that there was a 3DS version on the way, I was certainly interested.

Super Mario Maker Bundle
Nintendo have tried to port a few Wii U games to 3DS, but the loss in quality is a problem for me. This is also the reason I did pick up Hyrule Warriors Legends.

Then it turned out the feature set was going to be severely limited by comparison.  You couldn’t access all the levels you could imagine, only the ones that were “featured”.  Levels could be exchanged via street pass, but browsing through the tens of thousands (or more?) of levels that people had created and picking out one that looked and sounded interesting was part of the appeal to me.  Maybe it will get patched in some day, but with the Switch being released, I doubt it.

The Turing Test

The Turing Test Logo
The Turing Test (2016)

I may, may still play this one.  A sci-fi puzzle game with a (supposedly) interesting mystery story certainly sounded appealing!  An interesting twist on the “weapon” as a puzzle solving device (a la Portal and it various imitators) along with inventive challenges made this something I was very interested in.  In fact, Vahrkalla made a very convincing argument for playing it, and I still very much want to give it a go.

The Turing Test
Robots! I want to play this even more now.

This one came along a few weeks after I’d played a few other first person puzzle games in the form of Pneuma and The Talos Principle, so the idea of another one put it to the back of my mind for a long time.  Some day I may well be in the mood to give this a try, but as it stands it’ll just have to wait its turn.

BlazBlue: Central Fiction

BlazBlue Central Fiction Logo
BlazBlue: Central Fiction (2016)

I like fighting games.  A lot.  I am terrible at fighting games.  Whilst I can pick up mechanics well enough, I struggle to put them into action during an actual match.  This is even more of a problem in anime style fighting games most often associated with Arc System Works due to them being so insanely fast.  But they’re so gorgeous!  And the action is so fluid!  Varied characters and bizarre attacks!  Things like Guilty Gear, Chaos Code, and BlazBlue really appeal to me.  Mostly for single player though.

BlazBlue Central Fiction.
A witch is fighting a cat lady and I have no idea what it happening.

The thing with BlazBlue: Central Fiction is that it came out about 6 months after I’d picked up Continuum Shift, the previous installment.  More fool me (perhaps) for not waiting for the newer version, but seeing as I was playing mostly offline, having the most up to date version wasn’t a huge concern.  Having said that, I would have liked to have seen the online community before everyone switched back to playing as Noel and using her silly endless combos.  Like I do.

Salt & Sanctuary

Salt and Sanctuary
Salt and Sanctuary (2016)

I was put onto this one because I love Dark Souls far more than is healthy.  Salt & Sanctuary was sold to me as a 2D Dark Souls, and if you watch it in action it’s pretty clear why.  Every action needs to be planned out to avoid silly mistakes and a resulting death.  The grimy art style is also reminiscent of its inspiration’s medieval world.  I should have picked this one up straight away by all rights.

Salt and Sanctuary.
This really does remind me of the Undead Burg.

I feel that at the time I was a little burnt out on super challenging games.  Since then, Nioh has come along and rekindled my love for those sort of games, but at the time I needed a break from them.  With that in mind, now may be the time to look into giving this one a go.

Some honourable mentions as always.  Hitman didn’t interest me during its development, nor upon its initial release.  But since then I hear all sorts of stories about hits gone wrong, elusive targets and bizarre successes.  I regret not giving it a go when it came out.  The Bunker was a really interesting one, being a throwback to the “interactive movies” of days gone by.  I like a good horror, but I feel this one may be more suited to a Let’s Play for me.  I loved the Attack on Titan anime, so the game was something I really liked the look of.  I got the feeling it may get repetitive quickly though, so I passed it by.  This one’s also still on my wish list though, so maybe someday I’ll pick it up on the cheap.

How about you?  Are there any recent releases you regret missing out on at the time?  Let me know!  I hope I’m not alone on these ones…

 

 

Nioh – Sadly not starring Keanu Reeves

It may have been established by now that I quite like Dark Souls.  A lot.  Also Bloodborne, which was like Dark Souls on Gothic meth.  The intricate, connected worlds, the strategic combat, the challenge, the enemies, the bosses.  Everything in those games comes together fantastically to create gaming experiences unlike others.  You know when a series has been successful when there are so many games that clearly take their inspiration from it.  Hyper Light Drifter, Salt and Sanctuary, and Lords of the Fallen all make use of mechanics and style of this young, but venerated series.  And here comes a new challenger: Nioh, otherwise known (perhaps unfairly) as Samurai Souls.

Nioh
Early areas in the Tower of London are mildly challenging, but nothing on what’s to come.

Nioh follows the supposed exploits of William, an Irishman who travels to 17th century Japan in pursuit of Kelley who has stolen his Guardian Spirit, Saoirse, so he can gain Amrita to release Yokai to ravage the country.  If that makes no sense to you then you’re in the same boat as me.  The plot is there, with plenty of cutscenes introducing you to various historical Japanese figures (if you’ve played the Warriors games you may recognise some), but I didn’t know what was going on at any point.  I suspect if you have some knowledge of Japanese mythology and history then you may follow it closer than I did.  Having said that, the Souls games had very convoluted plots (although they keep it more hidden) and are still very enjoyable.

Nioh
Pirate Cat is your friend throughout the game. I have no idea what the deal with this is.

They’re enjoyable because the gameplay is so well put together, and that’s very much the case here.  Combat against the humans and demons you face is quick, but requires thought.  You have light and heavy attacks for your weapons (of which there are a good few), but you also have stances.  Low, mid, and high stances give you different attacks that are suited for different opponents.  Mid stance spears are great for poking and keeping enemies at range, whilst high stance swords can destroy enemies rushing towards you if timed well.  There is a lot of depth here that allows you to find a style that suits you but gives you options when you need them.  I often stuck with a low stance sword but switched to high stance axe for enormous damage when needed.  Stamina management appears here too in the form of ki, but with ways to recover it during your combos with well timed button taps, allowing you to press the attack.

Nioh
The environments look great in most instances, with nice use of lighting and splashes of colour.

The enemies are varied, although there aren’t a huge number of them.  Standard grunts can still destroy you if you’re careless, but the powerful Yokai are the real challenge.  Axe wielding demons, tongue monsters, and bird men are all powerful foes that will take you out until you learn how to handle them effectively, it’s just a shame there aren’t more varieties.  The bosses are tremendous as you may expect, with spider demons and deadly samurai warriors providing a different challenge at the end of each stage.  The difficulty of them does vary rather wildly, with some of the early bosses being brutally difficult, whilst later ones I could defeat on my first attempt.  It may well be the case that I stuck to an approach that worked better for some bosses than others, but it didn feel like the difficulty spiked from time to time.  But the challenge is part of the point here, and just like Dark Souls, players can be summoned to assist you with bosses for some limited co-op action.  PVP is off the table for the time being though, being promised for a later update.

Nioh
How are you with giant spiders? Because they really want a hug.

Whilst the gameplay is tremendous, and kept me coming back for more side missions and main quests, the world was less engaging.  Characters didn’t really grab me, and the environments were quite bland.  There were only so many times I could fight demons in “Japanese village” or “cave” before the rot sets in.  The world looks lovely, but there was a lack of variety once again.  Further, most levels were fairly linear and lacked opportunities for exploration, although finding shortcuts back to your shrine (Nioh’s bonfire equivalent) was as satisfying as ever.  Another irritation was the amount of loot that enemies drop.  I found myself spending a lot of time rooting through my inventory, deciding what was worth keeping and what wasn’t.  And each item has so many different stats!  It’s hard to be sure if an item is objectively better or not.  Having said that, I did fine just looking at damage/defence and elemental effects, so it may be the case that there is a lot of depth for those looking for it, whilst those who want to play can get by just fine.  An accessible Souls style game!  Who would have imagined?

Nioh
This boss can sod right off. I mean, the design is fantastic, but I flat out hated this fight.  Because I sucked at it.

Nioh was developed by Team Ninja and published by Sony.  I played the game on PlayStation 4 and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Souls games or challenging action RPGs.  I did every single side mission in this, not for loot or leveling up, but because I wanted more of the gameplay!  I’m normally a main story and some side quests kind of player, but I wanted more of the action in Nioh.  After 40+ hours of gameplay, I’d say I got my money’s worth.