Games. Culture.

GUEST: Alex O’Neill’s Top Ten Games of 2016

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Alex O’Neill is the criminal mastermind behind a rugged group of misfits that call themselves “Irrational Passions“. They are analogous to The Saviors from The Walking Dead which would then make Alex their Negan? Just check out their website.

Full Disclosure:

For folks who don’t know: hi! I’m Alex O’Neill. From IrrationalPassions.com. I’m a writer and such. These are my top 10 games of 2016, as of right now, which will probably (definitely) change. In fact, I can guarantee that they’ll change because IP doesn’t do game of the year until January.

So.

Uhh.

Until then, these are my 10 favorite games I’ve played in 2016, in absolutely no particular order. Enjoy!

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Quick honorable mentions: Gears of War 4, XCOM 2, Fire Emblem Fates, Stardew Valley, Inside

Final Fantasy XV

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The first that comes to mind. Only 30 or so hours in (and I say ‘only’, am I right?) and I absolutely adore just about everything about it. I know some folks have issue with how the story plays out, but I really don’t. The world, the story, and especially the characters: it’s all that Japanese level of trite-meets-engaging, of bullshit-meets-sincerity, and it’s exactly up my alley.

In a weird way, FFXV reminds me a lot of Persona 4, in its specific focus on character. In fact, the game doesn’t even really pretend anything in that world matters more, at the end of the day, than character. It is always setting out to engage you with its four protagonists, and it does so incredibly well. From subtle movements and animations to nights spent engaged in rooftop conversations, connecting your Princely character to his three bodyguards, is absolutely what XV is all about, and I think it succeeds in just about every way.

Outside of that, it creates a fun and lived-in feeling world that feels… real. Sure, you have to drive everywhere to do everything and anything, but it goes a long way to proportioning out the world into some level of realism. It doesn’t feel too dense or not dense enough at any point. It just feels like a place.

Running around, killing monsters; it’s all fun. It’s all this weird combination of what I expected, and what I didn’t, and though it may not be perfect, it’s exactly what I wanted, that I didn’t even know I wanted.

Titanfall 2

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Honestly, I didn’t expect to even play this game this year. I was on a tight budget around release, and I assumed I wouldn’t have time to get to it. Hey, I loved Titanfall, and it was the reason I bought an Xbox One. No regrets. But I didn’t think I had room for another multiplayer shooter this year. And really, I didn’t. It was the campaign I had room for.

Titanfall 2’s campaign alone makes it a proud member of my favorite games from this past year. It’s incredible. Absolutely excellent, and my favorite of “this kind of shooter” campaign since maybe Black Ops 2 or Call of Duty 4.

It’s paced beautifully, introducing something new on a near constant basis, and in a Nintendo-like way, fully evolves a concept before discarding it completely and moving onto something newer and almost always cooler. It’s a concept you see applied to platformers and shooters of the caliber of Valve, but never in a fast paced shooter in the family of Call of Duty.

Oh, and to boot, just insult to badassery, the multiplayer is also fantastic. Titans feel bigger, stronger, and in the two year absence of Titanfall’s multiplayer in my life, I forgot how much of a personal event it is when you drop your Titan into combat. It’s awesome, and there still isn’t anything even near the level of it in any other multiplayer shooter.

Overwatch

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On the topic of multiplayer shooters: holy shit you guys. Overwatch.

This is easily the game I’ve played the most of this year. I never thought I’d love a straight multiplayer game like this ever again. Yet with almost 200 hours of playtime in 2016 alone, I’m still jumping into holiday events and competitive modes in Overwatch.

From the support Blizzard has shown the title over the course of the year, to the absolute perfection of how it feels, to playing with friends, to the diversity of playstyles, Overwatch just seems unfair in almost every aspect. It’s a Blizzard game. It’s so cool for that, because it’s so different and so approachable in a way that you rarely see from that company, especially in a genre they’ve never produced a game for before.

The moments I’ve had in Overwatch just speak for themselves. From dealing 20,000+ damage in a single match as Junkrat, carrying my team as Zenyatta or Mercy, or even just tackling insurmountable odds with a team of friends in PSN chat, Overwatch is an event every time I play. I love it. It’s beautiful, unique, and such a breath of fresh air in a genre that I never thought I’d care about. Ever.

Firewatch

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Firewatch gets a bad rap. Maybe rightfully so. I played it so long ago, in such a vacuum pre-release. It’s weird to think about just how beautiful this game is now. I still think about it some nights, lost in thought about all the feelings it inserted so unceremoniously into my brain.

Firewatch, for me, delivers the very real ‘between-places-of-your-life’ sensation, of distress, confusion, and actual genuine frustration. It hurts, in a way that I think lasts with the play. But it’s also fun, and carefree, and exhilarating, and has you over thinking everything around you, just like some of the weirdest and most transitory periods of life.

Henry and Delilah are so genuine, so real, and so, so, so well written that I just can’t help but picture them so clearly in my head, in a way that’s so difficult to even imagine, for specific reasons I won’t get to for sake of spoilers.

Firewatch sticks with me in a very personal way, and I think it still stands out as one of the most unique approaches to storytelling we’ve seen in games.

Dishonored 2

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Dishonored was a really special game. Not just because it brought back that Deus Ex-style game in a very Bioshock/fantastical way, but because it was designed so brilliantly. I was a big critic of the original, only because I knew it could be better. Then it was better with the DLC which had you playing a very different character.

And then, they one-upped it again with Dishonored 2.

What was secret and subtle in the original is suddenly taken for granted in this sequel, but that’s only to make room for all the new cool secrets that Dishonored 2 lays out in front of the player. All that, coupled with quite literally the best first person level design I have ever seen in a video game, in a year with some of the best first person level design pretty much ever, that’s super high praise.

Every room has a story, every level has at least 10 different tales hidden in its streets, and finding and uncovering them in absolutely enthralling. I spent easily a dozen extra hours than I needed to just wandering around and completing secondary objectives. The powers have seen a massive step up with Emily, and from it’s look to its every execution, Dishonored 2 is fun in a way that few adventure games of the same ilk are.

Oh, and it’s really, really hard. Which is both a great and a frustrating thing.

Hyper Light Drifter

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Hyper Light Drifter is like if you gave Zelda A Link to the Past grown-up drugs, and then real-ass drugs like LSD. And then mushrooms. And then killed it in the most brutal way.

What I’m trying to say is: it’s a trip. On just about every imaginable level. On the surface it’s a top down adventure game in the vein of Zelda with some mechanics from Dark Souls, but digging deeper, you can see this wonderfully rooted design philosophy. It’s brutal, it’s gorgeous, and it never speaks a word, written or otherwise.

Its brutality, its violence, all come at you without mercy, and you never truly know what’s real and what’s not. That’s what makes walking around in its world so miserable, yet engaging. These horrible monsters have pushed people out of their respective homes on the four corners of the map, and as a Drifter, you just kind of wander through them, striking down evil doers in your way. In a way, you play the wandering swordsman in an anime, like Rurouni Kenshin. Yet everything you bring to the game’s narrative is at least partially projected onto it, and that’s part of what makes it so cool.

Dark Souls III

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Going back to Dark Souls is always tricky. Especially after, in my opinion, the better and more streamlined game that is Bloodborne. But hey, the director of the original was back on board, and Dark Souls III was stated from the getgo to be definitively the final entry in this generation-defining franchise.

And Dark Souls III nails it.

Ben Moore said something on Frame Trap that really stuck with me: to him, Dark Souls III really is Dark Souls II. And it really is. The second entry, with a different director, so vehemently got away from almost any and every mechanic that made the first so great, while also doing excellent and engaging things, just in a very distant way. Dark Souls II feels more like the prequel that people never asked for, but enjoyed all the same. Kind of like Batman Arkham Origins.

Dark Souls III, on the other hand, is beautiful, bountiful, hard as hell, and has easily some of the highest highs of the entire franchise. It reinstates exactly why From Software is the king of making these games, and feels like a true love letter for fans that have stuck with the series since Demon’s Souls.

Uncharted 4

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Playing through Uncharted 4 for a second time, as I have been over the last couple of weeks, has been this intimate reminder of what that game did for me: it showed me how much I care for that franchise, more than I could even be consciously aware of.

Uncharted 4 is this weird culmination of anything and everything that that franchise has done before, with just a feel and a renewed focus that makes it an instant standout. It’s easily the best in the franchise, holding the personal nature of Uncharted 3 on its sleeve, the intimacy of Uncharted Drake’s Fortune in its mechanics, and the bombastic fun that made Uncharted 2 a game changer. It lovingly references not only everything in that franchise, but also reiterates the storied history of Naughty Dog as a company, and how greatness truly does come from small beginnings.

It’s beautiful, inside and out, and had me feeling and reminiscing in a way I couldn’t have anticipated. It’s a masterclass in just about every genre it graces, and is so defining that I can’t see anyway we don’t talk about it for years to come.

Uncharted 4 is phenomenal, and ends a franchise in a way that such an important series deserves.

Batman The Telltale Series

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This is a weird one for me, because I had unendingly low expectations. Telltale was so hit or miss for me, and at the end of the day I just expected this to be another comic-book ish Batman story. But it wasn’t. It was so much more.

The first episode all the way through the finale was full of surprises, turns, and really great set up for a world that was definitively different than any other Batman world. Characters were either villains in completely different ways than they are in traditional Batman media, or were completely different altogether. And almost without fail it was for the better.

Telltale’s approach to breaking on sacred ground as far as Batman history is concerned is honestly impressive. They decided to very much draw a line in the sand and say, “this is our Batman universe, and we really care about it,” and it’s one that’s worth caring about. Depending on how you play, you can really set the tone for the Batman you’re making, and what Gotham thinks of him.

Characters like Cobblepot, Harvey Dent, and Bruce Wayne himself all see completely different shifts, into territory that is super excited as a fan of Bruce Timm style Batman stories, and I honestly really hope they continue with another season of this world, because I’m all in.

DOOM

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DOOM.

For real. DOOM. What else do I need to say? It’s so badass, and fun, and secretly a Metroid Prime game. It’s awesome.

But seriously, this is probably as close to Metroid Prime 4 as I’ll ever get, and I absolutely adore that aspect of it. DOOM has you playing, aptly named, “Doom Marine,” doing Doom stuff, crushing Doom-demon skulls, and listening to some Doom-ass Doom-music.

From the heavenly double-barrell shotgun to well… Actually, nothing else really matters. From the double-barrell shotgun to oh-god-guns-will-never-be-this-good-again, to over the top boss fights, to double jumps (that again, feel just like Metroid Prime—cannot reiterate that enough), to exploration and secrets in a very Metro—you know what, I think you get the point.

DOOM is this beautiful mashup of traditional/old school first person murdering, amazing level design, and super dope secrets, that is a love letter to anyone who enjoys lengthy, murder-filled first person shooter campaigns (see: most of the good ones).

This game is like, $10 on a good day now. Go buy it. Just… Just play it. You won’t regret it. I swear.

 

Thank you so much for checking out GOTY week on OK Beast! The festivities continue next week with even more guest lists! Make sure to stay tuned for more articles and holiday surprises!

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