Here we are again, taking a look back at the gaming year that was 2017. It was...a year, to say the least, but there have been a pile of excellent games which I am very much looking forward to talking about below. First off, however, there are a few things that I need to mention (as I traditionally do):
1) I am a PlayStation gamer. 95% of my gaming takes place in the PlayStation eco-system because that is where I like to be, though I do dabble a bit on the PC as well (it's just that is traditionally just an old strategy/sim game)...so there is not going to be any Cuphead or Mario Odyssey here, because that is not necessarily my jam (even though both look excellent).
2) 2017, especially in the Autumn release window, was framed around the discussion of micro-transactions. Jeremy and I had a conversation on The Guys From Podcast (which you can listen to here), and frankly I don't want to spend too long talking about it again here, other than....man there were a lot of mistakes made by big publishers this year...
3) I'm just one guy, who games around work and everything else, who is...I guess...blessed...with a lot of insomnia (blessed?...ugh), so I cannot play everything because not only can I not afford to (both in terms of buying the games, and in time), I do try and play swaths of what came out, and I also do include the "Best New To Me" category, as I am a man who enjoys sales on older games. If I haven't played something, I do my best (before doing this) to at the very least watch a stream or two of the major releases, to flavour my picks with context on what is around the community, but I will not pick anything that I have not played.
4) I try to spread awards around, because frankly, if I did not limit myself to "one game, one award", my GOTY and Honourable Mention GOTY would win everything, and I'm pretty sure that you will be more interested if I talk about a bunch of things, rather than just gushing about Mona over and over...however...I...just couldn't...so I cheat a little this year...
Anyway....that has to be enough pre-amble/justification/"please don't hate tweet me about Forza" rambling.
Let's talk games:
Best Narrative: Horizon Zero Dawn
I had every intention of sticking to my rule of games only winning one award here on the TGF awards, but I could not justify giving best narrative to anything other than Horizon (except maybe my honorable mention for GOTY). I tried...but every time I came back to the fact that the story of the Nora, Aloy, and GAIA is, by far, the best story in a video game I have experienced since The Last of Us. I love how the story started to feel like it was heading in a very rote direction, and then if you put the time in, you find a dramatic and brilliant twist on the genre, and suddenly a living world just bursts into life, and I for one could not wait to explore more of both the present world, and the echos of the past.
Sorry to somewhat spoil it, but Horizon will appear later on (and let's be honest, any Podcast listener, or anyone who has talked to me on Twitter knows what is coming...)
Biggest Surprise: Injustice 2
I am not a fighting game guy, traditionally, but Injustice: Gods Among Us was the exception, so when I had heard that there was going to be a sequel, it definitely made it on to my Most Anticipated Games list, but Injustice 2 became one of my most played games last year, and that surprised the hell out of me. I'm actually going to be super surprised if I do not continue playing it a fair amount still...because it is just soooo good.
I mean, if it wasn't for a couple of games that will come up later (that are both now in my ever-changing Top 10 Games of All-Time) Injustice 2 would have been a serious consideration for my GOTY.
A Fighting Game.
The story was excellent (seriously, the DC games have stellar writing...unlike most of the films), and the fighting feels smooth, weighty, and fair (I've only felt cheated once, but it was in a spammy daily event). The animations are gorgeous, and the shorter ending videos are great (I love the victory poses), but at it's heart, it is the amazing implementation of the loot box system, and customizing fighters, combined with the "multiverse" events (daily events with a small story around them to create fights for gear) that keeps me coming back.
If you like DC, you should try it. If you like fighting games, I'm assuming you already play it, but if not, grab it. It's very, very fun.
Oh, and if you're curious, my Main is Catwoman, and I'm still working out some Alts (though Aquaman has a good chance...)
Best Hidden Gem: Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles
Honestly, I just really wanted to mention this game again. I know I had originally written a "Backlogging" article on it , but Yonder is one of those games that even since I finished my time with it, I do think about, and not since Flower have I had such an enjoyable, zen experience. I'm not going to dwell on it too much here (as you can just click that previous article to see a whole lot of my gushing), but I needed to give this sweet little game a TGF Award. It's a beautiful indie title where you are mostly just gathering resources and exploring, with the occasional build/crafting session, all set within a gorgeously rendered world, complete with a full, seasonal day-night cycle, lush and different environments, all the adorable animals you can imagine, and absolutely no combat.
Even if you want to smack some jerks on the Troll Island.
I spent a good chunk of hours with Yonder, and it is one of my favourite finds in the PS4 era, even if the fairly standard (read: cliche) fantasy story only hangs loosely on it, it was just existing in the world, and making my own stories (within the world and quest structure) that I came to love.
Best "New To Me" Game: Doom (2016)
I knew I was going to like Doom. I loved the original growing up (even if I did kinda suck at it for a long time), and seeing the trailer at E3 of the new id/Bethesda update made me very happy. When I got my hands on it early last year I...I am actually rather amazed at just how great everything felt: it was fast (so fast--which I'm good with now), intense, gory, and not only paid tribute to the originals in a great way (not even including the amazing addition of some of the classic areas as "secrets") but delivered on everything I could possibly want/expect out of a Doom title.
It's so rare that a remake actually meets a fans' expectations that when it happens, it immediately becomes something quite special, and that's what Doom is: special. If you like the old ones, or even if you just like FPS games, you owe it to yourself to suit up a Doomguy, and get in there with your chainsaw, or just start chaining Glory Kills (gory, ridiculous "finishers") as you rip through this new Mars.
Just remember: don't hide.
Honourable Mention for Game of the Year 2017: Persona 5
Any other year, Persona 5 would have walked to my Game of the Year award: this is one of the absolute best JRPG's I have every played, and indeed one of the best games I have every played. I have already gushed about it a great deal here , not to mention Jeremy and I sat and did an epic (barely) spoilercast, so I won't dwell on P5 too much more, other than to say that this is a game that all fans of RPG's must play it...this is one that would be a shame to not even try (if you cannot finish it, or 120 hours is too much for you, OK, but you need to see this game once).
If I gave an award here for the best menu system, P5 would win it. Hands down. Without question.
If I gave a style award, P5 would win it--the neo-jazz style, the way everything flowed, the way the game felt to play...everything was amazing.
...and yes, in case you were wondering, I do still occasionally miss the characters. Especially my waifu, the weirdness that was Yusuke, and the best friend/van a guy could ever have.
The Guys From Game of the Year 2017: Horizon Zero Dawn
Once you had seen the honourable mention for GOTY, there should have been very little surprise for long-time TGF readers, or anyone who has talked to me/follows me on anything. I love Horizon Zero Dawn, and it is the best game that I have played since The Last of Us. I wrote a big, gushy article about it here, and I still stand by everything that I said then. The world is gorgeous, Aloy is one of my favourite characters in anything (not to mention the fact that there were so, so few uninteresting side characters) , the environmental storytelling is second to none, and the combat feels weighty and interesting. I can admire the fact that the developers (shoutout to Guerrilla Games) took a lot of systems that are (indeed) in other games, tweaked them (often improving them, if just through streamlining), and created something that is wholly theirs in what is, admittedly, a crowded game-type.
More recently, I also dipped back in to Horizon for the Frozen Wilds expansion, and that did two things:
1) It reminded me that I absolutely adore this game...I cannot remember a game where so many of the side quests and characters felt fleshed out, and like real people, or where I would be moved to connect to the main character and her interactions in the world so innately. The world feels alive, and I have (now) spent 93+ hours in it, and relished them all
2) It had been a while since I played it, so I was wholly unprepared for how thoughtful the combat is...for a few hours...but then all of a sudden, I was there, fighting a frostclaw, and everything clicked back into place.
I cannot emphasize enough how interesting the combat is, and how progression being tied to how good you are (and not necessarily gear or "skill points") is fascinating to me. I have the same, or slightly better gear, but fighting this giant angry robot is down to my knowledge of the game, and how to execute what I know? Priceless.
Everyone with a PS4 must play Horzion Zero Dawn-- you may not like it as much as I do...but I can assure you that it is the best exclusive on the system, and anyone who likes open world games is going to find a lot to love, because this is probably one of the best stories in any video game, ever.
Just...maybe don't try and clear the map section by section...like some podcast hosts I know...
There you have it, theguysfrom.com's Game(s) of the Year! What did you love last year? Am I crazy? Something, something Nintendo? Hit me up on twitter!
Or, just go play something great!