Welcome everyone to the List… of Conman.
With all due respect to Chris Jericho, this is the list that you want to be on. Play it on, maaan.
As it turns out, this actually is the first time I’ve ever written anything here for Bottled Fuchsia. So hello friends! I can’t believe those
suckers wonderful folks let me join them this year. Especially since they’re all wrong about the things and I yelled at them for it. For example, you might notice the lack of a certain multiPlayer experience here in my choices. There aren’t too many Unknowns why; but let’s just say that it didn’t make through the scrutiny of the gaming Battlegrounds. Instead, what this does Is open up some room for some more deserving titles. No Crap here friends. Except maybe for my shame title.
With that said, let’s jump right in and start with some awards, because this is my list and I can put this in any order that I want to.
Most Feels: Nier: Automata
This game maaaaay come up a few times here. Possibly. Maybe.
Oh man does this thing have the feels. I came into Nier expecting a nice little Sci-Fi hack-and-slash adventure; and ended up with a giant mind fuck that left me contemplating the meaning of existence. Robots (and Androids!) are not supposed to make me feel this way. Even the sexy ones. There were enough moments that made me stop and go.. “oh shit” to fill my quota for the whole year. I also have enough to say about this game to fill up pages until next year. So I’ll stop. For now.
Biggest Disappointment: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
sure cautiously optimistic that this game gets fun at some point. I just don’t know when that happens. I ran around having all of my weapons break on me in the middle of battles and freezing to death. It felt like all of the game mechanics were actively trying to make things difficult for me. Perhaps it’s an okay game, but I don’t think that I was looking to play Ark: Survival Zelda when I fired it up. I’ve played much more engaging open world games and ultimately wasn’t enjoying myself – and didn’t foresee that changing any time soon.
Funniest: Crop Duster Supreme
This is just a game about farts. The whole idea is to run around and to fart on as many people as possible in order to make them run away. And also to eat burritos to refill your fart meter so you can run around and fart on more people. There’s like, 10 levels of this. Farts. I am 13.
Oh, did I mention that you’re doing all of this to clear the way while chasing the love of your life?
Prettiest: Nier: Automata
Two Words: Android Butts.
Most Addicting: Divinity: Original Sin 2
Divinity really has that Civilization “One More Turn” kind of feel to it. You always want to explore a little bit further, get into one more battle, solve one more puzzle. There is just so much to uncover in an incredibly deep world, and you want to see what you can find next. In one town you may find yourself having a conversation with the ghost of an overweight bird that died while trying to eat a severed hand whole; and then stumbling upon a plot to murder the entire city with poison gas. I spent over 70 hours in my play through of the game and felt like I’d barely scratched the surface on things; forcing myself to finish just so I could play some of the other games on this list.
Best Early Access Game: Pit People
Pit People hit Early access in January of 2017 and I’d hoped all year that it would finish on time so I could include it on the main list. Alas, it got pushed back to early this year. Developer The Behemoth continues to nail the humor and art style they are known for in this mostly turn based game in the Advance Wars mold. At one point I was fighting a battle on the outside of a space shuttle being propelled through space by the hand of the giant bear god ..thing. – and that was maybe 45 minutes into it all. Looking forward for the full story to drop and suspect that this will be be on my 2018 list.
The One That Got Away: All of Them
Kind of a cop-out, but too bad. I could literally make an entire other list about games that I wanted to play but never got around to for whatever reason. When do you people sleep?
Of Course I’ll Rebuy That!: Mutant Football League
Mutant Football League is the modern day, spiritual successor to the acclaimed 16-bit era Mutant League Football. MFL was a Kickstarter baby headed up the original creator of the SNES and Genesis games, Michael Mendheim. It even includes commentary work by Tim Kitzrow of NBA Jam fame. As soon as I fired up a game, went to my dirty tricks playbook, and bribed the ref it hit me right in the nostalgia. It does a fine job of bringing the old concept to up to date with fast, hard hitting action, and plenty of slaughter. The developers are still updating things as of this writing, with a dynasty mode in the works in a free future update. If you can’t beat em, kill em.
To say that I played too much of this is to say that I played any at all. I really enjoyed WWE2k17 for what it was last year, so I was hoping for at minimum of more of the same. I tried my best in order to justify to myself my Pre-order, but man did 2K drop the ball with this one. The story mode is laughably bad and somehow makes less sense than the actual WWE storylines. If you can imagine that. On top of that the loading times are atrocious, to the point where you spend more time loading than you do actually playing anything. And it’s filled with lootboxes! Which you can’t actually purchase with real money. Right now. But sure does build the frame work for 2k19. I can smell what 2K is cooking, and it stinks.
That Beat Tho’: Nier: Automata
With all due respect to Cuphead, which has a wonderful soundtrack in it’s own right, Nier’s is simply a step above. As I was with pretty much everything in Nier, I was simply blown away by the soundtrack. It’s two and a half hours of sheer audio joy. Each area in the game has it’s own track, and it manages to nail everything just so perfectly in order to increase the immersion. There hasn’t been a game since Final Fantasy VI that I’ve gone out of my way to listen to, on repeat. It’s haunting when it needs to be, dramatic during moments of high tension, but still kicks into full gear when the action gets hot and heavy, without missing a literal beat. There’s really no let up as each song lends itself to the worlds atmosphere in way that keeps you fully engaged. Even the humorous bits will end up stuck in your head. Just take gander here at Emil’s Theme! (Why does he even need money?) I’m going to put it on and listen again right now.
Best Multitask Game: Divinity: Original Sin 2
Divinity is basically D&D in the sense that you often have a lot of time where you don’t actually have anything to do. There were plenty of instances where I end my turn and then walk away as the AI cycles through all of its units. Or give a move order to the other side of town and the check my phone. This is further exacerbated in Multiplayer sessions when you find find yourself waiting around for everyone else to make their turns. Much like Brady mentioned in his awards, having extra monitors was clutch.
The Future is Bright: Battletech
Turn based tactical combat with giant Mechs? Shut up and take all of my money.
Now, for the thing that you’re actually here for. My 2017 GOTY list. Which is the correct list out of all the other lists. It’s the good stuff, really.
10. Middle Earth: Shadow of War
There was a lot of lootbox based controversy with this one, but I still enjoyed enough of it for long enough that I’m giving it the pity pick at the 10 slot. The follow up to the 2014 hit success Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, the majority of this game did not deviate from the formula that made its predecessor a success. If you enjoyed the original, it’s basically all of the same, but more. I was excited to find that my strongest nemesis from the first game imported himself in to Shadow of War, and then tracked me down across multiple zones. That orc was a fucker. The story wasn’t the best but it kept my attention long enough to be interested beyond mindless orc shenanigans. This one was really all about the interplay between Talion and Celebrimbor as you try to work your way through figuring out what the sexy spider lady was up to. And maybe wondering why there was a sexy spider lady in the first place. There’s collectibles a plenty with frequent named Orc encounters to break up any sense of monotony. For most of the game I had even expected this title to slot higher up on the list, as the lootbox thing was just a thing that I was able to ignore. And then you finish Act 3. Act 4 is nothing more than a grind that was shoe-horned in as a reason to incentivize buying Orcs in boxes. It the idea that I can just spend some currency virtual or otherwise and buy some legendary orcs really undercuts the whole point of the experience. What’s worse, that grind had no payoff at all. I was hoping at least for some super secret last mission or boss fight when all was said and done. But nope. I’ll probably go back and check out some DLC when it goes on sale, but for now, this one left a sour taste in my mouth. If you plan on checking this one out; put the game down when you finish Act 3, go YouTube the so called “real” ending post Act 4, and then come back and thank me for time saved.
9. Total War: WARHAMMER 2
Total Warhammer 2, as I like to call it; is another case of everything you liked about the first game but just more of it. If you’ve ever played any of the Total War games in the past, it doesn’t stray too far from that formula. The fantasy element of TW2 really comes into play however, when you bring units into the mix with greatly differing size scales. There’s something oddly satisfying about a giant troll lumbering about as it attempts to crush a group of dwarves underfoot. Despite the unusually large units for a TW game, it does it’s typical fine job of rendering chaotic battles that just have a shitton of units running about. In addition to the grand conquest from the original, this one brings in a new campaign with a different set of win conditions and previously unplayable races. I’m looking forward to spending some time with the Lizardmen myself to go forth and crush some elves. It does lose some points in my world for being released so relatively soon after the original, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of my DLC from the first carried over into this version. They did such a good job, I hope one day a similar Total War treatment can be given to Warhammer 40k.
Hob is a wonderful puzzle-platformer that I discovered far too late into the year. Developed by now-defunct Runic Games, Hob shares the same gorgeous visual style made famous in their previous Torchlight series. The interesting thing about this little gem is that there is no actual dialog – I know I need to go somewhere, I’ve got an idea how I’m supposed to get there, but I don’t actually know why I’m going or what I’ll find. Hob is set in a world of seemingly ancient machinery where you’ll often come across fantastic vistas of far off areas. These lands though, are closer than they seem, as in the push of a button, the gears start grinding and the landscape rearranges itself to open up new places to explore, bringing that distant vista to your doorstep. None of the puzzles are particularly obtuse, lending itself a clear path of progression in most instances and the ever present feeling of accomplishment. As you unlock new areas and gain new abilities there’s also reason to go back and revisit previous places to get into spaces that you couldn’t previously. Combat is enjoyable for the most part, and mistakes are never punished too harshly as respawn points are plentiful. This may have actually placed higher, if not for the fact that as of this writing I’ve not yet actually finished it. I will say that I’m looking forward to finding out where my path eventually leads.
7. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
So let’s talk about Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Hellblade opens with the Title Character rowing a makeshift boat toward the start of her journey, which is to literally enter the gates of hell to save the soul of her dead lover… whose head she carries with her, wrapped up and tied hanging from her waist. Accompanying her on this quest, are the literal voices in her head and a disembodied spirit guide portrayed by live action clips that overlay the game itself. Frankly, none of what I just described there really does the game justice. Ostensibly, the story follows Senua on her path to hell; but in reality the game follows her struggle with metal illness, particularly schizophrenia. It’s actually an amazingly well done dynamic, as your voices (recorded using binaural microphones for maximum impact) will both guide you and attempt to lead you astray. The conflict is an interesting dynamic as opening a door forward will often prompt one voice to usher you forward, while another whispers “turn around, you’re not strong enough“. It becomes such a part of the experience – there is a certain sequence where the voices stop speaking, and I found the silence quite jarring.
The gameplay itself is rather linear, with most of the exploration done via reading various runes that are scattered throughout the world. A beautifully rendered world by the way, steeped deep in Norse mythology, with frequent references to Ragnarok for example. I found the combat kind of lacking, but thankfully there wasn’t *too* much of it to deter me. The puzzles though, can often be a bit on the arcane side often needing to discover shapes and patterns out of seemingly unrelated things in the world – another symptom of some types of mental illness. The theme of mental illness itself is well done, with developer Ninja Theory bringing on board a number of mental health professionals for insight and guidance; in an attempt to portray the experience in the proper light. The whole thing ends up being rather short (about 8 hours), so it never gets to the point of dragging on, but at the same time it didn’t leave me wanting more. Just right.
I suspect the rest of the Bottled Fuchsia will speak more about Cuphead. It’s superbly well done. But holy shit does it make me uncontrollably angry. I got so furious that I wanted to throw the controller… but then 15 minutes later I’d load it up and try again. That’s the hallmark of doing something right. The aesthetic is done to a T, with the art and music being high on everyone’s list. I personally compared this to Super Meat Boy of a few years back, in that it’s very good, but also very, very hard. But also like SMB, none of the levels are too long. I finally had to put it down, for the sake of my blood pressure.
5. The Sexy Brutale
In The Sexy Brutale you have all of the time in the world. But also none of it. You, as Lafcadio Boone find yourself mysteriously responsible for solving, and then using the power of time travel to ultimately prevent the grisly deaths of all of the guests attending a fancy party at the Sexy Brutale Casino Mansion. Deaths being perpetrated no less, by the Mansion staff. In the first moments of the game you are awoken by a mysterious presence and are witness to a man getting shot in the chest with a rifle. But by using his magic pocketwatch you are able to rewind the day and retrace his steps, as often as needed. Eventually, by being in the correct places at the correct time; you’re able to cleverly load a blank into the rifle before the killer retrieves it, thus giving it’s intended victim enough time to thwart the attack. This tutorial section is actually the most mundane murder there is, with others ranging from death by giant spider to being burned alive in a huge furnace elevator contraption.
The entire block of day that you’re allowed is 12 hours, from noon to midnight, which you can reset at your whim, or move ahead or back to 4 and 8pm. Let time run out, and you start the day from scratch. Everyone in the mansion will always be in the same place, at the same time, every time. Other than yourself of course. It’s a wonderful cross between Groundhog Day and Clue. The only catch is that for reasons that never get fully explained you can never be in the same room as someone else at the same time; forcing you to always be one step ahead or behind.
I was instantly drawn to the game by the catchy music that hits you with as soon you land on the title screen. Once in, the clever puzzles and interesting characters kept me going to see through to the end. You can tell from the start that there is something special about Boone and more to the Mansion that meets the eye, and I was determined to find out what. There were a few times where I felt genuinely stuck – I knew where someone died, I knew how they were killed, and I knew whom was responsible. I simply struggled with how to stop it all from taking place. Fortunately, the very nature of the time loop lends itself to trial and error, which allowed me to make unlimited attempts at things until I stumbled upon the solution almost by accident.
With each murder you thwart, you are rewarded with a new power; allowing you further into the mansion and unlocking deeper secrets of the Sexy Brutale and it’s guests. Ultimately, there is even a bit of a swerve ending, which in hindsight I probably should have seen coming sooner, but it still fits the overall narrative. I was so enamored with this, that even after finishing things off I dived back in to find the remaining collectibles that I’d missed and fully 100% achievement the game. I typically don’t bother going that last step, which should speak volumes of how highly I rank this one and why it made the top 5.
4. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
This game taught me that there is no dilemma that you can’t solve with tactical use of nuclear weapons. Every time I felt like Wolfenstein couldn’t get any more ridiculous it went and kicked it up a notch. Every time. Why am I on a base in the clouds of Venus, I think to myself, as I’m preparing to audition for a movie to play myself of all people – and the casting director is Hitler himself. I don’t even know. But yet, at the same time it all made perfect sense.
I was glad to discover that Wolf II started with a well done recap sequence of the events of the previous games, as I’d never actually gotten around to playing them. So it was great to get myself up speed and dive into things where it immediately flashed back to BJ Blazkowicz’s past ….and kicked me right in the nuts. Jumping into the game proper you start out with BJ’s body essentially being broken, you are confined to a wheelchair and your health is capped at 50. What could have been an annoyingly arbitrary design decision was at least backed up with an in-game lore reason. As you progress you eventually get stronger and the health and armor options change accordingly. First into – possible spoiler – that sweet power armor that Caroline was wearing, and then eventually; because nothing is off the goddamn table, a brand new body.
For me, this one made the 4 spot on my list based on the story and cut scenes alone. I don’t feel I’m properly doing it the justice it deserves, but they were all insane. I mean, in one scene I was having a drinking contest, debating ideological philosophy with the preacher/leader of a resistance cell I’m attempting to recruit, while someone else was playing the clarinet in the background… all the while Nazi bullets were spraying in through a window as a sniper was picking them off. What is this game!?
All of that said, I did feel that the actual gameplay was a bit lackluster and I would find myself powering through whatever segment I was in just to get to the next story sequence. The straight run and gun sequences were alright , but didn’t get quite fun until the late game when I was fully upgraded with perk special abilities. The stealth sections however, were painful and punishing. (I played the game on the default difficulty setting). Then, I as was making my way through, killing all of the Nazis in sight, I finally made it to the point where I could unlock the Enigma machine and open up side missions. All of these missions were exactly the game stealth nonsense that I was hating on in the main game. And there is something like 40 of them. Eeesh.
Still, the story more than makes up for all of that and then some. I don’t even know.
Prey is a game that just managed to check all of the boxes for me. Science Fiction? Check. A Space Station? Check. Zero G sections? Check. Alien life forms? Check. Being able to 3d print a nerf crossbow and corresponding foam ammo? Check and Check. A mashup of Bio/System Shock and Dues Ex style gameplay? Big ole check. There’s even a side quest revolving around a group of the station crew members playing D&D together.
I’d never played the original Prey from 2006, so I have no idea if the new one bears it’s predecessor any resemblance. I do know however, that this one is freaking awesome. It starts of innocently enough; with you playing as Morgan Yu (in a gender of your choosing!) heading off to your first day at work in your family’s biotech company. Very quickly however, everything goes to shit and you’re thrust into a fight for survival versus shape shifting aliens while trying to figure out who you can actually believe in your quest for the truth. Even yourself. I was a huge fan of the open ended-ness of the game, having multiple possible ways to progress through area. I could go in guns blazing, which may or may be effective depending on what upgrades I’d chosen. But I might also be able to hack or repair a security turret, to provide myself with some auxiliary firepower. But maybe I could just sneak past the entire area, by building myself a”gloo”(think expanding foam on steroids) ladder up to a highly placed air duct. You can basically build out your character to best suit the type of play-style you’d like, opening up certain areas while leaving others closed off barring future upgrades. None of this is particularly groundbreaking in it’s implementation, but it’s still done very well. There are also possible gameplay side effects to the choices. For example – do I apply upgrades down the Alien tree, potentially becoming a target to previously called on turrets designed to auto detect the Typhon biomass?
What really set the tone for me however, where the alien lifeforms themselves, the aforementioned Typhon. The first and weakest ones you come across – the Mimics – are probably the best in the bunch. These beings can shapeshift to appear as anything – A coffee mug, a chair, even a health pack. Traveling though the opening areas, I found myself constantly checking my back, and smacking literally everything with my wrench in case something tried to ambush me. There was a genuine sense of danger in the early goings, as ammo and health were scarce. No place was safe.
As the story unfolded, I also liked that I got to choose my own sense of morality. I was free to decide who I tried to save and who died, directly or indirectly because of my actions. My one complaint with Prey though, is that all of these choices I had ended being rather inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. For me, the ending was a bit of a letdown due to this. But overall, Prey is still a fantastic game with a great concept and is definitely worth a run through.
2. Divinity: Original Sin 2
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the 2017 game where I probably spent the most time getting myself killed by own stupidity and was still okay with it. It’s a spectacular old school RPG, the likes of which I can’t recall seeing since Baldur’s Gate 2. I think it’s the closest you can get playing a full on D&D campaign in a video game without actually running on yourself. What makes this gem really shine are all of the interactions in the game. For example – My main character was Fane, an Undead Necromancer skeleton who literally rips the faces off people in order to make masks from their flesh. Well I might take Fane into an encounter where en enemy lit the ground on fire, and cast blood rain over the area, causing pools of blood to form at the oppositions feet while dousing the flames. Since Fane has a bunch of points into Necromancer, he literally regains health by standing this blood pool to recover health from the burns. On my next characters turn, my Mage Lohse casts a lightning bolt spell at the nearest hostile archer, who happens to be standing in the blood. That spell zaps the target stunning him, but also electrifies the entire pool; simultaneously stunning and damaging everyone else standing in, including Fane. Did I mention stupidity?
Just like a real D&D game, there’s minimal hand holding so you can pretty much just do whatever you want and go where you’d like to. This did result for me in some frustration in the beginning as had a tendency walk into areas unprepared and under-leveled. Thankfully, it’s not too far into things where you’re given a location to freely respec the entire party at will, so it’s possible to adjust almost on the fly to any situation you may find yourself in. But wandering into certain doom was just some of the charm of things as it was almost always a learning experience and somehow always came out with 18 more quests than I had started.
Fane is just one of a set pre-generated characters that I highly recommend playing as your first time though, rather than building one from scratch. They all have deep backstories that weave their way into the fabric of larger quest. To top things off, the Voice acting is superb, the lore is compelling and there is always, always, always something more to do. And there’s often more than one possible way to complete any particular objective. Somewhere in Act 2 I spent the better part of 45 minutes painstakingly teleporting all of my characters, one at a time across an invisible broken bridge onto a large island, taking so long due to traps and hiccups along the way. 10 hours later, and back on the mainland I came across an NPC in a completely obvious area that I somehow missed exploring the first time through. He offered to sail me across to the island for free. /facepalm. I had a great time comparing notes with the rest of the Bottled Fuchsia crew to see how they tacked any particular sequence. Spoiler – they usually found some neat and clever way to solve a puzzle or talk their way past… and I just murdered everyone. Oops
Overall I spent well over 70 hours into this one; and despite playing it all the way through to the end, I feel like I’d barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer. Divinity: Original Sin 2 will probably end up standing out as one of the best RPGs ever. I already equate it with the likes of my other favorites, Baldur’s Gate Dragon Age: Origins. It’s an incredible experience for anyone who enjoys deep RPG gameplay and also hates free time.
1. Nier: Automata
I’m going to get right down to it. Nier: Automata is a masterpiece. There are often discussions about whether or not video games are art, or can be considered art. Well as I was playing through this, I felt like I was playing out a literal work of art. I want to be clear that there is no hyperbole there. I originally played Nier in late March shortly after it’s release and at the time I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The fact that I finished it nearly 10 months ago at this point, that I still think about it and what it means a video game can be actually speaks volumes about what it is. I was left questioning my humanity and left wondering about the meaning of existence, which clearly was not what I’d expected when I loaded up this fuck off Japanese title that has a nice Android ass. The rest of Bottled Fuchsia can attest that I’ve been raving it about it ever since and replayed it vicariously through all of them as they spoke to me about their playthroughs and experiences.
Nier starts out with you playing as 2B – owner of said ass – on a mission to infiltrate a Robot base on Earth. Robots, whom were used as weapons by Aliens invading earth thousands of years ago. Yup. In the first hour of playing, the game showcases how it can change on the fly; shifting from top down shooter, side scrolling platformer, twin stick bullet hell and 3d hack and slash all in the matter of moments. And it lands all of these transitions smoothly, without becoming jarring or taking from the immersion. From then on in I spent the rest of the game shifting between learning that everything I knew was wrong, and being awed by one WTF moment after another.
Nier delights in trolling the player in such a way that sometimes you’re left wondering if intentional. After “finishing” the game with 2B, the player is presented with an ending, and sees the credits roll, and the game *literally* tells them that no you are not actually done, please go back and keep playing. You start anew, this time through the perspective of your companion, 9S. I enjoyed my 9S playthrough. Even though I was trudging across pretty much the exact same content the new perspective on things and newly introduced hacking mechanic kept it all fresh. It’s only then, after another ending do you start over one more time, and the story really opens up.
The inherent difficulty in speaking about Nier is that it’s impossible to properly articulate exactly the magic of it all without encroaching into spoilerville. There are points about the story that you would be well of finding out for yourself. I’ve purposely made it a point not to discuss the majority of the plot for just that reason – as simply put this is a game I think you need to play yourself. Yoko Taro has delivered an absolute masterwork of an experience, from the very start all the way through the final credit sequence. I think for me that Nier: Automata will end up in the Pantheon of all time top games. For now however, it’s unequivocally the 2017 Game of the Year.
Eat the Mackerel. But save first.