In my original post on my favourite games of 2017 I listed Elex as one of my favourites. There are several reasons for this, partly it was fresh in my mind having recently received it. That said it has a lot of flaws and I feel like I haven’t really played it enough to truly give an informed impression of the game. So I’d like to offer up an alternative game in its place.
Sonic Mania (Nintendo Switch)
I absolutely loved Sonic growing up. I had all of the games on the Mega Drive and Game Gear and played them for years! When the world moved to 3D gaming I lost track of Sonic a bit as I moved more towards Nintendo and Sony for console gaming so I didn’t really pick a new Sonic up until the re-release of Sonic Adventure on the Gamecube and what a disappointment! I’d recently bought Sonic 4 on Steam in a sale and was still pretty disappointed but could see that while it was technically a 2D Sonic game it was influenced more by the 3D games than the classics. So when I heard they were releasing a new classic-style 2D Sonic game I was cautiously excited.
I have to say the reason it slipped my mind is the fact that it’s a digital download on my Switch and when coming up with ideas for games I’d really liked I’d looked through my Steam library and the cases for my Switch games and completely missed the only purely digital Switch game I had.
Sonic Mania is a project envisioned by die-hard Sonic fans and it really shows, from re-imagined classic levels with a twist such as Sonic 3’s Hydrocity Zone and Sonic 2’s Chemical Plant Zone to some of the original levels it really feels like a good old Sonic game.
I have to admit to finding some of the new levels less fun though I really think that might be down to how interesting I found the twists on the classic levels. I also haven’t replayed the game yet and as such haven’t built the same memory of routes as I had from years of childhood repetition with the classic levels so maybe on replay I will develop a similar level of fondness for the new levels too. My favourite of the new levels was probably Stardust Speedway Zone, a level I felt nodded to some of my favourites from the first three Mega Drive classics whilst coming off as completely new.
Overall Sonic Mania is a solid Sonic game and a return to the golden 16 bit era of 2D platforming games and with a release on all major platforms including PC there’s no reason you can’t play it if you haven’t already.
First up, not all of these games are 2017 releases, they’re just the games I played the most or felt had the most potential for me to during 2017.
Both of my honourable mentions are still in early access and as such I’ve not spent a huge amount of time playing them.
Ghost of a Tale – PC
Ghost of a Tale, little mousey prisoners
Ghost of a Tale is an adorable little stealthy action-RPG game. You play a mouse called Tilo, imprisoned and separated from his little mousey wife. Your goal is to escape the prison and find your wife, the game is very much unfinished (at least it was when I last played it a year ago), though recent reports from the developers suggest it’s not far off being completed. That said, the first chapter was very compelling, if a little frustrating in its exploration at times with much backtracking and some areas that were maybe hidden a little too well. The visuals are very good, the animation is usually top notch and the puzzles feel pretty satisfying. Then again, it’s been a while as the game came out in early access in 2016 and I’ve been waiting for more of the game to be finished before diving back in which is why it didn’t make the 2017 favourites list.
Tilo in a pirate hat
They are Billions – PC
Start of the game
Tower defence meets RTS in a zombie infested land. The better you do, the more the horde desires you. This is an honourable mention because it’s only just been released in early access and hasn’t quite clicked with me yet but I think as it develops I’ll be enjoying it more.
10. Elex – PC
A screenshot from Elex on PC. Standing in the ruins of a large hill-top hotel.
Elex is possibly a bit controversial for me to put on this list because I’m not sure it’s actually a good game. There are a lot of problems with the game, from lackluster sound design, where landing on a log sounds like you’re walking the plank on a ship to the fact that there seems to be absolutely no balance to the placement of enemies in the game, I’ve not had the game very long so I’m still in the starting area but so far I’ve found a lot of enemies who are too tough for me, a few that will even one shot you if you get too close. This includes one of the main story missions which I accidentally found while wondering around trying to do a side mission, apparently I’m still under level because the two enemies can kill me in two hits! Compare this to something like Fallout 4 or Zelda Breath of the Wild where there are some very tough enemies who you can encounter if you wonder into the wrong place but in the case of Fallout 4 it’s fairly obvious that you probably shouldn’t be there yet
The game continues to have problems with the way it controls, which feel almost tank-like. Very early on you get a jet pack which allows you to cross ravines and climb mountains but this feels very clunky and has almost no fuel. It’s also surprisingly easy to die from falling, it might have been a bug but I accidentally jumped off a small ledge and instantly died. I don’t think the fall was more than knee high but it’s made me wary of exploring where it’s a bit too hilly.
Combat also feels very clunky and I’m not sure I quite get how it works, you can pull off combos during slow motion sections but nothing ever seems to happen when you try to respond to the prompt. You can also build up special moves which you activate with Q but I’ve never managed to have enough stamina to pull one off.
There is one redeeming feature with the controls and that’s with the interaction distance which sees you able to pick up objects from quite a distance, while this may be a bit immersion breaking it does mean you can save a bit of time while foraging for things, it also makes climbing ledges feel a little more fluid as you don’t usually have to fumble near the edge to register an interaction.
You might wonder why I am playing the game with all these issues? Well for one it was a present, secondly despite all its faults I’m feeling oddly compelled by the world and the weirdness of the story, the story itself isn’t necessarily very well written but it is an interesting one regardless. While its graphics aren’t top notch in terms of technology, looking closer to a AAA 2010-2012 game than one released in 2017, the world itself looks very nice with some nice landscapes and interesting ruins. If you like games like Fallout or Skyrim it may be worth you giving it a go when the game comes down in price, in terms of tone it does feel like a near perfect mix of the two, merging magical abilities with a technological wasteland.
9. Zelda Breath of the Wild – Switch
Let me just say I’ve never been a huge Zelda fan, I don’t know why but they’ve never really clicked with me. That said I’ve put a fair amount of time into BotW and I find it by far the best Zelda that I’ve played. I love the graphics style and revealing the backstory through memories was a nice touch. The NPC missions are generally quite enjoyable. My main problems with it are the temples and the fragile weapons. I feel like they realised there wasn’t quite enough content in the game so they kept adding temples but then ran out of ideas. Some are just boring and there’s so many where you just walk in and get your rewards. Generally speaking, these temples are supposedly hard to find and the orb you receive is supposed to make up for the challenge in finding the temple, however some of them really weren’t hard to find and then there’s so much cutscene before you can actually receive the orb that it just feels like more of a chore to have found these temples than some of the other puzzle-based ones. I feel like Mario Odyssey did a much better job in its variation of puzzles to find Moons than BotW did in its temple designs.
In some ways I quite like the breaking weapons, I’m not sure I’d like to see it in too many other games but it’s an interesting idea, however the fact that some weapons break VERY quickly can get very frustrating. I seemed to spend most of my time running away from a fight I’d otherwise be capable of winning because I ran out of weapons and had to go find more. It also made the game feel less fun as I spent more time using lesser weapons for fear that the latest great sword would break just when I needed it most. Even the Master Sword breaks (with a cooldown time) and that just felt wrong.
Overall I liked Breath of the Wild the most of any Zelda game, the open world really helped ease my usual complaints but with a lack of variety in the temples I still found it falling prey to the issues I have with them.
8. Cuphead – PC
The titlescreen for Cuphead
Cuphead is a weird one for me. I love the music and visuals, invoking the style of old 1930s animations, but find the gameplay a bit lackluster. I get it, it’s a “git gud” bullet hell game but I feel like without the visuals and music it probably wouldn’t have received as much attention as it did. That said, I’m very glad it has done well and I do quite enjoy it, if only in small doses.
An early boss
7. Everspace – PC
This is where you start your Everspace run, upgrade your ship and get out there!
This is a 3D space based rogue-like, a bit like FTL. You fly into a region, find as many resources as you can, kill as many outlaws as possible and flee to your next jump point before they send in reinforcements. It’s quite hard but does have VR support which is very fun and immersive. I actually backed this one on Kickstarter in 2016 and am very glad I did (although due to a snafu with emails I missed my chance to get my name in the backer credits which was a bit upsetting :(.)
6. Elite Dangerous – PC
Approaching a space station settlement near a ringed planet.
Elite Dangerous is a space sim game where you fly around from star system to star system delivering goods, taking out space pirates and generally have varying level of relaxing or stressful journeys through the Milky Way. I liken it to Euro Truck Simulator 2 with less business development and more shooting. Though if you haven’t got Elite Dangerous yet I’d probably get it with the Horizons expansion, I really feel like I’m missing a lot by not having it.
5. Subsurface Circular – PC
A dialogue tree from Subsurface Circular, may contain spoilers, don’t study it too hard.
This is an interesting little game from Mike Bithell, the creator of such games as Thomas Was Alone and Volume. Hopefully without giving away any spoilers you are are an AI detective on an underground train used by other AIs and you take it upon yourself to solve a mystery. The catch is that you can only do this by talking with other passengers as they arrive in your cabin on the train. It’s an entirely dialogue tree based game (at least as far as I’ve got in the 3 act story) but it’s very compelling. The only reason I haven’t finished it yet is that I’m saving it for when I’m really in the mood. I’d say it’s not really my usual taste but I also really appreciate it.
4. Overwatch – PC
While Overwatch came out in 2016 I feel like it’s still one of my most played games. Sure, there’s a lot of toxicity in the player base and I’m pretty sure Blizzard are still cheating on the “duplicates” front, they say they’ve reduced the chance of duplicates and that any reported duplicates are just people mis-remembering but it really feels off sometimes. I’m also less than a fan of how the loot boxes are set up regarding the gentle but ever present push to purchase them. Beyond all that, however, I really like the variety of characters and FPS has always been one of my favourite types of game.
The game has continued to improve with balance changes, a plethora of new characters from which to choose and a few new maps and game modes and honestly I really quite enjoy the game for the most part. My biggest complaint is probably in the lack of maps and game modes. While they continue to add new maps at a fairly steady rate and have added a few new arcade game modes, it can feel very samey after a while, especially when a server seems to get stuck on a map/game mode for a while.
3. Space Engineers – PC
Large ship over planet in Space Engineers
It’s Minecraft in space with spaceships, what’s not to love? Well for one, the performance issues and general lack of content. All you can really do is construct shape ships and bases, there’s a bit of PVP and a survival mode but, co-op can grind to a halt with framerate lags as it tries to keep everything in sync across the internet. It’s also been in early access for a long time, having only recently been officially released in beta and while it gets a usually weekly update, it hasn’t really seemed to develop much. The addition of planets was a nice touch and some more realistic sound effects helped a bit with the immersion but at the core it still feels very unfinished, although the new physics system does add some interesting new potentials for ship design. I would, however, recommend it if you like space, creation games and can find it on sale somewhere. It has plenty of mods including several Stargate mods!
A stargate on a space ship.
2. Super Mario Odyssey – Switch
Mario’s latest outing on Switch is very fun! The levels are all very different and it really feels like you’re going on an adventure. The mechanics are pretty tight, the puzzles are generally fun and the visuals and sound design are top notch. I felt the story was a bit short but there’s a lot more to do after the story has finished and I think the intention was to focus on the gameplay over the story. Overall a delightful experience reminiscent of the fun from the N64 and Gamecube Mario games.
1. Drum roll please… (Switch)
It might have only come out at the start of December but I’ve already put in possibly my most condensed and one of my longest playtimes into my absolute favourite game of 2017, Xenoblade Chronicles 2!
I had previously played Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U and while I enjoyed the world I just found the gameplay too distracting, with an item collection point seemingly every couple of metres and a raft of enemies that were far too hard and often impossible to avoid I found it very difficult to keep on track of the story and had to eventually abandon the game. So far I’ve found that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has fixed a lot of these issues, while it’s possible to walk into an area full of aggressive over-level enemies and there are still a lot of collection points but they’re much less distracting, the story also feels a lot more compelling and I already feel like the characters and mechanics have been developed a lot more and I feel satisfied with my progression through the game so far.
I really like the variety of accents in the world, it really adds to the sense of scale and difference in the world’s regions.
That said, there are some faults with the game. There’s a LOT of noise during battles, every humanoid character has to announce its moves, often very frequently and often over each other, with a regular player party of 3 characters plus at least 1 blade per player character, you’re already up to at least 6 characters, all talking every couple of seconds. Enemies can also announce themselves, again, far too frequently, some soldiers will just yell “remember me!” over and over until you kill them. One big thing I find is that the framerate has a tendency to drop as you wander, even while docked. It’s not usually for very long but it can be a bit distracting. This isn’t really a problem as such but the game can be a bit childishly animé at times and some of the rarer blades are a bit fan servicey with jiggle physics and “high level” skimpy clothing so I feel it’s worth mentioning in the negative category.
I’m not normally one for finishing (J)RPGs because they’re too time intensive but I’m enjoying Xenoblade Chronicles 2 enough that I might actually finish this one.