2016 has been quite a challenging year for me, not only have I not had the financial ability to spend money on video games (due to a multitude of personal reasons), but I have also spent the vast majority of my free time trying to get my own independent video game finished and released. This is time that I have been doing not only the development, but I have also attempted to work on the artwork / sprites. I also ran a, unsuccessful, Kickstarter campaign for my video game.
Despite my lack of free time, I have managed to sit down and play a few of the titles that have been released in the 2016 calendar year, and I am more than willing to provide you with my opinions of them. First I would like to give an honorable mention to Unity 5, which is disqualified for both not being released in 2016 and also to not being a video game. Despite both of these disqualifying points, I have spent more time inside of Unity 5, than any other application all year.
Surprisingly, many new releases this year supported Linux; if not at launch, then shortly after release, and I managed to find myself playing a significant number of these titles on Linux. As an avid Linux enthusiast I found this to be a very pleasant change from years past. If this trend continues, the way that it has been, then pretty soon I will only need to boot to my Windows partition only to use Unity, and even that has a Linux beta. Games being playable on Linux is an added benefit to these titles and not a deciding factor of these game’s locations on the list, this is just something that makes me personally happy.
- Total War: Warhammer (Linux)
This game is featured at the 10th slot not due to any issues with quality, but it is simply the game that I have put the least amount of time into this year. This game also served as my first foray into the Total War strategy series by Creative Assembly.
The hook with the Total War series is that the battles take place on large environments with a ridiculously large number of units at your disposal. The terrain on the battlefield plays a major role in how the battles will be decided. Have the low ground? Then you will be destroyed by ranged units, etc. Unfortunately I don’t have too much more to say about this game and I only put in enough time to barely scratch the surface of what seems to be an incredibly deep and intricate RTS.
- Punch Club (Linux)
This is a game that I was originally not expecting to like but I eventually purchased twice, for Steam and my iPhone. In Punch Club you manage the daily life of an amateur boxer who is on a quest to discover who murdered his father. Making sure that the player has eaten enough food, and has gone to work to have enough money to pay for his gym fees are some of the things that you will be required to do, all without wearing a shirt.
While training and #adulting (I hate that word) will be part of what you do during the day, at night you will don a mask, continue to not wear a shirt and fight crime. Using a special super computer, that mysteriously shows up in your living room, you gain access to a map that shows all crime in the city, in real time, allowing you to show up to the rescue and track down clues that help you solve the mystery of the game.
- Super Hot (Linux)
A game I picked up for 50% off during the Steam Summer Sale in 2016 and I do not regret this purchase at all. While Super Hot may be a short experience (my steam profile shows I have only played this for 2.5 hours), it is clever, unique and incredibly enjoyable. An experience that is as much a puzzle game as it is a shooter, it has a lot to offer.
The core mechanic to Super Hot is time only moves when the player moves. This mechanic allows the player to be completely surrounded by enemies and still be able to dispatch them with near surgical precision. After finishing the brief campaign an endless mode unlocks adding additional replayability to Super Hot. Unfortunately, I did not look at this option once it became available as I felt like I had experienced what Super Hot had to offer.
A late entry to the list of games that I have been playing in the 2016 calendar year. I bought all of season 1 of Hitman when it went on sale during the Steam autumn sale. This has been a title that I have wanted to play for a long time since I started to hear Dave Lang gush about it for so long on his own podcast. I have been a Hitman fan since I was in high school and I even liked the 2007 Hitman film.
This game delivers on every possible level, as a Hitman game, but it does something that almost every other stealth game fails to do, it makes the game play accessible. The opportunities mechanic, introduced in this version of the game, serve as little tutorials for each level throughout the game. Each level in a Hitman game has dozens upon dozens of NPCs that have schedules through the level and will be at specific locations and specific times. The opportunities show you some, not all, of the key NPC’s movements and help you familiarize yourself with the level. Once players have a pretty firm grasp on the unique elements to each level, the real game play is able to begin.
This is a game that I was not expecting much out of. I had almost given up on ID after the lackluster release of Rage and the acquisition of ID by Bethesda. But these assumptions were incorrect in regards to Wolfenstein: The New Order and they were, once again, wrong about Doom.
Doom is incredibly fast paced and surprisingly funny. Doom Guy, the main protagonist, awakens from a crypt, where he was being worshiped as a god, and has one mission, to MURDER DEMONS. He does not care about anything else, if it is demonic then it will meet his anger and wrath. I, personally, found the multiplayer can be almost completely dismissed as the campaign is enough to allow this game to stand on its own.
- XCOM 2 (Linux)
I absolutely loved the 2012 release of XCOM: Enemy Unknown and I was anticipating the release of XCOM 2 so much that I went out and got myself hooked on Xenonauts. Unfortunately XCOM 2 does not live up to the expectations that I had built in my head, but that does not mean that XCOM 2 is a bad game. In fact, I would go to say that XCOM 2 is one of the best games released all year.
Just like its predecessor, XCOM 2 features incredibly deep turn based strategy, but this time the entire concept is flipped on its head. Instead of being in charge of a well funded government agency, the player controls a small guerrilla operation that is trying to overthrow the evil alien dictatorship, using a shoe string budget and equipment cobbled together out of duct tape and glue. The difficulty in XCOM 2 is cranked up to 11 as soon as you turn the game on and it only gets harder from there. This one will test all of your strategic thinking skills and your ability to save scum.
- Hyper Light Drifter (Linux)
My time with Hyper Light Drifter has been plagued with technical difficulties, but not with this game. For some inexplicable reason, whenever I had defeated the first boss, to the north, my personal computer would have some sort of technical issue that would require me to reformat the whole thing; and because Hyper Light Drifter does not support Steam Cloud, I would lose my save file and be required to restart. Despite these issues I have returned to this title again and again determined to complete it.
Hyper Light Drifter is gorgeous, granted I am a sucker for pixel art, but JUST LOOK AT IT. The music is some of the most depressing that I have ever heard and all of this just enhances the overall atmosphere of the game. The thing that I love most of all is that while this game is trying to evoke memories of the The Legend of Zelda this game is significantly more challenging than the titles that it takes inspiration from. But the challenge does not mean that this game is unfair. This is a game that is worth picking up and seeing for yourself just how good it is.
- Pokemon Go
I have, without a doubt, spent more time playing Pokemon Go this year, than any other video game on this list. Always be pokemon hunting is an expression I have said to myself quite often. I would have the app running when I walk my daughter to school, when I walk to lunch, when I walk anywhere. This game has also gotten me to go out and explore my community more, and I have been able to see new things in the area that I live.
What stops this title from being higher on the list is all of the controversy and technical issues that surround this game. Features being removed instead of fixed, complete radio silence from the developers, and other such issues have plagued this game since launch. Despite all of these issues, I still found myself enjoying going for walks with friends and family searching for Pokemon and seeing interesting sights at all of the pokestops.
- Witcher 3: Blood and Wine
I know what you may be thinking, that the Witcher 3 won game of the year in 2015 and you would be correct. A meme perfectly describes why this game is so high on this list, “Some companies release DLC and call it a full game, CDPR releases a full game and calls it DLC.” Blood and Wine features its own 20-30 hour campaign, with writing that is on par with the rest of The Witcher 3.
To summarize my feelings about just how good the writing is in Blood and Wine I will give you a little anecdote. There is a quest, early in the campaign, where Geralt needs to wait in line at the bank. This quest took me somewhere between 30-60 minutes to complete and I never found myself bored, it was entertaining from start to finish. This is the caliber of writing that you will see in Blood and Wine
- Stardew Valley (Linux)
Stardew Valley is not for everybody, but if it manages to sink its claws into you, they will be in you so deep that you will need multiple stitches when you manage to get them out. Just imagine if Harvest Moon: Back to Nature had combat and RPG like quests, that is what you are going to be getting yourself into.
I, currently, at the time of writing this, have 62 hours played in this game and I am only at the end of Winter Year 2. I have rebuilt my grandfather’s farm, made friends with virtually everybody in town, gotten married and more. I am helping the town rebuild their community center so that the large multinational conglomerate will not turn it into a warehouse. Yet after doing all of this, there is still more to do, and the developer keeps updating this title to add more and more and more. If you have ever wanted to play a Harvest Moon game, at any time, do yourself a favor and pick up this game, you will not regret it.