GOTY 2017 | Number 6 — Nier: Automata

Not often enough does a story in a video game leave you as speech­less as Nier: Automata left me when I played it this past year. Start­ing off as a fairly com­mon “how human are robots” type of tale, it esca­lates with each end­ing. Even­tu­ally, the places it goes will leave you a quiv­er­ing pile of per­son­i­fied exis­ten­tial dread that few nar­ra­tive media forms have been able to match up to this point. Nier: Automata also sports some of the best char­ac­ters of the year and man­ages to make good on their arcs more often than not. In a play of classi­ness, not often seen in huge games like this one, it will even let you buy any of the game’s tro­phies after you com­plete the game so you can enjoy it with­out wor­ry­ing about com­plet­ing every last thing. Many of the mechan­ics in the game can be used in sur­pris­ingly cre­ative ways and there are a few side-quests that are just as good as the main story. Nier: Automata def­i­nitely deserves the spot as the 6th best game of 2017.

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GOTY 2017 | Number 7 — Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Naughty Dog always starts off devel­op­ing DLC with the best of inten­tions. Build­ing upon the themes and lore of their most recent game by explor­ing rela­tion­ships either hinted at or nonex­is­tent in the main game, the DLC grows in size and scope. Inevitably, every story-based DLC that Naughty Dog pro­duces breaks off and becomes a bite-sized bit of bril­liance. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy con­tin­ues this tra­di­tion in great form by tak­ing some of the best things from Uncharted 4 and expand­ing on them in some smart ways. The rela­tion­ship built between Chloe and Nadine dur­ing the short adven­ture is a lot of fun to watch and the ban­ter is bril­liantly per­formed. The open design imple­mented in the mid­dle sec­tion of the game improves on what was in the main game by giv­ing you rea­sons to explore the beau­ti­ful envi­ron­ments. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy gives plenty of rea­sons to be an excel­lent 7th best game of 2017.

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GOTY 2017 | Number 8 — The Evil Within 2

Tak­ing the for­mula set forth by the orig­i­nal entry and improv­ing on it in nearly every way, The Evil Within 2 is a stel­lar sec­ond entry in this horror-action series. Open­ing up the envi­ron­ments allows the player to dis­cover the scares it has in store at their own pace. The Evil Within 2 also makes some smart improve­ments to the com­bat, mak­ing encoun­ters feel more tense and requir­ing some smart plan­ning to get through. The story is a lot more cohe­sive this time around and has a clear arc that runs through the game and doesn’t over­stay its wel­come. The Evil Within 2 evokes the bet­ter parts of Res­i­dent Evil 4 in many ways and deserves the spot as the 8th best game of 2017.

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GOTY 2017 | Number 9 — Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

One of the best-looking games to come out in 2017, Hell­blade: Senua’s Sac­ri­fice is an intense jour­ney that tackle some tricky sub­jects. I am always a fan of what Ninja The­ory puts out, but the amount of care they put into Hell­blade is stag­ger­ing. Ninja The­ory brought in men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als to ensure they were accu­rately and tact­fully rep­re­sent­ing men­tal ill­ness in their game and their work shines through in the final prod­uct. The audio design around the voices in Senua’s head is superb, you need to wear head­phones play­ing this game, and the sub­tle visual touches they make to rep­re­sent both mild and major hal­lu­ci­na­tions are done extremely well. As usual, they have incor­po­rated live action footage in some very cre­ative ways to fur­ther improve the over­all visual design and the per­for­mance from the Ninja The­ory designer who played Senua is top notch. Hell­blade: Senua’s Sac­ri­fice would have been much higher on my list in a dif­fer­ent year, but it still deserves this spot as the 9th best game of 2017.

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GOTY 2017 | Number 10 — Outlast 2

Shift­ing per­spec­tives from a cramped insane asy­lum to the wide open spaces of a rural cult, Out­last 2 did not dis­ap­point in the scare depart­ment. Despite the envi­ron­ments being a lot more open, Out­last 2 leaves you feel­ing even more vul­ner­a­ble than the first game by often obscur­ing your view, as with the corn field, and forc­ing you to hide in water while hold­ing your breath. The scenes where you are trans­ported back to a trau­matic event from your past added some inter­est­ing back story to the main char­ac­ter where there was lit­tle in the orig­i­nal game. In a year full of amaz­ing games, it says a lot about Out­last 2 that I con­sider it to be num­ber 10 on my list of the best games from 2017.

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ESH | Ultimate Chicken Horse Review

Grow­ing up in a highly com­pet­i­tive house, I’ve grown into a fair bit of anx­i­ety when it comes to com­pet­i­tive games. Find­ing one that man­ages to feel just as fun whether you win or lose is rare, but Ulti­mate Chicken Horse nails it. I can’t tell you the num­ber of times play ses­sions devolved into the entire room laugh­ing as the ridicu­lous­ness of the stages grow each round. Com­ing newly to the PS4, Ulti­mate Chicken Horse is one of the best couch com­pet­i­tive expe­ri­ences avail­able on the con­sole which can be enjoyed by the whole family.

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ESH | Hand of Fate 2 Review

Table­top gam­ing has been some­thing I’ve only got­ten deeper into with the last few years, while my video game hobby has been around since I could hold a con­troller. Since I started get­ting more into play­ing board games, I’ve been excited to see the two types of games blend together. There has been no bet­ter exam­ple of this con­cept than Hand of Fate. Tak­ing some core con­cepts of table­top gam­ing, like draw­ing cards for ran­dom chance encoun­ters, and mix­ing them with video game con­cepts like real-time com­bat encoun­ters, it worked sur­pris­ingly well. Hand of Fate 2 takes all of this and expands upon every­thing adding more ele­ments and improv­ing the over­all struc­ture of how the game is played to make for an even bet­ter blend.

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ESH | RiME Review

Atmos­pheric explo­ration puz­zle games have long been per­fected by the likes of Team Ico with titles like Ico and The Last Guardian pro­vid­ing stel­lar exam­ples of how the genre is done right. Show­ing clear inspi­ra­tion from the afore­men­tioned games, Tequila Works has crafted a beau­ti­ful game in RiME, trans­port­ing the player to a sea­side tem­ple with a bevy of secrets to unfold. Tech­ni­cal glitches occa­sion­ally mar the Nin­tendo Switch ver­sion of Rime, but the over­all expe­ri­ence is a gor­geous and sat­is­fy­ing puz­zle adventure.

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ESH | The Jackbox Party Pack 4 Review

When The Jack­box Party Pack first came out, it rev­o­lu­tion­ized how mul­ti­player video games could work at par­ties. So long as every­one had some kind of smart device, any­one could pick up and play the sim­ple and addic­tively fun games. As new entries have arrived, there has been a mixed bag of as Jack­box Games has exper­i­mented with the for­mula. Com­ing off of what was, in my opin­ion, the best suite of games thus far with The Jack­box Party Pack 3, there was a lot to live up to for The Jack­box Party Pack 4. Some games suf­fer from over­com­pli­cated rules, but largely this is another fun pack of games that any group can enjoy.

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ESH | The Escapists 2 Review

Ago­niz­ing over the per­fect plan, metic­u­lously prep­ping all the nec­es­sary com­po­nents and then hav­ing it all come apart due to an unseen cir­cum­stance. Escap­ing prison seems like it would be an endeavor that which I would fail mis­er­ably to exe­cute with the per­fec­tion it requires. If noth­ing else, The Escapists 2 has only proven this fact as I have spent plenty of time in soli­tary con­fine­ment for my failed schemes. Thank­fully, unlike real life, the con­se­quences of these failed jail­breaks are min­i­mal and with enough prac­tice, I was even­tu­ally able to spring myself from the joint. It’s this con­cept that makes The Escapists 2 the per­fect action puz­zle game for any­one with a lot of patience look­ing for a real challenge.

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