Tuesday, December 19, 2017

My Favorite Nintendo Switch Games of 2017

To say that 2017 was a big year for Nintendo would be a massive understatement. In a lot of ways, the Nintendo Switch has redefined certain aspects of gaming and has quickly become an all-but-essential component in the lives of many gaming enthusiasts.

In recognition of that, I wanted to list out my 10 favorite Nintendo Switch games of 2017.

For this list, I will be ignoring games that appear on other platforms such as "Minecraft," "Rocket League," and "Puyo Puyo Tetris" despite enjoying them quite a bit on the Switch, as there are already more high-quality, Switch-exclusive games than I can comfortably fit on a "top 10" list.

Having said all that, let's begin.

#10 - Fast RMX

As a fan of futuristic racing games like "Wipeout," "F-Zero GX," and "Extreme-G," "Fast RMX" does a great job of scratching that particular itch in a bare bones, budget-friendly sort of way. As a $20 launch title, this was one of the first Switch games that I really connected with and I often find myself returning to it for a quick, high-speed racing fix.

#9 - Snipperclips

In my opinion, "Snipperclips" was the most innovative and interesting launch title for the Switch. Its clever and often hilarious cooperative puzzle-solving mechanics were an ideal way to introduce groups of friends to the new system in a fun, social way and its reasonable $20 price tag made it an essential addition to my budding Switch game library.

#8 - 1-2 Switch

If you have friends and you like fun, "1-2 Switch" is practically a must-own title. This often clever, sometimes silly, and generally amusing collection of bite-sized party games is something I've returned to over and over again during social gatherings when the Switch is present. Is it more of an experience than a collection of traditional game mechanics? Absolutely, but that doesn't make it any less fun or worthwhile in my book.

#7 - Splatoon 2

The thing that "Splatoon 2" really has going for it as a game is that it's a shooter that's not primarily or exclusively about shooting other players. To be sure, there's often a benefit to "splatting" an enemy player but a skilled Splatoon player is just as likely to benefit or ultimately succeed by avoiding direct confrontations and instead inking various, strategic portions of a given map. It's this unique approach to the game's design, combined with the content and game modes exclusive to this Switch-only sequel that make it one of the more interesting and compelling options on the platform.

#6 - Fire Emblem Warriors

For me, "Fire Emblem Warriors" is good old fashioned, simple, dumb fun. It's not going to win any awards for innovation or narrative impact but it's also very clearly not trying to do so.

If you burnt out on the Dynasty Warriors formula at some point, there's probably not enough in "Fire Emblem Warriors" to justify a return but if like me, you've only dabbled in the Warriors series and mostly just want to see Fire Emblem characters shred through hordes of enemies in a cathartic whirlwind of chaos, I'd say there's quite a bit to enjoy here.

#5 - Super Mario Odyssey

As someone who's never historically been a big fan of Mario's various 2D and 3D platforming incarnations, I was pleasantly surprised to find just how much I enjoyed my time with "Super Mario Odyssey." The game might feel a bit "by the numbers," especially in the early stages, but there are just enough compelling gameplay mechanics and places to explore throughout the experience to likely melt even the most cynical and jaded of frozen, "hardcore" gamer hearts. Is this the ultimate Mario game? I hope not but it's definitely the one I've most enjoyed playing so far.

#4 - Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

A good kart-racing game is something I always enjoy having as an option on just about any gaming platform and "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe" is one of the best games of that sort that I've played. It's just the sort of feature and content rich package that makes for a great launch-year title and the Switch-exclusive Battle Mode is a nice, welcome addition to what was available on the Wii U version.

#3 - ARMS

In terms of innovation and taking full advantage of the unique characteristics of the Switch's joycon controllers, I can't think of a better title released in 2017 than "ARMS." This game does for 3D fighting games what "Super Smash Bros." did for 2D fighting games back in the day in terms of introducing a new, compelling twist and set of game mechanics into its genre. It may not be for everyone, but "ARMS" is one of the games that truly defines the Switch and its potential as a gaming platform for me.

#2 - Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

As a lifelong lover of tactical, turn-based strategy games, I find "Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle" to be one of the best games of that sort that I've played in recent memory. The mechanics are sublime, the story and world craft are often interesting and humorous, and the quality and obvious passion that have manifested in its implementation shine in a way that few other games can match. If you love SRPGs and you haven't played this game, you're really missing out in my opinion.

#1 - Xenoblade Chronicles 2

I had high hopes for "Xenoblade Chronicles 2" when it was first announced as a Nintendo Switch exclusive. Still, I was cautiously optimistic that it might be able to deliver on all the potential of its premise as a full-blown, single-player MMORPG-like experience attempting to bring something new to a gameplay style and set of mechanics so thoroughly explored during the past two decades.

As it turned out, "Xenoblade Chronicles 2" not only delivered in every aspect I was hoping to experience, but also managed to pleasantly surprise me with a host of gameplay elements and narrative flourishes that easily make it my favorite Switch game of 2017.

Okay. I know what you're thinking.

"Where's Zelda?"

The simple truth is that, while I absolutely respect the craftsmanship employed in the creation of "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" and objectively recognize it as a great game, it didn't connect with me personally and I therefore can't honestly call it a "favorite" game in my case. If I were ranking all the Nintendo Switch games released in 2017 based on technical proficiency, or scope, or some other purely objective criteria, Zelda would certainly make the list; however, I personally enjoyed the 10 games I listed here more than Zelda, which forced me to remove it from consideration in this case.

Beyond that, "Breath of the Wild" was also released in what by many accounts is a functionally-identical form for the Wii U, which technically prevents it from being considered a Switch-exclusive game.

Still, it would of course be silly to ignore it completely, hence the explanation.

Monday, December 18, 2017

My Favorite PC Games of 2017

It's that time of year again– time to call out my favorite PC games of 2017.

As always, a game's absence from this list should not be taken as an indication of its quality as I certainly didn't play every PC game released this year.

Note that I have decided to revert to a more traditional "top 10" list format as it was pretty easy for me to limit and rank the contenders this time around.

Having said all that, let's get this party started!

#10 - Choice of Rebels: Uprising

The "Choice of" series of games has carved out an interesting niche for itself in recent years as one of the premiere, digital "choose your own adventure" book options for adults. More recent offerings in the series have expanded their gameplay a bit beyond simple multiple choice scenarios and into the realm of management sim decision making mechanics. "Choice of Rebels: Uprising" is a great example of this and is the most fun I've had with the series since "Choice of Robots."

It's worth noting that this is the first part of what may end up being a series of games, so you won't be getting a complete story by playing through it; however, the content present in it is extensive and compelling, which has me excited and interested to experience the next installment.

#9 - Day of Infamy

Sometimes, you just want a simple, straightforward first-person shooter set in World War II, with a nice variety of content and game modes accommodating both competitive and cooperative play. For those times, "Day of Infamy" is a solid choice.

Day of Infamy (via Steam)

#8 - Absolver

Despite some occasional technical jank and a cooperative multiplayer system that could use a lot of work, "Absolver" largely succeeds in fusing the intricate mechanics of a sophisticated fighting game with the core exploration and progression elements of classic RPG and adventure titles. It's a shame that a better game will likely borrow and weave its best attributes into a more compelling offering in the future, but for those seeking something truly innovative and interesting despite its rough edges, "Absolver" is certainly worth a look as there's nothing else out there quite like it at the moment.

Absolver (via Steam)

#7 - Monopoly Plus

Do you like Monopoly? Do you like playing it with your friends online or against reasonably competent AI players? If so, you should probably buy this game.

Monopoly Plus (via Steam)

#6 - Kings and Heroes

If you're up for a rough-around-the-edges, old-school MMORPG experience, "Kings and Heroes" is worth a gander. Personally, I feel like this game would have been better served by ditching its open world component and focusing on its dungeon crawling mechanics, which are by far the best things going for it but who knows where "Kings and Heroes" will end up long term as it's still being actively developed, despite having been released out of Early Access.

I want to love "Kings and Heroes" and I have a great deal of respect for the efforts and struggles its developers have endured to get it to where it currently is but it's ultimately not quite good or polished enough to make it to the top half of my list in its current state.

Kings and Heroes (via Steam)

#5 - Night in the Woods

This is my pick for the best single-player game of 2017. If you're into narrative-focused, charming, atmospheric, engrossing, compelling, and well-executed gameplay experiences, this is one you shouldn't miss.

Night in the Woods (via Steam)

#4 - Call of Duty: WWII

There's no single component of "Call of Duty: WWII" that makes it a great game but taken as a whole, the total package provides a robust, all encompassing, AAA platform for those seeking a high-quality, first-person shooter experience.

More so than any other FPS I've played in recent years, "Call of Duty: WWII" makes me feel like part of a robust and varied community of players participating in something greater than the sum of its parts. As a big fan of deceased FPS platforms like "Soldier Front 2" and "Ghost in the Shell: First Assault Online," this game provides a lot of what I've been missing in their absence and therefore earns its place here with ease.

Call of Duty: WWII (via Steam)

#3 - Dirty Bomb

Without question, "Dirty Bomb" is the existing game that I feel saw the most improvement in 2017. If you're a fan of team-focused, objective-oriented, free-to-play first-person shooters, this is the current "go to" game for that sort of thing as far as I'm concerned.

Dirty Bomb (via Steam)

#2 - Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands

For me, "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands" is the best four-player, co-op shooter since the original Borderlands. If you have friends to play it with, it's an experience that's difficult to rival, and one that will take a considerable amount of time to see through to completion.

#1 -  Divinity: Original Sin 2

In my opinion, "Divinity: Original Sin 2" is as close as anyone has ever come to making a perfect game. As a huge fan of tactical, turn-based strategy games that support cooperative play and feature engrossing, intimately-detailed worlds brimming with content and opportunities for meaningful impact via player's actions, there are only a handful of games in the history of the medium that could even approach the magnitude and significance of "Divinity: Original Sin 2." If you haven't played it, go and fix that immediately. You can thank me later. :)