Ok, this one is a two part blog that will look at what I think are the games of the year for 2017, and then in part 2, the games I think you should get from the upcoming Steam Sale (which starts December 21st).
Let’s start with the best games of this year. I should note that I have not played all the games that came out this year, or even all of the top rated games. So this is my personal list. A couple of these games came out very recently and thus haven’t gotten much playing time from me yet. I plan to rectify that over the holidays, though!
Let’s start with these late comers. First up, is Dominions 5. Dominions 5 just came out at the end of November. It’s the fifth installment in Illwinter’s long running series of massive 4X strategy games. I’m a HUGE fan of this series. The graphics are from the 90s (maybe even the 80s!). Get over it. They aren’t going to modernize them, apparently. But this is one of the deepest games you can get, which means it also has a bit of a learning curve. If you’ve played previous games in the series, it will feel very familiar. The tweaks are great, though, with battles being fixed to allow for better fairness among attackers and defenders. Simultaneous movement makes the battles faster and changes your strategies. You still only control the basic orders of your troops, however, and not the details. With so many units, that’s a good thing.
Those new to the series will discover a ton of nations to choose from. You play as a Pretender god, trying to become the one true god of the realm. You choose from all sorts of attributes, traits, magic systems, etc. as you customize your Pretender. Your troops receive blessings based on these choices, and some gods will stay at home researching magics and helping armies from afar, while others will be your biggest shock troop, wading into the enemy in the midst of your armies. There are benefits to both approaches; so take time to tinker with them.
Steam says that I played Dominions 4 for 238 hours. I must have liked it a lot!
The second late comer is Etrian Odyssey 5, for the 3DS. To be honest, my personal 3DS time this year was dominated by Shin Megami Tensei IV, which is kind of a Pokemon on demonic steroids. It’s fantastic, but it didn’t come out this year. Etrian Odyssey is a series of dungeon crawlers from Japan that is reminiscent of the old Eye of the Beholder or Wizardry games from decades ago. You assemble a small party from different class choices and explore a brutally difficult world. Leveling up gives you the chance to customize each character and develop the strengths you want them to have.
The dungeons include gathering of resources too, which means you need farming teams that will help your main combat team get better items. Each iteration of the series has added new elements, such as overland exploration, airships, ocean sailing, etc. This particular version may have the best music of the series; so play it with the sound on when possible. If you are new to the series, IV is worth playing first, but you would be fine jumping right into this installment.
Want a light-hearted game instead, one that you can jump into easily and find yourself laughing until the end? Try West of Loathing. This sequel to Kingdom of Loathing is completely irreverent. It’s all stick figures with cool hats (really cool hats!) taming the old west, or something. Play it!
Before my pick, here are some games I think I would love, but I didn’t get to play just yet. The first is Prey. This has serious System Shock vibes, and SS2 is one of my all time favorite games. I’m looking forward to playing it! Horizon: Zero Dawn is on the PS4, which I don’t yet own, but it’s supposed to be a great time, what with fighting robot dinosaurs and such! Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the sequel to a great game, where you can use objects in the world to create cool terrain effects. This one is supposed to improve the original in every way!
But my game of the year is still in Early Access on Steam. As a result, it’s not eligible for most GOTY lists. Luckily, I have no editors and no rules stopping me from saying that Dead Cells is the best game I played this year. I LOVE IT!!!!!
Dead Cells is a metroidvania rogue-like game, where each run gives you the chance to earn powerups in the game that will help you get a bit further on your next run. The controls are perfect, to the point where you pretty much have to blame yourself when you die. It’s hard, but not frustratingly so. And it’s quirky in all the right ways. A recent patch has completely changed the gameplay in several ways; so keep in mind that this game is not yet finalized. But it’s very playable (obviously), and TONS of fun. Go get it right now (or wait for the upcoming Steam Sale!). You will get a LOT of gameplay out of it. Perfect for short or long gaming sessions. I’ve put in over 50 hours of Dead Cells this year, according to Steam, and I’ve loved every minute of it!
So that’s my GOTY list. Next article I’ll discuss what you should get in the Steam Sale. Hint: Get Dead Cells, already!