Following in the footsteps of two of the best years in gaming 2017 had a tough road ahead of it. Now approaching the end of its middle age the seventh console generation does not seem to have many surprises left, we know what can be done with the tools at developers disposal. Even mid-generation refreshes have not much changed that. That being said this year like any other had some great games that really grabbed my attention. These are my favorite games of 2017.
Civilization VI had had a hard road as of late, still lagging behind its predecessor in simultaneous games and bearing the brunt of some fan criticism. That being said its in my personal opinion Civilization VI is one of the most fully realized Civilizations out of the gate. Furthermore, its changes radically change the way you approach the game and Civilization was a series that was begging for an update.
While less then intuitive in places Civilization VI’s new systems are a welcome addition to the franchise. I cannot stress how much fun I have been having with district planning in my various games. While difficult to learn at first; once one starts to understand the flow of the game Districts are a change that are hard to walk away from. As they provide key decision making points that effect your game moving forward. The choice between a defensive Encampment or an economic Commercial Hub can make a huge difference.
For all its flaws I have already put well more then a hundred hours into Civilization VI. Taken as what it is VI is the most complete game released pre-expansions in the franchise, of course with expansions coming in a few months I hope for some improvements.
Edit: So ya... this wasn’t released in 2017 opps. Although its still one of my favorite games of the year so whatever.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
The original Divinity: Original Sin was something that just grabbed me and did not let go. Having played it for the first time early this year I had no idea how much I wanted a game like this as it was so radically different then everything else out. It was as if freedom was made into an RPG. Needless to say I was excited for its sequel.
As such I was surprised when Divinity: Original Sin 2 was released as the original Original Sin was small and restrictive in comparison to its sequel. Divinity: Original Sin 2 took all the great ideas of the original and contemporaries from the genre and just distilled them to its purest form. For a studio that made one of the most mediocre big budget RPGs of the past decade (Divinity: The Dragon Knight Saga) Original Sin and Original Sin 2 are a testament to the idea you can get more with less.
In short, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is my favorite wRPG of the year. Many games promise choice and freedom Larian Studio’s Divinity Original Sin 2 is one of the few that delivers.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Final Fantasy XII for the PS2 was a good game Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age for the PS4 is an amazing game. From changes to its jobs system to the increase in gameplay speed options, The Zodiac Age is more then just a pretty face. It is a top down reinterpretation of the game we got more then a decade ago and it is better for it.
The key to this releases popularity is quite simply put its a better game then we remember. While Final Fantasy XII was a game a head of its time it was marred by some seriously annoying game decisions, foremost among them an incredibly slow walking speed. For a game so dependent on exploration and back tracking for many people this was unforgivable, the issue at its core was plain to see it took too long to get places. With increased speed everything changed, the world of Ivalice was opened up truly for the first time to many players.
Beyond that The Zodiac Age named after its Zodiac Jobs System brought order to chaos. In the original release of the game the License Board was the same for every character no matter their starting point. This caused the entire party to have a sameness feeling to them as I’d just min-max based on stats forming the ultimate battle team if that did result in multiple Katana weilders.
In The Zodiac Age the choice of jobs early in the game effects everything that comes later. It forces a choice upon the player and the consequences of that choice. This year some of my most agonizing decisions was how to create my party, do I prioritize late game domination or focus on the urgency of now. For Ashe she was to be my DPS glass cannon and as such was quite useless in the early game before I got access to Scathe, while others like Basch were more useful based on my choices early on until they weren’t. Hell I actually designed Vaan with one thought in mind, killing Yiazmat and as such he needed access to dark weapons which only one class could use.
Compared to the Final Fantasy’s that came before and after XII prioritized freedom and decision making. Allowing the player to go along on their own path. The Zodiac Age kept this free spirit while making the games path easier to walk.
In terms of raw bang for your buck almost no other RPG can stand next to a Shin Megami Tensei game and its spin-off Persona 5 is no exception, this is an absolutely gigantic game. After over 100+ hours of gameplay (I’m a prolific grinder) I found I still had more then 25 hours left. Persona 5 is not a game for the impatient, it requires a commitment that quite frankly not everyone can provide for obvious reasons. However if you invest the time Persona 5 becomes one of the most engrossing stories of the year, with twists and turns every corner.
The changes to fundamental Persona mechanics are also a breath of fresh air. As Demon Negotiation from mainline Shin Megami Tensei replaces the card draw systems of previous games giving battles a new dimension of thought rather then just rolling the dice at the end. Furthermore the dynamic exploration tools the game presents makes dungeon crawling far less of a chore. The only issue I can really point too is I do not feel the characters are quite as good as those found in Persona 3 and Persona 4.
That being said Atlus’ Persona team has done a phenomenal job of making a stylized, engaging, and all around worthy entry into this increasingly popular franchise. Best JRPG of the year? Nah, top three? For sure.
Tales of Berseria
This will likely be forgotten by many people by now due to its release date in January 2017 here in North America. However it should not be not only is Tales of Berseria the best Tales of game in a decade, it is one of the best action RPGs of the year. Following Velvet Crowe a berserker (there is a lot of similarities to the manga Berserk) out for revenge Berseria’s story is unflinchingly dark and a huge tonal shift from its predicessor/sequel the lackluster Tales of Zesteria. However in that darkness it tells its classic story of redemption as a literal monster moves to find her humanity, with other equally broken individuals.
On top of the story Berseria’s battle system is top notch and among the best in the series or gaming. Less an aRPG and closer to an action game, based around the “Soul System” your combo’s are as long or short as your accumulated souls allow. With the system being deep enough to exploit advantages for massive gain, just watch out its also deep enough to painfully punish mistakes.
Along for the ride Berseria’s cast always a key role in a Tales of game is quite memorable and entertaining to be around. Unlike other JRPGs where there is always a character you just want to throw in a lake, Berseria avoids this. Beyond the main cast the crew of villains the game sends to fight you are in a league of their own as an interesting choice made was they themselves may be the hero, not you. Actually no... there are no heroes. That is the beauty of Tales of Berseria.
NieR: Automata my Favorite Game of the Year
I love Drakengard, I love the original NieR, I love Taro Yoko games, and I love the fact I can finally unreservedly say and without a hint of irony say NieR: Automata is the best game of the year. When I made Drakengard 3 my Game of the Year for 2014 the post was full of equivocations as it is undeniable that game was technically less then proficient and designed for a niche of a niche, of which I fit in nicely. Thankfully NieR: Automata is among the best game of the year and one of the best action RPGs ever made.
Blending Taro Yoko’s storytelling and Platinum Games technical abilities in the genre has resulted in a uniquely thought provoking and engaging gameplay experience. It is not every day a game explores what it means to be alive and human and that is double the case when it does so through the trials and tribulations of sexy androids and oddly emotive robots. However that is what you have with NieR: Automata and the gaming industry is better for it.
Automata dared to be inventive, it took risks, and it was rewarded for it. Even its presentation was a risk forgoing excessive graphical displays Automata plays at a smooth and stable frame rate allowing the combat to really pop. Furthermore, the art style perfectly blends with the tone and tenor of the story as presented. It is clear Automata was carefully directed and crafted to blend both gameplay and presentation to enhance the story, a lesson other developers should take to heart.
After the death of Taro Yoko’s previous company Cavia Games and the less then enthusiastic consumer or critical response to the original NieR or Drakengard 3, it is a minor miracle this game ever got made. However to that crazy Square Enix executive who took a chance on one of the weirdest developers and franchises in gaming I say thank you. This game was everything and more I could have ever hoped for.
NieR: Automata is great go play it now. You will not be disappointed. Also I almost forgot it features likely the best soundtrack in gaming ever, which is nice as its predecessors soundtrack previously held that title.
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