It has been a year. It’s kind of weird to say, but due to the density and quality of 2017 game releases I feel like I already have enough content to keep me occupied into 2018. Many gamers, as well as myself have had an issue that has not been horribly common recently. There are too many good games, and not enough time to actually play them all thoroughly. The 2017 game releases have had me on the ropes since what feels like early February.
Between Nioh, For Honor, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk, Horizon Zero Dawn, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8, The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment, Nier: Automata, Mass Effect Andromeda, Snake Pass, and now Persona 5 I have been fighting to tread water, let alone effectively devote my time to any one game. I would be even worse off if I had picked up Resident Evil VII, Gravity Rush 2, Tales of Bersia, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX (actually, I picked this one up and just have not gotten around to touching it yet), Yakuza Zero, or gotten involved with the events and DLC adding extra content to Destiny, Overwatch, Dark Souls 3, and Final Fantasy XIV. Just take a moment to read those last two sentences again and think about how many hours of gameplay we have seen in a very short period this year.
I have been a horrible gamer, and to be completely honest, I have not finished a single title that I have just rattled off except for the main story of Berserk and the Band of the Hawk, and Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment, but I have been dipping my toes into each of these games upon release and I would like to share my experiences with them in a rapid fire series of quick looks, hopefully providing a small amount of insight into that game you thought about getting, but did not because there was something you wanted more coming out next week.
Team Ninja’s Nioh started the beautiful cacophony of 2017 game releases (that I played) off strong with a punishing action RPG game steeped in the developer’s style while taking nods and running with ideas from the Dark Souls series. The player’s journey through a war torn and oni overrun Japan creates a solid opening atmosphere along with introducing a wealth of mechanics and tweaks to separate itself from the “It’s like Dark Souls, but” games that have been cropping up. Variable gear stats, expandable attack, spell, and ninjutsu trees, a more mission based gameplay setup, and other gameplay tweaks bring Nioh fully into its own niche of game style while still giving nods to titles that it gained inspiration from. Ninja Gaiden players will feel right at home with the game’s speed, and Dark Souls players will feel at home with the leveling, equipment, and stamina systems. For a review of Nioh, look here.
Hot on Nioh’s heels came Ubisoft’s For Honor, which server issues and micro transaction debacles aside provided me with a great amount of enjoyment until the next shiny thing came along. For Honor’s combat can be boiled down to a 3D fighting game with a lot of the technical execution for button inputs stripped down and combo lengths kept to a minimum. Players can block and attack in one of three directions, providing a bit of the high, medium, low attack aspect of traditional fighters, but in its own style.
The classes of warriors are fairly easy to pick up to an extent of competing with AI opponents, but mastering them takes a fair amount of involvement before being able to tackle human adversaries effectively. Recent events have put a damper on perceptions of the game, but the core gameplay is engaging and satisfying even if you are just walloping on bots.
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk was part of the mid February 2017 game releases and it is hard to remain unbiased towards it due to how I personally experienced it. Upon purchasing this game I had not yet finished the Berserk manga. I read that the game covered the first four arcs of the story, which it does, but for some strange reason I thought the Golden Age arc was actually three separate arcs, so when I hit a certain part in the game I had a lot of reading to do. Due to this mistake I spent quite a while reading the source material and then catching up to where I had read in the game. I would recommend this process to no one, but it was fantastic.
Berserk and the Band of the Hawk is a Dynasty Warriors game, much like Hyrule Warriors, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, etc. You play missions with light objectives, but your main goal is to wade through a legion of opponents with the occasional boss battle to break up the grind. Gameplay wise I enjoyed my experience, but I also have a fairly high tolerance for grinding and was spurred on by the exceptional source material (which also filled in a lot of blanks that got cut from the game’s narrative, both in terms of characters in the story as well as a few events that take place).
Horizon Zero Dawn
Jumping into the fray came Horizon Zero Dawn, which Mammoth Gamers has a quick look for here.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8
Technically coming out before Nioh, but initially lost to me in the vortex of 2017 game releases is Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8. I enjoyed my brief couple of nights spent with the Dream Drop Distance HD portion of the game. The story and combat of the game is the standard Kingdom Hearts fare, but with a couple new mechanics that I sincerely hope to see refined for the game’s 3rd core iteration that is coming out eventually. Dream Drop Distance takes the Reaction Command from Kingdom Hearts 2, and instead applies it to items in the environment, allowing the player to wall jump, grind on rails, spin around poles, and engage in a few other motions to spice up world navigation and combat. The game also has a party system where players craft good versions of the game’s enemies to fight alongside. This system seems interesting with the incorporation of a skill tree for each type of ally.
The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild
Right in the middle of the 2017 game releases came the Nintendo Switch, which brought along with it The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. One of the large focuses of this game was to harkens back to the sense of exploration found in the series’s earlier titles, and this game definitely succeeds in that regard. Exploration is the key element in this installment of Zelda, and Breath of the Wild has it in spades. There is a rare moment where if the player pans their view around that they do not see something of interest within direct sight over the hills and far away, but not too far away.
I have completed next to nothing in this game’s main story, despite it being one of the games that I have put the most time into recently. There is an incredible amount of shrines to delve into, locations to explore, npcs and quests to interact with, and overall fun to be had. The combat is demanding, but fair, and item durability as well as the player’s starting fragility help to avoid gameplay ruts by consistently requiring their attention and flexibility.
Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment
Alongside The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild came the temporarily exclusive to Switch Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment standalone title/dlc, which Mammoth Gamers has a review of here.
Keeping up the quality and depth of the early 2017 game releases came Yoko Taro and Platinum’s Nier: Automata. The combination of Yoko Taro’s well developed, twisted, and heart-wrenching narrative concepts and Platinum’s excellence in character action and proclivity for the niche/strange had and has me very excited for this game, despite my being a horrible, fickle person and getting distracted from this gem.
Nier: Automata combines RPG elements with both character action driven combat and a peppering of shoot em up style sections (whose mechanics also get integrated into the character action segments). The game’s opening premise is solid, and the gameplay is smooth and satisfying, and I cannot wait to see what absolutely awful situations I get to see the characters of this installment go through.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
After Nier: Automata comes Mass Effect: Andromeda. Hoping for some patch fixes for the strange happenings documented by the deluge of gifs and videos during Mass Effect: Andromeda’s early release I elected to play multiplayer instead. Now this is not meant to some sort of dig in the vein of “Haha, he played the multiplayer instead of the single player in a story based, single player game, he must think it’s awful!” I honestly just really, really liked the multiplayer from Mass Effect 3 and absolutely could not wait to sink my teeth into that experience after it had a few more years to bake.
The multiplayer has some connection and balanced based issues, but there was nothing unserviceable at launch, and it is easy to dismiss balance problems in a PvE experience where that overpowered character is mowing down enemies as one goes about their happy little way. There was recently a patch that made improvements to multiple aspects of the single player character models, interactions, and romances, as well as a few fixes for network issues in multiplayer, which I am sure I will enjoy whenever I make my way back to Andromeda.
Between Mass Effect: Andromeda, and the end of my social life as I know it came an indie game by the name of Snake Pass. Snake Pass, while not the most hyped up part of the early 2017 game releases is a cute little treasure that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good collect em all puzzle platformer. In Snake Pass you play as a snake (Noodle) working to collect gate keys and other hosts of collectibles to move on from one level to another.
I enjoyed combining the mechanics of moving forward, turning, pointing Noodle’s head up, gripping onto surfaces, and having his companion, a small hummingbird named Doodle lift his tail to avoid sliding backwards off of platforms when necessary. Once I got a grasp on these mechanics in concert I really began to enjoy the game’s level designs. Snake Pass requires players to think like a snake to solve increasingly difficult levels that require varying amounts of skill and planning to progress through.
At the end of the current 2017 game releases, and what will likely destroy my life for the next month or so is Persona 5. This game has been in development for a while,
but has been well worth the wait. So far in my first experiences with the game every part of it exudes polish and style from the battle system to the soundtrack to even the menus. Anyone will immediately that the menus are incredibly slick and stylish, and for a JRPG where you spend a solid chunk of time in menus and battles, having a UI that will not wear out its welcome is a beauty to behold. With one small exception Persona 5 does a great job at what the series has been doing best for years now, providing a gameplay experience where players have to balance their dungeon progression with the main character’s social, academic, and work life while progressing through a strong character based narrative with a host of fully fleshed out party members and npcs.
So far I have resigned to focusing on the last portion of my all-you-can-eat buffet size plate and then work my way through the rest of this year’s new brutally wonderful backlog. Unless something else derails me. I hope that these extremely spartan quick looks have given some of you insight into games that you wanted to either look into more or get another opinion on, as well as draws attention the the excessive amount of excellence we have on our plates as gamers!