Game Pile: 2017 In Review

This year saw the resuscitation of the Game Pile, perhaps directly tied to my efforts to be taken seriously in games journalism again and the sudden cessation of my work on a honours thesis. In that time, I put out an article, meaning that despite starting mid-year, there have been 24 other game articles – 26 if you include this and the Dark Souls 2 diary.

This year I’ve played a lot of games, games from my game pile, marking off things from my extensive underplayed Steam library – which has been great for a feeling of accomplishment. Still, the Christmas sales are still ongoing, and the odds are good games I’ve referenced in the pile have been going on sale – so which do I think now, with months later, of games I liked? Did my opinion change any?

Dark Souls 2

I think it’s fair to say that I had to uninstall Dark Souls 2 in order to get other stuff done. My opinion of this game calcified mostly around the third play-through when I realised that there were things I was doing purely because I found them satisfying to do – and it would take a long time for them to wear off.

At the Ixalan prerelease, I was talking to one of my opponents about how I really liked the way Dark Souls 2 used space cyclically, and that was interesting, and a third party, who was totally uninvolved in the conversation sat next to us and immediately said ‘Dark Souls 2 sucks.’

Think about that moment. Wonder if maybe you’re being That Guy when you quote the same MatthewMatosis arguments at me.

Dishonored 2

I think any game I sink 200 hours into I have to accept is something of a big part of my life. I like talking about Dishonored 2 and I enjoyed returning to it, replaying it, and exploring different ways to solve problems.

In the end, Death of the Outsider was a little disappointing – I played it once then set it aside for good – but Dishonored 2 remains a game I find absolutely excellent. I still want to dart back into it even as I write this, and I, as with Dark Souls 2, it’s a game I keep uninstalled to keep myself from just playing the same game over and over.

Eco Quest

I know it’s only been a week since you saw the review, but I wrote that review in October. I love this game. In a year full of feeling helpless and abused by reality, it was heartening to go back to a game about the environment from the 1990s and realise that, at least for me, it had helped me change who I was, and made me aware – and careful – about the kind of things the world was going to have in it as I grew older.

We still have things to fix. Lots of things to fix. But they are things humans did, and things that humans can and must fix.

Full Throttle: Remastered

This is less of a complaint about the game or a change in the way I talk about it, but I did miss the chance, back when I first looked the game over, to mention that the central character of the story, Ben, isn’t really the game’s protagonist. The story is about Maureen – and Ben is just a perspective character. Interestingly, this means you could probably do a pretty cool series of Full Throttle Episodes, in the vein of something like Star Trek Meets Road Warrior – Ben rolls into a new town, learns about the problems there, and helps fix or ruin them, and then bounces on out.

Still, love this remake.

Prey

Straight up, everything about this game looks worse the more time I have since playing it. None of the combat felt good, the stealth didn’t feel good, and when I was done with it, I was actively glad. I’ve returned to examine the game a bit since that time because of discussions about it, and almost all of them I find deeply unsatisfying.

By trying to be very clever and About Something Prey mostly feels unsatisfying at any of the things it’s trying. Oh, and anyone who uses it to argue that it’s an excellent representation of moral questions of duty and obligation kinda misses the whole question the story asks about your own identity, reinforced by the numerous references to memory and roleplaying.

Basically the story repeatedly tells you ‘you aren’t you,’ and also ‘you are responsible,’ which are messages that run headlong against one another. If you thought it was genius, more power to you, but it just looked dumb to me.

Sam & Max Hit The Road

This was another ‘well duh’ moment for me when I went back to a game I loved and realised, to my surprise, I still loved it. But in Sam and Max Hit The Road‘s case, I didn’t just realise I loved it, but I realised that it was also a really remarkably technically accomplished game. I was used to thinking of Point-and-Click adventure games as being an easier genre to make on a computer’s requirements – the big problem was storage space for backgrounds, animation and voice, not mechanical systems, but the absence of systems in Sam & Max meant the adventure game itself, with its exotic puzzles, had to make a lot of simple mechanisms do a ton of work.

There’s also just a thoroughness to it – almost everything in the game tells a joke, and it’s a well-paced, well-direct joke. There were lines I heard playing this game again that I’d never heard, and it’s amazing how many times you can do that in a game I’ve had twenty years to play over and over again.

Shadow Of Mordor

I wrote the review for Shadow of Mordor well before the furore about Shadows of War took its peak and the game became the high water mark for Things To Talk About what with its callous fucked up slavery and its completely unnecessary lootbox mechanics and its procedurally woven creepiness.

Did the way Shadows Of War got received make me feel kinda glad that I didn’t come out swinging in favour of Mordor? Sorta, but really, I wish I’d had more to say. It’s just that Shadows of Mordor had a really great system for one thing I liked doing – then didn’t want me to do it. Nothing about the game that I enjoyed mattered to that game.

Anyway, that was 2017! Please take care of yourselves and we’ll check back in next week for more!

 

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