Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top 5 Games and Top Games I've Been Playing in 2016!

        2016 has been an intensely awful year in the real world, on both a global and a much more personal scale for me.  However, this year has been an amazing one for escaping into videogames.  This year I invested a lot of time and a bit of money into playing a wide variety of videogames. As with most years, I've played a lot of games from different eras, so I thought I'd do a random shoutout to some games I've been playing recently that you should check out if you need something new for 2017 before I put my top 5 games of the year!  These are ordered mostly by system/genre/price, but towards the bottom they become put into the top 5!  First up are some browser and app store games!

Kingdom Rush
    Price:  Free (with microtransactions), $9.99 on steam (currently on sale for $4.99)
    Release: 2011
Kingdom Rush Logo
    Platform: Browser, Android, IOS 
    Kingdom Rush is a game I've played sporadically for years, originally on, then on armor games, and now on my tablet!  The game has a charming art-style, simple Tower Defense gameplay, but a surprisingly steep difficulty ramp.  The game is not hard to learn or even play, but it is a challenge to master.  Getting 3 stars on every level as well as the challenge stars playing them again is a real challenge, but one that is great to pop in and play and therefore works well as an app or the online save browser game.  If you've never given this one a shot, you really should give it a try!  Since it's release, there's been two sequels, Frontiers and Origins, which I have yet to play, but are also worth looking at. 

    Price:  Free
Jacksmith Logo     Release: 2012
    Platform: Browser
    Similar to the last entry, Jacksmith is an old game I recently rediscovered.  The game is more along the line of restaurant games like the Papa's restaurant series (which I also adore) wherein you are given an order you have to complete, but instead of making food, you are making weapons!  You then give these weapons to soldiers who fight their way through a horde of enemies to get you gold and more materials.  The game has simplistic music and visuals that work well for the style it goes for and easy controls.  However, I would HIGHLY recommend playing this game with a mouse, not a tough pad, as your placement of objects is graded and the touchpad is near impossible to get perfect scores with.  The game also has hidden combos of hilts, metals, and pommels that will increase the power of your blade or grant it advantages like bonus attack against certain enemies or even increased luck!  This game is short and best played in a short burst one or twice a year. 

Pokémon Go
    Price:  Free (with Microtransactions)
    Release: 2016
    Platform: Android & IOS
    Say what you will about Pokémon Go, I think it is a nice little game to have.  While the game has infamously lost a huge portion of it's followers due to its rocky start, I have been using it as motivation to park further from my classes and walk to them as well as take short walks.  I haven't really done any huge walks to get a ton of Pokémon, mainly because our weather went from burning hot to way to cold in one day, but I like to use it anytime I know I have a little ways to walk, and the Halloween and Holiday updates have been really nice!  Here's some footage I never posted from back in the summer right after it released when my town did a huge Poke-walk!  We had somewhere around 200 people!   

    Price:  $1.00 IOS, Free Elsewhere (with Microtransactions)
    Release: 2011
    Platform: Browser, Android & IOS
    Slayin is an awesome little game I heard about a few years back from a certain YouTube video!  So, instead of explaining it again, here is Balrog's review of this fabulous little app, Slayin'. 

    Price:  Free (with Microtransactions)
Hearthstone Logo
    Release: 2014
    Platform: Computer, Android & IOS
    Now we're getting into the big leagues!  While the previous games have all been Indie titles, Hearthstone is a card game produced by Blizzard, the creators of the likes of World of Warcraft, Diablo, and another game that will be appearing on this list ;)  You have probably already heard of Hearthstone, but it is a virtual card game featuring the characters from the Warcraft world.  The nice thing is that the cards and playable characters have enough personality and memorability that you do not need to have played any other Blizzard game to play this one!  I started playing Hearthstone a year ago and finally got back to playing it and I'm really enjoying the new gang based cards that are out right now!  The best part is that its rules are very clear and the game tells you if you can do anything else before ending a turn to help out new and old players alike.

Pokémon Picross
    Price:  Free (with Mictrotransactions)
    Release: 2015
    Platform: 3DS
Pokemon Picross     The second and not last Pokémon game on this list, Pokémon Picross is something totally different.  Like Pokémon Trozeii or Shuffle--both of which are also great games--it is a completely different style of game with Pokémon characters.  Picross is a Sudoku like game in which you use counting and logic to create the picture of, in this case, over 300 different Pokémon!  As a kid, I loved when we got assignments in kindergarden like this, but I never knew it was an entire genre of game until just recently!  Pokémon Picross is a great diversion, however the pay-to-play model can be extremely frustrating as you need "picrites" to open new levels.  However, even going back and doing old levels is fun and it's great for when you have about 5 minutes and a fast mind. 

Roller Coaster Tycoon Deluxe
    Price:  $5.99
    Release: 1999
    Platform: Windows
Roller Coaster Tycoon Deluxe     I never played Roller Coaster Tycoon as a kid, usually tending towards edu-tainment computer games or Barbie Ice Skating and what not.  However, ever since I've watched YouTube, I've heard of Roller Coaster Tycoon and with the release of the $45 Planet Coaster, I decided to finally try out a coaster tycoon game.  Lucky for me, Humble Bundle got me this gem for less than $1!  The game is immensely simplistic, but also extremely difficult on later levels.  It's a nice thing to derp around in, but is  obviously not on par with newer roller coaster tycoon-esque games.  However, it is an absolute steal for $1 or even $5.  I actually enjoy the simplistic 90s artstyle as it displays everything you need it to nice and understandably.  I have never made a "death park," but I can see why people would and I most likely will be making one soon enough.  It's nice to see how mechanics from this game such as adding benches and trash cans to reduce fatigue and trash carry over into the modern era of roller coaster games and I've seriously enjoyed this game.

Stardew Valley
    Price:  $14.99 (currently on sale: $9.99)
    Release: 2016
    Platform: Windows, OSX, Linux, PS4, Xbox One
Stardew Valley     I had never heard of Stardew Valley until it's release in February this year, but it has apparently been in development since as early as 2012.  I have never played the Harvest Moon series, but if you are even a bit of a fan of those, this is the perfect game for you.  The game is actually much deeper than you'd expect.  Aside from farming, you can go adventuring into caves, fishing and mining, find and unlock new areas, complete quests, play a few in minigames at the Saloon, and, of course, get married!  The game is also amazing in that you are able to marry anyone that is your age and is therefore listed as "single."  This means you can marry and have kids with someone of the same or opposite sex!  Furthermore, I'm not sure if all characters sexual orientation changes to match yours, but the character Leah mentions having an ex girlfriend.  I personally married Sam, the guitar playing super-saiyan skater boy with the heart of gold.  Your significant other helps on the farm and often gives you gifts or words of encouragement, which is exactly what I want from every game.  I will admit that it was hard to get back into the game after taking months off from playing it, but it was just expanded in November, so if you're like me and haven't touched it in a while, try again!  Tons of stuff has been added and the game is really fantastic.  I suggest watching this series if you want an idea what the game is like!

-----And now, for the Top 5 games of 2016!-----

5.) Turmoil
    Price:  $9.99 (currently on sale: $5.99)
    Release: 2016
    Platform: Windows, OSX, Linux
    Turmoil is a simple 2D game in which you dig for oil and try to get rich, but it is a hell of a fun one.  I won't belabor the point, but if you are interested, you should check out Jacksepticeye's series on the game to see if you'd like it!  I've really enjoyed the careful planning and yet fast-paced gameplay, the artstyle and old west style music, and the Hard Mode!

4.) Pokémon Moon
    Price:  $39.99
    Release: 2016
    Platform: 3DS

    As always, I preordered the latest Pokémon game as soon as it was announced.  I posted my initial thoughts, many of which I still agree with, and many of which I am happy to say I have changed.  I am surprisingly in love with this game in a way I haven't been since Pokémon Diamond.  The game is gorgeous and unlike Gen 6, I actually enjoy the 3D models.  However, I'm VERY annoyed that all Pokémon have a 3D model and yet they can't walk behind you!  Like, come oooon!!  Otherwise, I've done a relatively good job of not spoiling the game, and so whenever I catch a Pokémon, it's a surprise!  For the first time in years, I don't know what every evolution looks like or what Pokémon's types are, so I am carefully constructing my teams.  The game has a lot of great features such as the Refresh mechanic, Poke Pelago, and Festival Plaza, bringing back and expanding upon many of the things I've enjoyed in past games, especially 5th Generation.  The game does lag on old 3DSs, which is frustrating, but on a New Nintendo 3DS, it plays and looks like a dream.  I am not very far in it yet, but I'm having a great time with it so far, more so than any game in Gen 6!   

3.) Darkest Dungeon
    Price:  $24.99 (currently on sale: $12.49)
Darkest Dungeon banner     Release: 2016
    Platform: Windows, OSX, Linux, PS4, PS VITA
    Darkest Dungeon was crowdfunded and release in January this year, but I didn't discover it until about a month ago thanks to Northernlion and ProJared on YouTube.  The game is a gorgeous 2D dungeon crawling rougelike in which the game autosaves at every action, so there is no room for recklessness.  The most interesting feature is the stress mechanic; darkness, backtracking, and certain enemies inflict stress onto your characters.  If the stress reaches 100, their "resolve" will be tested.  Some become virtuous and calm down, often calming others in the process.  However, most of them will freak out and take on negative characteristics, like yelling and stressing out their teammates, resisting healing, or passing on their turn completely.  The game is tough and has a lot of subtleties to it, such as high level characters refusing to go on low level missions, so you must make sure you have enough low level heroes, or finding the best way to relieve each character's stress.  The $25 is a bit steep and I managed to get it on sale for about $11.  If you can find it for close to $15, it is a must have if you like turn based combat with a varied team.  (I personally like to have a Vestal, Houndmaster, Highway man, and Crusader left to right if you were curious!) 

2.) Overwatch
    Price:  $39.99 (currently on sale: $29.99)  with microtranactions
    Release: 2016
    Platform: Windows, Xbox One, PS4
    In case you haven't guessed, I do not like first person shooters.  I normally go for story heavy platformers or strategy games, with only the occasional game like Splatoon mixing that up.  However, after being urged by a friend, I bought Overwatch in August and have since become the Overwatch team coordinator for my eSports team.  With bright, colorful visuals, engaging characters with a wide variety of playstyles, and constant updates, Overwatch has absolutely stolen my heart.  Though like any game it has problems, such as the balancing of loot boxes and the online bigots, it also has a kinder side to the community, committed to having a good time.  I personally enjoy playing as Junkrat and Lucio as, not only are they attractive, but they don't require regular shooter style accuracy and have fun mechanics like laying traps or healing with music.  I never thought I'd enjoy a game without a single player story mode, but this game has proven me wrong and provided me well over 23 hours, which for me is a lot.  Not to mention, while writing this I popped into the game, got 5 free Loot Boxes from Blizzard, and got SANTABJORN!  YASSSSS!!!   

Some honorable mentions (or games I'm too tired to write about): 
  • Titan Souls (2015)
  • XCOM Enemy Within (2013)
  • Kingdom New Lands (2016)

1.) The Binding of Isaac Rebirth/Afterbirth
    Price:  $25.98 (for Rebirth and Afterbirth, currently on sale: $14.08)
    Release: 2011/2014/2015/2016
    Platform: Windows, Xbox One, PS4

    First off, let me explain.  The Binding of Isaac Rebirth, a remake/remaster of a 2011 game created by Edmund McMillan (creator of Super Meat Boy), was released in 2014.  Then, in 2015, the Afterbirth DLC was released on PC when I started to play it, but it wasn't released to Xbox and PlayStation until 2016, so I'm going to count it as such.  Furthermore, Afterbirth + will be released in early January 2017, so this game is just a constant!  The Binding of Isaac is most likely in my top 3 games of all time, and the Afterbirth DLC is a must have.  I have over 450 hours in this game (most of it in pause screens and on the menu screen TBH, but still) and still play it while I watch YouTube.  The game is a Legend of Zelda one style dual stick shooter with hundreds of items and item combinations in a strange, gross world.  This game is definitely only for those 13+ if not 17+ based on the horrific designs of the enemies alone, not to mention two levels taking place in Isaac's mother's womb.  What makes the game even cooler however, is that the playable characters and many of the bosses are based on Biblical characters, stories, etc.  I never read the whole Bible as a kid, but I've been inspired to go google who Isaac was, why characters like Eve have the items they do, and so forth.  Great music, great visual style, and nearly endless playtime, all in one great game.  Sadly, the game has a terrible, unplayable lag on battery power, even on the strongest laptop I've ever had, but when plugged in, it plays like a dream, or maybe more like a nightmare with how hard it can be.  If you're interested, give this series a glance and enjoy this Indie gem!

   There you have it, my most played and top 5 games of 2016!  What were yours?  What are you excited for in 2017?  Get anything cool for the Holidays?  Tell me in the comments below!  Thanks for reading and here's to a better 2017!