Kritigri’s Top 5 Games Played During 2016

So it’s around this time of year that every starts making their top 10 games of 2016 lists, but as somebody who only got a decent gaming in August and was subsequently too busy playing all their older games in glorious 60fps at ultra settings, I’ve not exactly played much of this year’s games. So instead, I’ve created a list of the top five games that I’ve either started playing, or played the majority of in this year. So, without further ado:

5: The Elder Scrolls: Online

This game has a bad reputation for launching with a subscription fee, with many features of Elder Scrolls games missing, and apparently most inexcusably, for not being multiplayer Skyrim. Since launch, however, the mandatory subscription fee has been waived, a plethora of updates have polished the game and brought it up to standard, and whenever the game goes on sale, a rush of excited new players give negative reviews of the game for it not being multiplayer Skyrim.

ESO is a great MMO in its own right, and it might have been higher up on my list had I not only scratched the surface of it. While it’s true that I have 75 hours logged in the game, you can pretty much divide that number by 10 in regards to how much experience that’d give a gamer in a typical RPG. My character is yet to hit level 30, but I’ve very much enjoyed working my way through the quests in Stonefalls, Deshaan (both provinces of Morrowind), Shadowfen (part of Black Marsh) and have recently arrived in Windhelm (part of Skyrim, though the not the entirety of Skyrim is in ESO… for now.) I find the storytelling to be unique and interesting, and the fact that every quest and NPC in the game is fully voice acted is an achievement not to be sneered at, considering the sheer size of ESO’s Tamriel. The quest objectives themselves may be somewhat copy/pasted, but this is a problem – a trope, even – that many (if not all) MMO’s are doomed to follow.

So far, the only downside to ESO, for me, is that I mostly play alone. When I joined WoW some years ago, I was able to find a social guild that I could talk to before I’d even hit level 30; in ESO, most of the ‘social’ guilds I’ve joined say almost nothing to each other except for when they need somebody to join them for a dungeon. Perhaps it’s simply bad luck. More likely, it’s me missing my WoW guild. But this is a personal downside; ESO is actually a very solo friendly game.

4: Assassin’s Creed 2

Okay, so I’ve played AC2 before. What I really mean with this listing is the entirety of the Ezio trilogy. But I chose AC2 specifically because I believe it had the perfect amount of collectables and side-missions to complete, and was the most fulfilling experience of the three games.

The Ezio trilogy is a masterpiece of storytelling, and this is coming from someone who appreciates both the past and the present aspects of the story. Ezio himself is a truly likeable character, and the fact that we stay with him from his birth to his elderly life and watch him mature only increases my connection to the character. I also loved uncovering all of the templar conspiracies in the format of Subject 16’s scraps of code, and getting a sense for the wider narrative of Assassin’s Creed. I recently wrote a full blog post on the games here.

3: Grand Theft Auto V

More specifically, GTA Online. More specifically still, the PC version. More specifically¬†still, the Cunning Stunts DLC. Because there’s a reason why the people of GTA: San Andreas Online went through the hassle of modding in silly midair stunt ramps, and Rockstar recognised this and capitalised on it wonderfully. It may help that I’m a longtime fan of the Trackmania series, but this is the first update to GTA: Online to really grip me. There’s a decent selection of tracks (plus you can make and share your own), and I’ve always loved the way cars handle in GTA V. Plus, it’s yet another wonderful way of making in-game money and numbing the microtransaction-enforced grind to get the things you want.

I’ve written more about the game here.

2: World of Warcraft: Legion

What, not number 1?

Anyway, if you’ve been reading this gaming blog over the last 5 or so months, you probably got a little sick of hearing me talk about WoW. Namely, I discussed it here, here, and here. And yes, I went on to play many hours of the expansion, partaking in dungeons and guild raids (for the first time) and world quests and all of the amazing things that Legion has to offer. In fact, I pretty much tunnel-visioned the game for 4 months straight. And Legion has so much content, you could never keep on top of it all. Blizzard more than made up for the barren of dead content that was their previous expansion.

But I burned myself out on it. I have no doubt that within a few months I’ll be back at it again, but I’m currently taking a break. For once, this was not because I’d log in and wonder what I could possibly do with my time, but instead, because I’d log in and be hit with a wave of indecision with so much choice. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but when you burn out on a game, you burn out all the same, whether it’s because of there being not enough content or just because you’ve played the damn thing for 4 months and ended up dreaming that the next raid tier was released early and got a little embarrassed and decided to focus on other things.

But that’s not why this game is in second place. Legion would be number 1 were it not for a game that actually trumped it.

1: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

At the beginning of the year, I was getting a little fed up about how bad my attention span was. For instance, I recognised that I had started up maybe four different saves of Skyrim over the last few years, always getting to Whiterun and then failing to continue, even though I was having fun. So, as part of my New Year’s resolution, I decided that I was going to 100% complete Skyrim. As in, get all 75 achievements, which include hitting certain levels, completing multitudes of quest lines, doing crafting, doing DLC, doing damn near everything there is to do besides clearing every single dungeon in the game.

And I did it.

I don’t think any game has held onto me the way that Skyrim has. I love the sassy NPCs and the physics bugs and the skill trees and the combat system and I love that I know the game inside-out enough to start a second playthrough with the Special Edition and know every nook and cranny but still not be bored. I love that after 170 hours I can still find a random encounter that I’ve never seen or play a fully unique quest that I never knew existed, that I can replay the civil war as a filthy Stormcloak instead of a faithless Imperial, that I can build a house again, that I can learn archery and sneaking and blind bloody murder and that I can look away from my screen and realise that 8 hours have gone by and that the real world still exists. I love that I still have so much to learn about the incredibly expansive, unique and hard to wrap your hard around lore, and that I can do this by deciding to go book collecting for my own library.

I’ve always said that my favourite game of all time was Ratchet and Clank 2 but I think we have a very strong contender here.

I’ve not even tried mods yet.

Honorable Mention

I feel like I owe Kingdoms of Amalur an apology. It should have been on this list. I bought it in February and played 9 hours of it and absolutely loved it, but for whatever reason, I stopped right there. And I always meant to get back to it, and I didn’t. But I feel like it’s another big, open-world RPG that I might just go ahead and 100%, because it is a rich, colourful, unique world that deserves attention.

Maybe 2017, eh?

Racing Games

As somebody who grew up playing predominantly PS2 games, I witnessed what many people have since deemed the ‘Golden Age of gaming’. And whilst that applies to a whole host of different genres, some of the games I look back on most fondly when remembering the PS2 are racing games.

I grew up playing Need for Speed Underground and Midnight Club, typically on my own, but sometimes with my friends or family. I have good memories of me and my sister booting up the London level in Midnight Club 1 and spending the entire time pushing cars into a particular tunnel and trying to cause a massive traffic jam, and seeing how the game responded with spawning new cars and the like. I’ve spent countless hours just in free roaming, doing nothing more than driving around and jumping off big ramps in Smuggler’s Run. RC Revenge and its successor, the somewhat remastered RC Revenge Pro was basically my Mario Kart growing up. Whilst I never considered it at the time, I was kinda into racing games back then.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the more realistic racing games, though. I played some Gran Turismo, but I’d never truly get into it until I decided to try Gran Turisomo PSP about a decade down the line. When I was little, I was content with watching my sister play Gran Turismo 3. As I recall, she built up a huge garage, and her favourite car was a Chevrolet Corvette of some description, though she often made her in-game money but Yaris racing around a circular circuit over and over again. She also had this system where she’d sort her garage by the amount of miles a car had been driven and rotate out which car she used to try and keep them all in a similar area. Me, I just used cheat codes to get all the cars and took the fastest one out for a few minutes until I got bored.

I don’t typically make time for racing games anymore, until I’m finally in the mood for it, and always forget how much fun I have in them. Whilst I have transitioned into some more realistic racers such as Racedriver GRID, I do still try the odd arcade racer. One somewhat different racing game that I’ve been hooked on for years now is Trackmania 2: Stadium. If you’re interested in it, look up Trackmania Nations Forever, Stadium’s free predecessor which admittedly isn’t all that different. It’s a great game to chill out to when you get the hang of how it works and the general flow of the tracks.

I’m one of the few people who enjoyed the 2012 version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted. The cars didn’t exactly handle the way you’d expect them to, but as somebody who enjoyed Burnout: Paradise and the way the online integration work, Most Wanted (which was made by the same people) was a welcome change for me. I originally owned the game on Playsation Plus, but after I stopped doing that I pretty much gave up on the idea of playing it again until it showed up dirt cheap on Origin one day. In fact, I think I’ll go download it now…

The reason I bring this up in the first place is because I’m currently playing the aforementioned Racedriver: GRID, having wanted to play GRID: Autosport but with the car and team ownership and management that comes with Gran Turismo. (Well, not the team part but you get the idea.) Problem is, I can’t find jack to write about on a specific racing game like GRID. It’s good. The cars go fast. The handling is handleable. The tracks are tracklike and the graphics are a little brown for my liking. There, review done! So I decided to just go on about the genre in general instead. There’s plenty I could say about some particular racing games – such as Road Trip Adventure and RC Revenge Pro – but perhaps I shall do so in future blog posts next time I revisit them.