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.
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?