Here we are, what all of us think are the best games of 2017. My selection, I’m sure, will completely shock you. Okay, probably not. That said, we have some nice diversity amongst our writers, so I promise it won’t just be five of us telling you how great Through the Ages is. Oh, damn, spoiler!
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
If all goes well, I’m in the middle of my life. I recall childhood only dimly and rarely, and what memories I retain are unreliable. Is a wide-open expanse of discovery, uncertainty, and danger really what youth felt like? I remember that simply swinging my legs in a too-tall chair or flicking the spring doorstop for its doy-oy-oing were intensely satisfying then. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gave me more of that than I ever expected to feel again. It transcended the experiences I expect from games, and did it in a way I could share with my children. It’s as precious to me as a week in an uncrowded Disney World.
It’s a deckbuilder! it’s a roguelike! It does it all folks and it does it well! What if I were to tell you Monster Slayers was a more attractive, more modern, just as compelling version of Dream Quest…is that something you’d be interested in? Of course you would, you’d be a fool not to be…!
This game doesn’t need the hard sell. If you’re a fan of tweaking a deck and taking it into battle, and a fan of roguelikes in general, stop reading this and follow the handy link to pick this game up. If you need more convincing, check out this incredibly well-written review and then go pick it up.
Capping off the most un-Stately list is the least-Stately game! Or at least on the surface. Beneath NieR: Automata’s veneer of anime robots and hack-and-slash action lies a multifaceted exploration of human nature. It has a thematic coherency that is extremely rare in games of this scale. Most big-budget games don’t attempt anything more with their story than funneling the player from one set piece to the next, or they end up like Bioshock Infinite’s didactic “What if both sides are bad?” message, ham-fisted and focus-tested into near meaninglessness. Not NieR: Automata, a game whose cast is mostly robots named after and representing the ideas of prominent Existentialist philosophers. It’s unafraid to pose questions and let the player find answers themselves, and that’s sadly a refreshing change of pace from most large games. The story itself is also willing to take risks, asking the player to replay the entire first route of the game from a slightly different perspective. The narrative payoff is more than worth it, because what follows is one of the most memorable stories I’ve encountered in a game. What puts NieR: Automata at the top of my list in a year of incredible games is that it surprised me the most. I wasn’t expecting the game to be this good, and I was continually surprised by the places it goes.
Through the Ages
Surprise! Much like their first digital release, Galaxy Trucker, Czech Games has created a classic with the digital release of TtA. They managed to create a UI that makes a very heavy game fairly easy to understand, as well as stocking it with great AI and solo challenges so you always have something to do. That is, if you can pull yourself away from multiplayer. The multiplayer options in TtA are plentiful and, while there were some hiccups at launch, the online service now is robust and engaging. I’ve played more online games of TtA this year than any other game I’ve ever downloaded from the App Store. The Steam version of TtA is going into beta in January and there’s talk about expansion content coming to the app down the road as well. If so, TtA might end up being my GotY for 2018 as well.
Tof’s entry was late in arriving in my inbox, so I’ll report Tof’s #1 game either over the weekend or after the holidays, depending on how much egg nog I drink.