Mike Blais' Games of 2017
 
 

5. Pokemon GO

Niantic

Pokemon Go is the best MMO you can play right now.

While it wasn’t technically released in 2017, the game received a massive onslaught of new systems last year. These include:

  • A Buddy System, allowing you to pair a favourite Pokemon with you for walking and earning candies
  • A refined tracker that shows you what Pokestop nearby pokemon can be found around
  • A completely overhauled gym system that supports diversity in what Pokemon are defending the gym, and allows for contribution from players of any level
  • A party system that allows you quickly set up parties of six pokemon and choose them at-will for battle
  • A brand-new raid system (the largest addition to the game), allowing players to cooperatively take down hyper-strong Pokemon in lobbies of up to 20 people, and get a chance to catch those Pokemon.

The raid system also served as the jump-off platform for obtaining Legendary Pokemon - Pokemon such as Zapdos, Articuno, and Moltres appear for limited amounts of time, allowing trainers the opportunity to catch them and add them to their collection. These large scale-raids gave Pokemon Go its first real co-operative experience, one that it desperately needed. While the game doesn’t enjoy the massive population it did at launch (the zeitgeist has died), it still has an extremely healthy population in nearly every city you can imagine. It’s the only game that’s remained constantly installed on my phone, no matter what (Hearthstone aside), and will continue to do so, because catching the little critters is just so much fun. With 1 on 1 PVP battles on the horizon, and many more generational rollouts to come (we’re in the middle of Gen 3, currently), Pokemon Go is a great game to play when you’re out and about that’s slated to only get better.

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4. Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2

Dimps, Bandai Namco

Ok. Xenoverse 2 didn’t come out in 2017 either, it’s true (the original game released in October 2016). But the Switch version came out this year, and it’s the best way to play that game.

I don’t fan out much, but man, I love Dragon Ball Z. It’s stupid in the greatest ways, the battles are incredibly satisfying to watch, and everything is ridiculously over the top. By the time you’re reading this, Dragon Ball FighterZ will be out, and I’m sure it will have usurped Xenoverse 2 as my go-to Dragon Ball game [Update 28/01/2018: it sure has!]. But even then, the portability of Xenoverse 2’s Switch port means it’ll still have an eternal place in my heart. Playing through the story of Dragon Ball, with a character crafted in a creator that allows you fulfill your best fantasies of that universe, fulfills the power fantasy that the entire franchise promises.

Aside from the obvious DRAGON BALL draw, Xenoverse 2 is also just a well crafted game. It builds on the strengths of the original Xenoverse - the skill progression system of learning techniques, the RPG stats to tweak your character as you see fit, and the fast-paced, surprisingly deep combo system - while fleshing out the multiplayer, psuedo-MMO aspects of the game. What’s produced is an extremely enjoyable, hyper-portable, multiplayer action RPG that anyone can love, and Dragon Ball fans can adore.

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3. Destiny 2

Bungie, Activision

Destiny 2 has some true, honest flaws. For myself, the end-game of Destiny 2 didn’t feel like it had the same things to chase as Destiny 1 did - and while my complaints don’t necessarily tie to the Eververse, they are attributable to random engrams being the primary source of end-game loot and drops in that game.

With all that in mind, however, I’ve played 197 hours of Destiny 2. I will never stop loving Destiny - the world, the aesthetic, the lore, it all has a fond place in my heart. I believe that Bungie has shown to be making strides in the right direction on communication with its player base, and response to the criticisms the game has received. For me, that’s enough.

The rest of Destiny 2 is one of the best shooter experiences you can have this generation. The shooting feels as tight and satisfying as you expect from Bungie, the co-operative experience of shooting aliens with you friends is one of the best chatrooms a person can ask for, and the satisfaction of watching your (extremely cool looking) Guardian rise in power level as you complete activities gives you more than enough reason to keep coming back to that game. The Raid experiences (both the Leviathan from the launch game, and the Raid Lair introduced in the first DLC pack) provide a cooperative experience that no other shooter can match. Destiny 2 is a game that I come back to constantly, and will continue to come back to, because it’s just so damn fun to play.

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2. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Nintendo EPD, Nintendo

There’s an argument to be made that one of the spots on my list should probably just be “The Nintendo Switch”, because that console alone is responsible for the lion’s share of my video game enjoyment in 2017. Legend of Zelda was the first game playable on that platform, and probably owes some of its Pleasure Mindshare™ to the console. But Breath of the Wild doesn’t owe all its success to hardware alone. The most recent entry to the Zelda franchise managed to capture and manipulate my creativity in a way that most non-competitive video games never do. Every puzzle in that game straddles a line - they’re all meticulously thought out, but also allow the player to tackle them in whatever way they see fit. The initial month after launch was full of gifs and videos of players tackling the puzzles in their own unique fashion, each clip sparking my own creativity to try something new when I booted up the game. Each solution felt like a genuine accomplishment - and led me to complete every Shrine and side-puzzle the game had to offer (save the Korok seeds). The vastness of the world you have to explore gives you a true sense of wonder, and the flawless execution of your ability to go anywhere you want (after the initial tutorial) gave me the purest feeling of freedom I’ve felt from a video game. If the game’s main-line dungeons hadn’t felt lacking in comparison to the rest of the game, this may have topped my list. Breath of the Wild represents a shift for the franchise comparable to Ocarina of Time, and I can’t wait for this generation’s Majora’s Mask.

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1. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds

PUBG Corporation, Bluehole

I stand in the minority when it comes to Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds - I don’t think this game is going to permanently change the direction of shooters as we know it. I think that, right now, the emergence of a plethora of PUBG clones we’re seeing is a fad that will fizzle out. Sure, we’ll see some trends and best practices taken and applied elsewhere, but I doubt any new games will come along to dethrone PUBG and Fortnite: Battle Royale as the champions of this genre.

Now that I’ve said my piece on that, here’s the thing: PUBG was absolutely the best game that came out in 2017. PUBG is able to create a familiar, yet unique sense of tension with every session. That tension makes each game fun, regardless of how far you progress within the match. The three game modes contained in PUBG - Solo, Duo, and Squad - present separate but equal challenges that require different approaches, tactics, and mindsets based on which one you choose. Different guns in PUBG will behave in dramatically different ways, forcing the player to learn how to behave based on what guns they think their opponent is firing as well as make calculated choices about what to pick up and what to drop from their inventory.

That theme of choice is perhaps what provides PUBG such diversity of gameplay - the choice of whether to fight or run, the choice of whether to snipe an enemy and give away your position or let them flee and be unrepentantly murdered by them later, the choice of whether a building is worth looting or not. Each of these choices represents a branching path in the story of that PUBG match, and as you’re making your own decisions, 99 other players are making their own choices to influence the narrative. Those narratives are what you get to share with your friends later, what you remember as the gameplay experience, and what make Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds the best game of 2017.

 Image via  Steam Community , Header via  PUBGHQ

Image via Steam Community, Header via PUBGHQ


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Honorable Mention

Hearthstone

Hearthstone is great. Hearthstone is continually enjoyable. I play at least one game of Hearthstone almost every day, unless some truly unforeseeable circumstances arise.

Does Hearthstone have a massive barrier to entry to being truly competitive, in the form of the cost to acquire new cards? It sure does. It’s an expensive game. But I’ve played MTG - this isn’t a new train to me. It’s not a format that’s for everyone, and I wish there were better ways to earn cards for new players. If I could just pay every time a new set launched to get all the cards from it, I’d probably do that. But it doesn’t matter, because the game is still so fun to play.

Learning the matchups to the current meta decks, what cards to expect, how to counter them, what to play around - in a lot of ways, Hearthstone reminds me of fighting games. The mental game you have to play is strikingly similar, but at a much slower pace, which is perfect for the slow, middle aged hooligan I’m becoming. I can’t see myself stopping playing Hearthstone, ever - but I can see me going pro. Watch out, Hearthstone Championship Tournament. I’m comin’ for ya.

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Dishonorable Mention

Splatoon 2

(Editor's Note: This was provided to me in all caps, so in the spirit of maintaining the original text, here it is in its original glory.)

SPLATOON 2 SHOULD HAVE BEEN ON MY GAME OF THE YEAR LIST. THIS GAME IS ONE OF THE MOST FUN ONLINE EXPERIENCES I’VE EVER HAD. EVERYTHING ABOUT PLAYING THE ACTUAL GAME IS AN INCREDIBLY FUN AND REWARDING EXPERIENCE, THE AESTHETIC AND UNLOCKABLE COSMETICS ARE AMAZING, AND IT’S ON THE SWITCH. THIS IS A RECIPE FOR A #1 MIKE BLAIS GAME OF THE YEAR WINNER.

UNFORTUNATELY, AT THE TIME OF THIS WRITING, THERE IS STILL NO GOOD WAY TO PLAY WITH YOUR FRIENDS. YOU ARE FORCED TO UNLOCK THE ONLY PARTY SYSTEM FOR COMPETITIVE PLAY BY GRINDING THROUGH ONLINE RANKS UNTIL YOU UNLOCK “RANKED” PLAY, AT WHICH POINT YOU CAN ONLY CONNECT WITH FRIENDS IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT NUMBER FOR A TEAM (THE GAME WILL NOT FILL A TEAM WITH RANDOM PLAYERS FOR YOU).

I UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS AN ARGUMENT TO BE MADE FOR NOT QUEUING UP RANDOMS AGAINST PREMADE GROUPS, AS THE RANDOMS WILL LIKELY GET STOMPED. THAT’S FINE. BUT MAKE ANOTHER GAME MODE THAT LETS ME PLAY FREELY WITH MY FRIENDS. YOU HAVE THE PARTY SYSTEM YOU NEED ALREADY MADE - THE WAVE-BASED SURVIVAL MODE IN SPLATOON 2 WILL FILL A PARTY OF <4 PEOPLE WITH THE RANDOMS IT NEEDS TO MAKE IT A TEAM OF 4. JUST PUT THIS IN CASUAL MATCHES. IT’S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. IT’S BASIC ONLINE GAME DESIGN.

HOW THIS POINT HAS BEEN GLOSSED OVER ANY TIME SPLATOON 2 IS MENTIONED IN ANY GAME OF THE YEAR LIST IS BEYOND ME. IT’S HORRIFIC. NINTENDO CAN’T GET AWAY WITH THIS SHIT ANYMORE. THIS COULD’VE BEEN THE BEST GAME OF 2017. INSTEAD, I’M NAMING IT THE WORST GAME OF 2017.

FIGURE IT OUT, NINTENDO.


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