My 2016 Top Picks (Videogames)

As 2016 nears its end and I wrap up my playthrough of Final Fantasy XV, I now fondly look back towards my time spent in gaming this year. Its been a good year, with  big title after anticipated big title just kept rolling up one after another, so much so that I gladly delayed many a purchase for later years as I just did not have the time nor energy for them in my final year of university. The following will some of my top picks for the titles that impressed me greatly, and more importantly gave me the most enjoyment, in no particular order. The only criteria for their inclusion are that I have actually played them this year, so no Dishonored 2, Deus Ex, Witcher 3 among many other T^T

My Personal Favorites for 2016

Stardew Valley (PC)
Easily the biggest surprise this year, Stardew Valley brought me back to a genre I had pretty much given up hope on, and it did it simply by being better at pretty much every aspect I can perceive. A finely crafted experience, I was able to wind down and relax while simultaneously being thoroughly engrossed in its fun and colorful world. A great experience for more casual or younger audience that also allows for surprising amount depth and challenge for those who seek it, this title by sole developer Eric Barone would be a pride for even AAA studios. A complete package at launch, the game continues to receive sizable updates to this day. Full review here

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4)
Far and away the single best single-player experience I have had all year, the final entry into the storied franchise does not disappoint. Developer Naughty Dog truly brought their A-game when it came to their trademark production values, spit-shine polish, ever great character writing, and markedly improved gameplay to craft a more than fitting sendoff to Nathan Drake and co. A thoroughly engaging and awe-inducing 15 hours experience, this title is as AAA as it gets. Full review here

Bloodborne (PS4)
Bloodborne is developer FromSoftware's first foray into current-gen with Miyazaki back at the franchise's helm after the good but far from stellar Dark Souls 2, and boy is it a glorious return to form. The new setting with its bloodcurdling Lovecraftian horrors absolutely oozes with atmosphere and personality. As a long time player of previous games in the franchise, Bloodborne's no shield and extra fast paced approach to combat took me quite a while to get used to. But as with all Souls game, once that something clicks in your brain as you really get the flow of its new style, it gave me that very same unique experience of head-deep engrossment in its beautiful world and frantic-yet-calm bloodrush that only these type of games can provide.

Dark Souls 3 (PC/PS4/XBONE)
Being allegedly FromSoftware's last entry into the Souls franchise for the foreseeable future, I felt that they really wanted to distill everything they have learnt and the very best aspects of each title into their final work, and for the most part I think they succeeded. Elements were clearly taken from Bloodborne's smoother approach to combat and DarkSoul's large variety of viable&fun character builds, then added to the rich world and lore of Dark Souls. Purely gameplay wise this title was favorite title this year for its amazingly tight controls, fast-yet-measured combat, wonderfully crafted levels and tons of varied, fun and challenging encounters. As a sequel it may not be as magically memorable as its predecessors nor as atmospheric as Bloodbonre, but for my money its still one of the most fun and engagement I had this year. A great sendoff to one of my favorite franchises, I look forward to the new IP FromSoft will cook-up. (moar Armored Core please)

God Eater 2: Rage Burst (PS4/Vita/PC)
I'm still not sure what exactly drove me to purchase this one, perhaps it was a combination of my occasional fondness for monster hunting games plus the better than expected anime adaptation which sparked my interest, but whatever it was, I am certainly glad I did. God Eater successfully distilled what I really liked from Monster Hunter and cut-off much of the excess baggage that kept me from truly having fun. More personalized customization, a far better setting, an actual story, a likable supporting cast, a decent campaign with a smoother learning curve, way faster and more intuitive controls, shorter hunts, no menial busywork, and far far less mindless grinding. Its age does show sometimes from its handheld last-gen roots, it has a decent but far from stellar presentation and its many characters need more fleshing out, but gosh darn did I have so much fun with this title. The greater ease of which to pick up and play this genre cannot be understated, and its respect for my time does it a lot of favors when compared to its peers. I eagerly await the release of its announced sequel in the coming years. Full review here

Honorable mentions

Final Fantasy XV (PS4/XBONE)
FFXV has finally graced us after its grueling 10 years of development. Was it worth the wait? Well no, no game is for that matter (unless you are Dragon Age Origins). But is it a good game? Yes, pretty good in fact, despite its many flaws. Its good combat, great dungeon design, great character chemistry between the main 4 casts, and fresh setting with its Americana road trip  inspirations are its standouts. Its world is less of an open world with Final Fantasy elements, but far far more so a Final Fantasy that so happens to also feature an open world. Its difficult to put into words, but somehow its world does channel the feel of wonder and adventure (and some annoyances) than hearkens back to the classics despite its massively different nature, it really does. And yet one can't help but notice all the baggage that came with its troubled development cycle, with the very very numerous gameplay elements that while complementing each other in oddly charming ways, still feel like a they were cobbled together over its excessively long development. Long load times, lack of more interesting sidequests, and a story that personally I thought was fundamentally sound but suffered dearly due to bafflingly weak presentation are big stains on the game. And yet for all of those problems and more, I still do like it and had a blast just playing it. Its a heck of a lot better than I expected it to play, and still more Final Fantasy than FFXIII can ever hope to be.

Persona Q (3DS)
Not gonna lie, I admit I'm a huge fan of the Persona franchise by ATLUS and Persona Q played a huge factor in me getting my own 3DS. That said, the game greatly delivered in its promise of a great dungeon crawler combining mechanics from both Persona and the Etrian Odyssey franchises, as well as tons of shameless fanservice from Persona 3 & 4. I do really love the characters from those games and seeing them interact with one another in the games's wonderfully written skits brings untold glee to me. The strong cast and lore from Persona are amazing additions to the rock solid foundations of Etrian Odyssey's gameplay, aspects that that game had always lacked in. Its fantastic fun on a handheld, but somehow I crave a fully-fledged console release for persona. Full review here


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