Roundtable – Game of the Year 2016

Back from holidays and playing catch up, our heroes have chosen their favourite games from 2016. Some you will have already seen in countless GOTY awards across the internet, but others may surprise you!

We hope you enjoy this video we’ve put together. If you prefer it in writing, we’ve got that too.

Let us know in the comments what your Game of the Year was for 2016, as well as a runner-up choice.

2016 was probably the first year where I kept somewhat up to date with new releases although I did stay clear of many of the major releases. This ranged from games such as Legend of Legacy, Star Fox Zero, Total War: Warhammer to Final Fantasy XV, a game I would seriously consider for my favourite of the year if I had managed to play more than the first three chapters. Looking back on such a diverse range of games, two stand apart as my favourite games of the year.

My runner up for Game of the Year is Pocket Card Jockey, a game that I am still amazed exists. The bizarre mix of solitaire and horse racing really shouldn’t work. However, the magicians at Game Freak managed to create an experience like no other. Players must take into account various tactical elements such as charting the direction your horse runs on the track whilst juggling the intricacies of solitaire together with the varying stats of the horse you are racing. Solitaire really has never been as compelling as in this game. Pocket Card Jockey reveals the strength of online marketplaces like the eShop, as without it we would not be able to experience such diverse and unique game concepts in the contemporary era.

When asked to name my Game of the Year, I was surprised that it was a game that released at the beginning of the year stood first and foremost in my mind. In 2012, my Game of the Year was XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Thus XCOM 2 was a game I was heavily anticipating when it was first announced. I hoped that the developers at Firaxis would be able to capitalise upon the strengths of their first entry in the beloved series. My hopes were exceeded as XCOM 2 is one of the most enjoyable strategy games I have ever played. It succeeds in providing endless variety in maps, an area where Enemy Unknown fell short. In addition, challenging map scenarios, new enemy units together with a compelling plotline detailing human resistance to the Alien occupation makes XCOM 2 a case study of what a sequel should be. It stays true to its predecessor whilst offering a unique and compelling experience in its own right. Welcome to earth indeed.

I ended up playing quite a few of this years big releases including Uncharted 4, Gears of War 4, Quantum Break, The Division, Doom, Forza Horizon 3, Titanfall 2 and Pokémon Moon. I also got to try Battlefield 1 and what seems to be the general favourite, Overwatch. I enjoyed all of these games more or less and I wouldn’t describe any one of them as bad.

My runner-up would be one I played late in the year and wasn’t expecting to enjoy nearly so much as I did. This was Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Like a few games this year, this received positive reviews but pretty dismal sales. I’m glad I picked it up though and was engrossed in the world for a fortnight or so and will likely go back again.

My game of the year won’t be a surprise too many in the community as I’ve gone on about it quite a bit on Discord. It is Star Fox Zero. Now I definitely didn’t pick this to be contrary, as it has appeared in many “worst” or “most disappointing” categories elsewhere. I chose it simply because I’ve found it to be the most enjoyable and engrossing game I played in 2016. It certainly wasn’t initially as I (like many) struggled with the control scheme. I also bought the game with unrealistic expectations as I’d avoided most media until closer to launch. I had assumed for example that it would have online multiplayer. I think that part of the negative reception is just because it wasn’t what people expected.

Star Fox Zero reminded me what we often take for granted, and that’s some games require practice before you get good and after that, there’s a lot of fun to be had. In my youth I had the time to sit down patiently and play levels over and over again. These days I generally don’t like to invest the limited time I have that way. But sometimes that pays off. After playing through Star Fox Zero initially and leaving it disappointed, I came back to it months later and began to enjoy it immensely. Apart from Adventures, it’s the only Star Fox game I’ve ever completed, obtaining all the medals and unlocking all the bonus stages.

If you were like me and played through it once without getting a good grasp of how it plays, I encourage you to give it another go. I’ll go ahead and predict it will be far better appreciated in the future than it is now. And since it is now dropped in price, I’d say it’s more than worth picking up. With a poor critical reception and worse sales, it’s quite possibly the last we’ll see of Star Fox for a long time.

2016 has been one of my best gaming years. Whilst the Wii U and 3DS had a quieter year, I played my PS4 more than I ever have. I’ve had the opportunity to play a wider variety of games, such as brilliant indie titles like INSIDE, to polished triple A titles like Overwatch. It’s difficult to choose just two games over the course of the year, but I hope my choices encapsulate what made 2016 such a good year in gaming.

My runner-up for Game of the Year 2016 is Firewatch, developed by indie dev Campo Santo. The game focuses heavily on narrative, with the unexpected gameplay hook of orienteering. Trying to find where your next objective is using a compass and a map added to the sense of being alone in the wilderness. This kind of unique hook that fits the context of the story is what sets it apart from other games in the genre. The natural voice acting of Cissy Jones as Delilah and Rich Sommer as Henry and a realistic script created an engaging story that stayed with me, even though the game was relatively small, at around four hours. Overall, Firewatch is one of the best interactive narrative experiences I’ve played, and has set the bar for future titles in this emerging genre.

Unsurprisingly, Uncharted 4 is my game of the year this year. I instantly fell in love with Uncharted Drake’s Fortune on the PS3, and with two incredible sequels, the Uncharted games have quickly cermented the series as one of my favourites. Uncharted 4 builds on the previous games, with fast-paced action gameplay combined with a brilliantly crafted narrative. Developed by Naughty Dog, EVERYTHING about this game is polished, from the story, to the graphics, to music, to gameplay – everything feels developed. The game oozes that Naughty Dog writing charm, that makes the characters believable and helps craft a meaningful story. The development team have also taken elements from The Last of Us, which includes a longer game length and interactive elements in the environment. Whilst still a very linear game, This makes the world of Uncharted feel more alive than it has before. Uncharted 4 a beautiful and touching conclusion to Nathan Drake’s story, and the best Uncharted game to date.

My Game of the Year for 2016 is without a doubt Overwatch. There is no runner up. If my PS4 recorded my gametime, no game would come anywhere near close to half the time I’ve spent playing Overwatch. I haven’t been this addicted to an online multiplayer game since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

Developed by Blizzard, the game is incredibly polished with great character and level design, along with perfectly suited team-based modes that are often intense and exciting in the dying seconds of a match. With over 20 million players, I’m sure you can imagine the number of complaints made, but the team at Blizzard work hard to balance the game for competitive players and continue to make necessary changes.

I cannot stress enough that being online-only does not mean that there is less of a game here at all. Overwatch is forever expanding, and looks set for a big 2017 with more events, modes and characters being added. A story mode would be nice, I’ll admit, but Blizzard have given fans some really nice animated shorts which flesh out each and every character. Personally, going back and watching any of these animated shorts just makes me want to jump back into the game that much more.

Overwatch was a hell of a surprise, as I wasn’t actually anticipating the game leading up to its release. I had not even seen the E3 trailer, which still remains to be the best trailer or short you could watch if you know nothing about the game. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to dive into the world of Overwatch. You will not regret it.

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