Believe it or not, I play games for fun. For some, it's their job. For others, their life. For me, it's a way of unwinding at the end of the day. As such, I often go away from game awards and presentations thinking "that wasn't for me", and I feel that takes away from the idea of celebrating the games and the people behind them.
So, I'm going to list some of the games that I have played this year, and what I enjoy about them. These aren't really awards, just a list of games I enjoyed or thought need talking about.
I've put a few restrictions on this list, to make sure that I don't just go on about things I don't know.
I have put these guidelines in a better format on their own page. If you want to do something like this on your own website/blog, feel free to use them.
I have lost many hours of sleep thanks to Factorio.
Factorio is a game about trying to make your factory not look like a plate of spaghetti, and failing at that.
You start off by manually mining resources, but that doesn't last long, because the game is all about automation. Before long, you'll have resources traveling on belts, headed for the assembly line to be turned into things so you can expand your factory.
I won't go too much more into what the game is like to play and how to play it, as there's a very good reason that Factorio is at the top of the list.
It's an amazing game.
It doesn't have bit bolted on to make it appeal to a wider audience. It doesn't show itself as a big game, instead giving you core mechanics and letting you go as big as you like with them (try the 1 rocket-per-minute challenge, it's insane). It has that basic appeal Minecraft had in that it's mechanics are simple, it's what you do with it that counts, but Factorio is geared at the technical players and has a heavy focus on automating everything.
I'm sorry that I've been relatively vague here, but this is a game I heartily recommend to people who ask me about games.
The first game I ever played on PC was either Civilization Call to Power or Pinball Space Cadet. I can't remember which came first. It was installed on my grandparent's computer, and as soon as I discovered it, I'd always play it every time I went to their house.
The next game I played in the series was Civ V, which, according to Steam, is my 2nd most played game. There are many hours that aren't counted in that total due to being offline, but I know I've played more of my #1 game than Civ V.
When Civ VI was announced, I was not excited. I, like many, had my concerns about the art direction the game had taken. However, then the devs started playing it on stream, I realised that it wasn't actually that bad. I started trying to learn as much as possible about the game, and come release day, I was ready to jump in.
And I loved it. Civ VI adds to the Civ series with the unstacked cities concept. I love the idea of planning out and placing all the districts, trying to get everything in the best position.
There were only two series of problems in the release build: AI and UI.
The AI in Civ games aren't known for being fantastic. They are predictable, and playing on the highest difficulty involves exploiting their predictability. However, the main thing that was broken in Civ VI's release build was trading. For a measly price, you could get almost anything you wanted from the AI civs, in the extreme cases you could trade cities for 1 gold per turn for 30 turns, at the end of which you kept the city.
The other problem was UI. There were a few minor things that were wrong with it, but since you interact with the UI so much it becomes a big problem. There's no easy way of clicking out of things, you have to move the cursor to a small "x" button, and click to exit most menus. The Great Person screen needed you to scroll, but if the padding on elements were reduced, then they would all fit on one screen. Other aspects of the UI just weren't clear, causing some confusion that some people are still asking about.
Luckily, most of these were fixed, or at least mitigated, with the first patch, with the promise of more on their way.
I've been loving Civ VI, and I would go off to play some if I wasn't writing this post.
Skyrim (the original version) is my most played game on Steam, the only game that has beaten Civ V at that statistic. I have spent hundreds of hours walking through the world, wrapping myself up in the world. I read all the books. I try all the dialogue. I do as many of the mini-quests as possible. I absolutely love it.
I often call Skyrim my "exam time" game, because there's something about it that helps me relax and wind down. I finished a playthough halfway through the year, and a few weeks later, the announcement for the Special Edition happened.
I wasn't hyped for it, I enjoyed Skyrim enough with the HD Textures "FreeLC", and my laptop would only just sneak onto the minimum specs, so IO knew it wouldn't be much of an upgrade for me.
Fast-forward to the Special Edition release, and I was more than ready to jump in, as I had just finished my first exam for the semester. I had been playing Civ VI for the past week, and was getting annoyed at the UI problems. I started up a new game, and died to getting stuck in the cart of cabbages at the beginning of Helgen Keep.
It's good to be back.
Oh, and if you're wondering about mods, then you'll be pleased to know that a lot of mods have already been updated to work with SSE.
Cities: Skylines is by far the best city building game out there.
I'm not sure how much I can actually write about C:S. You know whether you'll like city builders better than I do, so if you do enjoy them, get C:S.
C:S doesn't bog you down with useless (or social) features. It's a city builder, not a Facebook game.
One of the main draws for the game is its modding. There are mods that add new buildings and parks. There's also mods that overhaul the traffic AI, or allow finer tuning of roads. There's mods that change the colour palette, and those that allow you to add more road markings to your highways.
I love Starbound. It's development team includes member who worked on Terraria, the rather fun 2D sandbox/adventure/boss fighting game. The influence is clear, as Starbound features those things as well, but focuses more on the adventure side of the game.
After going through the intro sequence, you're left in a small spaceship, and have to go down to a planet to get resources to repair it. After going through the tutorial section of the game, and reaching a certain place and getting your ship ready, you can completely forget about the story the game is giving you and just go explore everywhere. And that's exactly what I did.
I loved jumping down to planets, running along the surface, finding the villages of locals to loot the homes of, take golden duckies from, and trade things I found in other places in exchange for better gear. I loved diving down into dungeons, finding creatures that deserve the end of my sword, and finding lore books so I can find out more about the world (same as in Skyrim).
Eventually, I got to a stage where I wanted to continue the story, so I did. The story dungeons are awesome (there's more to do than just dungeons, though), and I started interspersing story with my normal play.
I sopped the story just before the end to play with something I hadn't done yet: colonies. You can build little villages for people to move in, and they'll give you mini quests to do, providing you with another source of wealth, and also helps you forget that while you may be saving the universe from ruin, you have gone through many Avian villages stealing crystal lamps and golden duckies.
Starbound also had a great moment for me. It wasn't anything special either. I had been having a rather stressful time, and booted up the game one night. As I was exploring a planet, I came across a village, and sat down next to the fountain in the middle of it. The music (which is amazing) was all nice and calm, the stars were shining in the sky with a planet looming in the background. I sat there for 5 minutes smiling, because it was the first time I felt happy that week.
I enjoy puzzle games a lot, but not the casual puzzle games as much. I thoroughly loved Portal 2, it was the first game I bought on Steam, and have completed it several times, co-op campaign included.
The Witness is a weird one. Its core mechanic is drawing a line of a series of screens to solve a maze. Later screens introduce more elements to the puzzle. The game world is a beautifully designed environment, being what every low-poly artist aspires to. However, the world is a bit of a sideshow. The puzzles are all on these screens, and you walk around this gorgeous world solving the puzzles, and walking to the next set.
Or so you think, because at one stage you realise something. I'm not going to say what that something is, but it slightly changes how you see the game. However, that realisation is such a powerful moment in the game, it's something that sticks with you for the rest of the time you play the game, and even when you start the game again.
The game doesn't really teach its mechanics to you. Instead, it throws them at you, starting with basic puzzles, and then makes it more complex. A good example of this is the treehouse area, which gets you to solve some easy puzzles with the mechanic it introduces. After that, the difficulty starts going up. At first you might end up just trying things to see if it works, but when it does it pays to stop and figure out why it worked.
If you need a game to exercise your brain while also trying to relax, The Witness is great for that. Even if you just want one of those, it's a good game. My only advice is if you keep failing at something you don't know yet, try a different area. You might learn something useful along the way.
Funnily enough, both of these are puzzle games. Even stranger, the stories deal with philisophical problems. I didn't feel they needed a place on the main list, but I did want to mention them, so I added this section to do so.
The Talos Princile is a great puzzle game. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Portal and also enjoys philosophy. The story is about AI sentience and a little bit of simulation theory, with religious undertones really setting the mood. The game itself is about solving puzzles to get to a 'sigil' by disabling force fields, manipulating lasers, and more. It's utterly fantastic in its execution.
I didn't enjoy The Turing Test as much as I thought I would, but I still enjoyed it. The story is about free will and presents some interesting ethical dilemmas. The game is about getting to the exit of the puzzle by putting in/taking out energy balls to/from places to manipulate platforms, doors, and many other things. The gameplay really gets fun about halfway through the game when something happens.
Both of these games have good and bad points. If someone asked me to recommend a game to them, these would not appear on the list.
While I enjoy going on murderous rampages in a digital world, GTA:O seems to want to restrict me unless I get out my wallet. Yes, I can spend hours upon hours upon hours grinding away to get the new shiny thing, but the shining is really the only difference.
I'll leave this short summary by pointing out that you can get more cash in GTA:O by getting a minimum wage job and buying the microtransactions than you get from actually playing the game. At that point, you may as well not be playing the game.
What a disappointment this release was. I was looking forward to this so much, but it just didn't deliver.
However. Hello Games has released the first content patch for it. It's not a quick cash-grab like the cynical trolls would have you believe, it's the product of a small team working on a project that is far larger than the time estimate they gave themselves.
Even so, I wouldn't recommend No Man's Sky. I just don't have the time to spend hours grinding away to find the planet with the right resources on it. After a while it just stops being fun.