I suppose it’s that time again, where everyone lists their games of the year and all that. So I wanted to do mine, which will be split into several parts put into very loose “categories” cause I don’t want a huge long post on this. Actually, there will probably be some games that weren’t released this year. Also, these aren’t the best games in an objective manner (cause no such thing exist). Anyway let us begin:
Big Console Games of the Year
It seems year by year, I become less in touch with more modern AAA games. Games like Far Cry 4, Sunset Overdrive, and Forza Horizon 2 would probably be something I would totally be into…if it was 2005. It’s not a slag on these games, it’s just that I’ve been drawn to more smaller niche portable/retro games over the last couple of years, this is especially true since I’ve been ramping up my retro game collecting this year to dangerous proportions. Still, I do play AAA games every now and then. I liked the Multiplayer in the new Call Of Duty, I enjoyed Destiny’s beta (but have yet to spend the time with the full release), and I did enjoy a few AAA games so much that they are now going to be listed below as some of my Games Of The Year:
Because you don’t let the budget of your game design the game for you
A first person Stealth-survival horror game with no auto-saves, limited resources, and an invincible stalking enemy that follows you through the whole game does not sound at all like what you would expect from a AAA movie-franchise based game, but that is what Alien Isolation is.
It is a genuine stealth survival horror game through and through. I had some of the most tense moments ever in a game just slowly huddling into a tiny cupboard, looking at my grainy green motion tracker, noticing that the tiny number is ticking down, then seeing the green dot come into the screen, seeing it get closer and closer, the beeps going faster and faster, then you see it, you see the Alien through the tiny holes of the cupboard lumbering around the room, making that distinct Alien screeching sound. You wait, and wait for what seems like minutes on end. And then the alien leaves and you are immediately encumbered with relief.
And then there’s the amazing faux ’70s technology retro futurism aesthetics, which was realized so well and so fantastically recreates the look of the original Alien, something which could have only been achieved with a AAA budget.
There’s an argument that smaller indie games usually are more adventurous and innovative with gameplay mechanics, artsyles, and storylines, but they lack the scope and detail of AAA games. While AAA games have massive scope and intricate detail, but they usually incorporate very safe, very conventional game design, artstyles, and storylines. Alien Isolation is a little bit of both, and that’s why I think it’s special. Sure it has it’s flaws: it’s way too long. And it oddly ramps up in very “gamey” ways (like how the androids suddenly become immune to electricity because they put on raincoats late in the game, among other things) but even so, Alien Isolation is fantastic.
Because sometimes borrowing ideas can be a great idea onto itself. “Good Artists copy, great artists steal” and all that.
The Playstation 1 was not an environment where Castlevania could succeed, specifically the old classic-style castlevanias. So Castlevania had to change from a simple, short but extremely hard platformer into to a more meaty experience with Symphony of the Night. Strider 2 didn’t adhere to that lesson, going for a more traditional design, which was sadly out-of-fashion when it was released in 2000. And it seems like it failed commercially speaking (I’ve yet to finish it, but so far it seems like a fun game. Maybe not as good as the original or Osman/Cannon Dancer).
So following Castlevanias path, the new Strider adopts a “metroidvania” design. And it’s not like there wasn’t a precedent made in the same series. Just like how Castlevania II on NES was a loose progenitor to SOTN, Strider did veer once before into similar territory with the NES version of the original. And this new Strider is well executed. The Power-ups are fun to use & work more than just “keys” to open up the next section of the map (see Castlevania: Mirror’s of Fate if you want a bad example of power-ups, some are LITERALLY just used to open doors). And the map design is large but always populated with engaging new enemies, new environments, interesting collectibles, and hidden areas. And once you’re near fully powered, you get that sheer awesome “metroidvana end game” feeling where you are just too powerful, and enemies that initially were so tough become mere weaklings. And the controls feel really nice, very reminiscent of the original (I love that Strider can mash his sword probably as fast as the player can input them).
The transition to a “metroidvania” design does make it lose a bit of the tight pacing and level design of the original arcade game (same thing was lost when Castlevania transitioned into SOTN frankly). Plus, having it be a metroidvania means you can’t have the globe trotting parts of the original, since it’s all taking place in one location. The music sucks, and the story is dull bad rather than insane non-nonsensical bad, like the original arcade game. And the same goes for a few of the boss-battles Still, it’s a great new adaptation of the series. And I hope a sequel comes up.
Because doing the things you know best, that everyone knows you do best, can be the best thing you could ever do!
I wrote most of what I wanted out of this in an Ello post a few weeks ago, so I think I may just link that here: