GameLuster GOTY – Trevor, Kianna, and Sean

Trevor Whalen’s 2017 GOTY Picks

5.) Cuphead

Cuphead’s contribution is that its visual and auditory art style keeps you going despite difficult gameplay. You’re willing to play the same boss battle a thousand times in a row because the animations and tunes are magically nostalgic. You don’t see games in this style. Playing it, I was taken back to my couch as a kid watching all the old Warner Bros. cartoons. Bullet hell games are ones I ignore, but the appeal of Cuphead’s style might have been my gateway into the genre; or I may just be looking forward to Cuphead 2.

Incrementally figuring out and passing each phase of a boss battle until you finally achieve knockout is very satisfying. I fell victim to “just one more time” about a thousand times in a row.

4.) Quake Champions

I loved Quake Champions as soon as I started playing because it gave me exactly what I wanted from it: Quake III in a new engine. You can tell as soon as you start that id and Bethesda have nailed the feel down. The champions and their unique active and passive traits add a little “Nu Quake” flavor, but it’s still undeniably Quake III.

I’m not pro-good, not even close, but I loved the feel of Quake III back in the day, even if I mostly enjoyed it fighting against bots. I’d love for bots to be added to Champions, but for now I’ll put up with the stiff online competition for the sake of Quake III fun.

Only in Early Access, Champions nonetheless first became playable this year. I participated in the closed beta and bought the Early Access pack as soon as I could. I main Ranger and the rocket launcher, and the newly available Keel could become a new favorite.

Bonus points for Quake 1 references and unlockable Quake 1 gun models. And scrags; I saw scrags! That gets my GOTY right there.

3.) Resident Evil 7

I am a first-person horror enthusiast. When I see an immersive horror game set in the first-person perspective, I check it out and salute the developers at least for their intention of making this kind of game. Blame my passion on being a student of the Thief games.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a favorite of mine; games like Layers of Fear sit in my backlog, me eagerly wanting to play them. Resident Evil 7, for being in first-person, immediately drew my interest. I did not nor will I ever understand apologies made for the first-person perspective. Such a perspective does not imply a first-person shooter. How this misconception grew so, I will never understand. This, however, is another issue for another story. For this one, the issue is Resident Evil 7’s success as a thrilling first-person horror title, and that this nets it a spot on my top five list.

The new perspective enhanced the horror. Seeing enemies suddenly walk around corners or, in the case of the Bakers, appear out of nowhere, grabbing Ethan by the throat, was more terrifying in first-person. The new setting’s southern horror overtones was another fresh element for the series, though not as essential as the perspective change.

At the same time the series changed, it also returned to roots. Once you’re looking for pieces to put together an item to open a door, or fumbling with scorpion- or snake-coded door locks, you feel original Resident Evil vibes. As a fan of the original RE as well as the first-person perspective, RE7 won me.

2.) Prey

As noted in my review, I went into Prey not knowing what to expect. I had not followed the game’s pre-release coverage and only knew it was sci-fi and had hybrid shooter-with-powers gameplay. That it was developed by Arkane is the only reason it was on my radar.

It began without much of great note, but then I picked up the wrench, broke the glass, and suddenly was in System Shock 2. Not literally, of course, but the game dripped with the ethos of one of my three favorite Dark Engine titles.

The Talos I lobby did it more than anything else. I saw dead bodies on the ground looking up, with arms reaching out and frozen screams on their faces, just like so many corpses in Sshock 2. I picked up audio logs. I heard Mick Gordon’s boppy, atmospheric sci-fi soundtrack bouncing off the walls of Talos I, reminding me of Eric Brosius’ boppy, atmospheric sci-fi soundtrack bouncing off the walls of the Von Braun.* I had hacking; an extensive skill system of aptitudes; the ability to sneak by enemies if I so chose — I was in a reincarnation of a longtime, super special favorite.

It’s rare to stumble into a spiritual successor to one of your top favorites – to experience again the magic of a beloved game. That’s why Prey is on my list. It’s my System Shock 3 until Otherside completes the actual System Shock 3.

The terrifying Typhon and fun GLOO Cannon are also huge pluses. This is an excellent game.

*Josh Randall and Ramin Djawadi are also credited on Sshock 2’s OST.

1.) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

This game went beyond my expectations. I expected a console version of A Link Between Worlds, 2013’s A Link to the Past flavored, open-ended Zelda game. What I got was an unapologetically open open-world design and a new style of Zelda, beyond an imitation of ALttP, signaling a journey into uncharted territory for the series.

The world is your sandbox, and you aren’t forced to do much anything, leaving exploration and experimentation up to you. I once paused to think, why am I still bothering with these shrines? Then I remembered that the orbs won from them allow me to extend my health or stamina. If I don’t want to bother with that, I don’t need to bother with shrines; from this realization came a rewarding sense of freedom (I kept bothering with shrines).

The first major area I went to was Gerudo, and this was a result of me stumbling upon it while exploring. My brother had started in a completely different area and didn’t come to Gerudo until real late. Our stories for Link’s adventure would vary quite dramatically.

BotW is open and filled with things to do, but what you do is mostly up to you.

It’s also difficult; really difficult. I doubted whether I was playing a Zelda game as I kept dying, again and again. I run from enemies as much as challenge them, especially whenever I encounter one of those frightening guardian creatures.

BotW gets my top spot mainly for surprising me. Ever since A Link Between Worlds, my personal favorite game of 2013, I’ve wanted a console version of it. I expected BotW to be that, if not a “Zelda Scrolls” experience. What Nintendo created is neither of those, and is just as fun and enchanting as if it had been either of those.

This is an important game before being a great Zelda title, and it’s my Game of the Year for 2017. I don’t know what to expect from Zelda now, so many formulas having been broken.

Kianna O’Sullivan’s Most-Played Game of 2017

Overwatch is a guilty pleasure that I just can’t seem to shake off. In fact, instead of playing all the new and exciting games of 2017, I found myself loading up Overwatch time and time again.

What kept me coming back to Overwatch was the temptations of new playable heroes. Every time I read online about a new hero, I couldn’t resist trying them out myself. Once I did that, the game’s smooth gameplay and fast pace, and my friends already being into the game, would drag me back in for months to come. The competitive system is another aspect of the game that keeps me hooked. There’s something so fulfilling about watching your skill rating increase, especially so when you jump up tiers. I always enjoy the little improvements they put into the game’s ranking system and competitive gameplay each season. I’m a sucker for customization, so the cosmetic aspect of Overwatch is just another addictive quality to add to the list. I love working for that cute event skin to show off in games.

One day, I’ll finally put this game down for good, but that day won’t be for a while.

Sean Pyle’s 2017 GOTY Picks

2017 was a great time to be a gamer, and the year was drenched with quality titles around every corner. However, five titles stick out as particularly compelling.

1.) NieR: Automata

While not perfect in its execution, Automata‘s ambitious nature plants it firmly as an experience that can only happen in a video game. The game’s intense story and soundtrack (my personal all-time favorite) cements it as my favorite game in a historically incredible year. The heartbreaking, nihilistic tone evoked by (the perhaps insane) Yoko Taro makes me excited to see where he goes next. Glory to mankind!

2.) The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild is a victim of recency bias with so many good games coming in close proximity to this discussion, but Nintendo’s complete rework of its classic franchise absolutely kills it. The transition into open-world gameplay is seamless, and despite lacking the memorable dungeons of past entries, BotW is an all-time great Zelda game. BotW is based on a physics system that “just works,” and this change gives players a rare level of autonomy, one that revolutionizes the series in a way nearly as significant as its foray into 3D with Ocarina of Time.

3.) Super Mario Odyssey

Odyssey is, pound-for-pound, one of the best games of all time. I had a smile from start to finish while exploring the sandboxy worlds of Mario’s latest outing, and I desperately hope Odyssey‘s mechanics are revisited via either a sequel or significant DLC. I can’t go back to a world without Cappy, as the transformation mechanic breathed life into a series that recently has seemed to be going through the motions. Like every other title on this list, the soundtrack slams; the Cascade Falls theme may have dethroned Good Egg Galaxy, in my book.

4.) SteamWorld Dig 2

Even though I hate the term Metroidvania and think a better descriptor of such games should eventually be coined, SteamWorld Dig 2 is a shockingly great entry in the genre. With tight platforming, countless secrets, and a beautifully woven together world, SWD2 is a must play for anyone interested in platforming-based exploration. The need to dig deeper will consume anyone who plays SteamWorld, as the allure of the next upgrade is always too much to resist.

Indie games, unless they “blow-up” à la Undertale or Stardew Valley, always run the risk of going under the radar. SteamWorld Dig 2 deserves better, and if you haven’t played it yet, do yourself a favor and dig through some rocks.

5.) Persona 5

I prefer Persona 3 and 4, but 5‘s polish and style reinvent the JRPG genre. Many quality-of-life improvements and an exhilarating acid jazz soundtrack serve as a beautiful gift wrap for a solid anime story and the classic gameplay that Shin Megami Tensei has featured for so long. Despite the characters not grabbing me like games in the series’ past, Persona 5 is an elite JRPG and a compelling showcase that Japanese developers are still producing games with elements that the West can’t entirely emulate.

2017, in my opinion, has joined the elite company of 1998 and 2007. Next year has something astounding to live up to, and here’s hoping the gaming industry continues to trend up.

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