With the end of the dumpster fire known as 2017 nearly in the books I thought it might be a good idea to throw in my two cents for some games that came out this year. Before anyone starts yelling at their screen or at the other fine gentlemen, Jess, and Tony that make up the NGPDX crew I want you folks to know this is specifically the opinion of me (Jeff). I also think it’s worth noting that unlike most of the other crew, I don’t currently own a console so this will be a very PC heavy list.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Look, I know I’ve already talked extensively about this game on the podcast but it is worth another mention. I have seen this on a few lists as an honorable mention for best cinematic game and even in the conversation for GOTY; while I think it definitely deserves a win for the former, I am not crazy enough to think that it’s going to be even on the short list for the latter. This is a game that while amazingly immersive and cinematic it still falls short in a couple of categories. Most glaring is it’s linear quality, and while I am a gamer that loves a good story (which this game has in spades) I am also a gamer that doesn’t like being given minimal options from which to experience that story. The only other gripe I have is the simplicity of the puzzles in the game. While I don’t recall a game that uses the mechanic we see here when paired with my previous gripe it makes these puzzles way too easy to solve.
The virtues of the game are many and have already been talked about in our “Extra Life O’Reilly” episode so, if you want a full accounting definitely check that out (and tell your friends). I will reiterate a few things though. The first screen you see upon turning this game on is a notice that it is best experienced with headphones. Do not ignore this, with headphones this is a singularly immersive experience. Another thing that catches your eye in the first few minutes is the fact that Ninja, the lead Dev for this game, hired both mental health and historical advisors and it shows. The last thing I’ll mention is the fighting style which like a few other Ninja titles is easy to learn but very hard to master. Just challenging enough to be controller throwingly frustrating, but man when you come to the end of a particularly grueling boss fight you are going to want a cigarette.
Life is Strange
Yes, I know that this game did not come out this year, but it’s prequel did and that’s gotta' count for something. This is a game published by Square-Enix and developed by Dontnod. A smallish French game company that brought us the futuristic action adventure Remember Me in 2013. Both games use a similar time travel mechanic which really makes these games satisfying for completionists like me, but while Remember is fast paced and requires fairly good hand-eye coordination Life is Strange is a slow burn of a teenage noir that puts me in mind of the movie Brick. It is based in an entirely fictional Oregon coastal town called Arcadia Bay, and comes along with many of the tropes you would expect: A rich family of jerks, requisite mean girls, helpful hunky mentor, all the things that set this game up for a very specific audience. I will tell you though, that if you like a good story and a game that makes you pay for your choices you will like this game no matter what. Another thing to mention about this game is its episodic nature, making it easy to try and fairly cheap to purchase outright in most cases.
The pros that really struck me from the beginning and are incidentally carried through to the recently released Life is Strange: Before the Storm is the amazing and fitting soundtrack, the underscored yet thoroughly engaging character development, and last but not least the achievements. I am certain I just heard a collective groan, but for those players like me that are into that kind of thing this game does not disappoint. I like to try and keep all spoilers out of my reviews so I will just say that the plot of the game while predictable in parts is definitely rewarding to those that finish. Give it a play through, it is a pretty quick game and will give you all the feels…multiple times. I Highly recommend both titles!
Written by: Jeff O'Reilly - Content Producer
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