No one sets out to make a bad game, yet it happens anyway. Things go wrong during development, the scope out weights the team’s efforts, the fun is lost somewhere down the line, or a myriad of other issues that leads to the result of a bad game.
The honest truth of the matter is: it’s all too easy for a bad game to be made. There’s too much stacked against them, the hype from elements perceived as intriguing by consumers and journalists, the financial commitment to develop something that meets modern standards of visuals and features. I don’t think we truly appreciate just how hard it is to make a good game.
What about great games, then? What measure of developer does it take to build these? I think the groups of people that manage to deliver an experience that you cherish are remarkable developers indeed, and their success should be vigorously celebrated. With that, then, I’d like to tell you about my personal top three games of 2017.
3rd – Yooka-Laylee
The N64 and original PlayStation consoles saw the birth of 3D platformers, and it didn’t take long for some true classics to hit those system. 2017 saw a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie release in the form of Yooka-Laylee, a love letter to the early 3D platformers with a focus on cute and quirky characters, collectathon gameplay, comical boss fights and themed worlds.
It’s a marvellous, nostalgic trip with enough collectables to keep you busy for dozens of hours, and indeed it’s that quest, that obsession to collect everything on offer, that drives the experience, further enhanced with achievements and trophies. And despite a combative camera and the occasional section of poor or obscure level design, it kept me entertained for weeks while I conquered every stage and searched every nook and cranny for shiny trinkets.
2nd – Resident Evil 7
Over two decades after the original Resident Evil title, Resident Evil 7 comes along and drastically changes the series’ style. The third person perspective gives way to first person, zombies and genetically modified monstrosities give way to a crazed family and organic clumps of mould, and the comically campy storytelling gives way to a tense atmosphere and serious character motivation.
The puzzles hark back to the original, and the primary location strikes a nostalgic tone with its intricate design, but now the horror is more real and frightening than ever before. The visuals are so splendidly detailed and grotesque you can almost sense the damp, the blood, the sweat and the adrenaline. Stick a VR headset on and the immersion becomes that much more engrossing.
This was a completely new take on the Resident Evil formula, making bold new strides in horror and storytelling while keeping enough familiar elements to appease long-term fans. This was a special title for me, drawing me in enough to command multiple playthroughs and scaring me enough to wear me out at the end of every play session. And with smartly designed DLC side stories to draw me back in, it became a title that stuck with me throughout the year, one that I enjoyed and indeed still enjoy immensely.
GOTY 2017 – : Dungeons 3
As the release of Dungeons 3 approached I suddenly became intrigued. I’ve been after a title that approaches the greatness of Dungeon Keeper for many years, and had been left wanting. Dungeons 3 looked like it might get the formula right, that perhaps it had learned from its previous titles, as well as from similar dungeon management titles, and made the jump to something as enjoyable as the original Dungeon Keeper from the early 90s and yet featured precisely the modern refinements we all expect. Indeed, Dungeons 3 meets that hope.
Fourth wall breaking humour galore, dungeon building that’s smart and expansive thanks to a well implemented upgrade tree, and that special something to place it apart from Bullfrog’s original dungeon management marvel: RTS style gameplay in the overworld.
Indeed, Dungeons 3 nails the dungeon building and the humorous atmosphere, and while its performance is a little patchy on console it’s still hugely entertaining, with enough content to keep you engaged for countless hours, and a challenge in not only building an efficient dungeon for your creatures and to decimate any invading heroes, but also to then lead your army of creatures in combat in the world above. It’s excellent and I couldn’t stop playing it until every single achievement was mine.
I think of the aforementioned titles as great examples of the year’s best games and then I recognise that there were so many more that I haven’t had the chance to play yet, such as Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Horizon Zero Dawn, Cuphead and Super Mario Odyssey, and I’m reminded: don’t think that a small group of dedicated and thoughtful people can’t make an impact in this industry, because it’s the only thing that ever has.