Games. The reason we all hang around this water-cooler of a website, and one of the best mediums of entertainment next to books. This year has been a treasure trove of different games, and gaming controversies. But at its core, what matters more is the games themselves to me-school took up so much of my time I haven’t gotten to play them as much as I have wanted to and it feels good to get back into them. So let’s have a look-see at the standouts this year for me, and why.
GOTY-The Witcher 3
I love Fallout 3. It’s my favorite game of all time, bar none.
Odd way to start out talking about the Witcher 3, but it’s to contextualize my opinions on games and help later explain why Fallout 4 isn’t at the top of my list despite my love for it.
Anyway, this year I faced a hard choice for what would be my GOTY. Fallout 4 was looming in the distance and I knew I was going to love it to at least some degree, but I also had the Witcher 3 on my games played and it’s a really good game as well so I wondered which would win. And even with the relatively small amount of Fallout 4 that I have played, I have to give it to the Witcher 3.
My first experience with this series came with the Witcher 2, which I bought on deep discount. I played it and despite its awkward combat I fell in love with it. The world was interesting, the political intrigue was enthralling and the lore of the world made me want to dive deeper. I played through the whole thing on my relatively young PC in 2012/2013 if I recall correctly and had a blast. So a few days before the Witcher 3 came out, with good reviews in hand and a discount thanks to my ownership of the previous two games-the first of which sits in my daunting backlog of games-I preordered it. That’s not something I do often, due to the inherent risk of preordering and the lack of real benefits, but CD Projekt Red has earned my trust through GOG and I believed it to be worth a shot. And generally I was rewarded-but there is something that makes me unlikely to preorder from them again, and that’s the manipulation of graphics.
Before we get into the game proper, we need to talk about the graphical fidelity issues the game was found to have. This game looks gorgeous-it’s probably one of the best looking games so far but its trailers look better and a bit more shaded than the final product. Whatever your stance on it-they did respond here so you can take that into account-I believe they deserve flak for this decision. If anything because of the trust I put in the company, I demand more than from other teams and lying about graphical quality is a shitty thing to do regardless of how good you are as a company.
The game was also buggy, had weird graphics issues and the hair works feature was too resource intensive to use. However, CDPR acted like champs in this arena, patching it often, adding in features requested by players and generally listening to player concerns to make the game better as time went on-a damn fine showing. Stuff like that and the free DLC program is why I like this team so much, and despite the graphical downgrade it’s why I think they are generally trustworthy-though said downgrade hurt my trust and I hope to not see it happen again.
The game proper is gorgeous, a beautiful massive world that’s really fun to explore and has several different climes including the amazing Skellige. Enemy designs range from some more common enemies to weirder types of creatures from different mythologies and some stuff lifted straight from polish folklore creating a pretty diverse array of monsters to fight. The witchers are cool as well, with interesting designs and an upgrade system based on the fact that they are mutants-a concept I enjoy quite a bit being someone who enjoys concepts of genetics and what not. The music is beautiful, and the voice acting-except for Triss, whose voice actor doesn’t do the greatest job IMO-is generally spot on, even if Geralt’s drunk voice is….weird.
The mechanics of this game are also improved, with combat having more variety in its options and controlling much more smoothly than the previous game. It plays well, and the game can be quite challenging against tougher enemies. Combat is really fun, and I like how you basically think like a witcher-preparing oils for your swords, drinking or prepping potions and getting specialized spells ready. It’s all very tactical and unlike other fantasy RPGS I felt like a professional-a detective of sorts and someone who put a lot of planning and thought into their cases. It’s a feeling few other games seem to replicate, and it really helps push the idea of witchers as professional monster hunters, as opposed to some games where you just run in and hit things until they’re dead, with little finesse or strategy.
The story is interesting and has some really interesting plotlines, forcing you to make some difficult choices and creating situations where shades of grey replace binary black and white. It’s a fun tale and even if there are some obvious plot points it’s generally a great story with interesting characters and results. It’s a great game, well put together and well presented, and a satisfying conclusion to the series that leaves me hopeful for the next series CDPR decides to tackle. It’s an amazing game and personally of all the games I played this year, I think it’s the best.
I got Fallout 4 all ready and set up on the 25th, and I have played it almost every day since. I love it so much in so many ways, even in ways I didn’t expect. The gameplay is rock solid, the mods and community building is fun as hell, the world is dense and full of interesting stuff, the game looks good and feels like an evolution of the visual ideas of Fallout 3 brought to beautiful fruition in a better graphics engine that allows them to look even more aesthetically pleasing and so far I think its amazing.
But it has its problems for sure, and honestly I can’t overlook its issues enough to label it as GOTY. I’m almost certainly going to write up a full review when I feel comfortable but as of now even with the fun I’ve been having there are glaring issues.
Fallout 4 evolves several of the concepts of the previous entries, and even uses ideas from mods-like sprinting eating up AP which is really cool. I appreciate a company that looks at what works, and what people might want in the next game by the mods that gain prominence. But unfortunately there are some devolutions as well, and seeing them in this game is concerning. The dialogue system in the previous Fallout games was great-it was functional and allowed speech checks so that you could get rewarded for putting points into, say, science and use your knowledge to unlock more dialogue. It also let you ask several different questions and was laid out well, allowing more information and conversation paths to be gleaned from any given conversation.
Fallout 4 has a voiced protagonist, and I fear that may have caused the game makers to make one of their bigger mistakes-dumbing down the dialogue system. I don’t mind the voice actor conceptually, but the layout of the voice options and the fact that there can only really ever be four means you don’t know when you’re moving the conversation along or asking questions. It reduces the options and variety of conversation, there are no checks for skills and it dumbs down the dialogue system.
Not showing everything your character is going to say when you pick a response is terrible design, and I feel that the handling of the dialogue system here tried to fix something that wasn’t broken. The RPG elements have been dumbed down as well, and in a bad way. Now your S.P.E.C.I.A.L. traits unlock perks, reducing your character customization further and dumbing things down to a degree I don’t care for. It’s not world ending, but it makes the game feel less personal and less like an RPG-and less like its superior parent Fallout 3. Despite my ranting, I still love Fallout 4 but I feel that this stuff needs to be checked before the devolution of the RPG elements goes too far. And these and some other issues are why I think Witcher 3 is ultimately my GOTY, though perhaps time will tell.
And thats part 2 of my games of the year! I wrote a lot more than I expected so this blog will wrap tomorrow, so you can see what I thought of the rest of the games I played! Thanks for reading!