AfterStory’s Top 10 Games of 2017

2017 was a meteoric year for gaming, arguably dishing out some of the best titles the medium has seen in decades. Release upon release of exceptionally crafted works of art, 2017 flipped preconceived notions of established franchises, while pushing boundaries of creativity with precariously novel IPs. While 2017 had its fair share of shade –  it further cemented the toxic implementation of loot boxes and microtransactions – 2017 managed to maintain a pristine shine of quality, despite the ever growing culture of filth that has surrounded this beloved medium. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is an unpolished, yet addictive multiplayer experience that rightfully took the world by storm with its heart pounding action and unpredictable encounters. Nier: Automata, while not the underrated masterpiece fans claim it to be, is an exuberant experience with the foundation of a masterpiece, as technical and design limitations hold it back from further greatness. What Remains of Edith Finch is arguably the most diverse and entertaining walking simulator to date, with a sense of gameplay variance that is unprecedented for the notorious genre. ARMS is a surprising gem of local multiplayer goodness, crafting one of the best motion-controlled experiences to date. Seeing the release of two games that effortlessly entered my “favourite games of all-time list” and the copious amount of diversity and quality released throughout this illustrious year, 2017 will forever be remembered as  the best year of the current generation, a personal favourite of mine that continuously exceeded my expectations. Without further ado, below are my favourite games of 2017.

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Top 10 Video Games of 2017 (Game of the Year)

Here we are. The big one. Game of the Year.

Naming the best video game to be released in almost any given year is a pretty challenging endeavor – I say ‘almost’ because some years, like 2012, kinda suck in the video game department (I’m sorry, how else can you explain Journey winning so many GotY awards for 2012?). This difficulty is doubled, maybe tripled for a year like 2017. Despite some questionable directions the video game industry went into during the year (I’m looking your way, Battlefront II), when was the last time a year had so many stellar releases beginning right out the gate all the way to the tail end of the year?

Seriously, 2017 was a hell of a year for video games! It was like BOOM! Awesome game! BOOM! Awesome game! BOOM! Awesome game! It was murder on the wallet, but worth every penny.

With such a high watermark of a year now in the history books, the year’s best game must be named. Traditionally, I have acknowledged my top 5 games of the year. But for a year as exceptional to the medium as 2017, I had to up the ante to a full-blown top 10!

The following are the ten games that I feel stood out the most among the many greats of 2017. A number of notable titles barely missed making it on here (PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, for example, snagged my “Best Online Multiplayer” award for its intensity, but it lacks the polish of the ten games I’m listing here). I haven’t reviewed all of the games I’m about to list just yet, but I hope to get around to it. Also, as I always state when making such a list, these are my feelings for the moment, so if I later appear to change preferences to what I list here, that’s not necessarily a contradiction. Opinions change. The only things set in stone here are the top two.

Also of note is that, despite being one of the best games of this (or any other) year, I have exempted Mario Kart 8 Deluxe from this top 10 for the obvious reason that it’s a re-release. Same goes for Crash Bandicoot.

Now with that out of the way, my top 10 favorite video games of 2017!

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Why Are There Two Splatoon 2 Reviews?

You may or may not have noticed that the last two posts on Wizard Dojo were reviews for Splatoon 2. Two different reviews, but for the same game and with the same basic title (“Splatoon 2 Review.” So clever).

If you’re wondering why that is, it’s just because the first one was written by AfterStory’s Alex, while the second one was written by me (which hopefully you noticed by the author boxes at the bottom of the reviews).

Why have two different reviews for the same game? Well, why not? When Sir Alex sold his soul to me became part of the Dojo, we both agreed that we’d review whatever games we wanted to, even if the other already reviewed it. That way, certain games can have a “second opinion” thrown in for good measure (I, for example, plan on writing my own reviews for Persona 5 and Nier: Automata sometime down the road).

But why did we call them both the same thing? Well, truth be told, both of us agreed for second reviews for games to be referred to as second opinions. But Mr. AfterStory, kindly fellow that he is, didn’t think my reviews should be deemed “secondary” on my site (though I personally don’t mind).

So yeah, there is a Splatoon 2 review from both of the current authors here at the Dojo, but do you, my beautiful readers, have any suggestions for what we should refer to repeat reviews? Should they just have identical titles just because? Or should a second review be referred to as a second opinion, or something else entirely? Feel free to offer any suggestions.

Splatoon 2 Review

When Splatoon was first revealed at E3 2014, it made quite the splash. Not only was it Nintendo’s first major new IP since Pikmin some thirteen years earlier, it was also the big N’s take on the shooter genre. When it was released in 2015, Splatoon was every bit the breath of fresh air we hoped it would be. By tossing away the usual violence, weaponry and “dark, gritty” nature that’s usually associated with shooters, and replacing them with squid/kid hybrids who shoot colored ink at each other in battles to determine which team can make the biggest mess, Nintendo made the most self-cannibalizing genre in gaming feel new again. Splatoon ended up being one of the few Wii U titles that would go on to become a Nintendo staple. But does Splatoon 2 – released a mere two years after the original – manage to replicate that sense of newness?

The short answer to that is yes. Though Splatoon 2 doesn’t radically change the experience, it adds enough new features to help give it some identity of its own. And the original Splatoon was fresh and original enough, that even when Splatoon 2 is veering in more familiar territory, it’s still not overly familiar.

Splatoon 2 follows the same basic format as its predecessor: Players take control of an Inkling, which can use weapons to shoot ink in their humanoid form, and swim in ink colored surfaces for fast travel and reload in squid form. Players are immediately thrust into the city of Inkopolis, which serves as the game’s hub. In this hub players can purchase new weapons and clothing with the points they earn in online matches. Each weapon comes with a secondary weapon and a special weapon, the latter of which is slowly built up as you ink the ground during a match. Clothing, meanwhile, provide various passive bonuses (faster speed, secondary weapons use less ink, etc.).

Some may lament that every weapon is fixed with a specific secondary and special. But like the original game, it helps keep things balanced, with the less versatile primary weapons compensating with the more powerful secondaries and specials, and vice versa. Splatoon 2 wants players to try out different sets and see what works for them. More specifically, what works for them on different specific levels.

This brings us to one of Splatoon 2’s more questionable design choices, as it retains the first game’s already limited matchmaking options. Splatoon 2 features three primary modes of online play: Regular Battles for casual play, Ranked Battles to increase your rank, and League Battles, where you can team up with your friends.

Regular Battle sees two teams of four Inklings vying to paint more of the map their ink color than the opposing team in matches called Turf War. Ranked Battles work in rotation with three different match types: Splat Zones (essentially King of the Hill, where the team who can keep a designated spot their color the longest wins), Tower Control – where teams try to maintain control of a mobile tower to reach checkpoints – and Rainmaker, which is akin to capture the flag, and sees the team’s fighting over the titular Rainmaker weapon to take it to the opposing team’s base.

It’s already a bit of a bummer that Regular Battles are confined to Turf War, and that the different modes of Ranked Battle are dictated by rotation, but what makes the matchmaking even more limited is that the levels themselves are also on rotation; with two levels available to each mode for two hours’ time. It’s understandable that Nintendo wants players to choose their weapon set based on how they wish to play a given level, but it’s less understandable that the players don’t even get any say-so as to which  of the available levels they’ll play. Instead of player votes determining a stage, the map is randomly selected. And with only two available options at a time in any given mode, expect some repetition during play sessions.

There is a new co-operative mode included in Splatoon 2 called Salmon Run, in which players work together to fight off waves of enemies (called Salmonids). Salmon Run is a great addition to the Splatoon experience, but it comes with a glaring caveat: it’s only available at certain designated times! It’s a baffling limitation on what is otherwise a stellar new mode of play.

“The single-player campaign features surprisingly memorable boss fights.”

Like its predecessor, Splatoon 2 also features a single-player campaign, which takes the Splatoon gameplay, and throws it into something of a 3D platformer, complete with collectible goodies. The single-player mode is actually a lot of fun, and is an improvement over the campaign from the first game, with some clever level design, boss fights, and a stronger connection to the multiplayer modes, as you can now find items that may earn you double experience points or coins obtained during matches.

Aside from the game modes, the biggest difference between Splatoon 2 and the original game is that this sequel has a much larger array of weapons and clothing to purchase. That may not sound like a whole lot, but some of these items can change up the gameplay considerably (the “duel pistol” weapon type allows you to perform a rolling dodge, for example). With more weapon types and bonuses at play, Splatoon 2 keeps things feeling fresh, if maybe not surprising.

Splatoon 2 is an exceptionally fun game. It retains the addictive, unique gameplay of the original while adding a few tweaks and improvements. And to top it off, the game includes a rocking soundtrack and decent amount of 90s-style attitude that differentiates its tone from other Nintendo franchises. But Splatoon 2 also carries with it the baggage of the original, most notable of which being the extremely limited matchmaking options. And although the new weapons, items and modes definitely make Splatoon 2 stand out from its predecessor, they only do so to a certain degree.

Splatoon 2 is an improvement over the original, but more in a vein similar to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was to Mario Kart 8. That is to say that Splatoon 2 – great as it is – feels more like like an enhanced version of Splatoon, as opposed to a full-blown sequel. Though again, the uniqueness that Splatoon brought to its genre is still fresh enough that the similarities aren’t a major complaint.

It may not reinvent what Splatoon started, but Splatoon 2 proudly carries the torch of the series with meaningful additions and improvements, making for what is probably the best modern multiplayer shooter not called Overwatch.

 

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Splatoon 2 Review

Ink-credibly off the hook!

The original Splatoon on Nintendo’s underappreciated Wii U, was a fresh coat of paint to the banal online shooter realm, and a remarkable testament to Nintendo’s ability to branch off from their established repertoire of success and comfortability. Its unadulterated addictive nature cultivated one of my favourite online experiences in recent memory and its easily accessible structure outweighed any notable limitation, especially since the Wii U was Nintendo’s inaugural foray into the online space of gaming. Nintendo’s sequel to the colourfully delightful shooter is arguably the most fun I’ve had with their hybrid console and is without a doubt the best online game I’ve played all year. Splatoon 2 might only implement incremental changes to the formula, but notable design contributions polish this exquisite sequel off to a pristine shine. The moment to moment gameplay is riveting and polished to a glorious T – evoking an imperative sense of cooperation and variance -, the gear system is revamped to accommodate idiosyncratic playstyles, its inherent addictive bite-sized nature is retained on all fronts, and it’s all wrapped up in a gorgeously vibrant world that is oozing with Nintendo’s renowned sense of charm. The newly introduced cooperative mode, Salmon Run, is a welcome addition to Splatoon’s addictive repertoire and is arguably the best mode in this glorified sequel. While Splatoon 2 has its fair share of notable and subtle improvements, it still manages to fumble every now in then, with similar discrepancies that hindered its predecessor. Seeing how the Nintendo Switch has been a prominent device that restores the remnants of local multiplayer goodness – as is such with the excellent Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and ARMS – the absence of any form of split-screen multiplayer in Splatoon 2 is a tragic missed opportunity to say the least. Despite notable disappointments, Splatoon 2 is still an excellent sequel that embraces the fundamentals and success of the original, while adding a few variances here and there to spice up the formula. Splatoon 2 is easily one of the best games of 2017 and is undoubtedly the freshest online experience that Nintendo has cooked up.

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