Here’s our take on the best video games of this year. We chose a dozen projects, which impressed us with visuals, stories, and gameplay.
You may be wondering, why does 80.lv even bother talking about favorite games. After all, we are a gamedev website and we mostly write about polygons, shaders and those lovely substances. However, our team enjoys playing games immensely, and we thought we’d share some of that love with our readers. Merry Christmas, guys and girls, and a Happy New Year!
12. Hyper Light Drifter
Hyper Light Drifter gives me that feeling of getting somewhere you’ve never been before. In some respect, it’s very similar to ICO. You wake up in some strange place, where human-like creatures battle strange beasts and speak incomprehensive language. Gradually you walk ahead, find ancient ruins, upgrade your character, learn new powers, fight colossal bosses and die, die, die constantly. It sounds like every other game, but the trick is that Hyper Light Drifter always keeps you wondering what’s around the corner. It’s a unique game, which throws you into some other reality and leaves you for good. It’s so fun to study this work, learn local legends and love it so deeply. Thanks, Heart Machine, it was awesome.
11. Dark Souls III
That’s quite simple. I’m a fan of Dark Souls. To understand the power of this series you have to like competitive sports, something like rugby or boxing. In this case the game is your rival and you have to beat it. It’s a battle to the death, where you constantly fall down. But the secret of great boxing is not hitting the hardest, but finding the strength to keep fighting. And when you finish Dark Souls III, when you kill the final boss and start the new game plus, you can’t feel nothing but utmost respect to your rival. And that’s what videogames are all about.
Playdead showed how you can play with gamers’ expectations. What starts as your average platformer gradually transforms into a mind-blowing horror. The greatest advantage of games is interactivity. Yet, few companies actually understand how to use it to make truly engaging and powerful stories. The developers of INSIDE really managed to capture that moment, where your interaction of the world and the changes you make has a tremendous effect on the way you perceive the story.
Finishing INSIDE leaves you with more questions than answers and yet you feel strangely fulfilled after the ending credits start to roll. This game presents you with a wild trip, which keeps you begging for more. An astonishing indie project.
INSIDE is a game that will leave you with tons of questions. Who is the main hero? What is his role? What is the final part about? This kind of secrecy is Playdead’s trademark style. There is another way to look at that game though. You can just focus on its beauty. Magnificent light, amazing sound work, atmospheric tricks like pouring rain – all of these elements make INSIDE one of the most beautiful games of this year. Its plot might leave some uncertainty, but you should still enjoy the cover.
9. Battlefield 1
Battlefield 1 is here because it shows how modern technology can change game production. With 3d capture and photogrammetry, DICE makes games like Battlefield 1 possible. It’s a real ‘meme machine’ with its flaming zeppelins and stealthy kills. Great to know that this immense game world with its variety and realism was actually crafted with the help of the best scanning technology the world can offer.
8. Pokemon Go!
This game deserves a special place in our hearts just because it introduced humanity to a new concept – walking. Pokemon Go! Drew hundreds of people outside, made their walks more meaningful and memorable, changed the way they treat and appreciate reality. This might not be the best game in the world (it sure isn’t the most stable), but it’s achievement lies in the ability to bring an extra level to our reality.
7. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Level design is the real star of Mankind Divided. Creating a place, which has more puzzles on a square feet than Myst, is a real challenge, but somehow Eidos managed to do it. The futuristic Prague with its segregation, it’s strange architecture, which blends modern sculpture into an ancient city, – it’s a perfect playground for ‘immersive simulation’. I guess, Deus Ex is in this list because it manages to keep this constant exploration, unlike Dishonored 2 it never feels repetitive and boring. It’s always a challenge. And that’s why I like it.
The second part of Adam Jensen’s story is all about variety. The dense world of augmented Prague gives you tons of possibilities to study its streets – you can choose stealth, be aggressive or just persuade someone. The game is a perfect puzzle that holds your attention on its countless pieces and brings satisfaction in the end. Mankind Divided is a true game development masterpiece – it would be really hard to remember a game world with this kind of density, and that makes the latest Deus Ex one of the best games of this year. Its technical part definitely deserves a standing ovation.
6. Banner Saga 2
With Banner Saga 2 Stoic managed to replicate the success of the original title and build on it. They’ve created a real northern adventure, that sort of takes you away into a distant forgotten world, with its own history, choices and consequences. It’s shocking to see and indie title, that mixes Disney-like animations, Final Fantasy Tactics-style combat and the brutal history worthy of J.R.R. Martin novel. It’s a magical cocktail that shows that games are capable of telling long, complicated and chilling stories.
After almost ten years in development, Owlboy finally arrived. I, like so many others, had my doubts about this game. But it really exceeded some of the most optimistic expectations. What Owlboy has is that old-school integrity, which games used to have back in the day. It’s powerful in its honesty. A real love letter to the pixel art days of old. Created by some of the best pixel artists in the world, this game will definitely become a staple of the modern indie movement, a monument to human dedication and love of video games.
A game to fall in love in. Really, it is. If Overwatch was a girl, you’d want to marry her. The visual style, the dynamics, the incredible character art – it’s all there. Unfortunately, after a while you do find a lot of toxicity in these relationships, but sometimes these things happen. With Overwatch Blizzard really took their craft to a new level. One of the best game development companies in the world proved, that they know their business better than anyone else.
You’ll probably hate this game for the first 100 hours. Oh, you’ll definitely suffer. Its visuals make it look kinda silly, but there’s a hard core inside. You’ll be searching for a favorite hero, telling yourself every damn time: this one is perfect. And then you’ll lose again. But that is okay. You’ll deal with this crisis and fall in love with Overwatch, because there’s so much in it. Blizzard is doing a great job developing the title – it gets so much updates that you have to come back every week. Overwatch is not the game of 2016 though. It will be there for decades.
Interview with Blizzard’s CGI-master David Luong
Henric Montelius: Overwatch-style Visuals with UE4
Technical and Visual Analysis of Overwatch
This is bold. Not as bold ad Virginia, but still pretty damn bold. You have to have balls of steel to make a game like that. Basically, an exploration simulator with two people constantly babbling about their problems. It doesn’t reach the social and personal hights of “Gone Home”, but it does its job right.
At one point when I discovered that closed scientific station, I really felt like I was playing the perfect game based on ‘LOST’ show. Then it went in the other direction, but Firewatch still managed to give me that powerful gaming moment!
And yes, having actually been at Boulder and visited the National Park there, I must say that Firewatch is still not as pretty. But it’s still prettier than most of the games released this year. A stylistic and visual masterpiece. Plus it’s short, which is always a good thing.
Firewatch evolves like some kind of conspiracy story – you feel like something is definitely wrong with this forest, like there’s some group stalking in the woods. But in the end it’s just a simple story about human relationships. It is a story that really hurts, a story about responsibility and human courage. The type of courage that makes you tell the truth. And that’s the greatest thing that could happen to this title.
I wouldn’t call Firewatch a game – it’s an experience. There are basically no gameplay tricks here. You just walk, take photos of beautiful landscapes and wait for another conversation with Delilah. And that model works great. Firewatch is like a book for the summer. I wish there could be more pages though.
2. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Before you play Uncharted 4, take a trip down the memory lane and play the first original Uncharted and then compare it to A Thief’s End. The things that Naughty Dog does today with computer graphics is nothing short of groundbreaking. There’s a ton of talks about the graphics in this game, but it’s only one of its advantages. The true value of Uncharted 4 for me comes from those first levels, where Drake is back home and spends time with his family. Personally, I wanted to stay at that home forever, go shopping, drive a car. The artists at Naughty Dog elevate the realistic look to some god-like levels with their art, creating a reality, which is 100% better than our own. Thanks for that.
Uncharted 4 is an eye candy. It is one of the most beautiful games today and you can’t argue with that. But that’s not the reason why I love the latest game of Naughty Dog. Uncharted has always been about magic between its characters. Every chase, every explosion and every beautiful location blows you away, but you come back for something else. You want another piece of Nathan Drake’s life. So, performance really does matter sometimes. Uncharted 4 is about sparks between Nolan North, Emily Rose, Richard McGonagle, Troy Baker and all the other magnificent performers. The fourth part is an amazing conclusion for one of the best PS franchises with the perfect finale for any fan. I would also say that Uncharted 4: Among Thieves is definitely the best game of 2016.
- Dive Into UNCHARTED 4: A Thief’s End Art
- Uncharted 4: Building Madagascar with Houdini
- Environment Art Tips From Anthony Vaccaro
- Game Programmer from Naughty Dog Talks Uncharted 4 Production Process
DOOM is a perfect game for me. It’s fast, brutal and beautiful. I was lucky to have the original DOOM as one of my first PC titles back in the day and till today it remained one of the most well designed games for me. With DOOM 2016 it’s no different. Bethesda and id Software applied the “no nonsense” approach. There are no tutorials, no cutscenes, nothing extra. It’s just pure fun. You run around (almost drive around, cause the speed is immense) like a maniac, kill demons from hell in a variety of violent ways and carry all your guns with you. What more do you want? I wouldn’t say that DOOM is the best game of the year, it’s just the best game for me.