Ben’s 2017 Year in Review: Not My Top 10 Games

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As usual, I am planning on doing a Top 10 list for the year. I know it is a played-out format that some people really dislike, but I enjoy the competition behind the thought-process. Some will say that it should be enough that there are 10 games that stood out above all the others in a given year, but comparing the strengths and weaknesses of those games is actually a good way to reflect on my time with them all. It’s not about bashing a game, but figuring out what exact impression a game left on me in comparison to others that I’ve enjoyed.

My 2017 Top 10 is still a work in progress so I figured I would take this time to talk about some of the year’s games that I already know won’t make the list. This is far from a “Worst of 2017” sort of thing, but it’s also not necessarily a “Runners-Up” deal either. These are games that I put a substantial amount of time into this year, to the point that I think they’re worth breaking down as far as how my experience with them went and why they might have fallen short when compared to my favorite titles of the year. Without further ado, here are not My Top 10 Games of 2017.

What Remains of Edith Finch

Edith Finch was such a conflicting game for me. I really loved a lot of the game’s individual moments. How it told the tragic history of the Finch family through often fantastical stories, while slowly revealing that the stories themselves perpetuated their tragedy was a really great approach in my opinion. In many ways it’s a brilliant game, and one that I’ve come to like more as I’ve had more time away from it to ponder everything it does.

There is still something about the main story that felt rushed to me, though. Edith’s development as character just didn’t feel completely earned to me, perhaps because she’s such a blank slate as you play. Her role in the game is merely to react to the stories, and walk to the next one. So at the end when you need to care the most about her, I just felt rather hollow. You’re made to care the most about the Finch family, but the game pulls the cord out just as Edith started to really feel like a part of it.

Still, this game just barely got nudged out of my Top 10. I still recommend it, if more for how it stays with you rather than what it does in the moment.

Little Nightmares

While this game definitely captured Steve’s imagination, I just remember sort of breezing through it. There’s a style that the game absolutely nails, but it’s not one that really stuck with me like Inside or Limbo. It’s a more childlike sort of horror compared to those games, and there are some real cool moments in there. Aside from a few perspective nitpicks, the game plays fine and I would say it pulls off what it’s trying to do. It just didn’t grab me like similar games where I felt a real puzzle-solving satisfaction when I learned a new way to interact with things or where I’m discussing the experience and picking apart every detail of the world to get greater insight into the story.

I played it and enjoyed it, but it didn’t motivate me to go deeper. It’s a solid short story, but probably not one I see myself going back to.

Destiny 2

How the hell did I get duped into buying Destiny 2? Or perhaps the better question is, how have they been able to make a game I can put 20 or so mostly enjoyable hours into that still leaves me feeling like a moron for buying it?

Somehow they pulled it off.

The shooting feels really good, the setting has plenty of potential, and getting a friend or two together can be a solid co-op experience.

Then the game runs out of stuff to do in a really abrupt way. It runs out of new enemies, it runs out of missions, and it runs out of events. This would be disappointing but understandable for other shooters, however Destiny 2’s whole structure is about keeping that world alive. It runs out of the things the game needs to stay interesting in the endgame, but they want you and your friends to keep checking in and doing stuff. You can get your power level up, but outside of the raid you can only get access to the same tedious content that’s just made a little harder.

Everything about Destiny 2, on paper, speaks to a competent shooter, but I’m convinced there’s something fundamentally broken with how they have built it, in that they can’t maintain the momentum for even a fraction as long as they had hoped to. Their promise then that “the 1st expansion would fix that” did not interest me at all. Sure, this game isn’t some busted business venture like Battlefront II, but the last impression it left me with was this feeling that something is seriously flawed with what originally started as such grand vision from Bungie.

Hollow Knight

This game still baffles me. At times, I’m baffled by how people like it so much, and at other points I’m baffled at how much I don’t. For many, this is a sleeper Game of the Year contender, and it had all the tools to be that for me. The art style and animation is top notch, the combat and platforming is tight and responsive, and the bleak, corrupted world you explore is really fleshed out.

This makes Hollow Knight probably the best game that I didn’t actually enjoy playing in quite some time.

I like challenging games way too much for my health, but Hollow Knight crossed the line into just being exhausting for me. I can handle losing to a tough boss, or a tricky platforming challenge, but Hollow Knight just doesn’t flow well for its difficulty. Exploration is the core of the game, but getting around was always a massive pain in the ass. Sometimes this is because the map can only really get filled in when you find the map-maker hiding in each area (or if you miss him, having to run back to the hub area), but there’s also the fact that too many of the rooms in this game look similar with very little distinguishable landmarks between them. So you’re constantly pulling out your map to make sure you’re heading for the right exit in every area, which is just slowing you down more. The game just doesn’t flow well, to me. Getting around in an exploration-based platformer needs to feel good and I hated damn near every minute of it.

This was really captured by how environmental hazards didn’t just damage you, but also threw you back to a checkpoint so you had to constantly redo what could be either pretty tricky or pretty tedious platforming sections. For a game that already does the Dark Souls approach with death, adding unnecessary repetition on top of it was just a nightmarish and genuinely infuriating design choice. In the end you get some abilities to nullify some of those hazards, but most of the game you’re getting constantly knocked back while you hope there’s a save point and not just a boss on the other side of every acid pit.

What ultimately got me to finish the game was simply my stubborn nature. I had put way too much time into the game to let it beat me, but I honestly never wanted to stop playing a game more this year.

I actually do like that its design worked for so many other people though. So much work clearly went into Hollow Knight, and there is so much obvious talent on that team. For me, though, Hollow Knight was mostly just a massive test on my patience. Still, if I start making a “Best Game I Didn’t Actually Like to Play Award” every year, I hope I remember to name it after this game.

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