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2016 Top 5: Honorable Mentions

I think we can all agree, no matter what you’re beliefs are, 2016 was a pretty shit tier year.  One thing that was great about it though, were the video games.  It’s hard not to look back on this past year and not remember some great games.  While it wasn’t a year of franchise makers and new IPs, unfortunately, it did see the rise of some new ideas, the revival of more than one long running series and several games that managed to break the Duke Nukem Forever curse.

What’s great is that nothing just showed up at the end of the year.  This was a year jammed wall to wall with great releases, from January to December, and it was actually legitimately difficult to narrow the number of games to 5 this year.  Hell, it was hard to narrow them down to a top 10 and still feel like I managed to get in a word about every game I loved this year, because there were a lot.

A few new rules this year.  As usual, I only choose games that I have played.  I try to put in games that I have completed, but there was no way I would be able to finish some games in the time span I’ve had them available to me.  Also, X-COM is really, really hard you guys, and I don’t want my friends to die.  So, there are two games on my top 5 that I didn’t fully complete, but I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on them.  Second, as much as I would love to put Blood and Wine on this list (minus stupid bullshit final boss), I’m putting my foot down and saying no DLC, no matter how good it may be.  Blood and Wine was hours long, well made, and deserves praise, which it will get in this series of features, but I can’t put it on the top 5, nor does it get to be an honorable mention.  Third and finally, I’m expanding the Honorable Mention this time.  There are a bunch of games I want to give a shout out to, but they just didn’t make the cut.  Everything that gets put on that list could have easily been on the top 5, some might actually be better games than my top 5 picks, so they deserve some recognition.

Before I begin, I want everyone to know, my top 5 picks are simply the games I liked the most.  Not that I thought were the best games (although that does apply to my Game of the Year), or the most innovative, or the games I played the most, because World of Warcraft: Legion is terrible and doesn’t deserve to be on this list, but it’s still not Most Disappointing.  They’re just the games I liked the most.  Also, this year, the list will be in the features themselves, so my Game of the Year will be revealed Friday.

Honorable Mentions


Copyright Id Software and Bethesda Softworks

Doom 2016 was amazing.  I was expecting a wet fart, especially after the bullshit surrounding the lack of pre-release reviews or anything, but what I got was one of the best shooters I’ve played in years.  It finally brought back the awesome run-n-gun style of the original games, plus the ability to melee kill demons to get health back, chainsaw for ammo and the absolute disregard for the asshole in charge the Doom Slayer has is fucking kick ass.  The only downside, I felt, was that there were too many “arena sections” in the game, and like Wolfenstein: the New Order, the higher difficulties were more about dealing with attrition than actual difficulty.  Still, I bought it at full price and loved every second of it.


Copyright Ubisoft

It shouldn’t have been good.  There’s no reason why Watch_Dogs 2 should have been as good as it was, but here we are.  Watch_Dogs was a game so bad, that when UPlay ate my save file midway through, I was happy because I didn’t have an excuse to keep playing.  Watch_Dogs 2, however, features a much more likable cast, a much cooler protagonist, better music, better controls, better use of hacking, much less focus on “vehicle stealth,” which all make for a much better game.  The story is sort of unclear, with jumps and cuts from clearly missing content, but over all, it’s a better game.  It does have a lot of the same problems every other Ubisoft Open World “stealth” game has, but it’s one of the better versions of that sort of thing.


Copyright Telltale Games and Warner Brothers

It’s hard to dislike a Batman adventure game made by Telltale.  As usual, they pack a lot of great stuff in here.  Unfortunately, my PS4 got stolen before I could finish the game, so I’m unsure how well the game works after part 3.  Still, the new mythos was fun to play around in and the story and voice acting was great.  I didn’t think Troy Baker could match Kevin Conroy, but here we are, in a world where I will say that.  It’s a little limited as far as interactivity goes, and some of the twists seem to be more for shock value than anything else, but still, it was a fun game, and well made.


Copyright Heart Machine

A game I only got a chance to play very little of, but I loved every second of it I played.  Honestly, it would have made my top 5, had I gotten a chance to play more of it.  It’s an excellent game, and I definitely should find the time to sit down and actually play through it.

Anywhere, there it is.  The number 5 game will be revealed tomorrow.


Second Verse, Same As the First Dishonored 2 Review


The eighth generation of consoles has been a strange one, so far, in possibly one of the worst ways possible. The seventh generation had a lot of issues with identity, all of which are still pouring into this generation, but it’s been made worse by the fact that so many releases this generation have lacked any real identity of their own, often rehashing ideas that worked so well for the past five years. It’s not that everything actually is the same, but that sentiment is definitely there. Dishonored was something new. Sure, it was similar to other seventh generation console games that it was an attempt at revitalizing an older game in the genre (in this case Thief, as compared to Bioshock’s System Shock 2 revival), but it had its own identity and language, and was something unlike anything else we were seeing at the time. With its freeform approach to gameplay, it was easily one of the best games that had come out in years. Now, Dishonored 2 has appeared, four years later, and it’s definitely something positive. Unfortunately, it really is very, very similar to the first, feeling almost entirely iterative, instead of a brand new game. An excellent new entry, and tons of fun to play, but it does very little to address the original’s flaws, nor does it do anything particularly new on its own.

Opening up fifteen years after the first game, Dishonored 2 sees the bad guy from the first game’s excellent DLC, Delilah Copperspoon, declare herself to be the lost sister of the first game’s murdered empress. She takes the throne and sends Emily (or Corvo, for those who just want to the game to EXACTLY like the first game) on a quest for justice or vengeance, depending on how many people the player decides to kill. Once again, the player uses magic to jump around a steampunk/aetherpunk fantasy world, mixing stealth and first person combat, finding novel ways to dispatch enemies and judging whether power and revenge are worth the corruption that inevitably come along with it.

Much like the first game, Dishonored 2 plays excellently. The controls, while not flawless (in fact, they’re probably a little busy, especially on the PC), are serviceable and do a good job of moving Emily or Corvo around. They definitely don’t get in the way, and serve to give the player tons of options in how they’re going to deal with any particular part of the game. Combat, stealth, infiltration and misdirection are all viable options at literally all times in this, meaning that no matter what playstyle the player chooses, it’s going to be catered too. More importantly, like the first game, the game’s dynamic approach to player action means that no one version is going to be more viable than the other. Some might complain that the extra guards “punish” players who focus on combat, for example, but in reality, what it does is it gives the player more opportunities to use those skills, rather than having to deal with some sort of default.

It also does improve over its predecessor in giving out those extra options. Nonlethal players, for instance, are going to find more options, especially for Emily, who has powers that will allow her better misdirection, or stealthily eliminate multiple people at a time without seriously harming them. Plus new changes to melee combat makes it so a nonlethal player can mix it up without save scumming, as a stunned opponent can be choked out in the middle of a fight, or just use as a human shield. All of that is very cool, but it is unfortunately the only things that are new.

Much of the game is very much a reshash of the first one, and if the player decides they’re going to continue on as Corvo, it feels more like a mission pack with Corvo now giving his commentary on the game (and the decisions the player is making). Sure, the levels look quite different, and have possibly even a better design than in the first, but the language is still the same. There’s nothing particularly new added to the game, and that’s distressing.

Sure, playing as Emily is a lot of fun, and she has tons of new abilities, many of which are a lot more interesting than Corvo’s. If anything, her spell suite is much better suited to the type of game that is being made than Corvo’s (which is just literally the spells he had in the last game, which makes sense given the lore of the game), and that’s wonderful, but that doesn’t mean that it makes anything particularly new. On one hand, this is understandable. The ethos of the last game was to give players tools to play the game how they want, and that’s exactly what they have done, and it’s even been expanded upon with new tools and spells that better serve that type of game. On the other, it also means that it’s more of the same, and the series does little to progress. Of course, it’s difficult to see where they can take the series without feeling like it’s just a mission pack, or feeling like a completely different game all together. Even an overhaul of the stealth system to more focus on lightning, shadows and sound sounds almost like it’s too much and too little at the same time. Maybe another game away from the Kaldwin’s might not be a bad idea, someone with a completely different set of spells.

They’ll still probably need something like Blink. Blink is basically what makes this game work. Even Emily’s version, Far Reach, is more or less the same. Blink is almost to this game as jumping is to Mario Brothers.

Still, despite it being “more of the same,” that’s not a bad thing. Dishonored was a wonderful game, with some flaws, and while those flaws are still there, it also means more Dishonored. It’s hard to say no to that.

Defining Property

In the future, and by future I mean within the decade, we’re going to have a serious discussion about what property in a digital, post-scarcity era means.  We’re going to have to determine how much control the purchaser, the original IP creator and the distributor has over a piece of data and how much of what we own, we actually own.  This is something that’s going to be fought out in countless legal battles over the next several years, although the current batch of “no lawsuit!” EULAs that are making the rounds may delay this, but not for very long (months at most).

Like I said last week, it’s easy to determine what is a person’s property when they can hold up a physical disc or tape as evidence of purchase and there’s very little another party can do to stop them from using it, even if that other party is the distributor or original creator of that disc.  Obviously, with a piece of data, something that can only exist within another physical product and cannot be held up with the same physical scrutiny of an object that can be held in a person’s hands.  In other words, it’s clear I own my iPod, but how much do I own my copy of Iron Maiden’s “Piece of Mind” that resides within the iPod.

Sure they look innocent, but this is where the battle began

The general expectation is, of course, what I paid for I own.  Yes, some things are licensed or rented, but that has to be determined right when money changes hands and can’t really be imposed afterwords.  This is what makes the overly restrictive DRM and last second EULA changes so odious to the consumer, since it feels like something illegal or at least malicious is happening, but no one is doing anything about it.

Take a look at the rumors of people being locked out or Origin accounts for being douchebags on the forums.  Granted, some of these people are being assholes on a public forum and that’s not a good thing, but if they are really being locked out of their games for things they are doing away from the game, it’s going to feel like someone is jerking a legitimate consumer away from their stuff through extra legal means.

I have a feeling this is going to become my new "Jean-Luc"

Plugging users into these inescapable elements like DRM or Origin may work for these companies in the short term, but I have a feeling that it’s going to become an albatross around the necks of these companies before too much longer.  There are a lot of people interested in the nature of digital property, and restricting it so far has led to mass amounts of piracy.  It’s also clear the current business model employed by media distributors probably isn’t going to work as long as digital media becomes more and more popular.

What needs to be done is that consumers and developers need to have a long talk about what constitutes right of ownership.  This is something that needs to go beyond copyright, because while the creator certainly has their right to get paid, the consumer is clearly not a passive consumer when there’s an exchange of money going on.  Things are already getting heated on both sides and continuing a drawn out war of words is not going to be healthy for anyone, and if big companies continue to try and impose old school market techniques on a brand new market, they’re just going to get their ass handed to them, SOPA, Protect IP, etc. be damned.

That’s not going to be good for anyone in the long term either.  We’re already seeing tons of piracy and an over-reaction to said piracy, which is creating bad blood among even legitimate consumers.  Boycotts and mass piracy probably aren’t going to topple any big companies, but it can do some damage to smaller or more esoteric projects if things don’t improve on either side.  Both sides need to be striving towards a more productive future, which will require both sides making concessions, because this fighting can’t really be sustained.

Writer’s Block

For the past couple of months, I’ve alluded to my writer’s block as the reason for my long spaces between posts and erratic update schedule.  Even on weeks when I could or did update regularly, it would be at odd times or late at night or something.  Granted, it’s not all been writer’s block, a lot of it is just me wanting to play World of Warcraft, but the fact I can’t get up here and just write something like I used to has been weighing extremely heavily on me.

I mentioned in my post back in August about how World of Warcraft helped heal my wounds that I had lost almost all desire to write.  Even now, I find it difficult to want to write something.  Part of it is because the Supreme Court decision next month has been weighing on my mind (and makes me question whether I’m wasting my life), but mostly it’s because I’m having a very difficult time being coming out and being honest about myself and my writing when I fire up the Cluttered Mind word processor.

For two years, I worked as a journalist at a small town, unnamed, newspaper.  It was the most soul crushing job of my life, worse than my tenure at Wal-Mart, and a lot of the pain from it was self-inflicted.  I sat uselessly in the news room, not wanting to write because the desire to do so had been torn out of me.  My romantic dreams of writing like Clark Kent had been dashed away and I saw the news room as drudgery and boring.  I know this isn’t necessarily the fate of all news rooms, but it was mine, and it was the most disturbing moment of my life.  It would be like the Pope waking up tomorrow morning knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there was no god.

For the past few months, I’ve come back to writing as a means of enjoyment.  Before my tenure at the newspaper, ideas would spring unbidden into my mind at any time, and for two years, my imagination was silent.  These ideas have returned to me, but it’s slow and a lot of them feel hollow, like I’m trying to force my mind to work.

The first time I really felt joy at writing again was last Saturday.  I was running my first Dungeons and Dragons game in months, something I had been itching to do for a very long time, and I felt my mind buzz with activity again.  Meeting with my player’s separately about their characters and where they wanted to go was bliss.  I saw where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do and what I could do with my canvas.

In turn, this has given me a weird insight into myself.  It’s not really the suffering that’s making me a better writer, nor is writing any kind of salve, but that I have to really be honest to enjoy what I write and if I force myself to just write, it’s going to suck.  It’s a lesson I should well know, and one I’ve learned be fore (and will likely learn again).  I’m just glad it doesn’t hurt anymore when I fire up my word processor.

Suddenly, my junior year of high school seems so much weirder

This is going to be a short little rant tonight.  It’s late and I’m preparing to write something kinda big for tomorrow about something I saw on Kotaku.  Anyway, enjoy my confusion.

I think I can officially say “I’m too old for this shit.” At least, I can say it about something.  For anyone too lazy to click the link (or just hover over it), it’s a link to the Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers reboot comic, which is coming off of the heels of Darkwing Duck reboot comic and suddenly, I’m reminded of 2003 when the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out and late 80’s retro was all the rage.  If a comic book about the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers comes out, I’m going to be officially freaked out.

So yeah, this is a weird feeling.  It is now officially my childhood that is being mined for those sweet, sweet nostalgia bucks and I am a little weirded out.  I mean, sure, I was born in the mid-80’s, so GI Joe and Transformers and what have you were part of my childhood, but I’m not old enough to remember when they were new.  I remember when Chip ‘n Dale started and now I’m seeing the last retro launch in a whole new light, and it’s very strange.

I kind of feel like a hypocrite, since I loved the relaunched TMNT, while at the same time I’m asking myself if the world really needs a new Darkwing Duck.  I thought Disney said all they needed to say about Darkwing back in 1995 but apparently it’s getting an ongoing series.  And while the writers at 4Kids did do something with the new TMNT series, I’m right, I am a hypocrite, because the whole thing was designed to cater to fans of the series and was just a simple marketing gimmick to sell some more Turtle toys and I’m going to be this is the same thing.

It’s weird to see this from a whole new light.  I wonder if it means I’m old enough to say “get off my lawn.”

Before I go for the night, I found the new video from MC Frontalot, Spoiler Alert on Kotaku, along with tour dates.  Austin is the closest to me, and that’s way too far away.  A quick warning, the song is full of spoilers, for, like, everything (even the 1980’s!), so be warned.

Just phoning it in tonight

OK, I’ll admit.  I couldn’t find anything I wanted to write about tonight, except about the end of exclusivity for Mass Effect, but I just wasn’t feeling that post.  Now, it’s almost midnight, and I’ve got nothing to show for it.

Fortunately, io9.com delivered for me with a link to this hilarious video.  It’s called “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” and it’s about exactly what it sounds like.  Yes, it’s definitely not work safe without headphones (and even though it’s youtube, it’d probably be best to turn the monitor away from anyone).  Be sure to check it out and I’ll try to get something better for tomorrow.  Later.

It’s Over

Not the blog.  No, actually, I’ll probably be updating more frequently now.  I’m referring to a specific chapter of my life that ended today.  During that time, I suffered with some serious depression issues that I don’t really want to get into, but they’ve been helped out by playing lots of World of Warcraft.

I started playing back in December and I hit 80 about a month ago.  I had a write up about my character (Human Warlock) complete with a character background (which has changed slightly) and some personality traits.  I’ve kind of treated the game as if it were a favored Dungeons and Dragons character and that’s really helped me deal with a lot of issues that have been plaguing my life.

I kind of have a problem when people dismiss certain types of entertainment as mere “escapism” as though only certain types of people flock to a type of media and that this media is bad because people use it to escape their lives.  It’s not really true.  Sure, it probably is for some people, but most people just want to do or see something exciting without actually getting shot at, and I honestly can’t blame them.  I would rather play Uncharted 2 again than actually be in a building when a helicopter blows it up with a missile.

The thing about WoW is that it was kind of the opposite of escapism for me.  It really helped re-find myself after months of self-imposed isolation.  Like I said before, I created Aethereon as a D&D character, complete with a story, a personality and a goal and he grew over time.  I’m a writer and I was at a period when I really didn’t want to do anymore writing.  I wasn’t about to burn my notes and delete my word processor, but I felt that writing, my passion, had become a chore.  It was boring and soulless and left me with none of the joy I used to have for it.

Accidentally, Aehtereon’s ongoing tale of redemption and justice helped to rekindle the passion I had for writing, building characters and creating worlds.  I began to make connections to each quest, come up with reasons for each goal he set out for.  By chance, I was building a story of a man rebuilding everything he had lost after he destroyed it.  There was a narrative here that I didn’t expect, which came out of no where.  I want to take down the Lich King and run around with Aethereon, the Kingslayer over my head just to show off and prove I kicked the crap out of a pretty tough boss, but I’ve got a personal stake in it now because I’ve made Aethereon into something more than just a blank avatar to do cool shit with.  Arthas destroyed Aethereon’s homeland, divided his friends and broke the one young man who saw good in him a long time ago.

Through this odd D&D/WoW/Fictional character, I’ve rediscovered my passion that I thought I lost a long time ago.  I really had forgotten what it was to put my heart and soul into making something.  It’s not perfect, or even all that well written, and yeah, it’s basically just a fanfic, but it gave me back a gift I didn’t think I had anymore.  In a weird way, it also brought me closer to my real life friends and family.  Yeah, I know I talk about the game way too much, but it’s weird, but my desire to write has really made me want to see people I thought I had left in the past.

Different things do different things for different people.  I like that.