While I did not take the time to track every game released for console, PC and dedicated portable game systems in 2016, I am fairly confident that the total is over 1,600 and possibly as high as 2,000 (US.) According to research firm, SuperData, the total dollars spent on PC and Console gaming, worldwide, was close to $70 billion. These are some BIG numbers (not completely believable/verifiable… but BIG.) While every gaming website is now in the process of giving you their “Best Of” for the past year, I have always thought that these compilations were bogus. No matter how big the site, they simply can’t cover all of the games released, and those that they do cover are split up among a handful of editors/game reviewers.
So, while they may have fairly educated opinions, they are just that – opinions – based on those games that they did play and ignoring the ones which they did not. So, at the end of the day, what they are really giving you is their list of favorites – not the “Best.” My list is admittedly very personal, but I believe no less educated. While I estimate that I probably played 200 or so of the new games on offer for the various platforms in 2016, I have whittled that down to the 25 that I enjoyed the most in 2016. The list is chronological and not based on any empirical rating system. In addition, there are games, like Civilization VI, that are from genres that I simply do not play – if it has anything to do with “RTS,” “turn-based,” or “world-building,” I am out. So, no matter how great they might be to those that enjoy that particular genre, they are not going to make my list.
They’re what I like, because they’re what I like – no definitive recommendations made and no apologies offered. I am guessing, however, that a number of these can be found on your lists as well.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (PC)Publisher: Square-Enix Developer: Crystal Dynamics/Nixxes
Although released originally in 2015 for Xbox One and Xbox 360 (and my favorite game of 2015), I couldn’t wait to come back to Ms. Croft’s latest adventure when it was released on PC in January. Why? Well, first of all, it’s a great game that deserves to be played more than once. Secondly, Nixxes, the developer responsible for the PC port, was kind enough to patch the game for Stereoscopic 3D. SOLD! You haven’t lived as a gamer until you have experienced ROTTR in breathtaking 3D!
Firewatch (PC)Publisher: Campo Santo Developer: Campo Santo
February saw the release of this compelling Indie title and the story, sense of isolation and developing relationship between your character and the mysterious woman at the other end of your radio combine to make Firewatch one of my most memorable gaming experiences of 2016.
SUPERHOT (PC)Publisher: SUPERHOT Team Developer: SUPERHOT [...]
It wasn’t a particularly strong week of sales on the VGChartz Top 10 (USA) for the week ending 7/2/16, but the game at the top of the list, “Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” is a great one that should have long legs and see a big bump as we move to Q4 and the holiday season. In other news, there was a dead platform siting as the PlayStation Vita version of Aksys Games’ “Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma” squeezed its way onto the bottom of the list. Yeah… I’ve never heard of them either… Looked them up – localization specialists located in Southern California. Who knew?
Best-Selling Games (USA) for the Week Ending 7/2/161. (PS4) Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2. (PS4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 3. (Xbox One) Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens 4. (Xbox One) Overwatch 5. (PS4) Star Ocean V: Integrity and Faithlessness 6. (PS4) Overwatch 7. (3DS) Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma 8. (PS4) Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End 9. (PS4) Grand Theft Auto V 10. (PSV) Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma
The Sales Force is Strong with This One!
I have a few new titles on my playlist this week. In particular, I have been revisiting Digital Extreme’s “Star Trek” from 2013 – a game that I have enjoyed very much, in spite of a few technical issues here and there (the prospect of seeing the new movie gave me the push to go back to it.) I am also taking “The Assembly” for a VR spin (totally not required that you play this one in VR, but the goggles were just sitting there…), and am satisfying my inner sadist by attempting to solve the puzzles found in the indie game, “The Eyes of Ara.”
The AssemblyPublisher: nDreams Developer: nDreams Version Playing: Oculus VR Current Price: $29.99 ($19.99 for the non-VR version) Original Release Date: July 19, 2016 Strengths: Some interesting mini-games and puzzle solving, dueling narratives Weaknesses: VR pasted on – not necessary to the gameplay experience, VR default control scheme Metacritic: 55 (Based on two reviews) DaveTheCritic: 75
The game follows two different characters with two intersecting narratives as the player tries to discover what exactly is going on in this research facility. Caleb Pearson and Madeleine Stone are both unwitting victims of The Assembly’s master plan and it is up to you to help them discover the truth in the first-person adventure that can be purchased/played as a traditional game, or in its VR version. There is literally no reason to play the game in VR and it is not particularly well-implemented – so the $10 addition to the game’s asking price is unwarranted. Otherwise, The Assembly is s solid, if unspectacular adventure with a few interesting puzzles.
The Assembly – A VR Adventure That Does Nothing with VR
The Eyes of AraPublisher: 100 Stones Interactive Developer: 100 Stones Interactive (Ben Droste) Version Playing: PC/Steam Current Price: $14.99 Original Release Date: July 19, 2016 Strengths: Interesting architecture worth exploring, easy mouse-only navigation and gameplay Weaknesses: Like all games in this genre, puzzle-solving frustration can lead to a lot of hunt-and-clicking Metacritic: NA DaveTheCritic: 82
“Myst”-like games are tough to pull off in this day and age. You need to get the balance just right – puzzles can’t be too easy or too difficult. You need to get navigation right – it has to be first-person with at least a modicum of real-time movement, clicking from static background to static background is no longer acceptable to the modern gamer. And, you have to have a great setting with a strong sense of place. Doesn’t sound easy, does it? Well, a developer named Ben Droste, in the guise of 100 Stones Interactive, has accepted the challenge and has delivered a very compelling entry in the genre, entitled “The Eyes of Ara.” It will make you pull your hair out at [...]
It was seven years ago this week that EA and Bright Light Studios released “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” – a game that has few fans among the gaming media. While the Lego Harry Potter games are the easy choice for HP fans, that doesn’t mean that the less well thought of games are without merit, and HBP is case in point.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrincePublisher: EA Developer: Bright Light Studios Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2, PC Release Date: June 30, 2009 Worldwide Sales: 2.2 Million Units Metacritic Rating: 64
There is so much that is wrong with EA and Bright Light’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that you are likely surprised that I am even bothering to discuss it at all. The gameplay is repetitive. The voice acting is spotty, with the young woman voicing Hermione Granger being particularly irritating. In the attempt to (loosely) follow the film’s plot, the game’s pacing becomes stilted and unintentionally comical. And, in spite of relying on the source material, there are holes in the plot that shatter the narrative to pieces.
So… why is it my favorite (non-Lego) Harry Potter game? Because the one thing that the developer got right, they got very right – Hogwarts Castle itself. If you can manage to ignore the rinse-and-repeat nature of the dueling, potion making and Snitch chasing, and instead focus on exploring Hogwarts and making use of the various Charms at your command to secure the 150 Hogwarts Shields scattered throughout the castle, and accomplish the various tasks that require you to trod across the hallowed grounds, you can have a very good time based solely on the sense of discovery.
While Bright Light did make an attempt at building Hogwarts in their previous HP game – “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” it was incomplete and featured a camera that failed to immerse you in your surroundings, but that instead made you feel detached from them. In HBP, the third-person camera effectively tracks Harry (and Ron and Ginny, as you play as each of them for a short time) as you hold down the right trigger while manipulating your controller’s right stick (all console versions with the exception of the Wii.) There is no loading as you navigate the castle and it is beautifully rendered. While the story has been altered to allow for the idea that Aurors have closed access to certain parts of the castle when the game begins, eventually all areas become accessible and the whole of it is as big and meandering as you have been lead to believe by the films and books (neither of which ever had to actually build the fictional castle in its entirety, BTW.)
If you are a gamer (of course you are – why else would you be here?) and a fan of all things HP, I encourage you to seek out any of the Gen 7 console versions of the game, or the PC version (all available [...]
If I am to be completely honest with myself, E3 2016 was a disappointment. Between the announcement of Neo and Scorpio introducing the new three year console life-cycle and the parade of game trailers for games that have not announced release dates (God of War, Spider-Man, Death Stranding, etc.), it was like the major players were effectively saying that the games industry is done with 2016.
Of course, this is not the case and there are a number of good (potentially great) games coming between now and the end of the first quarter of 2017. Whether any of them are going to be better than the best that we have seen so far since last holiday season (Rise of the Tomb Raider, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, The Climb, Ratchet & Clank comprise my short list), remains to be seen (although I am predisposed to believing that Dishonored 2 will give these titles a run for their money.)
In any event, the following games are those that stood out for me at the show, with the qualifier that they had to be scheduled for release no later than 3/31/17:
Dishonored 2 (Bethesda: 11/11/16)
Batman: Arkham VR (WBI: 10/13/16)
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo: Early 2017)
Mafia III (2K: 10/7/16)
Horizon: Zero Dawn (SIE: 2/28/17)
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (WBI: 6/28/16)
For Honor (Ubisoft: 2/14/17)
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Square-Enix: 8/23/16)
Batman: The Telltale Series (Telltale: Summer 2016)
WB Games just released a new gameplay trailer for “Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The game, scheduled for release on June 28, 2016 in North America and Europe, is looking really, really good and seems to be closer to what Star Wars gamers really want than what “Battlefront” or “Disney Infinity” have been able to deliver.
TT Games is at it Again, and it Looks Like They’ve Hit All the Right Buttons
There is no slowing down the Lego train.
The latest LEGO-based video game, “LEGO Marvel’s Avengers,” has, according to my sources, quickly amassed approximately 500,000 unit sales (physical and digital) worldwide. The game was released on January 26th (NA)/January 27th (EU), for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC/Steam, Wii U, 3DS, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PlayStation Vita – and this figure reflects sales through the first week of February.
I have a friend in the industry who refers to the LEGO games as “gaming comfort food” and I can’t think of a better way of accounting for the continued phenomenon. While, on the surface, the LEGO games are designed for the younger gamer, their appeal doesn’t end there. For core gamers, you are given extremely popular universes/IP’s to explore/interact with (Star Wars, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Batman/DC, Marvel, Jurassic Park – the list goes on and on), and you know what you are getting, in terms of style and gameplay, when you purchase one of the LEGO games.
In spite of the ease of gameplay and the basic lack of challenge/no real threat of dying/loss to most experienced gamers, many of the games in the LEGO canon are actually the best on offer from the IP’s on which they are licensed (Harry Potter and Star Wars spring immediately to mind.) And, there is just something basic, and slightly visceral, about virtually assembling those little bricks and enjoying the wide variety of gameplay on offer in the various titles, and the trademark LEGO sense of humor.
There is no question, given LEGO Marvel’s Avengers early sales success, that WBI and TT Games have, once again, struck gold – this one will be selling long after the next big one hits…
Yeah… “LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on June 28th – wonder how that one will do?!
And the Hits Just Keep on Comin’!
Early today, Warner Brothers Interactive announced the June 28th availability of “Lego Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” – available on all current platforms.
For those of us that a) love Lego games and/or, b) were disappointed that Star Wars Battlefront lacked a significant single player/story component, this is exciting news. Heck, I haven’t finished Lego Marvel’s Avengers yet and those crazy cats at TT Games are already cranking out another one – the Force must be with them!
You can watch the teaser trailer below, and the official announcement here.
Coming Soon to A Retailer Not Too Far, Far Away
Day three of “My Favorite Things” focuses on my obsession with “The Boy Who Lived” – in the form of my favorite Harry Potter-themed game, “Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7.”
Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Developer: Traveller’s Tales Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC Original Release Date: November 11, 2011 Metacritic Rating: 78 Worldwide Sales: 3.3 MM
My wife and children will tell you – I am one of those Muggles that have a very well-developed affinity for all things Harry Potter. I have read all of the books multiple times, have seen all of the movies in theaters (including Deathly Hallows, Part 2, where I stood up and screamed when Mrs. Weasley ended Bellatrix Lestrange… much to my wife’s chagrin), own all of the Blu-rays (including Deathly Hallows 1 & 2 in 3D), have a few t-shirts and an action figure and, most importantly for this feature, have played EVERY game (and every version of said games) tied to the franchise.
While the games have been hit-and-miss affairs and most are average at best, there have been a few standouts for me – “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince”, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” and the Lego Harry Potter games for Gen 7 consoles and PC. While “Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4” is every bit as good as 5-7, I find that I go back to 5-7 more often – not so much for the gameplay, which is virtually identical in the two titles, but more for the emotion found in the later books and films that make the game that much more special.
Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 just gets everything right – the Hogwarts castle, its grounds, Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley, the Burrow, London, the Ministry of Magic… all of it – and captures the spirit of the books and films in a way that the non-Lego games did not. While most of the other HP games attempted to depict some or most of these locations, it is 5-7 that really makes you feel like you are getting the complete Hogwarts experience, as well as the majority of the other iconic locales.
And, of course, there is that classic Lego gameplay, which just happens to be a perfect fit for the magic and spells inherent to the Harry Potter world. In addition to casting spells, dueling and building and repairing objects, the game offers so much replay-ability and exploration. Like any Lego game, the challenge is not really in the combat, building or puzzle solving, but in achieving 100% completion. Again, this is another area where the HP license and world really shine as who doesn’t want to have ANY reason to explore Hogwarts or Diagon Alley? Whether you are casting Expelliarmus to disarm Draco Malfoy, using Reparo to repair a broken statue, casting Expecto Patronum to fight off Dementors, flying your broom over London or ducking past Mrs. Black under your [...]
It is day four of ICG’s “Star Wars Week” and we continue our countdown of my version of the “best” Star Wars video games, with a look at my 2nd favorite Star Wars game of all-time.
In many Ways, Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga is the perfect Star Wars game (so much so that it narrowly loses out to my all-time favorite on what basically comes down to a coin toss, but more about that tomorrow), although not the best Lego game.
Lego Star Wars: The Complete SagaPublisher: LucasArts Developer: Traveller’s Tales Original Release Date: 11/6/07 Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC, Mac Genre: Action/Lego Metacritic Rating: 80
The game has everything – all six Episodes, all of the characters you love, hand-to-hand, blaster and Lightsaber combat, the ability to pilot both ground and space vehicles from the Star Wars universe, that great early Lego game pantomime humor… everything. In addition, it built the foundation for what we now refer to as “couch multiplayer” in the Lego game universe with split-screen two player action that could be frustrating at times, but that made up for it by giving fathers and sons their dream come true – to fight side-by-side against the Empire. Combining both “Lego Star Wars: The Video Game” and its sequel, “Lego Star Wars 2: The Original Trilogy,” and adding a few new wrinkles to the mix, the game offered hours and hours of entertainment for the entire family. There is no doubting that consumers agreed, as the game has sold over 15 million units during its lifetime, on top of the 15 million or so units that the first and second installments that make up LSWTCS chalked up.
As I prepared for our Star Wars week and revisited all of the games, playing The Complete Saga again rekindled my love for the game. While I play all of the Lego games on a semi-regular basis (particularly the Harry Potter and Batman games), I had not played through LSWTCS for a few years and I can say that it has not lost one bit of its charm or playability. It’s been eight years since the game was released and this compilation was based on a game engine that first appeared in 2005 when the first Lego Star Wars was released. How many games that are 10 years old can look and play as fresh as they day they were first available?
Answer – not very many!
If you are hanging out with some of the younger members of your family over the Thanksgiving holiday, you could do worse than spending some time with this classic playing, building and laughing – this is what games are all about. Besides, it would be a great way of getting warmed up for “The Force Awakens!”
Star Wars was the First Franchise/IP Licensed by Lego for Video Games and Still One of the Best!
There is no debating the fact that Lego Dimensions is an expensive hobby/habit/obsession. The Starter Pack is $100, Level Packs are $30, Team Packs are $25 and Fun Packs are $15. There are currently four Level Packs available (with two more announced for Q1, 2016), four Team Packs and 24 Fun Packs currently available or announced. If I am doing my math correctly, that comes to a $680 investment if you are a completionist.
Bringing me to this conclusion – Lego Dimensions is not a game, it is a content platform.
It is also not the first. The roots of this trend can be traced back to the Call of Duty franchise’s Season Pass (and all of a similar ilk that followed), Disney Infinity, Skylanders, Everquest, World of Warcraft, etc. What makes Lego Dimensions different, however, is not just the framework for Warner Brother Interactive’s business model, or the toys that are at the heart of the platform (Disney Infinity and Skylanders had already pioneered that effort), it is the combination of the creation/building of the Lego toys in concert with their digital use within the game. They are not just statues, but interactive playthings that can be modified, adapted and combined in the physical world to change the game in the virtual world.
WBI and Traveller’s Tales (the developer of all the Lego franchise games to date) have placed such an emphasis on the physical manipulation of the digital game that the majority of that $680 that you could potentially spend would be for the traditional Lego component of the game and not for the traditional video game – $460 of the total, and that doesn’t include the traditional Lego pieces/sets contained within the Starter Pack and Level Packs.
And don’t think that they haven’t considered every penny of the potential ARPU (Average Revenue per User) in developing their platform – in no mission, Adventure World or Level Pack can you achieve 100% completion without characters, vehicles and objects that exist in the other franchises’ universes.
That being said, there is also a tremendous amount of value and entertainment to be had for your dollar. In addition to the Starter Pack’s main story mode, there are also large Adventure open-world hubs that exist for each of the franchises (currently including DC, The Lord of the Rings, Scooby Doo, Back to the Future, Dr. Who, The Wizard of Oz, Ghostbusters, Jurassic World, The Simpsons, Portal 2, The Lego Movie, Midway Retro Arcade and two Lego franchises – Ninjago and Chima.) Between building and playing, it is conceivable that you could spend hundreds of hours inside, and outside, the game.
I have probably logged 30-40 hours to this point, bouncing around from the story mode, to the additional levels unlocked by the Level Packs, to the Adventure hubs, and am having an absolute blast… actually completing NONE of it. So, the value is there and it is important to note that there is a tremendous amount of fun to be had without [...]