Greetings and salutations fellow eXplorminators. As 2016 comes to an end, it has come to our attention that other games besides 4X and Strategy games came out this year. What? You didn’t know? Well, good on you. But seriously, we all play a variety of games, and this article is about the other games we enjoyed this year and the awards we’ve given them. This isn’t anything official, nor is it something that can be easily judged.. Sure, even a 4X might slip into this list, but then again, maybe not. Without any further rambling, here’s the list:
Most Invigorating Way Of Killing Your Friends And Enemies – XCOM 2
By: Nate “Nasarog” Lobos
This year, I have spent over 250+ (on/offline) hours playing this amazing game. The campaign is captivating, and with each bump in difficulty, it feels like a different experience. Then there are the DLCs that added mechs and alien bosses to fight, as well as a slew of new play styles and ways of customizing your troopers. But what really makes this game special for me is the modding community. By not disabling achievements in modded games, I was able to go really really deep and search out the mods that added the most to my games. New aliens, new classes, new weapons, new difficulty settings, new outfits and hair-styles, and everything else that you can and can’t imagine made the gameplay so much more enjoyable.
But why this award? Easy. Never name your troopers after family and friends, because they will be the first to disappoint you and die in horrific ways. I know, the aliens have killed many of you eXplorminators. It’s shocking how inept the rookies can be. XCOM 2 is that brutal and fun. If you haven’t bought this title yet, you probably should. It did win a lot of Game of the Year awards all over the place. Just make sure your system can handle it (and remember to name your troops after strangers).
Most Successful 4X Game of 2016 – Civilization VI
By: Troy “TC” Costisick
Each year I like to recognize the 4X game that has has the most commercial success as far as raw sales go. Last year it was Stardock’s Galactic Civilizations III. This year’s award goes, unsurprisingly, to Firaxis’ Civilization VI.
Any time a Civ game comes out, it’s a big deal for the 4X community. It’s kind of a marker for how far we’ve come in innovation and market penetration. This year was great as far as the latter goes. At one point, Civ5 and Civ6 were both in the top 10 games played on Steam according to Steamcharts.com. That’s quite an accomplishment and even more meaningful when you consider that Paradox’s Stellaris was also in the top 20 played games on Steam at the same time.
Civ6’s sales have been impressive so far. According to SteamSpy.com, Civ6 has nearly passed Civ:BE in just a few months of being on the market. Civ:BE came out in 2014 and has had a pretty decent expansion to help it along.
We’ve had a lot of 4X games come to the market this year, but without a doubt Civ6 is king of them all. It’s got a winning formula for attracting buyers that no one else has figured out yet.
Biggest Santa Surprise – Shadow Tactics
By Chris “sgtshaggy” Massey
When Nate asked us on Christmas Eve to write up something about our favorite games of the year, I was a bit lost. My favorite GOTY is Stellaris, but we already gave that Game of the Year… So I told him to give me the weekend and I’d get back to him.
After a couple of days of thought I had narrowed it down to three games: Total War: Warhammer, Heroes of the Storm, and Hearts of Iron IV. I knew Kearon would go for Warhammer, so that was out; Heroes of the Storm, despite my continued allegiance, came out last year, so nix that, too; and thus, I decided on Hearts of Iron IV. Great game, despite a few problems, and plenty of room to grow.
Then, Saturday night, while Santa was tossing packages down chimneys and the elves were having some well-deserved egg nog, I downloaded the Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun Demo. I had not been blown away by a game since I first played Stellaris in May. Shadow Tactics, despite its terrible name, is an incredible game. Think real-time tactics ala Commandos melded with historical Japan, and a handful of characters straight out of a James Clavell novel. The gameplay is sharp, the situations varied, and challenging, and it was exactly what Santa ordered – even if I had to buy it for myself. If in doubt, the demo is readily available and offers an excellent glimpse of what Shadow Tactics has to offer.
Game Most Likely To Cause My Family To Hold An Intervention – Threes!
By: Joshua “Gwydion” Jacobs
I spent far too much of this past year ignoring family, friends, and overall life responsibilities in favor of Civ VI, Stellaris, Endless Legend, Hearthstone… But the one game that took the most of my time most frequently was a little game on my iPhone called “Threes!.”
Yes, it’s one of those dreaded puzzle game thingies. Threes! looks kind of like a math game merged with one of those sliding tile puzzles you wrestled with in the pediatrician’s waiting room. In reality, Threes! is a game about putting everything in its proper place, reacting when things don’t go your way, and celebrating those small moments where you don’t win (you never win), but you do just a little better than the last time. Kinda like life, that way.
So it’s fitting that Threes! has taken up so much of mine. Whenever I have a free moment, and sometimes even when I don’t, I’ll whip out my phone and do a quick run of smashing numbers into each other, making bigger numbers and larger complications. Other games were more epic – with grander stories and greater undertakings – but none were so all-consuming as this little, unassuming puzzle game.
Being Bad Never Felt So Good – Tyranny
By: Mark “Army Pea” Marksson
I didn’t get to explore very far from the 4X path in 2016. When I did get the chance, my time was well spent with Obsidian’s new RPG, Tyranny. If you don’t know this game, you should. Tyranny lets you play on the other side of the moral compass.
Having the option to play a “bad character” is nothing new in an RPG but the execution has often felt flat. Either the player was given the option to NOT do something moral or perhaps there would be a dialogue option to be a total jerk.
It was more of a role-playing option than an actual game mechanic. That was till Tyranny came out with the explicit goal of making you play as a “bad character.” The real choice the player has is just how ethically ambiguous you want to be.
You start the game as a “judicator”, essentially the eyes and ears of an evil tyrant named Kyros. Choice is the focus of Tyranny and overshadows all other aspects of the game. In fact, picking one option (very early in the game) or another will lock off aspects later in that specific playthrough. Which is awesome because it encourages several adventures after the first to see all the different nefarious paths one can take. I respect Obsidian for taking a risk in forcing a player to walk a very unbeaten path. It’s not a safe choice to play the bad guy but the risk paid off in this old school gem.
Best Single Gameplay Loop – Polaris Sector
By Ben “RL” Martin
Some 4X games are best experienced like The Elder Scrolls RPGs: huge sandboxes with tons of elements to discover and explore, room to let your imagination run wild, and layers upon layers upon layers of sheer stuff. And other 4X games are best experienced like your favorite arcade brawler: you sit down to do one thing, and the fewer hoops you jump through in getting there, the better.
To me, Polaris Sector is an example of the latter. 4X-style real-time space combat is the meat,potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce of Polaris Sector, and everything else is in service of that. Managing your planets is simple and streamlined. Exploration is snappy. Settling new worlds is a cinch. Gameplay is well-designed, all in the interest of letting you tool around with ship designs and then mix it up with the other species. PS is still lacking in some areas (it could really use a battle arena, for instance), but developer Vladimir “Ufnv” Ufnarovsky is still updating his game, so hopefully it will get the shine it deserves in 2017.
Best Evolution Of A Longtime Series – Total War: Warhammer
By Dallin “Kearon” Holden
The Total War series has been around for the better part of two decades, but has always kept its roots in specific historical eras. All this changed with this year’s release of Total War: Warhammer! To pull this off, Creative Assembly had to add flying units, magic, and legendary lords. What had the potential to destroy the very foundation the game was built on, instead resulted in a series of well thought out systems, complementing everything you previously loved about the series.
My love of TW: Warhammer is best epitomized by my horde of undead soldiers dreadfully marching towards an unfortunate group of Empire Soldiers. Or maybe it was the time my Dwarf throng held off 3 armies of Orcs, watching as each consecutive wave of greenskins broke and dissolved against my shieldwall. TW:Warhammer took everything I loved about the series from before, and made it ten times better. If you are a warmonger like me, the game does not disappoint. With many units types and new mechanics added to the series, there has never been a time to gather your armies and go crush all that oppose your will!
Most Internally Hyped – Children Of Morta
By Oliver “Mezmorki” Kiley
2016 has been a solid year for gaming by many accounts – and 4X gamers in particular have a lot to be excited about. In the realm of Big Strategy games, the one that clicked with me the most was Total War: Warhammer. I hadn’t played a TW game since… Oh gosh… The first Shogun? I was pleasantly surprised by the strategic depth in TW:WH, and, of course,as a Warhammer fan, the theme was icing on the cake.
And yet, the game that has me most excited is a much lesser known title: Dead Mage’s Children of Morta. This one is only available to Kickstarter backers right now (in a closed alpha phase), but from what I’ve played so far I’m blown away. Perhaps I’m pumping fuel into my own illogical hype train, but let me explain.
Children of Morta is the love child of an action RPG like Diablo, a roguelike, and a dual-stick shooter of sorts. The whole thing is wrapped up in a Slavic-feeling fairy tale about a family tasked, for generations, with protecting the magic and mystery of Mount Morta from corruption and the forces of evil. A variety of heartfelt side quests add touching narrative interludes into what might otherwise be dismissed as a simple ARPG game. Of course, the combat is fantastic, and the pixel art is drop dead gorgeous. Hopefully we’ll see Children of Morta released to the masses soon, because it really is – in my humble view – something truly special. Stay tuned.
Click-iest Game Of The Year – Grim Dawn
By Micah “Marlowe” Dutro
In the realm of Diablo-style ARPGs, no game out-Diablo-ed Diablo like Grim Dawn. Set in a post-apocalyptic, Victorian-era, fantasy world, this game has kept me glued to the screen for almost 250 hours. And with an expansion on the way, Crate Entertainment shows no signs of giving me back my freedom any time soon.
The game has the classic look and feel that ARPG fans crave, unrivaled build variety, and (what’s rare for games in this genre) pretty good lore for those that take the time to smell the writing roses. The game world is well designed and there are lots of secrets to find if you’re willing to fill in the map and look carefully in the corners.
My wife calls Grim Dawn “the game where you click on the bad guys” and, well, she has a point. But those bad guys need to be clicked on – there are lots of them out there and they are dropping lots of shiny loot!
Well folks, that’s it for eXplorminate this year. We have had an amazing 2016, and it’s all thanks to you, our readers, viewers and fans. So, keep coming back, and we’ll keep being here.
– The eXplorminate Staff