Dénouement 2016 Part 5: The Best Stuff

By Shamus
on Jan 24, 2017
Filed under:
Video Games

Okay, 2016 is over already so let’s not draw this out any more. I hate long goodbyes. Here are my favorites:

5. Starbound

You can design and furnish your own starship. Or a base on the planet surface. Or on every planet surface. Feel free. There`s plenty of room.

You can design and furnish your own starship. Or a base on the planet surface. Or on every planet surface. Feel free. There`s plenty of room.

This was a charming little surprise. Originally I played this to hold me over until No Man’s Sky came out. Then I came back to it for comfort after No Man’s Sky disappointed.

The Game Terraria asks, “What if Minecraft, but 2D?”

Starbound asks, “What if Terraria, but No Man’s Sky?”

(This was before No Man’s Sky came out, mind you. So we were comparing it to the imaginary pre-release NMS we were hoping for, not the buggy post-release frustration engine.)

In Starbound you get a little spaceship and you can hop from one procedurally generated 2D world to the next. Dig down, get resources, and use those to upgrade your ship to go to more dangerous places with better resources. There are more planets and stars than one person could ever visit. Even better, the galaxy is shared across all of your characters. So if you like you can construct a single base that all of your characters can visit.

Eventually you get swept up in a plot to save the galaxy from some Sephiroth-looking doofus. I played through it for the sake of checking things off my to-do list, but none of it connected with me. For me the charm was in the exploration, upgrades, and creative building.

4. Doom

PUNCH DEMONS IN THE FACE!

PUNCH DEMONS IN THE FACE!

The original Doom was about strafing and mouse-aiming. If you blindly tried to copy that, you’d end up with something that feels clunky on a modern console setup.

The last time they tried to modernize Doom they did so by changing genres, turning this game of chaotic violence and massive crowds into a game of quasi-horror peek-a-boo with one or two enemies at a time. I still maintain that Doom3 was an okay game. (Notwithstanding the monster closets.) But the point stands that it didn’t really feel like Doom.

But the Doom reboot figured out how to take the mobility and empowerment of the original and recreate it using new mechanics. And it worked. On top of this, they managed to make a story that didn’t waste your time and was occasionally worth a chuckle.

3. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

The writer has confused "shades of grey" with "muddled and contradictory", and the result is that none of their heavy-handed imagery works.

The writer has confused "shades of grey" with "muddled and contradictory", and the result is that none of their heavy-handed imagery works.

This game played controversy for profundity and the result was shallow and irritating. The black-and-white morality undercut the usual shades of grey you expect from cyberpunk and ran directly counter to the tone of conspiracy and paranoia this franchise was originally built on.

All of that is a shame, but it doesn’t change the fact that under the clumsy allegory and heavy-handed moralizing is a solid game. The characters are genuine, if a bit safe. The scenery is spectacular. The gunplay and stealth are solid. The upgrade path is more varied and interesting than last time around.

The fact that it fell short of greatness shouldn’t overshadow the fact that it was pretty darn good.

Having said that, I get the sense that this game is a bit of a bottle rocket: A temporary bright flash, quickly forgotten. I really liked Tomb Raider in 2013, but it hasn’t aged well for me. I looked back on my 2013 write-up and was surprised to see I’d given the game the #2 spot. Some of my other 2013 picks included Saints Row IV, Don’t Starve, and Kerbal Space Program. I’ve returned to those games since then and continued to enjoy them. But the charm of Tomb Raider faded quickly and I have no desire to play it again.

I’m curious if the same will happen to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. I’m writing this question for my own benefit as much as yours. I know I’ll read this at the end of 2017, and I’m curious if I’ll experience the same bottle rocket effect. The gameplay is fun, but the characters have no emotional punch and the story has nothing to say.

2. Hitman

I love how the story is brief, simple, and not at all required to understand your missions.

I love how the story is brief, simple, and not at all required to understand your missions.

I am on the record as hating Hitman: Absolution, the previous game in this franchise. If I were to make a “most hated games list”, Absolution would certainly be on it. It’s bad enough to make a terrible game, but it’s worse still to make a terrible game out of one that used to be excellentEr. Not all the time. But when Hitman is good it’s a kind of good you can’t get anywhere else. and unique. And it’s unforgivable to take an interesting game and turn it into a boring linear mess in order to tell a shockingly idiotic story that nobody asked for. And now I’m angry again. Dangit.

Like I said last year:

I thought this was it for the franchise. When a series takes a dramatic turn like this it’s usually a sign that the company culture has shifted. Maybe new creative people are in charge, or budgets have been drastically cut, or the property has been given to an entirely new developer, or corporate is pushing the creative people to make the product more “mainstream”. In any case, this is usually a one-way transformation. Maybe if the backlash is big enough the next game will walk back a few of the changes while stubbornly clinging to their new vision, but I can’t think of a franchise that’s tanked this hard and later returned to its former glory.

But developer IO Interactive did it. This is the most fun I’ve ever had with a Hitman game. The mission areas are simply gigantic, and every corner is filled with possibilities. Even on my tenth run through the Sapienza mission I was still finding new tricks and new ways to complete goals.

The game is not perfect. The online bullshit is… bullshit. The elusive targets mode sounds fun, but in reality they’re just making new Hitman missions and then deleting them a week later so they can never be played again. Your unlocks are tied to the server for no damn reason, which means you can’t unlock things if you’re playing offline.

Still, they saved a franchise. That doesn’t happen often.

1. Factorio

This is a hard game to show off in screenshots. Anything zoomed in enough to show you the machines is going to leave out the some of overwhelming scale. And a shot showing off the scale will show all the machines as inscrutable little blobs of pixels.

This is a hard game to show off in screenshots. Anything zoomed in enough to show you the machines is going to leave out the some of overwhelming scale. And a shot showing off the scale will show all the machines as inscrutable little blobs of pixels.

I hesitated to put this at the top of my list, simply because it’s not a game for everyone. Also it’s still in early access. And its appeal is strange and hard to explain. And I don’t think it’s going to have the big impact or cultural penetration on the level of indie darlings like Kerbal Space Program, Terraria, Spelunky, or Minecraft. And it’s not on anyone else’s list. But if this end-of-year list means anything, it’s a list of what I found interesting, fun, engrossing, or novel in 2016. And for me, Factorio is all of those things.

Factorio is a game about automation. You build mining hardware to extract resources, machines to refine it, conveyor belts to carry the resources to factories where they are turned into parts, which are then carried to other factories and turned into machines. Turrets to keep the riff-raff out and robots repair damage. You build vehicles and weapons so you can push out into the wilderness and reach more concentrations of resources. You build machines to build more machines to automate the process on an ever grander scale, until you’re inhabiting a small city devoted to sustaining and expanding itself. At the end of a long tech tree and many hours of building, your final challenge is to construct a rocket and launch it into space.

It’s been ages since I had a game completely devour my attention like this. It’s not a game for everyone. It’s probably not even for most people. There’s no story, no backstory, no characters, and no dialog. Your character doesn’t have a name. Neither does the world you inhabit. This is a world without proper nouns. You don’t play as a hero or a villain. It’s a world where your avatar has about the same function and personality as a mouse pointer.

I realize this probably doesn`t LOOK fun. But I don`t know how to take a screenshot of my desire to forego sleep in favor of playing more Factorio.

I realize this probably doesn`t LOOK fun. But I don`t know how to take a screenshot of my desire to forego sleep in favor of playing more Factorio.

This is a title aimed at a very specific sort of person. But if you’re lucky enough to be one of those few weirdos, then this game is going to scratch your inexplicable itch like nothing else. Every time I thought I was done with the game and I’d built the best base I could, I’d get a new idea. Or someone would suggest something I hadn’t thought of before. Or I’d see some screenshots of a base built in ways that had never occurred to me. And then I’d start a whole new game to see how it worked.

On top of all of this is the fun of reading the Dev Blog, which updates every Friday with an essay from one of the team members. They talk about future plans, coding challenges, art problems, or why features have been changed. They discuss future plans, show off upcoming features, or explain why the “simple solution” the community is asking for is actually not at all simple and probably not what people want. It’s part of an open dialog the devs have with the community. It’s fun to read and I think it’s making for a better game.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] Er. Not all the time. But when Hitman is good it’s a kind of good you can’t get anywhere else.


2020201979 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

From the Archives:

  1. Isaac says:

    Haven’t read this yet but if a game I liked ain’t on this list then I’m gonna be very mad /s

  2. Writiosity says:

    Sephiroth, not Sepheroth, Shamus (Shameroth?) ;p

    I was never interested in Hitman, but watching MATN play the new one was hugely enjoyable, so it wins simply on that front.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Starbound asks, “What if No Man’s Sky, but good?”

    Fixed.

    And its appeal is strange and hard to explain.

    Not really.Its a game for engineers who enjoy constantly optimizing stuff to get peak efficiency out of stuff.

    There’s no story, no backstory, no characters, and no dialog.

    Technically there is.There exists a brief campaign with some dialogue and story.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Starbound asks, “What if No Man’s Sky, but good?”

      Fixed.

      Indeed. I never was that interested in No Man’s Sky, because it was clear they were just trying to be Starbound but 3D.

      EDIT: To be clear, I was interested in how they might pull off massive planetary procgen and keep it interesting. According to at least one blog post I read, the engine itself is capable of way more than what we saw in the retail release, in part because they had to make it work with PS4. Everything in the trailers is in the engine, and then some. Even the multiplayer is possible, just not completely actually implemented.

      But a great engine is just the foundation of a game. There needs to be an actual game made with the engine.

      Compared to the first Early Access release of Starbound, retail NMS is almost competent. With another few years, NMS could be almost as good as Starbound. Here’s hoping the company doesn’t go under before they patch the actual game in.

  4. MichaelGC says:

    Here’s Joseph Anderson on Factorio so folks can see the inscrutable little blobs in motion. It’s (currently) the only one of his vids titled ‘Should You Play,’ which seems to align well with Shamus’ comments about its broad appeal…

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=rtT_Qc5DIEg

    • Lazlo says:

      That looks really interesting.

      I keep looking at it and thinking “that looks really engrossing and enjoyable”, and at the same time, “Wow, what if you fused that with Kerbal Space…” I realize that’s the sort of thinking that brought us Spore, and that’s bad, but it just *seems* like it’d be fascinating.

      • Nick Powell says:

        There’s a free demo. I think playing through the demo is all you need to decide if you’re the sort of person who will love the game or one who won’t be interested.

      • Elemental Alchemist says:

        I realize that’s the sort of thinking that brought us Spore, and that’s bad

        Spore was actually a great concept. What sucked donkey balls was the implementation. I remember watching the hour long Will Wright presentation from GDC circa 2005 and being really excited by the prospect. I think this is it – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4ScRG_reIw Unfortunately we all know how the end result turned out.

    • Blakeyrat says:

      I tried to get into it but I couldn’t get past the weird and confusing UI. (Don’t ask me for details, that was months ago and I no longer remember the complaints I had– I do remember one of them was instead of just drawing a close box you could click, you had to use some invisible shortcut key to dismiss dialogs.)

      I’ll give it another go if they improve the UI, and silently hope for the day when software developers realize their user interface is far and away the most important aspect of their software.

      • Xeormo says:

        Issue with UI design is that it’s almost always impossible to design the “correct” UI. Too many opposing constraints to satisfy all of them. The better the UI is for someone experienced, the worse it often is for beginners. Do something that works very well for most people, and it’ll be hard for the other bit.

        But, can’t say I’ve had many problems with the UI once I got the hang of it. If that’s your only complaint, I’d suggest trying again.

      • Alan says:

        The UI is… under development. They know it’s flawed, and it’s slowly improving. I got into the last spring, and it wasn’t actively confusing, just really clunky, and it’s definitely improved since then.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      I’ll probably get it some day when it’s really cheap, or when it’s part of a bundle, almost definitely after it left early access. I love the concept of automation, I love the idea of building this sprawling, self-sustaining monstrosity of a factory… my problem is that I’m not really into replaying games, I’d play it once, get the spaceship and probably not return to the game for years, which really doesn’t seem like it gives me enough to warrant the investment at this point.

      • Jonathan says:

        I think $20 is a reasonable price for a game.

        You will play it and launch a rocket in 30 hours… and say “Wow, I did my factory all wrong.”

        Then you’ll replay it and do it in 22 hours. Then you’ll look on the internet and see that you could have done a lot better.

        I am at around 12-13 hours to launch now, with higher than normal oil patch sizes after 11 factories.

        I could still do better.

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          See, the thing is that I know myself well enough to be able to tell that I’m not going to get into that pattern. I will play through it once and be done with it.

  5. Duoae says:

    I’ve only really played Deus Ex and Factorio (and I only bought the latter because of Shamus’ espousing) but I just have had the hardest time settling into Deus Ex.

    I’ve just been dabbling with Factorio but I’m mostly liking what I’m experiencing – the one exception is that the game appears to be one of precognition and remembering future requirements. I like the designing of bases and the automation stuff but without knowledge of what’s next you always mess up the layout because you’re not planning properly – but only because you lack the foreknowledge.

    The final game is like one of those games of chess where a grand master is thinking 30 moves+ ahead and a mid-level player is thinking 10.

    But the game before you get to that stage is like playing chess without knowing you can even move the knight until halfway through the game OR (to bring in a car analogy) it’s like designing a city in the 1700s, not knowing the automobile is coming in vast numbers…

  6. Zekiel says:

    If I were to make a “most hated games list”

    Yes please! :-)
    (I realise you may quite reasonably prefer not to wallow in negativity though)
    (Although hundreds of thousands of words on Mass Effect suggests otherwise)

    On topics… I haven’t played any of these games (either due to hardware limitations or lack of interest). But I am fascinated by the general reaction to Deus Ex MD. I *loved* Human Revolution, and so did a lot of other people. But I’m not even that bothered about the sequel. I guess “more of the same [apart from boss fights]” isn’t that thrilling, even though it was fun the first time.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Some of my other 2013 picks included Saints Row IV, Don’t Starve, and Kerbal Space Program. I’ve returned to those games since then and continued to enjoy them. But the charm of Tomb Raider faded quickly and I have no desire to play it again.

    To be fair,tom braider is much more linear,and once you do all of the things in it,theres not much incentive to come back to it.And though there are a few linear games that still hold major appeal to some people,like half life does for me,linear games are usually not very replayable.

    • Dev Null says:

      Came down to quote exactly that quote, and make essentially exactly that comment.

      Open world games I come back to; narrative games I often don’t. That said, I’m not sure that’s true of Shamus; did you see how many different games of Fallout 3 he played?

      • Pete_Volmen says:

        Sure, but would you honestly say Fallout 3 has a cohesive narrative?
        I’m sure I’m not alone in returning to the (later) Fallouts from time to time, but mostly ignoring the whole story angle. New Vegas is a partial exception to that, but even then it’s the game behind the story that makes it engrossing.

    • Geebs says:

      Tomb Raider’s problems go deeper than that, I think. They tried to shoehorn a bunch more backtracking and “open world” stuff into RotTR, and it just ended up being a tiresome distraction which sucked the life out of the first playthrough, rather than adding replayability.

      Something like Uncharted 4 or, even, say, Enslaved is a lot more fun then RotTR because a linear game which keeps mixing things up can far more immediately entertaining, and far better paced than a directionless open world full of distracting side-quests with no real pay-off. Didn’t hurt that the acting and dialogue in those games wasn’t completely execrable.

      What I’m really trying to say is, we need another Prince of Persia game.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    By the way,Shamus,have you played SHENZHEN I/O?A “game” where you are building custom made electronic circuits for various machines.Also,its made by the guys who made spacechem,tis-100 and infinifactory.Id really like to hear about your first impressions with the…unique style of delivering information to the player.

  9. D-Frame says:

    Is that your spaceship in the Starbound screenshot, Shamus? If so, I’m surprised to see you’ve got a cat in there…

    • Shamus says:

      The pet comes with the character. I actually wish you could choose to not have a pet. Joking about allergies aside, I just don’t like having it around. It occasionally gets in the way when I’m trying to build.

      • There should be an option for that if you check out the shop in front of the outpost. Or that might’ve been a mod I had installed. Either way it’s a possibility. So to is changing your pet. Now if only there were a decent ship building system. The vanilla game doesn’t have one, you simply expand the ship you start with, and last I checked mods only allowed you to build ships out of blocks which don’t look as good and uniform as proper ship pieces. Some sort of ship to ship combat and / or boarding would be nice as well.

  10. It’s bad enough to make a terrible game, but it’s worse still to make a terrible game out of one that used to be excellent and unique. And it’s unforgivable to take an interesting game and turn it into a boring linear mess in order to tell a shockingly idiotic story that nobody asked for.

    Now you understand how it felt to play Metroid: Other M. The two compare rather aptly, failing in similar ways and to similar degrees, though I’d argue that Absolution would at least be the better game to play mechanically. Despite my distaste for the game it’s still one I recommend people play, if for no other reason than to witness firsthand just how badly Nintendo can misunderstand a franchise it really ought to know better. Which is in itself yet another similarity between the two games. Unfortunately Metroid has yet to make the same recovery as Hitman, and given Metroid Prime: Federation Force, the series may never make that recovery…

    Regarding Starbound, I too quite like the game. I’ve put some +300 hours into it, but despite all that time played and all the progress made in development it still feels shallow and lacking. It has a decent amount of content but it’s spread thin across far too many planets that are mostly identical. There’s not a single aspect of Starbound I feel is as well realized as it could be, or perhaps should be given its protracted development cycle. Mods help a great deal but don’t entirely make up the deficit. The game’s still gradually improving but could greatly benefit from reduced scope and improved focus.

    By comparison Terraria feels like a much more complete product. The two games probably offer a similar amount of content, point for point, but Terraria condenses its offerings into a single well populated space while Starbound tries to stretch itself across a galaxy. One is a small but deep lake, the other an ocean the depth of a puddle. I love them both – I have nearly a thousand hours of game time between them – but Starbound has far more room and need for improvement than Terraria does.

    Also, Starbound continues to run like hot garbage, a persistent problem since its days in Early Access. Performance has improved with time but stuttering, slow planet chunk loading, lag – yes, in a singleplayer offline game, and frequent massive FPS drops – particularly during any kind of weather effect – are still a major problem. Not everyone experiences them, or as severely, but these are prevalent problems that have never been properly addressed.

    • Retsam says:

      I too enjoyed Starbound, but prefer Terraria.

      Part of that is just my expectations biting me: they said “Terraria in Space”, and I heard “Terraria but with even more stuff to do”; but really Starbound isn’t Terraria with more stuff, it’s actually a more streamlined version of Terraria, with some of the rough edges filed off, but ultimately just less to do.

      And that’s not a bad niche to fill: Terraria has a surprising learning curve: I’ve had a ton of friends try to play the game, only to quit after an hour or two, whereas Starbound is a much more guided experience to get you going.

      On the other hand, what I think Terraria does better is that it’s a much more focused game, basically everything in Terraria eventually loops back to making you better at combat. Digging deeper will get you better ore, for better weapons; exploring caves will find you accessories that improve your abilities and stats; building a settlement will recruit new NPCs which sell items that are useful for combat; exploring and killing certain creatures will drop items that can be crafted into good weapons, etc etc.

      If you’re not into the combat, it’s not going to be for you, but if you are, it’s a neat game where you simultaneously have a lot of options for what you can do, but virtually all of them tangibly benefit your character in some way.

      • Theo says:

        I came down here to say basically the same things about Starbound. I think it could have been as good as Terraria, if not better, if they’d only focused on the world generator being able to make one really cohesive, if random, solar system, instead of an effectively infinite galaxy. The challenges on this planet or that would keep you hopping back and forth looking for another solution. Maybe you shouldn’t be able to build anything and everything you need on your ship, either… There was no reason to construct bases at all.

        Going back to “hopping” for a moment: oddly enough, I always felt Terraria had a certain Metroid feeling to it because of that. With this item I can mine that thing I couldn’t get through before! With that item, I can survive the monsters in the jungle! With THIS item, I can… jump over the hill by my house instead of going though the tunnel beneath it I built ages ago.

        In the time I spent hyping myself up for Starbound, I expected it to have even more of that. It both did, explicitly, and didn’t, effectively. Yay, I got the “suit” that lets me visit inferno worlds. But there’s nothing there except more identical monsters with different skins, and whatever hazards you might expect a lava world to have are rendered moot by the very thing you need to access it.

        I’m overgeneralizing but that’s the feeling I got from the game, even if I did have fun with it.

    • Blastinburn says:

      I actually just picked up and finished Other M a few days ago and I would disagree with it being a terrible game. While it fails as a metroidvania (until you return to the station post-credits) I think the core gameplay actually works really well. (Other than missles, which did work significantly better than I though they would, but my expectations for that were exceedingly low.) In terms of core, moment-to-moment, gameplay I felt like I was playing a 3D version of Fusion. The game felt like a translation of metroid’s mechanics into 3D, making the game feel like a 2D metroid gameplay but you have an extra dimension of movement. Whereas the Prime games were an “evolution”, rebuilding the mechanics in a way that would only work in 3D to capture the mechanical tone.

      I would honestly recommend Other M as a decent action game with the caveat to look up how to complete the final 2 boss fights. Starting with the Queen Metroid fight. If you’re new to the series you have absolutely 0 hope since this is your first metroid fight period and you won’t even know to use bombs to escape. (Attracting new players was supposed to be one of the game’s goals.) If you’re a veteran, the game just went to great pains to tell you that metroids on this station are immune to cold, which is a blatant lie. (That said, I seem to really like B-grade action games.) :P

      Now as for the story, I do think the broad strokes of it work, or would work, if the execution wasn’t so bad. Though I’m ~80% sure that MB was tonally wrong for the series. While it fits this game thematically with the whole motherhood theme, it has no place tonally in a metroid game. She felt too “fantastical”, and I understand that doesn’t make much sense as a complaint in a game with an intelligent space pterodactyl and round floating energy vampires, but I’m not really why it doesn’t fit beyond a gut feeling that “this is wrong/doesn’t fit”. (Hence not being 100% sure.)

      All that said, your comparison to Absolution seems apt, though I don’t really have much experience with the rest of the Hitman series to really confirm or deny that. (I watched Absolution Spoiler Warning and the 2017 new year livestream) The developers/owners seemed to misunderstand the purpose and tone of their own game and fans obviously didn’t like it. I think Other M had some good points, but what went wrong was so wrong that the entire game was crushed under the weight of the anger. I don’t think Nintendo knows what to with Metroid right now, or that they’re afraid of trying to update it again because they don’t understand entirely what went wrong. (They “have” to update it somehow, Kirby, Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, have all been updated to 3D games, even the ones that still have 2D gameplay.)

  11. Cybron says:

    I haven’t played any of the games on this list! I think that’s the first time that’s happened. I skipped Hitman because I refuse to play always online games on principle (exclusively online multiplayer games excluded). I should pick up Factorio though, it seems like something I would like. I’ll probably wait until it’s out of early access.

  12. Mephane says:

    I had started a big long rant here but then decided to cut it short and just give you the TLDR edition:

    * I hate DXMD for its effectively selling of extra skill points. I am quite OCD about getting my character to “completion”, and skill points rank very, very high on the list of things I must collect all of them in a game. Selling them extra is quite the shady tactic in my view, and even though it is a single player game, clearly P2W in my view.

    * I hate the new Hitman for this time-limited content BS. It’s bad enough in MMOs, and there it makes at least some sense, but in a single player game, seriously? So if I were to decide to buy the game in a month, or maybe the GOTY edition in a year, it won’t even be the complete game because you make some of the content time-limited? Well I guess that is an easy no-purchase decision.

    • The Other Matt K says:

      I had a hard time feeling bad about the Money for Skill Points thing – for myself, I enjoyed maximizing as many points as possible via playing through the game, completing all the side quests, etc. I never felt like I ended up in a corner where I was being coerced into buying skill points, and once I was a good chunk of the way into the story, I had maxed out just about all the stuff I really cared about.

      That said, I’m sure there are people out there who don’t want to do all the side content, but instead want to immediately just have access to all the different types of exploration options and stealth bonuses and so forth, and want to drop a bunch of money on starting out the game fully powered up. So if they want that, the game provides it. There isn’t any PvP, there isn’t any competition where their bonuses diminish other people’s playthroughs.

      So while it wasn’t something I had any interest in, and I don’t really like seeing games go down the road of microtransactions, it didn’t seem like it actually caused any harm.

      • Mephane says:

        For me it’s not even about whether these extra skill points are ever necessary, but that they exist. It feels wrong on a very fundamental level, like something that would even be shitty in a F2P game.

        And any time while playing when I’d be just 1 skill point short of a meaningful upgrade, I would remember of this terrible scheme.

    • Tizzy says:

      I thought the idea of having a DXMD phone app to scan in-game content was pretty shitty as well.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      You shouldnt worry about mankind divided and its in game purchases though.Those were added in after the game was practically shipped,so the game is balanced to give you everything without having to put any additional money in.

  13. Ninety-Three says:

    On top of this, they managed to make a story that didn’t waste your time and was occasionally worth a chuckle.

    I strongly disagree. The joke of DOOM’s plot is that it was a waste of time, and then Doomguy would get sick of his time being wasted and smash something. The core of that premise is that your time is being wasted, and I hated it. I got about two seconds into every time-wasting unskippable cutscene before I started wishing for Doomguy to smash something and end the damn thing. The joke of “Doomguy resents having his time wasted by these NPCs” fell flat when I resented having my time wasted by Doomguy not smashing things immediately. It led to exactly the frustrating, disempowered “Yeah yeah, you made a cutscene, now let me get back to the shooting” feeling that DOOM was trying to subvert.

    Also, it had an elevator that wasn’t hiding a loading screen, and moved slower than the player climbing a ladder. There should be a law against that kind of thing.

  14. Retsam says:

    I thought I was over the worst of my Factorio addiction, but then a friend wanted to try it multiplayer, and I’m full-on addicted again, playing like 8-10 hours in 2 days, which is absurd for a game that I’ve owned for months.

    So, yeah, Factorio is at the top of my hypothetical “list” this year, too. Can’t wait for that nuclear power.

  15. Galad says:

    It feels sad to me that two of these are titles with excellent gameplay, mixed in with awful microtransactions/online requirements. Of the other three, I am not interested in two of them. Factorio, as beautifully as you describe it, sounds like stressful work, no, even worse, *managerial* work. Still, I’m glad we have it, as we shouldn’t only have the Nuclear Thrones and CS:GOs in the world.

    Finally, I played DOOM, and enjoyed it, but the secret/power-up collection hunting was hurting the pacing. Then I tried arcade mode and it felt like a faster, but much more stressful experience. I guess I’m not too easy to please or something :>

  16. Esp says:

    I rely want to like Factorio, but I can’t get past the horrendously infuriatingly terrible UI. No matter how much time I put in, I never feel like any of my struggle is against the game world or against the complexity of the task. it’s always a struggle to do something that would be simple and straightforward if only the stupid interface would quit hurling itself in my path and trying to tangle my feet.

    • lllVentuslll says:

      Genuinely curious, what problems did you have with the UI? (Not saying the problems you had were illegitimate, it always sounds that way :/ ) The only issues I really encountered were it’s differences from Minecraft but I very quickly got accustomed to the “Factorio” way of doing things.

      • Zeeloft says:

        I’m agreeing with the comment above you. The controls are not really broken, but I would call them bizarre, unintuitive, clunky, and slow. It’s not bad for a trivial one step task, like “fire gun”, but everything more than that feels like an enormous pain in the gluteal proximity.

        I cannot blame this on it being different from Minecraft because I have never played Minecraft.

        • Echo Tango says:

          The thing is, that if the interface feels a bit crappy for certain tasks then that’s actually a good thing for this game. The game isn’t about you building cool things, or fighting aliens – it’s about you building factories that build things, that build other factories, that …, that build cool things or fight aliens on your behalf. :)

    • Echo Tango says:

      What UI issues did you encounter when playing the game? I’m curious, because I downloaded and played the demo this weekend, and aside from a few times I had to check the key-bindings for certain tasks, I never felt like the UI was actually broken. It doesn’t have the prettiest graphical elements, and some of the keybindings seem weird to me, but it was still pretty useable after I memorized the basic controls.

    • Alan says:

      A while ago the developers were discussing nerfing the “turret creep” tactic, where you just slowly march (pick up, place, repeat) a little mob of turrets until you get within range of an alien nest and the turrets blow it away. They seemed disappointed that people weren’t using the direct combat systems (guns, power armor, tanks) very much. But after dozens of hours of play, I still found the direct combat systems clunky as hell, clunky in ways likely to get me killed. (The tank is a bit of an exception. Last time I was playing “run everything over” was a pretty effective strategy.)

      Fortunately the developers decided that maybe turret creep isn’t so bad. And for me, it feels within the spirit of the game. All problems can be solved by building more things. :-)

      Kinda similarly, the UI has a lot of little problems. I haven’t played in half a year or so, but there were things like the exact same icon (the “reload” icon, from memory) would mean different things in different dialogs (I seem to recall that in one place it meant “go to alternate tab”). The icons on the whole were pretty cryptic, and there wasn’t much to do other than slowly memorize them.

      On the up side, based on their blog, they know they have a UI problem and they seem to be slowly improving it. Heck, they may have ironed out the worst bits already.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Turret creep fits perfectly with what the rest of the game is.You automate everything,and your role is only in deciding what goes where and let the machines do the rest.In fact,letting you build mobile turrets would fit the rest of the game even better.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        I think solving all your problems with turrets is appropriate for the game, but the specific strategy of “Plop turrets for fifteen seconds, pick them up, move forward a little bit, repeat” is not. A turret is notionally a defensive weapon, the turret creep strategy allows you to use them offensively because they’re extremely quick to set up, and it’s against Factorio’s automation theme, because it’s an almost entirely manual process.

        I agree that manual combat is bad and they probably shouldn’t go that direction, but I think there’s a better solution. Add in long range “Artillery turrets” that can attack hives but will draw monster aggro, and you can avoid creep by having the player set up a wall of short-ranged turrets to defend one artillery turret, rather than having to creep forward with just short-ranged ones.

      • William Newman says:

        “after dozens of hours of play, I still found the direct combat systems clunky as hell, clunky in ways likely to get me killed”

        The direct combat mechanics are not brilliant, and the “evolution” of the ents (getting tougher as you pollute, as time passes, and esp. as you destroy their moots) is important and surprising and not very plausible even once you learn to understand it. Still and all I think the direct combat mechanics are mostly OK. My biggest complaint is that several things can kill you in surprising ways: e.g., I have died a number of times by variations of being surrounded (and thus blocked from scurrying away, and thus chewed to death), and that depends on some nonobvious game mechanics like what can block the movement of what, and as far as I can tell, the main way to learn those mechanics is to die or at least almost die. (E.g., trying to fight in a car using tactics too similar to a tank, and learning — by dying — that while ents cannot block the movement of a tank, they can block the movement of a car.) My other main complaint is that the tactics that I have found to work well are a little surprising and unsatisfying, not just turret creep but other stuff like running away from vast hordes of ents using exoskeletal speed while strafing their moots.

        I recommend you structure your play so that you needn’t destroy more than a few dozen moots strolling around in heavy armor with a submachinegun, and after that needn’t kill more than maybe fifty using a tank. Then if you want to kill lots more, use power armor mk 2, two or more shields, two or more exoskeletons, and a fully bonused shotgun to run around killing however many you want. Doing that they seem to become a constraint on how you factoryize, but not too much of a problem. Or you can probably kill more with a flamethrower even without power armor mk 2 if you are careful, but who has time for that?

        The clunkiness that I see playing with this kind of approach is mostly in secondary stuff related to combat, not in combat itself. E.g., the drill for preventing construction robots from helpfully flying out of my personal roboport to repair the tank as it’s being chewed on (and thus dying like flies) is annoying, and the tension between tearing down the tank and setting it up in a new site (with fuel, and ammo, and inventory settings) or trying to drive it to a new site without breaking something (like a power pole or underground pipe) can be annoying. The controls for actually fighting don’t seem particularly clunky to me.

  17. Tizzy says:

    I’d like to be on the record defending Doom3. The game is a product of its era. It’s not the best, but I would have been disappointed if it had been anything else.

    This was way to early then to wax nostalgic for the classic Doom. The point was to take the premise to the brave new world of mid-2000 graphics, and ID did just that. They developed a cutting edge engine, which at the time was the most important thing you could do. And they developed the game around the engine’s strengths.

    Years later, it’s a different version of the same problem. You pick things from the original that you want to preserve (fast paced combat), but introduce others that are adapted to the current environment (teleportation because the crowds must remain smaller than in classic doom, new ways to manage health and ammo).

    The one thing to avoid is to jog in place, or to make changes that are not motivated by current constraints.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The game is a product of its era.

      I disagree.That same year we got painkiller,which was waay closer to the original doom.Also,at that time we got serious sams 1 and 2,which too were much better shooters.

      • Tizzy says:

        To be fair, I played neither series. But the existence of these does not necessarily invalidate the notion that Doom3 was the product of its era. The “product of its era” is a very different proposition from “the only game in town.”

        And the era in question was somewhat experimental, which is why I feel like being kind to that game.

        And feel free to disagree with me, but the release of Doom3 and HL2 corresponded to a certain point in time, when the FPS genre was extremely fluid and the immediate frontier was figuring out what to make of new graphics and what the new generation of puzzle looked like. Plus, all of a sudden, the possibility to deliver story very differently.

        I lost track of FPS soon afterwards, but it looks like things were codified pretty quickly hereafter.

        • Geebs says:

          I actually enjoyed Doom3 far more than Serious Sam (which is, by and large, just one big circle-strafe). It probably comes down to having grown up with the Marathon series rather than Doom. I don’t think it delivered the story in a particularly novel way though; audio logs were already pretty played out by that point, and the rest of the plot was basically just HELL PORTAL

          I didn’t get to play Painkiller when it was released, but it really didn’t grab me when I finally got round to it a couple of years back. From a modern perspective, Bulletstorm (from the same devs) is a lot more fun.

  18. Dragmire says:

    My favorite thing about Factorio is zooming out to assess your production line. You can see your own improvement by how it looks. When you’re new, your factory has a bunch of negative space (clusters of facilities joined by conveyor belts), it looks like a jumble of spaghetti and meatballs. When you become more and more efficient everything gets condensed and tightly interwoven, making it look like a microchip.

    It’s really cool to see your factory evolve like that.

  19. I’m now incredibly interested in playing Factorio and Starbound. I am happy I skipped No Man’s Sky, though Starbound looks awesome, and Factorio seems like my ideal, frustrating game (because I get frustrated at procedural building games).

  20. Phrozenflame500 says:

    Factorio and Hitman are great games and well worthy of a high spot on the list. Factorio in particular is this weird creation game that’s goal driven enough to keep me playing but leaves enough design elements in how you get their to be fun and engaging. I knew I wanted a game like this since I started playing around with automation-based Minecraft mods but it really does a great job perfecting the mechanics of it.

  21. Phantos says:

    I’m concerned that the new Hitman won’t sell as well because it wasn’t The Worst Thing Ever.

    People remember the catastrophic failures and the shining, golden achievements. Anything inbetween runs the risk of slipping out of public consciousness. People talk about something being really bad, and there are a lot of people who will buy a game based on that. To see what all the hubbub is about. They’re inundated with article after article(or in Spoiler Warning’s case, video after video) talking about a game, reminding people of its’ existence.

    Whereas a game that’s okay is usually only spoken of once or twice.

  22. MadTinkerer says:

    Deus Ex 2016:

    This game played controversy for profundity and the result was shallow and irritating. The black-and-white morality undercut the usual shades of grey you expect from cyberpunk and ran directly counter to the tone of conspiracy and paranoia this franchise was originally built on.

    Factorio:

    There’s no story, no backstory, no characters, and no dialog.

    More game developers, and, even more importantly, game publishers need to realize that PREWRITTEN STORY IS OPTIONAL. Deus Ex got knocked down to number three because it failed with it’s story. Factorio got the number one spot because it didn’t fail with it’s story. With games, an absence of prewritten story is better than a bad prewritten story.

  23. Christopher says:

    The longer story aside, I love the Starbound intro for how brutal it is and how it whiplashes super hard out of nowhere.

  24. Jarenth says:

    ‘Factorio is still in Early Access’. I posit that Factorio will always be in Early Access. It fits the theme of the game, which is about desperately scrabbling to improve a massive project of ever-expanding scope while angry goblins nip at your heels from all corners and tear down your hard work.

  25. Deoxy says:

    Factorio sounds exactly like an idle game with a “restart the world” option.

    Those aren’t bad, but I’ve played enough of them that I don’t think I want to try any more.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Its most definitely not an idle game.Yes the base operates itself,but you have to set it up,optimize it and upgrade it.You dont just click one thing then wait for 10 hours to click on another thing.Also,all the building and processing has a purpose and an end.

  26. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus,any plans to make music in factorio instead of any of those other silly programs you use for music?

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