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Karen’s Top Ten Games of 2016

I have to say, I actually found coming up with this list a little bit tricky – mainly on account of me feeling that 2016 was a bit of a lacklustre year as far as videogame releases went. However, after a lot of soul-searching (and playing the games which did come out in 2016), I have managed to nail down a top ten games, released in this last year. N.B. To avoid any confusion re: date formats, the date format used is day/month/year. I will be using PAL region date releases for non-PC games, being in the PAL region myself. Potential spoilers from this point onwards

10. Train Simulator 2017 (PC)

Developer:  Dovetail Games Publisher:  Dovetail Games Release Date: 15/09/16

I’ve actually got to make a tinsy tiny little confession here – never mind Train Simulator 2017 being released, it was actually the release of the Chatham Main Line – London-Gillingham Route Add-On which I wanted to mark for this year.  I will admit, I did indeed look forward to seeing the rendering of my home railway station in this game, and the playing of one of the metro lines from it – and although I’m disappointed at the lack of graffiti and mess at the digital version of home, it’s one of the weirdly most amusing add-ons (mainly looking for inconsistencies of the ‘there’s no tree there’ kind) for a game I’ve played yet.

9. Man O’ War: Corsair (PC)

Developer:  Evil Twin Artworks Publisher:  Evil Twin Artworks Release Date: 15/04/16

Ah, Warhammer – little do many people know, I’m quite the Warhammer (Fantasy!) nerd in real life – and I happen to own one of the earlier releases of the tabletop version of Man O’ War, and I was rather excited to see it coming to the PC. And I have to say, this is a beautifully rendered version of the tabletop game, and very very fun to play around with.

Now please excuse me, my Dark Elf fleet has a bit of pillaging to do…

8. Samphi (PC)

Developer:  Greeny Games Studio Publisher:  Greeny Games Studio Release Date: 18/03/16

Samphi is a survival RPG with randomly generated elements, which makes for an interesting play through every time I pick this game up and have a go at it, and so far, I’ve been finding new ways to play it every time I pick the game up, and although I’m finding each play through to be fairly short, I’m enjoying it nonetheless.

7. Mallow Drops (PC)

Developer:  Gritfish Publisher: Green Stripe Snake Release Date: 03/11/16

Mallow Drops was a platform/puzzle hybrid, with a rotational twist. This made for a game of around 100 different levels with gradually scaling difficulty with regards to what had to be done in order to complete the graphics. Although there wasn’t much in the way of story in this game, I did enjoy it and it made for a nice change from the RPG and simulation games that I tend towards playing.

It was also a very easy game for picking up and playing in short bursts, as well as managing to keep my brain active… and costing me numerous pieces of paper and biros as I tried to plot my next move on a given level.

6. Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past (3DS)

Developer: ArtePiazza Publisher: Nintendo Release Date: 16/09/16

One of my more anticipated game releases this year, I was looking forward to this game simply due it being the first time that Dragon Warrior VII was given a release in the PAL region. Now, although there were complaints about the game being overly long, or it following a repetitive formula for a good chunk of the storyline, as well as the overly long segment that has to be passed through before the meat of the game, the jobs system, opens up.

However, I liked it all, and I forgive the game for those short comings – I like my RPGs to be traditional, and this game certainly managed it – from what I’ve seen/been told, beyond a few bits of smoothing out the gameplay and a couple of minor tweaks, this updated rerelease is fairly faithful to the original and kept me entertained for a good 80 hours or so, and I still feel as though there’s more to do and unlock within the game.

…Now, to finish up maxing out all those monster classes…

5. Pokémon Sun and Moon (3DS)

Developer: Game Freak Publisher: The Pokémon Company Release Date: 23/11/16

Of course, when there’s a new main series Pokémon game released, I’ve got to include it on the list! Now, Gen VII did mess up the formula quite a bit for a main series games – I really didn’t like the Island Trials system when compared to the old style Gyms.

I also didn’t like how the new Pokémon were often 5% or 1% rate encounters on routes compared to 10% or 20% encounters for old gen Pokémon, apart from the Gumshoos and Toucannon lines as I felt a bit forced initially to use the older Pokémon in my in-game team. However, eventually I got over that and I turned to enjoying spending time hunting down all the new Pokémon in the game.

I did feel the main storyline was a bit weak, and with the introduction of various plot points seemingly out of nowhere almost, about three quarters of the way through the game, I wasn’t able to rate this game any higher on the list. I’m pleased to see there’s a reasonably sized postgame, with at least one major plot mission after finishing the main game, though.

4. Story of Seasons (3DS)

Developer:  Marvelous AQL Publisher:  Nintendo Release Date: 31/12/15

I think I can just about get away with including this on a list of games for 2016… and it did technically come out in 2016 in Australia, and I would have got the same version that Australia did. This was the first ‘Harvest Moon’ game produced after the Natsume/Marvelous AQL split and I personally consider it to be truer to the spirit of the Harvest Moon games, despite the series no longer having that title. Although the game is a massive time sink, with plenty to do in it with regards to collecting items, building and crafting, and raising crops and animals, I personally found it one of the best this year on the handheld for picking up and playing in short bursts… Which still added up to over 320 hours across two save files…

3. Democracy 3: Africa (PC)

Developer:  Positech Games Publisher:  Positech Games Release Date: 12/04/16

Ah, I do enjoy my political simulator games and the Democracy series in particular. What made this one different was although based on the Democracy 3 engine, it played radically differently, accounting for the cultural differences and priorities in the various African nations portrayed in the game. This game was also tougher than the original Democracy 3, with assassinations far more frequent, and balancing of the different policies between different voting groups needing to be far more delicate. Although it’s a lot more challenging, I personally also found it quite enjoyable.

2. Plague Inc. Evolved (PC),

Developer: Ndemic Creations Publisher: Ndemic Creations Release Date: 18/02/16

Originally released as a game on the mobile back in 2014, Plague Inc was one of those simulation games which made you go back over and over again in order to kill the world off… until your phone battery carked on you. Then it was announced that the game was being ported to the PC.

Since the original version on Android, this version has expanded much, much more, with nigh-on four hundred achievements to collect, lots of different plague types, the addition of multiplayer, various different scenarios from both players and the developers to play around with, as well as access to the Steam Workshop. Either way, killing off 7 billion humans has never been so fun, and will keep me amused for a while yet.

1. Stardew Valley (PC),

Developer: ConcernedApe Publisher: Chucklefish Games Release Date: 26/02/16

Say what you like about Stardew Valley, and I know FHG’s Steve will disagree with me on this one, but as far as I’m concerned, THIS is Game of the Year. Now, I fully admit I’m one of the biggest Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons fangirls going, and, to put it one way, Stardew Valley does everything which the more recent Harvest Moons (so from… Friends of Mineral Town onwards) have tried to do and failed.

I adore the graphics. I don’t care that they’re dated. Yes, the controls are a bit clunky on the keypad, but I’ve learned to live with it. Yes, I’m aware the game days are a bit repetitive – but as someone who works in a vaguely agricultural related job now and has done farm work, life on a farm is fairly repetitive at times.

But there is so much to do in this game beyond the farming, there’s much much more with regards to the exploring and social aspects of this game – I’ve played around 100 hours on it so far, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. Written by Karen

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