Category: Uncategorized

24
Dec

Player Research Games of the Year 2018

What a wonderful year 2018 has been for video games! There’s been some outstanding blockbuster titles, console exclusives, and incredible indie games that have kept us busy this year, and as we approach the end of 2018 it’s time to look back and reflect on the best of the lot, as well as looking forward to the future.

As always, Player Research’s annual list of gaming highlights is an individual summary of our staff members favourite games this year, with a Game of the Year and up to two runners-up, alongside a most anticipated title of 2019. The only rule is that the game had to be released in 2018 (DLCs, expansions and remasters included); let’s get down to it!

 

Aaron

Game of the Year: Pokemon: Let’s Go!

I wasn’t expecting to like this game. It features Kanto, again, making it the sixth time this region has been visited. Many “standard” features are absent: There are no held items, no Pokemon abilities and no Pokemon beyond the original 151 (meaning many Pokemon can’t reach their final stage of evolution!). I knew I’d buy it and play it, but I expected to feel something between ambivalence and disappointment.   

I was completely wrong. What was “missing” from the game wasn’t needed and what was new made the whole experience feel as fresh and exciting as the first time I played Pokemon Red 20 years ago – After all this time I think it was just the shake-up that the series needed.

Pokemon Let’s Go! subverted my expectations in all the best ways possible and just goes to show that people don’t always want what they think they want.

2nd Place: Moonlighter

A cross between a 2D Zelda game and Stardew valley (which sounds like the best thing ever), the game has a simple premise – by day you sell goods in shop, and by night you hunt for more goods in randomised Zelda-like dungeons. It sounds simple (and it is), but this simple flow is addictive in the same way that Stardew’s farming was – and you just have to keep playing for “one more day”. The story is light, but it gets the job done, the music is charming and the retro style visuals are wonderfully evocative.

3rd Place: Dark Souls Remastered

Is it cheating to include a remaster? Maybe – Particularly if the remaster changes almost nothing. But what needed to be changed? Dark Souls is one of the most finely crafted gaming experiences there is and it’s no less grossly incandescent this time around.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: Pokemon 2019

 

Amy

Game of the Year: Heaven Will Be Mine

Visual novels are a genre that I would really liked to see explored in more weird and wonderful ways. Pillow Fight Games have taken up that mantle with Heaven Will Be Mine, where you take on the role of one of three female space-faring war machine pilots, who find themselves in a locked in battle of ideals about what the future of the human race should look like. Characters share their origins in a abandoned space program and compulsively seek each other out through the depths of space for companionship, answers, and glorious giant robot battles. (There are also romance options in the game, so add some lovin’ to the list too).

Exposition is very light, and the world building is very intricate, leading to a strange experience where you are dropped in an unfamiliar world and have to piece together some semblance of understanding through the interactions between a small cast of characters. If you’re on board for an out of the ordinary visual novel experience, Heaven Will Be Mine might pleasantly surprise you.

2nd Place: Subnautica

Genuinely surprising moments and startling developments have been few and far between in the games I’ve played this year, but watching the events unfold in Subnautica as I explored the depth and breadth of the watery planet had me on the edge of my seat at points. A game that was ostensibly about simply surviving in a harsh alien environment had me caring more about it’s world and it’s story than I would ever have rightly expected. Anyway 7.8/10, too much water.

3nd Place: Deltarune

On the second anniversary of Undertale, Toby Fox released Deltarune – a spinoff to Undertale that contains many similar ingredients: a combat system where killing is optional, bullet hell-esque showdowns with enemies, and the reappearance of familiar faces. However, Deltarune expands upwards and outwards from Undertale’s formula, with multiple party members and a wider variety in ways to resolve combat. Deltarune presents the player with a fascinating problem – what happens if you’re invested in resolving fights non-violently, but another party member is equally invested in violence for violence’s sake?

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: Devil May Cry 5/Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe

 

Ben

Game of the Year: God of War

I know, I know, not the most original pick ever. But God of War is the franchise that got me into gaming when I was a teenager – I was, for some reason, reeeally into Greek mythology – and it would have been unfair to pretend that its latest instalment was anything other than my GOTY. What hasn’t been said about this game? Everything in it was crafted to the Masterpiece level, from its story to the amazing new combat. Plus, the Norse setting – a setting that I am, for some reason, reeeally into – was a perfect fit for the franchise, with its rich lore and amazing character design. Fifty hours of gameplay, a platinum Trophy and at a least a thousand ‘Boy’s later, I closed the chapter of the latest Dad of War adventure, and it was a truly fantastic one.

2nd Place: Donut County

In Donut County, you play a hole in the ground controlled by a raccoon – bear with me – as you try to destroy a city. The 3 hours needed to go through DC are definitely best experienced first-hand, as the simple satisfaction of clearing out individual blades of grass to build up a big enough hole to destroy an entire house, is very hard to describe. In a world where developers are always trying to pack more content and features in their game, one man – Ben Esposito – dared to create a small piece of entertainment that is simple, charming (dat art style!) and relaxing. Definitely one of the more unique experiences of 2018.

3rd Place: Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu

For context, I am a 30 years old man that grew up watching the show since the original series, played the games since Generation 1 and that proudly wears a tattoo of the best electrical rodent of the franchise (it’s Dedenne, not that other one). This game was a pure, unapologetic nostalgia trip for me. The monsters never looked better, the move never felt punchier and the world never looked alive-er. While far from perfect (imposed motion controls, really?), P:LGP was a real blast to play through, and left me wanting for more. Why not a new Let’s Go game, one for every generation, every two years eh? Hit me up Nintendo.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: The Outer Worlds

 

Bob

Game of the Year: Subnautica

While lacking the huge scope and polish of the other games on my list, this was simply unlike anything I’ve ever played. Like a cross between an open world  survival game and a walking sim, it drip feeds written narrative to give structure to your natural curiosity to explore and discover. The underwater world filled me with wonder, coupled with just enough mild anxiety to make it deeply exciting, and this was supplemented by interesting and enticing means of progression through crafting and base building. I also really appreciated the sleek style of the sci-fi technology, and how well the look and feel of the overall art style, UI design, hypnotic music and audio fit the theme. I ended up spending 70 hours in this game and I can’t stop recommending it to people. Get it, you fools!

2nd Place: God of War

Everything about this game feels focused and hand-crafted, with a great story, amazing combat, and insane visuals on PS4 Pro. I regularly spent whole minutes just marvelling at how rich and polished it was. More than any other game this year, I want to return to this one for more.

3rd Place: Red Dead Redemption 2

I bought and Xbox One X especially for this, and I have not been disappointed. You can tell from every animation, interaction, and sweeping vista, that this game has had an unbelievable amount of time and effort poured into it. That said, I’ve not finished it yet, and there are some pretty egregious usability issues that lead to messy, unsatisfying moments, holding it back from a higher spot on my list.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: Cyberpunk 2077

 

Brianne

Game of the Year: Monster Hunter World

Although the console version launched much earlier in 2018, I got my hands on Monster hunter just recently in the Fall.  From the get go, I could feel the MMO-like experience of Monster Hunter World, but to me it wasn’t just a multiplayer game. With the expeditions and optional quests it not only scratched the multiplayer itch of teaming up on a massive monster, but also provided a fulfilling single player experience. As someone who spent many hours in MMO’s Monster Hunters in-world interactions, the mid-hunt monster brawls and the little pets you could collect stood out to me. Whether I was playing it on my own, or alongside a friend, Monster Hunter provided an adventurous and immersive experience in its vast world.

2nd Place: Overcooked

Over the summer I had the pleasure of stumbling upon Overcooked 2 on the Nintendo store and it was an immediate hit as a couch co-op. With the new environments and the same hectic kitchen gameplay, I had no problem jumping back into the world of Overcooked. I found the addition of the throw mechanic and the new more-dynamic environments made Overcooked 2 stand out over its predecessor. From strategising our plan of attack to managing hectic and a sometimes-moving environment, Overcooked 2 has challenge, fun and chaos at every turn.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: The Outer Worlds

 

Cheryl

Game of the Year: God of War

I loved this game both for the heartfelt story and satisfying gameplay. By far my favourite moments were when Kratos and Atreus (and then Mimir) were having a chat in the boat on the way to an objective. I actually felt a bit guilty when I interrupted Mimir three times trying to finish the same story as I got to an objective too quickly. Evidently not guilty enough to stop doing it; I had some very fun fights to be getting on with.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: The Outer Worlds

 

Chloe

Game of the Year: God of War

A near-perfect game which ticked so many boxes for me. God of War had such a compelling narrative, and the exploration of Norse mythology through world-building and character-tales was extremely engaging. I grew to have such an emotional investment in many of the characters, and obviously the growing relationship between Kratos and Atreus was incredible to watch throughout. I particularly appreciated it as a game which saw Kratos and Atreus breaking free of the toxic masculinity that is so prevalent within gaming, a great example that as an industry “we must be better”. The cinematic visuals were a sight to behold, and I don’t think I’ve ever used photo mode as much as I did in this game! The combat was perfect; fluid, fun and free-of-frustration. The Leviathan axe just felt so satisfying to throw and recall, and the gradual increase of new, varied combat mechanics throughout the whole game kept things from ever getting stale or button-mashy. Amazing!

2nd Place: Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 

Wow did BLOPS 4 massively exceed my expectations! Despite the lack of campaign, this is essentially a 3-games-in-1 package and all 3 game modes are exceptionally polished, layered and most importantly, so much fun. The option for split-screen for local multiplayer is an extremely welcome addition, and I’ve had endless nights of fun and competition playing alongside my girlfriend since its release – with Blackout, the battle royale mode, being a particular standout. Weeks and weeks of playing non-stop and we still have so much to do in this action-packed game, that’s breathed some new life into one of my favourite franchises.

3rd Place: Forza Horizon 4

By far the most beautiful game of 2018 for me, the graphics and scenery in this game are simply stunning in 4K. The newly implemented season feature keeps gameplay fresh; simultaneously making it seem like four beautiful maps in one, and also forcing you to adapt your driving according to the weather. Horizon 4 feels great, the cars respond sensitively, but it never takes itself too seriously and ultimately lets you feel like a total badass racing, drifting and speeding around the hills of Scotland in a pimped-out Lamborghini; what’s not to love about that?

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: The Last of Us 2

 

Gareth

Game of the Year: Subnautica

How amazing to play a survival game, all full of the usual crafting and gathering mechanics, that also has a story to follow and a genuine sense of progression. And without a skill tree in sight, too. It’s also scary; thalassophobia is a real thing.

2nd Place: Hollow Knight

I feel a bit bad for including this (it was on my colleague Amy’s list last year!), but, you know: #IdealForSwitch. The Soulsborne/Metroidvania hybrid we’ve all been waiting for, and a frankly ridiculous value for money purchase. Lovely atmospheric sound design too.

3rd Place: Spider-Man

I had a fantastic time playing through Insomniac’s Spider-Man: a fun take on the character and villains, incredible polish and attention to detail, an effective storyline, and on hard mode especially, some fun challenging moments. But this has to go in on the basis of accessibility: from options to autocomplete QTEs, to skipping puzzles, to various colourblindness and subtitle options, to a normalised sound mode.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

 

Harvey

Game of the Year: Marvel’s Spider-Man

Choosing a Game of the Year was tough this time around, however I think based on how consistently great this game was throughout, I think I had to choose it. I’m not sure I’ve ever played a superhero game which makes you feel like you are the protagonist quite so effectively. The web-swinging was one of the most satisfying traversal mechanics I’ve encountered, and the combat was technical but also simple enough for even someone as unskilled as me to be effective at. Once I finished the game’s story, I did something I never usually do and checked the trophy list, trying to find a reason to play more. I only had a few trophies left and promptly earned them, getting the first (and likely only) Platinum trophy I have on PS4.

2nd Place: God of War

A very worthy runner up in my opinion – yet another game that is incredibly successful in making the player powerful. Although the combat and all-round badassery of Kratos was thoroughly enjoyable, it was the unexpectedly engaging story that I enjoyed most about God of War. The various cameos from characters from Norse mythology was great, as was the character building between them. And, you know, that axe.

3rd Place: Spyro Reignited Trilogy

A tough choice for the last runner-up spot, but Spyro wins on pure nostalgia value. Playing through these games again was a real joy (not hair-pullingly frustrating like Crash), and I was surprised at how much I remember of the originals. The updated visuals and animations mean that the game actually looks how I remember it with my rose-tinted glasses on. Nostalgia aside, Spyro still plays like a great 3D platformer, albeit one that isn’t necessarily going to challenge most players.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: Beyond Good and Evil 2

 

Jonny

Game of the Year: Monster Hunter World

I’m well aware that my love for this game is for very personal reasons and maybe that’s why I can overlook so many of its flaws but the game just scratches too many of my itches in ways other games don’t.

I’ve played from the beginning of the game all the way to HR rank 101 entirely cooperatively with my girlfriend. It’s been hundreds of hours of hunting together and there have been dozens of triumphs (and failures) along the way. Sharing in those moments together has been one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had. A stream of free content drops and seasonal events has meant that there’s always more to do together.

This was by far the game I’ve played the most in 2018.

2nd Place: Grand Theft Auto Online

This game is 4 years old. It’s also the only game my brother and my friends from college all own. Being able to catch up with friends and family while working towards long term goals under the guise of gangsters, bikers and thieves isn’t something we all planned for. It just kind of happened.

We’re now at the point where the game has given us dozens of anecdotes; I have fond memories of a negotiation with a rival gang of players that ended in a bloodbath over a package. Bits like those are why we all keep coming back.

3rd Place: Marvel’s Spider-Man

(Mild Spoilers ahead)

I really like Spider-man comics and I felt this game really embodied what made his story so great. The writing, voice-acting and narrative really pulled me in while the combat and web-swinging sealed the deal for me.

There’s an underlying melancholy in the game as well. Even if they’re doing their best, the characters are flawed and things don’t always work out for everyone. The end to Marvel’s Spider-Man really hit me in the feels so good too making it one of my best gaming moments of 2018.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: The Outer Worlds

 

Marco

Game of the Year: Detroit: Become Human

What makes us human? This existential question is as old as the dawn of the human species, and philosophers, anthropologists, psychologists and (thankfully) primatologists attempted to answer it in many ways. Detroit brings this fundamental dilemma directly to the players, asking them to identify the subtle line that divides humans from sentient androids. Should androids that resemble and feel the same human emotions considered humans as well? Well, it’s up to the player to decide it. This is because the game doesn’t provide you with a universally-true answer, but instead, gives the players hundreds of possibilities to express their own opinions, values, and feelings about the human nature. The choices that players make are meaningful, impactful, and often, difficult. Main characters might permanently die as a consequence of bad choices, so players have to evaluate really carefully if saving that not-so-interesting NPC is really worth it. The game might not be perfect (i.e. some accessibility and replaying issues are present) but the narrative is engaging, the acting is great, and the number of different possible endings has no precedent.

This game made me think and reflect, giving me at the same time an incredible and engaging gaming experience. For these reasons, Detroit is the game I enjoyed the most in 2018.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: Pokemon 2019/Crash Team Racing

 

Ori

Game of the Year: Marvel’s Spider-Man

I could never get bored swinging around New York with Spotify on in the background, it’s the perfect way to kill the time (and bad guys), especially when you want to relax and play at your own pace. As a reformed completionist I had to seriously refrain from trying to 100% the plethora of side quests, collectables and kickass alternative outfits. The combat reminds me of the Arkham games and Shadow of Mordor – for me it means I wasn’t bogged down with too many combos and the fights felt smooth. The only thing that could have made this game better would have been if Stan Lee had narrated it like the original PS games.

2nd Place: A Way Out 

I’m always searching for a good couch co-op game and we need more games like this one. Prison fights, car chases, arm wrestling, baseball, Connect 4, throwing chickens, stealing cookies, hiding in laundry. It has everything. If you have a friend, go play now.

3rd Place: The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit

A beautiful, emotional mini-journey with stunning visuals and music. Although it doesn’t include any of the characters from the first two games, it was the perfect way to momentarily satiate my hunger for the Life is Strange universe in anticipation for the release of Season 2, what’s more it’s free!

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: The Last of Us 2

 

Seb

Game of the Year: Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead’s story of internal conflict, and the last hurrah of an old-fashioned way of life, could almost be a parody of the game itself. Rockstar’s stunningly beautiful world contrasts against their outdated and unfit-for-purpose UI, controls, and tutorialisation. No sooner am I swept up in a breathtaking and seemingly-endless landscape, than I’m brought back to earth by a figurative or literal hoof to the face: accidentally assaulting an innocent bystander, or upending my nag into a passing tree. Frustrations aside, it will be the memories of Red Dead’s sweeping vistas and interesting characters that last. There is no question that it is an absolute masterpiece.

2nd Place: Beat Saber

A masterclass in simplicity, Beat Saber is the ultimate see-it-and-need-it experience. The thumping soundtrack and ridiculous difficulty have kept me coming back for more, week after week. Jumping into VR before work for a quick song or two is a joy, and a bit of a workout.

3rd Place: Into the Breach

I’m a die-hard FTL fan, so Into The Breach was an inevitable purchase – especially once it hit the Switch – but its unabashed complexity and pacing has resonated with me in ways that similar games have not (looking at you, XCOM). I particularly love the content unlocking meta game that allows on-demand exploration of new ways to play.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: Beyond Good and Evil 2


Hope you enjoyed reading – Everyone at Player Research wishes you a wonderful holidays and a happy new year!

29
Dec

Player Research Games of the Year 2017

It’s been another fantastic year here at Player Research and indeed, for the video game industry at large. 2017 has brought is some phenomenal titles whose influences we’ll likely see for years to come. As with before, due to the small sample size and wide variety of games that came up as peoples favourites, we’re not going to list an overall game of the year.

Instead, our staff have listed their own game of the year, and two runners up. There’s only one rule, and that’s that the game must be released in 2017. On with the list!

Aaron

Game of the Year:
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

When I was seven years old I bought TLoZ: A Link to the Past with my birthday money (from a shop, which is where video games came from back then). On the car journey home I opened the box and took out a map. This was the first time I saw Hyrule – Death Mountain, the Desert of Mystery, the Lost Woods. I pored over every inch of that map, wondering what secrets might be hidden in those caves and what stories the inhabitants of this world might have to tell.

Twenty-something years later and here it is in BotW, that same world I’d vividly conjured up when I was seven. The valleys, the rivers, the mountains, just the way I’d pictured them, and those same feelings of anticipation, the same eagerness to explore every inch of the world and to imagine what might be hidden, just over the next hill. Breath of the Wild took me back in time (without an ocarina).

2nd Place
Divinity: Original Sin II

The closest that any game I’ve played has come to emulating the experience of a traditional tabletop roleplaying game. The game lets you perfectly replicate the subtle strategies of “You distract the guy and I’ll sneak in and steal everything”, and the ever amusing “Why would you teleport him there?! Now we’re all dead!”.

3rd Place
What Remains of Edith Finch

An incredibly moving exploration of the stories we leave behind. Full of unforgettable moments in a world both eerily strange and oddly familiar. It was an incredibly moving experience, to the point where, upon completion, I simply sat and thought for a while – about the stories that came before me and about the kind of story my life might end up being. Edith Finch is interactive storytelling at its best.

Most Anticipated:
Sea of Thieves

 

Amy

Game of the Year:
Hollow Knight

I don’t generally feel a burning need to 100% games. This year, however, Hollow Knight was the exception to the rule, and I found myself falling head over heels for this game in a big way. For those who are unaware, Hollow Knight is an insect-themed metroidvania, boasting a bloody gorgeous art style, savage-but-fair boss fights and precision platforming, and a strange and genuinely fascinating world to explore. The thing I admire most about this game is that you can play for only an hour at a time here and there, and in that time you’ll either have seen a new part of the world, accomplished something noteworthy, or witnessed something cool and surprising. Either way, it always felt like time well spent. This game is just brimming with charm and comfortably stands alongside the other greats in the genre.

2nd Place:
Cuphead

I was incredibly excited for Cuphead back when it was announced in 2014, but by the time it released, a few gnawing doubts had crept in. I was worried that the boss battles would be few in number and horrendously punishing to compensate, and that it wouldn’t hold my interest for very long as a result. Boy I was wrong!
Some of the bosses do feel needlessly painful on occasion, but for the most part every boss I’ve encountered has been difficult, but not overwhelmingly so, and tremendous fun to fight. Beating a boss is less of an exercise in rote memorisation of attack patterns, and more of a result of experimenting with different strategies and making full good use of the abilities available to you. Because of this, fights feel like less of a grind and more of a puzzle to figure out. And it feels darn good when you do!

3rd Place:
Night in the Woods

Night in the Woods joins Hollow Knight and Cuphead in the camp of games that are just beautiful to look at. Night in the Woods is certainly not a case of style over substance though; it’s a game that has a clear idea of what it wants to talk about, and weaves those themes into a really compelling story with characters that feel well-observed and genuine. Night in the Woods is about a girl returning to her hometown after dropping out of college and attempting to slot straight back into her previous life like nothing happened, only to discover that while she has stayed the same and refused to grow up, the rest of the people in her life have left her behind. It’s poignant and complicated, but it’s also grounded, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Night in the Woods has exceeded my expectations in ways I didn’t expect at all.
Most Anticipated:
God of War

 

Alistair

Game of the Year:
Steamworld Dig 2

Just a lovely little package. A small game, with loads of optional content. A Metriodvania with tunnelling mechanics, I really enjoyed the first one, and this is more of the same. Every time an ability was unlocked it felt great and I don’t know how I coped without it previously… this happened every time. Also perfect to play on the Switch.

2nd Place
Zelda: BOTW

Not perfect (in spite of what you may hear), but a great game. I had many issues, but that’s only because I played it for so long! The main reason that the game isn’t my top is due to it’s terrible story (sorry Zelda fans).

3rd Place
Skyrim (Switch)

Who knew this was a good game? You all did? Well, just me then. Having never got around to playing for the 10 or so years it’s been out releasing on a mobile platform finally made it viable for me. I was worried about how the game would translate, but after not playing it up to now I can’t tell, it’s a lovely port with fairly few issues as far as I can see (Screw you maps, screw you inventory!)

 

Bob

Game of the Year:
XCOM 2 War of the Chosen


A truly splendid, campaign-redefining expansion. It took me ages to get into XCOM 2, given the steep increase in difficulty from the first game, but I loved it when I finally “got it”. This was taken to the next level with War of the Chosen, packing the already superb campaign full with additional, exciting, interesting things to manage and do. Getting to use the defeated Chosen’s weapons in combat was a deeply satisfying highlight.

2nd Place:
Total War: Warhammer II

Like War of the Chosen, Warhammer II is another fantastic follow-up, taking a maximal approach to adding new coolness to an existing model. I played as the High Elves – perhaps the most pedestrian of the new races – and it was still fantastic, epic, and engrossing. I’ll return at some point to play the Mortal Empires campaign as someone more unusual, like Skaven or Lizardmen.

3rd Place:
Uncharted:
The Lost Legacy

I feel that this slipped under the radar in the office, with few Player Researchers actually getting a chance to play it. It is, of course, another sublime game from Naughty Dog. Incredible graphics, amazing performances, great gameplay, and exceptional, subtle UX design.

Most Anticipated:
Final Fantasy VII Remake, as always.

 

Gareth

Game of the Year:
Breath of the Wild

Others will talk more eloquently about BotW’s grand scope and achievement: I’ll focus on the music. BotW’s score initially takes a light touch, flirting with minimalism, ambience and jazz. Your initial lonely explorations are accompanied by sparse ambience: you’re more likely to hear the wind howling than a jolly tune. But as the game’s scope broadens more melodies and layered instrumentation are introduced. The piece that accompanies horse riding is the best example: a syncopated flurry of high tinkling piano notes, mirroring your horse’s gait and serving as rhythmic base for the series theme, itself played on a single string instrument. And innovation persists in rest of the score: squishy bonks and boings for the battle theme percussion, ambient audio cues informing the player (like when entering a cold area), and finally – brilliantly – the use of a full, grandiose theme around Hyrule Castle.

2nd Place:
Mario Odyssey

Breath of the Wild managed to redefine one sort of open world game for me this year: the grand unified world. Mario Odyssey helped me realise that there’s another sort: the playground. Odyssey gave me a number of these mini playgrounds to explore and enough activities to carry out in them to keep me interested for the foreseeable future (I’m not one of those who will be chasing the final Moon any time soon). I almost hadn’t realised it, but Odyssey represented the structure and rhythm that I wanted from a Mario game, and – perhaps more importantly – a Switch game. It’s a meaty single player experience that naturally separates itself into pick-up-and-play chunks; almost a poster child for how the Switch slots into players’ lives. Plus, that New Donk City finale, phew.

3rd Place:
Nier: Automata

I’ll list this as one of my games of the year, but won’t necessarily recommend that others play it. Too many of the high points are either locked behind many hours play, or are linked to having played the first game (which few have, and I can’t tell anyone that they need to put themselves though that in 2017 to enjoy Automata). Worse, the very best moments require both. But what Automata represents is a grand mess: the game’s ruined world is beautiful from start to finish, the combat fast and flowing, the multilingual soundtrack surprising and lavish. But the story and atmosphere are the stars: this is a game that starts from an absurd premise, manages to establish strong characters within that premise, then (eventually, and over the course of multiple ‘replays’) comprehensively tests and breaks down those characters.

 

Graham

Game of the Year
Ghost Recon Wildlands

Right from the start, it felt like Wildlands wanted me to finish, to see the whole game. If ever I felt stuck, there were numerous ways to get through – use my AI colleagues, adopt a new strategy, or best of all, invite a friend to join my session. This meant each play session involved meaningful progress, a factor which kept Zelda from being one of my top games of the year. Of course none of this would matter one jot if each session wasn’t enjoyable, but it always was. Just a very nice place to return to time and time again.

2nd Place
Sky Force Anniversary

A vertical scrolling shmup for a GOTY? If it brings delight, well why not. This is exactly the sort of game I’d have played when growing up, it reminded me of Hybris or Battle Squadron, except brought up to date via modern game development tools. If I ever get around to programming a game, this is the sort of thing I’d write. I even dug out my Vita so I could play this when on the move. Fantastic soundtrack too, play with headphones on.

3rd Place
Golf Story

So much charm. And humour. I use to enjoy golf games on 8-bit computers (anyone remember World Class Leaderboard?), so coupling a decent golf game with slightly bonkers quests in this quirky world makes for a very enjoyable time. A perfect fit for the Switch, and a must for anyone who enjoys retro-inspired games. Did mention it has geese?

Most Anticipated
A Way Out

 

Harvey

Game of the year
Divinity: Original Sin 2

A clear winner for GOTY for me and one of the best RPGs I have played in a very long time. The brilliant, tactical combat, sense of exploration and amazing world building make a game that really stole the show for me this year. Although the main storyline is incredibly strong, a lot of the highlights in D:OS2 come from following seemingly inconsequential conversations or leads from NPCs and seeing where they take you. How could a game in which I completed a quest for a chicken which involved killing her cursed chick not make my GOTY top spot?

2nd Place
Assassins Creed Origins

I am so glad Ubisoft took a year off this series. This entry feels like a real return to form for the series, and makes some interesting (and great!) changes to core features of Assassin’s Creed. Once I got the hang of it, the combat system proved to be much deeper and more satisfying than in previous games, and the RPG-style quest system adds a completely different element to the game. My inner child, who had a fascination with ancient Egypt explodes with excitement every time Bayek climbs a 50ft tall statue of Anubis, or scales an iconic Egyptian landmark. This game fills me with confidence that we will see some more truly brilliant games from this series.

3rd Place
SteamWorld Dig 2

I arrived a little late to the Switch party, but every game I have played on it so far has been very enjoyable; from playing Mario Kart on a flight with my girlfriend, to rediscovering how much I love Stardew Valley. But SteamWorld Dig 2 makes it into the list because of how much of a surprise it was to me. Recommended by a colleague (i’m sure you can guess who from the other entries in this article), I pretty much didn’t stop playing from download to completion. SW:D2 is a game that’s not afraid to entirely change the fundamentals of the gameplay by introducing new tools and mechanics throughout it’s (reasonably) short story, with those new toys feeling like you’ve had them the whole time. The satisfying rhythm of mining, combat, puzzles and returning to the surface make this game very difficult to put down.

Most Anticipated:
Red Dead Redemption 2

 

Joe

Game of the Year:
Persona 5

A phenomenal JRPG that’s packed to the brim with with style and confidence. Despite some occasional errors in the English localisation, Persona 5’s engaging dialogue and tight RPG systems manage to keep me engaged for countless hours. The collectathon style Persona system is retained as one of the games biggest draws, and it’s hard to deny the appeal of hunting down all of the Persona’s, and fusing them together to see what you can make next. One of the best RPGs released in years.

2nd Place
What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch’s phenomenal narrative, raises the bar for interactive storytelling. While the game only provides a momentary glimpse into the lives of its various characters, it’s a testament to the quality of its narrative delivery that each of these segments managed to resonate with me. Edith Finch’s story manages to explore both the tragedy of death, while at the same time, celebrates life – it hit me in just about every way imaginable, and finds itself as a game that I’d recommend everyone should play.

3rd Place
Everything

Everything makes it into my top three largely on account of being an entirely original experience – I’ve never played anything quite like it. Everything’s game design shuns the typical motivations that drive us to continue to play, and instead presents an absolute sandbox. No rules, no goals, but plenty to discover and enjoy for those interested in doing so. The accompanying voice clips from Alan Watt’s lectures on philosophy encourage the player to ponder their own life, and how they fit into this world with everything else. A one of a kind experience.

Most Anticipated:
Dreams

 

Jon

Game of the Year:
Skyrim (Switch)

What can I saw about Skyrim that hasn’t already been said? I’ve logged over 500 hours playing the “oldrim” and special edition versions across PC and Xbox 360, and despite the game’s flaws I keep coming back to visit this wintery home away from home. The Nintendo Switch version gives me the ability to play it all over again, with the expansions anywhere I want. That means escaping to Skyrim on the metro, in the back seat of an Uber or hidden in the basement at my in-laws.

You can’t pay for better relaxation therapy than that.

2nd Place
Persona 5

It didn’t take long to be completely enthralled by the story and gameplay. The production value was top notch too with great music and nearly complete voice acting. This game is a quirky dungeon crawling, relationship simulator with monster collecting and all of it was great.

3rd Place
Breath of the Wild

Playing a Zelda game in an open world, with physics toys was great and completely exceed any expectations I had. The joy of exploring by sliding around on my shield is still one of my favorite transversal sytems ever, bar none. I can go on and on about how wonderful this game is but everything’s been said already and more eloquently than I ever could.

 

Matt

Game of the Year:
Batman: The Telltale Series

Probably the most engaging story driven game I’ve played all year. My wife and I have spent countless hours on the couch on the edge of our seats with this one. The narrative follows the Court of Owls scenario, which is rarely explored in the Batman universe. As a result, you don’t know how to feel about most of the characters, which makes for interesting interactions.

2nd Place
Mass Effect Andromeda

Much maligned, but I spent a solid 100 hours playing this in single and multiplayer over the course of a month. Not much more you could ask for. The Ja’al storyline arc was great, the game features combat that’s fun. Sure, from time to time you’re doing the same open-world-collectathon, but given the value of the universe, it’s still worth doing.

3rd Place
Skyrim VR

Probably the first actual GAME in VR that I’ve played to date. This thing was the reason the dust came off of my PSVR. Skyrim VR lets you use a shield like a shield, a sword like a sword, and walk around like you would walk around. It gives you a new perspective on the massive scale of the Skyrim world, as enormous mountains and dragons seem wholly more imposing in VR.

Most Anticipated
Detroit

 

Sara

Game of the Year:
Mario Odyssey

Magical from beginning to end. I never expected a platformer to hold my attention for hours at a time, but Odyssey is full to the brim with content that keeps pushing boundaries with surprises up until the very end and beyond. Every Power Moon feels like a real achievement, whether you find it sitting on top of a tree or have to defeat an incredibly difficult, multi-stage boss to get your hands on it.

2nd Place
Destiny 2

The opening sequence is epic and does a fantastic job of making the seemingly immortal Guardians appear vulnerable. Once I joined a clan and their WhatsApp group, together we easily sank hours and hours into raids, nightfalls, strikes, and a pinch of PvP. I logged on every day to complete every task I could, desperate for a better weapon or piece of gear.

3rd Place
Player Unknown Battlegrounds

100 unarmed players parachute down into a huge map. They find armour, weapons and if you’re lucky, vehicles. As time passes, the safe play area shrinks, forcing players into the same region of the map. The last person alive wins. What’s not fun about that? Many a lunchtime was spent with colleagues keen to earn the winner winner chicken dinner prize. I hate online PvP and this game made turned my opinion around.

Most Anticipated:
Far Cry 5

 

Seb

Game of the Year:
Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Wildlands really sings when played in co-op. Although eschewing some of the downright silliness I enjoyed in Far Cry, Wildlands delivered on tactical action, gadgets and carnage. I’ll never forget Harvey and I, flying two attack choppers side-by-side, peeking over the crest of an enemy hillfort, humming Ride of the Valkyries. The various UI designed to aid collaboration and tactical play was a huge success, helped by having a great team of Player Researchers to enjoy it with.

2nd Place
Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds

Sometimes, less can truly be more. PUBG’s brutal simplicity – pared down to a few core mechanics – is testament to the power of focusing on experience. It is raw, heartless, unforgiving, and tense in play. Although my Chicken Dinner counter remains pretty low, I’m looking forward to the new map.

3rd Place
That’s You!

With many non-gamer friends and family, I’ll always have a soft spot for accessible games I can confidently introduce them to. That’s You! is a gorgeous, funny collaboration game using Sony’s smartphone-to-PS4 tech – instantly helping with the cool-factor and user-friendliness. It’s silly and fun, and it’s been a huge hit all round.

Most Anticipated:
Red Dead Redemption

What a year! See you again in 2018.

21
Jul

Getting into #GamesUR

At Player Research we’re often asked “how can I get started in games user research?” – so we wrote a blog post to help!

Games user research is a hugely exciting and dynamic domain the the games industry, working to apply our deep understanding of player psychology to the process of video game development.

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25
Dec

Player Research Games of the Year 2016

2016baubles

2016 has been a big year for Player Research. This is a run down of the games we’ve enjoyed playing most during the year.

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14
Sep

Spoiled for choice: The psychology of choice overload in games, and how to avoid it

TL;DR version:

  • Too much choice can lead to dissatisfaction with or avoidance of choices
  • Excessive choice should be particularly avoided with game and genre newcomers
  • Choice overload seems to start kicking in when there are more than 7 options to pick from
  • Experienced players may not suffer from choice overload, and having more choice could even be beneficial for them
  • Avoid choice overload by reducing the options available, or by otherwise easing the decision making process for newcomers
  • Dividing options into categories can also help improve choice satisfaction among players unfamiliar with the choice domain

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